Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Supporting the CWU

Hackney Green Party has pledged its full support for a universal postal service and is backing the postal workers in their dispute with Royal Mail management.

Royal Mail management are trying to force through cuts to postal workers' earnings, often using threats and intimidation and wrecking their conditions of service.

The Green Party supports the postal workers because Royal Mail is not complying with a 2007 agreement pledging there would be consultation and negotiation on a new phase of modernisation, together with maintaining reasonable levels of pay.

"It is vital that we defend the jobs, pay and conditions of the postal workers and continue the fight against privatisation of the Royal Mail. Competition and introduction of market forces leads to reduced levels of service, poorer pay and conditions and job cuts, in order to protect the profits of the private companies," commented Matt Sellwood, the Green Party's Parliamentary Candidate for Hackney North & Stoke Newington.

"Not only is depriving people of vital community resources bad for health and wellbeing, it is also bad for the environment - carbon emissions are increased when people have to travel further for services which were once available locally. As more Royal Mail contracts are sold off to privateers such as TNT, there are potentially more vans from different companies delivering to the same addresses - increasing emissions, pollution and traffic.

"Privatisation has failed. Public services which have been privatised have not improved. The actions of the Royal Mail management and the Labour gvernment in trying to bully the CWU in this dispute have been shameful, but we know the Tories would be at least just as ruthless in their treatment of the postal workers. We fully support the right of the CWU members to strike, and we urge the public to support them in their struggle."

Meanwhile Caroline Lucas, leader of the Green Party, has promised to "lobby at every level" in order to support striking postal workers and accused the Government of effectively "dismantling" Royal Mail with its ongoing programme of privatisation.

In a strongly worded letter to the Communication Workers Union, Lucas accused the Government of "ill-serving" workers and the UK public alike and criticised the Government for its "shameful privatisation of public services" which has led to "increased marginalisation and inequalities in terms of public access to services".

In the letter to CWU Secretary Bill Hayes, Caroline Lucas says: "In our view, Royal Mail workers and management have been on a collision course since the private sector has been forced on the service. By removing profitable parts of the business for the benefit of speculators and investors, the Government has created an environment in which the interests of the population of the UK as a whole have been ill-served, none more so than your members. It is shameful that a Labour Government should have played such a role in the privatisation of public services, and in a way which has increased marginalisation and inequalities in terms of access to services."

"It is especially concerning that this Labour Government is not content with overseeing the dismantling of this vital service, but now appears to be colluding with Royal Mail management to undermine the rights of the Union and its representatives, and condoning the side-lining of the CWU in working towards the completion of the agreement from the last period of industrial action."

The Green Party leader offered the CWU the Green's full support in the coming days, stating that "...we hope that any action is swift and positive in its results. As we did two years ago, we will lobby at every level to support the CWU cause."

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The BNP, New Labour, and Climate

A very hectic week so far, and thus not much time to blog. Normal service will be resumed shortly, especially as there is so much to write about at the moment!

However, I wanted to cover a few things briefly.

On Nick Griffin, the BBC and Question Time, I will just refer you to this excellent article by Gary Younge. New Labour have created the conditions for fascism - and now they are reaping the whirlwind. My own personal position remains that of 'no platform', which I will likely discuss at another time.

Secondly, there's my continuing Diane Abbott Watch - holding Diane to account and monitoring how she votes in Parliament. I've already blogged about her opposition to a transparent Iraq war inquiry and other such veerings towards New Labour orthodoxy - and yesterday provided another one. The Liberal Democrats, to their credit, put down a motion calling upon Parliament to support the 10:10 climate campaign (the campaign to reduce carbon emissions by 10% by the end of 2010, which Hackney Council made a big hoopla of supporting). Given the Council's stance, and Diane's reputation, you'd expect her to have supported the motion. Umm, no, as it turns out. As you can see from the vote tally, Diane voted WITH the government and against the 10:10 target - unlike other, more reliable rebels such as Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell. But then, given that I also recently discovered her steadfast support for nuclear power, I'm not entirely surprised at this latest example of shaky green credentials...

