Monday, 30 November 2009

ID cards - madness

Just a quick something I saw featuring one of our Hackney Labour MPs today - Meg Hillier, touting ID cards to students. Nice to know she's spending her time productively.

I cannot believe they are still spending money on this authoritarian white elephant, given the current fiscal climate. Idiocy.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

The Vision Thing

A piece of mine, on the importance of vision and idealism in political life, has been published on the widely read blog Liberal Conspiracy today. Check it out!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Citizens Convention

Having scanned the Queens Speech for any really meaningful committments to democratic reform or community empowerment (and, unsurprisingly, failing to find anything of any substance), I have just sent off this 38 Degrees e-action to Diane Abbott.

Calling for a Citizens Convention, an idea which is also supported by Unlock Democracy, the e-action asks Diane to sign Early Day Motion 148, in support of the Citizens Convention bill. I hope that by the time most of you read this, she will have signed up....

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Hackney Council and the Arms Trade

Did you know that the London Borough of Hackney has £9.5 million invested in arms companies at the moment, including £5.5 million in BAE Systems? Well, you do now - and if, like me, you think a company with this record of corporate crime shouldn't be allowed within a million miles of public funds, you can sign our online petition about the issue today.

Hackney Labour claim that, because of laws that commit them to thinking only about "the best financial return" when investing funds, they can't disinvest from the arms trade. Hackney Greens counter that it is perfectly possible to make a decent return without investing in death. The arms trade does not make up 3% of the UK economy - but it does now make up over 3% of Hackney Council's pension fund investments. We should disinvest now, and put that money into sectors that are guaranteed to grow and provide a return over the medium and long-term - for example, companies which provide green jobs.

Hackney Labour should take a courageous decision, and make a stand against the arms trade. They won't, of course - one of their most prominent councillors is a PR man for the arms trade - but that is just another reason why no one with a progressive point of view should be voting for them.

Freedom of Information request on Hackney's arms trade investments

The total amount (in £) of London Borough of Hackney's pension funds' shareholdings in the following companies for the years of 2007, 2008 and, if available, 2009

1. Lockheed Martin


2. Boeing


3. Northrop Grumman


4. BAE Systems


5. Raytheon


6. General Dynamics




8. L3 Communications


9. Thales


10. Halliburton


11. Finmeccanica


12. Rolls-Royce


13. QinetiQ


14. VT


15. Cobham


16. Meggitt


17. Ultra Electronics




Total Market Value of Pension Fund

Totals as a % of all LBH pension funds

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A Weekend In The Life....

Every so often, people ask me what exactly being an electoral candidate consists of. The answer is, of course, that it changes pretty much every day, depending on what issue you are focusing on, what person you are talking to, and when in the electoral cycle you happen to be. I thought it might be interesting to give you a snapshot of my weekend a small illustration of the kind of thing I've been getting up to.

Friday afternoon

Doorknocking on a council estate in Stoke Newington. Some really shocking conditions, including a bathroom floor that was absolutely full of damp and mould - but also some really good conversations with people who clearly want to improve their local environment. The usual rigmarole of spending ages trying to find someone willing to let me into the block, but then no one is's very rare to find anyone who is actively rude to a Green Party canvasser, unlike those from the main parties. Passed the casework issues onto Mischa Borris, our existing Green Party councillor for Clissold, who starts working on getting people's issues dealt with.

Friday evening

Fireworks Night party at Hawksley Court Estate. I always feel a bit funny about turning up to things like this in my role as a candidate - you never like to impose. However, Hawksley Court is actually opposite my house, so this is my local fireworks display! It's good fun, particularly since we brought loads of sparklers, and we get to meet loads of people. Such an impressive event, complete with food and drink in the Community Hall, and loads of happy kids having a good time. Great to see the local community getting together.

Saturday afternoon

Behold, more doorknocking. This time on a residential street, complete with lots and lots of HMOs (Houses in Multiple Occupation), with dreaded entryphones. I never like them, because its so hard to tell who lives where, and to get an answer. Despite this, I have a number of good conversations, and pick up some more casework for the ever-hard-working Mischa.

