31 May 2008

Protests Against 3rd Runway At Heathrow

Thousands of people are gathering at Hatton Cross in London to protest the 3rd runway planned for Heathrow Airport. Labour MPs across the capital are opposing expansion for fear of suffering defeat at the next election. The Archbishop of Canterbury supports the fight against the runway and has sent a letter to be read out to the marchers.

The Guardian has a good profile of the "Westminster Five" of Plane Stupid, who, in February, scaled the roof of the Houses of Parliament to demonstrate against the planned third runway.

Their quotes on the value of direct action are very interesting:

"In a situation where you need massive, urgent systemic change, we don't really have the system to achieve it," says Thompson. "Electorally, everyone is fighting over the middle ground. So the mere fact that you're not a moderate means you can't be listened to. That means anybody who had the answer to climate change would automatically be excluded from the debate. This is why you can't just think, if I vote for the greenest party at the election, I'll have done what I needed to."

Thompson adds: "If you look at the number of people who marched against Iraq, if you'd had 1% of that number taking direct action, they could have physically stopped the war. With 10,000 people sitting in the road at strategic points, you can bring the country to a halt."

"The reality of direct action is being prepared to put yourself on the line, and we need real casualties," Omond says. "If it's life imprisonment for going airside, if that's the penalty our society deems acceptable for someone protesting against a contributor to climate crisis ... then bring on life imprisonment."

29 May 2008

Letter On 42-Day Detention

This was published in the Coventry Telegraph ... and Touch FM also interviewed me on the issue:

People should write to Coventry's three Labour MPs, and urge them to oppose the extension of detention without trial to 42 days. Emergency measures already exist, under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004). If police are overwhelmed by multiple terror plots, the government can use this Act to temporarily extend pre-charge detention. A wide variety of experts -- the current director of public prosecutions, the head of counter-terrorism at the Crown Prosecution Service, the former attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, the former lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, the former lord chief justice, Lord Woolf, and the former head of the Met, Lord Condon -- are unconvinced of the need for 42 days. Gordon Brown is determined to take away our civil liberties, and he must be stopped.

Scott Redding
Coventry Green Party
Mayfield Road, Earlsdon

Cluster Bomb Treaty Approved

Well, some good news! Britain signed up, and the treaty outlaws the two types of cluster bombs/munitions that Britain has in its stockpile.

Simon Conway, from the Cluster Munitions Coalition, said there would now be "massive" pressure on the US: "We think now that all of America's key allies have just renounced the weapon it will be very difficult for the US to engage in operations with countries who have banned this weapon and continue to use them."

28 May 2008

Summer's Here - Euro 2008

The World Development Movement has put together a nifty site to help you choose who to support now that all the "home countries" aren't in it.

The Netherlands creates the highest amount of carbon dioxide of countries in Euro 2008, emitting 16 tonnes for each huge Dutchman. Turkey, Romania and Croatia emit the least with 3-to-4 tonnes per person.

Austria, Switzerland and Croatia were best on renewable energy as a percentage of electricity generated.

Hence, I'm leaning Croatia. Eduardo is recovering from his horrific injury, but they still have Vedran Ćorluka, Luka Modrić, and Niko Kranjčar.

Stylish football, sustainability, what's not to like?

Video: A wind turbine for Manchester City

27 May 2008

Green Candidate For Henley By-Election

The Oxfordshire Green Party has re-selected Mark Stevenson as our candidate for the forthcoming Henley by-election. In the 2005 General Election, Mark was the only candidate other than Boris to improve his party's share of the vote. He is a parish councillor (Dorchester Parish Council), and he also ran in the 2001 election in Whitley against some guy named David Cameron.

Sid Phelps, Chairman of Oxfordshire Green Party, said "With Mark, you see Green politics in action. His projects have helped invigorate the local economy, have improved recycling and environmental awareness in his parish, have encouraged local food production, and he has championed a local vision on planning issues. We believe he would make a great MP for South Oxfordshire."

Food Prices, Petrol Prices

100 lorry convoys are protesting today around Britain, with hauliers talking about "the hardest time we've ever had," crisis and catastrophe, that "they need help."

With a drastically-higher cost of petrol, we can drive less.

In contrast, tens of millions of the world's poor could die of hunger as a result of soaring food prices.

The Guardian is starting a five-day series of articles -- on the impact of global food price rises -- by looking at Egypt.

Adel Beshai, an Egyptian economist: "It has to do with the food-fuel equation. The real issue now is that the price of oil hit the $100 mark and the price of oil will continue to rise. There is now competition between fuel consumption in the developed countries, where food is being turned into cheaper fuel, and food consumption in poorer ones where they want to eat what is being turned into fuel."
A higher price for oil means a higher price for fertiliser, higher prices for tractors and farm machinery, and higher prices for pesticides (which rely on oil). The US diverting 30% of its corn crop -- to fill SUV tanks with biofuel rather than feed the world-- isn't helping either. Barack Obama represents the corn belt, make of that what you will.

The other factor is more of the world eating meat, eggs and dairy products. Over 30% of the world's grain goes to feeding animals rather than people directly. If we had a more global vegan diet, we wouldn't be having this kind of strain.

Yes, we have to pay for higher petrol, and we have to pay 50p more per portion of rice at certain curry houses. But what we're experiencing is nothing compared to the impact of food price rises in the developing world.

26 May 2008

The Home Growing Act 2018

Transition Culture is always worth a weekly read ... Rob has reposted an article from Organic Gardening Magazine:

"It took a bunch of rapidly greening politicians to realise that punitive taxation aimed at mitigating environmental meltdown wasn’t half as effective as persuading people, with the help of a real financial incentive, to do something about it in their own gardens. The Green Party laid the foundations of what became the Home Growing Act, which was included in the King’s Speech of 2018. No British monarch has ever looked quite so chuffed at seeing his own personal passion enter the statute book."

Smaller Cars - Lower Petrol Bills

Summer's Here - Cutting The Lawn

What is the carbon impact when you cut the lawn?

According to Which? magazine, cutting a lawn with a push mower allows a 60kg person to burn 360 calories an hour ... It costs an average of 20p every 100ml of fuel for a mower with a petrol tank and about 4p for every 20 minutes that you use a 1700W electric mower.

Of the seven hand mowers put to the test by Which?, the winning model was the Husqvarna Novocut 64 (http://www.husqvarna.co.uk/, £80), scoring highly on how the lawn looked and the speed with which ground was covered. The second best was the Brill Razorcut Premium 33 (http://www.manualmowers.co.uk/; £95).

Individual Carbon Allowances

A committee of MPs, the Environmental Audit Committee, has called for individual carbon allowances. There would be a national amount of carbon allowed, and each of us would have an equal portion of that quota. If you want to use more carbon than your allowance, you "buy" unused carbon from people who aren't using up their entire allowance. Year on year, the national amount gets reduced, so that, year on year, we meet our targets for domestic emissions.

Other stories:

Grease lightening, go, grease lightening.

Earlier this month, the Nigerian militant group Mend unexpectedly announced that it would halt attacks on multinational oil installations if Barack Obama requested a ceasefire.

Antony Sheehan, chief executive of Leicestershire NHS Trust, has told the BBC that government attempts to improve mental health services for the South Asian community have not worked.

Sheehan: "We really should acknowledge the impact of institutional racism in mental health and wider health and social care services, in the same way it is recognised in the criminal justice system. The real issue is just how we've chosen not to connect with these communities."

25 May 2008

Alternatives To Gordon Brown

Why not Jacqui Smith or Harriet Harman? It says a great deal about sexism in the media that all the runners and riders being discussed to succeed Brown (including relatively inexperienced people, like James Purnell and Andy Burnham) are men.

YouTube Roundup 1

- A Christian Aid-funded fashion scheme in the favelas of Brazil

- Kind of like "The Birds" but plastic bags

- See Osama / is Brer Rabbit / the Briar Patch / that's Iraq / he masterminded an attack / to get us to fight back

- A Sky News expose of the BNP ... 2 years old, but still valid

$200 A Barrel Oil

Goldman Sachs predicted last week that the price could rise to $200 a barrel over the next year.

Gordon Brown, in trying to show he "gets" the results of the local elections, and Crewe/Nantwich, says he's "incredibly focused" on oil.

"It is a scandal," Brown says, "that 40 per cent of the oil is controlled by Opec and that their decisions can restrict the supply of oil to the rest of the world." For an educated guy, he doesn't seem to get it. Perhaps OPEC can't turn on the tap anymore.

I mean, Brown keeps talking about making the right long-term tough decisions for the country. So, why has he avoided the big one? For ten years as chancellor, he avoided carrots to make the existing housing stock more environmentally-friendly. He avoided carrots to encourage the use of electric/hybrid cars. Why did people think he was going to address this when he became PM?

With oil providing 95% of the energy used in transport, what bigger, long-term, decision is there than peak oil?

Video: Matthew Simmons on peak oil

23 May 2008

Labour's Lesson From Crewe By-Election

Harriet Harman was on the Today programme this morning to talk about the by-election defeat.

She was asked about the "crass language of authoritarianism", but she reiterated Labour's support for "tough immigration rules" and "biometric ID cards for foreign nationals."

Labour seems intent on moving the country towards harsher and harsher positions on immigration. This seems inane in an era where we will face tens of millions of climate change refugees over the next few years.

More broadly, Labour has set out positions (on ID cards, on 42-day detention, on trial by jury, on the criminalisation of youth) that move the mood of the country towards an anti-civil liberties point of view.

Labour has had 10 years to develop a new way of addressing youth involvement in crime (investing in communities, empowering youth), to develop a foreign policy so we don't need to worry about terrorism so much (42-day detention, ID cards).

Instead, they have retreated, arguably since Tony Blair was Shadow Home Secretary, and two boys in the Bootle Strand shopping centre in Liverpool took a toddler by the hand and led him away to his death. Labour thought that right-wing rhetoric was appropriate for moving the country towards social democracy.

They are finding out the hard way that, whilst the Tories are opposed to ID cards and the trial by jury changes, right-wing Labour rhetoric is paving the way for a right-wing Tory majority government.

19 May 2008

An International Treaty On Cluster Bombs

Over 100 nations will gather in Dublin today to begin discussions on an international treaty to ban cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs open in mid-air and drop hundreds of individual sub-munitions or "bomblets" over a wide area.

Unexploded bomblets, in populated areas, can sit on the ground for years, effectively becoming landmines. Their victims are often children, who mistake them for toys. When they explode, hundreds of metal fragments tear apart flesh and sever limbs. In rural areas, unexploded munitions make it dangerous or impossible to use land.

Is the UK pushing for a total ban on cluster bombs? No.

Is the UK saying that "our" cluster bombs "only" have a failure rate of 2% ... and that's ok? Yes.

2% is what the arms manufacturers say, whilst independent analysis says 10% remain unexploded.

Cluster munitions caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 than any other weapon, and the UK should be pressing for a total worldwide ban.

Video: Cluster bombs and farming in Laos

18 May 2008

Labour Party Faces Bankruptcy

That's financial bankruptcy ... they've been morally bankrupt for years.

Labour now has debts of £21 million. They'd be insolvent already, but the trade unions have almost quadrupled their support of the party over the past half-year. Tribune reports that Labour may be turned into a private limited company to protect officers and national executive members from individual liability if the party is declared insolvent.

David Pitt-Watson, a City financier, abandoned plans to take over as general secretary on the day of the party's catastrophic local election results. Mr Pitt-Watson was supposed to begin his job after this autumn's party conference, when loans to a dozen benefactors had been repaid. But with the party scrabbling to reschedule the loans and unable to ease its debts, he has refused the post altogether. Party sources and friends confirmed that he feared being held personally liable for the debts and that he had failed to gain sufficient reassurance of legal protections from Gordon Brown.

[Labour] needs a further £4 million before the auditors can sign off the books. The auditors will only approve the accounts if they can be assured that the party is a "viable going concern."

17 May 2008

Gordon Brown's Moral Centre

So, Gordon Brown has given a speech to the assembly of the Church of Scotland, calling for a moral centre to society:

- Brown doesn't meet the Dalai Lama at Downing Street (unlike Blair in 1999, and Major in 1991; Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, has received the Dalai Lama in her office). A moral centre, but not for Tibet?

- Occupy Iraq for five years ... a moral centre?

- John Hutton is his secretary for CHRIS (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, think "Lady in Red"), but Hutton is extremely comfortable with the filthy rich getting richer. What kind of a moral centre is that?

- Penalising the low-paid who are under-25 with the 10p tax change ... where is the morality in letting the changes stand until his backbenchers revolt and he is forced to make changes?

- 11 years of Labour government, and what concrete long-term action on climate change, a generational issue, a species survival issue? Where is the moral centre, the moral leadership?

- Brown keeps taunting David Cameron at PMQs (hat-tip) about why he won't support ID cards which are only for foreign nationals (19th January, 19th March, 14th May). Between that, the "British Jobs for British Workers" comment, what kind of morality does that show for refugees and migrant workers?

Next Meeting - 20th May, 730pm

Our next meeting will be at 730pm, on the 20th of May. It will be at the Coventry Peace House, on Stoney Stanton Road, just north of the canal. The 21 bus from Pool Meadow drops you at the door, or it's a 12 minute walk up Stoney Stanton from the coach station.

We need to:

a) build on our performance across 15 wards in the recent local elections
b) think about how to effectively internally organise ourselves (what roles do we need, community outreach-wise, fundraising-wise)


1. Introduction and housekeeping
2. Welcome to new attendees
3. Round up of election results
4. Making the local party more successful
5. Refreshments
6. Setting a date and agreeing the agenda for the AGM
7. A.O.B.

Please note that item 4 will be the main focus of the meeting (making ourselves more successful), so bring along any and all ideas:

• What campaigns should the local party join/organise?
• Where might the party find more supporters?
• What social activities should the local party do?
• What roles should the party appoint (perhaps this could be a whole group exercise)

Noisemapping Of Coventry

The nice folks at Defra have put together information on urban noise pollution, and Coventry was one of the cities mapped.

The maps are broken down into road, rail, industry and airport noise. What would be more meaningful is a map that shows how areas of Coventry have multiple sources of noise pollution (A45 and London Road, plus the airport -- Stonehouse Estate; Allesley Old Road/The Butts/ring road and rail noise to Nuneaton -- Spon End).

I've taken a brief look at the Coventry map for road noise, and for noise from Coventry airport. The airport-related noise doesn't seem to include flight paths, only the decibels in rings going away from the terminal and runway.

Labour Panic Predicted After By-Election

Andrew Grice, The Independent:

I will eat my hat if Labour wins next Thursday's by-election in Crewe and Nantwich. The bigger the Tory majority – and it could be big – the bigger the Labour panic.

What can Mr Brown do then? A draft Queen's Speech? Been there. Another marathon stint in the TV studios? Done that. A press conference? Don't call us. A cabinet reshuffle? It is the last card for Mr Brown to play, but there is no guarantee it would change anything. It rarely did much for Tony Blair.

Labour MPs ... will be guided by what the public think of the Prime Minister. That's why Crewe matters, and is dangerous for Mr Brown. "The public have stopped listening to Gordon," said one Labour MP who had been desperate for him to take over from Mr Blair. "The danger is that people have made up their minds about him."

15 May 2008

Gordon Brown Opens Pandora's Box

Anatole Kaletsky, The Times:

If Mr Brown's fiscal rules can be ignored so easily this year to accommodate a £2.7 billion tax cut to satisfy Labour backbenchers, why shouldn't they also be ignored to satisfy fuel-tax protesters and pensioners and underpaid public sector workers and bankers demanding bailouts and homeowners struggling with their mortgages and multinational companies threatening to pull out of Britain and farmers complaining about the weather and indeed you and me, since we would all prefer to pay less tax and get more out of government?

In short, this week's U-turn could presage a summer of discontent in which every possible claimant and lobby demands its extra share of taxpayer funds.

14 May 2008

The Big Feed - Breastfeeding In Coventry

The Coventry Telegraph reports that Sure Start is having breastfeeding cafes in the Lower Precinct, all day, until Friday. Friday is "The Big Feed" -- an "en masse" breastfeed in the Lower Precinct at noon. For more information, you can call Dana Hunter on 07984 130317.

The Telegraph article also talks about Ikea's efforts to make it store family-friendly for breastfeeding -- chairs, privacy screens, a clean nappy changing room, family toilets and water on tap:

Mum-of-one Dana Hunter, aged 37, of Hawkesbury, near Nuneaton, said: 'We need to bring breastfeeding out into the open. The more people who see it in the community the more normal it becomes. Some people see it as deviant behaviour.'

