Friday, 18 December 2009

Copenhagen Failure

I really really really didn't want to write a blog that had 'Copenhagen' and 'failure' in the title. I've not written a word about it so far, in the hope that my cynicism might be proven unfounded - that the world's governments might, for once, throw off the shackles of an insane economic system and actually listen to the scientific evidence that is being screamed into their ears.

It seems it was not to be. Below, I append the first eleven days of summary analysis from Greenpeace UK, along with my own thoughts on Day 12 - today....

Day 1: South Africa joins India, China, Mexico, Brazil and Indonesia in tabling commitments as the big developing world countries call the bluff of the rich nations.

Day 2: After years of negotiating a UN agreement a plan by Denmark to introduce an alternative, greenwash text is leaked to the media. The Danes, it seems just want a deal that says Copenhagen at the top. They don’t care whether or not it will save the climate.

Day 3: Despite Tuvalu having met all the requirements for their proposals for a legally binding deal to be discussed their request is refused. Tuvalu and their supporters in the developing world bring the main negotiations to a halt until everyone agrees to play by the rules.

Day 4: Tuvalu asks for a group to be set up to discuss amendments to the Kyoto protocol. Again they’re turned down by those who fear a binding deal and another portion of the negotiations is halted.

Day 5: Negotiations resume on all fronts as rich nations realise they can’t steamroller the poor countries.

Day 6: As the negotiators take a rest day the global day of action sweeps around the world. 100 000 people take to the streets of Copenhagen and millions join events around the world – piling pressure onto the talks.

Day 7: Round 1 to Tuvalu! A legally binding deal is back on the table as it appears the Danes have given up on their alternative text when a promised update fails to appear. Battle lines have been clearly drawn, on one side the nations who know that only a binding deal will deliver results, and on the other side, everyone else.

Day 8: Do they never learn? Again the Danes try to sideline discussions on Kyoto. This time it is the Africans who walk out. The EU, Australia and Japan retaliate by refusing to discuss their own commitments. More lost hours.

In the forest sessions it becomes clear that everyone except the Americans and Columbians want a deal that won’t end up subsidizing forest destruction. Worryingly the amount of forest nations are talking about saving is being talked down.

Day 9: As the world’s environment Ministers arrive the summit goes into ‘high level’ mode. Unfortunately the efforts by the Danes and others to avoid discussion of the Kyoto protocol means there is a huge amount of work to be done.

Day 10: With heads of state due to arrive everything is up in the air. There hasn’t been enough progress and the heads of state are going to have to earn their money.

Day 11: Finally some movement. Hilary Clinton proposes a fund worth $100 billion a year to support developing countries. It’s a number, but there’s no detail on where the money will come from. China responds by signaling that it is now prepared to talk about how its own commitments would be monitored – possibly removing a major block to a deal. The USA is still refusing to talk about a binding deal.As the heads of state prepare for their state dinner President’s Lula of Brazil and Sarkozy of France request that an evening meeting is convened to make progress.

Day 12: Today. Obama speaks. Possibly the worst speech I have ever heard from a non-denier head of state on climate change - not something I expected to be writing. At least Barack normally gives it some rhetorical welly. This was just inflexible, myopic tosh. And now it looks, as I write, that we are going to end up with a deal that will put us way, way, way, WAY over 2 degrees celsius of warming. Well into the region of tipping points. Well into the region where entire nations are going to be underwater in the coming decades, and in which millions upon millions of people will be forced from their homes.

This is insanity. THIS is the point at which we could have done something - and the people who run our governments - all of them, with a very few honourable exceptions -have completely failed.

Now, I have an analysis of why that is. It isn't because they want a world with more climate catastrophe, nor that they hate the poor (though a lot of them don't particularly care either way, of course). It's because the world economy needs to make a profit - and all the forces of profit are lined up against meaningful action. Sure, they will exploit loopholes and occupy market niches and do everything they can to make a quick buck out of climate change action. But when it comes down to it -business as usual is still the easiest way to turn a short-term bit of money. And we have failed to stand up in enough numbers, and to say "Ya Basta!" - "Enough Is Enough!"

