30 April 2008

Green Is The Change - Vote On 1st May

Polling stations open tomorrow at 7am, and close at 10pm. If you're unsure about your polling station, the Coventry Labour Party has a lightening-quick type-in-your-street database, which will tell you where it is.

1st May And Afterwards ...

Tikkun, a US spiritual/progressive magazine, has a fascinating article about the "Obama phenomenon" and the motivations behind it.

What's key for the elections here in Coventry comes towards the end of the editorial:

Imagine how different that could be if Obama were to ask people to meet weekly in their neighborhoods in small groups to begin to build ongoing projects of social change that would embody their highest ideals. Groups could be organized, for example, around universal health care, environmental sanity, the Global Marshall Plan as the path to homeland security, corporate social responsibility, and electoral reform.

If the millions of people who have been touched by the campaigns (and yes, not only by Obama, but by Hillary Clinton, John McCain, etc.) were to begin working now for the changes they want their candidate to bring to the country, then these campaigns would stop resembling horse races and start resembling the building of mass movements and the reclaiming of social space from all those columnists, politicians, and public opinion leaders who deaden our hopes and convince us that we should just attend to our own personal lives.
I'd like you to vote for me, and the other 14 Green candidates in Coventry.

But, to quote Ralph Nader, democracy is a daily practice. We can't have daily democracy without daily citizenship.

If we want a different sort of society, a sustainable and equal society, we need to be involved in political activity throughout the year, not just a tick in the ballot box.

- If we want to address the growth of the BNP in Coventry (8 wards in 2007 with 10% of the vote or better), then we don't leaflet just before an election. We leaflet for the next two years, and have community-based meetings in white working-class areas, to change the debate, to educate, to inform.

- If we want a society where women and men exist as equals, we have to work for community projects that emphasise action on childcare, a domestic violence registry, involving women in local entrepreneurship, and have more women running in elections. We need to listen to the Fawcett Society when they say that 30 000 women lose their jobs each year because they are pregnant, and that many women, if they return to work, take on lower paid jobs below their skill level.

- If we want solar power, we organise ourselves to provide it (since it's clear that we can't wait for governments at nearly any level). My hometown of Toronto is very interesting, in this regard. Groups have held well-attended (200 people each) town hall meetings that have resulted in the installation of community solar electric systems.

We need to be the change, not just politicians, or the political class.

Campaign Update -- 30th April 2008

- I was part of an on-air election Q&A on BBC Coventry last night. The Tories, Lib Dems and Labour were included for the entire programme (from 6pm to 7pm), whilst ourselves and the Socialists received 5 minutes each, and the BNP did a 2 minute pre-taped statement. I was on air from 645pm to 650pm, and the "three main parties" hadn't mentioned the environment in the first 45 minutes! So, I used my time to talk about reducing and reusing waste, rather than just recycling, and to also talk about peak oil, and what we need to urgently do locally in Coventry to prepare for far higher energy prices.

- We were canvassing Styvechale Avenue and Earlsdon Ave South last night, with Albany, Winifred, Clarendon, Warwick St, and Poplar covered the previous evening.

- We have about 30 people who are able to come to the election count tomorrow night. Voting will end at 10pm, and polling boxes will be sealed, and the postal sorting facility sweeped, and then the count will begin at "The Elephant" gymnasium at the Pool Meadow baths after 1030pm. The shtick is to have 3-4 people per table, leaning over, observing the count, and counting how many Green votes are put into bundles of 25. So, that bundle has 3, that bundle has 12, that bundle has 7, etc. For each polling station, in each ward, we can then estimate where we are strong, where we're weak, and therefore where we can concentrate on for the next two years until the 2010 election.

29 April 2008

The New Cuddly Conservatives

Dave Osler on the old class instincts of the Tories:

Workers, Osborne insultingly claimed, go on strike "at the drop of a hat." This is nonsense, of course. For a start, thanks to the anti-union laws that formed a key plank of Thatcherism’s offensive against the working class, it takes weeks to go through all the legal hurdles necessary to take lawful industrial action.

You can see the impact in the statistics. The total number of strike days taken last year, at just over 1m, is minimal compared to the average of 12.9m in the 1970s and 7.4m in the 1980s.

The truth is, Britons have substantially fewer rights at work than workers in any other industrialised country.

Even after Labour’s introduction of a national minimum wage, the European social charter, union rights at GCHQ and the Employment Relations Act, they remain arguably the worst in the EU.

However much the Tories try to present themselves as the human incarnation of the Care Bear Bunch, their project remains that of providing a political voice for the minority of wealthy people that control society.

That’s why they have opposed everything in history that has helped the poor at the slight expense of the rich, from the abolition of slavery and the Factory Acts right through to the minimum wage. However slick the marketing, they remain at bottom the nasty party.

Tesco And Carbon Labelling

Tesco will have a pilot scheme to have labels on their own brand products, so that we can see how much carbon is emitted over the life of a product - from manufacture to disposal.

It sounds good, but ... Tesco makes £200 million per month in profit, and it's a 2-year trial of only 20 products.

It's a baby step when we need far-reaching changes to enable consumers to make intelligence choices (carbon labelling on all products at all stores for a given chain; furniture stores and choosing sustainable wood; child toys and labels about child labour; kg of pesticides used on a shirt of non-organic cotton).

