I believe the three options given should cover everybody’s position. If not, please add a comment.
Comments supporting your choice would also be welcomed.
I believe the three options given should cover everybody’s position. If not, please add a comment.
Comments supporting your choice would also be welcomed.
I will start with a point that will be uncontentious, which is that we are living through a period of political upheaval and turmoil like no other in my lifetime. Things are up for grabs like no other time I have known. From this point on I will not carry everyone with me, I am sure.
The next three years will see whether or not a meaningful change of direction can be achieved through the electoral systems we have in place. We have to hope so, as the alternatives, that will move towards inevitability, will have mass casualties.
When I joined the Green Party, I did so recognising that it would a long hard slog to slowly chip away towards gradual electoral success. Caroline Lucas was elected as the culmination of something like 20 years hard work. Councillors started to be elected in ever-increasing numbers where local activists were prepared to do the careful planning and hard slog of what has become the tried and tested ‘Target To Win’ (TTW) strategy. This remains the most assured way to achieve electoral success, but the last few months have thrown up the prospect of being able to grab some influence and start imposing parts of our agenda sooner than we could have dared hope. But there are all manner of dangers and pitfalls in these opportunities.
The impact of the Scottish Independence Referendum has been quite startling, especially given its outcome. It has injected a much needed dose of vigour into our politics, that has seen the long decline in political party membership overturned and unprecedented surges in membership for the SNP and Green Parties in particular, and renewed growth for Plaid Cymru, Lib Dems (having reached a nadir 2 years ago) and UKIP. It has to be recognised that these collective membership increases are nowhere near as significant as the losses of membership of the Conservatives and Labour parties.
But there is a world of difference between membership numbers, national polling averages and achieving success in elections. FPTP rewards local and regional strength ahead of general popularity. It therefore becomes vital for small parties to target and develop winnable seats (TTW) , and work together with political allies to achieve greater collective successes (alliance building).
This is where sudden surges of new members can become problematic. Two-thirds of Wales Green Party members have been members for less than a year. Half have been members for less than six months. They are full of natural enthusiasm and feel part of a rising tide that they feel has sufficient momentum to sweep all aside to glorious and inevitable glory. How many seats are we going to win next year? At least three? Six I am told regularly. Up to 12 some seem to believe. Of course, not one of those will be in Wales, but we will get most of our 30 odd deposits back, I am assured, even though our best ever Westminster result ever is 3.8%. And all this less than six months before the election and not a single door has been knocked or leaflet delivered.
Not only is TTW not properly understood or being followed anywhere in Wales, but any thought of alliance building seems completely alien to many of the new Greens, and too many of the more influential older Greens. The newbies seem to have joined the Greens thinking our ideals are loftier and more sacrosanct than other parties and that on our current trajectory, we will sweep to power and be able to implement it all soon enough. Just what sort of ‘green’ party are we? Even a party with 90% in common with us is not pure enough for many to touch. This is a recipe for marginalisation and irrelevance. It is also in denial of some of the ‘impure’ campaigning that some Greens are capable of engaging in.
The crucial importance of alliance building in the current political climate is recognised by those intent on grabbing opportunities to get a lever on government and decision-making. The Lib Dems have shown us the pitfalls of coalition, and even more so of making promises that you then too easily bin, but they have had considerable success in getting elements of their manifesto implemented and taken the sharper edges off of some Tory cuts. But the bottom line is that propping up a Tory government is likely to prove unforgivable for many of their previous voters. But with a hung parliament looking a nigh on certainty at this point, these are all useful lessons for us to learn.
So what we have witnessed this week is, I believe, a hugely important opportunity to start doing politics a genuinely different way, and also to start undermining the neoliberal hegemony that has had a stranglehold on Westminster since Thatcher and Blair. I am, of course, talking about this:
The following extracts are from the Green Party website:
Leader of the Green party in England and Wales Natalie Bennett, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood have today stated that all three parties will unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity.