Enough of warmed over words. Enough of platitudes. Enough of sitting by while the world burns. We have to do something, and we have to do it right now. And the answer isn't going to come entirely through the ballot box - though I think voting for the right candidates will help. It's going to come through ordinary people taking action in their own communities, linking up together, and showing governments that if they are incapable of doing something, then we will do it ourselves. I'll do my best to build a strong electoral challenge to this current shower of failures and charlatans - but I'll do my best to support community action while I'm doing it. Because only all of us, acting together, right now, can do what needs to be done. Lets get started.

P.S. If you want to see what our current 'leaders' think of people who try to point out the insanity of the current system, then check out this video. Several Hackney Greens were on this demonstration - beaten up for trying to assemble and speak out, nonviolently. It's a disgrace - just like the rest of the Copenhagen summit.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Good News, Bad News

As is often the way with campaigning, some bad news follows hot on the heels of success...


Regular readers will remember that I have previously posted about my involvement in the Hackney Keep Our NHS Public group, and particularly their campaign over the possibility of two new GP-led health centres being taken over by multinational corporations.

Well, the outcome of the bidding process for the GP-led health centre at Oldhill has been announced - and it has been won by a group of local GPs in the Lawson clinic! A real relief, at least for now.

The campaign has thrown up a number of crucial issues - not least among them the enormous cost to local GPs of making such bids (some £40,000+), and the huge amount of time-consuming effort that has to go into drawing up a bid (which requires complex financial modelling, which is not one of the skills GPs are trained in - they are trained to look after patients) and the cost to the PCT of going through the bidding process - some £3million.

Big commercial healthcare companies, of course, have these resources on tap. This is money that would be far better spent on improving existing GP surgeries and encouraging them to network to provide the extra services the GP-led health centres are supposed to provide. The government is rolling out 150 of these GP-led health centres across the UK - so the cost to PCTs extrapolates to £450 million. Just think what could be done with that amount of cash in the health service!

Also, despite the eventual outcome, the very real issue of the PCT's lack of consultation remains - along with the fact that our local Health Scrutiny Committee was not prepared to do anything about it.

Still, celebration is in order - and the campaign's Xmas party on 15 December at the Marie Lloyd pub (7.30-10 pm) will be a good opportunity....!


And now, the bad news. The proposed eviction of the Kings Crescent Community Housing Project has gone ahead, although all the squatters were gone by Tuesday morning, when the police turned up with riot gear and battering rams. The reason they were gone? According to reports from the scene, contractors broke up the water pipes above the squatted properties, flooding them! This not only drove out the community housing project, but one presumes also did serious damage to the flats.

So, now the majority of flats in that block, and many all over the estate, are unoccupied once more. The ones that were squatted are boarded up, and the Council has done its job - not the job of providing housing, which is supposed to be a human right - but of crushing any sort of alternative provision, quickly and with overwhelming force. And, in this case, quite possibly illegally - the appeal against the closure order against which the squatters never got to defend themselves remains lodged with the courts.

The mastermind behind all of this? Who else but Banksy's arch-enemy, Cllr Alan Laing:

He commented: "These squatters spoilt the quality of life for tenants who were paying to live in this block. They selfishly wrecked the structure of the building and now, due to this premises closure order, they are finally out of the block where they caused so much damage."

Unlike Cllr Laing, I actually bothered to meet the squatters. They struck me, at all times, as being pleasant, community-minded and constructive - and included at least one family with a week old child, just looking for somewhere to spend the winter. Interestingly, and tellingly, they have never been presented with the exact accusations of their alleged anti-social behaviour, nor have they seen any evidence, nor have they had a chance to defend themselves.

