Monthly Archives: November 2014

Plaid Cymru – how should we see them?

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.Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 23.02.44Of 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.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 23.18.10

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.

Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 23.19.15 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.

Stop austerity cuts in Wales – demonstration 18th November

Dear all

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:

We can book public gallery seats here:

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: it has a petition form on the back for signing.

Here is a hard copy of the petition: 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:

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

Tagetting to win in 2017

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.

Andy Chyba




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

A Picture of a Poppy by Katy Beddoe

Picture me with my poppy red.
Picture me as I honour the dead.
Picture me and my patriotic adore.
Picture me as I barter in war.

A picture of a poppy that tells a tale,
the blood of our forefathers up for sale.
A flower of remembrance defiled in vain,
an illusive symbol assisting ecomonic gain.

Yet in honour of those who fought for peace,
a poppy of hope that the war drums will cease,
is a poppy of love and not of spite.
Picture me with my poppy white.

See more of Katy’s poetry at her Alchemy of Anger blog

South Wales Against the Bedroom Tax

Our local member Kay Harris, along with Alan Short’s phenomenal dedication and commitment, have taken the Bridgend Against the Bedroom Tax initiative, initiated and supported by us and Plaid Cymru,  and developed it with the help of our good friend, Jamie Insole, WGP’s Elspeth Parris and Katy Beddoe and others, into a hugely successful campaign across South Wales.

This letter appeared this week in the Glamorgan Gazette, South Wales Echo and associated peers across South Wales.

Keep up the good work!!

Truly comprehensive education

(Cover of novel by Daniel Ken )

I wish to lay out my position on comprehensive education because it is one of those terms that everybody uses, but very few understand.

This comes about because most people think that just because a school is called a “Comprehensive School'”, it must have been delivering ‘comprehensive education’. On this basis, bad comprehensive schools are taken as evidence that comprehensive education does not work. My position comes from the realisation that we have never had truly comprehensive education in this country, and where it has been implemented it has benefitted EVERYBODY.

I lay this out in detail in my book, The Asylum of the Universe, and copy the relevant section at the end of this post.

People’s views get prejudiced by their own experiences and this leads to the unfortunate peddling of ignorant stereotypical views like these:

“My education took place before I reached the age of 10, at a small, overcrowded village school. From there I went to Grammar School, and a year later became a victim of the new comprehensive mode of non-education…I left school at 15.”

“a personal experience, born from a particularly disastrous change from grammar to comprehensive where none of the staff were prepared for a high intake of young people who had no intention of learning anything. “

Quotes taken from Pippa Bartlotti’s ‘Ask the Greens’ blog. With these bad experiences to draw on, what are her solutions:

“From the age of 2 all children would go to small neighbourhood pre schools at no charge – with no get-out clause for anyone rich or poor. They would get 3 meals a day plus a snack to take home. Parents would then be free to work, the resultant tax income contributing to the cost of extra schooling. If parents chose to fulfil the prophesy of multi generational laziness their benefits would be replaced by vouchers which could only be spent in one place. Training for parents would be available. Simultaneously, older children missing the initial introduction to greater equality and wider socialisation would be filtered into age groups, and at key teenage years boys and girls would be educated separately to save them from their own silliness. There would be a progressive and staged education system delivered by hands-on experienced trainers, quite possibly from the armed forces – who are exemplary trainers, but who currently train for the wrong thing – but also from all walks of life.

From her Huffington Post column, not from UKIP’s manifesto, where it would sit appropriately enough.

Thankfully, she has had no input into our Education Policy which is broadly in keeping with my views that truly comprehensive education is the way forward. We have some experienced people within Green Left that are working tirelessly to help refine and improve this vision of an education that truly offers equal opportunities for all and yields the highest possible attainments across the board.

