Archive for March, 2011

March for the Alternative. 26th March London 2011

March 28, 2011

It was an overcast day as we left Wellingborough by coach to go to London for the Anti-Cuts Protests. There were four coaches in our group from this area in Northamptonshire and although the day was cloudy, our attitudes were determined and positive.

The ride to Wembley was short, only an hour and a half and to my surprise there were twenty coaches already parked by 9.30.a/m. After disembarking we strolled to the nearby tube station to be met by crowds of people queuing for their tickets, where police were handing out advice leaflets for the day. There were four ticket offices open and the free standing machines but, the queues were getting longer and longer.

Suddenly the loud speaker interrupted the sociable chatting to bark “Please move onto the station to catch your trains and buy your tickets at your destination.”

As we were near the front of the queue, we quickly purchased our tickets, then followed the banners, balloons and placards and were on our way. We chose to go to Westminster tube station after being told the Embankment may be closed then, as there was no sign that the march had started as planned at 11a/m, we decided to stop for some coffee.

The event was very well organised plenty of stewards and policemen to ask for directions where to join the march.

It started at 12 noon and was well attended, folk blowing whistles, children with hooters and a Caribbean Steel band, some musicians dancing, whilst they played their instruments. There were members from every walk of life, from the TUC, Unite, Unison, Fire Brigade and the Prison Service.

Placards of every shape size and colour, they messages as diverse.

“Hands off our pensions”

“You’ve had your education David, I want mine!”

“No cuts just cut the coalition!”

“What parliament does the streets can undo.”

“Save our English Classes.” “Give our children a future.”

“Con/Dem GO NOW” “Cut Trident Not NHS”

“A Million jobs now.” One that made me smile was a photo of Samantha Cameron and “You’re not the only one David is screwing!” “Students and schools have been Con-Dem’d”

“Fight all cuts” “Cut warfare not welfare”

“Bankers greed or peoples needs”

“Silence is consent. Be silent no more.”

“People over profit” “Coalition-Demolition”

Walkers of every age group, from young mums with babes in buggies, children, students through to OAPs. Also there were people in wheelchairs and folk struggling to walk with sticks, all with the same aim. Reputedly, 8 coaches of policemen came from up north, experiencing the same cuts and redundancies. When a policeman was asked how many were marching he said 660,000.

We met protesters from Cornwall, Belfast, Wales and Scotland.

We all progressed slowly to Trafalgar Square where I spotted Ken Livingstone wearing a light suit, a smile on his face and happy to shake the hands of those who asked.

Also there, I spied a Buddhist Monk wearing his saffron robe, serving vegetarian curry from a heated device attached to his bicycle. This was in sharp contrast I felt, incongruous with so many with their I.Pods. The atmosphere was light hearted the policeman smiling.

There were several factors why we chose to go

1 Why are the tax loop holes not being closed and the unfairness of the banker’s bonuses?

This ditty has gone on Twitter

If the bankers bonuses make you sore

Have your sweet revenge within the law

Withdraw you money to make them poor

Bank with Coop or Triodos for evermore.

2 Belgium is currently without parliament or P/M but hasn’t come to a standstill.

3 I feel MPs should take a 10% drop in salary.

4 How can the cabinet most of who are millionaires begin to understand the problems of folk earning £5.80 per hour?

5 Re health cuts some of these mothers are just bumping along the bottom, getting through day to day. Two with ADHD children, have already committed suicide from the Northampton area, as they cannot take any more hassle.

Ryta Lyndley – Green Candidate in Raunds

A budget for bankers

March 23, 2011

Caroline Lucas today branded the Chancellor’s statement “a budget for bankers,” saying it put the interests of international finance and big business above those of ordinary people or the environment.

“George Osborne has made cutting the deficit his one and only goal. This may please City bankers and international investors, but it means more unemployment, greater poverty, and decimated public services.

“It is also a huge missed opportunity to turn our environmental and energy crisis into an engine for a sustainable future. Investing in energy efficiency and renewables now would stabilise the economy, help people reduce their bills, help end fuel poverty and make us less dependent on oil and gas from overseas.

