26 December 2006

Public Transit and Coventry

2007 needs a co-ordinated strategy to get us out of our cars.

More and more car use means more and more congestion, pollution and noise.

Year-on-year, we need to use our cars less. If we still need to use cars (rural communities, etc), we need viable alternatives to petrol to receive governmental and industry support.

- I've recently written about lobbying for a Walking/Cycling strategy from the city council in 2007.

- For 2007, the city council is also moving to a system of "salary sacrifice" where employees can support independent bike shops and purchase bicycles. Other employers could join in with this type of scheme. Warwick University already has an arrangement with Albany Cycles in Earlsdon for its staff and students.

- 2007 should see a revival of Coventry celebrating Without My Car day. In 2004, Broadgate was closed off to vehicles.

- There will be more development on the Sprint rapid bus transit project (dedicated vehicles halfway between buses and trams running between Warwick University and Nuneaton via the city centre and Foleshill Road).

- In 2007, Virgin Trains, serving Coventry mainline station, may switch over part/all of its rolling stock to run on biofuel.

- As you can see from the Energy Saving Trust database, there are no filling stations for electricity or biodiesel or hydrogen or bioethanol within 20 miles of Coventry. The nearest is in Coalville (Crossroads Garage, 99 Midland Road, LE67 1EH) for biodiesel. If the city council was serious about environmental affairs, they'd call a summit of the leading filling stations in or near to Coventry and encourage them to provide such facilities. Either we remain reliant on petrol, or we try to diversify as an interim step whilst truly sustainable technology (renewably-powered hydrogen, far-more efficient electric car technology) is developed.

24 December 2006

Coventry and the Labour Party

John Mutton and the Coventry Labour Party haven’t presented a vigorous and sustained opposition to Conservative control. For a city like ours, Coventry Labour is too new Labour.

When you see councillors opposing PFI shenanigans, city academies, NHS cuts, or proposing concrete actions to oppose industrial job losses, it’s been left to the Socialists.

That's not a bad thing, we agree with the Socialists on a wide variety of policies, but it's not healthy for democracy for the 2nd largest party on the council to behave this way.

The more Labour isn’t active between elections, the more the city will slip away to ourselves, to the Conservatives, to the Socialists, or far more ominously, to BNP candidates in working-class white areas that Labour continues to ignore.

For their own sake, Labour has to run an 18-ward race in May.

23 December 2006

Crisis - The Green Party and the BNP

The Guardian has had two key articles on the activities of the BNP in its Thursday and Friday editions:

part 1

part 2

Mainstream politics (Cameron Conservatives, Blairite Labour) is discredited. Both have had a decade each in the last 20 years in national government. We’re left with high youth unemployment, privatised trains running 30 minutes late, and a pro-PFI and pro-war consensus between the two parties.

The three mainstream parties are competing for middle-class swing votes (Mondeo Man, Worcester Woman, Morrisons Voter, etc) across relatively few national constituencies. Internal membership in the top three parties is withering away. Entire party platforms are being focused on this chase of marginal constituencies.

Thus, electoral openings for non-mainstream parties (Respect in Tower Hamlets and Birmingham; the Green Party nationally, especially Norwich, Lewisham, Lancaster, Oxford and Brighton; the BNP nationally, especially in Barking) are created.

Climate change, as well as peak oil, will severely disrupt industrial society. Such a crisis will further discredit mainstream politics (why didn’t they warn us, why haven’t they prepared).

In our own ways, the Green Party and the BNP are preparing for this crisis.

The BNP wants society to go to hell-in-a-handbasket. It’s covertly preparing for crisis, with encrypted membership lists and secret meeting rendez-vous points. It wants to position itself to take advantage of chaos and turn society towards strong-leader, White-England-first solutions.

In contrast, the Green Party is openly preparing by trying to localise the economy. We want to put in place ways of providing local food and decentralised public services. We’re advocating pro-peace, pro-women and anti-racist policies. We can see the chaos that is coming, and we want to provide a bridge towards a sustainable society.

21 December 2006

Electrical/Electronic Items and Leckie Use

It's one thing to read on BBC news that British consumers will buy about 30 million electrical and electronic items over the coming six months.

