Friday, 28 March 2008

*A4e: Changing People's Lives

Guest posting from my friend Alan Wheatley, Disability Spokesperson of the London Green Party:

Today at A4e on the New Deal Intensive Action Programme induction, we were each assigned a folder with induction materials. I say, "assigned" rather than "given;" the folders with induction material are stored at the A4e building and so we are not allowed to take the induction materials out with us. By contrast, on my Certificate in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector course, reference materials for each class session are available to us via the course's 'Virtual Learning Environment' and proved very helpful to me recently in my completion of Reflective Learning Journals for that course. The course leader commended my Reflective Learning Journals as "excellent -- the best [he'd] seen" and sought my permission to show them to other students as models of best practice!

Lack of signposting information for New Deal 'Intensive Action Programme' participants at A4e

Another major issue for me with A4e is that there is no clear signposting information available to prospective 'beneficiaries' [sic] in advance -- either via their website or at the Jobcentre. ('Beneficiaries' is the term A4e applies to those who are mandated to attend their programme and do not risk losing benefit by refusal of that call-up.) It appears that the more mandatory a programme, the less the subjects of that programme are permitted or encouraged to make really informed choices. Lack of signposting information reduces the choices I can make and increases my anxiety levels -- especially when I am given little or no choice!

By contrast, I recently attended three of a series of four exciting and fulfilling Personal Development Workshops organised by Age Concern Camden's Employment Advice Programme; the flyer helped prepare participants for the four weekly sessions:
  1. Self-awareness and skills assessment
  2. Creating a dynamic future
  3. Assertiveness and confidence building
  4. Setting goals and action planning
and I was looking forward to attending the last session -- which my mandatory New Deal attendance now bars me from attending.

If outsiders gained access to the induction materials from A4e, they would witness -- among other things -- unprofessionally photocopied forms and information sheets that have content overspilling the margins. On the premises, there is a shortage of computers in relation to the people using them and monitors set with resolutions that cause eye strain -- and permission for the user to change the monitor settings to suit personal preference is denied.

It is not surprising to me that much of A4e's corporate work is in prisons, 'delivering' the Offender Learning And Support Services. ('Delivering' suggests a one-way process rather than interaction. It is riddled with managerialist 'targets', as a recent 'letter of the week in Community Care magazine pointed out.) Like 'beneficiaries' of a mandatory New Deal programme, prisoners are deemed a 'captive audience' and thus it does not seem necessary to A4e to appeal to prospective 'beneficiaries' before their first point of contact. A4e is not the only player in 'delivery' of 'welfare to work' programmes, but I find it the most frightening in the way that it presumes to take over so many areas of government-funded services. It plans to deliver legal aid services for the government, offers debt advice and counselling services. Yet I believe it ambitions in these regards and approach to 'informed choice' in relation to confidentiality and signposting information regarding New Deal participation signals cause for public concern. It reminds me of David C Korten's appropriately titled book, 'When Corporations Rule the World'.

The logo of A4e appears in the A4e building on Holloway Road, with the slogan, "Changing people's lives." I would rather be assisted -- as a citizen -- in making my own changes, than be made a commodity of by a private company that makes huge bonuses out of imposing change on others' lives. It would be interesting to compare the information access policies of the various New Deal brokering companies -- and for more 'whistle blowers' to come forward.

Alan Wheatley
Disability Spokesperson for London Green Party

For further study, compare the following websites: and

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

*Recent meeting with Irish Green Party Leader.

With our London Mayor candidate, Sian Berry and John Gormley, Minister of the Environment in the Irish Government.

Friday, 21 March 2008

* EDM tabled against the persecution of photographers

EDM tabled against the persecution of photographers

Early Day Motion
EDM 1155


Mitchell, Austin

That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people's art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public's right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion.

Things are coming to a pretty pass when there has to be an Early Day Motion in parliament to attempt to stop the harassment of amateur photographers. A friend of mine recently got stopped and searched by the police because he had photographed a cycle lane!

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

*ID Scheme – Repackaged

The No2ID campaign say, “Don't be fooled”. Contrary to reports in the media, the government is pressing ahead with its ID scheme - it has simply repackaged it.

Last Thursday the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith launched the ID scheme 'Delivery Plan', much of which NO2ID had already revealed via annotated leaked documents that have now spread all over the internet. It is clear that the aim is to grab as much data as possible as quickly as possible, to try and coerce or dupe as many people as possible into being enrolled on the ID database (the 'National Identity Register'), with the aim of making universal registration seem inevitable.

To help this plan along the Home Office has repackaged its proposals to hide the less palatable parts of the system. Its approach will be more subtle, (except for those who face losing their job if they refuse to be registered) in the hope that they will be fooled into "choosing" a lifelong regime of red tape, fines and inconvenience.

From November, non-EEA (European Economic Area) foreign national students or those on a marriage visa will be compelled to have ID cards. In 2009 airside staff at UK airports will be issued with ID cards – most likely as part of the vetting process, to make it seem like less of a big deal to those affected. Next, young people will be encouraged to sign up "voluntarily", perhaps with pre-filled forms ready to sign and

return and a list of alleged benefits if they join the ID club.

This repackaging conceals the reality - once on the National Identity Register, you are on for life. All of the penalties and fines for not keeping your data up to date or accurate will kick in, and you will be numbered forever.

What's next? - NO2ID London Mayoral Hustings - Tuesday, 8th April 7.00 pm at Friends House, 173 Euston Road NW1 2BJ. NO2ID. How do the candidates for Mayor of London feel about the civil liberties and privacy implications of national ID schemes? What is their attitude to the database state? Prospective candidates Sian Berry(Green), Gerrard Batten (UKIP),) Lindsay German (Respect), Boris Johnson (Conservative), and Brian Paddick (LibDem) have indicated interest in participating.

Details of the campaign, petition forms, merchandise etc. available from The NO2ID Campaign, Box No. 412, 19-21 Crawford Street, London, W1H 1PJ, email: or see the website: or telephone 07005 800 651

Monday, 17 March 2008

*Letter to Observer: Children on DNA list.

The emphasis on targeting potential future offending school children for inclusion on a DNA database rather than for measures which might help them avoid a future of criminality is as depressing as it is revealing.

Clearly some police officers think it is preferable to give up on children and effectively tag them rather than put in the hard work and resources needed to give all children a decent start and avoid the criminality the police think they are on the road towards.

Clearly some police officers will always feel they should argue for more and more powers, it is up to the rest of us to defend a more appropriate balance between the state and individuals.

Noel Lynch,
Chair, London Green Party

Sunday, 16 March 2008

*Trafalgar Square yesterday.

With Miranda Dunn, Green Party candidate for the Barnet/Camden London Assembly elections.


The above headline has been exercising some people on the blogsphere.

It is alleged that Boris posed for photos in front of a busker while waving a £20 note. When the photographer left, Boris pocketed the £20.

I remember that during the 2004 GLA elections, I dropped a £1 coin to a busker under Parliament Square. When he saw my rosette, he said ‘Hold on a moment’ and grabbed a handful of change and said ‘That’s for the Green Party!’

I must be the only person to have received money from a busker :-)

Saturday, 15 March 2008

*Demo etc today.

Up early as I had a photo shoot and meeting with Sian and John Gormley at Hyde Park. John is the Irish Green Party leader and Minister of the Environment in the Irish Government. Darren Johnson also joined us. John was quite interested to hear of our successes in London.

Working breakfast with Darren, who is also our GLA elections coordinator, then on to the anti-war demo in Trafalgar Square. On the way I nipped into the weekly coin fair in Villiers Street and picked up a few goodies for the Green Room.

We had hundreds of placards and thousands of leaflets to distribute as well as the usual networking. Romayne Phoenix and Jonathan Essex had done a great job in organising the stall and supplies. Ken Burgess alone gave out several thousand leaflets.

Speeches went on a bit. and were not terribly inspiring. Caroline Lucas, as ever, was great, George Galloway less so. He is going to lose a lot of support because of his recent homophobic remarks!

Respect (SWP) were there promoting their ‘Left List’ for the Assembly and there was a much smaller presence of Respect Renewal promoting their list for the Assembly. Most people were totally confused

4 or 5 people from London CND (I think) were giving out a fairly pedestrian leaflet supporting Ken Livingston and a Muslim group had a flashier leaflet also calling for support for Ken.

My estimate of the crowd was not more than 20,000, not the 50-60,000 claimed by the organisers. No doubt the police will estimate it at 5,000:-)

I had the honour to be accompanied on the march by Henry Wimbourne, who at 90 is the second oldest member of Barnet Green Party.

*London Green News - review

New London Green News out now

Poppy, Barnet green, reviews the latest issue of London’s green newspaper.

There are some cool endorsements of our Green GLA campaign in the spring issue of London Green News, out last week.

Christian Wolmar undisputed trains expert contributes a devastating analysis of our railways; and the renowned journalist and author John-Paul Flintoff profiles Darren, so that all readers can learn better to distinguish the green Johnson from the other, blond one. Peter Tatchell is also there, cutting through the mealy-mouthed cant to expose the BNP for what it is.

The paper benefits from more than one picture of the most attractive mayoral candidate London has ever known, and if readers want to know what Green policies are for London they are outlined across a number of articles – transport features on the front page. But there’s a lot to learn not just from the articles, but the advertisements as well. Cheap holidays to Europe (by train of course) are on offer, a competition for a slap-up organic meal features among all sorts of environmentally friendly goods and services you may never have heard of. No letters page, yet, but there are other surprises not previewed in this short intro.