“Instead, the Government is cutting support for UK companies trying to lead this energy revolution, even though it has found £5 billion in tax cuts for biggest companies.(1)

“It has also turned the much-hyped Green Investment Bank into a PR stunt by preventing it from raising funds.” (2)

The Green Party’s alternative budget called for:

• support for the development of a sustainable economy in place of unsustainable growth,

• a crack-down on tax evasion and avoidance, with banks and corporations paying their full share,

• the extra revenue used to support public services, in place of cuts.

Caroline Lucas continued: “The Government’s budget plans are not the only option, despite Osborne’s claims. A combination of intelligent investment and reduced tax avoidance could have provided financial stability and also avoided job losses and service cuts. He and his Conservative and Liberal Democrat colleagues have instead chosen to follow the bankers’ agenda of cutting public services as deeply as possible while privatizing what is left.

“The Chancellor says there is no money to protect services such as schools, libraries and hospitals. But he can find the £3 billion it will cost to break up the NHS ready for privatization (3) or the £3.6 billion in extra subsidy for the nuclear industry. (4)

“Further, the Office of Budget Responsibility has predicted that the borrowing requirement this year will be £2.5 billion less than expected. (5)

“But instead of using at least a proportion of this to avoid some of the worst of the planned cuts, he is holding it back – presumably to fund tax cuts ahead of the next election.

Notes

1) The Treasury’s own projections are that the reductions in Corporation Tax announced in the June 2010 and today’s budgets will reach £5.175 billion a year by 2015/16. See pages 42 and 44 of the Red Book.

2) The Green Investment Bank will not be able to raise funds until 2015 and then only if other fiscal targets are met: Red Book 1.112 (page 33)

3) Professor Walsh in the British Medical Journal: July 2010

4) £3.43 billion is the estimated windfall gain for the UK nuclear industry from the introduction of a carbon floor price: source WWF

SOS campaign

March 4, 2011

Adding to the mounting response to the recently announced feed-in tariff review, We Support Solar has launched a new campaign calling for the Government to raise its solar ambitions. The new initiative, ‘Save our solar’ highlights the importance of protecting the UK’s solar industry, with the aim of raising awareness of the limited support for solar power in Government.

We Support Solar hopes to reach out to the UK Government by drawing comparisons with more advanced economies who are already benefitting from solar PV, such as Germany. The campaign will also fully explain the damage that has already been caused to the industry, and will continue, should the feed-in tariff be cut. The group, which currently benefits from thousands of supporters across the UK, illustrates solar as a leatherback turtle with solar photovoltaic shell. Prompted by the Government’s shock immediate review of solar photovoltaic feed-in tariffs for business-and community-scale solar; the campaign calls for three things from Secretary of State Chris Huhne:-

•Raise the UK’s solar ambitions to match those of other big EU economies,
•Leave the solar feed-in tariff alone for households and communities until April 2012,
•Back community-owned renewables, as the Coalition promised.
We Support solar has collected over 300 signatories on its current letter to Chris Huhne MP, including support from the Federation of Master Builders, the Micropower Council, NFU, Friends of the Earth, Solar Power Portal and the National Federation of Roofing Contractors. The campaign has also received backing from politicians including Huw Irranca-Davies MP, who spoke out at the recent ecobuild event, Shadow Energy Minister, Caroline Lucas MP, leader of the Green Party; and John Hemming MP, Chairman All Party Parliamentary Group on Peak Oil and Gas.

Huw Irranca-Davies MP, Shadow Energy Minister said, “The “We Support Solar” Campaign shows the widespread concern and anger over Chris Huhne’s rash decision to bring forward an early review of the feed-in tariffs. The government must take notice, and act now to protect the recent growth in green solar jobs, restore investor certainty, and deliver solar energy benefits for individual householders, community schemes and our overall carbon reduction commitments.”