It's another to try to wrap my head around the fact that:

Britons are increasingly regarding electrical and electronic items as indispensable. Two-thirds of people planning to purchase a cordless phone said it was an "essential item", while a half of those intending to buy an electric toothbrush said the same. Over the past 10 years, electricity use by electrical and electronic gadgets has risen by 47%; but the next five years will see an increase of 82%. The efficiency of refrigerators has increased markedly, however, so many houses now have two fridges that the total energy consumed by home refrigeration has gone down by only 2% over the last 8 years.
How did people get by with rotary dial phones and using "manual" toothbrushes? Life must have been so difficult (rolling my eyes).

It wasn' the stone age. It was only a decade ago.

It's this idea that growth of everything is good, that a certain form of consumer behaviour gets seen as normal, when taking the long view, the planet's been around for 4.6 billion years, and the Industrial Revolution is only 180 years old.

20 December 2006

EU Aviation Emissions Scheme

Radio 4's Today Programme had interviews this morning with both Caroline Lucas, MEP for the Green Party, and David Miliband, Sec of State for the Environment, on the subject of the proposed EU aviation carbon trading scheme.

George Monbiot pointed out yesterday that it's very odd to have "bold plans" to make new homes more energy efficient whilst Labour allow airports to keep growing:

The only certain means by which the growth of flights can be curtailed is by restricting the capacity of our airports. Aviation expands to fill the available landing space. Unless the government’s decision to double the size of the UK’s airports is reversed, the rest of its climate change programme is a waste of time.
Finally, the New Statesman had a recent article that profiled the people involved with Plane Stupid, a direct action protest group against the short-haul flight, cheap flights, budget flights industry.

Ellen Rickford, one of the group's youngest members, spent her early teenage years campaigning against the war in Iraq. "The big anti-war march was one of my first political experiences. I saw all those people take to the streets against the war and they were ignored," she says. "This is a bigger, more important issue, and I'm not going to allow that to happen again. The only thing left to do is take direct action."

"I was never interested in party politics or adopting an ideology," says Theo Middleton, a 20-year-old student and Plane Stupid activist. "I realised that the only thing that matters, in the final analysis, is the destruction of the earth. The environmental movement is a complete cross-section of people from different backgrounds and political perspectives, and that is how it should be."

19 December 2006

Walking and Cycling in Coventry

I've stood, a few times now, counting cars in morning rush hour at the roundabout where Earlsdon Library is. Consistently, you have about 1.2 people per car, that is, you sample 20 cars, and there are 20 drivers and 4 passengers.

What if some of the 24 cycled to work? Or walked, or car-shared? Or rode on an extra double-decker bus each hour?

We wouldn't have as much congestion. The air would be cleaner. Each of those former drivers would save on petrol and parking costs.

They would be getting to work on time (that's the thing with cycling and walking, you're in control, and you know it takes exactly 30 min once you leave your door walking, or 15 min if you cycle).

I've sent a letter to the City Services directorate at Coventry City Council, and copied it to Kevin Foster (Con - Cheylesmore), the cabinet member for City Services. I expect I'll have to wait until January for a few answers, but it'll make for interesting reading:

People in Coventry need to be able to make direct,attractive, safe and comfortable journeys by bicycle.More cycle journeys would relieve traffic congestionand reduce emissions. As well, cycling is anaffordable transport option for those most in need,amongst whom car ownership is less common.

I have some questions on cycling policy in Coventry:

- What has been the city council’s spend on cyclepaths/cycling infrastructure, as compared to spending on roadworks/road-related infrastructure? Can you provide me with figures for the years 2004/05, 2005/06, 2006/07, and for projected 2007/08 and 2008/09?
- What percentage of city council employees cycle regularly to work (say, at least twice per week) … and what targets do you have for staff cycling to work inthe future?
- What actions have been taken, if any, to encourage cycling use amongst private-sector employers with more than 20 employees?
- Will Coventry put some effort into the September 2007 European Without My Car Day?

David Cameron and Women

The Fawcett Society, in conjunction with IpsosMORI, have published some interesting findings on David Cameron's appeal:

Just 9% of women say Cameron is more honest than most politicians, compared to 16% of men. 38% of women have yet to make up their mind about the new Conservative leader. Women put the NHS at the top of their political agendas with 40% of women ranking it as one of the two most important issues facing Britain compared to just 26% of men.

Dr Katherine Rake, Director of the Fawcett Society said,

“Today’s analysis knocks on the head the notion that women are more likely than men to be influenced by politicians’ personal appearance and style. It shows that women take a considered, and rather sceptical, approach to politics. Women’s levels of disenchantment with the Government are at an all time high, but this is not translating into a strong move towards Cameron and the Conservatives. Rather, women are currently assessing their options and now is the time that all political parties need to set out a bold vision that captures women’s interest, and ultimately their votes."

14 December 2006

For Stelios, Denial Isn't Just A River In Egypt

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, founder of Easyjet, is interviewed in the Guardian today. He doesn't seem to have a care in the world about rising emissions from aviation:

Q: Could it be that in another couple of years, taking short-haul flights could be as socially unacceptable as drink driving?
Stelios: No, I think that's unlikely.

Q: How will people travel in 10 years' time?
Stelios: More or less in the same way they travel now.
Stelios also insists that for "90% plus of our routes, there is no railway alternative."

Out of all the flights from Luton on the Easyjet website, I'll admit that that Luton to Belfast, Istanbul, Krakow, Riga and Warsaw are far voyages by train. Everything else is a train to Brussels or Paris, and then a night train where you save hotel costs for the night and wake up refreshed. So, where is the 90% of his network that he's talking about?

If emissions continue to rise in the aviation sector, the cuts needed in the remainder of the economy will be even more drastic.

Speaking of denial, Tony Blair is very good at the rhetoric of the need to do something about climate change. The problem is that when it comes to a pre-Budget report, it's timid. When it comes to codes for encouraging sustainble planning initiatives, it's voluntary. And, when it comes to rethinking the Aviation White Paper in light of the Stern Report, he just plain chickens out.

Sex Workers in Coventry

Lyn Matthews has a letter in the Guardian today. She set up one of the first outreach projects in Britain aimed at reducing drug-related harm and preventing the spread of HIV infection among Liverpool's street sex workers. She writes:

Draconian policing of the problem of street sex work only drives women further into the shadows. Yes, the law is the law; but when laws endanger some of the most vulnerable women in our society, then they are clearly at odds with humanity and wrong. Making women work longer hours to pay fines, hide in the shadows while trying to work undetected or serving ASBOs on them to prevent them from working make the laws and society complicit in the murders of these women [in Suffolk].
In November 2006, the Terrence Higgins Trust released a year-long study of Coventry women sex workers by their SWISH project (Sex Workers Into Sexual Health).

It found that drug use and housing conditions affect the risks sex workers take with their sexual health. Economic need was the main factor in starting sex work. Crack and heroin were a major problem for street-based sex workers, and more than half of respondents (51%) and all street based workers, had been homeless at some point in their lives. Finally, more than a third of women had been in prison at some point in their lives. Nearly half had received no support while in prison, and less than a quarter had been supported when they left prison.

The study recommended that:

- education and skills training was needed
- particular care should be given to supporting women leaving prison
- women who are homeless are more likely to take sexual risks which place a higher burden on public health
- women working in-doors are more likely to be in control of their personal and working lives.

Chloe, an ex-sex worker from Coventry said:

"Women who start work in the sex industry are often in a very desperate situation, either because of drug addiction or because they are in abusive and unhealthy relationships. Having the right support from projects like SWISH can really help them to regain control over their lives."
The SWISH study seems to mirror what has been adopted as official Green Party policy:

- All aspects of sex work involving consenting adults should be decriminalised. Workers in the sex industry should enjoy the same rights as other workers such as the right to join unions ... Legal discrimination against sex workers should be ended (for example, in child custody cases, where evidence of sex work is often taken to mean that a person is an unfit parent).

- Although people should be free to engage in sex work if they wish, this is an industry which can be more exploitative than others, and those who work in it should be adequately protected against such exploitation. There should be zero tolerance of coercion, violence, or sexual abuse (including child abuse). Those who have been trafficked into the country and forced to work in the sex industry against their will should receive protection under the law. There should be legal support for sex workers who want to sue those who exploit their labour unfairly, and access to re-training for those sex workers who want to leave the industry. As far as possible, public services, the Government and legal system should aim to end those social attitudes which stigmatise those who are, or have been, sex workers.

- The use of commercial premises as brothels should be legalised, and such brothels should be subject to licensing by local authorities to ensure protection of those working there and clients from abuse, and protection of the local community from nuisance and abuse ... Particular areas should be designated where street prostitutes can work in safety without upsetting local residents and traders. Such areas should be decided by negotiation between the police, prostitutes and/or their representatives, and the residents and/or their representatives.