Lastly - I've just come back from a public meeting in Clapton about Afghanistan. I'd urge everyone who can to go along to the demonstration on Saturday (meeting at Hyde Park at noon). The familiar litany of Labour's crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq never fails to make my blood boil - and I can do no better at expressing it than Pablo Neruda's poem about the Spanish Civil War. I leave you with it for now...

I'm Explaining A Few Things

You are going to ask: and where are the lilacs?
and the poppy-petalled metaphysics?
and the rain repeatedly spattering
its words and drilling them full
of apertures and birds?
I'll tell you all the news.

I lived in a suburb,
a suburb of Madrid, with bells,
and clocks, and trees.

From there you could look out
over Castille's dry face:
a leather ocean.
My house was called
the house of flowers, because in every cranny
geraniums burst: it was
a good-looking house
with its dogs and children.
Remember, Raul?
Eh, Rafel? Federico, do you remember
from under the ground
my balconies on which
the light of June drowned flowers in your mouth?
Brother, my brother!
loud with big voices, the salt of merchandises,
pile-ups of palpitating bread,
the stalls of my suburb of Arguelles with its statue
like a drained inkwell in a swirl of hake:
oil flowed into spoons,
a deep baying
of feet and hands swelled in the streets,
metres, litres, the sharp
measure of life,
stacked-up fish,
the texture of roofs with a cold sun in which
the weather vane falters,
the fine, frenzied ivory of potatoes,
wave on wave of tomatoes rolling down the sea.

And one morning all that was burning,
one morning the bonfires
leapt out of the earth
devouring human beings --
and from then on fire,
gunpowder from then on,
and from then on blood.
Bandits with planes and Moors,
bandits with finger-rings and duchesses,
bandits with black friars spattering blessings
came through the sky to kill children
and the blood of children ran through the streets
without fuss, like children's blood.

Jackals that the jackals would despise,
stones that the dry thistle would bite on and spit out,
vipers that the vipers would abominate!

Face to face with you I have seen the blood
of Spain tower like a tide
to drown you in one wave
of pride and knives!

see my dead house,
look at broken Spain :
from every house burning metal flows
instead of flowers,
from every socket of Spain
Spain emerges
and from every dead child a rifle with eyes,
and from every crime bullets are born
which will one day find
the bull's eye of your hearts.

And you'll ask: why doesn't his poetry
speak of dreams and leaves
and the great volcanoes of his native land?

Come and see the blood in the streets.
Come and see
The blood in the streets.
Come and see the blood
In the streets!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

London Mayoralty - It Matters

I went to Mayor's Question Time on Monday - I thoroughly recommend it if you are looking for some political kickabout and a decent comedy show. Not necessarily convinced if you are looking for an effective instrument to be used to hold the Mayor of London to account. The two Green Party AMs were excellent (I would say that, wouldn't I - but it's true), including Darren Johnson who had to chair the whole thing. The other parties were...mixed. Val Shawcross for Labour was impressively forensic in her questioning, I thought, while John Biggs just came off as hectoring and pointlessly rude - as did Len Duvall. The Lib Dems seemed fairly nonexistent...and then...the Tories. Oh dear.

Some of my friends in the Labour Party (yes, I have some) often criticise me for seeming to lay into them more than the Conservatives. This is hardly surprising, I answer - after all, Labour run Hackney Council, have both MPs in Hackney, and run the country. However, there is no denying that the Tories remain an appallingly reactionary lot underneath the Cameronite gloss. First to speak up was Brian Coleman AM - yes, he of Brian Coleman Must Go fame - a man who has never seen an expense claim he didn't think fair and just. His question was, god help us, about the 'fact' that there were far too many diversity officers employed by the GLA. He was followed by a non-entity asking about why Traveller sites needed to be provided in the London Plan (he actually said 'Gypsy' in a particularly vitriolic fashion, but then realised his error and backtracked). And so on.

