Monthly Archives: April 2012

Caroline on Channel 4 News, 26 April – local elections and ‘the Greenest Government ever’

Hi all,

In case you missed it yesterday, Channel 4 News ran a package about the laughable notion of the Conservatives’s being the ‘greenest Government ever’, followed by a short report on the Green party and the local elections, including brief interview with Caroline and some footage from the campaign trail(at 3 mins 34 sec) :

The Green Economist’s opposition to spending cuts

We have some comments from our leafleting, that people struggle to see how we can balance the books – as if the economic policies of Labour and Conservatrive administrations have a good track record in this respect!! It is as if that just because both Labour and Conservatives keep saying the same thing, it must be true. Wake up people!

We keep hearing that there is no alternative to public spending cuts and that, at the same time, we somehow need to stimulate economic growth. The economic illiteracy of this nonsense has just been illustrated by the the ‘shock’ announcement that we are now in a double dip recession. The Green Party has been been expecting it for more than a year. The inevitability of it has been eloquently explained by Dr Molly Scott Cato at Conference, in public meetings and in her writings for quite some time.

As this latter piece explains:

Molly argues that politicians are looking at the economy in the wrong way. They see council or government spending as an expense that must be minimised. For many politicians who have run businesses cutting back on these expenses would seem to be the logical and understandable thing to do as it is exactly what they would do for their own business.

But the problem, says Molly, is that when making cuts you should understand the boundaries of your business. For a small business this is relatively easy to define and understand. But when dealing with local government for example, your business boundary encompasses all the businesses and household etc within the local economy.

Any money that is spent within the local economy should therefore be looked at as an income, rather than as an expense. What politicians should be doing is minimising leakage from the local economy, not strangling spending within it. To cut your own budgets to the bone, or not to spend money budgeted in this period, is like cutting your own income rather than cutting your own outgoings, she says.

By cutting back on local and central government spending within the boundaries we are adversely affecting the circulation of money she says. This then leads to shrinkage, a lower tax take and a growing deficit (sound familiar?).

Molly claims that government spending could generate a virtuous circle with local government acting as a positive multiplier stimulating local economies as money is spent, re-spent and taxed.

At the moment she says we are seeing the reverse effect both national and local governments cut spending and this reduces their spending with businesses and reduces the revenue they gain from businesses. This happens when councils cut jobs, so, as a key local employer, the decision many local councils have taken to cut their staffing levels will inevitably reduce spending by their employees in the local economy.

This is the realm of Danny Blanchflowers death spiral she says.

But it doesnt end with councils just spending more. There is, as you would expect, a green element that must always be considered, especially in our very finite world.

We are also boxed in by an environmental crisis she says and must also be thrifty with our resources. In the past we just consumed more, which was OK until we hit the ecological buffers. But now that we have Our duty must be to become ecological citizens, to prioritise happiness founded on relationship and virtue rather than on material acquisition.

To dos this she says, we must learn to acknowledge our ecological limits and rely on local rather than global multipliers.

It may seem paradoxical but in fact it is entirely consistent to pursue an economic strategy that acknowledges the paradox of thrift while simultaneously arguing that we should learn to flourish within ecological limits. What a green economist would aim for is the substitution of local economic activity for global economic activity.

In short:

Urgent call to action – Save the Bees petition – 24 hrs to go.

Quietly, globally, billions of bees are dying, threatening our crops and food. But if Bayer stops selling one group of pesticides, we could save bees from extinction.Four European countries have begun banning these poisons, and some bee populations are already recovering. But Bayer, the largest producer of neonicotinoids, has lobbied hard to keep them on the market. Now, massive global pressure from Avaaz and others has forced them to consider the facts; and in 24 hours, Bayer shareholders will vote on a motion that could stop these toxic chemicals. Lets all act now and shame the shareholders to stop killing bees.

The pressure is working, and this is our best chance to save the bees. Sign the urgent petition and send this to everyone; let’s reach half a million signers and deliver it directly to shareholders tomorrow in Germany!

Sign the petition

Bridgend & District Beekeeping Association website:

B&DBKA is committed to the education of new and improving beekeepers. They also aim to educate the general public on the importance of bees in our Eco-system and hope to reduce the fears that many people have of these tiny insects. If you are a budding beekeeper then please do contact them and perhaps go along to one of their open apiary sessions to see for yourself the wonder of beekeeping.