- Local authorities and the health service should ensure that such street workers have ready access to health facilities and advice about the health risks of their work. Regular health checks should be available to all sex workers, free of charge, to protect both them and their clients.

12 December 2006

Local Authorities May Regain Control Over Buses

Labour's transport secretary, Douglas Alexander, is proposing that local authorities regain a say in timetables, frequencies and fares.

Local authorities could introduce their own local schemes, as well as permitting charities and community groups to provide services.

Stephen Joseph, director of Transport 2000, said: "We will also want to see more action to put the passenger at the centre of bus policy. While we welcome stronger powers for the traffic commissioners on punctuality, other passenger concerns like driver training, information, personal security and bus design are mentioned but no action is proposed."

John Whitelegg, a local Green Party councillor in Lancaster, and deputy chairman of the Local Government Association's transport and regeneration board, said:

"These proposals are a victory for common sense. The only way we can get more passengers on the buses is to give local people more say over services where they live. English councils outside London have been hamstrung by a system that has not allowed them to respond to local need. There is clear public support for giving local people more say over bus services. Councils want to change services people use for the better and create places where they can thrive."

David Cameron and Image

Until he went all pro-war, I used to read Nick Cohen every week. He's still worth checking out, though.

This week, he examines Frank Luntz, an American polling/focus group expert. It was Luntz's analysis, for Newsnight, of David Davis vs David Cameron that gave Cameron momentum, that gave him the mantle of "I can win back undecided voters." Now, even Conservatives are getting impatient with the lack of policy and the emphasis on husky dog spin and webcameron image.

The desperation of the Tories in 2005 produced an election without precedent. The findings of a focus group drove a hitherto obscure politician to the leadership of a major political party. Not a focus group hired by party managers anxious to uphold the best interests of their cause, but by a broadcaster as interested in entertainment as reputable market research.

British pollsters tell me that Luntz's work for Newsnight shouldn't have been allowed to influence a parish council election, never mind the future of a great party. Standard focus groups have six to eight members ... Newsnight had Luntz meet 28 voters ... focus groups are also meant to be focused ... Newsnight mixed up people who had always voted Tory with people who had once voted Tory and people who had never voted Tory. The danger of a large and diverse group is that the loudest voices will dominate and a herd mentality will take over.

Maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise that Mori reported in The Observer last week that Cameron's personal ratings had collapsed after his honeymoon period because voters didn't know what he believed in.

If you are created by the entertainment industry, you must expect the public to treat what you say as mere showbiz.
Jean Calder is a freelance journalist who writes a column for the Argus, in Brighton:

Cameron's ‘spin’ machine rivals anything Labour could have produced, and, of recent weeks he has been rewarded by a media love affair. He’s photogenic and highly skilled and has worked journalists like a trooper, carefully constructing an image of himself as a man of the people, essentially middle class, who cycles, shops at ASDA and looks after his disabled son. The newspapers have swallowed it hook, line and sinker.

His Eton education could have posed a problem for Cameron, but he managed to represent it as a school to which hard working middle class people send their children, rather than as the centuries old institution which has prepared generations of this country’s aristocracy for leadership. Cameron, as well as being the son of a well to do old Etonian stockbroker, is also, on his mother’s side, a descendant of King William 4th. He is married to the daughter of another old Etonian whose estate has been in the family since 1590.

This is no ‘ordinary’ couple. And he is no man of the people.

Cameron spent seven years with ITV television company Carlton, as head of corporate communications. Jeff Randall, ex BBC business editor writing in The Daily Telegraph where he is a senior executive, had dealings with him at that time. He said: “In my experience, Cameron never gave a straight answer when dissemblance was a plausible alternative, which probably makes him perfectly suited for the role he now seeks: the next Tony Blair.” He added that he would not trust Cameron “with my daughter’s pocket money”.

Sun business editor Ian King, recalling the same era, was even more cutting, describing Cameron as a “poisonous, slippery individual”.

Freedland wrote: “Again and again, Cameron may talk left, but he remains a man of the right. The work-life balance is a favoured theme, constantly advertising his own hands-on involvement in family duties, yet in 2002 he voted against a battery of measures that would have extended maternity leave to 26 weeks, raised maternity pay to and introduced 2 weeks paid leave for fathers as well as leave for adoptive parents. Most strikingly, given his own circumstances, he voted against giving parents of young or disabled children the right to request flexible working.”