Emma Neat, 27, of Coundon, Coventry, mum of five-week-old Josiah, Malachi, aged four, and one-year-old Elijah who runs two toddler groups in Spon End said: 'Breastfeeding is free and very easy to do - I couldn't afford to bottlefeed.'
Video: NHS in Scotland on breastfeeding

WebCameron And Boris Johnson

Out of the 122 videos on webcameron, 10 of the top 15 "most watched" are to do with Boris Johnson. If Boris doesn't do well in London, it'll damage a lot of the effort that Cameron has put into webcameron.

I'm surprised at the low viewing figures on webcameron: only 2 of the 122 videos have been viewed more than 10 000 times.

This could be compared to Oxfam UK (3 videos with more than 10 000 views, out of 44) or Friends of the Earth UK (15 videos with more than 10 000 views, out of 56).


- Companies should be accountable for the tax that they should pay. Chrstian Aid has found that illegal trade-related tax evasion costs the developing world at least $160 billion in lost revenue each year. If that money was re-allocated, the lives of 350,000 children under the age of five could be saved every year. Nearly half the world’s tax havens are UK overseas territories, Crown dependencies and Commonwealth countries.

- The US should be accountable for crimes against civilian journalists in Iraq.

- The police should be accountable, rather than being able to hold terrorism suspects for 48 days without charge. Police can only hold murder suspects for 4 days without charge. The government can already use The Civil Contingencies Act (2004) to temporarily extend pre-charge detention in a genuine emergency where the police are overwhelmed by multiple terror plots. These powers would be subject to parliamentary and judicial oversight.

"Star Wars" Protests In Czech Republic

Three weeks of occupation at a NATO military base ... and no mainstream media coverage:

Czech Greenpeace activists are set to begin their third week occupying the site of a proposed US "Son of Star Wars" base in the Czech republic. After establishing a base camp in nearby woods, they entered a wooded area inside the military installation and hung a 60 ft banner carrying the message "We don't want to be targets" across a series of tree-platforms.

The US want to build an X band radar at Brdy - like the one the Labour government controversially gave go ahead for at Fylingdales in Yorkshire - as part of the European end of their proposed 'Son of Star Wars' missile defence system.

The plans have sparked major opposition in the Czech Republic - where polls have repeatedly shown that more than six out of 10 Czechs oppose hosting the US facility. The Greenpeace occupation is one of a whole series of protests against the plans over recent weeks and months.
Video: Berlin support for hunger strikes against Star Wars in the Czech Republic

12 May 2008

National LiftShare Day - 9th June

Something to check out ... it's great how they're emphasising how companies can get their staff involved, rather than putting it all on individuals.

- Set up a prominent link to http://www.liftshare.com/ on your website, enabling people in your community to register their journeys free of charge.

- Promote carsharing using our Email to colleagues and encourage them make 9th June the day they try carsharing.

- You could try and get an article in your in-house magazine or company newsletter. We've put together a draft article which might help inspire you.

- Generate some positive PR for your company by shouting about the fact you are encouraging car sharing. We've put together a template Press Release which you can use as a basis.

- Set up a carshare scheme for your organisation or community by visiting http://www.liftsharesolutions.com/.
Video: Sharing a car with someone you don't like

PPM Of Carbon Dioxide

1958: 316ppm
1988: 352 ppm
1998: 367 ppm
2003: 376 ppm

Now, in 2008, we have a record high (the highest in 650 000 years) for CO2 levels in the atmosphere -- 387 parts per million (ppm).

From 1970 to 2000, the concentration rose by about 1.5ppm each year, but since 2000 the annual rise has leapt to an average 2.1ppm. This is leading scientists to worry that the Earth may be losing its natural ability to soak up billions of tons of carbon each year. If more carbon stays in the atmosphere, emissions will have to be cut by even more to prevent us reaching 400 ppm or beyond.

If we exceed 400 ppm in the atmosphere, we will not be able to prevent a 2 degree Celsius warming of the planet, causing devastation to vulnerable ecosystems, like the Amazon or coral reefs. In the last 10,000 years, the Earth’s average temperature hasn’t varied by more than 1 degree Celsius. This is not a natural warming cycle. Anyone who's still believing that has their head in the sand.

Gordon Brown And Affordable Housing

Fraser Nelson, on the Coffee House blog of The Spectator:

There is a housing development in Brockley, south east London, with an extraordinary piece of graffiti. “Thanks to Gordon Brown, I will never buy a house”

Brown’s easy-money policy at the Treasury led the Bank of England to chase a dodgy inflation measure - therefore, making credit too cheap, and, therefore, inflating an asset bubble. Also Brown’s failure to reform planning laws put an artificial restriction on supply of UK housing in the face of ever-rising demand.

Is Brown entirely to blame for housing boom? Not even I would go that far. But this isn’t the point. If many people believe this to be true, it becomes in itself a feature of our political landscape.

Ask anyone campaigning in Crewe right now, or anyone who tread doorsteps for the local elections. Pensioners, borrowers, teachers, soldiers – each has their own bone to pick with him. He has somehow become a tartan lightening rod absorbing the nation’s anger.

For as long as Brown stays, the more resentment there will be against this PM whom no one elected. This is why Brown’s survival is vital to Tory chances at the next election.
Video: Peter Tatchell and Elise Benjamin on the Green Party's housing campaign, calling for at least 50% affordable housing

Youth Employment / Open Borders

Mike Davis lays out a number of key questions that we need to find answers to, the main ones for me being: how to link environmentalism with youth employment, and how to talk about open borders and human rights in an age where we will see more environmental refugees. Davis is probably best known for writing "City of Quartz" and "Planet of Slums."

"I think that every environmental demand should be linked to a social justice demand ... and I think most environmental demands should have to do with youth employment and extending the opportunities for the enjoyment of nature and participation in green politics to people in the inner cities."

"Human rights come first. Borders are essentially systems of violence imposed on landscapes and human lives. And it's very important that there's something like an abolitionist minority that reject borders per se as a way to ration rights in the world or to manage conflicts ... A lot more people die now at the borders of Europe than they did in the age of the Iron Curtain."

Brian Paddick's Election Diary

Probably the funniest thing you'll read about the recent London election.

11 May 2008

Labour's Self-Destruction Continues

Everywhere you read, it's getting harder and harder for Gordon Brown.

- John Prescott thinks Brown was "frustrating, annoying, bewildering and prickly."

- Lord Levy says it would be "inconceivable" that Gordon Brown did not know about the loans made to the Labour Party for the 2005 general election.

- Stephen Byers accuses Mr Brown of manipulating the tax system "for political advantage" and being "distant and uncaring."

- Cherie Blair's memoirs were scheduled for the autumn, but have now had an early release to add to their troubles.

- If the government is defeated on the budget next month, Brown will have to resign. The 20 members of the Campaign group of left-wing MPs will meet this week to discuss plans to vote against the budget bill.

- If the government is defeated on 42-day detention, he'll probably have to resign as well.

Finally, an ICM survey for the Mail on Sunday suggests the Tories could win the Crewe and Nantwich by-election, their first in a seat held by another party since 1982. The poll puts the Tories on 43%, Labour on 39% and the Liberal Democrats on 16%.

Clinton Vs Obama - The Final Days

A good place to pop back and read every few days is Marc Ambrinder's blog for the Atlantic.

The Obama campaign is organising voter-registration drives in 110 cities around the US. That is, Obama is already behaving like the general election candidate for the Democrats. Ambinder points out how sophisticated Obama has been at "data mining" and building up a voter database. A reader of his blog takes up the story:

"I donated a small amount and supplied my work contact information below before the California primary. A few days later, I get a message on my home answering machine – not the numbers below and _not_ a listed number – thanking me for my support and inviting me to an event “at a neighbor’s house” two blocks from my house (miles away from the information I supplied below). I was not contacted at my work address. So they took my name from the donation and then located my unlisted home phone number and unprovided home address and put it in their database so they could contact me for a neighborhood meet up."
Apart from Ambrinder, Andrew Sullivan persuasively argues that Clinton is a dead woman walking, especially with regards to the African-American vote. Obama, even after all the Jeremiah Wright controversy, is making inroads in white voters who haven't gone on to university.
In last Tuesday’s North Carolina primary, Clinton got only 7% of the black vote – a lower percentage than Nixon or Reagan had won in general elections. In a few months, the Clintons have turned a 30-point lead among African-Americans into a deficit of more than 80 points. No constituency has swung as much over the past few months. The more the Clintons attempted to polarise the voting racially, the more successful Obama was in deflecting it. His rebuke of Wright probably helped. But also the profound media attention. The more working-class white voters actually saw and heard of him, the more their fears of the unknown seemed to subside.

