Monday, 29 October 2007

MY EAST ANGLIAN ROOTS

People sometimes ask me where my roots are. I was brought up mostly in London, and I've lived in Norwich for a little over a decade now - but my family roots in this region go back much much further.

One branch of my family originated from East Anglia. My great grandfather was Francis John Thorn, born in 1873 in the small market town of March, Cambridgeshire. In 1908 he married Mabel Grace Thorn, née Morris, who was born in 1880. They married in the church in March in 1908. Together they ran the family grocery business and soon moved to Peterborough where they opened a grocery store. On March 21st, 1909, my great grandmother gave birth to Freda Frances May Thorn. She was the eldest of four children; her siblings were Leslie, Reg and Margaret. They all lived in half a manor house in Woodstone on the outskirts of Peterborough. Freda went to school in Peterborough and then went to St Peter’s teacher training college in Peterborough in the 1920s. So, when I visit Peterborough or Cambridgeshire on Green Party business, I always think of my Granny.

My great auntie Margaret is still alive, and lives at the very edge of the Eastern Region Euro-constituency, in the St. Alban's area. Freda Lupton, the last of my surviving grandparents, died just last year, at the age of 97. By which time, she had become a Green voter, and very proud of her grandson’s civic role and Parliamentary ambitions...

Interview with RR in 'The Crab Line'

The interview below is reproduced from The Crab Line, North Norfolk newspaper of distinction -- to see the original, goto p.12 of http://www.crab-line.co.uk/download/issue_126_web.pdf

It May Well Be Two Years Away
Rupert became a Norwich City Councillor in 2004, representing Wensum ward, and was re-elected in 2007 with 49% of the vote. Rupert serves on the Joint Highways Committee of the City and County Councils, where he is a strong advocate of Norwich Green Party's Transport Policy. He is the Green Party's representative on Norwich Peace Council and has been a prime active opponent of the Government's aggressive foreign policy. Rupert is also the spokesperson on Transport for the Green Party City Councillors.

Naturally Rupert has a great deal of groundwork to get his name out to the wider Norfolk community and to get his message out for people like you and I to end up voting for him, as MEP.
How Rupert are you going to do this?

I’ve always been a campaigner, and the Green Party is thriving all over the East of England because we campaign so extensively on local issues. People now see the advantages of having Green representatives in their city halls, district councils and parishes. We help block plans for new incinerators and unwanted supermarkets and we encourage greener and more socially responsible planning. But there are other wider issues that need addressing too; issues such as fair trade, international conflict and dangerous climate change; issues that ultimately can only be fully addressed at an international level. My message is that just as more and more communities are enjoying the benefits of Green representatives in local government, Norfolk could soon enjoy a Green representative in the European Parliament (By the way: since 1999 there has not been a single MEP who actually lives in Norfolk. I hope to change that!). Over the next two years I’ll be working hard to raise the profile of so many important campaigns and speaking out with those involved in important local projects, but also those who want to see similar change at the European level. I’ll be outlining ways in which better policies in
Europe will create a better life for those of us here in the East of England.

Rupert, we now live in a society that rabbits on and on about such issues as global warming and every time we fly anywhere or step into our 4 x 4 we are seen a environment criminals and feel guilty. What are we supposed to do, bearing in mind that the USA are still selling cars with 7,000cc engines and do not seem to care, while the Republic of China is hell bent on out polluting the rest of the world. What is the point in even starting to be more green and friendly against these international problems or do we simple let global warming just happen and start all over again in a couple of hundred years hopefully having learnt something ?

With the fight against dangerous climate change every individual and every community has to take responsibility. Unlike other global threats, such as nuclear proliferation and human rights abuses, we are all a part of the problem, and we all have to play our part in solving it. But that doesn’t mean we should have to take on the full burden of a 90% cut in emissions or else suffer with the guilt. We need government support at international, national and local level, to make these cuts realistic. Why should a parent with young children feel bad about driving their family into town when the public transport is so appalling, or a low income homeowner feel bad about the amount of gas he burns when he can’t afford proper insulation. Green politics means putting in place decent public transport, and subsidizing decent homes and proper insulation, to make it easier for us all to do the right thing. I am not denying that the carbon reductions we need to make is one of the greatest challenges we will ever face, but with a strong political will and a real set of initiatives it is all possible. And there is no greater evidence of this than in places like
China and the USA. Dozens of American mayors and States have signed up to the Kyoto protocol, and the country is pioneering all sorts of technology crucial to reducing our emissions. China is in the middle of building the world’s first carbon-neutral city. I remain confident that we can avoid the worst effects of climate change. But every one of us must make the make the available changes in our own lifestyle while demanding from politicians the right framework to help us all with the rest.

It has been said that during the 1980's and 1990's we became very much a "me me society" how does one get across any important issue, outside of the selfish attitude most of our society has embarrassed?

By showing people that change isn’t about sacrificing an old way of life, it’s about gaining a much better one. For example where the issue is massive over-consumerism, we shouldn’t talk of having to consume less, we should talk of consuming and enjoying better. The organic food market is booming right now. Part of this is due to concern with the environmental impacts of regular farming methods, but a lot of it is due to the realisation that local and organic food is healthier, tastier and offers a better quality of life. There are still many people who view it as their right to drive an oversized car and therefore they shall, and no amount of protest will stop them. These people have simply been swallowed by the prevailing culture of material possession. But the winds are changing; for the first time since their introduction, sales of SUVs are going down - big cars are becoming less ‘cool’. And people are realizing that smaller cars are easier to park and guzzle less petrol; or that cycling keeps you really healthy. I know I’m oversimplifying, and there’s much about out society that’s still moving in the wrong direction. But the roots of change are there and the proof is all over the mainstream media, with ethical brands and sustainable products now leading the trends.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Prophecies of doom?

It is sometimes said that greens have made 'prophesies' of environmental doom, prophesies that have turned out to be exaggerated. And some headline-grabbing greens have sometimes done a bit of this; but, mostly, the allegation against us here is simply untrue. Prophesising is not a rational activity, and never makes sense where what is concerned is human action. For we always have a choice as to what we do. What environmentalists have done is made _hypothetical_ predictions: If x isn't stopped, then y will be much more likely to happen, etc. .

The problem with the argument that goes 'There hasn't been environmental catastrophe, therefore the greens are wrong', is that the first time a hypothetical turns out very badly, very few people will be around afterward to have the discussion...

We only have one chance to get this world right.

What the controversial and brilliant 'limits to growth' analysis of 30/35 years ago said was that if human habits did not change, then there was likely to be a resource environmental crisis and then a pollution environmental crisis. They turned out to be too pessimistic on the resource crisis that they hypothesised-- but too optimistic on the potential pollution crisis, judging by present trends. It looks like _if_ (that's the hypothetical -- one doesn't prophesy) we don't change our direction, _then_ a pollution crisis -- chiefly, catastrophic climate change -- will finish our civilisation, before most resource constraints have time to cut in seriously (though there will unfortunately be ‘synergies’ between the two – see e.g. my http://www.oneworldcolumn.org/132.html ). But if we manage to avert this catastrophe, then it would be unwise for people to argue that that shows that greens are wrong – on the contrary, it will be because people realised that we greens were probably right, and started to act accordingly… (As even Bush is doing, in a few respects, now.)

