Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Better Ed than dead...

But the question is whether intelligent voters should be willing to settle for so little. The argument between the Labour leadership contenders was still all within the same defunct growthist paradigm. There's no real sense of the shift in values and aims that a real move to new thinking, as in a true Green New Deal etc., would bring (see  ). Let alone any sense of the legacy of Ralph M., and his brilliant deconstruction of the fantasy of Parliamentary socialism in the form of Labourism.

Better Ed than dead, sure (See  ) . But: Surely what we really need to say now, as David Marquand has done, is: Over to you, Caroline Lucas...


Monday, 27 September 2010

We live in a plutocracy/plutonomy - and here's the proof.

The shocking truth that we live not in a democracy but in a plutocracy - where the moneyed rule, based on a plutocratic economy (hence 'plutonomy') was exposed a few years ago in a remarkable document leaked from Citigroup. Understanding this should be an essential part of everyone's education.
Here is a definition of plutonomy:
Here is the actual leaked report itself:
This material shows how much needs to change, in countries like ours. This is why we need THE SPIRIT LEVEL, the Green Party, and much more besides...

Hopes for greenery, with Ed as Labour Leader?

I have some hopes for Ed M., as a plural and vaguely-green-leaning Leader: see my piece about his visit to Norwich when I met him, during the Leadership campaign: . But I also have real reservations. Not least of these is Ed's _record_: serious doubts have been expressed, and justly so in my view, about the role he played in Copenhagen; and he has still not satisfactorily answered most of the questions I have been raising for years now about Britain's record on carbon emissions (which, under Labour, was much worse in reality than the spin of either Miliband enabled the public to understand: see my piece here on this:

So I would say: Yes, there is some hope. But the _record_ is not as promising as most people seem to believe. And so Ed has a helluvalot to prove. He will have to do a lot more than say ‘Vote red, get green’, to win this argument…

I will be surprised if he ever - as Opposition Leader or as PM - contributes half as much in this area as Caroline Lucas MP, who is now Leader in spirit of the real Opposition, in my [admittedly biassed] view...


If you are not sure why this issue matters, then let me mention one word: Connaught. Yep: we need to improve the way Council decisions are scrutinised, alright...

Green Party city councillors are pushing for an "open and transparent council" ahead of the first full council meeting on Tuesday.

Greens said today that they will be using their increased influence following the elections earlier this month to press for a transformation in the way that the council is run. Prior to the recent local elections, Greens in Norwich published a manifesto which called for an "open council" and includes subjecting more decisions to the scrutiny process, doing work to allow service contracts to be brought back in house and publishing timetables of work (like housing repairs) online.

Following the September elections, the Green Party remains the main opposition to Labour on Norwich city Council and Green councillors have not lost their zeal to make the council more accountable.The Green Party increased the number of city councillors it has in Norwich at the local elections earlier this month, while the number of Liberal Democrat and Conservative councillors went down [1].

Claire Stephenson, the re-elected leader of the Green group on the city council said:

"The Green Party manifesto this year focused on making the council more open to scrutiny and more effective at meeting residents' needs. With an increased number of councillors we will be pushing hard to try and bring about the Green changes that so many Norwich residents voted for."

One idea Green councillors want to see put into practice is to create a disclosure log, published online, that would list the Freedom of Information requests received by the council and the responses given. Claire Stephenson said:

"Green councillors want to inspire a new culture of increased openness at city hall. Our local election manifesto included a whole range of ideas from improving the way decisions are scrutinised to publishing more information about the council and its activities. All of this should increase the accountability of council decisions as well as making the council more effective. We will be using our position as the second largest party in a council with no overall control to bring in as many of these changes as possible."

Green councillors would also like to see the council introducing carbon budgeting, increasing the number of allotments to meet demand and lobbying central government against the cuts to local authority budgets.

[1] The Green Party increased their number of city councillors to form the largest ever group of Green Party councillors anywhere in the country. They strengthened their position as the main opposition, with no party in overall control.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Online activism: threat and opportunity

The threat is of clicktivism replacing rather than complementing the real-life offline work of community-organisation. In order to ensure that this doesn't happen, it is important that online activism is as radical and angry and caring and community-building as offline activism. It needs to be about getting candidates elected, about responding to all sorts of big wrongs, about changing things rather than just building larger and larger mailing lists.
It needs to move beyond vanilla. It needs to lead... IT HAS DONE THIS IN THE STATES AND AUSTRALIA, and, to some extent, worldwide, through the Ecological Internet, Avaaz, etc.
But it hasn't done this yet in Britain.
I am involved in a group, that will soon be launching, that will change this state of affairs. The opportunity, I believe, is huge and important.

For all things Rupert, goto

Friday, 24 September 2010

New Statesman: AV letter of mine published today

 When Vernon Bogdanor taught me Political Institutions at Oxford, he always stressed the importance of detailed and unsensational attention to the actual facts. Sadly, he seems to have forgotten this advice in his own piece on AV in your 20 September edition. There, he repeatedly warns that the outcome of AV elections can (allegedly) "fail to reflect the majority view of voters". To support this contention he cites numerous statistical 'examples' from Australia and elsewhere. But what he completely fails to do is to provide information about the second etc. preferences of those voters who go to make up the majority. When that information is taken into account, Bogdanor's contention falls - at the first hurdle. For the plain fact is of course that every single seat decided under AV is decided by the preferences of a majority of voters.
 It is profoundly misleading to make a case about an alleged weakness in AV using only stats about voters' first preferences. Such a case in effect begs the question against AV altogether, by simply assuming the case in favour of FPTP.
 I expect such wrong-headed propaganda from the likes of the 'Taxpayers Alliance'. But I am disappointed to see it coming from the likes of Professor Bogdanor.
Councillor Dr. Rupert Read.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Clegg completes Thatcherite conversion with household debt metaphor

Useful material here from the top left blog, LFF, to which I am a contributor:
Left Foot Forward

At some point in early May, Nick Clegg's economic philosophy switched from Keynesian to that of a deficit hawk. Today he completed the conversion by reiterating Margaret Thatcher's flawed household debt metaphor.

During his speech today, Nick Clegg said:

"It's the same as a family with earnings of £26,000 a year who are spending £32,000 a year. Even though they're already £40,000 in debt. Imagine if that was you. You'd be crippled by the interest payments. You'd set yourself a budget. And you'd try to spend less. That is what this government is doing."

The argument was first used by Margaret Thatcher in 1976 when she told Thames TV's 'This Week':

"I think you're tackling public expenditure from the wrong end, if I might say so. Why don't you look at it as any housewife has to look at it? She has to look at her expenditure every week or every month, according to what she can afford to spend, and if she overspends one week or month, she's got to economise the next.

"Now governments really ought to look at it from the viewpoint of 'What can we afford to spend?' They've already put up taxes, and yet the taxes they collect are not enough for the tremendous amount they're spending. They're having to borrow to a greater extent than ever before, and future generations will have to repay."

But this line has been thoroughly debunked in recent times by The Times' Anatole Kaletsky and New York Times' Paul Krugman as well as by Keynes himself. Of course, until his Damascene conversion, Nick Clegg knew this. On Saturday May 1, he told Reuters that:

"My eight-year-old ought to be able to work this out – you shouldn't start slamming on the brakes when the economy is barely growing. If you do that you create more joblessness, you create heavier costs on the state, the deficit goes up even further and the pain with dealing with it is even greater. So it is completely irrational."

Lib Dem members tend to share this older view. A YouGov poll today found that only 29% of party members fully agree with the government's policy of cutting spending to reduce government borrowing. An identical proportion of Lib Dem voters share Clegg's position.

At some unknown point after the Reuters statement but before he spoke to Mervyn King, Clegg changed his mind. With his conversion complete, the Liberal John Maynard Keynes will be turning in his grave.

Social media for LFF

Left Foot Forward


Monday, 20 September 2010

Campaign to get Norwich car drivers onto buses

This [below] is a promising initiative that could act as a gateway to the modal shift toward public transport that we badly need. If combined (in places like Norwich) with changes such as Quality Bus Contracts and moving toward the kind of effective and impressive regime for bus-control that there is in London, it could make a difference.
Campaign to get Norwich car drivers onto buses

Plans to reduce a billion car journeys


A three-year campaign has launched today and all eyes will be on Norwich as it becomes a pilot region for the campaign to shift a billion UK-wide car journeys to buses by the year 2014.  If successful, a massive 2 million tonnes of CO2 will be saved.


And while it might seem like a big ask for the city's car-lovers, organisers of the campaign say this can be achieved if just one in 25 trips nationwide are switched from the car to the bus


The campaign is the initiative of Greener Journeys, a coalition of bus companies, including FirstGroup for the Norwich region. To help make the vision a reality, a million free bus trips are being given away nationally to get car drivers on board.


"A recent survey found a fifth of motorists would be prepared to swap to public transport for reasons to do with the environment. Just one double-decker bus can take 75 cars off the road, considerably reducing emissions levels," said Claire Haigh from Greener Journeys.


And it's not just the environment that could benefit from the positive impact of fewer cars on the road.


A recent scientific experiment conducted by Greener Journeys which measured the stress levels of 30 commuters when taking similar journeys by car and bus showed just how much mental  stress drivers face when they get behind the wheel.


Subjects experienced 33% less stress when taking the bus compared to when driving their car.


"The improvement in the comfort of modern buses might be a reason the bus is less stressful when compared to congestion, traffic jams and the cost and difficulties of finding parking," Ms Haigh said



For more information, or for your chance to win bus tickets visit

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Thich Nhat Hanh in the Guardian

Rupert's readers!
You may be interested to see the following articles following Thich Nhat Hanh's recent visit to UK.  I recommend them highly:
I had the great privilege of going on retreat with TNH ('Thay') a few years ago in France at Plum Village. You can get some sense of the man from these impressive articles, which (for once) have attracted some intelligent comments on CiF.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Be afraid this November

Sunday, 12 September 2010

#GPConf: Greens back AV!