Transport Budgets For Cycling and Walking

In 2006-07, spending on cycling in England amounted to a tiny 0.3% of the overall transport budget.

Sustrans, and 69 other leading transport, health and planning organisations, are calling on all electoral candidates to commit 10% of transport budgets to cycling and walking initiatives if elected.

The signatory organisations of the "Take action on active travel" document are calling for:

- significant investment now to help create a population-wide shift away from sedentary travel and have a significant impact on public health.
- A 20mph or lower speed limit to be made the norm in residential areas
- Coherent, high quality networks of walking and cycling routes that link everyday destinations
- Improved driver training
- Better enforced traffic laws
- Planning decisions to give priority to walking and cycling provision

I'm strongly in favour of this. Heck, 10% is too low. Ask other local candidates on your doorstep if they come calling in the final hours of the election.

27 April 2008

Panorama Investigation - Clostridium Difficile

After 10 years of Labour saying that they are the party of healthcare, we should have a situation where hospitals are clean and safe. Instead, we have persistent problems with people going into hospital, and whilst there, catching MRSA and c.diff.

Panorama, in their programme tonight, looks at the rise of clostridium difficile in UK hospitals.

Professor Richard James, who runs a leading centre in Nottingham University to investigate hospital infections, is quoted as saying: "The figures for c.difficile show that more than 50 per cent of hospital trusts in the UK have a rate of infection that's more than 10 times that of any other country."

You can look at the hospital by hospital results here (PDF file). Page 30 is where you'll find University Hospital here in Coventry. The survey reveals that all of their wards will not be deep cleaned by March 2008. Only 40% will have been completely deep cleaned.

The final question in the survey, how a hospital defines an "outbreak" of c.diff, wildly varies. Literally, each hospital's definition is different. If every hospital decides what an outbreak is, you can't have a meaningful comparison of which 10% of hospitals have the most outbreaks nationwide!

"The Observer" Endorses Sian Berry

In the race for London mayor, The Observer is endorsing Sian Berry (Green Party) for first preference votes, and Ken Livingstone (Labour) for second preference votes:

The traditional beneficiaries of protest voting - the Liberal Democrats - have failed to make an impact in the campaign. Their candidate, Brian Paddick, is undoubtedly a decent man, but he has been out of his depth as a politician. There is a stronger case to be made for casting 'first preference' votes for Siân Berry, the Green candidate. The party has already used its toehold on the London Assembly to wring green concessions worth millions of pounds out of the mayoral budget. A respectable score for Ms Berry, an intelligent and articulate advocate of her cause, would send a clear signal to whoever wins the mayoralty that London cares about environmental policy. It would also deprive the British National Party of fourth place, a small but notable step towards the mainstream.

26 April 2008

Funding For Non-Profits In Coventry

A report this week, from a charity called New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) showed that a donkey sanctuary received more in one year (£20m) than several well-known charities combined who work to combat violence against women.

Now, I'm pro-donkey. That's not my point.

We need to look at which organisations are doing essential work within Coventry (on issues like domestic violence, youth projects, one-parent families, women entrepreneurship, or refugee/asylum seeker support). We need to look at how they are funded. And, if they're struggling, then the city council should think about running (hopefully in slow-motion Baywatch-style with a good soundtrack), and providing core funding.

That means enough for one/two staff members, and some admin support, and leckie/water bills. And for it not be two months funding, or a year's funding, but an envelope of multi-year funding so that there is stability, so they can concentrate on their work, not constantly chase funding.

This wouldn't be money for free. It would require quarterly monitoring of said organisations, so they aren't just taking the money and doing nothing, but they take the money, hit their targets and change the city for the good.

Our National Free Insulation Policy

The Green Party has put out a statement about the oil supply disruption in Scotland:

Green Party Principal Speaker Caroline Lucas today slammed the UK Government for not taking measures to provide more secure energy provision for the UK in the face of the weekend strike by workers at the Grangemouth oil refinery - labeling them "incompetent" and "ill prepared" for fuel crises. Dr. Lucas, whose 2006 report 'Fuelling a Food Crisis' examined the dependence of the EU's food supplies on oil, said:

"In 2006, I asked several Government ministries what steps they were taking to prepare for a decrease in national fuel supplies. None of the organisations contacted gave a serious response: the DTI and Cabinet Office both refusing to answer the question, ridiculously citing restrictions under the Freedom of Information Act"

"Only the Green Party has the initiatives and policies that would protect the British public from suffering the consequences of a sudden decrease in fuel supplies."

"Our proposed national free insulation policy would ensure that homeowners can warm their homes for a fraction of the domestic fuel needed in uninsulated homes, and the Green Party policy to shift the UK towards a sustainable energy economy would mean that our homes' energy would be increasingly off-grid, readily available and not dependent on fossil fuel supply. Crucially, only the Green Party supports locally sourced food production, ensuring food security for communities is not dependent on long haul transport and the whims of the fuel market."

25 April 2008

Happy St Georges Day!

Peter Tatchell has an interesting take on St George:

"St George's Day should be a national holiday in England. We should celebrate St George as a symbol of freedom, dissent and multiculturalism. He doesn't belong to the far right. He represents multiculturalism and rebellion against tyranny. He rebelled against the Roman Emperor Diocletian and was executed for opposing the persecution of Christians by the Romans."

