Archive for February, 2011

Caroline Welcomes the Government’s Decision to Ditch Reckless Public Forest Sell-off

February 18, 2011

Responding yesterday to the Government’s statement scrapping the proposals for the forest sell-off, Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said:

 

“On behalf of the many hundreds of my constituents who have written in to oppose the sell-off of our public forest estate, I welcome the Government’s decision to ditch these reckless plans – and am encouraged by the commitment given to me by the Secretary of State that those people who led the inspirational grassroots movement against the sell off will be included in the new panel of experts set up to consider the future of the forests. Now it will be vital to ensure that the panel itself operates in public. This major u-turn exposes the shambolic nature of the Government’s policy-making – and is the inevitable consequence of ministers blindly charging ahead with ideologically driven cuts.” 

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Why Yes2AV? – A Green Party view of AV

February 17, 2011

AV (rather than FPTP) is great news for a healthy democracy above all because it eliminates the ‘wasted vote’ argument, and will drastically reduce tactical voting. Thus a great democratic advantage of AV is that it enables smaller Parties (that are not thoroughly disliked by a majority) to build up their votes. This is how the Green vote has grown in Australia, for instance, to the point where the Greens have won seats in the Upper House (elected by PR) through credibility attained by their being able to build up their first-preference votes (through AV) in the Lower House. And the Aussie Greens have now won their first seat in the Lower House, through second-preference-transfers under AV…

Thus AV, unlike FPTP, makes it comparatively easy for democracies to outgrow ossified Party structures – such as arguably we have in Britain, today. And the beauty of it is that it succeeds in doing this while remaining a rather modest reform: See http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/rupert-read/av-means-you-can-stick-to-first-past-post-if-you-really-want-to . (In the longer term, once people are used to electoral reform and also more used to preferential systems (see my discussion here: http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/06/28/why-the-left-will-always-be-at-a-loss-without-vote-reform/ ), it is relatively easy to imagine a chance occurring to proper proportional representation, which is the Green Party’s favoured option ultimately. There are a couple of questions on that subject in this Q&A with Caroline Lucas: http://www.pimedia.org.uk/politics/2011/2/5/caroline-lucas-mp-the-interview.html )

People sometimes say that AV maximises the votes of extremist candidates. This might well be technically true, in the sense that people are no longer discouraged from voting for the candidate of their choice, under AV, because, as I’ve already remarked, AV eliminates the ‘wasted vote’ argument that is the bane of small parties under FPTP. However, relative to AV, it is FPTP that maximises the seats that are gained by extremist parties. This is demonstrable for example in relation to Council elections in this country: there are many seats that the BNP have won under the present system that they would without doubt have lost under AV: for the second and third and fourth preferences of voters voting for mainstream/non-fascist parties would in very many cases have transferred against the BNP. In seats where it is not obvious who to vote for in order to stop the BNP, FPTP is the system of choice for the BNP. Which may well partly explain why the BNP, somewhat understandably, is calling the AV referendum a conspiracy against the BNP…

To sum up: Because it puts an end to tactical voting in its classic form and to the ‘wasted vote’ argument, AV changes the expressed first preferences of voters. For example, the rise of the Greens in Australia has been predicated on growing numbers of Aussies voting Green even if and where the Greens have little chance of winning; voters can affords to do this, because their second preferences etc will still count. Thus AV helps create a vibrant democracy with the capacity for change. It enables Parties that are part of a healthy democracy to grow, and thus challenges two-Party duopolies – but it is also better than FPTP at keeping out extremists (fascists, racists, etc.).

If the AV referendum goes through, expect substantial changes to British politics – including an accelerated rise for the Green Party.

Cameron’s Statement that multiculturalism has failed was a dangerous declaration of intent.

February 14, 2011

We the undersigned believe David Cameron’s statement that multiculturalism has failed was a dangerous declaration of intent.

David Cameron’s speech was reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s infamous 1978 statement that Britain was “being swamped by alien cultures”. He has branded Britain ’s Muslims as the new “enemy within” in the same way as Thatcher attacked the miners and trade unions.

David Cameron is attempting to drive a wedge between different communities by linking Britain ’s multicultural society with terrorism and national security. David Cameron’s speech was made on the same day as the English Defence League brought its bigotry and violence to the streets of Luton .

Mr Cameron’s aim is simple as it is crude – to deflect the anger against his government’s cuts from the bankers and onto the Muslim community. The prime minister is aping attacks by other European leaders like France’s Nicolas Sarkozy, who passed legislation banning the veil, and Angela Merkel, who has also made statements denouncing multiculturalism in Germany .

We the undersigned believe that our multicultural society and the respect and solidarity it is built on is a cause for pride, and reject any moves by this government to undermine and destroy it.

We must not allow this coalition government to turn the tide back to the days when it was acceptable, through ignorance and fear, for people with a different religion, culture or skin colour to be scapegoated and treated as inferior or outsiders.

