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!

Reprise of our Local Election Mini-Manifesto

BRIDGEND GREEN PARTY Local elections May 2012
Bridgend Green Party are pleased to announce that many of the electorate of the Bridgend area now have a fresh, new, radical alternative at the Local Elections in May.
Only 18 months after re-launching the Bridgend Green Party, we are pleased to say that we will be contesting 8 wards (7 in Bridgend county + one in the Vale) in the County Borough Elections (BETTWS/ BRYNTIRION, LALESTON & MERTHYRMAWR/ COITY/ HENDRE/ MAESTEG EAST/ MORFA/ YNYSAWDRE / St BRIDES MAJOR) and 6 seats on Community/Town Councils (Brackla, Bridgend Town, Garw Valley and Laleston) . I would like to acknowledge the support and encouragement we have received from members of other parties, including some councillors, who recognise that we can offer a much needed injection of new ideas, enthusiasm and passion. We will help push an agenda of sustainable development, a fairer society and of providing a legacy we can be proud to leave future generations instead of the current embarrassing and soul destroying mess.

Let us be clear. The Green Party is a left of centre party. The three mainstream parties have long offered just slightly different brands of right wing politics. As much as we respect many of our councillors, especially Labour and Lib Dem ones, many of them (and many of their supporters) cling to the forlorn hope of being able drag their parties back to the political ground that they know their traditional support, including most of the people of Bridgend and the Valleys, still need. But now we offer them, not a way back, but a way forward to a new brand of Eco-socialism. Eco-socialists are united in the belief that if we are to have a worthwhile future, the whole world needs to come together to drive capitalism from centre stage and create an alternative society based on principles of social and environmental justice as well as popular participation.

We know we have a long way to go before we can emulate the success of the Green Party in other parts of the country in gaining control of councils. We are realistic about what we can achieve this time around in Bridgend, but whatever the outcome, we will campaign and lobby for the things that will make a difference to peoples lives and provide a future fit to bequeath to our children and future generations. Among other things, we will be promoting the following initiatives:

  • Promotion of quality apprenticeships. The Council needs to lead by example by instigating a programme of apprenticeships in as broad a range of areas as possible, to help counteract the tragic waste of potential and source of many of societys ills, that is youth unemployment. Particular encouragement needs to put into developing the skill sets needed for the industries of the future, such as those needed in energy efficiency and the renewable energy industries. With over 7500 employees, there should be scope for hundreds of apprenticeships within the organisation, and it could become a criterion for the awarding of sub-contracts. There is no greater blight on our collective futures than youth unemployment and it must be a top priority.
  • Improvements to transport. We would like to see: a feasibility study into extending the Maesteg train line up into Caerau; free buses for under 16s (parent taxi services often double the road miles needed for the journey, taking young people there and back); and parking charges used to subsidise bus fares and services to ensure that it is always cheaper and viable to use public transport instead of cars. Parking charges should be imposed at out of town shopping centres to create a level playing field for town centre shops. We would push for the completion of the much delayed Brackla Park & Ride rail station and would also facilitate and incentivise car sharing by commuters heading to Cardiff and Swansea every day (such as by providing dedicated car parking facilities adjacent to the main M4 junctions). New housing estates, such as Parc Derwen, Coity, need linking in to bus services straight away once residents start to move in. Much more needs to be done, in collaboration with experts like SUSTRANS, to help people make smarter, healthier and safer travel choices.
  • Ensuring disabled access is improved across the county. It is all well and good to improve access in town centres, public buildings, bus stops and in peoples homes, but there is a lack of joined up thinking. In many of the neighbourhoods where people live, such as Bettws, the challenge is getting from the front door to the disabled parking bay, or bus stop, or local shop or chemist. We would ensure all registered disabled people have neighbourhood accessibility surveys and remedial work done to alleviate this situation. Where this proves difficult, see would seek rehousing to more accessible locations.
  • The eradication of fuel poverty across the County by ensuring every home takes up the opportunities to have their homes properly insulated and efficiently heated. PV for Free schemes, such as the one promoted by Sustainable Wales until Westminster pulled the rug on the FITS, will be investigated and promoted. All business premises need to have insulation standards imposed on them too.
  • Making Bridgend a Frack-Free Zone. This will ensure that the pursuit of ever more extreme forms of fossil fuel exploitation (shale gas fracking, underground coal gasification etc) are not allowed to blight the the health of our people and the quality and value of our land and environment. Such reckless pursuit of the last vestiges of fossil fuels also contribute to and exacerbate our lemming-like rush to the precipice of catastrophic climate change.
  • Presumption in favour of all renewable energy related developments, that do not directly impinge on the quality of life of nearby inhabitants, allied to a presumption against all fossil fuel related new developments. We share the vision of the Danes in planning out a future (within a 30 year time frame) based exclusively on our abundant renewable energy potential. It can become a focal point for the boom industries of the near future. We have to be weaned off of fossil fuel dependence sooner or later and those with foresight and courage will lead the way in the transition to a future powered by renewable energy. We can lure the innovators and pioneers here to Bridgend with our natural advantages and the right package of incentives (business rate exemptions etc).
  • Quality secular schools. We will promote equality of opportunity for all, alongside quality education for all, following the most successful models of comprehensive education. When implemented properly, this produces higher standards across the board with especially big benefits at the lower end of the spectrum. This has got to be in the interests of everybody.
  • Improving our recycling and re-use performance. We would acknowledge the huge strides made to transform Bridgend from one of the worst performers in Wales to one of the best performers in Wales, in terms of recycling rates achieved, but this is damning with faint praise. We cannot rest on our laurels. There are many improvements still desperately needed. We need, for example, garden waste recycling; soft plastic recycling; and better containers to prevent collection day becoming neighbourhood littering day. We can also learn a lot from neighbouring Neath Port Talbot about re-use initiatives such as unused paint being collected and used for school and community projects; tool re-use projects; outgrown school uniform and sports kit re-distribution schemes; promotion of freecycling schemes; furniture and bicycle restoration and repair workshops etc.
  • Local food initiatives. These will be many and varied, but including the promotion of community managed farms, gardens and allotments; school allotments/farms ; local produce accreditation schemes; garden buddying schemes (that can pair up those with knowledge to share with those with energy and muscle power to spare); the development of Bridgend Farmers Market to make it more accessible to as many people as possible, as often as possible through permanent premises in town and shopping centres. Some of these things have been given lip service in the past, but we would ensure they are all properly resourced and promoted.
  • Low impact living initiatives. Permaculture and other low-impact lifestyles and building techniques will be encouraged and facilitated. These can provide the inspiration and develop the knowledge base and skills required to help build sustainability into all of our lives, while also providing very low cost housing options and encouraging the self-sufficiency which truly frees people from the benefits trap.
  • Accountability of Councillors. All councillors currently receive the same basic allowance/salary of £13,868 for being your elected representative, irrespective of how much effort they put in on your behalf (admittedly a handful chose to forego the tiny increase in last years allowance). Attendance at formal meetings is an one valid indicator. One councillor only attended 17 such meetings in the whole year, whereas another managed 103. In terms of registering referrals (matters brought up by constituents in surgeries and through letters etc), two registered 232 in a year, whereas five did not register any whatsoever!! And yet they all received the same basic allowance. This is clearly not acceptable and we will work to change the system to ensure greater accountability and consistent value for money from all our councillors.