The precautionary principle makes clear that it is rational to act as if we are right, even if we might not be – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDsIFspVzfI for a nice exposition.

The leadership that is necessitated by dangerous climate change is therefore of a subtly different kind than is needed in wartime: see my ‘The possibility of Green leadership’, at www.rupertread.fastmail.co.uk , for a full-length discussion of why. If we succeed, then the measure of our success will be that many people never had to face the pain of realising first-hand just how bad things would and could have got.

The nations of the world showed something of this leadership in dealing with the incipient ozone hole crisis, a decade or so ago now. The incipient climate crisis is far harder to deal with, because its driving pollutants are central to, rather than relatively peripheral to, the main levers of economic growth, to which our culture seems as addicted as ever.

So that is the issue: Can we prevent greens’ hypothetical prediction concerning preventable environmental catastrophe from turning out tails, rather than heads? If we do not prevent this, then, as I say, we won’t most of us be around in our old age to argue about it on blog commentaries. Or if we are around, we literally won’t have the time and energy to spend it on blogging -- we’ll be too busy scrabbling together life’s necessities. Rather than, as we greens would wish, enjoying a life of plenty, of enough (See my 'Generation Less' post, below), a wonderful life that requires less economic and material inputs than our current wasteful and often deeply dissatisfying existence.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Green Councillors speak, on the leadership question

I am a local Councillor. In most strong local Green Parties, Green Councillors are our representatives in the governing of the land. Across the county, over a hundred of us are slogging their guts out to make the Green message a reality.

When as a Green activist you are looking to get a first Councillor elected, and when that wonderful moment arrives, and when your Group starts building in numbers, you want the national Green Party to be doing everything that it can to give more power to your arm. The Party nationally ought to be as robust and as media-savvy as our Parties with Councillors are locally.

That means Leadership. It means getting the front page of the _Guardian_ as often as we get the front page of the Norwich Evening News, the Brighton Argus, or the Lewisham News. It means having the same impact nationally, with a charismatic figurehead, that we do locally, through people like Adrian Ramsay, Keith Taylor, and Darren Johnson, who lead their Groups on their Councils.

Green Councillors want a Party that works well, that punches at and above its weight, a Party that will deliver the successes and the desperately-needed policy-changes --nationally -- that Greens are already achieving all over the country, locally. So it is no surprise that so many of our leading local politicians want change. They want a Yes vote in this ballot.

Goto http://www.greenyes.org/quotes_councillors.html to hear the message from the mouths of some of the 75% of Green Councillors who are therefore going to be voting Yes, in the imminent leadership referendum. Hear and read what they have to say; and then I hope you'll stop and consider how best you can offer them support.

Friday, 26 October 2007

Don't put the clocks back yet!

I've been on the radio quite a bit and we've had national coverage too in the last 24 hours because of our call, as Eastern Greens, for an end to the silliness of putting the clocks back in October...
BST should be extended in England and Wales; Scotland can have its own devolved arrangements, should a longer BST period raise problems with mornings becoming too dark north of the border.
BST ought to be extended until at least mid-November and to start again by no later than mid-February in England and Wales.

If I get elected in 2009, one concrete result that I will try to bring home is a major change to ‘British Winter Time’: the outdated practice of putting the clocks back to Greenwich Mean Time, each October. It is unfortunately an EU rule that keeps our clocks back right through late into springtime: as an MEP, I would work to overturn that rule.

Putting the clocks back for 5 months or more each year means more lights on for more of people’s waking hours: it therefore creates unnecessary carbon emissions. And it is proven that many people suffer from light- and sunlight- deprivation in winter months: if we stayed with the clocks forward for more of the year, we would make a lot of people’s lives better.

There is also fairly strong evidence that keeping the clocks forward for longer would reduce road casualties.

This is a really clear one: it is time to let there be more light in people's waking lives!

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Interview with RR on 'The Daily (Maybe)'

Jim Jepps, of the excellent leading Green blog, THE DAILY (MAYBE), has just interviewed me about RUPERT'S READ. You can find the interview by going to: http://jimjay.blogspot.com/2007/10/interview-with-new-green-blogger-rupert.html

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

The possibility of Green Leadership

Check out my latest online post on the Green Party leadership issue; goto:

http://ourkingdom.opendemocracy.net/2007/10/23/the-possibility-of-green-leadership/

RR on community radio

http://www.dominiklukes.net/rupertreadinterview If you have trouble making this work, then goto http://www.archive.org/details/DominikLukesAndStashKirkbrideInterviewRupertRead , and you won't have any problems.
The interview is for my new book, 'Philosophy for life'.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Eastern Green Party Euro-campaign officially launched!

The Cambridge LAUNCH of the Eastern Region campaign to get a Green MEP elected in 2009 was took place on Saturday the 20th. It went very nicely, even having a nice sunny day for it... See the launch photograph at http://rupertread.fastmail.co.uk/eastern%20region%20launch%20pic.JPG . In the centre are myself and the number two and three candidates on the Green Party list, James Abbott and Peter Lynn.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Hot news: UEA climate scientists announce disastrous decline in carbon sinks, today

A major news item today will be the uncovering by the world's top climate scientists, at my own University (UEA Norwich), of startling new evidence of the failure of the world's biggest carbon sink: the oceans. Basically, the study will point up extremely-worrying facts indicating the virtual total shut-down of the world's biggest carbon sinks: so that from now on, virtually all of the CO2 emitted (except those bits absorbed by forests etc.) will go straight into over-heating our atmosphere...
What more evidence is needed? It is time for the world to go Green. We have the solutions -- the grey Parties' blind economic expansionism continues simply to fuel the problem.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Iain Dale on Greens' leadership issue (and on RR)

http://iaindale.blogspot.com/2007/10/what-is-point-of-greens.html
Top blogger (Tory) on the Green Party leadership issue (and me).

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

The case for Co-Leaders

Congratulations again to all those elected in the Green Party Executive elections, particularly to Caroline Lucas MEP with her huge mandate as female ‘Principal Speaker’.

One of the reasons I support the proposal for change in our Leadership structures is that, provided that leading people put themselves forward in these ways, it potentially allows members to choose between a single and deputy leader and Co-leaders every two years, which currently they can’t do. For many this will I believe provide the ‘middle ground ‘ between the status quo and moving to a single leader.

Here is what I think might be a dream _Co-Leaders_ ticket: Adrian Ramsay and Caroline Lucas.

The huge extra profile that this would give Adrian, our Leader on Norwich City Council, could play a critical role in getting him into Westminster. Norwich is now clearly our second strongest Parliamentary prospect, after Brighton. Let’s get the referendum passed, and then get not just one but at least two MPs into Parliament -- our Co-Leaders...