During a meeting at Westminster today the three party leaders said that with no end yet in sight to the failed austerity agenda of the Westminster parties, the General Election next May is an opportunity to change UK politics for the better.
“I am delighted to have the chance to catch up with two other female leaders of anti-austerity parties in the UK. Together, we represent, with the Scottish Green Party, a new way of doing politics, a move away from the business-as-usual model of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems that no longer represents public opinion.”
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
“Plaid Cymru and the SNP provide an alternative to Westminster’s promise of austerity and cuts to public services. As the only parties, together with the Greens, to reject the cuts consensus, it is unjustifiable and undemocratic to exclude our three parties from proposed leaders’ debates during the forthcoming UK elections.”
“If the people of Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs in May, then Wales will be best placed to secure an outcome to improve the prospects of our people and communities.”
Where does this leave Wales Green Party? Marginalised and irrelevant?
What I am about to say may well be disputed by some, but will be recognised as the truth by many of the longer-standing members. Wales Green Party has long been seen as a slightly embarrassing ‘cousin’ that has a long history of under-achievement and is a source of repeated embarrassment. I do not want to dwell on proving this point to those that doubt it. But I do want to dwell on the opportunity to change this perception that is at hand.
At this point, let me stress that this is not about any bitterness from losing out in the leadership contest. I was more relieved than anything else when I learned the result, as I knew I had bitten off more than I could comfortably chew. This is about laying out my firmly held beliefs about opportunities that need to be grasped, before becoming (happily) marginalised and irrelevant myself.
If we take a realistic look at the state of the parties with regards the 2015 General election, a survey of most recent respectable polls yields the following as my best guesses as to where we are likely find ourselves in May:
The middle figures in bold are essentially median estimates based on recent polls. They are endlessly debatable, but there are a few points I would like to emphasise that are not dependent on the precise numbers.
Firstly, only the most extreme figures allow for any party (Labour) to have an absolute majority. It is strongly odds-on that we will have a hung parliament.
Secondly, if the median figures are anywhere near accurate, then no two-party coalition will be able to muster a majority either (other than a highly unlikely, if not completely implausible, Con/Lab one).
This, I would suggest, is why the social democrats (left of centre) of the SNP are keen to have allies in the ecosocialists (further left) of the Green Party and Plaid Cymru.
However, if the median figures prove spot on, even the combination of Labour/SNP/PC/Green won’t quite make a majority, falling 5 short (hello Sinn Fein?). It is therefore incumbent on all three of the new ‘allies’ to try and edge their contributions towards the higher end of the possible. However, I expect Labour to ‘bounce’ up a bit in Scotland (maybe +5) (probably partly at SNP expense, say -3), but that does not really alter the equation much for the Greens and PC. If they can both hit their ‘hi’ score, that might just be enough.
This is where is gets uncomfortable for Wales Green Party (WGP).
WGP is currently part of GPEW. Given that GPEW is clearly totally committed to building an ongoing alliance with PC and SNP, because they have the potential to deliver seats that neither Scottish Greens nor WGP can deliver in the foreseeable future, then is it not incumbent on Wales Green Party to do whatever it can to make this ‘dream’ alliance possible? This offers exciting possibilities going forward that, I would suggest, make advances for Welsh Greens much quicker, bigger and more secure into the bargain.
What could this mean in practice?
In return for Wales Green Party stepping aside in PC’s winnable seats next year (the 2 key marginals in particular), what could be offered in return? Some, or all, of the following I would hope:
> Joint regional top-up lists, pretty much guaranteeing seats in Welsh Government in 2016
> Electoral pacts, especially for the local authority elections in 2017, providing a clear run and additional support in target wards in every local authority in Wales
> Financial support from PC and GPEW to make the above a stronger reality, in gratitude for assistance given in 2015
> An overtly ecosocialist profile that will broaden the appeal of both parties and act as a magnet to all other ecosocialists lurking in other parties (Labour/Lib Dems/LU/SWP/TUSC etc)
Remember, alliances are not about joint manifestoes and sacrificing principles or identity. They are about building constructive working relationships to enhance the chances of delivering common objectives. Everyone should be a winner.
Just because the WGP members have rejected my brand of leadership (probably quite wisely), does not, I hope, mean that the vision I share with the three women in the photo needs to be rejected as well.
I would go so far as to say that if Wales Green Party is not prepared to support this vision and be a team player, then it needs to go the whole hog and become fully independent of GPEW. I am 100% sure GPEW will facilitate this asap if desired. Then WGP will be completely free of GPEW policy and can do as it sees fit on everything. It may be the quickest way round all its constitutional messes too as a wholly new constitution would be required.
It needs to make a bold decision one way or another, and as soon as possible. The clock is ticking.
In a significant break from the pro-austerity consensus of the three main parties, the Green Party of England and Wales, the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru came together today to declare their opposition to austerity.
Leader of the Green Party in England and Wales Natalie Bennett, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood today stated that all three parties will unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity.
During a meeting at Westminster the three party leaders said that with no end yet in sight to the failed austerity agenda of the Westminster parties, the General Election next May is an opportunity to change UK politics for the better.
Natalie Bennett said:
I am delighted to have the chance to catch up with two other female leaders of anti-austerity parties in the UK. Together, we represent, with the Scottish Green Party, a new way of doing politics, a move away from the business-as-usual model of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems that no longer represents public opinion.
We are the voice of real change – a voice that must be represented in the leader debates next year.
The ‘Green surge’ that has seen membership in England and Wales more than double, and Scottish
Green Party membership nearly quadruple in 2014 is a sign of the shifting political landscape.
Collectively the Green parties will be standing in more than 75% of seats in the UK, reflecting the advance of our political philosophy that rejects austerity and believes that everyone should have access to the resources for a decent quality of life, with certainty, without fear, while we all live collectively within the limits of our one planet.
And in thinking about future financial stability, we have to focus on the reason for our current difficulties, the near-collapse of our fraud-ridden, reckless, over-large financial sector.
Green MP Caroline Lucas is an outstanding MP as shown by the numerous awards she has received including the prestigious MP of the year for her work with disadvantaged communities. Electing more Greens next year will help to bring about a peaceful revolution in British politics, towards a government that works for the common good, not just for the few.
First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:
There is no end in sight to the Westminster cuts that are already hitting Scotland hard – the Autumn Statement earlier this month set out another £15bn of cuts that are coming our way. Not only will these cuts continue to hit hard-working families, women and the vulnerable hardest – they will also put growth and competitiveness at risk.
But despite the deeply damaging impacts of failed austerity, the Tories and Labour have made crystal clear their determination to carry on regardless.
And after four years propping up the Tories, the Lib Dems have no credibility. It is time for a new approach to UK politics – and for our parties to use our influence to bring about progressive change at Westminster.
Following the referendum in Scotland, the political landscape has changed utterly. The SNP is now the third biggest political party in the UK in terms of membership.
Last month we sent this message to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 – to exclude the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru from general election TV debates would be to wilfully ignore this new political landscape. Put simply, it is just not on.
Electing a strong group of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster. Along with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, we will work to do everything possible to tackle inequality and bring about sustainable economic growth.
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
Plaid Cymru and the SNP provide an alternative to Westminster’s promise of austerity and cuts to public services. As the only parties, together with the Greens, to reject the cuts consensus, it is unjustifiable and undemocratic to exclude our three parties from proposed leaders’ debates during the forthcoming UK elections. I reiterate my calls for Plaid Cymru’s inclusion in those debates in order to ensure the people can exercise their right to question and scrutinise all major parties.
The people of Wales face a real choice at the election. All three Westminster parties are committed to slash and burn economics. That means cuts for the sake of cuts rather than balancing the books by investment and spreading opportunities. It is likely that there will be another hung parliament after the election. In that scenario, Plaid Cymru could hold the balance of power alongside our colleagues in the SNP. Should that happen, Plaid Cymru will seek a rebalancing of power and wealth in the UK: transferring powers away from London to Wales so more of our fate is in our own hands; spreading investment away from the booming City of London to areas in most need of investment.