For your copy contact LGN board member Noel Lynch at

Friday, 14 March 2008

*Olympics draining off charity funding.

The crisis in funding the voluntary sector in London, particularly the
arts, is highlighted in the announcement that Artsline, a cutting edge
disability arts organisation, is closing down.

Much of the crisis stems from the direction of funding in London towards
the Olympics at a huge cost to small charities and arts organisations.

Last week a meeting organised by the National Lottery for the voluntary
sector was told that funding for the whole sector nationally from the
Lottery will halve from 2009 to 2013. This may well be one of the worst
aspects of the Olympic 'legacy' for London.


From SchNEWS:


Met Cops hit a new low this week - targeting a soup kitchen handing out
food to the homeless. The 'Reclaim your food' collective were
handing out free soup near The Oval, London (as they do every Sunday).
Twenty cops in two vans - plus a CCTV crew - turned up to ensure that
this act of flagrant charity did not go unpunished.

Enraged by the free organic bread, skipped soup and insurrectionary
rhubarb crumble on offer, the plod had no choice but to act. Two of the
servers were arrested, while everyone else was held in a kettle and
photographed. All this because they were causing alarm, harassment and
distress to the local 'community' and apparently 'attracting crack
dealers' (well we all know how much they love a good crumble with the

SchNEWS's man on the scene has made a short film - see

* Please support reclaim your food. Email:

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

* BUDGET: Brown not Green!


Caroline Lucas MEP has responded with disappointment to Alistair
Darling's first Budget, pointing especially to climb downs on the
planned 2p increase in fuel duty and the missed opportunity of a
windfall tax on energy company profits to tackle fuel poverty.

The Green Party's Principal speaker also expressed her doubt that the
government's target for reducing child poverty could be met without
much greater spending commitments, with the £3.4bn calculated to be
required gallingly matching the £3.3bn due to be spent on the Iraq and
Afghanistan occupations this year alone.

Dr Lucas said:

"This Budget isn't Green, it's Brown. After spinning extensively that
we were going to see the most environmental budget ever, the
government have given us more of the same.

"It tells you all you need to know about the government's attitude to
the environment that Darling chose the section on climate change to
reaffirm his commitment to expanding both Heathrow and Stansted
airports. He claims he wants tougher carbon reduction targets, but if
air travel expands in the way he wants, the only way to meet the cuts
we need would be to sacrifice every other part of our economy.

"Under pressure from roads lobbyists, he has backed down on the
already timid 2p rise in fuel duty, putting it back until autumn
apparently due to high oil prices. If he really thinks oil will be
cheap by October, his basic understanding of economics must surely be
in doubt. Fossil fuel costs will remain high as long as demand
remains high, and cowardly decisions like this will only make the
problem worse, not better.

"The £20 increase in child benefit is of course welcome, but it falls
well short of what is required to meet the government's laudable
targets for cutting child poverty. The £3.4bn that it would take to
halve child poverty by 2010 is instead being spent on occupying Iraq
and Afghanistan in 2008 alone. We need a real commitment to spending
on the things that matter, we need to insist that employers pay a real
living wage, and we need to end the assault course of benefit traps
and welfare blackmail that the government has set up on the border
between benefits and work."

Monday, 10 March 2008

*New evidence against animal experiments

New evidence against animal experiments

2 respected scientific journals have recently published disturbing new evidence demonstrating that:

1. Animal experiments are not generally useful in contributing toward advancements in human healthcare, or predictions of human toxicity; and, 2. Despite most closely modelling human beings, chimpanzee experiments have contributed minimally toward the development of cures for human diseases.

The evidence provided by these controversial new studies is strongly contrary to more traditional scientific opinion that animal experiments are essential during the development of cures for human diseases. Although opinions have been passionately expressed on both sides of the debate, hard evidence about the merits of animal experimentation for these purposes has generally been lacking, until now.

Study author, London-based veterinary scientist Andrew Knight said: "These combined results from thousands of animal experiments prove they rarely, if ever, contribute toward advances in human healthcare.

Furthermore, they do not reliably predict human toxicity. Continuing to rely on animal models in denial of scientific evidence of such strength risks human lives."

Knight A. Systematic reviews of animal experiments demonstrate poor human clinical and toxicological utility. ATLA: Alternatives to Laboratory Animals 2007;35(6):641-659.

2. Knight A. The poor contribution of chimpanzee experiments to biomedical progress. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 2007;10(4):281-308.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

*London Green News.

Another plank of our election campaign has just been completed with the arrival of the latest edition of London Green News. We finished editing it on Monday evening and the copies arrived at 29 drop off points on Friday evening.

LGN is a tabloid newspaper, 12 pages full colour. Print run of 340,000. This probably makes it the biggest circulation green newspaper – ever.

It is now being distributed in 120 target constituencies across London.