Sure Caroline is pretty obvious as the outstanding Leader candidate. But why not do Leadership and do different at the same time?: Co-Leaders could be the way to go. It works in New Zealand, in Scotland, in Northern Ireland... why not here?

Alternatively, if you don’t like that idea: how about Caroline and Peter Tatchell as Co-Leaders? That would certainly guarantee us some profile!

At Green Party Conference last month, I spoke, in the leadership debate, in favour of Co-Leaders, as a reason for voting Yes. I’d like to quote here these words penned by Cllr. Matt Follett, on this topic:

“What was pretty clear from party conference last month, was that the current set up of Principal Speakers was not doing the party any favours and at the very least these titles and form of language had to change. The Green Party will in November vote in referendum for or against proposals to remove theses and in their place have a choice between Co-leaders or single/Deputy Leaders. A leading member of the 'No' camp in the referendum acknowledged publicly at Conference that ‘the status quo can’t remain whatever the result’. Similarly leading member of the Yes camp stated that ‘whatever the result I believe both sides share many ideas about what changes are needed and that they need to be realised quickly’.

It’s clear that those set against the leadership proposal are most concerned with the notion of a single leader. Interestingly, many undecided and new members wondered out loud what the middle ground might be. For me, the option of Co-Leaders in the proposal provides this. That doesn’t satisfy those for whom the very word leader or leaders shouldn’t be on any publications ever issued by the party, but there are many others, who are worried about a single figurehead, but who recognise the need to change, and who feel more comfortable with this prospect. Personally I think this shows up the flexibility of the proposal that we’ll be voting on next month, and demonstrates how much consultation and consensus was achieved in the drafting of it.”

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

The Northern Development Road -- it's official! Bad news for Norfolk County Council and their partners May Gurney

A very interesting document has fallen into my hands. It is the letter sent to Norfolk County Council by the government, on the question of whether the proposed 'partnership deal' with May Gurney for the building of the Northern Development Road (NDR...) is legal or not (see http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/10/northern-lots-of-unwanted-new.html ). The answer is that the government believes it is not.
Here is the heart of the letter (emphases in second para. mine):
"The key question for us is the scale and proportionality between what the strategic partnership contract was set up to do and the scale of the proposed major scheme...

From our view, the scale of the proposed NNDR is entirely disproportionate to the scope of the framework and therefore it is our view on your proposals that the use of the framework contract would be potentially illegal. We are not convinced that the construction of the proposed Norwich Northern Development Route (NNDR) can be procured under the subsisting "strategic partnership" contract.

If Norfolk proceeds along this proposed route, we believe that there is a real risk of a complaint being made to both the Commission and/or the English High Court. If there was a complaint and we were unable to satisfy the Commission that the scale of the NNDR is proportionate to the original value of the contract, then that complaint could result in infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom Government on the basis that Norfolk County Council is an emanation of the State. Depending on the timing of any complaint, any proceedings in the High Court could also lead to the suspension of any proposed contract, a proposed contract being set aside or damages awarded.

I am afraid that our overall conclusion and strong advice is therefore that Norfolk County Council should not proceed any further with appointing May Gurney to construct the Norwich Northern Development Route scheme through its Strategic Partnership contract and should instead commence a new procurement for this scheme."

This goes even further than my previous post on this issue surmised, and way further than the _EDP_ article on this, which only said, quoting the County, that proceeding with the cosy deal with May Gurney would be "inappropriate".

Let us hope that the media pick up the true full gravity of this government reprimand for Norfolk County Council's proposed actions.

Remember... you read about this key aspect of this story here, first!

p.s. It is also intriguing to note the name that the government uses to describe the NDR: namely, the 'Norwich Northern Development Road'!! Now THAT is truth in advertising...

The funding of this road is all about encouraging more development around the north side of Norwich, which will worsen congestion, not ease it.

If only the County had been honest about that, and called it, as the Department of Transport is doing, a Development Road rather than a Distributor Road (still less a 'bypass'), then perhaps far fewer members of the public would have been hoodwinked into supporting it and paying lots of Council Tax already for dodgy deals with May Gurney, etc etc...

RR on telly on Road-building

http://doughty.gdbtv.com/player.php?h=51cb01353fd1c176c1e8224e1f0c7242

My fellow EDP columnist Iain Dale interviewed me yesterday on road-building, and we talked also about various other topics that have occupied me and my interlocutors here on this blog: congestion charging, dangerous climate change, air travel, and Green Leadership.

Enjoy...

Monday, 15 October 2007

Caroline Lucas elected Green Party ‘Principal Speaker’ by huge margin

The results of this year’s elections to the Green Party’s National Executive have just been announced. The results were all close, except for the most striking result: the enormous majority for Caroline Lucas, elected to the position of female ‘Principal Speaker’. Caroline garnered 78% of the vote; her opponent, Jenny Jones A.M., got just 22%.

Caroline is the main standard-bearer for the ‘Yes’ campaign, who are looking to get the Green Party a Leader in the unprecedented binding membership referendum on this topic next month. Jenny is the main standard-bearer for the ‘No’ campaign, who are fighting to preserve the status quo.

So: If this result is anything to go by -- and it may of course turn out that it isn't, but IF it is -- then the ‘Yes’ campaign clearly stands a strong chance of winning the two thirds majority it needs in order to win the referendum, and transform the public image of the Green Party. And then Caroline would surely stand a very strong chance of being elected the first Leader of the Green Party -- tonight's results clearly confirm her status as very much the number one figure within the Party. That would place her in a powerful position to challenge the political status quo in Britain -- it would empower her to lead...

With Ming Campbell’s rapid resignation this evening, political attention will focus strongly once more on the question of who will lead Britain through the crises we currently face; above all, the crisis of dangerous climate change [see my post on this from Oct. 5, http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/10/will-it-be-tories-or-greens-who-offer.html ]. Announcing Campbell’s resignation this evening, Vince Cable, Acting Leader now of the LibDems, said that Campbell had clearly shown that the LibDems are the “only Party” campaigning for a “fairer and greener Britain”. The Green Party are about to step up to the plate, to vigorously and publicly contest that claim, and to make a serious case for why it is the Green Party that deserves public trust in fighting for a fairer and greener Britain.

Whoever is chosen to lead the LibDems next, they may have a real fight on their hands. I for one relish the prospect of Caroline Lucas being able to take on on equal terms Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg. . .

p.s. For an account of why I chose to leave the LibDems and join the Greens, see http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/read.htm

Friday, 12 October 2007

Generation Less

Exclusive to this blog, here is a DRAFT of my next One World Column (see www.oneworldcolumn.org or http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/commentary/OneWorld.aspx for previous columns by myself and fellow columnists.).
Constructively critical comments welcome! Any help improving what will go into the paper would be welcome.
best, and thanks in anticipation; Rupert.

