People’s Assembly Wales – group and organisation support discussion list from conference
First a reminder about tomorrow:
1. People’s Assembly Wales demonstration tomorrow 12.00 (noon) (Tuesday 18 November 2014) on the steps of the Senedd. Presenting and supporting the People’s Assembly Wales petition ‘Stop austerity cuts in Wales’.
Together with the written signatures – another 100 collected in Wrexham on Saturday: well done – it has now passed the 1000 mark which is no bad achievement for a hard demand and one campaigned for through ‘word of mouth’ in just over three weeks. Please sign and share if you’ve not already done so: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-austerity-cuts-in-wales-rhowch-stop-ar-doriadau-llym-yng-nghymru
If you can make the demonstration it would really be appreciated. Bring banners and placards along and if you can think of any ‘stunts’ please let us know. We are working on getting the press etc there.
Please let all your supporters know asap and also ask them to keeping signing.
So far most people think we should keep the petition going after the meeting tomorrow as a way of expressing unity against austerity across Wales. What do you think?
2. This coming Saturday 22 November again at 12.00 (noon) at the Senedd will be the Wales Says No to the Bedroom Tax demonstration. Please try and make this: https://www.facebook.com/events/721530277934842/
Keep in touch – we need to organise our anger and outrage!
Len Arthur – People’s Assembly Wales convenor (pro tem)
For a long time I and many others have been guilty of treating UKIP with derision and scorn. We have seen similar responses to the far-right ‘loons’ elsewhere. Who after all doesn’t think Sarah Palin is barking mad? Who does not have nothing but contempt for the le Pen National Front in France? The answer, sad to say, is ‘plenty’.
The politics of protest have clearly changed since my youth; in fact since the Great Depression and the French Revolution really. Until recently, hard times always tended to benefit the progressive left. Many think this is why the Welsh Labour has never even wanted to remove the poverty of the valleys – it keeps them in power in Wales. But the times are a-changing. Partly because, I suspect, of Labour’s clear abandonment of any pretence to be the party of the workers, the poor and the disadvantaged, large swathes of the electorate are buying in to channelling their frustration and resentment towards immigrants, welfare claimants, poorly functioning public services. These are the issues dominating the political agenda. Allied to establishment bias in the media, the left-wing progressives struggle to get a look in.
We hear a lot about the Green Surge, but of course the UKIP surge has been even more impressive in numerical terms. In 2002 UKIP had 3500 more members than us, and despite fluctuations in between, the margin was actually smaller in 2010, with UKIP at 15500 members to our nearly 13000 members. UKIP have maintained an impressive surge since 2010, whereas we plateaued until the turn of this year. This leaves us currently 15000 members behind them today, and our growth rate is currently only slightly better than their this year. We are not going to catch them up any time soon.
Since the spate of 6 by-elections in November 2012 (which included Cardiff South & Penarth where Ukip scored 6.1% to just beat our 4.1%) there have been 6 further by-elections where Ukip ranged from 18% to 59.7% (ave. 32%) and we ranged from 0% (DNS) to 3.1% (ave. 2.7% in the 4 we contested)
And this has all happened against a backdrop of repeated charges of racism and sexism and assorted ‘idiots’ saying stupid things that you would have thought would have stopped this surge in its tracks. This is the now infamous ‘car crash’ interview on LBC, just 4 months before getting close to 60% of the vote in Clacton (which is in the LBC broadcasting area)
The small business spokesman mentioned, by the way, is now one of our Welsh MEPs.
So how should we see them? They are clearly well ahead of us in the polls and, although we can keep hoping their bubble will burst soon, there is no evidence of it being imminent. As Natalie Bennett points out, “What Ukip’s rise should do is provoke seriously soul-searching among our political class about why it has been able to get so far with its dangerous, divisive and damaging rhetoric, and been almost unchallenged. The three largest parties haven’t taken on Ukip, but all too often pandered to it, seeking to pull back Ukip voters by outdoing it in rhetoric and policy.”
She goes on to say: “This is not only morally wrong, but politically stupid. By pandering to Ukip’s stance on immigration and Europe, the three largest parties have helped to make its claims that immigration has “caused” low wages, has “caused” housing shortages, has “caused” crowded hospitals and schools seem plausible.”
Natalie dispels the myths of immigrants stealing our jobs (our pay and conditions are among the worst in Europe!), overcrowding our houses (600,000 are empty!), abusing our health service (they keep it running!), and scrounge our benefits (there are Brits doing the same thing all over Europe). But none of these things seem to have a lot of traction on the doorstep. UKIP’s nasty, simplistic ‘blame the foreigner’ message has been tried and tested before. Scapegoating is the easiest way for people to absolve themselves of responsibility for their own predicament.
People are waking up to the fact that their predicament is the result of successive generations putting all their faith in a narrow set of neoliberal policies prescribed as if there is no alternative by the identikit neoliberal parties. UKIP offers the attractive proposition that the reason it has all gone wrong is not your fault for keeping faith with the neoliberals, but the bloody immigrants’ fault for coming in and undermining it all. People that cling to this sort of analysis are not easily shaken.
So what can we do about it in those brief encounters on the doorsteps?
I believe that we need to simply keep pointing out the things that UKIP are ALSO about that nobody else is talking about. You can use this handy flowchart for example, making sure you get to the the bottom. In fact, cut to the chase and go straight to that last purple box. This is where people start to splutter a bit and start thinking UKIP may not be quite representing their interests.
(Created for HuffPost UK Comedy by @unnamedinsider, David Schneider and David Beresford)
You can then start thinking about what the Green Party offers that might appeal. Indeed research suggests (and this made me splutter when I first read it) that 73% of UKIP voters should actually support the Green Party when the do things like Vote for Policies.
This is the way to tackle UKIP voters. Engage them in issues that directly impact on them and self-interest will come to fore. A Green Left friend of mine, Martin O’Beirne, puts it well. “Interesting – I was of the belief that if you are of the ilk that vote UKIP, you must inhabit an orbit so far removed from green, there is no benefit in trying to appeal – But speak to people, working people, voting UKIP, not the hardliners, the kind of floating protest, jumping on a bandwagon type voters ( that have been manipulated by UKIP propaganda) and clearly they warm to green – even on the stance in europe – but it seems like such a paradigm shift for them to consider green – who they regard as ‘green’ perhaps? – but fundamentally the required paradigm shift exists because of an unfair playing field – e.g. the obscenely disproportionate airtime UKIP and Farage receive – BBC and Question Time”
I still struggle to respect UKIP politicians (hence my support for the Stand Up to UKIP demo) – but we have to learn to respect UKIP voters. Labelling them a bunch of racists just plays into UKIP’s hands. Most of the people contemplating voting UKIP have not voted for them in the past. They should be considered non-committed floating voters that we can have an impact on if we engage with them properly.
Now there is real challenge for us all!
UKIP NOT WELCOME IN WALES
11.00 a.m. Saturday 6th December – Margam Park, Neath Port Talbot, SA13 2TJ
Join the protest at UKIP’s Wales Conference, Called by Swansea Stand Up To UKIP, supported by Unison. Leaflet attached.
WHY? There are many reasons – here are just three:
1. UKIP is racist. Attacks on immigrants are inherent in UKIPs policies – personified by Farage’s “I wouldn’t want Romanian neighbours” – demonstrated in their Swansea West candidates BNP style leaflet which proudly states: “UKIP candidate condemns diversity”
2. UKIP is sexist. Not a single woman in their Wales National Executive. In order to get hundreds of thousands of Euros into the UKIP coffers they have done a deal with a Polish far right group whose leader believes women should not have the vote and that No does not mean No, ”
“Women usually pretend that they don’t want [sex],” he said. “The percentage of women who pretend that they don’t want to have sex, but they do want in fact, is about 30 or 40 percent.” Farage has said, “I have found nothing in this guy’s background to suggest that he is a political extremist at all. “
3. Farage and his deputy leader are both on record as wanting to privatise the NHS. Farage has advocated an ‘insurance scheme’ . We only have to look at the USA to see what a disaster that is. Would you trust his recent u-turn on this?
THERE WILL BE A FREE COACH FERRY FROM PORT TALBOT PARKWAY STATION TO MARGAM PARK – HOPE TO SEE YOU THERE.
I want to focus this article on one of the two other parties that seem to vex our minds more than any other – Plaid Cymru (UKIP will be next)
If anyone is intending to engage with this debate, then you must read Leanne Wood’s ‘Greenprint for the Valleys’ document first. This is her personal manifesto, the one which took her to the leadership of Plaid Cymru. It is an ecosocialist manifesto and I will be surprised if there is anything a true Green Party ecosocialist could take issue with in there.Of course, this is not necessarily PC policy and, it is not as easy to locate a full set of their policies online as it is for ours, but most reasonable estimates reckon that there is close to a 90% overlap in policies. It will be interesting to see how the PC manifesto compares to the GPEW in a few months time.
The point is that we have a hell of a lot in common policy-wise. What we have less in common about is tangible support. Plaid Cymru currently has over 8000 members, to WGP’s 900 or so. It has 3 MPs out of 40 in Wales (compared to UK Greens one out 650). It has 206 councillors in Wales, compared to WGP’s zero and GPEW’s 139 in the whole of England and Wales.So this is what we are up against. In my local area, Bridgend, we have built a rapport with local Plaid Cymru members and worked closely with them on ‘Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax’ in particular, and have informal agreements to ensure we avoid getting in each others way in our target wards. We are, I believe, seen as more or less equal parties working co-operatively for shared objectives. I see the relationship growing and being of mutual benefit.
The current Wales Green Party officers seem set against attempting to do anything similar at a Wales level, citing historical issues that bear little relevance to current realities. And of course we would be in a pretty weak bargaining position, given the figures above. We could not expect equal shares in any electoral pact for sure. But if we do not come to some arrangement, we will continue to split the ecosocialist vote, to the detriment of all.
I happen to believe that Leanne Wood would welcome having her own ecosocialist principles endorsed by the Green Party – GPEW, if not WGP, is a bigger party, and it would, after all, be little more than an extension of, and recognition of, the fact that we are already formal allies in Brussels with GPEW and PC MEPs sitting and working together as part of the Green/EFA grouping.
There is growing recognition of left wing factions having to pool their resources and build a spirit of co-operation if we are ever going to defeat the neo-liberal caucus represented by the big three parties and the right wing fringe parties – at the ballot box at least. This is the rationale behind the PAAA and Left Unity, for example. In this respect, working with Plaid Cymru makes even more sense, as here in Wales they are an established electoral force already. A Welsh Ecosocialist Alliance could well provide electoral credibility for left wing alliances across the UK. If Leanne Wood was able to take most of the credit for that, I am sure she would buy into it. In her own words:
“Plaid Cymru genuinely wants to support people in England who want to rebalance political and economic power. Our party is co-operative, internationalist and of the left. We will work with progressives of any hue in England who want to decentralise. We are also prepared to actively support a new Left party in England.”
Local context is. of course, important, but sometimes at this level, people are standing too close to each other to have a proper perspective. We always feel uncomfortable when people enter what we see as our personal space. But we have to look at what we can expect to achieve and prioritise acceptable outcomes.
Of course, the perfect outcome of any election would be a Green Party win. As far as I am concerned, the least acceptable outcome would be a UKIP (or BNP) win. FPTP forces us into some awful dilemmas. Do I really vote Green when a likely consequence is letting a UKIP candidate win? What would be in the best interests of the electorate in that situation? Shouldn’t PC be our automatic second choice?
There are one or two places in Wales where this scenario is very real. Should we be self-serving, or selfless?
Irrespective of the views of some in WGP and GPEW, I am personally determined that one of the hues Plaid Cymru work with in Wales will be Green. I think that both Leanne and I share not just ecosocialist principles, but an understanding that it has to be about change on the ground – positive changes to people’s lives – ahead of any party sectarianism. I am involved in politics to do the right things to create a better world for us to live in. I will work with anyone and everyone that can help me turn this vision into a reality.
People are always very good at homing in on points of disagreement and conflict, rather than the sources of harmony and solidarity. I regularly hear people saying we cannot touch Plaid because ap Iorwerth supports Wylfa B. Most of his Party do not. I do not hear them complaining that a leading Welsh Green supports putting soldiers into classrooms to improve discipline.They know very few others support such a notion. I also hear a lot about Plaid Cymru supporting the badger cull and being too close to the tory farming community. So how about we tell them we just won’t support that (they know it already, but are still happy to work with us). Simple.
Sectarianism is an ugly thing, and something my generation have seen too much of over the years. Nonetheless, it appears to be the younger generation that are particularly keen to embrace amore inclusive and collaborative form of politics.
Adam Ramsay is one of the most respected Young Greens on the national scene. He has said this to me:
I think there should be seperate identities [for PC and WGP], which can sometimes be brought together on one ballot paper, and which never compete – a better analogy is perhaps an eco-socialist version of the Coalition in Australia. But in any case, the end game isn’t really the point – as you say, that’s a long way off. The first steps might be some kind of loose pact in Westminster relating to one or two seats…
And also written this in his respected blog:
“Local Greens and Plaid members will know their local situations better than I do. But, from where I’m sitting, I see an almighty task ahead of us if we are to displace the neoliberal parties which dominate British politics. If modern pluralistic, progressive movements are to succeed in that task, a little co-operation wouldn’t go amiss.”
Glenn Page is a former Green Party member who is now very prominent in Plaid Cymru Youth.He wrote in Daily Wales:
It seems bizarre to me that two parties should contest elections against one and other and then promptly, post-election, take up seats on the same benches in the same group.
He has told me:
Everyone I speak with still wants to see you as leader of the Welsh Greens, excited by the prospect even. By the prospect of achieving our shared objectives that is.
And Compass Cymru explicitly state:
“We’re trying to get progressive parties working together and focusing on what we have in common.”
I accept that this approach will alienate some Green Party supporters, but I will always stand by my convictions and am happy to be judged on them. This is the best way forward.
You do, at least, have another choice, which is a position of luxury in my time in the Party. But with the choice comes the responsibility. Engage with the issues. Talk to other people (dare I say in Plaid Cymru even) and make a positive choice in the election so that, whoever wins, has a proper mandate to take the party forward with.
Thank you to all for signing the petition and we hope you don’t mind if we contact you again about urgently building the petition and supporting a demonstration.
The Senedd will take a decision on the proposed cuts budget next Tuesday 18 November. The meeting starts at 13.30 and with the estimated timings it looks as though the budget will be discussed at around 15.00: http://www.senedd.assembly.wales/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=153&MId=2763&Ver=4
We can book public gallery seats here: http://www.assembly.wales/en/visiting/senedd/get-visits-plenary/Pages/get-visits-plenary.aspx
We shall now organise a demonstration on the 18th starting at 12.00 noon outside the Senedd building. Please bring no austerity and anti cuts banners along.
Everyone and every group who is or will experience the consequences of these cuts should try to get along.
The theme of the demonstration will be: all public services in Wales really do face another round of serious cuts next year unless AMs defy the Tories. 3.7% real terms cut is huge and as is the 17% lost since the financial crisis in 2008.
We didn’t create the crisis and we should not pay for it!
It is proposed to keep the petition open until Monday and then submit on Tuesday morning. Leaving it so late may not fit in with petition procedure but as it is in the public domain already the point is being made.
If the cuts budget is agreed we could leave the petition open so people can still make their views known. Please feedback your views on this on our FB page, web-blog, Twitter or email to me.
The petition is rapidly moving toward 800 signatures and Plaid Cymru has signed up to the petition and is advertising this support locally and among their members. The Green Party Wales continues supporting us actively.
We will now produce a press statement advertising our demonstration, petition and the threat to us all that these cuts will bring.
Please pass on the message in this email in every way you can and as fast as possible.
Here is a People’s Assembly Wales flyer you can use electronically or hard copy: http://pawalescymru.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/stop-austerity-cuts-in-wales-flyer.html it has a petition form on the back for signing.
Here is a hard copy of the petition: http://pawalescymru.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/stop-austerity-cuts-in-wales-hard-copy.html and the post also has details where both can be sent to.
All the arguments are on the web-blog using the links above.
We have set up a Facebook event page for feedback and updating: https://www.facebook.com/events/714860418569268/
And our Twitter link can be used the same way @PAWalesCymru & hashtag #nocutswales
See you next Tuesday!
Len Arthur – convenor People’s Assembly Wales len.arthur
After the Machiavellian nonsense that has been distracting me the past few days, I thought I better get back to the more satisfying part of politics – laying out a postive vision of what can be achieved.