Another system that desperately needs changing is the Council Tax system. This is not something that Bridgend CBC can do much about on its own, but we will campaign to at least restructure Council Tax bands to make them a progressive tax rather than the regressive tax we have at the moment. Looking through the Property News this week, you can find a property in Pontycymmer for sale for £27,000. Whoever buys this will face a Council tax bill of £861; which is 3.2% of the property value. There is a property for sale in Porthcawl for £1,750,000. Whoever buys this will face a Council tax bill of £3022; which is 0.2% of the property value! This is patently inequitable and unfair. Green Party policy is to ultimately replace Council Tax and Business Rates with a much fairer, simpler and environmentally beneficial Land Value Tax.

Nothing we propose is especially original. All these ideas have been tried and tested and can be seen to work in other parts of the world (Scandinavia, Australia and Germany among them). They are associated with progressive values, innovative thinking and a willingness to grapple with the challenges of the future while we still have a little scope to experiment with and refine the ideas and technologies that we will need to cope. The big challenges we face include the consequences of climate change, an aging population and the need to restructure our supply and demand for energy. In all these cases it is the poor and the vulnerable that are likely to suffer the adverse consequences the most. This is why environmental issues are social issues too; and why Eco-socialism is the way forward.

We are here to ensure that our environment is not sacrificed in the pursuit of the short-sighted capitalist growth agenda, and to ensure that the poor and the vulnerable do not suffer from the cuts and austerity measures demanded by the staggering mismanagement of the economy by successive Conservative and Labour administrations led by millionaire public school boys. We all instinctively know what is fair and it is not for nothing that we in the Green Party use the following rallying call: Fair is Worth Fighting For. Wherever you can, vote Green on May 3rd.

Caroline Lucas on the stump for us on Radio 4 this morning

Caroline appeared on BBC Radio 4 Today this morning to talk about the local elections and the benefits of a greener economy you can read about the interview and listen again here: Some of the facts and figures she mentions about green industries are useful.

From the BBC website:

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has acknowledged that it is can be hard to get the the environmental message across in times of austerity.

But she told the Today programme’s Justin Webb that overlooking green issues at a time like this was a “tragedy”.

“There is no contradiction in promoting a green economy and dealing with jobs and the environment,” she said.

“It is through investing in green technologies that we can get the economy stabilised”.

Listen to the full 4 minute interview here:

Holy Redundant – removal of Bishops from Parliament

The following campaign is completely consistent with Green Party policy on Public administration and government ( )

The Governments proposals to reform the House of Lords will preserve and entrench the influence of unaccountable representatives of the Church of England in our Parliament.

At present, the Church of England is granted privileged access to our Parliament. Anglican Bishops sit alongside Peers in the House of Lords, they have the right to vote and debate, they influence our national way of life. They acquired this right solely by virtue of their religion, their gender and their position in the hierarchy of one particular denomination of one particular Church. They are unaccountable to the public.

We want fair reform of the House of Lords which does not afford privilege to any special interest group.

We urge the Government to remove the automatic right of Bishops to sit there.

None of the arguments for keeping Bishops makes sense, and keeping them is unpopular with the public. At a time of general reform, we possess a once in a generation opportunity to remove this archaic and unjust aspect of our political system.

Visit the link above for information about the campaign and how you can assist.

The key messages of the campaign (that the current situation is unfair, unjustified and unpopular) can be seen in more detail here: