Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Seismic Shifts

Well. I thought my "post-election thoughts" post was going to be the last on this blog for a while. But lets face it, I was never quite going to be able to resist just a few comments on what has been happening over the last few days.

Just a few highlights of what we have gotten out of this godawful dogs dinner:

- The Lib Dems have signed up to the unworkable, draconian and xenophobic 'cap on non EU migration' policy. Well done guys.

- We have a promised referendum on Alternative Vote, which is not proportional and (whether won or lost) will probably bury the chances for a truly fair voting system to the Commons for a generation.

- Eric Pickles is in charge of the CLG, which means he is in charge of housing policy. Thousands and thousands of people are going to find it even harder to find a roof over their head which they can afford.

- There are going to be massive, "shock doctrine" style cuts to the public sector, starting almost immediately. The deadline appears to be the emergency budget, which has been declared to be 50 days away. At least £6 billion will go immediately, with a lot more to follow over the next year. That's massive cuts in public sector pay, benefits, public services - and no cuts to Trident, and no withdrawal from the £4 billion murderfest that is our occupation of Afghanistan.

All this will come to pass - if we let it. Because this governent does not represent a majority of the people. Millions of Lib Dem voters thought they were voting against the Tories, not for them. Lets not wait for years to punish these complacent, right-wing 'tighten your belts, we're all in this together' smug hypocrites at the next election. Lets punish them now. Time to organise.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Post-Election Thoughts

So, after a couple of days of blessed sleep - broken only by attending the Take Back Parliament demonstration which demanded that the Lib Dems not sell out electoral reform - I thought I would offer a few closing thoughts on this strangest of General Elections.

Clearly, I was disappointed with the Hackney North result. Both the Green Party vote share and the absolute number of votes we received went down, and we lost our deposit for the first time since 1997. In line with the honest approach I have tried to take on my prospects throughout the election, I'm not going to claim that as a triumph! However, I am also not particularly despondent. This is because the result in 2010 will have exposed two big untruths, which I hope the electorate will remember at the next General Election:

1) "The Lib Dems are poised to win Hackney North".

Oh dear. Regular readers will recall that I called several times for a bit of honesty on this from other candidates, to not much avail. Quite a few people who normally vote Green switched to the Lib Dems in this election, because they thought they were close to challenging Diane. And a few switched to Labour, for the same reason! I hope that Diane's 14,000 majority will now make them think about the argument that I was putting forward - that it is possible in Hackney North to vote for the candidate you most agree with, without having to vote tactically in any direction. If that is a Liberal Democrat, grand. But if you vote Green in every other election, there isn't any need to switch your vote in the General next time.

2) "Vote Labour or there will be a hung council/the Tories will get in".

Double oh dear. I heard both of these arguments at different times in the campaign. Labour now have 50 of 57 seats on the Council, and the Tories, as expected, came a poor third. Again. Hackney is made up of two of the safest Labour seats in the country - no one from the right of politics is going to get in. So, to repeat - you can vote for who you believe in. Don't let anyone else tell you otherwise.

Of course, the vast surge in turnout for Labour for the General Election also made the Clissold ward result rather painful reading for me. In both Clissold and Stoke Newington Central our six council candidates got more votes than any Green Party candidate ever has in Hackney. And we lost. By a lot. Frankly, there was simply nothing else we could have done. We knocked on doors every day for months, put out leaflets that spelled out our vision for the borough, ran stalls, worked with community groups - unfortunately, like almost every other Green councillor in London, the General Election and our resulting lack of media exposure did for us.

We are determined to spend the coming years continuing to organise in our community, continuing to help people with their problems, and joining with anyone else in the borough who will be working against swingeing public sector cuts. Unfortunately, they will be imposed on us by whichever of the three establishment parties gets into Government - unless we fight back, nationally, as a movement of people who refuse to allow the public sector to pay for a private financial crisis.

Thanks to all who have read and commented on this blog, and particularly to the thousands of people who cast a vote for me in the Council and General elections. If Hackney Green Party sees fit to select me again - I'll be back!

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Why You Should Vote Green

So - the election is tomorrow. I've been busy leafletting, doorknocking, husting and every other election related activity one can think of. But now, of course, it is down to you...and every other voter in Hackney North.

Why should you Vote Green tomorrow? Because we are the only party standing out against public sector cuts, and instead arguing openly and honestly for a significant increase in redistributive taxation. Because we are the only party calling for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. Because we are the only party calling for the scrapping of all of our nuclear weapons. Because we are the only party who have a plan that can credibly put us on a path towards dealing with climate change and peak oil, rather than faffing around with the deckhairs on the Titanic as we head towards the iceberg. Because we are the only party who have based our entire campaign on the disastrous inequality that our country is mired in, and the need for a more equal and just society.

Diane Abbott is going to win Hackney North tomorrow. The only question is whether she will win with a growing and dynamic Green Party snapping at her heels, or if people end up voting for one of the three mainstream parties because "I suppose we have to".

You don't have to. If you believe in Green Party policies, and if you think I am a decent candidate - vote Green on May 6th, and help start the process of changing Hackney for the better.

All best wishes,

Matt Sellwood

P.S. If you are still undecided, the Vote For Policies tool might help you to make up your mind. You'll notice that when people vote for the policies that they like the best without knowing which party they are from, the Green Party wins....