11 December 2006

Al Gore Calls For "Carbon Freeze" Movement

Al Gore is calling for a mass movement in the US to freeze carbon emissions.

It would begin in 2007, and it would be similiar to the nuclear freeze movement of the 1980's.

Gore plans to enlist groups ranging from entrepreneurs and activists to political leaders to push for stronger policies to limit the growth of greenhouse gases.
Gore said the grass-roots campaign would put heat on leaders in Washington to come up with more sophisticated policies to address global climate change. Gore said the power of the freeze demand is that it can operate at every level of society -- individuals can take steps to cut their use of nonrenewable energies, and so can businesses and local and state governments.

As a senator and arms control specialist, Gore had opposed the nuclear freeze movement two decades ago because he thought it was "naive and simplistic." He said he has since recognized its impact on political leaders.

Upcoming Events in Coventry

- 12th December, 6pm to 10pm, full Coventry City Council Meeting, the Council House

- 12th December, 730pm, Coventry Green Party Meeting, The Grapevine Centre, Doe Bank Lane, Spon End

- 14th December, 730pm, Coventry Friends of the Earth, speaker meeting, a representative from Practical Action, speaking on "Appropriate Technology for Developing Countries," The Foyer, Lower Holyhead Road

- 14th December, 8pm onwards, an informal Xmas drink with Coventry Stop The War, at the Liquid Bar in the city arcade (formerly Virgin Records)

- 17th December, 12pm to 2pm, a meeting of Coventry Faslane 365, Coventry Peace House, a social lunch, with musicians and soup and the opportunity to get to know each other more, plus a plans update.

09 December 2006

Being Arrested For Trident

Hilary Wainwright, co-editor of Red Pepper, writes in the Guardian about her arrest during a protest at the Faslane nuclear base against the Trident nuclear deterrent.

Within the police force, there is respect for the nonviolent actions of people such as Angie Zelter, a past saboteur of Hawk jets bound for East Timor, and now one of the organisers of Faslane 365 ... A CID officer asked to be let into her cell to shake her hand to show his respect for the Hawk action.

Angie is midwife to a movement to stop up to £40bn being spent on weapons whose threatened use (the basis of nuclear deterrence) has been declared illegal by the international court of justice ... It was as clear as the glaring light of my police cell that nothing within the political system was going to change the government's decision. Democracy in the Labour party has all but been destroyed by Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and sickening opportunism from many who should know better. The response of the Lib Dems has been pathetic.

Civil disobedience is the only way to give voice to the majority of people who want the UK to champion, not undermine, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, and who want the billions being sunk in the Clyde to be spent on ending the poverty that feeds violent conflict.

08 December 2006

Christmas -- New Internationalist Website

A great place to browse about, if you're starting a frantic dash towards 25th December, is the "shop" section of the New Internationalist website.

The obvious gift is a subscription to the magazine itself, which is exceptionally strong on international and development issues.

But, they also have a range of books, t-shirts, music, stationery and food, notably:

- "Don't Shoot The Clowns" by Jo Wilding -- Wilding gave a reading from this at this year's Green Party conference in Hove. The blurb from NI reads: "This amazing book is one woman's account of living with Iraqi people during the war and its aftermath. She tells what daily life is really like in a country coping with invasion and occupation, and how she and a hastily recruited troupe of circus performers brought clowns, laughter and some moments of respite to the children of Iraq.

"Jo was the only one of us foreigners in Iraq who I was absolutely sure was doing something useful. She made thousands of children happy." - Naomi Klein

- "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter" A t-shirt based on a quotation from Martin Luther King, -- it comes in 100% unbleached organic cotton

Sir Nicholas Stern Quits Treasury Post

An interesting story from The Times. It casts more doubt on how environmental Gordon Brown would be as a PM.

Sir Nicholas Stern, the author of the Government’s report on climate change is to quit the Treasury, after friends said that he was frozen out of Gordon Brown’s inner circle. With embarrassing timing, Sir Nicholas' departure was announced a day after the Chancellor confounded expectations of a big shift towards a new environmental agenda in his Pre-Budget Report.

One well-placed government source told The Times that Mr Brown had to be persuaded within the Treasury even to take the steps he did, such was his lack of enthusiasm for green taxes.