Democracy Deserts in Bridgend and the case for Electoral Reform

The Electoral Reform Society has turned its spotlight on the imminent Local Elections in Wales and the sham of a democratic process it embodies:

Key snippets:

Voting wont interrupt the daily routine of 7,085 residents in Bridgend county borough next Thursday.” (5 uncontested seats – or Democracy Desertsas the ERS puts it so aptly)

Meaningless votes: All of the 96 democracy deserts are single member wards. Yet seats which elect more than one member (multi-member wards) are even more unfair under the current system as a party can gain all the seats as many as 5 despite not winning a majority of the vote. Most multi-member wards are held by one party, because the system doesnt allow for a politics that accurately reflects the diverse needs and interests of the community.
Across Wales at the last local government election in 2008 two thirds of voters might as well have thrown their ballot paper in the bin as only 34% of votes cast actually got a councillor elected.

  • In the Morriston ward in Swansea, Labour won ALL of the 5 seats, despite gaining 39.6% of the vote.
  • In the Plasnewydd ward in Cardiff, the Lib Dems won ALL of the 4 seats, despite gaining only 44% of the vote.

Under the current system those who finish 3rd can still go on to win. In the starkest example from last election the Lib Dems came third in Cardiff according to the number of votes they won, but gained twice as many seats as the Conservatives, who won the most votes.

This crazy system means that in Bridgend CBC – on top of the 5 councillors ‘elected’ with zero votes – even in contested seats, it is entirely possible to win a seat with just 200 votes in some wards, whereas it takes a minimum of 1000 votes to get elected in Brackla.

This may possibly work to our advantage in one or two places, but overall it acts a barrier to people getting involved (voting as well as standing) in the process that is so important in shaping our lives – and tends to lead to the main parties congregating in the same ground of perceived majority opinion – as seen with the three main parties.

This is also leads to people not voting for what they really want:

Returning to the ERS report:

The winner takes all feature of FPTP is an unfairness which is repeated in county after county across the country.

The case for reform: Scotland had similar problems, but in 2007 moved to a fairer system of electing local councillors. There are now no single member wards in Scotland. Local voters there get to express a preference at the ballot box, ranking in order their preferred candidates. In comparison, the Scottish local elections under STV meant that 74% of voters got their first choice of councillor elected. The unfair situation where the winner takes all is avoided as seats are distributed more proportionately.

Its a system that the 2004 Sunderland Commission, established by the then Labour and Liberal Democrat partnership government, recommended. Its a system that would have provided a vote to the 140,000 Welsh taxpayers who live in one of the 96 democracy deserts. Its a system that the Welsh Government must now get on and implement. Wales cannot afford to waste a further 8 years waiting for fair votes.

Hear, Hear!

People will Die – The end of the NHS – MEDIA LENS reports

People Will Die – The End Of The NHS. Part 1: The Corporate Assault

Few political acts have exposed the sham of British democracy like the decision to dismantle the National Health Service. In essence, the issues are simple:

1. The longstanding obligation of the UK government to provide universal health care has now been ditched.

2. The NHS is being carved open for exploitation by private interests.

The media, notably the BBC often ranked alongside the NHS as one of the countrys greatest institutions – have failed to report this corporate assault on the countrys health service.

What is deeply disturbing is how little the British public has been told about what has happened, and about the likely consequences for an institution we all hold dear.


People Will Die – The End Of The NHS. Part 2: Buried By The BBC

Every day, researcher Éoin Clarke runs a check on the number of parts of the NHS that have been ‘carved up and offered to privateers that day. The sad news is that the NHS sell off is indeed accelerating.’ Clarke has identified 81 NHS contracts worth a total of more than £2 billion that are set to be privatised, or have recently been so. He adds that there are over 2,300 ‘chunks of the NHS that private companies can now bid for.’ Amazingly, ‘cuddly’ Richard Branson’s Virgin now controls 18 NHS contracts across 15 English counties.


SUGGESTED ACTION (from Media Lens)

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others.

If you do write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.

Please write to:

Helen Boaden, BBC Head of News

Email: helenboaden.complaints

Nick Robinson, BBC political editor

Email: Nick.Robinson01

You can also submit official complaints here (although note our previous cautionary remarks about the BBC complaints system here).

If you choose this route, your case will be strengthened if you argue that BBC news reporting breaches BBC editorial guidelines. The relevant general principles are 4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3, 4.2.4. Of particular note here are: 4.4.2 and 4.4.9.

Please consider becoming involved in campaigns to save the NHS, e.g. 38 Degrees

Catholic church urges pupils to sign anti-gay marriage petition

If anyone hears of this happening at Archbishop McGrath, I want to know about it please. I also want to know if anyone sees or hears of a homophobic booklet called “Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be” – distributed in some Catholic schools. (Andy Chyba)

Source: The Guardian on Facebook

Catholic school pupils have been asked to back a petition by the Coalition for Marriage, which has so far attracted about 466,000 signatures.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Pupils at state-funded Catholic schools in England and Wales being asked to back campaign against same-sex marriage

The Roman Catholic church has written to every state-funded Catholic secondary school in England and Wales asking them to encourage pupils to sign a petition against gay marriage.
Students at one south London school were shown a presentation on religious opposition to government plans to let gay couples marry in civil ceremonies. Church leaders believe the proposal would reduce the significance of marriage.

The Catholic Education Service, which acts for Catholic bishops in England and Wales, contacted 385 secondary schools to highlight a letter read in parish churches last month, in which two archbishops told worshippers that Catholics have a “duty to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations”.

The CES also asked schools to draw pupils’ attention to the petition being organised by the Coalition for Marriage, a Christian campaign which has attracted more than 466,000 signatures to date.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “This is a clear breach of the authority and privilege that the Catholic Education Service has been given in schools.

“Surely it is no part of its remit to promote a specific political campaign from this purely sectarian viewpoint. It is disgraceful that children are being encouraged into bigotry when they are attending a state school paid for by taxpayers.”

A pupil at St Philomena’s Catholic high school for girls in Carshalton, in the south London borough of Sutton, told the website that children aged 11 to 18 had been encouraged to sign the anti-equality pledge by their headteacher.

She said: “In our assembly for the whole sixth form you could feel people bristling as she explained parts of the letter and encouraged us to sign the petition. It was just a really outdated, misjudged and heavily biased presentation.”

She said some pupils had responded by buying Gay Pride badges to pin to their uniforms. “There are several people in my year who aren’t heterosexual myself included and I for one was appalled and actually disgusted by what they were encouraging,” she said. “After all, that’s discrimination they were urging impressionable people to engage in, which is unacceptable.”

The British Humanist Association said the CES’s actions were likely to be in breach of sections 406 and 407 of the 1996 Education Act, which ban the political indoctrination of schoolchildren and require political views to be presented in a balanced way. The Act was used in a failed attempt to prevent schools showing Al Gore’s climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth.

The drought scenario makes fracking an even more absurd proposition

With this ridiculously short-sighted, ‘any-quick-buck-to-help-balance-the-books’ government stating it is happy to see fracking proceed (  ); a lot of media attention has focused on the earthquake implications and almost completely missed the more significant issues.

Although today’s weather might make it seem like the wettest drought in history, water supply issues are an ever growing problem that fracking can only make substantially worse, at best, but could make catastrophic. This should be the big story at the moment.Some people have picked up on it, and this is a very good piece:

The use of the word ‘permanent’ in describing the drought we have seen declared in some parts of the country is not, perhaps, very wise  (and the writer has some misconceptions over drilling mud and frack fluid being the same thing) – but I endorse the following extract:

All the media are bleating about is the possibility of earthquakes triggered by the deep earth (3 miles down) detonations that fracture the shale. These have indeed in America and in the UK, with Cuadrillas experimental drilling in the Bowland Shale in Lancashire near Blackpool, caused earth tremors.

The risk of earthquakes is, by a substantial degree, the most minor of the hazards of the fracking process.

Fracking takes around 3,000,000 gallons of water a shot thats three million gallons, in case anyone thinks weve been over generous with the zeros.

Would anyone care to explain where this volume of water is to come from in the drought conditions the UK is already experiencing so early in the year – the worst in living memory and likely to remain a permanent feature of life in global warming?

At the moment 17 English counties are officially drought zones, there are hose pipe bans in force and the government is asking people to use water wisely.

Moreover the underlying water table is at an unprecedentedly low level.

Hose pipe bans seem risible in the light of a readiness to license fracking with its massive use of water to extend … the fractures caused by the deep detonations.

It is not as if this is water that can safely be returned to water courses after use.

This last point refers to the dreadful contamination of produced water – over and above of the chemicals thrown down in the frack fluid. But remember, no other human activity threatens not just water contamination – but water disappearance. Watch this; she is more eloquent than me:

The numbers get astronomical in terms of water usage in the fracking process. 3 million gallons per frack is a reasonable average. Using industry sources, there will be an average of around 10 boreholes per drilling pad, with at least 6 fracks per borehole in its lifetime. So that is 3x10x6 = 180 million gallons of water used per site. With sites needing be spaced at regular intervals of just a few miles apart (they are just a few hundred meters apart in some parts of the world) we could see 1000 + across South Wales alone. 180 billion gallons of water!!!!!!!! That is roughly 330 thousand Olympic sizes pools’ worth. Or nearly 3 Lake Windermeres!!!!

[These calculations are based on realistic averages – not upper limits which could inflate the total 40 fold. I leave the fanciful sums to the industry]

I am off to fix that dripping tap!