Tuesday, 28 April 2009

*Quiz question

*Easter Monday quiz question
Those who come to my fundraising quiz events will know that I like unusual and quirky questions. Here is a good one:


Sorry for delay - life has been hectic in preparing the London Euro campaign.

Andy and Yahoo were nearly right.

Good Friday was the name of a racehorse. He fell in a race at Fairyhouse, in Ireland, on Easter Monday 1946.

OK here is another useful one.


*Huge energy wastage from mobile phonemasts

Competition between mobile phone companies is wasting almost 300 GWh a year due to duplication of telephone network equipment, says a new report from the Green Party.

According to the report, the amount of energy currently wasted by the mobile phone networks would be enough to:

* Run almost a third of the London Underground
* Power seven Docklands Light Railways
* Keep the Blackpool Tramway going for 137 years
* Meet the electricity needs of around 68,000 homes

The report, Better Together, argues that mobile phone companies must cooperate to cut the industry's emissions as part of Britain's fight against climate change.

Darren Johnson AM, the Green Party's spokesperson on trade and industry, commented:

"The government should require mobile phone operators to share facilities."

"They would save money, cut CO2 emissions and provide the same level of signal cover with fewer masts."

"In the short-term operators could be required to share base stations at times of low demand. The government should direct Ofcom to ensure that the sharing of the new 800 MHz frequency band is done in a way that is energy efficient."

"Ultimately they could build new shared infrastructure. They could cooperate on a 'super-network'."

He concluded: "With the climate crisis deepening, Britain can't afford this amount of gratuitous waste."


The full report, Better Together, can be found at: www.greenparty.org.uk/reports

Saturday, 25 April 2009

*Boris Johnson - one year as Mayor of London.

As Boris Johnson approaches his first anniversary as London Mayor on 2nd May, Green Assembly Member, Darren Johnson AM, reflects on the Mayor's first year in office.

Darren said, "Although there have been one or two bright spots such as scrapping Ken Livingstone's six-lane road bridge and planting more trees, Boris Johnson's overall performance has been deeply depressing. We have seen wave after wave of green initiatives being scrapped, cancelled or cut including the £25 charge for gas guzzlers, new tram schemes and the London Cycle Network."

Johnson mayoralty - positives

* Thames Gateway six-lane road bridge abandoned, although crossing at Silvertown proposed
* Heathrow expansion opposed, although Thames Estuary airport proposed and expansion at City Airport supported
* Cycle hire and Superhighways have funding, although nothing yet for suburban cycle hubs
* Support for urban agriculture, allotments, and treeplanting
* Continued support for London Living Wage and Fair Trade initiative
* Mayor adopts Assembly proposal to commission work on amnesty for irregular migrants
* Continue green retro-fit programme for commercial buildings
* Major plans for street by street approach to home insulation
* Package of measures on knife crime includes some positive youth initiatives.

Johnson mayoralty - negatives

* Failure to provide leadership over police mishandling of G20 protests
* London Cycle Network (LCN+) funding cut by two thirds & no promise of completion
* £25 emissions charge for gas guzzlers and Western Extension of congestion charge zone dropped
* Low Emissions Zone will now not be expanded to 90,000 light goods vehicles in 2010
* Court action being prepared by European Union on failure to meet air quality targets
* Abandoned 100 public spaces program: Parliament Square improvement scheme; Victoria Embankment; three year study into changing one-way systems back to two-way systems
* Planning for new transport schemes abandoned: Cross River Tram; DLR extension Dagenham Dock; Croydon Tramlink, Oxford Street tram; large number of step free access tube schemes
* Three year freeze on bus expansion program
* Planned purchase of 70 hydrogen vehicles has been reduced to a trial of 10 hydrogen buses, although ambitious plans for electric vehicles announced
* Environment budget reduced by £139k
* Proposals to cut 114 posts at City Hall, may have impact on the London Mayor's ability to carry out his statutory duties, especially in relation to the environment
* Mishandled Damien Green affair -

Friday, 24 April 2009

*Willie Corduff hospitalised by balaclava-clad Shell security

"I thought they were trying to kill me. They beat me until I stopped moving. I heard one of them say, 'Stop now lads, he's nearly finished.' " – Willie Corduff

Shell to Sea is appalled at the vicious and brutal attack that was made on Rossport 5 member Willie Corduff by Shell security force wearing balaclavas last night.

Willie had been under that truck on the Glengad site for 16 hours, when at approximately 3:00am IRMS security wearing balaclavas moved in to forcibly remove him. Subsequently an ambulance was called and brought him to Castlebar Hospital, where he still remains. Today is the second anniversary of the day that Willie Corduff won the Goldman Environmental prize.

A local resident who was present that the time stated that he saw the masked security men push Willie to the ground and start kicking him and hitting him with large batons. They knelt on his head and twisted his arms behind his back as they beat him. His brother-in-law attempted to aid Willie but was pushed back repeatedly and forcibly removed by the masked Shell security into an adjacent field where he was then knocked to the ground, kicked and beaten.

Shell to Sea Spokesperson Terence Conway stated: “This was a vicious and cowardly attack by this group of balaclava-wearing Shell mercenaries in the middle of the night, on a brave member of our community, Willie Corduff, who was peacefully protesting the illegality of this project. The only violence that happened in Glengad last night was carried out by Shell security”

Serious concerns as to the background of security personnel in Erris have been raised in the wake of the death of a former Shell security contract worker who worked in Glengad, Michael Dwyer, as part of an alleged plot to assassinate the Bolivian President, Evo Morales.

Earlier last night at approximately 11:30pm, the fencing that Shell contractors had unlawfully put up that day was removed. During the day, the local community actively opposed the fencing work, as there is no planning permission for the work in Glengad.

Allegations that protestors entered Glengad site carrying iron bars and chains, or that any security personnel was harmed, are absolutely untrue.

Mr Conway continued, “It has become common practice to falsely accuse us of violence, in order to cover up the brutality that is inflicted upon us. This work in Glengad is totally illegal but all of our attempts to raise the illegality of these works have fallen on deaf Government ears. Repeated request to see the permissions for these works have been ignored.”

For verification and further comment contact:
Terence Conway - 086 0866264
Maura Harrington - 087 9591474

Saturday, 18 April 2009

*Shocking allegations: Police officer behaves ‘proportionately’

The Metropolitan police yesterday promised a full inquiry into
ALLEGATIONS that one of their officers was spotted behaving
'proportionately' during the G20 protests.

Despite initial denials, SchNEWS has been passed 90 seconds of grainy footage showing an officer in FULL RIOT GEAR simply standing opposite a group of protesters. Throughout the film, the burly officer fails to CONCEAL his FACE and his BADGE NUMBERS remain fully visible. Not reaching for his BATON, despite verbal provocation, he shockingly does not BRUTALLY ATTACK any scrawny hippies or even SLAP or ROUGHLY PUSH around a single lentil-munching soap-dodger.

Jacqui Smith, Home Secretary, demanded the officer's immediate suspension, saying the footage "raised serious questions" and was a "shocking breach of standard police procedure".

A senior Met bigwig has defended the officer claiming it was 'an isolated incident', and saying, "Our officers train hard to develop their basic stony-faced aggressive posture, public communication failure techniques and intimidation skills. In almost all cases they look to escalate confrontations with protesters and enjoy the free
license to let the uniform and position of power go to their heads, letting off steam by directing their internal anger and frustration at defenceless hippies who no-one in the mainstream press gave a toss about until now.

"But, in the heat of the moment - they are only human after all! Things can get of hand and reasonableness and decency can flare up.

However, I accept in this case it appears this one officer apparently acted out of character and used seemingly proportionate force.

"However, we should be wary of drawing too many conclusions from video evidence taken out of context - after all the officer involved might have just clubbed someone to the ground and was taking a breather just as the camera started recording.

Obviously we don't want the hard fought reputation of our loyal officers to be tarred with this kind of non-representative brush with the law - a few good apples can spoil the whole rotten barrel. We will now review our procedures for clamping down on people with video cameras to make sure this kind of embarrassing situation does not occur again."
(From SchNews)

Thursday, 16 April 2009

*On front page of Hornsey Journal


*climate cartoon - Any Questions?

Good cartoon from Marc Roberts:


*MPA meeting on policing of G20 protests – open to public.

Date: Thursday 30th April 2009

Venue: City Hall, 2nd Floor Chamber

Time: 10.00am (advisable to arrive earlier due to large numbers expected)

This meeting will be attended by members of the Metropolitan Police Authority including Jenny Jones, Green Party Assembly Member, who has been leading calls for a review of ‘kettling’ and a thorough review of public order policing.

The meeting will aim to hold the Metropolitan Police to account for their behaviour and tactics deployed during the G20 Summit protests.

The public are invited to attend the meeting, and there is no need to book. This is a chance to ensure that our concerns are properly addressed and could help avoid a repetition of the dreadful circumstances that led to an innocent man’s death on April 1st.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

*Strong endorsement of the Green Party by Mark Thomas


I liked a comment someone left on the website:

Ask an artist what happens when you mix Liberal yellow with Green.. you get a PALE version of green.

When you mix Tory blue with Green you get Turquoise. ie Tories like Cameron.

And when you mix Labours 'red' with Green you just get a muddy sort of 'Brown'!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

*Cameron and hunting

From Chris Gale of the Stop Cameron Campaign:

The Stop Cameron Campaign is a UK wide network of animal welfare campaigners and other concerned members of the public who are determined to do everything to highlight Cameron's pledge to repeal the Hunting Act.

The press does not report the full extent of Cameron's agenda and his close links to the Hunting fraternity. As a result the public are to a large extent unaware of the Tory leadership's pro hunting agenda. Repeal of the Hunting Act would take place very quickly following a Tory win. It would be a simple Bill to annul it.

Some 50% of Lib Dem MPs are also pro hunting so would vote with the vast majority of Tories to fully re-legalise the barbarity fox, stag and deer hunting with dogs and hare coursing. The clear majority of the public are horrified when they find out the truth about Cameron and his pro hunt agenda. We have also linked scores of people, often who have never taken part in politics before, with anti hunt MPs to assist with leafleting etc in marginal seats.

The hunt fraternity (the Countryside Alliance and their front organisation called 'Vote Ok') have placed liaison officers within virtually every Tory constituency association in the country. Their job is to coordinate grassroots activity to ensure the removal of as many anti hunting MPs as possible. They do this in the background, never advertising their presence. At the last election, it was noticeable that in some constituencies the Tory election expenses returns were quite low, in at least one case this was where 'Vote OK' had been very active doing the work normally done by regular Tory campaigners. The Countryside Alliance has a Chief Executive, Simon Hart, who is a Tory Parliamentary candidate (and a key ally of Cameron) in a key marginal.

I am writing to ask for your help in altering me to Tory events within your areas. The more notice the better. Please also see 'How you can help' on our website.

Chris Gale National Organiser-Stop Cameron Campaign Tel 01249 529218443751 http://stopcameron.homestead.com/index.html

Monday, 13 April 2009

*Easter Monday quiz question

Those who come to my fundraising quiz events will know that I like unusual and quirky questions. Here is a good one:


" You Are Being Lied to About Pirates"

By Johann Hari.

Who imagined that in 2009, the world's governments would be declaring a new War on Pirates? As you read this, the British Royal Navy -- backed by the ships of more than two dozen nations, from the US to China -- is sailing into Somalian waters to take on men we still picture as parrot-on-the-shoulder pantomime villains. They will soon be fighting Somalian ships and even chasing the pirates onto land, into one of the most broken countries on earth. But behind the arrr-me-hearties oddness of this tale, there is an untold scandal. The people our governments are labeling as "one of the great menace of our times" have an extraordinary story to tell -- and some justice on their side.

