Thursday, September 30, 2010

Trouble in Ecuador

New austerity laws have left Ecuador rocking with an uprising of the police and army protesting at the withdrawal of their benefits.

Around 150 members of the air force stormed the main airport, other soldiers and police officers set light to tires and began looting while others still confronted the President in a tense stand off at the regimental barracks.

The Guardian reports the President said during the confrontation ""I'm not taking one step back. Gentleman, if you want to kill the president, here he is, kill him if you have the guts." The rebel officers responded with shouts, stones and teargas canisters, prompting Correa's bodyguards to spirit him from the scene."

"The protests were triggered by a law passed by congress yesterday on Wednesday that would end the practice of giving medals and bonuses with each promotion. It would also extend from five to seven years the usual period required for promotions."

The FT reports that later President Correa, who was trapped in a hospital, said “It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and police. Whatever happens to me I want to express my love for my family and my homeland.”

They report that "Civil society groups joined the government in vowing to free Mr Correa, before marching on the hospital where he was cornered by protesting police officers."

Some in the government are saying that the majority of the army and police are loyal and a coup is not about to take place, others are beginning to mobilise to prevent a coup. It's certainly true that the President has been attacked and hundreds of armed forces personnel are on the move.

Adam Bandt makes first speech to Australian Parliament

Australia's first Green MP, Adam Bandt, has made his first speech to the Australian Parliament, which you can watch here;

Adam Bandt MP - first speech from Greens MPs on Vimeo.

"Imagine if we reacted to the financial crisis in the same way as the climate crisis, with global meetings deferred for years at a time.

"Perhaps if the planet were a merchant bank, we might see the speedy, internationally coordinated and massive government activity we saw during the financial crisis. Keeping Australia out of recession and avoiding double digit unemployment is of course the right thing to do. I simply hope our institutions of government here and abroad will extend to the planet the same courtesy as they do to the finance sector."

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Is Labour moving to the right?

Most members of the Labour Party (like the MPs) voted for David Miliband ahead of his brother and successful leadership candidate Ed. It's tempting to see this as a shift to the right on the part of the members, but we do need to remember the last time they were given the chance to elect a leader they choose Tony Blair so that would have to be some shift!

However, a lesser noticed election was taking place at the same time as all these other exciting outward facing posts like Mayor of London and Leader of the Party. Yes, the members were also electing six members of their NEC.

I believe each member has six votes in this election and, of the winning candidates, the results were;

Ken Livingstone: 88,235
Oona King: 64,004
Ann Black: 59,200
Ellie Reeves: 45,481
Christine Shawcroft: 44,338
Luke Akehurst: 30,825

Obviously, with a girlish giggle, you look at Ken's name at the top and do a happy little dance. But more to the point the members have actually elected more candidates from the right of the party than they normally do with Luke Akehurst and Oona King both in the winners' circle.

Oona's vote is particularly impressive and shows that the Mayoral result will not be her death knell in politics, more's the pity. I've a lot more time for Mr Akehurst who expresses his politics honestly and works hard for candidates of the left even when he clearly disagrees with them. He'll be a hard working and competant member of the NEC I don't doubt.

That doesn't change the fact that the members appear to have shifted to the right and good left wingers like Susan Press who, in earlier years, may well have been elected were unable to muster enough support this time round.

Perhaps this is all Kremlinology or reading the entrails of birds but it seems to me that the NEC results may well indicate that the right are slowly but surely strangling what little remains of the left in the party.

Communique from Lewisham HQ

General Sue Luxton at Green Ladywell writes;

"You may by now have heard that Tim Shand, one of the new Labour councillors elected in May to serve Ladywell has chosen to take up a job offer in South Africa and resigned as a councillor, which means there will be a by-election. We don't know the date yet, but are assuming it will be on or around 4th November.

"While it's annoying that someone who was only elected in May, has resigned and triggered a by-election, at a cost to local taxpayers in excess of £10k, it does of course present an opportunity for Ladywell Greens to regain one of the seats we lost back in May! I am looking forward to getting back out campaigning over the next few weeks to try and get a Green candidate, who is trully committed to Ladywell ward elected.

"Our candidate selection meeting is taking place this Thursday, and we will announce on here shortly after who our candidate is. I know we have at least two excellent people who plan to put their name forward. I'm not standing myself this time - I'm rather enjoying the extra time I have now I'm not a councillor.

"I think we have a very strong chance of winning this seat back, and making sure Ladywell has a strong green voice standing up for it again, looking for alternatives to cuts to services, campaigning to keep our childrens' centres and libraries open, but we'll need your help.

"Here's how you can help:

  • By-elections cost money! Help us run an effective campaign by making a donation to our campaign fund today.
  • Put up a 'Vote Green' window poster for us. E-mail me your contact details and we'll get one over to you once the election date is declared.
  • Can you help us deliver our election address to your street, or could you convince some of your neighbours to go out and vote Green? Again, e-mail us and let us know what you would like to do.
  • Have you got questions/suggestions on our campaign, what you think our priorities should be? Again, get in touch.
  • Join us! We're a small party, but a growing one. We can do so much more and be so much more representative of the local community, if more of our supporters join us.

"Thank you!"

As I live in the ward I'm very keen on the Greens retaking the seat from a Labour team who, at the last ward assembly a few weeks ago, seemed very keen to point out that they would do nothing to fight the cuts and felt the choice was simply whether we should cut services for the young or the old.

No thanks.

We'll be fighting to defend public services and protect the most vulnerable from the impact of the cuts. I'm looking forward to getting back from my break in order to help us fight and win this council seat for the Greens. Come along, it'll be fun!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Short on Rights

I wonder if people saw this story where seven actors' unions, internationally, are calling on actors not to take part in The Hobbit films after management refused to recognise union workers. The non-union contracts meant the work force had no guarenteed minimum income or standards at work.

The International Federation of Actors (FIA) which brings together those working on international projects has a good track record of fighting for decent rights of workers employed by the entertainment industry in those nations with poor industrial relations laws.

The union is fighting to ensure rights to cancelation payments to workers hired and then dropped from the production and a minimum wage and rights at work. In response to these reasonable demands the makers of the film have threatened to move production to a country they say will provide less rights to the workforce.

Jackson's statement

In a sneering personal statement, which seems to state he has been giving special bonus payments to non-union actors, film maker Peter Jackson says "It's incredibly easy to wave the flag on behalf of workers and target the rich studios." Cool, let's do that then.

You will not be surprised to learn the statement includes phrases like bully boys, or raises the spectre of a political union, although it was interesting to read that Disney do not use Australia for films in order to avoid their strong unions there. For shame Bambi, for shame.

Less interesting is the way Jackson says he is pro-union then goes on to type a rambling screed on how much damage unions are doing to film making. As Jackson threatens to move production from New Zealand he says "if the Hobbit goes east (Eastern Europe in fact) -- look forward to a long dry big budget movie drought in this country."