Several Whitehall sources told The Times that Mr Brown did not like some of the advice he received from Sir Nicholas, including some “home truths” about long-term trends in the economy, and he never broke into the Chancellor’s tight-knit inner circle.

His doom-laden report on the risks of failing to address climate change, published in October, caused tensions within the Government by triggering a debate on environmental taxes and leading to calls for big policy changes ... Sir Nicholas’s stark warnings of overwhelming evidence of global warming highlighted differences between Mr Brown — who wanted to avoid unpopular tax rises — and David Miliband, the Environment Secretary, who pressed for green taxes, including a big rise in tax on gas-guzzling vehicles.

Next Green Party Meeting - 12th December

Our next monthly meeting will take place at 730pm on Tues 12th December.

It will be at the Grapevine centre in Spon End (on Doe Bank Lane).

On our agenda:

- ongoing opposition to the incinerator in Coventry, and plans for a super-incinerator for all of Warwickshire
- weekends in Jan/Feb/March for tables in the city centre, and on Earlsdon High Street
- a winter 2007 newsletter similar to the one we did in November
- topics for press releases in the lead-up to the May elections

If you're curious, come along, bring a few friends.

If you have any questions about the Coventry Green Party, feel free to contact me (sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk, 07906 316 726).

07 December 2006

Gardening Allotments in Coventry

Some good publicity for allotments in today's Evening Telegraph.

Allotments cost £10 to £35 a year, depending on location and facilities, with reduced rates for those in receipt of benefit. For information about vacant plots contact Len Parnell on 024 7671 5290.

There are nearly 400 vacant allotment plots in the city, and allotment holders are encouraging others to grow their own vegetables and reap healthy benefits. Allotment holders in Holyhead Road, Coundon, celebrated a bumper crop this year and people are being encouraged to follow suit by taking on their own patch at other sites across the city.

Len Parnell, secretary of the Coventry and district allotments and gardens council, believes the new year is the perfect time for people to sign up for an allotment: "People tend to overindulge over Christmas and one of the best ways to get back into shape is by growing your own vegetables in the fresh air which is far better than being in a sweaty gym ... In the past 18 months a lot of younger women are taking them on and bringing their children along, which is probably to do with the current emphasis on healthy eating ... People can take it on for the following season and it's a marvellous social and community thing ... It really is an economical thing to do as well."

06 December 2006

Gordon Brown's Profoundly Unambitious Vision

You can read the entire pre-budget report here (it's 1.4MB and you'll need Adobe Acrobat reader).

- if all new homes will be zero carbon by 2016, that's too far in the future. FOE point out that "a far greater priority is the existing stock - each year new houses contribute just 1% to the overall stock. The overwhelming priority is measures for 99% of houses now, not 1% of houses in 10 years time."

- there was no increase in funding for the Low Carbon Buildings Programme (LCBP); what is desperately needed is assistance with the up-front capital costs of homeowners who want to do their bit and invest in microgeneration

- doubling Air Passenger Duty won't deter flying; research by the Civil Aviation Authority has revealed the average income of passengers passing through Stansted Airport last year topped £50,000 per annum. As Green MEP Caroline Lucas has said: "If this government is serious about tackling greenhouse gas emissions from transport - their fastest growing source - it could halt all aviation expansion and road-building schemes tomorrow."

on non-environmental matters:

- the new economics foundation is calling for "the decision to withdraw the Post Office Card Account to be reviewed in the light of new findings of the potentially devastating impact its withdrawal will have for post offices in urban deprived areas." Over the past two years, more than eight urban post offices have closed for every rural post office closed, with more than one in six of the urban post office closures taking place in deprived areas. Brown talks a good game on encouraging enterprise, but each post office saves small businesses in their direct vicinity in the region of £270,000 each year. As well, for every £10 earned in income, a post office generates £16.20 for its local economy.

- 1.5p on petrol won't get people out of their cars and onto trains, when the government remains committed to a privitised oligopolistic rail network (hmm, which train company should I use from Coventry to London, from Coventry to Manchester, from Coventry to Reading ... Virgin, Virgin or Virgin?)

- an honest Chancellor would outline the long-term costs of PFI projects across the country (paying on the never-never instead of from up-front taxation).

- the pre-budget report calls for every government department to examine each of their assets and consider the case for sale. A register of possible assets to be sold is to be published in January. Sounds like a mass part-privitisation of government for 2007.