"St George wasn't white or English. He was a rebel from the Middle East. His father was Turkish and his mother probably Palestinian. St George's parentage embodies multiculturalism and his life expresses the values of English liberalism and dissent."

You might be a Green .... Crime

You might be a Green if you agree with the following statements:

- The Green Party wants to encourage responsible use, not binge use, of alcohol by both adults and young people. We need more police in drinking areas on Fri and Sat night. We want to encourage the serving of alcohol in smaller measures -- all these specials on triple sambucas. We'd increase penalties on drink driving. Better late-night public transport means less alcohol-related crime. We'd review late licenses that are going awry (a lot of the complaints coming out of the "nighttime economy" in Earlsdon)

- We need projects that engage high-risk youth

- We need to crack down on gun crime by introducing a tough licensing system, and work to cut off the supply of guns to the UK

- We should ban the sale of replica guns

- Where appropriate, offenders should be brought together with their victims, so that they can be made aware of their impact on people’s lives, and, where possible, can make reparation for their crimes

- We can tackle drug-related crime by increasing the provision of treatment for addiction and breaking the link between drugs and criminal activity

- Homophobic and transphobic crimes should be dealt with on a par with racist crimes. Police forces should adopt and implement action plans on homophobic and transphobic hate crimes.

- We need more community police, holding community surgeries, and who are mobile (on teams of bicycles)

- 70% of crime is solved by "community-led intelligence" -- local people telling police information. Instead, the recent emphasis has been on investment in "listening" and "talking" CCTV. Cameras can't apprehend people if you're getting beat up. Cameras can only record what's going on

- Cameras already record us 300 times a day. With CCTV, ID cards and databases, we’re sleepwalking into a surveillance society.

Youth And Self-Harming

This is astounding.

A third of UK girls aged 11 to 19 have tried to harm themselves. More than half of the 800 young people surveyed said they knew someone who had self-harmed - either through cutting, burning or punching themselves.

Of those who admitted to self-harm, 43% said they did it because they were depressed, 17% because they were angry, 10% because of relationship problems and 10% because they were stressed.

Dr David Kingsley, consultant psychiatrist at Cheadle Royal Hospital: "We need to ask ourselves what it is about modern living that is causing such stress for our youngsters."

Green Hotels In England

The Guardian has an article on the greenest hotels in the land.

It's pretty straightforward stuff, with initiatives that any other hotel/B&B, or any business in general, can emulate:

- if you grow your own salad, you save £1,000 a year
- if you cut down on waste, you won't have to spend so much on contractors and industrial bins
- leftover magazines can be sent off to doctor's waiting rooms
- organic food waste can fertilise the vegetable garden
- full English breakfasts can be sourced from within 10 miles of the hotel or B&B

News From The Coventry Telegraph

Two interesting stories recently in the Coventry Telegraph:

1) Servicemen from across Coventry and Warwickshire -- who saw Britain's first atomic bomb tests -- are among veterans suing the Ministry of Defence for millions of pounds in compensation.

2) The parent company of LTI, Manganese Bronze, who make black cabs here in Coventry, has signed a development agreement with The Tanfield Group to develop an all-electric version of the TX4 black cab.

23 April 2008

A4 Posters

We have dozens of A4 posters printed up -- "On 1st May, elect Coventry's 1st Green councillor".
Right now, they are customised for our campaign in Earlsdon, but we can alter them for you (the wittle small print at the bottom has to reflect the name of the candidate in your ward).

Email me (sgredding2003@yahoo.co.uk) or Bryn Tittle (bryntittle@yahoo.co.uk) to have one delivered to your door.

22 April 2008

"On The Verge" Screening at Warwick

A film -- "On The Verge" -- will be shown at the University of Warwick, on Thursday, at 6pm.

The film is the story of the campaign, Smash EDO, which has done direct action against EDO MBM, an arms manufacturer in Brighton.

The Smash EDO campaign has cost the company millions. It has been the subject of large scale police operations. The police have even attempted to stop "On The Verge" being screened. The premiere, at the Duke Of Yorks Cinema in Brighton, was pulled at the last minute after police invention. Several venues due to host the tour and film have been subjected to police threats. You can read more about the police actions in the Guardian.

The film will be shown in rm SO.21, in the Social Studies Building, at 6pm, on Thursday.

For more info, you can contact Barnaby Pace, on 07969 295078, or at B.Pace@warwick.ac.uk

Germany's Lessons On Renewable Energy

Hermann Scheer, German MP, chair of the World Council for Renewable Energy:

"Our dependence on fossil fuels amounts to global pyromania ... and the only fire extinguisher we have at our disposal is renewable energy."

"The subsidies paid for fossil and nuclear energy are ... around 10 times more than has been spent on renewables over the past two decades ... and nuclear power stations, for instance, are even relieved from having to pay their huge insurance bill because the taxpayer picks it up. So this argument about renewables and subsidies doesn't stand up."

"There's a so-called nuclear renaissance taking place, and according to the British government this will happen without public money. This will never work. I assume this is just a trick to get the British public support for nuclear, but without public money it's impossible."

"The amount of sun, wind, geothermal and bioenergy at our disposal is by far sufficient. Take just the sun - it sends around 15,000 times more energy to our planet than all 6 billion people need. These resources are indefinite and cheap - the sun and wind won't be sending you a bill, and neither can you privatise them."

"Not only do renewables mitigate climate change, they also give us cleaner cities, improved health, revitalise the agricultural economy so that the farmers of today will become the oil sheikhs of tomorrow, and fight underdevelopment and deprivation in the developing world."

"You give people energy independence and you get social commitment - you only get that with renewables."

21 April 2008

Labour Defends 10p Tax Rate Changes

The tax changes explained:

Low earners who would have paid income tax at the lowest 10% rate now have to pay the 20% rate. The following groups of people will lose out, under the tax changes:

- Those earning under £18,000 and who are ineligible for working tax credits because they are under 25
- People who have retired early and are therefore ineligible for higher personal allowances
- Part-time workers who work insufficient hours to qualify for tax credits

The Commons Treasury committee has said that single people with no children, who are earning under £18,500 a year, will lose up to £232 a year.

So, we have high youth unemployment, even after 10 years of Labour, and now, we have tax changes that penalise people under 25 who are working.

Say you're someone who benefits from these changes. Do you think that low-paid young workers should be treated this way?

Today, it was Yvette Cooper's turn to be an apologist.

Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that the government "will be consulting with stakeholders, with MPs and different groups on the next phase to tackle poverty and unfair inequality in Britain."

Their tax changes are causing inequality, but they'll consult to try and remedy their own changes. It's Alice in Wonderland!

Local Elections Political Broadcast

You might be a Green .... Peace

You might be a Green if you agree with the following statements:

- The invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression, carried out in defiance of international law.

- Britain doesn't have the right to invade other countries.

- Britain should not go along with US plans for long-term bases in Iraq to guarantee access to oil and large contracts for private corporations.

- We can find better ways of spending the £3.3 billion for Britain to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.

- We won't be able to convince other nations to abandon nuclear weapons, or to stop developing nuclear weapons, if we retain ours (Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are all in favour of keeping the Trident nuclear system).

- Real peace will not come through the barrel of a gun. It means renewing our commitment to a radically reformed, and revitalised, United Nations, to international law, to justice and human rights.

- A just and durable peace in the Middle East is impossible without a just resolution to the dispossession of the Palestinian people. The 200 settlements in the Occupied Territories are illegal under international law. We should support the call for a boycott, divestment and sanctions made by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations and community groups.

20 April 2008

Shaping The Values Of Young People

Ray Lewis, founder and head of Eastside Young Leaders' Academy (EYLA) in east London, which works with black boys aged eight to 18 at risk of social exclusion:

"What we can do is look at ways in which we can prevent the next generation from falling off the clifftop. The government has tried with things such as targeting families as young as possible, but it is very difficult to replace or replenish family life. The longer term is about the restoration of communities and family life, and the founding of organisations that shape the values of young people. We blame the Government for too much. What we need is incubating communities that solve their own problems."

19 April 2008

Labour And The 10p Tax Rate

It's the arrogance of Gordon Brown and Ed Balls, over the 10p tax rate debate, that is astounding.

Brown is "furious" that protests about the decision overshadowed his US visit. Well, obviously, his visit to the US is more important than 5.3 million low-paid workers losing out as a result of his tax changes.

For his part, Balls says any protests against the change is "indulgent nonsense."

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian
Gordon Brown had a right choice and a wrong choice. He could take all 10p payers out of tax altogether, a move that would cost £7bn and cut everyone's tax a bit, with the lowest-paid gaining most.

Instead he used that £7bn to cut 2p off basic income tax, so the better-off gained. (Someone on £30,000 gains more from a 2p cut than someone on £15,000.)

Those 10p losers were victims of a deliberate choice to give more to the better-off.

Labour has never talked openly and honestly about tax. Shifty and apologetic, ministers use the language of the right - all taxes are a "burden", all redistribution disguised.

Under the shadow of Labour's tax system, the wall between haves and have-nothings grows higher. Shelter reports this week that first-time buyers now need 78% more money to get on the housing ladder than a decade ago. Only those with cash from parents stand a chance - and here Labour has widened the asset gap between the 70% home-owners and the 30% with nothing.

Donating To Our Campaign In Earlsdon

So far, we've had £55 in donations to our campaign.

If you do wish to donate, and help to fund the campaign for the first Green councillor in Coventry, any cheques will need to be made out to "Coventry Green Party", and they should be sent to our agent for the Earlsdon campaign: Cathy Wattebot, 129 Beechwood Avenue, Coventry, CV5 6FQ.

If we get 10 more donations of £20 each, we'll have covered our costs for the campaign.

Peak Oil And Coventry

When leaflets from other political parties come through your door, are they telling you about peak oil? Are they being up front about how our society is going to have to fundamentally change? Or is the "environmental" part of their leaflet all about picking up litter?

Peak oil is the point where half of the all the world's oil that ever can be extracted, has been extracted. The remaining half will be harder/more environmentally damaging/more expensive to extract.

Part of what we're seeing in world oil prices is down to the US dollar (a weak dollar means that people invest in other items -- gold/oil), partly down to a lack of investment in oil infrastructure, and partly down to peak oil.

World demand is galloping ahead year on year, and we will increasingly have month to month supply disruptions. India, China and the US can't keep consuming more and more oil, if supply can't keep up.