To add your name to this statement go to http://www.gopetition.com/petition/42826.html

Martin Smith (Love Music Hate Racism)
Peter Hain MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Ken Livingstone (Politician)
Salma Yaqoob (Councillor and leader of Respect) Bob Crow (RMT Gen Sec) Billy Hayes (CWU Gen Sec) Mark Serwotka (PCS general secretary) Zita Holbourne (TUC Race Relations Committee), Imran Khan – Campaigning Lawyer, Dr Rob Berkeley (Director Runnymede Trust) Ziauddin Sardar (writer) Farooq Murad (Secretary General of the Muslim Council of
Britain) Tariq Modood (Director of the Centre for the study of Ethnicity and citizenship at the University of Bristol) Mohammed Sawalha (President of British Muslim Iniative) Dr Chris Shannahan Benjamin Zephaniah (poet) Lauren Booth (Broadcaster and journalist) Michael Rosen (author) China Miéville
(author) Dr.
Avaes Mohammad (poet, playwright, performer, analytical chemist) Sabrina Mahfouz, (poet & playwright) N-Dubz – Tulisa Contostavlos, Dappy (Dino
Contostavlos) and Richard “Fazer” Rawson Drew McConnell –Babyshambles
(Musician)
Lowkey (Musician) Itch – The King Blues (Musician) Daniel Stephens – Dan Le Sac
(Musician) David Peter Meads – Scroobius Pip (Musician) Blaine Harrison – Mystery Jets (Singer) Kid British –Adio Merchant and Simeon McLean (Band) Jeff Mirza (Comic / actor) Sabby Dhalu (joint secretary Unite Against Fascism and One Society Many Cultures secretary) Lindsey German Stop the War Coalition Convenor Hassan Mahamdallie (activist) Weyman Bennett (joint secretary Unite Against
Fascism) Gary McFarlane (NUJ London magazine branch and Expose the BNP) Kanja Ibrahim Sesay (NUS Black Students’ Officer and NUS Anti-Racism Anti-Fascism
Convenor) Frances Rifkin (Equity) Dr. Jonathan Githens-Mazer Co-Director European Muslim Research Centre Rabbi Lee Wax, Chairperson IKETH (Inter religious Conference for European Women Theologians) Musleh Faradhi (Islamic Forum Europe) Bruce Kent (Pax Christi) Danny Dorling (author / professor Sheffield University) Shemiza Rashid (Director Creative Muslim Network) Laura Miles (Vice chair UCU Equality Committee) Gargi Bhattachryya (UCU NEC) Sean Vernell (UCU NEC) Sue Bond (PCS vice President) Revd Ray Gaston (Interfaith Enabler Birmingham Methodist Church, personal capacity) Madani Younis (Artistic
Director- Freedom Studios, Bradford, & the Artists of Freedom Studios) Mohammed Ali (Aerosolarabic) Luqman Ali Kinsi Abdulleh Sarah Pickthall Ayaan Aden (psychology student) Tristan McConnell

Green Say Forest Sell Off Uneconomic and Environmental Madness

February 10, 2011

Selling off England’s public forests could cost the nation more than it would save says Oxfordshire Green Party and would be environmental madness. Former Green Oxford City councillor Sid Phelps who was brought up in the Forest of Dean one of the forests up for sale says that new government figures issued today show clearly that the sale of the forests would cost £507.9m but yield benefits of only £495.9m.
The figures come from the government department responsible for the sale (Defra) and have proved embarrassing to the Government who want to sell off extensive area of forest land in the New Forest, the Forest of Dean and the Lake District plus a wide range of over 130 sites scattered across the country.
The Coalition Government’s own departmental impact assessment cast doubt over claims by ministers that the controversial sale would raise between £140m and £250m, helping the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) meet its spending cuts target.
“This was not in either the Conservative or the liberal Democrats manifestos during the recent election,” said Mr. Phelps. “There is no mandate for this and it’s clearly an attempt to privatize yet another public asset and hand it over to selective groups who will restrict access by the public and use the land for their own profits”. He went on to suggest we risk having leisure park companies taking over plots, logging companies cutting down the trees, golf courses being created and some waste disposal companies simply using the land as a dump. “There are also some companies that want the land to cut down the trees and grow bio fuels to produce oil for cars”, claimed Mr. Phelps.
Caroline Lucas the Green MP in Westminster took a prominent role in the House of Commons debate during a recent adjournment debate and led opposition calls for the bill to be withdrawn. Ms. Lucas, who was an Oxford County Councillor in the 1990s, said that the legislation was being promoted as a way of raising money when in fact it would not do that. She has put down an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons asking for a full debate on the issue and so far 41 MPs other MP.s have signed the motion.