Anyone out there who would like to help-out with the distribution, please contact me. Likewise, anyone who would like a copy, please send me your name and address.

Friday, 7 March 2008


Here's another reason for retailers to charge for plastic bags.

The swirling debris of plastic trash in the Pacific Ocean has now grown to a size that is twice as large as the continental U.S.

How do we know this? The Alguita Marine Research team just landed from a month-long tour of the area, known as the North Pacific Gyre. They set out to investigate just how much plastic debris is floating in the ocean, how this plastic affects marine life, and how this might affect humans that eat fish found in the area.

Specific answers to these questions will be forthcoming as they evaluate the evidence they brought back. But past studies have shown that less than 5% of plastic ever gets recycled and each American disposes of roughly 65 lbs. of plastic each year.

In the ocean, "Degraded plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the central North Pacific by a factor of 6-1. That means six pounds of plastic for every single pound of zooplankton." The Algalita Marine Research Foundation, the environmental non- profit organization, chartered the oceanic voyage into the floating trash. Their work is incredibly valuable for demonstrating an even greater need for retailers and producers to limit the amount of plastic used in packaging goods.
Copyright Environmental News Network

Thursday, 6 March 2008


"There is silence and blackness. Then, slowly, the words "Not long ago, in a supermarket not so far away" scroll across the screen, blue letters against the black background; a large shopping trolley moves across the screen, chasing a small basket filled with vegetables and firing red laser beams. Then two characters appear: Cuke Skywalker, a cucumber in a blond wig, and Obi Wan Granoly (who looks like a stick of Peperami, but that can't be intentional). The traditional ways of the "farm", explains Obi Wan Granoly, are under threat from "an empire of pollution and pesticides". Cuke must team up with Ham Solo and Chew Broccoli to rescue Princess Lettuce and defeat Darth Tater, who is "more chemical than vegetable".

No, this isn't a new offering by film parodists Adam and Joe, or the latest weirdness from YouTube; this is Star Wars according to organic vegetables. Renamed "Store Wars", the film can be found on, the first broadband channel devoted to environmental films. The channel went live in 2006 with seven channels covering air, land, water, climate change, people, species and technologies; films are sourced from around the globe produced by non-governmental organisations, community film-makers, public-sector bodies and other companies, as well as user-generated content. Each channel has a feature, a children's film and a news story."

Saturday, 1 March 2008

*Only two months to go

I haven’t been posting much to the blog over the last month or so. This is because the London Mayor and Assembly elections are on May 1st. and life is hectic. Meetings most nights and some days. Constant phone calls from early morning until after midnight.

These are London-wide elections for the Mayor and London Assembly.

The Assembly consists of 14 constituency seats elected under the traditional first-past-the-post system and eleven Londonwide seats elected from party lists on a Proportional Representational top up system. The Green Party is contesting all seats. Sian Berry ( ) is our candidate for Mayor. In 2004 we won two seats on the Londonwide list – Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson. They are also numbers one and two in this election and I am number three with Sian as number four. We have high hopes of taking four seats!

People outside the political process are rarely aware of the amount of preparatory work required to run an election campaign. There are manifestos to be written, leaflets, posters etc to be designed, candidates to be selected and briefed. Campaign launches, TV broadcast to be commissioned and filmed, press briefings and interviews and a hundred other things.

On top of all that you need the money to pay for it. The Green Party does not have big business or big unions to support us, so we have to rely on our faithful members and supporters. With everything done on a shoestring, we have to be very creative in the use of the money. Our broadcasts in 1989 (by David Bailey) and 1999 (Message in a bottle) are rated among the best ever PEB made by anyone. The latter broadcast can be found on the web. This year’s broadcast is quite innovative and will be shown in April.

Among other things I have been part of the small, hard working fundraising group. WE STILL NEED MONEY, please give us some.

Apart from being No.3 candidate, my post in this campaign is Local Party Support. This has entailed traveling around London meeting, briefing and enthusing our local parties and activists. In the last few weeks, I have visited most local parties and been in touch with every single one.

Here are some of the materials being produced:

London Green News, our 12 page tabloid newspaper will be hitting the doorsteps on Saturday next. It has a print run of 340,000.

A Mayor Pledge Card in the shape of a pound note will be distributed at 92 tube and train stations on the morning of Budget Day (March 12th)

500,000 campaign leaflets will be distributed across London, starting in early April.

Party Election Broadcast, probably on the week starting April 7th.

Thousands of VOTE GREEN PARTY posters. If you want one, please contact me on

We will also produce Green Party posters in dozens of languages. There are 300 spoken languages, in London.

We will also have two pages in the Mayoral booklet, which will be posted to every voter in London. This ad. alone costs us £10,000. Then there is the Mayor deposit of £10,000, the List deposit of £5,000 and £14,000 in constituency deposits!