If the people of Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs in May, then Wales will be best placed to secure an outcome to improve the prospects of our people and communities.
The question that remains to be answered is what role Wales Green Party will play in either strengthening or weakening this historic alliance.
This keynote seminar was held at the Angel Hotel this morning and featured a lot of the players and vested interests in the energy sector from across Wales, including delegates from grass roots organisations – including Frack Free Wales (me).
Main points from each contributor:
PETER DAVIES (Commissioner for Sustainable Futures and Chair of Climate Change Commission for Wales)
Stressed the lack of public trust in energy companies and government. Called for much better participative processes and proper support for community renewables initiatives in a bottom up approach to tackling the issues.
DAVID TC DAVIES (MP for Monmouth)
Almost as good looking and intelligent as James Delingpole . My guess for what the TC in his name should stand for is not printable. Has form. This review by George Monbiot of one of his speeches in the Commons will do fine here: “a Conservative MP called David TC Davies, … used his speech to produce a long list of conspiracy theories and zombie myths: claims that have been repeatedly debunked but keep resurfacing. “
SIMON POWER (Arup Director)
There is too much focus on the supply side – we need to do a lot more on the demand side but we are lacking any vision or leadership from Welsh Government.
DAVID JONES (Marine Energy Pembrokeshire)
Massive resource in Wales are being completely untapped. Even a very modest 30MW installation, which could be operational in 3-4 years, would provide 2000 person years of employemnet and £70million GVA.
GERWYN WILLIAMS (UK Onshore Gas Group – incl Coastal Oil & Gas)
Most interesting was our brief discussion beforehand where he revealed his stock market flotation has had difficulties and is a few months behind schedule. His new line of spin was that shale gas should be seen as providing the carbon for lightweight vehicles and the hydrogen for pollution free vehicles.
BEN LEWIS (GVA Director of Planning, Development and Regeneration)
Gave some interesting case studies:
TATA Steel in Port Talbot are building their own gas-fired power station that operates of the gases produced in their production processes, making them self-sufficient in energy.
Glyn Rhonwy, Snowdonia, is the first pumped storage scheme since the 1980s and will provide 99Mw of near instant response hydro electric power to help manage spikes in demand.
Also made the case for small modular nuclear reactors and also the need for more integrated, joined-up planning from Welsh Governmant.
Prof PHILLIP JONES (Cardiff University)
Looked at managing demand side through low carbon built environments and energy efficiency in buildings. Lamented inadequate building regs and lack of commitment to retrofit measures. Slammed WG for the gap between their rhetoric and their delivery.
CARL SARGENT (AM and Minister for Natural Resources)
Gave some more rhetoric about being the best at this and that and trotting out the same old rhetoric about sustainability being at the centre of all policy making. No sense of irony evident in his re-inforcement of Prof Jones point above.
Baroness JENNIFER RANDERSON (Lib Dem peer)
Keen to stress Government duty to ‘keep the lights on’ but introduced the serious dimension of aging infrastructure and historical under-investment in the grid – which was highlighted by a questioner pointing out a community renewables scheme in Mid Wales that has recently been rejected because of lack of grid capacity to accept what they produce (a mere 12mw)
MAXINE FRERK (Ofgem)
Stressed the challenges of trying to make markets work for the consumer and of being able to regulate networks.
SAM WHITE (Miller Research)
Focussed on problems of filling the skills gap and skilled labour shortages for areas like marine energy, lamenting the fact that it is left to companies to train up staff rather than finding mainstream education providing the grounding for these new industries.
Dr JOHN RHYS (Oxford University)
Emphasised need to develop new technologies in energy storage, CCS and control systems. Lamented the high subsidies for fossil fuels while renewables struggle for investment and also lamented the lack of certainty and stability in energy policy to make developing these technologies worthwhile for the private sector.