GENERATION LESS

How do we go from Generation Stressed to what could perhaps be termed Generation Blessed? Since ‘X’, one negative term after another has described the rising generation; how can we break the circle, and at last create a new generation that is… blessed?

That we – and in fact not just children, but all of us (http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1871309,00.html ), are Generation Stressed, is scarcely to be denied (for the uptodate evidence, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6897485.stm ). To verify this, just ask yourself when the last time was that, when you asked someone how they are, they replied, “Yeah, just fine; really relaxed. Totally unstressed.” For many of us, I suspect it was sometime in the 1970s…

I want to propose a way forward. I propose that the way to start to de-stress, is to see that one is actually rich if one has much less than virtually all of us in a country like contemporary Britain have. We can be rich, while living in every sense within our means; and if we live with less, we will have a chance of turning the tide, and showering blessings thereby on our children and their children. We can create Generation Blessed, only by first becoming Generation Less.

‘Generation Less’. At first blush, it can sound negative. But being taught that what we need is more more more is what has made us Generation Stressed in the first place. The cult of consumerism is a treadmill – what used to be called the rat race – that terminally stresses individuals, families, cultures, and ecosystems. I stress “terminally”. The ultimate stress we are under is that cloud hanging over us in the form of a climate that we are changing such that human civilisation itself is under threat. Worse than the threat of non-state terrorism, or of the mushroom cloud, or of the exhaustion of natural resources (according now even to the FT -- see www.thepeakist.com/world-will-face-oil-crunch-%e2%80%98in-five-years%e2%80%99/ -- ‘Peak Oil’, which will lead to an economic crisis and to a speeding up of dangerous climate change – see my http://oneworldcolumn.org/132.html -- may be less than five years away), the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the ultimate stressor, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Our endless more is coming back to haunt us. More: to consume us. With each more throwaway ‘good’ that is produced, we add another brick to the CO2 wall that we are throwing up around our planetary home, and bring terminal over-heat one step closer.

It is the rising tide materialism and consumerism that has brought us to this literal rising tide. Generation Stressed is literally a product of ‘the affluent society’. The way out of stress is through: less.

But less needn’t translate to lack.

Because: Less really is more.

Less stuff. Less waste. Less junk. Less impatience. Less marketing. Less competitiveness. Less working hours. Less travelling. Less carbon emissions. Less fear. Less mental illness. And yes: less speed, and less choice. The speed of life and the amount of choice we are faced with are making us ill and distressed. Just as they make the planet burn.

We’re not talking about hairshirts and deprivation. We’re talking in fact about a better way to live (www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live ). The convenient truth of the matter is that the very things we need to do in order to stop climate catastrophe are the very things we need to do in order to become happier. Happiness comes not from affluence, not from material goods, but from the recreation of community, security, and simple human kindness. As we relocalise our society, as we reverse the neo-liberal globalisation that has brought us to the edge of catastrophe, we will willy-nilly recreate the seeds of well-being that have been withering since roughly the 70s.

Generation Blessed can come to us. But only if we take the road of Less.

We know that, in the true sense of the words, less is more. So let’s seize the day:

Let’s be Generation Less.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Norwich: congestion capital of the East

The Conservative County Council in Norfolk, in their desperation to fund their beloved Northern Development Road, are looking at all options, including congestion charging. Therefore, a pilot study is being undertaken into congestion charging for Norwich. This is only a study, mind you, and the results aren't in yet. Nevertheless, the old Parties have all decided that they don't have to wait for the results...
Some time ago, the Conservative Party in Norwich itself came out all populist guns blazing against the possibility of a congestion charge for Norwich. The LibDems then said that they didn't think there was enough congestion in and around Norwich to justify a congestion charge being looked into. Now Labour have come out and said exactly the same thing as the LibDems (Norwich Evening News, front page, yesterday (Monday)).
This morning, I travelled out to Easton College, to speak to the students there about dangerous climate change and what we can do about it (e.g. encourage people to drive a little less...). I was travelling out from Norwich, just as the morning rush was travelling in. I have to tell you, I was gob-smacked by the appalling volume of traffic on the B1108 (Earlham Road / Watton Road). Traffic was backed up all the way -- a continuous queue -- from the Outer Ring Road to well beyond the A47, not far short of Barford. To those who don't know the area: that is about 5 miles of continuous queued traffic.
To those who say that Norwich is not congested enough to even merit studying a possible congestion charge for the city, I say: please spend a few minutes on the Earlham Road or Watton Road, at rush hour...
Anyone who thinks that Norwich is not a congested place is living in a different universe from the one that I and all those thousands of drivers are living in!

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Be prepared: An inspector calls...

So, as predicted in my post of the 5th, no election after all.
This long false alarm, this false inspector calling, has helped all us politicians get prepared... and hopefully that will put us in the Green Party in really good stead for when it really is next time, in 2009 (or 10).
We'll have more candidates in place, and we'll be in much better shape to win a Parliamentary seat in Brighton, and maybe in Norwich and Lewisham and Oxford, too.
So overall, I'm pleased by Brown's announcement. It would have been exciting to have had a crack at kicking some Labour MPs out; but another couple of years will significantly increase our chances of success.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Will it be the Tories or the Greens who offer 'Green leadership'?

Events, dear Prime Minister, events... Cameron's unexpectedly impressive polls-bouncing Conference speech - on the back of a 'populist' (though appallingly regressive) pledge to give tens of thousands of pounds to the children of dead near-millionaires - seems to have changed the landscape somewhat. The prospects of a November poll are receding a little. Unless Labour's private polling over the next few days indicates a recovery of the Labour lead to at least 7 points (which remains altogether possible), I now believe that Brown will probably not go this year.
And what of the content of Cameron's speech? The line that struck me the most was this: "what we must be is the party of sensible, Green leadership, and that is exactly what we are going to stay". "Sensible" is code for "not actually proposing to do very much". But it must nevertheless worry every Green Party member that Cameron - the Leader the Party of the super-rich and of John Redwood - can so much as talk about the Conservatives as exhibiting "Green leadership", and seemingly get away with it. The Conservatives as Green leaders is a total joke; it's the equivalent of New Labour claiming to be true socialists or the LibDems claiming not to be opportunists... But Cameron does get away with it, because of how invisible the Green Party is on the national media stage. (That we have some local and regional media impact where we are strong does not gainsay our deeply-worrying lack of national coverage, at the very time when 'our issues' are more prominent on the national stage than they have ever been.) We were quoted in none of the newspaper articles which quoted this line from Cameron's speech.
And, while it is true that there is naturally bias against us in the corporate media, it is inaccurate sour grapes for us to blame the corporate media alone for this lack of coverage of the Green Party. The truth is that, despite real strength in our top target areas (we are at last truly in contention, in seats like Brighton Pavillion and Norwich South), we are in low single-figures in the national polls, and we still lack a single MP. We need to give the media a reason to take us seriously, so that they start conveying our message to the public for us for free, as they already do with Cameron's vapidities. If it is after all going to be 2-3 years before we can get our first MPs, then we need to take maximum advantage of that period. We need to show - now- that we are serious about taking power in the existing system, which is of course what we are going to have to do before we can transform that system.
If the Green Party is to have any hope of competing on an equal footing with Cameron, Brown and Campbell, then we need to be ready to _show_ the public our leadership. The first symbol of this must be for us to move to having a national Leader. When someone like Caroline Lucas is empowered to respond directly, on an equal footing, to Cameron, then we might start seeing the kind of poll bounce that the Conservatives right now are delighting in. I say to my fellow Greens ((and to the rest of you, dear readers: do join! Just click the button at left to get started!...)): Lets be the Party of radical Green leadership -- lets show that that is what we are going to stay, by giving our Leader the tools to do the job. Radical policy prescriptions are what is sensible, at this tipping-point in history. Let's give ourselves a shot at power, when the world desperately needs us to have that power. Let's lead, proudly and without apology.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