As such, if oil/petrol prices are low, compared to what they'll be in a few years, we need to start preparing for an era that is profoundly and intensely local.

What we can do in Coventry to prepare for peak oil:

- We need to invest in more walking, cycling and public transit infrastructure, since we will see less car use.
- We'll have less food distribution centred on driving to-and-from supermarkets. Supermarkets themselves may face challenges (finding petrol for all those lorries of refrigerated fruit and veg).
- Plastic is made from oil. We need to reduce our use of plastic drastically, and recycle the plastic that we do use, rather than burning it.
- We will increasingly consume food produced closest to our homes, and we need more urban allotments and farms to provide this. Following on, we need more food preparation skills on a mass level. This will mean more classes in school on food preparation and nutrition, and incorporating food gardens into the design of new schools.

14 April 2008

Library Fees For Coventry Pensioners

The Coventry Telegraph has a good story on how seniors are being affected by changes to library fines. It's this Orwellian language from Andrew Green (below) that bothers me. "Value for money" seems to be used to justify anything, fines on children who are 9 years old, or raising the DVD borrowing fee for pensions by over 100%. Public services don't exist to try and fleece the public who are already paying for them by council tax.

For pensioners, the price of borrowing a CD has gone up from 30p to 65p, the fee for DVDs has risen from £1.25 to £2.75 and reservations have gone from 30p to 65p.

Mr Brigden, a regular library user, said: "Most old people do not like being on benefits and have struggled to keep their heads above water, putting a little aside for their old age. The cost of living going sky-high makes things very difficult for them to make ends meet. This decision is almost like putting the boot in.

Andrew Green, head of Libraries and Information Services, said: "In September last year the city council undertook a review of all its fees and charges within its culture, leisure and library services. As a city council we constantly need to review our services to ensure they are providing value for money. As part of this process, all charges, including those for pensioners, Passport to Leisure and Learning and young people were considered and a new agreed fees and charges policy was introduced to commence in April this year and last up to 2011."

13 April 2008

Gordon Brown's Poll Rating

It's not just bad. It's dropped in a drastic way, as in worse than Neville Chamberlain's drop in 1940 after Hitler’s invasion of Norway.

His most recent problem is a caucus and cabinet revolt over the extension to detention without trial to 42 days.

Jack Straw, the justice secretary, has told Commons allies that he has reservations about the policy, which critics say will inflame tension among Muslims and lead to miscarriages of justice.

Geoff Hoon, the chief whip, has told Brown that he will lose next month’s Commons vote unless concessions are made. "As it stands, Gordon will go down by 30 votes," said a minister. "In the current climate, his leadership might not survive that blow." Downing Street sources insisted last night that no further concessions were planned.

Green Party Election Broadcasts

Set your VCRs, TIVOs, Sky thingys, and whatever other TV doo-dads you have:

The Green Party's local election broadcast will be on Tuesday 15th April, at 630pm on ITV, and 655pm on BBC radio and BBC television.

Water Shortages Worldwide

One question that I get asked on the doorstep, whilst canvassing, is when we'll feel the bite of climate change.

The short answer is that it's already happening.

One example is water.

According to the World Wildlife Fund, 67% of the glaciers are already melting, causing glacial lakes to burst their banks, destroying villages, crops and livestock. The disappearance of these glaciers threatens to deprive China and India of much-needed irrigation water for wheat and rice crops during dry seasons. The glaciers feed the Yangtze and Yellow rivers and provide up to 70% of water in the Ganges during dry season. Together, China and India produce more than half the world’s wheat and rice. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers by 2035 all the more alarming. Asia’s melting glaciers may pose the biggest threat to food production the world has ever faced.
You can also see water shortages already in Europe, especially in Catalonia.

There has been 40% less rain in Spain than usual since 1st October. Mediterranean regions such as Catalonia and Valencia have been the worst affected — they have had less rain than at any time since 1912. Water reserves in Barcelona are at 19% of capacity — they must be shut down when they reach 15 per cent because there is too much sediment near the bottom. José Montilla, president of Catalonia, said: “We must prepare for the worst.”
Climate change is something that we should focus all of our energies, our skills, our know-how, on. Instead, it's treated as just another issue to put on election leaflets this time of year.

We need to put climate change first in Coventry.

There will be a wide variety of benefits if we were to do so:

- We'd be more energy independent (insulated from fossil fuel prices rises)
- We'd save money on fuel bills with warmer homes (from energy efficiency and an action plan on fuel poverty).
- We'd have more access to green space in deprived neighbourhoods.
- We'd be able to attract businesses that want a city council that encourages green innovation and green entrepreneurship.

11 April 2008

Sexual Health In Coventry

The Terrence Higgins Trust just sent me an interesting email.

They are asking voters to ask local election candidates three questions:

1) Will you ensure HIV and sexual health are made a priority in new joint working agreements between the NHS and the Local Authority?

2) Will you work with schools, school governors, and the Local Authority to make sure all young people in your area receive high quality Personal, Social and Health Education, which includes information on sex and relationships, drugs and alcohol and sexuality issues?

3) Will you use your influence to ensure that HIV and sexually-transmitted infection testing is easily available locally, and in a range of settings?

You can find the mailing addresses of all candidates running in Coventry through the following PDF document on the council's website.