Although the value of these woodlands on the open market is estimated at £220m, the Defra report describes them as “unsellable at a political and practical level” and says the option is therefore “unviable”. Selling the other smaller “community woodlands”, 130 small sites valued at £50m, would involve costs of £234.1m and bring in benefits amounting to only £231.9m.
Online campaign group 38 Degrees say that more than 500,000 people have signed an internet petition to save the forests, with more than 75,000 writing to their MP demanding woodlands remain in public ownership.
Sid Phelps former Oxford City Green councillor in St. Mary’s ward joined over 1,000 campaigners last weekend in the Forest of Dean for a ‘mass trespass’ on public land that was recently sold to a private individual. “This is a national disgrace”, said Mr. Phelps who has been calling on Oxfordshire people to sign the 38 Degrees on line petition calling on the Government to change its stance and withdraw the Bill. He said the proposed sale to trusts who will then lease out the land will jeopardize the work of the Forestry Commission who have done such excellent work for the public for almost 100 years. “If it isn’t broke don’t fix it,” he added.
Ends

Contact

Sid Phelps : 01865 727723
Mobile : 07919977016

New app launches for ethical shoppers

February 8, 2011

Shoppers keen to know the ethical status of the goods and services they want to buy can make real-time comparisons using a new mobile phone app that launched today.

The Ethical Company Organisation’s best-selling Good Shopping Guide has been turned into an app, using its ethical product research which aims to cut through corporate “greenwash”.

The ethical shopping advice will initially be available for use on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad at £2.99. Ten per cent of net revenue will go to green campaigners Friends of the Earth.

The app lists over 700 well-known brands, ranked in 72 product-specific league tables under seven main sections, from food and drink to health and beauty to travel and energy. A summary table shows “the good, the bad and the ugly” brands in relation to the environment, human rights and animal welfare. Points scores give an overall “ethical rating” to easily identify the best performing brands and companies.

The move follows the launch last year of Barcoo, which allows customers to scan the barcode of products in shops and find out how environmentally friendly a company is, or how it treats its staff. The new app does not use barcode technology, as the developers felt too many smaller and newer brands would “slip through the net.”

William Sankey, the director of the Ethical Company Organisation, said: “Our readers asked us to develop a comprehensive comparison tool they could take into the shops. We could only have dreamed of such a neat mobile tool when we printed the first, painfully heavy, 350-page guide a decade or so ago.”

Although there is growing awareness of the benefits of fair trade and organic goods, Sankey believes there is less information that gives consumers an overall ethical footprint of the product and the company behind the brand. “Shoppers may be surprised to find that often there is not a price premium [on ethical goods],” he said. Beko, for example, makers of the cheapest larder fridge is also the top-scoring ethical brand in this category.

Popularity is no predictor of a high ethical score in the guide. In the tea section, the UK’s biggest brand, Tetley Tea, scores an Ethical Company Index (ECI) rating of just 57 out of a 100, compared with Cafédirect Tea (100), Yorkshire Tea (96) and Typhoo (91).

Andy Atkins, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said: “Despite the recession more and more people want products and services that don’t trash the planet – but don’t have much time to investigate the best options themselves.”

Caroline warns of growing anger as “reckless” woodland sell-off plans published

February 1, 2011

Fears grow over future of public forests as Defra publishes Forestry Commission proposals – and launches second FC consultation in 18 months
Coalition plans to sell off swathes of England’s publicly-owned forests have been published in the face of widespread public opposition and questions over the economic case for the proposals.

Private owners could be allowed to take over management of nearly half a million acres of land previously owned by the Forestry Commission. Some 15% of the forest estate, worth an estimated £100m, is already being sold. This latest consultation could lead to the sale of the remaining 85%.

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion’s MP, will try to amend the Public Bodies Bill – which would enable the sell off – when it comes to the Commons. She said:

“There was a public consultation on the Public Forest Estate less than 18 months ago. We don’t need another one.

“The public have already made it clear that they want to maintain public forests – and many are now concerned that the Government’s misjudged and short-sighted plans pose a serious threat to whole swathes of our much loved woodlands.

“Despite Caroline Spelman’s belief that the Government should not involve itself in forest management, there are very good reasons for our woodlands and forests to remain under public ownership.

“The Forestry Commission has a proven record in environmental protection and managing sites of special scientific interest. It is highly unlikely that the same kind of long term care and protection would be afforded to the land once in private hands.

“Furthermore, access rights on Forestry Commission land go far beyond the basic rights of access that the law offers.

“And if the Government’s claims about environmental protection are true, the sell-off makes no economic sense either. Who will want to buy this land unless they can develop it into a profit making enterprise?

“The fact is, the plans are unlikely to make any money and may even cost the taxpayer extra, as those who take our forests apply for Government grants that may match or even exceed the value of the sale.”

Caroline added: “The Government is now on the back foot as a result of the public campaign against their ill judged plans. But we still have a fight on our hands to resist the legislative changes that would make the sell off a reality – which is why I will be seeking to amend the Public Bodies Bill in the Commons.”