- finally, it's funny how the report didn't mention the crisis over VAT on construction of Olympic sites, or the cost overruns that will inevitably come from a national ID card project, or our huge levels of personal debt.

05 December 2006

Pre-Budget Report by Gordon Brown

What should be in the pre-budget report?

Example one: the Irish wind power firm, Airtricity, is proposing a 10GW demonstration project -- enough power for over 8 million homes -- located offshore between the UK, the Netherlands and Germany. Has Blair heard about it? Yes. Supposedly, Blair has even discussed it with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Example two: The Guardian reported a few days ago that covering just 0.5% of the world's hot deserts with a technology called concentrated solar power (CSP) could provide the world's entire electricity needs. Europe would build a new high-voltage direct current electricity grid to allow the easy, efficient transport of electricity from a variety of alternative sources. The region could provide all its electricity needs by 2050 with barely any fossil fuels and no nuclear power. This would allow a 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electricity production over the period.

Example three: Reuters reports that Brown is expected to raise some "green taxes" such as doubling air passenger duty which would raise an extra 1 billion pounds. He might also consider going back to the future and resuming the fuel duty escalator. But, if he does either one, let's see if he ringfences it. Any monies raised in such a way should go directly towards climate change projects (£100 worth of insulation in 10 million homes).

If climate change is an emergency, it needs to be reflected (get it, CSP, reflected) in the pre-budget report. It's time to think big.

Archbishop of Canterbury and Trident

Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has said that many people would never accept the morality even of threatening destruction by "intrinsically indiscriminate" weapons, such as the Trident nuclear deterrent.

In July, a group of bishops (including the Bishop of Coventry) warned Mr Blair that the possession of Trident weapons was "evil" and "profoundly anti-God".

In September, the leader of the Anglican Church in Wales, Archbishop Barry Morgan, insisted that the money spent on it could instead save 16,000 children from dying from preventable diseases every day.

BBC News says that Williams is determined that a national debate on Trident should take place and that the Church of England's voice should be heard.

04 December 2006

Electoral Funding and Labour

Here are two handy links from the Electoral Commission:

Loans reported/credit facilities reported for political parties

A searchable register of all donations to political parties

Play around with it. You can search by party, by type of donation, by period (e.g. Q1 2005 to Q3 2005). It's fun for ages 9 to 99.

From Q1 2004 to the present, the Green Party has had 116 donations with an overall total of £353,736.69. Most of this is a bequest from the will of the late David Gillet (£132 000). Only 9 donations were for more than £5000. The Green Party is not hostage to any one interest. We want to be independent. That way, we can represent you without keeping one eye on our bank balance.

In comparison, from Q1 2004 to the present, the main parties reported the following:

- Labour: 3599 donations with an overall total of £ 47,279,666
- Lib Dems: 1368 donations with an overall total of £ 13,413,929
- Conservatives: 2769 donations with an overall total of £ 53,546,463.02

A number of loans to the Labour Party, the ones that all the political who-hah is being made about, are coming due.

It represents a big cash flow problem. In fact, it looks so constraining that any new Labour leader, elected by the party before or after the local elections in 2007, won't be able to go to the electorate to renew their mandate. They simply won't be able to afford to.

A 20 Mph Speed Limit For Coventry

10 people are killed, and 100 injured, every day on Britain's roads. 20mph speed limits, when properly enforced, have been shown to reduce casualties by 70% amongst child pedestrians.

A pedestrian struck at 20mph has a 95% chance of survival. This is reduced to a 50% chance of survival at 30mph.

Drivers, are the extra few minutes that you might save per week by gunning it between red lights, when driving through residential areas, worth this kind of risk?

01 December 2006

World AIDS Day

The Terrence Higgins Trust will be holding a candlelit vigil under the canopy at Broadgate at 6pm this afternoon to mark World AIDS Day.

The vigil will include a reading of names of those who have died. It will be followed by an interfaith service in Coventry Cathedral which starts at 7pm.

As well, on Saturday, there will be a fundraising night at Rainbows (Short Street), and an evening of awareness-raising cabaret at Dogme next Wed night. The Dogme event is a fundraiser for THT, and it starts at 8pm (£5 each or £8 for two). Tickets can be bought from George at THT in Coventry 024 7622 9292 or directly from Dogma.

You can download a poster to promote the events from this link at Coventry Unison's webpage.