Green Party Conference has just overwhelmingly passed my and Jean
Lambert's AV motion, thus committing us to backing AV in the referendum
(while maintaining of course our policy that backs PR as our ultimate
Caroline Lucas herself was among the speakers in favour of the motion.
Am feeling pleased - and excited about the battle ahead in the
referendum itself.

Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT]


Saturday, 11 September 2010

#GPConf : Leadership election results!: Reflections:

I was interested and (pleasantly) surprised by the Green Party Leadership election results announced here last night. Obviously, Caroline Lucas was re-elected unopposed without a problem. But what was interesting was the Deputy Leadership result. My close colleague and friend from Norwich C'llr. Adrian Ramsay won with a massive 75% of the vote, eclipsing Derek Wall who polled just 25%. Given that in 'the old days' before we brought in the new Leadership model Derek BEAT Party luminaries Keith Taylor (MEP) and Darren Johnson (AM) in successive years to take the Party 'Principal Speaker'ship, and given that Derek ran a vigorous campaign and aimed to win once more, this election result has to be taken as a strong vote of confidence in the electoral success represented by an icon of Norwich Green Party, and as a moving on from days of yore in the Green Party. Like me, Adrian is a radical: he is (as Derek himself pointed out, in a generous concession speech) a man of the Left, and also very radical in areas such as animal rights; but the 'Green Left' would-be-'faction' that _Derek_ represents has I think been knocked back by this unexpectedly decisive outcome.

I think in fact that this may well be the end of an era. The Party has made clear now with this vote that it is a professional Party that is going to elect its best elected politicians to its most senior public-facing posts. In that regard, this has been I think a welcome watershed moment for the Party.

It is too late for factions. Just as it is too late to be a pessimist. Rather than factions or purist pessimism, what our Party needs is to capitalise on and build on its success in places like Brighton and Norwich, and move swiftly to obtain and to exercise real, radical political power with responsibility - before it is too late.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Result of Norwich local elections:

Lab 16 (+1) Green 14 (+1) LD 5 (-1) Con 4 (-1). We came within less than 200 votes of taking a Labour seat in Sewell, and within less than 300 of doing so in Lakenham - but, with neither gain transpiring, Labour ended up having a good night too.
So, as things turn out: no #firstGreenCouncil quite yet...
Now (3 a.m.) bath, and then at last bed. And then Green Party Conference tomorrow. Am taking the 8.57 a.m. train to Birmingham... Gulp (Tired! But happy to be a member of the largest ever group of Green Party Councillors in Britain: 14 of us now, another new record...).

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Connaught debacle: Why the Council should run its own services

In advance of the local elections in Norwich, with 13 wards up for election on 9th September, the Green Party has commented today on the financial difficulties facing the housing services company Connaught, which has seen trading in its shares suspended in the face of £220 million in debts...

Connaught has eight contracts with Norwich City Council for services, such as rubbish collection, street cleaning and housing maintenance, and the firm employs 650 people in the city.

Norwich City Councillor and Deputy Leader of the Green Party Adrian Ramsay said today:

"We asked questions about whether this contract was too good to be true. We consistently argued that it's better to bring the services back in house and when these contracts come to an end, that it what we would seek to do if we were the largest party at City Hall. We believe this would provide better rights for workers, a better service for residents, and more accountability."

Claire Stephenson is leading the Green Party campaign for the City Council elections which take place on Thursday. If re-elected, it is expected that she will resume her position as leader of the Green group of councillors. Ms Stephenson said:

"Asking private companies to do the work of the council often turns out to be more expensive and means that the council has less control over the work that is done. Green councillors would like to bring some contracts back in house over the next few years."

She added that the experience with Connaught reflected badly on Labour's ability to run the council successfully.

--    Rupert Read  Green Party Councillor, Norwich.   [If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT]  WHY NOT FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER?: 

A new entry, at number 10...

Rupert's Read is apparently the 10th best Councillor blog in Britain:
Am feeling somewhat chuffed about this.
Thanks to all the commenters and contributors and administrators who help to make this blog what it is!

Monday, 6 September 2010

Greens on verge of history in Norwich?

Check out my piece on Left Foot Forward about this week's potentially-historic local elections:

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Cruddas exposes himself as a closet Blairite after all

My opinion of Cruddas has gone thru the floor, with his backing D.Miliband. Thank heavens Cruddas didn't stand for the Labour leadership himself: with such poor judgement, he wld have made a terrible Leader, evidently!
Cruddas says he is backing DM because of some warm words DM has uttered concerning communitarianism. Well, I'm a communitarian too - but that is no reason to prefer DM to the only two remotely leftish and greenish candidates in the race, namely EM and Abbott.

For all things Rupert, goto

'No Impact Man'

I will be speaking at Cinema City (Norwich) before and after the showing of new eco-documentary NO IMPACT MAN on the evening of Tues. 7th Sept. Do join me!
1. 2. 3. Rupert's Read: September 2010 4. 12. 15. 18. 19. 20. 21.

Rupert's Read

22. 23. 31. 32.