New Zealand law

The most crucial point of all though is that Peter Jackson claims it is illegal for him to enter into collective bargaining with a union. If that were right it would mean the focus of the campaign should be against the state not the production at all, and he'd have a legitimate grievance.

So I looked up what the government had to say on this. They say "Unions have a right to represent their members in relation to any matter involving the members' collective employment interests. Unions also have the right to negotiate collective agreements."

In fact reading the Department of Labor website it appears that Peter Jackson's claims are very far from correct because trade unions do have collective bargaining rights and then some. So there we have it, a self serving uninformed whinge about how unions who represent low paid, or even unpaid workers, are bullying the timid little millionaire by asking for their members to be treated with respect.

It seems to me that they have a point, that actors working for Peter Jackson are short on rights and union members ought to boycott the making of the Hobbit until Jackson has a change of heart.

Taking a break: tops and flops

I'm taking a break in France from today until Saturday. I'm going to do an hour's work a day anyway so I may do some recreational blogging while I' at it, but don't count on hearing much from me as I do need to recharge my batteries for some hardcore by-election winning when I get back.

France is so far, so good. On the positive side;

  • The Metro newspaper may, theoretically, look like London's Metro but the Paris version is actually a newspaper not a string of celebrity gossip and gardening tips.
  • I'm really liking the double decker trains - really smart way to do things. Although after a full six hours journey they had to wring their hands in apology. Six minutes late you see!
  • Fonts. Perhaps this is just what you're used to, but I'm quite taken with the fonts they use for signs.
  • The incredible heart warming and genuine smiles of people in Paris was wonderful, particularly as we passed through it in the morning rush hour. The London tube it ain't.

On the same old, same old side;

  • For some reason I was expecting the coffee to be something special. So far it's basically just coffee.
  • Probably to do with the time of day we went through Paris but basically people seemed to dress pretty much the same as they do in London.
  • Pain au Chocolat. I'd been led to believe that the French were very protective of their language but here they are using exactly the same word as we use.

Me being me. Negatives;

  • Puddles. There seems to be a lot of them.
  • Power lines. The countryside seems dominated by them, although that could just be chance, obviously.
  • I saw five fields of sheep. All of them had one black member. Tokenism gone mad.

I also saw the most hilarious bit of parking with a sports car in a busy car park parked across two bays. And yes, they were both disabled parking spots.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Unions decide leader of the Labour Party

And so it came to pass, the person who got the most votes from the members didn't win the Labour Leadership selection. Welcome Ed Miliband, the brother whose smile leans to the left, as the new opposition leader.

As predicted it was a toss up between Ed and David Miliband, but the nature of the electoral college system where three colleges (MPs/MEPs, members and unions and affiliates) each count for a third of the vote each.

David won more MPs/MEPs *and* more party members in the vote but because the unions gave their support so heavily to Ed it was the younger brother that won. Well done him.

Final round results;

David Miliband 49.35%
17.812 from MPs/MEPs, 18.135 from members, 13.40 from unions and affiliates

Ed Miliband 50.65%
15.522 from MPs/MEPs, 15.198 from members, 19.934 from unions and affiliates

For those who are interested in the breakdown you can find it here. You wont be surprised to hear that Diane Abbott was first to fall, then Andy Burnham and in third place was Ed Balls.

What was more interesting was that Diane came last in the members' vote, which was always the one she was going to have to crack if she was to do well. You will not be shocked to know that Andy Burnham did not do well with the unions.

What the implications of this election will be is any one's guess. Labour members will hope that a more soft left posing Miliband will help rejuvenate their vote - but let's see how they take on Post Office privatisation, the ongoing occupation of Afghanistan and trident replacement.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Livingstone rides again

Good news. Ken Livingstone has been selected by Labour as their new Mayoral candidate for London with over two thirds of the vote.

The results, announced earlier today, give Londoners the best chance of ridding themselves of Boris Johnson in 2012 - should they choose to do so.

The election was conducted on the basis of two votes - those of Labour members in London and those from the trade unions. Livingstone won 66% of the members vote and 71% of the trade union vote, making his victory pretty decisive.

One disadvantage of the system Labour use in these elections is that it constantly creates the possibility of electing someone against the wishes of the members. Anyone who remembers the first London Mayoral election will remember how Livingstone lost the Labour selection despite winning the overwhelming backing of the members, creating massive problems for Labour, if not Ken himself.

If we look at the case of the current Labour leadership vote which is using three blocks: MPs, unions and members - creating the very real possibility of David Miliband becoming the next leader without any kind of endorsement from the members.

That's their lookout of course, but it seems strange to design a system where members vote for one candidate and someone else can be elected.

NB Green Assembly Member Jenny Jones shares her thoughts on this with Mayor Watch.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Today's links

Here's my collection for links for today;

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

German Greens Still Rising

According to polls the German Greens, who already have the most MPs they've ever had, are seeing an unprecedented rise in the polls seeing them neck and neck for the first time with the SPD, the German version of the Labour Party.

The current ruling Tory/Liberal Coalition (CDU and FDP on the graph) is polling at 34% to the SPD/Green 48%, or 58% if you include the Left Party. So what's to account for the rise which, like in Sweden, does not seem to have effected other parties to the left of the centre?

One explanation is that the new right-wing coalition's decision to extend the life of existing nuclear power stations has hit a nerve in a nation that has had a vibrant anti-nuclear movement for many decades.

Fresh politics

Others point to a fresh way of doing politics - they have the first Turkish (joint) leader of a political party and they have refused to get bogged down as an alternative to the Left Party, having been willing to deal with the parties of the right when it suits them. That's certainly not to my taste, but it's quite possible that this has allowed them to eat into the CDU's vote as well as the SPD's.

Ironically the CDU's backing for nuclear power has put a stop the potential deals between the Greens and the right so they're getting the best of both worlds - looking open minded and willing to work with anyone, whilst the right has cut itself out of the picture.

In other good news the liberal FDP is languishing at 5% as all these right wing liberal parties should be. This is a third of where they were a year ago and rightly so. I mean really what's the point of them when you might as well vote for the CDU or Tories and get honest conservatives?

A movement in the streets

Another theory is that with hundreds of thousands out on the street mobilised for an issue that the Greens claimed as their own years ago that surge of anti-government protest has fortuitously fallen in the lap of the Greens. Certainly Speigel think this might cause as many problems for the Greens as it offers opportunities as the party is no longer simply a party of protest.

Their experience of the SPD in a previous coalition was not entirely happy and many of the their activists in the east of Germany cut their teeth fighting the regime supported by leading figures in the Left Party. Coupled with the Left's own (shock!) internal problems and inability to mobilise properly for the recent protests they are not looking like particularly appetising bedfellows right now.

Some in the Green Party would certainly like to keep their options open about deals with the partiesto their right. But, if those parties are in charge of the nuclear programme that becomes impossible.

Who knows whether this will last or becomes a deeper long-term trend but it is becoming clearer that across Europe the centre simply is not holding, but there are no guarantees that the ground shifts towards the traditional far-right or far-left parties.