See also: HIV testing in Coventry (THT)

Health In Coventry

This past Wednesday, there was a public meeting, held at Methodist Central Hall, by GPs concerned about the government plans for polyclinics.

The Coventry Telegraph:

In Coventry, the primary care trust is looking at introducing a new GP-led health centre, in the Hillfields area, and two new GP practices in Stoke Aldermoor and Foleshill, all of which could be run by the private sector.

Dr Monoj Pai, chair of the Coventry Local Medical Committee (LMC) said the proposals would be a "body blow" for patients and said they were "destined to destroy" traditional general practice.

Dr Jamie Macpherson, a GP and secretary of the LMC, said: "We held this meeting to try and give information to the public about what we perceive is a real threat to GPs in this country at the moment, "The public are concerned with the threat of privatisation because they feel their needs would become secondary to the company's need for profit."
As Lord Darzi's proposls currently stand, the Green Party is not in favour of polyclinics. Darzi has linked the idea to part or full-privatisation. It also seems to be an idea where the same amount of butter (GPs and hospitals) is spread over more bread (GPs, polyclinics, hospitals).

The idea of local delivery of healthcare is a key element of Green Party policy, and if polyclinics came with additional funding, as an "additional layer of care" within urban healthcare, yes, we'd be in favour. But it's not.

You can look for yourself at profiles, ward-by-ward, on the Coventry Primary Care Trust website.

In Foleshill, for instance, the profile states:

"infant health is poorer than for the rest of the city, both in terms of death rate and small for dates babies ... the average age of death is one of the lowest in the city, particularly for males [and] the situation is worsening."
If we had a health care system oriented around prevention:

- We would see junk food in supermarkets, read the e-numbers on the ingredients, and see that it leads to hyperactivity and hard-to-handle youth.

- To help infants before they get sick, we need a nationalised childcare network, with well-paid unionised trained staff.

- We need to treat obesity before it reaches the NHS two decades from now, in the form of diabetes and heart problems (an emphasis on youth sport).

- We should gear things like bowel cancer screening, and breast cancer screening, to the communities that need it the most.

Members of the South Asian community are only half as likely to take up an invitation for bowel cancer screening and 15 per cent less likely to attend breast cancer screening than members of the non-Asian community.
- We have to look at a car going down the street, and see the 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK that are down to two air pollutants - ozone and PM 2.5. If 40 000 people died in a terrorist attack, we'd notice, but we ignore what's in front of us.

10 April 2008

Turnout In Coventry Local Elections

Right now, we only have 2 wards (Earlsdon and Foleshill) which have 40% turnout or better at local elections. From door-to-door canvassing, it's clear that a substantial minority of people feel "you're all the same" or "it won't make a difference" or "I'll vote for you and I won't see you ever again."

All I can say in response is that city councillors make decisions which affect everybody's life.

This can range from public transport for the next two decades, to deciding the budgets for "Alcohol Harm Co-ordinators," to where new homes are built.

You have until the 16th of April to register yourself onto the electoral list, and it takes only a few minutes. You can register for a postal vote, and then you won't even need to visit your polling station on election day. Polling stations open early and close late, so you can vote before or after work.

We can't expect the city council to magically pursue greener policies if we don't express how we feel about the need for a sustainable society at the ballot box. More broadly, it's important that you have your say on how services are run and how your money is spent.

Election Update -- 10th April 2008

- We have leafleted most of the "core" of Earlsdon -- streets from Albany Road and Winifred Road across to St Andrews and Shaftsbury and Palmerston Road. We just need to finish off bits of streets (the south side of Albany, the west side of Earlsdon Ave South, Osborne, Providence).

- Next will be areas like Beechwood Rd, Rochester Rd, Styvechale, the streets around Green Lane North, the streets south of Canley station, and Broad Lane/Tile Hill Lane (east of the A45) ... Earlsdon is a very oddly shaped ward! Parts of Earlsdon that consider themselves Earlsdon (just north of the railway tracks on Earlsdon Ave North) aren't part of the ward.

- A few people have asked about why we have printed our leaflet with Hillingdon GreenPrint, as in, why Ruislip and not a printer in Coventry? It's a valid question. Hillingdon prints using environmentally-friendly ink (very rare); the fellow behind it (Graham Lee) is helpful (he advised on the white lettering on green boxes in our leaflet); he's quick (Wednesday email to him, 6000 copies of A3 on my doorstep on Saturday); he's very affordable (it was £220 including delivery); and, if you check the Electoral Commission website, and search for Green Party donations over the last 3 years, he reinvests back into the party. So, yes, it's Ruislip, but, it's a trade-off for environmental impact of ink, of speed, and of cost.

07 April 2008

Young Candidates In Coventry

One thing that has, organically, worked out is that four of the Coventry Green Party's candidates this year are 19 or 20 years of age.

The candidates in question are Kenneth Jones (Binley and Willenhall), Charlotte Tittle (Sherbourne), John Walton (Wainbody) and Jesse Meadows (Westwood).

Ken is a student in politics at City College here in the city. Charlotte, aka Charlie, helped her brother, Bryn, leaflet and canvass in Cheylesmore last year. John and Jesse are Young Greens at our chapter at the University of Warwick.