He won only 27% of white voters without college degrees in Ohio; he won 29% in Pennsylvania and 34% of them in Indiana. And when you look at age, the effect is even more striking. In North Carolina, a southern state, Obama won 57% of white voters under 30 and 45% of white voters under 40.

[Bill Clinton] never ran against a black candidate and neither did his wife. They are used to loving and supporting minorities – as long as the minorities know their place and see the Clintons as the instrument of their salvation. Obama broke that dependency and that relationship. And that was why the Clintons had to do all they could to destroy and belittle and besmirch him.

10 May 2008

Green Party News Around The Country

- Leslie Rowe of Richmondshire Green Party gets some BBC coverage about the risk of GM contamination of crops near Leeds

- The Sheffield Green Party is concerned about hundreds of homes planned for flood plains

- Robert Smith is our candidate for the Crewe and Nantwich by-election on the 22nd of May. He works in town planning, with a particular expertise in transport, and he's the former coordinator for the Young Greens in the North West

- The Brighton and Hove Green Party is calling for a summit with the city's major housing associations to assess the effect of the credit crunch on the housing crisis

09 May 2008

Boris Johnson And Youth Crime

It would be catastrophic to underestimate Boris Johnson.

The stereotype is that he's a dunce who'll keep putting his foot in his mouth. Boris isn't going away. He was elected as gaffe-free New Boris, and he will govern as New Boris. Anything other than that, and the Conservatives are toast, with regard to especially northern cities, at the next election.

I'm finding it much more interesting thinking about why Boris won, not lamenting that the electorate were so stoo-pid.

One reason was his position on crime. There must be a way of articulating a better left-centre non-New-Labour tough-on-crime, approachs to law and disorder and restoring responsibility in society. One of BoJo's first appointments was Ray Lewis, founder of the Eastside Young Leaders Academy, in Edmonton, NE London.

Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone's former race adviser and a long-time champion of young people from London's black community, is a fan of his attitude, describing Lewis's project as brilliant.

"His focus on personal responsibility and discipline are positive things and he is getting results. He has not got any experience of politics or delivering policy but that may work in his favour in some ways because he will be a breath of fresh air ... and when you are talking to young people in and around gangs you have to have radical solutions and be brave enough to follow them through, and he has that."

05 May 2008

"Hard Work, Hidden Lives"

The first report from the TUC's Commission on Vulnerable Employment comes out this week:

"We spoke to agency employees who worked long days and nights for less pay than their permanent colleagues and who received no paid holiday or sickness leave."

"We heard from construction workers who were injured at work but were not entitled to welfare protection."

"There were workers who had spent 70-hour weeks on around £2 an hour who had no choice but to keep working when they were ill, as they could neither afford to lose a day's pay nor risk the sack."

"I particularly remember the chambermaids who had to be available to work from 8am, seven days a week, but who were not paid for the extra hours if rooms were vacated in late morning."

Compost Awareness Week

Recycle Now is offering any Coventry resident who buys a compost bin, between now and next Sunday, the chance to scoop £50 of gardening vouchers. There is one winner per authority area.

You can look at their compost converters, for £17 or £20, at this link.

Election Round-Up

I'm going to be lazy and urge you to take a look at The Daily Maybe. More bar charts and pie charts about the London election than you can shake a stick at!

But, I will highlight our notable successes, a first Green councillor for Solihull, and becoming the 2nd largest party on Norwich council.

03 May 2008

The Rise Of BoJo

Energy and charisma alone don't necessarily make anyone a good manager.

He's got a heckuva large budget to manage -- Transport for London (TfL), the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA), the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), and the London Development Agency (LDA).

His record on gay and lesbian issues is appalling.

When I ask him what he would do to reduce the sky-high rate of suicide among gay teenagers, he starts talking about the need to get kids out of gangs – as if the Brick Lane Massiv is stocked with gay-boys and lesbians.
Still, he's starting from such a low base of expectations that he can't help but pleasantly surprise us. Hopefully.