25 things meme

I don't do memes very often but I've been a tagged a number of times now and, with another one on left wing influences waiting in the wings, I thought I'd better crack on with it. The idea is pretty simple, simply twenty five little asides about me.

In no particular order;

  1. When I was in Denmark I realised just how filthy English cities were, but somehow the order and sensibleness of it all repelled me on a fundamental level.
  2. The only exams I took at school were 'O' levels, the year before they changed to GCSEs. My Dad did 'O' levels the year they came in.
  3. I applied to be a gunner in the RAF when I was a teenager but bottled out at the last minute because I thought it looked like too hard work.
  4. When I was at school I longed for a Soviet invasion. I forget why I thought the sight of Red Army tanks rolling down Bishop's Stortford high street would have been so glorious. My position is more nuanced now.
  5. It is my secret shame that I would prefer people to think that I'm funny than right. Although both are obviously preferable.
  6. My accent often changes according to my mood or situation. This goes well beyond having a telephone voice. It makes me wonder whether I have a real accent at all, although this is probably the product of having been brought up on a border and then moving around a lot.
  7. I think traffic wardens do a socially necessary job and I find the lazy sneering at them to be the worst kind of sheep consciousness.
  8. I took Latin at school, but managed to get a U in the exam (ungraded / less than 5%). It was well deserved.
  9. The most popular petition I ever helped organise was to 'sink the royal yatch' when the Queen decided she needed a new royal yatch off the tax payer, but wasn't going to give up her old one. They were queuing down the street.
  10. I've been to Glasgow once. I'd only been off the coach for two minutes when a man in bright red hair and a kilt abused me for being English. Very surreal.
  11. I'm convinced that my love of cats is wholly reciprocated.
  12. I admire misanthropy. However, once you start creating exceptions to the hate it becomes bigotry, and that is wrong.
  13. My dream job would be editing a London only, leftfield community website.
  14. My first memory is from my fourth birthday. I got a cowboy rifle which was the most fantastic thing I could imagine.
  15. I keep meaning to become vegetarian again but my previous failed attempts (some of which lasted years) keep putting me off even trying.
  16. I genuinely want England to lose at all sporting events they take part in. This is not a pose or a statement or a political line but a visceral, emotional and personal response to shouty, aggressive drunks celebrating something they have not contributed to.
  17. My first job after leaving school was at Hayters lawnmower factory in Spellbrook (Essex).
  18. I agree with the criticisms of the Pope but can't rid myself of the feeling we've just been very rude to a guest in this country.
  19. It annoys me when people think it's working class to swear, and unworking class to read.
  20. There was a time when I thought having an email account, using a mobile phone and drinking in coffee shops were all utterly reactionary. These things now form the bedrock of my life.
  21. I think suicide is a legitimate choice that anyone should be able to make without shame, not just people with terrible illnesses or depression.
  22. When I lived in Harlow my favourite food became the raw cabbage sandwich (with salad cream). I never ate one before moving there and I've not eaten one since moving away.
  23. When people say that they "speak their mind" I automatically assume they mean they're malign, mean spirited, big mouths.
  24. I know far more than I need to about dog poo. I also collect photos of council dog poo signs.
  25. I used to sing in a choir, and have even performed solos in whacking great Cathedrals. It goes without saying that I still have the voice of an angel.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Six points of light

A few links for your delectation and delight:

Monday, September 20, 2010

Swedish elections

All the headlines on the Swedish elections point to the fact that the far right have made a break through into Parliament. This is clearly news and marks how Sweden is part of the European wide trend to electing more far-right MPs.

We shouldn't get this out of proportion of course. The far right 9Swedish Democrats) increased their vote to 5.7% from 2.9%, which means they broke the 4% barrier and are now entitled to 20 MPs. Seeing as neither the left nor right block will touch them with a barge pole this worrying development does not actually put them any nearer power than they were before. Would that this was the case everywhere in Europe.

This wasn't the only story from the election though. The Greens now have a record 25 MPs having won 7.2% of the vote, which is something I feel contractually obliged to point out, and makes them the third largest party (from being the smallest party represented in parliament).

This was some achievement as they are part of the left block, which is declining in support with both the Social Democrats and Left Party losing ground. Election nerds might like to know that turnout was up at 82.1%, showing that high turnouts don't necessarily mean defeat for the smaller parties.

The Greens' best area was, you may not be surprised to hear, Stockholm with over 12% of the vote with other urban areas doing very well too. By contrast the far-right seems to have got their best results in rural areas, although I confess my knowledge of Swedish geography may not be as sharp as it might be.

The only party to increase their vote apart from the Greens and the far right were the Moderate Party, Sweden's equivalent of the Tories - but even so they are still only Sweden's second biggest party after the Social Democrats.

The electoral maths of it means that the right alliance have 172 MPs, the Red-Green block 157 MPs and the far-right 20 MPs, theoretically meaning they hold the balance of power, although we've yet to see how that pans out as they wont be forming a coalition with anyone.

Other interesting things of note: there is a Feminist Party which was formed in 2005 by a leading member of the Left Party and is seen as the largest of the 'others'. Sadly if you don't get above a certain level of the vote Swedish sites don't seem very keen on publicising your results. They got 2.2% in last year's European elections, but wont have received the same this time.

Social Democratic Party 30.9%-4.4%113 MPs-17
Moderate Party30.0%+3.9%107 MPs+10
Green Party
7.2%+2.0%25 MPs+6
Liberal People's Party7.1%-0.4%24 MPs-4
Centre Party6.6%-1.3%22 MPs-7
Swedish Democrats5.7%+2.8%20 MPs+20
Christian Democrats
5.6%-1.0%19 MPs-5
The Left Party of Sweden5.6%-0.3%19 MPs

The Million Moderate March

After what has seemed like an eon of ill tempered and bizarre politics in the US, where any crazy accusation can be leveled at the administration with a straight face at last, the middle ground has a champion. Jon Stewart (of the wonderful Daily Show) has called 'The Million Moderate March', and about time too.

Also known as the 'Rally to Restore Sanity' it's aim is to provide an antidote to the increasingly frantic rhetoric of the Tea Party right. Rightly it's aimed to bring in moderate Republicans, sick of what's happening to their party, as well as the left.

In America the national discourse can, at times, seem dominated by those who are happy to label President Obama a Nazi, Muslim or Communist in every other breath, and where plain and simple lies are becoming common currency (like the idea that the health reforms included death panels, which genuinely terrified simple minded people). Any move to create more space for real political dialogue and marginalise these voices must be welcome.

Stewart described the march on his show as "a clarion call for rationality". Their slogans wont necessarily be as slick as the right's though because they say "If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence... we couldn't. That's sort of the point."

Of course, there is a simultaneous rally in the same place. 'Keep Fear Alive' which says "America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear -- that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty. But now, there are dark, optimistic forces trying to take away our Fear. They want to replace our Fear with reason. But never forget -- "Reason" is just one letter away from "Treason." "

The march takes place on October the 30th in Washington DC and I'm wishing it the best of luck.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Clegg tells left he doesn't want their vote

If you still need proof that the Lib Dems have moved wildly to the right then I don't know where you've been living. But for those who've been slow to catch up Nick Clegg has told the Lib Dem conference in the clearest possible terms that he does not lead a left wing party.

For example, in today's Observer, he paints a vivid picture of how influential he is in the coalition, and is responsible for all the core policies. "All the big decisions are jointly taken by David Cameron and myself … that is why I didn't want to have a department, why I am a hop and a skip from his office."

The image of Clegg skipping joyously to meet Cameron to discuss the decimation of public services is positively stomach churning. However it is where he lays out those who have voted Lib Dem from the left that the interview is most revealing.

"Clearly there is a chunk of people who, I totally understand, turned to the Liberal Democrats at the height of Blair's authoritarianism and his fascination with [George] Bush and [Dick] Cheney," Clegg says. "They said, 'Aha! These Liberal Democrats, they are the leftwing party I want. They are the leftwing conscience of the Labour party that I want.

"That was always going to unwind at some point, particularly when Labour went back into opposition and started sloganeering leftwards. Because the vocation of Liberalism is not to be a leftwing ghetto for people disaffected by the Labour party."

But while Clegg is busy making nice with the Tories and basically telling lefties to eff off the Labour Party have begun firing their smart missiles at the yellow peril. The Labour leadership candidates seem to be going out of their way to tell disillusioned Lib Dem voters that they are the party for them. It's extremely curious that Clegg does not seem in the least bit concerned that he may be giving those voters the vital push they need to dessert his party.

Whether those voters turn to Labour, the Greens, the SNP or where ever is yet to be seen, although I suspect a combination of the lot.

Certainly the trade union demonstrators wont need telling that the Lib Dems are not the party for them, which is just as well as they have been banned from approaching the conference centre at all.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Interview: Sarah Cope on prisons

In the second of my twitter interview experiments I spoke to Sarah Cope of Haringey greens on women, prisons and her future criminal career.

Me: Hi Sarah, I was hoping to chat to you about why you wanted to take on the Green Party's prison policy.
Me: I was surprised to see that we didn't already argue that prisoners should have the vote

Sarah: I was sure that would be there already too, but no. It is now, though! Better late than never.
Sarah: We had the bare bones of a prison policy already in the PSS, but a few of us felt it needed more details - particularly re: women prisoners.

Me: So what were the key changes you put forward at conference?

Sarah: They retain vote; only women convicted of serious & violent crime sent to prison; more support for pregnant prisoners & those with babies.
Sarah: Plus promotion of 'buddy schemes' to stop self-harming and addressing homelessness on release - a big reason why people re-offend.

Me: There was some controversy over the prisons' vote wasn't there?

Sarah: We were going to have it that a judge could deny a prisoner the vote but that was dropped. I wasn't keen on that idea anyway - so hurrah!!

Me: I was impressed by the speaker from Birth Companions who works around pregnant prisoners.

Sarah: Denise Marshall. They do great work in Holloway. There are 13 other womens' prisons - that sort of vital work should have govt support.

Me: I was shocked at the tales she had to tell on how women can end up losing contact with their kids having them taken into care

Sarah: Women are often 'phoning from prison, trying to find out where their kids are. Only 5% of kids stay in their own homes when mum is jailed.

Me: this was quite a lot higher for Dads wasn't it?

Sarah: Don't have statistic for that, though do know that a third of mothers are lone parents before imprisonment.

Me: Do you think there's a case for focusing on trying to keep people from falling into crime rather than refusing to jail them when they do?

Sarah: Obviously, yes. Our focus on creating more equal society, plus decriminalising drugs and sex work would go a long way to doing just that!

Me: Good point. There was a good fringe on sex work too. I was impressed by the way we had sex workers and ex-prisoners themselves speak

Sarah: Nothing beats the power of personal testimony - certainly not m/c academic types... though there's a place for them too! (she adds hastily).

Me: It's amazing how many discussions take place without the subject of those discussions ever being allowed to speak

Sarah: Well I generally distrust statistics, but personal testimony is a different matter. I want to get inside Holloway to see it for myself now.

Me: Any particular crime your contemplating?

Sarah: So many to choose from, hmm...No, I've volunteered to help - it's just down the road from me, I have no job...if I can help, I will.

Me: I have a criticism of your motion! It mentions renaming prisons "multi-functional custodial centres" - what's the difference?

Sarah: It's about more than punishment I think - rehab, literacy etc. The problem is, make it too good and we send people to jail access services!

Me: This was a very strong part of the message. How offenders, through losing their housing benefit etc, become destitute on leaving prison

Sarah: We'd encourage schemes like in Liverpool - prisoners were taught construction skills, & given a run-down council house to do up on release.

Me: All good work - what's next on the agenda? Where would you like to go from here?

Sarah: A green govt to implement it all would be rather nice! In the short term, better mental health provision is key - works better than jail...

Me: Well, let's work on the short and the long term! Thanks for your time :)

Sarah: Thanks for the Twinterview - hope my twanswers sufficed.


People might be interested in the UK's only blogging prisoner: Prison Ben
Also mentioned in this interview: Birth Companions.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Different approaches to the cuts

I'm not sure which approach I prefer from our public bodies. You have the special pleading which generally runs along the lines of 'cut *their library* not ours', which is something you'll always come across when you're part of a movement to defend public services. However, often official bodies have to come up with their own unique relationship with the government.

Take education. Ofsted this week helpfully told the government that most of the special needs teaching going on is completely unnecessary. How convenient. How craven. They might as well have said if you're going to cut the education budget take out on the thickos and the poor first.

Of course, their actual line was that you wouldn't need as much special needs provision if the quality of the education system as a whole was better. Seeing as that isn't on the cards though the effect of their position will be that cuts are directed towards the most vulnerable, the most in need of specialist provision.

The police though have taken a different line. One of the country's top police officers, Derek Barnett, has told the government that, because their policies will cause massive unrest it would be foolhardy to cut the police budget just when they are about to need a wall of shields and truncheons to protect them.

He may have a point. When Thatcher came to power in '79 she was very careful to make sure the police were happy and well equipped. After all she knew she was going to be calling on them to fight her political battles for her. It's only after she'd finished with her little wars that she finally started to stop featherbedding the cops, much to their horror. Perhaps Clegg and Cameron need to think about how much they'll need the police in the coming years before they cut the budget.

Just to prove the point, a planned trade union demonstration outside the Lib Dem conference has been banned. See Clegg, the boys in blue have saved you from hearing any nasty people who disagree with you. How damn liberal of them - I wonder how many of the civil liberties Lib Dems will be kicking up a stink about this at conference?
At the end of the day we're being given a whole load of unacceptable choices, perhaps it might be all to the good if the thin blue line was a little bit thinner in the years ahead. It might make the fight for a saner economic policy a little bit less painful.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Operation Afghan Democracy

The elections are underway in Afghanistan, not that you'd know it from the rather minimalist press coverage on the subject. I mean it's not as if these elections have been controversial (ie rigged) in the past, or that Afghanistan is a prominent part of our foreign policy.

As well as taking place amidst a military offensive in the south the US also killed two protesters today, and four more have been killed over the last week by Afghan police. You can feel the place getting more democratic with every bullet fired can't you?

They really are becoming more Western as we speak. Yes, the bank has failed in Kabul with many customers unable to withdraw money due to queues and, cough, lack of money. But this isn't just a failed bank, it's a corrupt unregulated bank working hand in glove with the regime that helped to steal last year's elections.

Juan Cole points to the that the bank "gave millions to the presidential campaign of Hamid Karzai last summer" has an executive as election advisor and Karzai's brother owns 9% of the bank. "NATO should not have allowed Karzai to steal the presidential election. (At least now we have more of an idea how the theft was accomplished). It should not have allowed him to block corruption investigations."

We criticise the Taliban, rightly, over their attitude towards women's rights and human rights more generally, but turn a blind eye to Karzai's government when it commits the exact same offences.

Women activists in Afghanistan say democracy is moving backwards "Five years ago things were different... Women campaigned openly even in provinces like Kandahar and Helmand. “I could not believe that women were able to put up their posters in those areas,” Saqeb said. “But they conducted campaigns and they won. Now — forget about it.”

“There are not going to be elections in Kandahar,” she snorted. “There is no security, and everything there has already been decided.”

Without financial or Western backing for bodyguards women candidates and anti-occupation candidates find themselves in mortal danger. If you're not part of the puppet regime it is extremely difficult to make your voice heard as security forces refuse to give protection to opposition and women candidates.

Reuters reports on electoral fraud complaints against government officials going uninvestigated and protests against lack of polling stations being attacked by police - and of course the election boycott by Taliban supporters and the fact three candidates have been killed in recent weeks.

This is not what democracy looks like, so the press seem to have decided to look away. David Miliband should get up and tell us how well his war is going, that should help his Labour leadership election campaign if, that is, he hasn't already bought the result.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Conference Report: Birmingham 2010

I thought better I'd round up Green Party conference so I can move onto some less Party orientated stuff. All in all I found myself rushing round like nobody's business with little time to reflect or take stock, and when I finally got back I had to go to yet another meeting. It's only now that I'm really getting to grips with what happened.

click to enlargeIt was certainly a good conference, the best venue in some time, well behaved party members and the most businesslike conference I've been to. It was a nice celebration of my birthday too, although if I'm honest I'd have rather the two things hadn't clashed. To make up for it you can see pictured Dawn Foster, myself and Adrian Ramsay giving thumbs up for conference (right).

Kate Sweeney described arriving in Birmingham "As usual, we caused a run on Guardians and soya milk in the local retail establishments, and the till guy in M&S said to me “You don’t want a bag do you? I know the Greens are in town” I should add that this was meant nicely."

We've already heard that Caroline Lucas and Adrian Ramsay won the leadership election - although with more than 25% of the vote on a good turnout Derek surprised some with the level of his support I think. The national executive elections found us with a majority woman executive for the first time since I joined the party, it also includes three Young Greens plus me.

The main conference opened with the leader's speech, Jane Watkinson said of Lucas' speech that "Remarkably, Lucas’s comments regarding the European parliament being a beacon of democracy and efficiently in comparison to the House of Parliament were particularly telling – the protocols associated with voting, debates and so forth are clearly detrimental to competent political debate and policy formation."

Adrian's speech, the day after, focused on the cuts. ""There's no doubt that these cuts to essential services will hurt those who most need help. But in the long-term they will hurt us all. Dismantling our public services is no way to build a fair society - and it's no way to build a strong economy."

Conference kicks off

First business as such was the various reports from internal party bodies which I wouldn't even normally mention but it was the first main session of conference I've chaired and we got through a phenomenal amount of business, so I was quite pleased with myself. Stephen Gray does point out though that "the only controversy being a point made about having signers at conference" so that may have helped.

Mind you, never chair Keith Taylor, our new MEP for the South West. Has he heard of time limits? Has he heck! Stuart reports on the motion Keith moved on the victimisation of the Roma in France. Philip was pleased with this as it fitted with the work with travellers that he'd been doing in his area.

Molly writes on the Living Within Our Means motion in which she says "The Green Party is struggling with an influx of socialists who are understandably disillusioned with the Labour Party. This is a small proportion of Labour Party membership but can become a significant minority of our party, and one which rapidly starts to weight us down towards one side of the left-right continuum that we really should be transcending." However, Joseph, who's no recent defector, thought the motion flawed.

Adam Ramsay said of the economic debates that "In the morning, the party passed an emergency motion to opposing cuts to public services. However, it later threw a sop to those who believe ecological destruction can be measured by GDP alone, and agreed to establish a working group to discuss whether there is a conflict between investing in building the infrastructure of the future and saving the future. We can only assume the working group will conclude that it doesn’t."

Other economic issues included shaking up the banks, NHS privatisition, and a publicly owned Royal Mail.

Fringes and other excitement

There were also a number of fringes on economic topics and Stephen Gray said that "an event organised by the Young Greens about the effect of the cuts on younger people. Like the debt meeting, this one covered a wide range of issues – about the effect cuts will have on public services for various vulnerable groups, and about the way the system has given younger people today a much rougher deal than their parents and grandparents had."

Natalie Bennett who moved the motion on prisoners rights (which means we now support prisoners' right to vote, when everyone was surprised to hear we didn't already) writes of the panel discussion where an ex-prisoner said “If you go to a man’s prison on visiting day see a line of buggies, women who are keeping the house and children going, paying the bills. You go to a women’s prison there is almost no one there – her life isn’t sustained.”

Darren Johnson writes on the education motion where he says "Thankfully, the Green Party has moved away from unquestioning support for both homeopathy and home education. At our conference last Autumn we finally ended up with an education policy we can be proud of."

Dawn Foster wrote of the job sharing MPs motion that was passed convincingly, and is getting discussed quite widely (also Rebel Raising), "Most campaigning bodies and workplaces (private, public and third sector) accept job sharing as a natural part of a functioning, inclusive organisation. That Parliament still doesn’t and is continuing to struggle against voter apathy is particularly telling. Lucas, in contrast to so many politicians, put her neck out and said “Now I know the Daily Mail and the rest of them will pour scorn on the idea and say it’s ideas like that which make us unelectable… Nothing would do more to open up politics to women”"

We also passed a motion called "update PSS on LGBTI and Other Equality and Diversity Issues" which, while well meaning, you may be able to get from the title that it essentially added a load of algebra into our policy documents. I really do wish people would write policy for the public not fellow specialists.

I had no objection to politics of the content though, unlike Stephen Gray who was disappointed that includes policy now has "a commitment that opt-outs from equality and discrimination laws by religious organisations will not be allowed. This has the somewhat ludicrous implication that religious groups will not be able to discriminate on the grounds of religion – so, for example, a mosque would not be able to require their imam to be a Muslim."

Then onto electoral reform

Paperback Rioter says "I attended both fringe meetings on electoral reform (can you tell I’m a bit obsessed?). Jim Jepps debated with someone from Unlock Democracy on whether the Greens should support AV in the Referendum. I was slightly disappointed by the arguments put forward by the Unlock Democracy representative. All she had to do was show how AV was a better system than FPTP, and then naturally follow from that that the Greens should support a Yes vote. This was never done... Another thing that griped was the constant interrupting of Jim Jepps when he was speaking. I’ve really enjoyed his blog for a while, and it was a pleasure to see him speak him person. His position – that AV would not benefit the Greens and they should therefore remain neutral instead and make the case for PR. It is an admiral, principled approach, and one that should not have been greeted with mild heckling and interrupting."

Spin Pitman says of the AV motion "The debate was pretty divided – resulting in me being less and less sure on my position as conference went on – yet finally being swayed by Peter Cranie’s speech on the failings of the pro-devolution movement in Scotland’s ’79 referendum."

In the end the party voted overwhelmingly to become part of the official Yes to AV campaign, but not to commit significant resources to the campaign.

Richard was disappointed that his motion on dictators fell which is a shame because I like to see everyone happy - despite the fact I voted against it. Also I think the movers of the motion for a 'Green Shadow Cabinet' were a bit surprised at how universally unimpressed people were with their motion and, as I predicted here, the motion was referred back as the movers had identified a problem but had come up with a hubristic and unworkable solution.

Darren Johnson, confident in his new beard, wanted a straw poll on the principle, which he ended up doing by bellow rather than through the chair. This was actually quite unhelpful as what would a yes or no vote mean? I think we need to improve the way we do spokespeople but I'd find it hard to be a member of the Greens if it had something called a Green Shadow Cabinet - it would simply be indicative of people with no sense of proportion or reality - anyway it fell. Good.

John Reardon praised the way we invite speakers from outside the Greens musing "My own experience suggests that the biggest barriers to cross party co-operation are large parts of the Labour Party, where tribalism is at its worst with many believing that no one else has the right to exist and must be destroyed."

Rounding off

Post worker union leader Billy Hayes spoke at conference saying that "The private sector caused this recession and now the government has unfairly chosen to attack the public sector. Our priority is to expand the economy out of recession and this week at the TUC congress our union will be seconding a motion to support the creation of a million new green jobs."

All in all, a very good, economics focused conference. My personal highlights would probably be the fringe on prostitution where we heard from a working street worker and someone from the English Collective of Prostitutes as well as the science fringe where Imran Khan, Frank Swain and Stuart Parkinson on "Science funding in an age of austerity". It's one of those times when I wish fringes could be longer than an hour.

Good stuff. I'm home now and I'll try not to write about the Party for a bit before I become a one track blogger. You can have too much of one thing you know.

A few things to peruse

Still catching up with things, but here's a few links of interest while I gear up to write something a little more substantive.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Post

It's been a very enjoyable conference so far although, frankly, I could have done with being a little less committed over the weekend so far, but I have managed to snatch some valuable chatting time to friends I see all too rarely.

As an added bonus I managed to celebrate my birthday today, although there was more than one moment today when I caught myself thinking "I'm spending my birthday doing this?"

So far at conference I have done things like chair a reports plenary session with ruthless efficiency, spoke at the Green World official fringe and was thoroughly heckled, been elected to the national executive of the Green Party and managed to lose my voting cards - meaning I couldn't, well, vote.

Very frustrating when we passed some good housing policy, but only just, or passed the motion on AV committing the Green Party to be part of the "official" campaign. Anyway, you can't have everything and I've got bigger things to think about.

Which reminds me - I'm going to have to think about what significance being elected to the executive has for this place. I don't blog confidential stuff, and don't tend to slate individuals anyway - but I will have to consider if I need to revise any of my 'policies' for the blog.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Slow blogging this weekend

While I'm at Green Party conference blogging is going to be slooooow. I know it should be faster as I furiously relate all the debates. Problem is, when you're actually help organise meetings, chair workshops and generally contribute it can be a bit difficult to get a corner of time to blog. I'll try, but please forgive me if I don't get to it.

Thanks to all those who attended our hastily arranged bloggers meet up tonight, nice to meet some of you in the flesh for the first time. For twitterers you may want to follow #gpconf which has been an excellent stream of information so far.

You may also like to know the deputy leadership result which was won by Adrian Ramsay 2386 to Derek's 826. All in all a well fought campaign on both sides although I feel guilty for not finishing the half written post on the London and online hustings as well as not *actually* voting - which was very remiss of me.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Today's Links

Some links you might be interested in;

Our Influences

Left Foot Forward are running a poll on the most influential left wing thinkers involved in politics today (from a list drawn up by readers) and I just voted in it here. I'd like to encourage you to do the same.

There's some lovely names on there but it did get me thinking about what influential actually means. I mean Tony Benn is pretty much a household name and is a worthy addition to any list of signatories to your open letter in the Guardian but do people think differently because of him, or is he preaching to the choir?

I wonder what similar list would look like if it was a poll for the 'most influential green thinker'? Monbiot? Lucas? Meacher? Or would we be traipsing off into the Andes to find those courageous fighters that no one has ever heard of over here?

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Monday's AV vote

I was just looking at Monday's vote on the AV referendum bill. What struck me is how tribal the voting was. Every Labour, SNP and Plaid MP voted against. All the Lib Dems (and the single Green) voted in favour. In fact, it was only the Tories who split their vote with ten (right wing) rebel MPs voting against the bill.

I can't be the only person who's disappointed by the old politics of these three line whip votes. I just don't believe that every Labour politician is against electoral reform or that every LibDem thinks AV is any sort of substitute for proportional representation.

I know Labour have been whinging that the reduction in the number of MPs from one arbitrary number to a slightly smaller arbitrary number would go against them - but for the life of me I can't see the principled argument against equalising the size of constituencies is. This just seems like self interest and point scoring to me.

If this suffocating conformity is any indication of what the campaigns around the referendum will look like I'd rather look the other way thanks.

Of course this weekend in Birmingham the Green Party will be discussing its position on the referendum and it looks like there's going to be strong views on both sides. I'd like to encourage members to attend the Green World fringe on Saturday;

Wednesday articulations

I spotted these and thought they might be of interest.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Some choice

You're walking home late at night. You nip down an alley, a short cut home you know.

Suddenly you realise that you're surrounded. Hoodies! Both behind and in front. Your way is blocked by these hugging ruffians forming a giggling wall.