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Hackney North Hustings

Well, the only public hustings of the campaign in Hackney North took place on Tuesday evening, organised by Hackney and Tower Hamlets Friends of the Earth - and, as this report in the Hackney Citizen confirms, it seemed to go alright for me.

Yes, I know, 'Green Party candidate does well at Friends of the Earth hustings' is probably not the headline of the century - but I was glad to have had the opportunity to debate with the other candidates, particularly as the discussion ranged much more widely than simple, 'green issues'.

Probably the most interesting debate arose from a question that was about sustainability, however - and it was around the definition of the word 'reality'. The questioner raised the point that economic commentators are always going on about the need to face fiscal reality as regards the deficit - and yet there is a thundering silence about the reality of environmental limits, and the fact that our economy is exceeding them more and more every year.

What was particularly eye-opening was the response of the other candidates. They just didn't get it. Not in a deliberately evasive way - they just didn't grasp the scope of the question. At all.

Darren, the Conservative candidate, answered as you might expect - the issue is the over regulation of business and the ingenuity of the free market will solve the problem, so no need to worry. Well, that's not an answer I agree with, but at least he answered. Diane and Keith, on the other hand, simply talked about their various programmes of green investment. Fair enough, I certainly agree that we need a short-term stimulus to start building the low-carbon infrastructure we need to transition to a sustainable economy (and, of course, the mainstream party packages on this are pitifully inadequate) - but neither of them seemed even to realise that at some point they would have to address the current driver of the economic model...economic growth.

As the excellent report from the SDC, Redefining Prosperity, accurately points out, continued economic growth in developed economies is totally unsustainable. And as Tim Jackson, the report's author, comments: "The purpose of the economy is not to grow, but to bring prosperity...the conditions in which we can flourish as human beings." The great challenge of the 21st century is going to be crafting societies which are more equal, more sustainable, and do not rely on economic growth for stability. The most eye opening part of Tuesday's hustings was that the three other candidates don't seem even to realise this - let alone have a plan about how to get there.

P.S. It would seem I won't have the opportunity to make this point at another hustings, since I haven't been invited to the one on Sunday. Apparently 23% of the vote borough wide last year isn't good enough to get in on the debate. Needless to say, I am deeply unimpressed.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Green Party Battlebus

So, occasionally the campaign powers-that-be allow me to stop doorknocking and go and do visibility raising joining the Green Party's battlebus in its tour around Hackney!

All powered by recycled chip fat, I'm glad to assure you. :)

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Afghanistan - the three party consensus

The debate between the three establishment party leaders that I have just seen was perhaps one of the most dismal televisual experiences of my life. A debate on global issues which hardly touched on climate change in an international context? A 'debate' on global issues in which all leaders agreed on our insane adventure in Afghanistan, arguing only about how brave they thought British soldiers are?

Regular readers will recall that I have posted about Afghanistan before, and my feelings remain the same. This is a war which has been dragging on for years, has killed many thousands of innocent people, and which has no clear strategy. We are still there not because of any coherent aim, but because it would embarass the Government to leave - and to admit that the near decade of slaughter in that country has been for nothing.

As this excellent article by Johann Hari in the Independent points out, the three establishment parties are in lock step on this issue. Far from promising 'change', the Lib Dems and the Tories have nothing to say about this war. They are happy to propose cuts to public services - but apparently the £4 billion per year price tag on our venture in Aghanistan is sacrosanct.

One of the many lobbying emails I have received in the last few weeks has been a list of questions from the Stop The War Coalition - and I thought, for the avoidance of doubt, that I might end this post by making my responses public. If elected, I will campaign vigorously for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan. It's the only policy that makes any sense.

1. Do you support the immediate withdrawal of British and NATO troops from Afghanistan?


2. Did you support the war in Iraq?

No - in fact, I took direct action against it, breaking into RAF Fairford and preventing B52 bombers from taking off.

3. Will you oppose any military attack on Iran by the United States or Israel?


4. Do you support the immediate closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison?


5. Are you opposed to the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons?


6. Do you oppose the attacks on Muslims and the growing Islamophobia in British society?


7. Do you agree that the use of anti-terrorist laws to restrict the right of protest is an attack on civil liberties?

Yes - particularly as someone who has been targetted in the past by blanket anti-terrorism laws, including during the DSEI Arms Fair in London.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Claiming Credit For Things

Is not a good idea, if you actually had nothing to do with them.

Following on from my slight surprise at claims in the Labour Clissold ward newsletter about 'achievements' which were actually just the delivery of basic council services, I've just been copied into this email from the Chair of the Stoke Newington Common Users Group, to Hackney Labour Party:

"Dear Hackney Labour Party

I live in Cazenove ward and got your election broadsheet the other day and am told that a similar one with the same information was delivered to people in Northwold Ward.

In it you imply /claim that the council was responsible for the creating the new play area on Stoke Newington Common.

This is simply not true. That playground was fundraised for, designed and commissioned by local residents in the Stoke Newington Common Users Group.

This makes one wonder what other mistruths you may be relying on.

Yours sincerely,

Berni Graham
Chair SNUG"

Surely with such a huge majority, Hackney Labour have enough of a record to rely on without irritating community groups in this way? It doesn't seem a particularly viable long-term strategy.