Coventry South, the constituency where we are running candidates in five of the six wards this year, seems rather special. There are 50 000 students at the two universities in the constituency, plus places like City College and Hereward College. When I asked John for some pithy/punchy comment to put into a press release on the issue (youth and politics), he pointed out that the average age of councillors in Coventry is about 50. One reason why he's running is that we need councillors who understand the needs of the students in Coventry.

Young people in Coventry are not apathetic.

They were active in demonstrations against the War on Iraq, and young people care about many issues on which the council has control over – public transport, youth projects, cycling, or the regulation of live music.

By trying to have a slate that puts candidates in their twenties front and centre, we want people to not just be tomorrow's decision makers, but to put them in a position where they can make a difference today.

Coventry Green Party Election Candidates - 2008

We are running 15 candidates in all areas of the city for the 2008 local elections on the 1st of May.

They are, drum roll ....

Bablake – Ryan Taylor
Binley and Willenhall – Kenneth Jones
Cheylesmore – Aisa Kara
Earlsdon – Scott Redding
Foleshill – Penny Walker
Longford – Natalia Graña
Lower Stoke – Laura Vesty
Radford – Cathy Wattebot
Sherbourne – Charlotte Tittle
Upper Stoke – Bryn Tittle
Wainbody – John Walton
Westwood – Jesse Meadows
Whoberley – Gianluca Grimalda
Woodlands – Danny Foulstone
Wyken – Jo Rathbone

Our key pledges in Earlsdon, where we already have 14% of the vote are to:

- hold weekly surgeries in any ward that we win in, to keep in touch with voters
- push for projects, by the council or run by social enterprises, to help Coventry reuse our food waste, aluminium cans, nappies, tyres, paint, carpet, bulky goods, and wood furniture
- tackle the real causes of crime, with projects that strengthen communities, engage high-risk youth, provide better late-night public transport, and ensure more community police on the streets
- work for peace, both locally and internationally
- expand access to local allotments for growing organic food
- lobby for a city-wide strategy to deal with fuel poverty – people are spending more than 10% of their income on fuel bills, and it will get worse with fossil fuels running out
- require quarter-on-quarter, and year-on-year, targets to keep us on course to deal with climate change. Climate change is our debt to future generations, and Coventry will be more likely to pay off our debt if we commit to regular instalments.

The bottom line is that a low-carbon Coventry won’t be about shivering around a candle in a cave. It can be a future of greater employment, healthier food, and stronger communities, a future with warmer homes due to better insulation. Instead of sitting for hours in traffic jams, we can have clean, safe, reliable public transport.

06 April 2008

Labour And Affordable Mortgages

Two million people in Britain will come off cheap fixed-rate deals this year. With the global credit crunch, people will struggle to get another affordable mortgage. We will have a long-term social problem if people are made homeless as a result.

So, what is Labour doing about it?

Not much.

So not much, in fact, that George Mudie, a former Labour Party whip, and Gordon Brown ally, isn't happy about the government on the issue.

"Their answer to any problem is 'This is the most stable economy we have had in our history.' Well, fine, but that is history. I always quote Lloyd George: 'You can't feed the hungry on statistics of national prosperity'."

Labour Wants Expansion Of Army Cadets

I was amazed to read this. Eight teenage gun murders in London last year, so, naturally, Gordon Brown wants more youth to learn about using guns.

The Army already uses outdoor weekends, DVD packs and helicopter visits, but Gordon Brown wants to expand military influence in schools even further. He wants cadet corps in state secondary schools.

Under the proposed plans, secondary school pupils would receive "basic military training as a means of developing greater affiliation with the armed forces."

Quentin Davies, who was a Tory before defecting to Labour, has proposed the changes. He says his proposals are "firmly backed by the Prime Minister, the Children's Secretary Ed Balls and defence ministers."

State schools who do not set up a cadet system will encourage pupils to attend a community cadet force instead.

It was only last month that the NUT was saying military recruitment focused on schools in the most disadvantaged areas, and targeted vulnerable pupils, without clearly outlining the risks of an army career.

The EIS in Scotland has also spoken out about military influence in schools. The EIS is Scotland's biggest teaching union, with over 59,000 members, so Gordon Brown is putting up two fingers to his own base north of the border.

Military Families Against The War:
Lorna McKinnon, 14, a fourth-year pupil at Bellahouston Academy in Glasgow, said: "I thought school was the one place you could get away from the horror of the Iraq war, so I was shocked to go into the playground one day and see a helicopter and 20 army guys trying to recruit us ... This was without my or my parents' permission, and I had no choice but to listen ... but they won't get me."
Sunday Herald:

Patrick Orr, in 5th year at Edinburgh's Boroughmuir High School, led a recent picket against recruitment by the air cadets in his school, and believes the SSAW movement will keep growing. The 16-year-old said: "There's a strength of feeling among parents and teachers about this too."

The MoD [has] a new online teaching resource, Defence Dynamics, which includes 40 lesson plans for English, maths, science, geography and citizenship. Derek Twigg, parliamentary undersecretary for defence, told parliament £2.1 million a year was invested in recruitment teams, and the web resource would enable them to "reach many more children and at a significantly lower cost".

But pupils like Orr are unimpressed. "Online video games as training exercises; that would be a rosy way of looking at the reality," he said. "The military is not like any other career. A lot more young people are realising you run the risk of getting seriously injured or dying."