No more blood for oil: looking back at the Falklands

Everyone now acknowledges that the Iraq war was about oil. But what about the Falklands conflict? At the time, a few small voices put forward the oil hypothesis: that vast oil deposits surrounded the Falklands/Malvinas and that that, rather than the alleged ‘paramountcy’ of the wishes of a couple of thousand vaguely-English sheep farmers, explained the Conservatives’ risky decision to go to war to recover them. Those voices were shouted down in an outraged and gushing chorus of patriotic fervour that engulfed the country, cheerled by the ‘Gotcha’ press. But now, 25 years on, it is plain to see (check out for example www.guardian.co.uk/oil/story/0,,2174615,00.html ) that those voices were right. The British government couldn’t care less for a couple of thousand of distant nobodies – just contrast the fate of the Chagos islanders, who stood in the way of our imperial designs, with that of the Falkland islanders, whose presence fortuitously assisted those same designs.

An ugly dotted line of savage militarist oil and gas grabs connects the Falklands war with the Iraq debacle (going by way of the 1st Gulf War and the attack on Afghanistan). Next time our soldiers’ lives and our own security from non-state terrorism, -- not to mention the lives of millions of Hispanics, Arabs – or Persians – are recklessly put at risk for the sake of a shot at the very same black sticky stuff whose over-combustion is over-heating our fragile Earth, let us rise up, one and all, and say to our home-grown oil-addicted empire of short-sighted selfishness: Never again. We won’t be fooled again.

Who will lead on combatting dangerous climate change?

Listening to Radio 4’s _Today_ programme this morning, I had some trouble digesting my breakfast; I couldn’t help laughing over the repeated claims from Conservatives at Blackpool that their’s is “the green party”. What a total joke. For in fact, this Conference has already seen them junking most of their headline green-leaning policy-recommendations from Zac Goldsmith’s ‘Quality of Life’ policy group. John Redwood’s triumphant ‘Competitiveness’ agenda is clearly winning the day. Poor Zac must already be wondering when to return to the real Green Party. If you want to Go Green, you’ve got to VOTE Green. There is only one Green Party…

No-one can take seriously the fantasy that the number 1 Party of big business, the Tories, would truly have a green agenda. It is more interesting to turn one’s attention to the claims of Blair, Brown, and Brown’s most likely successor (if he manages somehow to blow the upcoming General Election), David Miliband, to have something to say about dangerous climate change. Opinion polls show that the populace do not trust the claims of Cameron (with his bicycle and his chauffeur-driven Lexus riding quietly along behind the bike) to be serious about the environment. But an alarming number do believe that New Labour’s commitment to tackling dangerous climate change is more than just spin, more than just dangerous hot air…

I am especially concerned that David Miliband has lyingly spun his government's 'achievements' on dangerous climate change, and thereby lulled the populace into a false sense of security: such that most people don’t even realise that our CO2 emissions here in Britain are still going remorselessly up, each year. Miliband has misleadingly claimed on numerous occasions that the fact that the government is perhaps going to meet the Kyoto target in narrow technical terms implies that it is actually reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But this is simply not the case.
Milliband has claimed that the UK had achieved major cuts in greenhouse gases since 1990 (incredibly, he has often cited alleged figures of Britain being on course to achieve 25% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2012). The figures that Miliband and his successors at DEFRA are using leave out embodied energy, the quite proper inclusion of which would make a
complete nonsense of any such notions (Britain is in fact 'exporting' its carbon emissions to China).
Even on the most generous figures available to the government (not only excluding embodied energy but also excluding international transport -- see below), CO2 has more or less flatlined since Labour came to power, rising in recent years, and thus showing an overall
small rise and is only slightly (a few percentage points) below 1990 (Kyoto baseline) levels. The greenhouse gas "basket", which Mr. Milliband and other Ministers are probably referring to is down more significantly on 1990 ... BUT this measure EXCLUDES AVIATION AND SHIPPING !! When those are included, there has been little or no reduction even since 1990.
And in fact, there has been and remains a further systematic massive under-estimate of Britain's contribution to CO2 emissions from air travel, because only aircraft taking off from Britain are counted. That sounds reasonable, UNTIL ONE NOTICES that almost 70% of the passengers taking off and landing in Britain are Britons. I.e. Defra ought to be attributing 70% -- not 50% -- of the emissions of planes taking off from and landing in Britain to the UK. This makes a huge difference.
Between 1990 and 2003, estimated CO2 emissions from aviation rose by 90%, a staggering increase. And even then the government stats do _not_ take into account the full effects of 'radiative forcing' -- the increased global heating effect of emissions at high altitude, with the cocktail of gases and water vapour that planes emit.

So New Labour’s claims as to its record on emissions are at best very partial and very deeply misleading. If the full effects of the increase in aviation, avidly promoted by this government, are included, then it is quite possible that there has been a significant _increase_ in global warming gas emissions due to Britain since 1990, and there _certainly_ has since 1997. A long long way from what Mr. Miliband and other leading New Labourites have claimed in print, repeatedly. For how can Britain possibly be "on course" to achieve the substantial reductions that they claims, in just a few years from now, if in fact there has been an increase in emissions, since New Labour came to power?!