JONATHAN WILKINSON (Montgomeryshire Against Pylons)
Representative of the local pressure group, with a largely untenable position calling for energy innovation without the eyesore of pylons blotting the landscape. Did however, make the strong and important point about involvement and consultation with local communities being important from the outset – something our groups like FFW are much better at than the developers, I would suggest.
BEN RUSSELL (Horizon Nuclear Power)
One of the main developers of Wylfa Newydd on Anglesey. Outlined stages of plan to get it operational by 2025, with training of the workforce required being a key issue.
Dr IAN REES (Principal Coleg Menai)
Explained how they are rising to the challenge of meeting the needs of Wylfa Newydd in the courses they are developing.
In the final Q&A, I raised the point that a recurring theme of the day had been the inability of markets and incentives to actually deliver what we want and need. I asked if the panel would therefore support moves back towards a nationalised energy industry. There was a general concession that Government had to take a stronger lead in developing and resourcing long term policy objectives to provide the stability and direction that Welsh Government is patently failing to deliver currently.
I arrived after dark on Friday night and was met by a handful of wonderfully warm and welcoming people who had spent the day making the structure below habitable – much to my relief as fighting to put my tent up in a soggy, dark field did not appeal:
In the picture, Steve is patching up at the very few leaks with roofing felt paid for by Frack Free Wales. It meant the Saturday night was even cosier:
I was sat on a three seater settee to take this picture, delivered on the Saturday. The donations to the camp are overwhelmingly kind and generous, emphasising just how much the local communities recognise and support the camp and its objectives. Food and wood supplies are currently not an issue at all, and with a mains water supply on the site, there is now little cause to be unduly anxious about people occupying the site over the winter months:
Community engagement was also evident in the regular visitors from the surrounding towns and villages, just dropping in for a chat and see that they can do to help. On the Saturday afternoon, there was a family fun event with kids getting face painting and crafts done – making painted lanterns from jars and tea lights:
This is not to say there are not issues and tensions. Security surveillance across the road on the original site extends to CCTV and infrared cameras high on masts that can monitor the new camp to an extent. Police visit regularly, which is fair enough to an extent, but when it extends to snooping about the lanes at 5.00am on a Sunday morning, is a bit oppressive. And some visitors/inhabitants of the camp have tried to change the ethos established by the local mainstays away from a totally peaceful camp, towards being a bit more challenging and confrontational. These people have not stayed.
I am very happy to witness the ethos established. The people are not pacifists and are realistic about the fact that confrontation will become inevitable at some point. The are prepared for this, but correctly, in my opinion are occupying the moral high ground and refusing to create the preconditions for confrontation. They are aware of the legalities of what they are doing and creating a place in which peace and harmony prevails (despite the odd hiccup). They are primarily lovers of the land, and lovers of Mother Earth.
Wales should be very proud and very grateful to the people here.
They are a ray of hope in the gloom of corporate greed and oppression of the people by the establishment. They are a merry band of modern-day heroes that I have come to love in no time at all, and I can’t wait to get back there at the earliest opportunity.
205 UK CITIZENS’ GROUPS TELL CAMERON NO TO FRACKING!
On Wednesday 10th December (UN Human Rights Day) at 3 pm, anti-fracking campaigners will hand deliver a letter to 10 Downing Street(1) which has been signed by no fewer than 205 UK residents groups(2) in support of a report calling for a moratorium on fracking on human rights grounds.(3)
One of the campaigners, Julie Wassmer from East Kent Against Fracking, said:
“There is a democratic deficit on the issue of fracking in this country: we did not vote for fracking and it is clear to us that the Government seeks to ignore the widespread opposition to fracking in the UK due its overriding commitment to shale. This opposition is clearly evidenced by the fact that there are currently over 200 residents’ groups actively campaigning against fracking in the UK – with Frack Free Sussex alone having over 10,000 followers. 205 of these groups have now signed a letter demanding that our Government acts upon the findings of a recent report, A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing and Other Unconventional Gas Development in the UK, which calls for a moratorium on human rights grounds. We are delivering this letter to Downing Streeet with a copy of the report on Human Rights Day – Wednesday 10th December.”