Mhairi Britton,16, of the St Andrews SSAW group, said: "We watched the army recruiting DVD and I found it quite disturbing because of the slant on adventure and it all being a great thrill."

Glasgow teacher Steven Dolan said: "Teachers have found recruitment has increased quite dramatically. The army seems to have unlimited funds for outdoor weekends and so on, but teachers don't have money for photocopying."

04 April 2008

Electoral Roll Deadline -- 16th April

Don't get shocked on polling day. Make sure that you're on the electoral register by the deadline!

The deadline is the 16th of April.

If you follow the link above, you can download a form, to be submitted to the Electoral Services department at the Council House.

If you want to check if you're on or not, Electoral Services can be reached on 024 7683 3034, or by email at: electoral.services@coventry.gov.uk.

Coventry Anti-War Photos

You can see a few photos of recent Coventry anti-war events here .... the vigil in Earlsdon to mark the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war, and protests at Aldermaston on Easter Monday.

03 April 2008

The Great Signature Race

It's the home stretch for getting nominations in. The deadline is noon on Friday.

We finished collecting signatures (10 per ward) for Longford and Cheylesmore tonight. I need to get our papers for Upper Stoke signed bright and early tomorrow. We have two Young Greens from the University of Warwick running in Wainbody and Westwood wards. Both are away (in Wimbledon and Bristol) on half term, so one mailed her forms back to me today, and I'm picking up the other set of forms from the Bishop Street postal office tomorrow (a "sorry you were out when we tried to deliver it" slip was in my porch when I got back from Cheylesmore).

Assuming ("assuming" making an "ass" out of "u" and "me") that all the signatures from all the forms are fine, and there are no last minute hiccups, we'll have 15 candidates across Coventry (everywhere but St Michael's, Henley and Holbrook wards).

Eight of our candidates will be women. Four of our candidates will be 20 years old or younger. Two are both. We will be a pretty unique slate, even for the Green Party.

We're not selecting these folks because they are women, or because they are young.

They are coming forward and saying:

- I want to help out. I'm a member of the Young Greens at Warwick. I'm willing to be a non-target candidate in Westwood. Mail me the forms, and I'll mail them back.
- I live in Cheylesmore, and I'm broadly Green/socialist. I don't mind putting in a bit of work, and I want to be more involved.
- I want to help out. My brother was a candidate last year. I helped him leaflet in Cheylesmore. Can I run this year where I grew up in Sherbourne?

Why Is Labour In Love With Coal?

Camilla Cavendish, The Times:

If we burn all the coal that is in the ground, and let its filthy emissions out into the atmosphere, we won't be feeling genteel guilt in 20 years' time, but raw fear ... It is extraordinary that the Government is trying to rush through a new generation of coal-fired power stations.

Memos leaked to Greenpeace show that Mr Hutton's servile officials have pretty much let E.ON write the contract for what will be the first coal plant for 24 years. The contract does not require that E.ON should make Kingsnorth Britain's first demonstration project for carbon capture and storage technology (CCS). Yet that would be the only possible justification for building it.

India and China are impressed by action, not words. Mr Brown has to make it clear that conventional coal has no future. We can't blame the Chinese for building coal-fired power stations if we do the same. No amount of bleating about plastic bags is going to make up for it.

Coventry Election Nominations Close Tomorrow

"This is not a game. This is a 4 week job interview. It's a dog-eat-dog situation. There is no phone-in here. There is no text a number. There is no panel of judges. The public are the ones who will decide who gets fired ... and who gets hired."

Sun Activity And Global Warming

Boffins at Lancaster University found there has been no significant link between changes in the sun's activity, and climate change, over the last 20 years. This was one of the key arguments included in "The Great Global Warming Swindle."

01 April 2008

Discrimination Against Gay And Lesbians

Stonewall has commissioned a poll (by YouGov) of gay and lesbian people in Britain. It's very revealing about people experiencing/expecting discrimination by public bodies.

- 80% believe they would have difficulty if they were to apply to become a school governor
- A significant minority expect to be treated less well at a GP surgery or during an emergency admission to hospital
- 90% expect barriers to becoming a foster parent
- Nearly nine in 10 think they would face barriers in being selected to run for public office from the Conservative party, 61% for Labour, and 47% from the Liberal Democrats.

You can read the entire report here -- it's called "Serves You Right" (PDF file, 631 kb)

News Round-Up -- 1st April 2008

- No stories about the royal family, then two come along at once ... The expansion of Heathrow might affect a certain someone who lives in Windsor Castle.

- George Monbiot criticises how job creation is being used to justify chain store expansion, nuclear power, and military contracts.

- A new study shows an alarming rise in suicides and self-harm amongst women prisoners -- 9 out of 10 women prisoners are in prison for non-violent offences.

- The government is finally changing its Low Carbon Buildings Programme, but no extra money is being put into the scheme. It has only been allocated £80 million over 3 years.

Friends of the Earth's low carbon homes campaigner, Ed Matthew, said: "The government's response continues to be woeful. The LCBP should be 10 times bigger, with funds of £1bn, providing at least 50% grants for renewable technologies for every household." Andrew Cooper of the Renewable Energy Association said he was "shocked". "Making a failing programme fail over a longer period is not a solution. It is no longer the Low Carbon Buildings Programme -- it is the Slow Carbon Buildings Programme."