[ p.s. Shamefully, Gordon Brown didn’t even mention global over-heat in his speech closing Labour Party Conference last week. But, in case you think that David Miliband would be likely to be any better, the following newspaper article is of potential interest. It sets out some of the ways in which even the Labour Party doesn’t really think that Miliband, behind the spin, is green…Perhaps this might help explain why Miliband was, in a surprise to many, moved on from DEFRA, after Mr. Brown took over?...: http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.1300488.0.labour_green_group_seeks_to_oust_pronuclear_miliband.php ]

The 'Northern lots-of-unwanted-new-Development Road' ['NDR']

A little while ago, I was on Radio Norwich, talking about the extraordinary and highly-unusual decision of Norfolk County Council not to competitively tender for the building of the Norwich 'Northern Distributor Road' [or the Norwich 'Northern lots-of-unwanted-new-Development Road' (see http://www.norwichn25.org/ for details) as it should perhaps more accurately be called...]. The Norfolk Tories decided to award the £106.5m contract [though the road will actually likely cost over £140m] to May Gurney [their 'partners'] without even considering any alternative bidders.
How nice, to see such a trusting relationship in local politics/business...
Some might call it a friendly relationship...
They might possibly even call it chummy...
[I couldn't possibly comment...]
A few hours later, news came to me by phone of a well-placed industry source who was incensed at this "collusive tendering", and who questions whether the County's plans were legal...
So it was no surprise to me whatsoever when the government rejected out of hand the County's intentions. The _Eastern Daily Press_ reported (
"Government veto for bypass contract") on 20 September that this desperately-bad County Council decision, that the government has now vetoed, will cost Council taxpayers "hundreds" of pounds. That is, to put it mildly, an under-estimate. The wasted money from all the Council-officer time spent on this, for wasted work by May Gurney which we will end up paying for, and (above all) the legal fees that the County Council will now have spent out on checking out whether or not their "collusive tendering" was legal (which presumably the government thinks it was not) is just the latest in a string of disastrous financial decisions made by the Tory County Administration (most notably, the PFI Contracts for school-building which have cost Council-Tax-payers here untold wasted millions)...
Rest assured that this blog will keep a close eye on any cronyism at County Hall, and everywhere in East Anglia where it appears to be taking place.
p.s. Perhaps the supposed political consensus outside the Green Party in favour of the NDR is a paper tiger, in any case. Consider the following quote: "Not many of us support the NDR really but we say we support it in principle to get other improvements." Spoken by Councillor Brian Morrey, outspoken Labour Executive member, at the City Council Executive meeting, 11th July 2007. Comment is superfluous...

Why the Green Party needs Leadership

I've written this little essay for this blog, to explain where I stand on the question of leadership in the Green Party. Comments are welcome!


The OED's first definition of the verb 'to lead' is: 'to accompany and show the way to' - implying both community and enlightenment - 'showing' the way, rather than forcing down a particular path…


Green leadership: Introduction

Blair. Brown. Campbell. Cameron. Owen. Steel. Thatcher.

Leaders? Hardly. Elective dictators, more like it. Dictatorial wielders of power over their own Parties and (when they are given the opportunity) the country. Miniature Caesars or Saddams. Forced to some extent to be that way by the media culture of this country, which (absurdly) equates being strong with brooking no internal division or opposition – when actually a mark of real strength is precisely a leader’s being big enough to allow real internal division and debate.

The Green Party is having an open, transparent democratic debate at present, on a very important issue – whether or not to have a Leader, or Co-Leaders; or to stick with the present system, in which we have no leader, but we do have two ‘Principal Speakers’ (whatever that means). Within a couple of months, the Green Party’s membership will make a momentous decision in a referendum – whether to change its existing system for a new system, in which we will have a Leader / Co-Leaders.

Not a dictator. Green Party policy will still be made by Party Conference. The leader’s responsibility will not be to dictate policy, but… to lead the Party. In terms of communication, strategy, and day-to-day direction.

Real leadership is about something very different from what Blair, Brown et al have offered. It is about inspiration, service -- and teamwork.

It is easy to react against the dire state of leadership in this country, and against the very-centralised way in which the ‘main’ Parties are run, by proposing the ‘radical’ alternative that at present grips the Green Party: having no leaders at all. But as radical political activists have known for a long time, ‘leaderlessness’ or anarchy is just as tyrannical as tyranny: take a look at the wonderful essay, “The tyranny of structurelessness”, from 1970, for an account of why [ www.bopsecrets.org/CF/structurelessness.htm ]. Without accountable Leaders, picked by the Party, the Party will be led (if led at all) in practice by those simply with the most time, the most cunning, or the most bombasticness. And without accountable Leaders, agreed upon by the Party, that Party will in the end have its leaders picked for it by the media, who will home in on their own preferred ‘stars’ within the Party. As happened to us in the late 1980s.

And never forget that the cleverest way for a big ego to hide itself is for its owner to pretend to be against leadership. An egoist has the perfect alibi, if they claim not to want to be a leader…


Acountability: Formal acknowledgement of Power is better than covering up "Informal Power"

If somebody is essentially running the Green party, or sounding off and making Green Party policy on the hoof in the process, but without being elected to any "leadership" position, is that an accountable thing? I say not; but that is the model the "No-to-leadership" advocates in the Green Party prefer. I believe in clearly marking WHO has power in our structures, so we as members, Councillors etc. know who to turn to for help, we know who is responsible for what, and we know who to make accountable for their decisions if things go wrong.

Power is everywhere. Informal power abounds. Named Leadership positions in the Green Party are about RECOGNISING and acknowledging who has power. Let's give the lie to so-called flat-leadership structures and expose where power really lies in our organisation, and make the power relations transparent.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if - in the real world - as well as voting for which political parties ruled us, we had a vote on the REAL people that largely lead our country, our economy, our world ... THE CORPORATIONS..!!! The UK's political system HIDES the real power relations in the world by offering us a pseudo-democratic front. Because it fails to name and expose the REAL leaders, they are not held to account. The problem is not the leaders -- after all, don't WE want to lead Britain to a better more ethical and sustainable world…? The problem is that the REAL leaders are covered-up, hidden from sight. We must not let the same happen in the Green Party.

But that is what is happening in the Green Party at present. We are led by… no-one, and thus have a lack of direction and purpose in the Party. We are led by… about 40 people, distributed around various internal organisations (the ‘Green Party Regional Council’, the ‘Green Party Executive’ etc.) – this enables lots of handy buck-passing… . We are led by… two Principal Speakers, who can choose to act like leaders if they want to, and lead us by the nose through making statements on the hoof, and can then conveniently deny that they are leaders at all, …they are only ‘Speakers’; so how can they be guilty of careerism or of being more than a mouthpiece?...

We need real accountable leadership. We need to know where the buck stops.

Identification with the leader: why the public want leaders, and why they are right

My experience, when talking to ordinary voters about this issue, is that it is just common-sense for a political Party to have a Leader. People want a face, a person, who they can connect to. Not merely an anonymous organisation or set of principles. We aren’t brought up on such anonymity. We aren’t used to it. Our social forms sit ill with it. That’s why we introduce ourselves at meetings. Indeed, at any social gatherings.

Our psychology has built into it a need to embody what we hear and understand and believe in.

The need to connect, to identify, is rooted deep in our heritage as human animals who flourish best in relatively small-scale localised groups where trust is relatively easy because the people in the group are mostly known to us.

This is a Green ideal. Not anonymous mass society.

Leadership works for us humans cognitively – it gives us a name, a face, a person, who is recognisable, accountable, knowable. You can get to know a person; You can’t really get to know a principle or an organisation. You can get to know Jenny Jones or Caroline Lucas or Adrian Ramsay.

But, under the Green Party’s current rules, you aren’t allowed to really project one of them as a personality, as someone whose name is on the line, as someone who can embody what the Party stands for… The public want us to have a Leader because they want us to be successful; but, more than that, they want us to have a leader just so that they can get to know us. So that they can see who we are.