I left City Hall feeling less than charitable about London Conservatives - not helped by Boris' seemingly complete inability to answer a question in any detail. As I found out the next day, however, he was apparently saving the detail for his attempt to explain the significant fare rises he feels are necessary for London.

As BorisWatch and other blogs have explained, his plans have a disproportionately heavy effect on low earners - precisely the people, frankly, that Boris Johnson doesn't give a stuff about. The problem is that people do still see him as a joker, a buffoon, a bit of a card. Well, this buffoon is running our city, and he's doing it badly.

As Jenny Jones AM put it, very succinctly:

“The mayor is pricing people off public transport, whilst favouring motorists by going ahead with plans to cancel the western extension of the congestion charge. Part of his fares increase will pay for the gap left by losing around £55m of congestion charge income. The Mayor has today highlighted the pollution caused by old buses, but he was the one who dropped the £25 congestion charge on gas guzzling cars, which would have generated around £30m in its first year. Everything the mayor does shows a bias in favour of the motorist and against public transport users. Even the long delayed increase in raising the congestion charge will be after bus and tube passengers have already started paying their extra fares”.

Boris - favouring motorists over users of public transport, and favouring rich users of public transport over poor users of public transport. Welcome to Tory London.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Keep Our NHS Public Rally

So, this evening I was on the steps of Hackney Town Hall, with the local branch of Keep Our NHS Public. We were drawing attention to a meeting of the Council's Health Scrutiny Committee, which was discussing the PCT's decision to put GP services out to tender for possible privatisation.

I've covered this issue in previous posts, so I won't write too much about it in detail now - but I should say that one thing which saddened me was the sight of several Labour councillors passing by, unwilling to say anything to the demonstrators. Shame, perhaps? Or just contempt for grassroots campaigners with whom their party would once have stood, who knows.

To her credit, Diane Abbott released a statement yesterday indicating her concern over the move. Nothing at all from the Lib Dems or Tories, as far as I can tell - and I was the only candidate for any elected office at the rally itself.

I filmed a very brief video at the rally, laying out in simple terms my opposition to these plans.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

UK Starts Deportations To Baghdad

Hot on the heels of my recent post about the horrific way in which asylum seekers and refugees are treated like a political football in this country, comes the news that the UK is to begin deporting people back to Iraq.

Yes, Baghdad...universally acknowleded by all to be a safe haven of peace and tranquility. Nothing bad could happen there, surely? Well, apparently the UNHCR (the body responsible for the rights of refugees internationally) don't agree - Denmark started deporting people back to Iraq a few months ago, only to be roundly condemned. Not that our Government, bereft of compassion or an ounce of human understanding, cares less, of course.

I'd urge anyone who can't get to the Keep Our NHS Public rally tomorrow to try to attend this demonstration on the deportations outside Communications House instead. While I can't be there at that time, I will continue to be involved in the fight against the unjust and immoral asylum system in this country.

Particularly, I will continue to speak out about the horrific conditions within the UK's system of immigration detention centres. They shouldn't exist in the first place - but even those who disagree with me on that must surely agree that state sanctioned mental health abuse against children is sickening. It must stop.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Gordon Brown - He Loves That Privatisation

I thought I would give myself a day before blogging about the recently announced £16 billion sell-off of public assets, which is the Government's latest economic wheeze. I thought it might make it seem more like common sense.

Didn't work.

So, you're facing an annual £175 billion deficit. Frankly, unless you start selling off the entire state, asset sales aren't going to make much of a dent. They particularly aren't going to make much of a dent if you are selling off some services (British Waterways is on the list, for example) which, one presumes, you are then going to have to lease back in various forms, or at least pay to use.