I have spent just about all of my life in education in one form or another, including 20 years as a secondary school teacher. I have witnessed and experienced schools in France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Poland and Australia. Hopefully, this gives my views and bit more credibility and substance. They are laid out in more detail here:

EXTRACT from the ‘Education’ chapter of “Asylum of the UNIVERSE“:

Having just suggested that we need to go back to the drawing board and then to suggest that we need to embrace comprehensive education may seem perverse. Surely we have had comprehensive education – and it gets mixed reviews at best! But I do not think we have ever seen anything remotely resembling properly comprehensive education – certainly not in this country. If we had a genuinely comprehensive system, there would be very modest differences between differing schools attainment and the league tables I have just lambasted could then have some value in monitoring this.

Comprehensive education must surely provide all the essentials we want all our young people to know (see ‘Curriculum’ above). And then there is the issue of equal opportunities. Nothing but lip service has ever been paid to this in this country. I believe that this is due to a general feeling that the whole concept is woolly leftie nonsense that probably diminishes attainment rather than enhances it.

Equal opportunities are not achieved by making every school teach the same thing (the flawed surmise of the National Curriculum). Equal opportunities are not provided by giving parents any degree of choice over school places (kids have no opportunity to choose their parents!!).

Equal opportunities are all about providing every child with the avenues to optimise their potential. Even a moment’s cogitation on this should lead to the realisation that we need quite radical social engineering to achieve this. We have to do something to level the playing field. Everyone plays better on a level playing field. Why should its parents, and their address, dictate a child’s life chances? More kids make it to Oxbridge each year from the 300 kids at Eton than from the 300,000 kids on free school meals!60

Why should schools be set up to ‘serve’ neighbourhoods and thereby end up reflecting the aspirations, or lack of them, in that neighbourhood? Schools should be serving the interests of society in general – shouldn’t they? High levels of attainment are clearly in the interests of society. But doesn’t this all sound like naïve idealism? Maybe. Is there a viable alternative solution?

For years I have had vague notions of what an ideal education system should look like, but this was built more on negative notions of what I didn’t like in existing systems.

Coming up with workable models that offered more promising outcomes have been more challenging. I certainly never thought I would stumble upon an attractive solution in somewhere like North Carolina! Over the last few decades, the schools of Raleigh have gone out on a limb and proven (or at least provided compelling evidence) that my gut instincts are right – schools will succeed if they are genuinely comprehensive.61

Raleigh’s governors revisited extensive research evidence from the 1960s that had indicated that the single biggest factor determining individual attainment in school is not your parents, your genes, your teachers or your school buildings/environment. The most important factor by far, it would appear, is your classmates. If most of your classmates are demotivated, pissed off and disobedient, you won’t learn much. What a surprise! However, if a critical mass of them are hard-working, keen and stick to the rules, you have a good chance of learning. Wow!

Okay, okay – it might seem to be stating the obvious. It was all too obvious to me throughout my teaching career. What is not so straightforward is what to do about it. The answers the Raleigh School Board came up with seem obvious enough with hindsight, but it is in being bold enough to implement them that it really deserves immense credit. The main strands of what they did were as follows:

  • No school to be allowed more than 40% of its children on free school meals.
  • No school to be allowed more than 25% of its children to be grade or more below its expected reading or maths level.
  • Merger of the Raleigh City school district with the Wake County suburban school district.
  • A third of schools turned into specialist schools offering excellent music, drama, sport or language specialisms.

The results over the next decade showed the following:

  • Progression from one of the worst performing districts in the US to one of the best.
  • Test scores of poor kids doubled.
  • Test scores of wealthier kids improve slightly, but significantly.
  • Teenage pregnancies down.
  • Youth crime down.
  • High school dropout rates fell substantially.
  • 94% of parents were now satisfied with their child’s education.
  • A significant reduction in education spending per pupil achieved.
  • Huge savings in welfare payments and in the costs of crime prevented.

Everyone’s a winner!!