Caroline Lucas MP, Leader of the Green Party said, “With its ill-advised plan to review solar feed-in tariffs, the Government is creating uncertainty in one of the few industries to have generated thousands of much-needed new green jobs. The We Support Solar campaign is crucial to putting pressure on the Government to show more clarity and consistency in its approach to the renewables sector – and give solar energy the support it needs to thrive.”

Brian Berry Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said, “The Federation of Master Builders backs ‘We Support Solar’, because solar has the potential to create much needed jobs in the building industry. As many as 100,000 so called ‘green collar’ solar jobs could be created by a feed-in Tariff encompassed in a truly green strategy. This would benefit both building owners by helping to create more energy efficient buildings and builders by the creation of much needed new jobs. If the Government is really serious about its commitment to being the ‘greenest ever’ then it needs to raise the its solar ambitions to at least match those of other major EU countries.”

Ray Horwood CBE, Chairman, National Federation of Roofing Contractors said, “The National Federation of Roofing Contractors fully supports the need raise the UK’s solar ambitions. The time has come for roofs to be active parts of a building to provide a viable solution to support a generation of new jobs for roofers who are eager to become involved in the emerging green economy. A commitment to the feed-in tariff for solar will help tackle the triple challenge of credit, energy and climate.”

To read the letter to Chris Huhne, and to add your signature, click here.

FAST TRAIN

March 3, 2011

This is a hot potato, where do we, as a local party that will have this line running through our patch, stand on this. At first glance it’s easy to shout yes or no, but with many of our transport networks grinding to a halt, this could help. The rest of Europe has these high speed railways and many of us have wanted improvements to our own networks for years, so why not? Also the line mainly follows an old disused line and argueably we need more of these old lines reinstated to take the burden (and the resulting polution) off of the roads.

Below is a very negative view of the HS2, but it seems to be forming into Green Party policy. What do you think?

In his regular column, BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin looks at the environmental issues surrounding the proposed high-speed rail project in the UK.

Rail campaigners said money for the channel tunnel link could be better spent on the existing network

Question: What is the link between the UK’s proposed HS2 high-speed rail line from London to Birnimgham and the Narmada Dam project in western India?

Answer: They are both controversial, both claim huge and questionable benefits, both aspire to the sort of finance that would be denied to small schemes collectively offering equivalent outcomes, both are a gleam in the eye of politicians, both in some way claim to represent “progress”.

I visited the Narmada River several years ago – before the rising waters swamped the ancient riverside temple which attracted thousands of people from aross India for an extraordinary religious festival every year.

Perhaps the dam will fulfil its objectives one day – it’s too soon to say. But I remember the tales of corruption and kickbacks surrounding the dam’s construction, the heroically improbable claims of benefit to far-flung farmers, and – especially this – that a report at the time revealed that India had 100 big dams in need of repair… but couldn’t fund the work.

In the case of the high-speed line from St Pancras to the channel tunnel. Rail campaigners complained that money would be better spent on expanding the existing rail network. But the HS1 was won on the Agincourt Principle – the French have got one, so if we don’t get one they’ll laugh at us.

Reaping rewards

The proposal also adduced huge re-generation benefits to Stratford and East London. And, the Stratford Station did indeed fortuitously prove significant for the UK’s Olympic bid.

But critics complain that the broader benefit to the community has not materialised, and say rich weekenders have reaped most benefit from the line. Paris trains race through Stratford without stopping and Stratford International Station has been tauntingly re-named Stratford Regional. Even Greengauge, the pro high-speed-rail group refer to Stratford station as a white elephant.

So now to HS2 – proposed as part of the coalition’s airports strategy to divert people away from inter-city flying in the UK after they had scrapped plans for a third runway at Heathrow. The response from green groups to this proposal ranges from sceptical to hostile.

The Green Party says HS2 trains would burn 50% more energy than a Eurostar train and twice as much as an inter city train. It supports high speed rail in principle but says the case here has not been made.