Saturday evening

Attend a meeting at the Day-Mer Community Centre on Howard Road, which is dedicated to providing opportunity and community to the Turkish/Kurdish community in Stoke Newington and further afield. The meeting is hosted by Day-Mer Youth, catalysed by the recent tragic shootings on Howard Road, and discusses the problems of youth unemployment, community disintegration and crime. Hackney Solidarity Network are there too, and talk about the need for different communities in Hackney to forge links together and recognise that their common problems have common solutions. I totally agree!

Sunday morning

Leafletting - I never like to doorknock on a Sunday morning, it doesn't go down well for perfectly understandable reasons. So I go out and leaflet instead, with our latest newsletter, complete with story about our opposition to NHS privatisation. You never know how many people read them, but its a major way of getting the message out there....and we put thousands out in each ward, every few months. Not to mention personal letters, leaflets about specific events, and all sorts of other stuff.

Sunday afternoon

I went along to the excellent Butterfield Green Community Orchard, to take part in their monthly gardening event. Good to get a different kind of exercise than walking up and down towerblock stairs, and really good to help out with such an inspiring example of urban regeneration. Lots of weeds were pulled, cups of tea drunk, and conversations had. I'd strongly recommend going along next time, if you're local!

Sunday evening

I'm here at home...updating my blog, checking my email...and watching (I have to admit it) Die Hard 4.0 at the same time. Who can resist a film featuring the line "Dude, you just killed a helicopter with a car!".

Monday, 2 November 2009

Gun Crime - No Easy Answers

I've written and rewritten this piece several times now - hence the delay in posting anything for a few days, for which I apologise.

I've rewritten it so much because it's hard to comment on the violent death of a 15 year old with anything other than tired platitudes. It's particularly difficult to do so when that person died not five minutes walk away from where you live. It's even harder still when you are certain that his death won't be the last of its kind in the area.

I am, of course, referring to the shootings on Howard Road last Monday - shootings which seem to have involved one group of local teenage boys trying to kill another group of local boys - and in one case, succeeding.

There's one school of thought which argues that, in cases like these, politicians shouldn't say anything at all. I can understand that - after all, so many political proclamations are nothing but thinly veiled pleas for electoral support...insincere and counterproductive pledges to 'get tough', or equally vague references to 'Broken Britain'. Despite this, I think that it is a duty for politicians to try to understand situations like this...because they are, without a doubt, political.

Yes, there will always be murders, and yes - young boys will always act out their aggression in some form or another - but the form which that aggression is taking in our communities today is a result of the society we live in...the society that has been fashioned for us.

In some previous posts, I've talked about the impact that inequality has in the UK, and pointed to the shocking rates of poverty in Hackney. In the hope that a picture is worth a thousand words, perhaps this map of deprivation and gang activity in London (thank you to The Communard for pointing me to this) might make my point on this topic, too.

These young people, these children (because that is, usually, what they are), are not inherently evil. They are not born sociopaths. They are reacting to a society which tells them that they are worth nothing, which fails to support their development and growth, which destroys their communities and tramples on their dreams - and they are reacting by forming for themselves the only communities which they know - communities of violence, of tightly knit bonds between peers for whom status competition is everything, because they know nothing else will get them anywhere.

No politician can give an easy answer on the topic of gangs, violent crime and youth disaffection. There are no easy answers, and indeed politicians can only do a limited amount. This is a political problem, not just an electoral one, and it involves the whole 'polis'. It will only really be solved in the way that inequality will really be solved - by ordinary people organising in their own communities, from the grassroots up, and by society as a whole providing a future for these young men that is worth living.

I'm going to try to support initiatives that recreate solidarity, cohesion and power in our communities - but support is all I can do. It's up to all of us to do this - and if we wait for MPs, or the Council to wave a magic wand, we're going to be waiting a long time. Lets take this Howard Road wake-up call, and resolve, today, to start modelling in our own lives and neighbourhoods the way things could be...the way they should be. And at the same time, lets keep fighting for an end to the economic system that is keeping so many people of all ages in the kind of despair that breeds this violence.