If you think it couldn’t work in this country, Johann Hari usefully points out that the Grampian Education Authority has the best overall results in the country and has the most comprehensive schools in the country. Meanwhile Kent, one of the last bastions of the grammar school (and just 1% of kids on free school meals), has the worst overall results in the country. Hari also says:

         Yes, some parents will scream that they don’t want their kids being taught alongside “chavs” and “pikeys”. This should be called out bluntly – it is bigotry.

Maybe a few of these bigots will seek the haven of a private school for their little darlings. In the long run, I would expect fewer and fewer to see any value in private education. I, for one, would prefer my kids to mix with the kids of chavs and pikeys than with the kids of bigots and fascists.

The Raleigh model simply has to be better than what we have managed to conjure up to date. We currently allow millions of children to fail purely on the basis of their parent’s bank accounts. Social apartheid is instigated at the age of five and reinforced throughout the child’s experience of the education system.

Dulce et Decorum Est by Wilfred Owen / Common Form by Rudyard Kipling

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—
Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori. (It is sweet and right to die for your country).

Common Form – Rudyard Kipling

If any questions
why we died,
Tell them,
because our fathers lied.

This website has been selected for the UK Web Archive

The National Library of Wales would like to invite you to participate in the UK Web Archive by archiving your web site ( The UK Web Archive is a partnership between the National Library of Wales, the British Library, JISC, and the Wellcome Library, to preserve websites for future users. We have identified this web site as an important part of Wales’ documentary heritage and would like it to remain available to researchers in the future. The archived copy of your web site will form part of our permanent collections.

There are some benefits to you in having your site archived by the UK Web Archive; We will not only take the necessary preservation action to keep your publication accessible as hardware and software changes over time but will also catalogue your publication through the websites of both the National Library of Wales ( and the UK Web Archive (, thereby increasing awareness of your publication among researchers.
Selected websites are considered to be of long term research value, either in themselves or as part of a Special Collection of themed materials. Typically, archived websites publish research, reflect the diversity of lives, interests and activities throughout the UK, or demonstrate web innovation. They are chosen to represent a range of social, political, cultural, religious, scientific or economic activities.

Andy Chyba appointed Green Party (GPEW) Policy Expert on Energy & Fracking

From: Sam Subject: Your Green Party Policy Expert applicationDate: 6 November 2014

Dear Andy,

Many thanks for your application and assessment task for the role of policy expert. I’m really sorry that this whole process has taken so long, but I’m pleased to tell you that your application has been successful, and we are keen to put you to work to advise us in the field of energy and fracking.

I’m going to pass your email address to Brian, who is leading work on our GE manifesto, and he will be in touch with you in relation to elements of the draft manifesto which we would like you to comment on. You may also hear from Tom in relation to other policy work which is underway or coming up.

If you have any queries in the meantime please do let me know.

Kind regards,


From: sam To: andy Subject: RE: Spokesperson/Accredited expert Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2014 15:58:28

Thank you for your enquiry about the role of policy spokesperson and/or policy expert. We have received a large volume of responses to the callout and it will take us some time to work through them all

> From: andy Subject: Spokesperson/Accredited expert Date: Mon, 4 Aug 2014 23:30:15 +0100

> Hi Sam,

> My main areas of expertise are ENERGY and WALES.

> I founded my Local Party in Bridgend win September 2010 and have been elected Chair/Spokesperson every year since. It is arguably the most vibrant local Party in Wales at present.

> I am also the Green Left regional contact person for Wales, and spent a short period as a member of the Green World Editorial Board.

> I was elected lead candidate for the Euro Elections in Wales and will be standing for the leadership of Wales Green Party in the Autumn. I will probably be a candidate at the General Election next year.

> With regards to Energy – I was a geography/geology teacher for 20 years and have spent the last 4 years as one of the countries leading ‘fractivists’. I represented the Vales Says No! local campaign group at the first (and, possibly still, only) Public Inquiry on a freaking related planning application. I have been interviewed many times by Welsh media, Russia Today, Worldview and Al Jazeera.







> As well as being a prominent anti-fracker, I am also well versed as a pro-renewables advocate.

> Regards,

> Andy Chyba