The Campaign for Better Transport said it would be preferable to cut fares for all passengers than build a line to benefit the rich few. It fears that the scheme will divert funds from more cost-effective schemes to upgrade the general rail network to the benefit of many more passengers.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England said the lack of consultation over carving a line through the Chilterns – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – may breach the Aarhus Convention on public participation. The scheme, it said, was a train wreck.

A government spokesman told BBC News that this first proposed leg of a UK high-speed network to Birmingham was not being “badged” as an environmental scheme.

The main aims were to “spread connectivity and prosperity and reduce journey times in a broadly carbon-neutral way” (the local environmental objections would be dealt with by using existing transport corridors and by putting the HS2 in tunnels or cutting for most of the journey through the Chilterns).

Job creation

But the broad principle here reminds me of the old debate about job creation through road-building. “Build a road and the jobs will come,” was an adage from local councils in the 80s and 90s.

Detailed analysis of that axiom by the government’s advisory committee Sactra called its logic into question. Certainly, my own home city of Coventry enjoys excellent “connectivity” at the centre of England.

The lines running across any road or rail map intersect at the spot where Lady Godiva used equine transport to make a protest about government, and since improvements to the West Coast main line Coventry is just an hour away from London. Has prosperity spread to Coventry from London thanks to all this connectivity? It has not.

Yet HS2 has backing from all the major parties (although Labour’s support has appeared a little more wobbly over the past few weeks).

The lobby group Greengauge distils the arguments. It says the travel market is continuing to expand thanks to population growth driven by increasing life expectancy and immigration. This will necessitate more capacity than can be delivered by an improved network without HS2.

It says analysis of existing high-speed (300km/h) trains shows energy consumption levels similar or just 10% higher than the best performing of today‟s 200km/h intercity trains. And it maintains that the carbon advantage of rail over air and private car travel will continue as high-speed rail is introduced.

The arguments will continue. But two factors are likely to prove decisive. First is whether the line will attract funding, especially at a time when cash is so very short. The second is political vanity. When the catcalls of the electorate eventually hound you out of political office it must be nice if you’ve left something behind to show the grandchildren.

Lies, Bigotry Violence and Division the reality of the BNP and EDL.

March 1, 2011

The planning application to open a community centre on the site of the Headlands Clicker Pub has been used by the BNP to whip up hysteria and objections on the basis of clear misinformation.
The BNP is a racist organisation which is focusing on Muslims but has also targeted people of other minorities. Facts never get in the way of the BNP when they want to whip up hysteria about the Muslim or any other community group they decide to target. Hence in the Northants ‘Patriot’ they try to suggest that pupils at Weston Favell School could be at risk from Muslims if there was a community centre in the Headlands!
Wherever they decide to organise or become involved racist incidents and attacks increase. Their friends in the EDL also get involved as the street thugs of the far right.
The BNP are also wildly inaccurate in the claims and propaganda they put out. One of their election leaflets from the last General Election, supposedly proclaiming their patriotism and Britishness had on it a Spitfire from a Polish pilots Squadron, a picture of St George who was of Turkish origin, and a group of American workers supposedly representing British workers.
• There is no plan to build a mosque on the site.
• There are already mosques in other parts of the town so there is no need for any attendance at a headlands site to grow.
• Indeed if there were more mosques there would be fewer people attending each one.
• There is no document on the NCC website from the Southall Black Sisters Trust alleging abuse in ‘Madrassas and Mosques’ in Northampton.
This should not be about short term vote grabbing for the local elections or pandering to racists, however this is dressed up as a planning objection.
It is shameful that Cllr Brian Markham who admits that the BNP have been lying to residents then plans to represent those influenced views at the planning meeting and object to the application
We call upon residents in the Headlands to consider carefully what the BNP is trying to do to the area – stir up racial and religious hatred for Muslims and consider withdrawing any objections they have made on the basis of false information and scaremongering.
We call upon Brian Markham to withdraw his objection and allow the Committee to consider the application on its merits.

We are local residents, trade unionists and faith community representatives. We include
Unite Against Fascism
Northampton Hope
Unity for Northampton
National Union of Teachers
Northampton Co-operative Party
Northants Green Party