And I think that it would work really well for us to have one or two figures actually at our head, to go up directly against Brown or Campbell or Cameron (or (God forbid) Griffin…); because for instance while these grey politicians cannot point to living a seriously green lifestyle themselves, our leader(s) could.

You would never catch Caroline Lucas cycling along with a chauffeured Lexus driving along quietly behind her!

We are missing a huge opportunity to communicate our message effectively to the public, by not having a face that they can identify, a life that they can measure up to our ideals, a person embodying our Party that represents it to them. A leader.


Provisional conclusion

Our country, and our world -- this one and only world that we have -- desperately needs real leadership, at this pivotal moment in human history. The long emergency of diminishing oil supplies and escalating climate change is underway: there is no external enemy to fight anymore. The enemy, in a way, is us humans: our own desires, manipulated and magnified by the markets, until we threaten to consume our one and only planetary home. This ought to be the overwhelming issue in the General Election campaign now in effect beginning. That it is not, is an indictment of our political system and of the corporations which in effect run that system.

We only have one Earth, and one chance to treat it right. Now is not the time for dictatorship or for anarchy; now is the time for true leadership. Nations and political Parties need leaders, who are prepared to inspire, to lead from the front, and thereby to work as part of a team, to face the vast challenges which we must respond to fast, if we are not to fail our children in the most disastrous way possible.

That is my argument. I think it is pretty evident that it is right… But before leaving the topic, a little more on why the other point of view is wrong…:


Leaderlessness: a liberal empiricist fantasy

It is an individualist fantasy to think that everyone is equally suited to leading. There are very few who are genuinely and consistently capable of leading (as opposed to being tyrants or dictators, which is easier). Let me explain this in a little more detail:

Anti-leadership is a liberal or libertarian fantasy. It is not radical or left-wing. It is covertly right-wing. It is in the end just as silly – as quite literally absurd -- as ‘the American dream’, the absurd notion that everyone can be a millionaire, if only they work hard enough. Participatory democracy etc. is great; but there are still always leaders, and to pretend otherwise is to stick one’s head in the sand. (Actually, anyone who believes in representative democracy at all already believes in leadership. I am an elected Councillor. Only my fellow Councillors and I can speak and vote, at full City Council meetings. A consistent anti-leadership position would abolish this rule. Would the anarchy that followed really have much to recommend it? ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES ARE ALWAYS ALREADY LEADERS. Right now, we in the Green Party are working hard to get outstanding individuals elected to Westminster: Caroline Lucas in Brighton, Adrian Ramsay in Norwich, Darren Johnson in Lewisham. It is just inconsistent to go along with that, to work for that crucially-necessary outcome, and yet not to allow groups of elected reps, or Parties, to have leaders.) Some of us are well-suited to lead in various ways, others are not. Precisely to what extent this is a result of nature or nurture is ultimately irrelevant – it is an empiricist fantasy to pretend that we are all equally suited ‘in principle’ to lead. We are (become) different. Some (few) of us are good at leading. They/we should be supported and enabled to flourish -- not attacked or kept in chains.

Anarchism is a fine political tradition, with much to warn us about and much to teach us. But when it teaches an absence of leadership, it teaches wrong -- and it teaches, moreover, in ways that are merely liberal and empiricist. As greens, we ought to be way beyond such dismal theories.

Being green is not about being ‘liberal’. A good dash of social liberalism – fomenting a pluralist society, that welcomes people of different ethnicities and sexualities, that includes the disabled, and so on – is welcome. But being liberal for the sake of it is wrong. It is wrong to be liberal -- tolerant -- towards everything, including ideologies of hate, such as racism, holocaust denial, dangerous-climate-change denial, and ‘greed is good’. Liberalism encourages each individual to be and to say and to do and to consume what they want, provided only that other actual individuals are not directly harmed: Being green (by contrast) is about entering into a covenant with the future, and holding future beings and all our ecosystem sacred. This is among other things a spiritual calling which is anethma to liberalism (for liberalism holds that spiritual matters can only ever be matters of ‘private’ conscience). Being green is about us acting and living naturally as teams, as collectivities, as communities, as unities. Not as individuals each with the alleged same capacity to lead. We function naturally as collectivities, teams, unities – and some of us, in these ways of working organically as teams, are better than others at inspiring, at co-ordinating, at planning, at arguing, at communicating. These are the leaders.

Leaderlessness-advocates claim that we are all of us and none of us leaders – all of us because we can all lead, and none of us because none of us ought to follow. This is the same kind of fantasy that drives advertising that implies that we can all have the best car, all have the best body, etc. . It’s a lie.

Anti-leadership people have been sucked into a right-wing [liberal, consumerist, etc.] ideology without realising it. Leaderlessness is a liberal fantasy. It is not an ideal. And it is not green. And it is certainly a quite hopeless basis on which to run a political party.

The only difference between right-wing liberals/libertarians and ‘left-wing’ (actually, there is nothing at all ‘left’ about leaderlessness)/anarchist liberals/libertarians, on the issue of leadership, is: that the self-styled ‘left-wing’ anti-leader people say that we can all become leaders, with enough help. But this just isn’t true. It is nonsense, to pretend that everyone whose door we knock on could, with enough assistance, become the next Caroline Lucas. Such nonsense holds us back, as a Party, from achieving what we need to. The British people want us to win, and to win big. To save the future. Lacking a Leader is getting in the way of this vital ambition.

Real leadership, is leading – co-ordinating, inspiring, and strategically spearheading --a team of others who have complementary skills. That is what the Green Party needs.

[For an excellent actually-empirically-grounded ‘green’ account of the skills needed in a successful team, including liberatory political leadership skills, I recommend Roy Madron’s Schumacher Briefing book, ‘Gaian democracies’. (http://www.gaiandemocracy.net/articles/SB%20Summary.pdf for a summary; see also http://www.feasta.org/documents/review2/gaian_democracies.htm )]


Conclusion

The Green Party’s system of ‘Principal Speakers’ has been monumentally ineffective. It has not changed the political culture of this country one jot. Meanwhile, it has positively hindered Greens from getting our messages over to the general public.

But there is a way that we could start to change the political culture of this country: By making progress in its political system, and by doing leadership differently, along the way.

We could show that real leadership is far from what our ‘leaders’ to date have believed. We could demonstrate, by practising leadership in a different way, what leadership really is.

And we could lead the country toward safety and a better future, in the process.

...To safeguard our sacred home and our sacred salves is our sacred task.

We are of the Earth. We are of each other. We are not discrete individuals. Leading (and yes, sometimes following) is being one. A whole. Anarchism – the fantasy that all of us and none of us are leaders – is a fantasy that is attractive in (dangerously) individualistic times, and in times where mainstream leaders (most of whom operate as dictators) have given real leadership a bad name.