Welcome to Kafka's Hackney - if you try to house yourself in flats that have been kept empty, even if you say that you will leave as soon as they are needed, keep a look out for:

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Wave

I think it's fair to say that I have been on my share of climate change marches over the last decade - but the one on Saturday was definitely the biggest I have seen. It's always uplifting to see thousands of people on the streets, calling for exactly the kinds of policies which form the Green Party platform, and on which I am standing for election. However - it has to be much deeper and wider than just a march. We're only going to get real change if those people go back to their communities and (as many are already doing) get stuck into the everyday work of community building and persuasion on this issue. It doesn't have to be electoral - though I think that is a vital component of any movement - but it does have to involve speaking to the non-converted. That will be the major test of the climate movement over the next five years.

For now, here's a brief video of me at the start of the rally (in which YouTube has picked the grumpiest moment possible of me as the freezeframe, thanks guys!) and a photo, in which I am slightly cheerier. :)

Friday, 4 December 2009

Kings Crescent Housing Project

Some more from the Kings Crescent Housing Project, in their own words.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Kings Crescent Community Housing

Over the last week, I have spoken to and visited a number of people involved in the Kings Crescent Community Housing project - a squatted community just next to Clissold Park, a few hundred metres outside the boundaries of Clissold ward, where I am standing to be a councillor.

Kings Crescent Estate has been scheduled for large scale demolition and renovation for years, but the project has dragged on and on - and with the recession, seems to be going nowhere fast. Seeing that hundreds of perfectly sound flats remained unoccupied, the Kings Crescent Community Housing project moved in, and began to house a significant number of people who were rough sleeping or 'hidden homeless'. This included a young family who are currently being denied housing - to whom a baby was born just three days ago.

Hackney Council, of course, doesn't like this sort of thing. Far better for flats to stand idle and useless while people freeze on the streets than for the council to be embarassed by constructive squatting. So they have used legislation designed to close crack houses in an attempt to evict this constructive community - whose only 'anti social behaviour' appears to be the teaching of English and hosting CV writing workshops for the unemployed.

The closure order which Hackney Council has secured appears to be illegal - since they did not serve it properly and gave no opportunity for the squatters to defend themselves in court. Of course, they don't particularly care about that, because any appeal will be heard well after Thursday, when they are planning to evict everyone and (if past form is anything to go by) to smash up the flats so that no one can possibly live in them. They will then let them sit there, empty, probably for another few years....and certainly over the winter months.


I will be there on Thursday, doing what I can to try to ensure that these people are allowed to stay in the otherwise empty flats which they have made into a community. I'll keep you updated as to what happens.

Meanwhile, in their own words, the call-out from the squatters for help and assistance:

"I am involved in a squat in Stoke Newington that is currently housing about 20 -25 people. Some were sleeping rough before our squat opened, many have been unemployed since the recession, we have some students unable to access student loans and a family who had a baby on Friday whom the council won't assist with housing. We have quickly become a vibrant community offering free workshops (including English lessons as the majority of the people who live here have English as a second language).


We were not advised of the court hearing and therefore could not attend or respond - this is unlawful.

They have used a different piece of legislation (The Anti Social Behaviour Act) which makes it a criminal (not a civil) matter and means they have stripped us of our rights to have notice etc

They only advised us on Monday that we are to be evicted at noon on Thursday. We have lodged an appeal to attempt to postpone the eviction but since we have deliberately been given such a short amount of notice it is unlikely this will be read by a magistrate prior to our Thursday deadline.


We need as many people as possible to assist

If you have concerns about being arrested there is still a role for you as most of the squatters will occupy the actual flats. Please come and surround the outside of the estate making it more difficult for police to come through or come and just take a video or photos of any inappropriate police behaviour


Address: Flats 32-39 Lemsford Court, Green Lanes, Stoke Newington N4 2XN (opposite Clissold Park gate)

Planning meeting 7p.m. Weds 2nd (and welcome to stay overnight - they could strike early)

Official resistance to be ready from 10a.m - eviction due at 12


Please forward this to as many friends, mailing lists, associations who will be supportive

Thank you for any way in which you are able to assist whether you can attend or spread the word!"