The report, commissioned by the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, identifies human rights legislation which the government has a responsibility to respect and protect relating to life and security of person; water and health; home and private life and public participation in the decision-making processes for environmental matters. The report’s authors(4) claim that fracking potentially violates these rights and could breach the rights of future generations as well as the human rights issues of climate change.
Frack Free Fylde campaigner, Gazyer Frackman, will accompany Mrs Wassmer to Downing Street on Wednesday, having recently highlighted the report in a speech to EU politicians on 1st December after he completed a 14 day protest walk from Downing Street to Brussels where he was welcomed into the EU Parliament.(5) Mr Frackman said:
“My walk covered a distance of 360 km in order to raise awareness of the dangers of fracking and I was joined in that initiative by Alexandru Popescu who walked from his home on the far side of Romania to meet me. These are the lengths that ordinary citizens of Europe are forced to go to in order to make our voices heard. I asked for the European Parliament and Commission to take notice of this report and I am grateful to Green MEP Keith Taylor for doing so. 205 UK groups are now calling upon our Government to act on the report’s findings. This represents a huge amount of ordinary people – and electorate – right across the country.”
Green MEP for South East England, Keith Taylor, has delivered a letter on Frackman’s behalf to the EU Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker(6) and said,
“I welcome this report and commend Bianca Jagger for her work in highlighting the problems associated with fracking.
The more and more residents find out about the impacts of fracking, the less they want it in their area. Fracking will not solve our energy problems and when the IPCC are telling us to move away from fossil fuels, investment in fracking is a huge mistake.”
Anna Grear, one of the report’s authors and Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School and Director of the Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (www.gnhre.org) said of today’s letter from the groups:
“It was always the hope of the report’s authors that the report would inform and support those concerned about the potential impacts of fracking on their lives, neighbourhoods, house values, health and the quality of the environment. Given that fracking was recently described in a report published by the Government’s own Chief Scientific Advisor as being as potentially damaging as thalidomide, the lack of consideration given to the human rights of ordinary people by the Government in its ‘dash for shale gas’ is increasingly unacceptable. It is high time that this Government took its responsibilities to the general public more seriously and placed a moratorium on all fracking operations until a full, industry-independent human rights impact assessment is carried out.”
The 205 residents’ campaign groups will now be forwarding the report and a copy of the letter, (which is also signed by Bianca Jagger) to MPs and councillors across the country.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
(1) Letter to David Cameron – attached.
(2) List of 205 residents’ groups who have put their names to the letter – attached.
(3) The report, A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing can be accessed directly on this link: tinyurl.com/lvmcnwp
With the report (and more information) available on:
(4) The report’s authors are as follows:-
Anna Grear (Director of the GNHRE, Reader in Law, Cardiff Law School, UK and Adjunct, Associate Professor of Law, University of Waikato, New Zealand.)
Evadne Grant (Associate Head, Department of Law, University of the West of England, Editor Journal of Human Rights and the Environment GNHRE Coordinator.)
Dr Tom Kerns (Director of Environment and Human Rights Advisory, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, Seattle Community College.)
Professor Karen Morrow (Professor of Environmental Law, Swansea University, core team, member GNHRE.)
Dr Damien Short (Reader in Human Rights, and Director of the Human Rights Consortium and Extreme Energy Initiative at the School of Advanced Study, University of London.)
(5) Details of Gayzer Frackman’s walk to Brussels and speech within this article: http://drillordrop.com/2014/12/01/lancashire-campaigner-takes-anti-fracking-message-to-brussels/
(6) Letter to Juncker attached – from Gayzer Frackman, delivered by Keith Taylor MEP. NB Geza Tarjanyi uses the campaigner name of Gayzer Frackman.
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