But if there is a way to save our society, our souls, and our descendants, it will not be individualistic. It will be by means of true team-working. And true teamwork requires true leadership, as part thereof.

Leadership needs to be reclaimed. As a virtue. As something that is not dictatorship, but is… leadership.

Let us be ready to value and support true leaders, at this fateful moment in humanity’s story. Leaders who inspire and yet remain humble; who want to serve, not merely to glorify themselves; who do not pretend to do it all themselves, but rather are willing to be democratic; who have overcome the tendency to authoritarianism, dishonesty and manipulation, but who are ready to step up to the plate and say that they will take responsibility, and not merely hide behind a collective organisation… these are the women and men who may yet lead us through the crisis of our times.

In sum: It is nothing less than vital for the wider world that the Green Party embraces this conclusion, by the membership voting for Leadership, in the referendum later this year.

[ Links: For my recent Eastern Daily Press column exploring similar issues in the context of Shakespeare’s Henry V, please goto http://oneworldcolumn.org/158.html ]

For more to convince you of the need for the Green Party to go for Leadership, please goto www.greenyes.org or http://www.greenyes.org/rupert_read.html ]

What do the Greens stand for, vis-à-vis Europe?

People quite often ask me this question. Here is my outline answer (for answers from our existing MEPs, see Caroline Lucas’s website http://www.carolinelucasmep.org.uk/ , or the Green Party’s online Manifesto http://policy.greenparty.org.uk/mfss/Europe.html ; see also www.europeangreens.org ):

The Green Party is deeply-critical of the current state of the E.U. . The Green Party OPPOSES British entry into the Euro currency. There is no good reason whatsoever to abolish the Pound – if shops wish to accept the Euro, they can do so. But by giving up the Pound, we would be giving up any control over our own financial borders – which would be a terrible mistake.

Similarly, the Green Party OPPOSES the so-called ‘European Constitution’, which would be a disaster for public services such as the NHS (which the Constitution threatens with forced privatisation). The new Merkel version of this document still contains most of its most dangerous provisions – don’t be fooled by the merely-presentational dropping of the term, ‘Constitution’.

So, should Britain leave the E.U. entirely? No; for that would be throwing out the baby with the bath-water. Does acid rain stop at the frontiers between countries? Of course it doesn’t. A generation ago, the E.U. took highly-effective action against the menace of acid rain. Now, the E.U. has begun to take action against the [much-graver] menace of manmade climate change, through mechanisms such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme. The Green Party has many criticisms of this scheme -- see www.greenparty.org.uk/news/2898 -- but there is no way that individual countries can effectively prevent dangerous climate change, acting alone.

So: It is essential that there are bodies that can take effective action on truly international issues such as these. The E.U., for all its faults, is one such body.

The E.U is not the root cause of the problems facing Britain today: the raw and rampant power of international big-business is. Only international co-operation through organisations such as the E.U. can tame the power of corporate fat-cats the world over. Localisation, not globalisation, is what our economy and our society desperately needs. But localisation will not be possible, without governments and international organisations making it possible.

So: What is needed is root-and-branch reform of the E.U. . It needs to become an Ecological Union. It needs to decentralise massively, and to abandon absurd and unnecessary ambitions such as having a centralist ‘Constitution’. It needs to rein in the international mega-corporations that hold individual countries to ransom, and that offshore business like nobody’s business... It needs to face up squarely to the political challenges of the 21st century.

Greens elected to European institutions will make these things happen. For instance, Greens would implement a ‘site here to sell here’ policy, which would stop firms from relocating abroad.

This of course raises a fundamental question. Where does power lie, in contemporary Britain/Europe/Earth, in order to make the necessary changes?

Gordon Brown's New Labour government is taking shape in Britain. But
meanwhile, most of the real power remains 'offshore' -- in the hands of
unaccountable multinationals.
Global trade rules are at present heavily stacked in the favour of
international mega-corporations – and against localities and countries having control of their own destinies.
This is what the Green Party wishes to change. It bears repeating: Our agenda is one of localisation not globalisation. We alone have an alternative approach to offer to the neo-liberal economic policies which are wrecking our societies, our communities, our ecosystems.
On some issues, such as climate-change-prevention and the taming of
international big business, it is essential to work at a Europe-wide or worldwide level. The local - local shops and post offices, local public hospitals, even our coastline itself - cannot be fully protected without international regulation. If Britain tries to go it alone, as UKIP wants to, it will be swamped by the power of global big business. The power of money, which moves from one country to another with alarming rapidity now, buoying up some economies and bankrupting others.
In order to achieve a relocalisation of our political and economic system, we need to act locally, nationally, and internationally.
That is a central reason why Greens are working hard for election as
Councillors, MPs, and MEPs. In local Council Chambers across the Region (and across the land), Greens are getting elected, and in some cases, most notably Norwich, are now acquiring a position of real influence. Similarly, we need Green MPs in Westminster. Norwich, again, is the first place in Eastern Region where this vital event (of a Green MP getting elected) is likely to take place. It could take place within the next month!

And finally, it is critically important to have a strong Green voice from here in Brussels. I hope to be that voice, for the first time.

We don’t have much time to sort things out, before ecological limits make a mockery of our efforts to organise things in a civilised manner, in Parliaments and so on. It is very urgent now to put Greens into a position of power and influence.

Put us Greens in a position of power in Europe, and we will make the needful changes.

No-one else will…

Monday, 1 October 2007

The next European elections, less than two years away

Our Parliamentary electoral system in this country is kind-of mad... It is quite ridiculous that the Prime Minister can call a (first past the post) election whenever he wants. The European Parliament, for all its many faults, works on a more sensible system: fixed five year terms. ...The Green Party has recently launched its candidates-list in Eastern Region for the Euro-elections, which are now just under two years away.

As the person who was privileged to be selected to be lead candidate on that list, I am especially excited by the prospect that we may at last get what we urgently need in Eastern Region – a Green MEP. Someone to represent everyone in Eastern Region properly at Brussels. A Parliamentarian for all Green-minded people in the East of England, whether you are from a strong Green area or not.

A generation ago, the E.U. took highly-effective action against the menace of acid rain, and it is currently beginning to take action against the much graver menace of man-made climate change. We desperately need more Greens to get elected to Brussels at the first opportunity, to push the E.U. much further and faster in this direction. If I were elected to Brussels, I would prioritise action to stop dangerous climate change. In particular, I would focus on transport policy, one of my areas of expertise. The E.U. could help to drastically reduce the carbon emissions from transport – the area where emissions are at present growing moving precisely in the wrong direction, fastest…

I would also focus on policies to aid localisation, and on improving the E.U.’s record on the Middle East.

If you want to help get a Green MEP from this Region, then please get in touch. This blog is being launched now in part to make a connection with anyone in the Region who would like to see the first Green MEP from Eastern Region elected to the Brussels Parliament, where so much of our legislation now originates. Anything you do for the Green Party over the next two years helps brings the vision of an Eastern Green MEP one step closer to being reality.

Thank you.

1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: October 2007 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.