Whichever way I look at it, frankly it seems like a bit of a firesale to private companies - the kind of companies who have already benefited massively from Gordon Brown's reign under PFI contracts, PPP and various other dodgy financial instruments which have been used to channel public money into private pockets. The Lib Dems at least have pointed out that, if you think the sell-off is a good idea (which all three establishment parties seem to) you at least should try to get good value for the assets - i.e. not sell them off at the bottom of the market when you don't actually need to.

All in all, very strange...and another example of the way in which the UK's response to the financial crisis seems to be more and more mirroring Naomi Klein's "Shock Doctrine" analysis - the idea that global capitalism now takes advantage of crises - whether financial, social or natural - to privatise everything in sight. Spare a thought in particular for the workers at the Dartford Crossing. Not only did they put in a large amount of work towards a failed attempt at employee ownership earlier in the decade (exactly the kind of thing that any Government supported by the Co-operative Party should be supporting, of course), now even the asset they are working with has been shipped off into private hands.

We have to stop this wave of privatisations - and stop them now. The answer to this crisis lies in public investment and support for greater economic democracy - not cuts and privatisation.

P.S. I haven't even covered the sell-off of the student loan book here - mostly because I am still trying to wrap my head around what that means, what dodgy ways whoever buys it is going to make profit out of it, and how exactly it is going to hurt people like me who still have lots of outstanding student loans....

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Another Consensus - On Asylum

I could probably spend the rest of the time from now until the General Election pointing to every way in which the establishment political consensus is dehumanising, immoral and just plain wrong.

Since I'd probably run out of time before I finished, here's just one more example - the continuing attempts to make poverty and deprivation obligatory for asylum seekers. Hot on the heels of the Government's despicable decision to cut asylum seeker benefits to just £5 a day, Rowenna Davis has written this piece on the experiences of one asylum seeker, contrasting it with the view at Conservative Party Conference.

I doubt anyone in the Cabinet, or Shadow Cabinet, has any idea how they would live on £5 a day - but they are happy to proscribe it for others. Disgraceful.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Mainstream Benefits Consensus Is Sickening

Apparently, the Tories are going to create jobs and opportunity by cutting benefits for disabled people.

Yes, I don't quite see how that one is going to work, either. It seems to me that further reducing the spending power of vulnerable people, dumping them on the JSA, and then forcing them to compete with millions of other unemployed people for dead-end jobs is probably not the solution to our economic ills. Economic ills which, lest we forget, have been brought about in large part by the kind of unregulated, cut throat, free market economics that the Tories have championed for so long.

Not that you'll hear Labour criticising the plans too loudly. Why? Well, because, as this piece by the BBC's Nick Robinson makes plain, there is a cosy consensus when it comes to benefits policy between Labour and the Tories. Neither are interested in supporting vulnerable people or maintaining a strong safety net for those who need society's help, but rather scapegoating easy targets for a quick headline. Little wonder then that Sir David Freud (who famously wrote New Labour's benefits policy in only three weeks, having never been on benefit himself and apparently not bothering to speak to anyone who had been) has so easily jumped from the sinking Labour ship and onto the Tory platform. I guess that is what rats do.

The Green Party's economics spokesperson, Molly Scott-Cato, explains the sheer idiocy of the Tory approach better than I can, while the excellent and still inexplicably Labour Don Paskini gives a short version of the Conservative policy on his blog.

The long and the short of it is - under either Tories or Labour, people on benefits will be treated as electoral punchbags for middle England. By the Greens, they will be treated as human beings who have a valuable contribution to make towards society. If I'm elected as an MP, I'll be campaigning to raise JSA, not lower Incapacity Benefit.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

More campaign endorsements

I'm very pleased that London's Green MEP, and the Chair of the London Assembly, have both taken time out to endorse my campaign!

Keep Our NHS Public





I am going to be at this lobby in 10 days time. I hope you will be too. As I've made clear before, I think that the creeping privatisation of the NHS is an ongoing disgrace. Lets make sure it is stopped in its tracks.