Wales Green Party – towards success in 2017
With unprecedented membership increases this year, we need to ensure that all our local parties and eager activists are given every opportunity to capitalise on this momentum.
In my time within Wales Green Party, until now, we simply have not had the right people and resource distribution to enable a properly executed “Target to win” strategy. This is the tried-and-tested strategy developed in the West Midlands to startlingly good effect (just across the border).
It starts with choosing the most appropriate ward to focus on. Get this wrong and you may well be wasting years of effort. It cannot be a case of just stepping out of your front door and working your own neighbourhood. It is a programme that needs to be given at least three years to have a realistic chance of delivering success. We have no time to waste if we want success in 2017.
The strategy also involves proper support in terms of access to leaflets, briefings, artwork, training and logistical support. Training needs to be provided to present established best practice at every step – from ward selection to door knocking; from leaflet design to use of social media.
I have been involved with the Party long enough to be able to count on friends, who are acknowledged experts, to offer training across the country. These will come from both within the Party (e.g. Will Duckworth – the architect of ‘Target to Win’) and from outside the Party (e.g. social media and P.R. consultants).
None of this comes without financial costs, and this is also something we need to look at differently. Last year barely 18% of the Wales Green Party income was fed down to local parties. This needs greatly increasing along with disbursement of most of the retained funds in the election account. Until we achieve success in Local Councils, money spent on higher-level elections has to remain targeted on the target wards. Wales Green Party does not need large election reserves for other elections until 2019.
This point is likely to be emphasised by the potential wiping out of our election kitty by Wales Green Party footing the bill for 30 General election deposits next year. Other regions have also strived to fight 75% of their seats, but most are expecting local parties to raise the funds to cover the deposits. I hope I am wrong, but this strategy could end up with WGP having just a few thousand pounds to take forward into the full-scale target-to-win strategy. This is really going to put the pressure on our recently appointed regional organiser to get to grips with fundraising, or else we are going to be severely hamstrung.
The other aspect of achieving success in 2017 that needs to be developed sooner rather than later is developing better relationships with allies and better targeting of opponents weaknesses. Being a bit more politically savvy, in other words. I will deal with this in my next post.
A for targetting how many seats we can win in 2017, that is something I would want to establish early next year, as we are already less than 3 years away from the local authority elections. The target will be set by the membership through local parties and activists setting their target wards. Every active party should have one. If chosen carefully, one activist with a few supporters can work a ward successfully too. A commitment to follow the Target to Win approach will be met with a commitment to provide all the help possible for you to achieve your target.
TO BRIDGEND CBC
We call on the relevant local councils to reject any existing and all future applications for licenses to commence any gas extraction drilling related operations in their boroughs including fracking, CBM, UCG and other unconventional gas extraction methods, until full disclosure can be provided to establish the scope and magnitude of the effects to the environment, geology, water supply, air quality and the community at large. Where a risk to these factors exist, before any application is approved, license holders must commit contractually to mitigate these risks without exception, to ensure their operations cause no adverse affect to the environment and the communities they operate in. Existing licenses must be re-evaluated to establish the scope of risks to the environment and community. Where these risks cannot be mitigated, operating licenses must be revoked. We demand that the environment, health and the community is put first above all else.
Why is this important?
The evidence of the effects of existing Unconventional Gas Extraction operations around the world is a serious cause for concern. The potential exists for toxic and radioactive water contamination, severe air pollution, tens of thousands of wells, pipelines and compressor stations devastating the countryside and blighting communities. The geological stability implications are also well documented. This form of unconventional gas extraction is short lived , whilst the environmental impact would last for generations. Fresh water supply requirements is another area of concern, potentially causing widespread drinking water shortages, reduced water quality and driving up prices. Without full disclosure of the long term risks, enabling the people to determine the costs and benefits, licenses cannot and should not be granted. Many European countries and others further afield have issued blanket bans on unconventional gas extraction operations. The reasons for this need to be evaluated in order to decide whether 'we' in the UK are prepared to take the risk. The only way this industry can take hold in the UK is if we allow it, in an open and transparent debate and being aware of the risks. There are many alternative methods of energy generation which can be researched and developed. The environment and our communities must take top priority over all else!
SIGN HERE: 38 degrees petition