I remember visiting New York during the recall election of 2003, which led to Ahnuld becoming the Gov-ern-a-tor of California. Myself and two friends recently moved to NYC from Los Angeles found the very idea of his candidacy absurd. If someone had told me, five years later, that Schwarzegger would be putting California on a path to be the leader in the US in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, encouraging a million roofs for solar energy, and threatening to sue George Bush's federal government if it did not take steps to curb greenhouse gases, well, you could have pushed me over with a feather.

I just compared Boris Johnson to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Am I running a fever?

Coventry Election Analysis -- 2008

Before any numbers mumbo-jumbo, I think the important thing is that the Coventry Green Party stood 15 candidates. That's up from 1 candidate in 2006, and 8 candidates last year. This gave 165 000 people the chance to vote Green. In the seven "new" wards, this was perhaps the first time, in local elections, where people could do that. It may have led to 160 votes here, and 4% there, but we're giving people a choice, and we're putting issues on the agenda that wouldn't be there otherwise.

The high points:

- Having 20 people help out at the count! We were interviewed by local radio and print (having the youngest candidate in the city; having a brother/sister dynamic duo as candidates), sampled ballots, and nearly got lost in the building on the way out at 345am.

- 30% of the vote at the polling station at Ramphal on the Uni of Warwick campus! This is roughly similar to last year's result.

- 14.5% of the vote in Earlsdon (3rd place); that means there is probably a core of 600 voters who have voted Green in Earlsdon for 3 straight years.

- Our best "non-target" candidate this year was Ryan Taylor, take a bow, Ryan, with 9.9% of the vote in Bablake. This was a pleasant kind of curious result, as last year in Bablake, we had 5.5% with Gianluca Grimalda (our candidate in Whoberley this year).

- Across national consitutencies, we ran in 5 wards each in Coventry South, Coventry North West and Coventry North East. Our best was Coventry South -- 1578 votes.

The low points:

- Turnout was, to use a technical electoral term, piss-poor across the city. There were only 4 wards with more than 35% turnout. This won't be solved by the Greens. It will be solved by the "two main" parties in Coventry -- Labour and Tory -- actually listening to the public and putting their concerns right. People overwhelmingly feel, on the doorstep, that no matter who gets in, things won't change.

- When head-to-head against the BNP (they didn't run in Earlsdon, Foleshill, Wainbody or Upper Stoke against us), we usually (apart from Bablake and Sherbourne) had a situation where our paper candidates were rather outpolled by the BNP. The BNP came a few dozen votes from finishing 2nd in Woodlands.

I've tried to convince myself that this is down to the background noise of "British Jobs For British Workers" or "Polish asylum seekers are coming here to take our housing and eat our swans" from the Mail/Express. But I'm not doing very well. There is a tremendous amount of background noise about climate change as well. We had relatively favourable coverage from the Coventry Telegraph and the Coventry Times in the week leading up to the vote. There was even a "business leaders recognise that climate change is bad news" conference going on at the Ricoh on the day of the election, and it was being featured on Touch FM on the hour! People know that climate change is happening, but they are not (yet) willing to put that first at the ballot box.

It could also be a fear of the other more generally after 9/11 and the London bombings, with the BNP whipping up Islamophobia, and that might outweigh longer-term concerns about the planet.

The white working class didn't have it great to begin with, and wages are being pushed down, and affordable housing is scarce. So, the BNP steps in, and says, well, we'll stick up for you, we'll make England great again, and it plays on the idea of empire, that being English is something more special than anything else.

Of course, the solution to low wages is to lobby and organise for higher wages for everyone. The solution to a lack of housing is to build affordable housing for everyone, rather than racialise access to it, or talk about gays and lesbians as not "breeding", or talk about £50 000 payments for British citizens who are Asian or Black to "go home," or talk about Muslims as if they are all sleeper terrurists who have dirty nuclear devices primed under their beds.

I suppose I view left/Green candidates as trying to unite people around common goals (radical transformation; ownership of public services; creating communities that can solve their own problems in an era of peak-oil transition), whilst BNP candidates want to unite people on the grounds of being white, Christian and straight, and have them fear, hate and blame others.