One steps forwards, takes his monocle out and delicately places it in his pocket. You realise with horror he is holding a baseball bat. He grins.

"Face or balls?" You gape at him as he swings the bat. "Come on old boy, face or balls?"

Months later in court the prosecution are grilling the thug in the dock. Sadly he shakes his head.

"He told me to whack him in the balls. I didn't want to - that was his choice!"

Would it stand up in court? No. He'd be sent down. Sometimes there's no right answer because the it's the question that's the problem.

UAF leader convicted of assaulting a police officer

Martin Smith, leading Unite Against Fascism activist, national coordinator of Love Music Hate Racism and a central committee member of the Socialist Workers Party has been convicted of assaulting a police officer in what is, almost certainly, a miscarriage of justice.

Smith attacked his sentence of community service and a fine as an attempt to criminalise anti-fascist action.

Mark Serwotka, an old work colleague of Smith's and now head of the PCS union, said of the conviction that "I am shocked at the verdict delivered in a magistrates court today, in the absence of any evidence, that Martin Smith, national co-ordinator of Love Music Hate Racism, was guilty of assault on a police officer at the demonstration outside of the BBC on 22 October 2009, against Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time."

He continued that;

"There is a danger that verdicts such as these provide encouragement for the abhorrent views of racist and fascist organisations and therefore it is crucial that across the labour movement we stand united in our condemnation of it.

"At PCS we will re-double our efforts to campaign against the far right, including organisations such as the BNP and English Defence League and we will continue to support Martin and other anti fascist campaigners when they are treated in such an unjust, outrageous way.

"PCS will work with UAF and LMHR to fight the far right wherever we can and also to highlight the unequal way in which anti-fascist campaigners and activists are treated in comparison with racist and fascist thugs."

A worrying development but it's good to hear that people are not willing to be deterred.

Cops and Newsmen

Chester Stern, the former head of the press bureau at Scotland Yard, has an interesting piece in The Guardian today recounting his perspective on how the relationship between the press and the police has changed. Stern says it started with reforms intended at tackling police corruption, but it hasn't always worked out that well.

The Andy Coulson affair has not just revealed some of the illegal tactics that sections of the gutter press have been willing to stoop to, it's also provided an insight into the the relationship between the press and the Metropolitan Police. Let's look at a specific example;

Many people believe that the police were reluctant to take the investigation seriously, a claim they strenuously deny. Andy Hayman (CBE, QPM), who was the police officer in charge of the hacking investigation, has defended the operation which has left so many dissatisfied that News International was not properly held to account before the law.

In definitely unrelated news, when Andy Hayman left the Met he got a lucrative job with News International. It's nice to know that retirement does not always mean inactivity but can lead to media stardom.

Suggestions of corruption would probably be entirely unfounded, particularly when you have possible incompetence staring you in the face. Like the time he was criticised by the IPCC when "he misled senior officers by failing to tell them that the Brazilian electrician was not a wanted suicide bomber."

A better example would be the time under pressure "Hayman apologised to two brothers who were freed without charge after an anti-terror raid at Forest Gate, east London." A raid in which one brother was shot despite being both unarmed and, well, innocent of any crime.

He was also in charge of the sickening witch-hunt against Ali Dizaei which, among other things, involved the police indulging in potentially illegal phone tapping. But to be fair to him that was a meticulously planned and thorough investigation that used loads and loads of resources - so you couldn't accuse the attempt to destroy a fellow police officer as incompetent.

I'm glad he managed to find work after all of that. In short, everything is fine. No police officers are corrupt. No media corporations are breaking the law and no politicians are complicit in the whole stinking mess. Hold on, I'm getting a call from my non-existence legal department.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Monday roundup

A few bits and pieces I've spotted on my journeys in the web-o-sphere.

  • Adam Bienkov has a good piece on the Boris bikes in Snipe. Check out the comments.

  • Lib-Dem uber-blogger Mark Pack muses on their Mayoral candidates.

  • Tasmanian Greens hold the balance of power and it seems to be going alright. (Check out Larvatus Prodeo for some great stuff on where Australia's going).

  • Interesting article on Portugal's drugs policies.

  • Cruella dissects the debate on God and science.

  • Darryl notes that Oona King is taking down her own statements as they're so embarrassing. Fair enough, but she wont be able to do that as, snigger, London Mayor.

Conference highlights

This Friday sees the start of the Green Party's Birmingham conference and it looks set to be the largest in living memory with a record number of pre-bookings on top of our surging membership since the election.

I thought I'd highlight a few of the fringes and events that are going on that particularly interest me.

* Friday at 7pm in the New Lecture Theatre Afghanistan: What now?

I'm looking forward to hearing our new MEP Keith Taylor speak as well as Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn, and Jonathan Goodhand from Afghan Aid.

* Friday night 8pm in "the bar" there will an informal bloggers' meet up. Come and chat to us, a good chance to ask basic questions or just have a rant about what you think bloggers should be doing.

* Saturday 3pm in the New Lecture Theatre there will be the first ever official Green World hosted fringe on electoral reform.

I'll be chairing a debate on what stance the Green Party should take on the probable referendum next year. We'll have a speaker from Unlock Democracy for a yes vote and a green stalwart for the no's.

* Saturday 6pm in the main hall there's a panel on public sector cuts with the excellent Salma Yaqoob of Respect, Billy Hayes the General Secretary of CWU and Adrian Ramsay.

* Sunday 12 noon in Lecture Room 2 I'll be attending, as a birthday treat, Sex workers speak on the need for complete decriminalisation of all aspects of prostitution.

I'm really proud that the party takes its policies on sex workers directly from what workers in those industries want, by actually speaking to them rather than just about them. It would be a great shame if we were to adopt the paternalistic and reactionary liberalism on this issue that others would like us to.

* On Monday at 1 pm, in Lecture Room 1, there will will be a science working group fringe on science funding policy.

We have a really impressive line up of speakers with Imran Khan - Director of Campaign for Science and Engineering, Frank Swain - Science Writer and Journalist and Stuart Parkinson - Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility. I think this is going to be a cracker!

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Sunday links

You've had your lunch, you're settling down to a good afternoon of napping, but wait! There are links to click first!

  • Great interview with Tariq Ali on Trotsky past, present and future.

  • Mod points to a very worrying article in The Independent.

  • AVPS has spotted a whole host of new left blogs.

  • I've also been enjoying browsing through Luxemburgist.

  • The Red Rock brings out an old interview with Caroline Lucas.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Camden Labour Leadership Hustings

There was a very strong turnout in Camden Town Hall tonight to hear a joint Labour Leadership and London Mayoral hustings. I was only able to stay for the leadership bit but thought it was rather interesting.

Almost the first thing that happened was the mere mention of Oona King provoked a stirring boo from the crowd as she'd pulled out at the last minute, something that a fellow attendee told me "She'd been making a habit of round London."

That doesn't seem very wise as, with a room full of Labour members, losing a dozen votes at a stroke (if you discount all the Ken supporters) is just a bit silly and arrogant.

We then heard that Andy Burnham had pulled out at last minute too which left just Diane Abbott as the only candidate present. The other pretenders to the throne were represented by substitutes of varying quality. David Miliband pulled in Charlie Faulkner, which I think counts as a big hitter and taking the hustings seriously, but the other candidates had more modest substitutes.

Ed Miliband even had a spokesperson who said *three times* that he'd already voted Diane 1 Ed 2. My partner thought this was a tactic and about winning second preferences, personally I thought it was just a poor, poor choice of advocate.

Anyway, as to content it was all a bit of a disappointment. Abbott was strong on name checking all the bugbears of the left: ID cards, the war, ten pence tax, detention of children, bankers are evil, housing et al. As she said in her closing statement "On all those big issues I called them right and every other candidate got them wrong."

Faulkner/David Miliband essentially put up a defence of the Labour government's record and made a clear pitch as the continuity candidate. Balls' speaker was very strong on the economy and robust in her advocacy of more investment, not less, as well as surprisingly supporting the Robin Hood Tax.

It was left to Diane though to say that Labour "should not roll over and die in the face of Tory assaults" and accept the idea that cuts are inevitable, nor that *these* cuts are inevitable. She said "we will not cut our way out of the recession, we have to grow our way out of it." I agree.

Compare that to Faulkner who said a) he opposed all the Tory cuts he'd heard about b) cuts were inevitable and c) if only it was Labour doing the cutting! Both morally reprehensible *and* logically inconsistent, good work Charlie.

The excitement of the evening came with a sharp question on youth justice and the failure of the criminal justice system when it came to young people. "Andy" and Diane made good cases for economic and social justice reducing crime although it was only Diane who got a round of applause for her very clear "Prison - does - not - work".

Again Faulkner defended the record of the government and was duly rewarded by a slanging match from the floor. Frankly it was good to see some passion and good to see a room full of Labour members uncomfortable with Labour's record.

All in all it was clearly Diane's (and Ken's) audience, and not just because she was the only candidate present, but because the audience liked what she had to say. When she finished with a rousing speech about whether she "looked like a Labour leader" I can't have been the only person to have been surprised at the vociferous applause she received.

Sadly she's hardly got any MPs backing her so she can't win, after all what would a leadership contest be if it wasn't stacked massively against individual members having a proper say? I'll give her this though - she was much stronger than I'd expected and I would not be surprised if she did well in the membership part of the ballot.

If you want to know what happened in the Mayoral half check out Richard Osley's tweeting.

Good luck Ken

Many Londoners, at least members of certain unions and the Labour Party, will be receiving their ballot papers for Labour's Mayoral selection today. I'd just like to take this opportunity to wish Mr Livingstone the best of luck as I'm looking forward to voting for him (second preference) in 2012.

An identikit politician like Oona King simply doesn't have what it takes to beat the Conservatives, and although she may well keep the loyal Labour vote no Mayoral election has ever been won on first preferences alone. Labour needs second preferences to win and Oona is just too uninspiring and, if I'm honest, shifty to win them in sufficient numbers.

I wouldn't vote for her and she'd stand a cat in hell's chance of getting an official Green Party endorsement the way Ken did in 2008.

In her campaign video (produced by the excellent David Schneider) she claims to have a solid record of political achievements, but you just can't compare Ken's uniquely radical record over the last three decades to Oona's neoliberal pottering about.

Ken is probably this country's most successful politician alive today and even when he lost the Mayoralty he did it with more votes and second preferences than he'd ever had before - he lost because the Conservatives hoovered up vast amounts of the Lib Dem vote after they ran a terrible candidate with a useless campaign.

If you care about diversity in politics, if you care about London having a left of centre Mayor and if you care about London's green policies - I'd ask you to consider selecting for Ken.

h/t Ken's video via Socialist Unity. Oona's via Liberal Conspiracy.

Linking Today

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Building a coalition of resistance

I attended a friendly 'organising meeting' for the Coalition of Resistance this evening which was put on to help organise both for the conference in November and help bring together a network of anti-cuts activists. Although it started the latter there wasn't much movement on the former, but perhaps that was an impossible task with so many people at the first such meeting.

Roughly one hundred and fifty people squeezed into the basement of Birkbeck College all of one common purpose - to oppose the economic policy of the government and make a modest start at organising that resistance.

Contributions by the likes of Paul Mackney (former union leader), Lindsey German (Stop the War Coalition), Dot Gibson (National Pensioners Convention), Lee Jasper (all round live wire) and others gave proceedings the required seriousness and weight. However, while we heard some interesting thoughts on what the consequences of the cuts would be, I do tend to think this was time wasted in a room full of anti-cuts activists. I've never been to an organising meeting that spent an hour or more on why we're involved in the campaign.

However, there were contributions from people like Steve Sweeney (Cambridgeshire Against the Cuts) who talked about the trade union campaign he'd been part of organising which showed what was practically achievable and were very useful.

Hilary Wainwright of Red Pepper made easily the best contribution of the day bringing the discussion back onto what, practically, such a national umbrella group could usefully *do*. She described how we should be providing resources to the plethora of anti-cuts campaigns up and down the country. More than that we need to be listening to them (I think she used the phrase that we need "an enquiring element to our work") finding out what cuts are going on and where the resistance lies rather than preaching down to them from a centre that we have invented for our own benefit.

This theme was taken up by others, arguing that we need "policy orientated" resources to give people the arguments when their local campaign is accused of being "unrealistic". Anne Grey, from Haringey Greens, talked about how we have lived in age of TINA for too long and that project to provide alternatives, like the Green New Deal, is the area where a national group can provide the most help to local campaigns. Something Lindsey German had earlier described as addressing the "political deficit".

I'm a bit cynical sometimes and I have to say when people said things like we should "give a voice" to local campaigns I thought "Don't you mean your voice?" or that local campaigns "need to be pulled together" I think "For what purpose and do they need to be pulled together by you?" However there wasn't too much of that kind of discussion and some people even talked about non-hierarchical organising, which was nice.

Guy Taylor, who had the practical the idea to [censored in case it happens], gave people a dose of how practical could be fun and was one of a few people present who advocated "creative" protests - something I've previously described as "recreational activism", that's both an important part of our arsenal, keeping people motivated and they're good for media hits, although beware over-use as it can become an end in itself, substituting for more substantive work.

Other practical suggestions included John Rees' (Counterfire) proposal of a day of action and another person, whose name I didn't catch, immediately suggested that this should the 20th October - the date of the national budget review - to help get local and national media to take seriously that there is a whole political movement that thinks the cuts are not necessary.

I'm aware there's quite an interesting discussion going on about about what kind of anti-cuts coalition we need, and I'll be posting on that soon I hope, but for now it's good to see people from different traditions in a room with each other, listening with respect and agreeing on our common aims. Hopefully there will be a bit more focus on practical organising next time.

Apologies to anyone whose name I've spelt wrong.