Pirates have never been quite who we think they are. In the "golden age of piracy" -- from 1650 to 1730 -- the idea of the pirate as the senseless, savage thief that lingers today was created by the British government in a great propaganda-heave. Many ordinary people believed it was false: pirates were often rescued from the gallows by supportive crowds.

Why? What did they see that we can't? In his book Villains of All nations, the historian Marcus Rediker pores through the evidence to find out. If you became a merchant or navy sailor then -- plucked from the docks of London's East End, young and hungry -- you ended up in a floating wooden Hell. You worked all hours on a cramped, half-starved ship, and if you slacked off for a second, the all-powerful captain would whip you with the Cat O' Nine Tails. If you slacked consistently, you could be thrown overboard. And at the end of months or years of this, you were often cheated of your wages.

Pirates were the first people to rebel against this world. They mutinied against their tyrannical captains -- and created a different way of working on the seas. Once they had a ship, the pirates elected their captains, and made all their decisions collectively. They shared their bounty out in what Rediker calls "one of the most egalitarian plans for the disposition of resources to be found anywhere in the eighteenth century." They even took in escaped African slaves and lived with them as equals. The pirates showed "quite clearly -- and subversively -- that ships did not have to be run in the brutal and oppressive ways of the merchant service and the Royal navy."

This is why they were popular, despite being unproductive thieves. The words of one pirate from that lost age -- a young British man called William Scott -- should echo into this new age of piracy. Just before he was hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, he said: "What I did was to keep me from perishing. I was forced to go a-pirating to live."

In 1991, the government of Somalia -- in the Horn of Africa -- collapsed. Its nine million people have been teetering on starvation ever since -- and many of the ugliest forces in the Western world have seen this as a great opportunity to steal the country's food supply and dump our nuclear waste in their seas. Yes: nuclear waste. As soon as the government was gone, mysterious European ships started appearing off the coast of Somalia, dumping vast barrels into the ocean. The coastal population began to sicken. At first they suffered strange rashes, nausea and malformed babies. Then, after the 2005 tsunami, hundreds of the dumped and leaking barrels washed up on shore. People began to suffer from radiation sickness, and more than 300 died.

Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, tells me: "Somebody is dumping nuclear material here. There is also lead, and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury -- you name it." Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to "dispose" of cheaply. When I asked Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh: "Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation, and no prevention."

At the same time, other European ships have been looting Somalia's seas of their greatest resource: seafood. We have destroyed our own fish-stocks by over-exploitation -- and now we have moved on to theirs. More than $300m worth of tuna, shrimp, lobster and other sea-life is being stolen every year by vast trawlers illegally sailing into Somalia's unprotected seas. The local fishermen have suddenly lost their livelihoods, and they are starving. Mohammed Hussein, a fisherman in the town of Marka 100km south of Mogadishu, told Reuters: "If nothing is done, there soon won't be much fish left in our coastal waters."

This is the context in which the men we are calling "pirates" have emerged. Everyone agrees they were ordinary Somalian fishermen who at first took speedboats to try to dissuade the dumpers and trawlers, or at least wage a 'tax' on them. They call themselves the Volunteer Coastguard of Somalia -- and it's not hard to see why. In a surreal telephone interview, one of the pirate leaders, Sugule Ali, said their motive was "to stop illegal fishing and dumping in our waters... We don't consider ourselves sea bandits. We consider sea bandits [to be] those who illegally fish and dump in our seas and dump waste in our seas and carry weapons in our seas."

William Scott would understand those words. No, this doesn't make hostage-taking justifiable, and yes, some are clearly just gangsters -- especially those who have held up World Food Programme supplies. But the "pirates" have the overwhelming support of the local population for a reason. The independent Somalian news-site WardherNews conducted the best research we have into what ordinary Somalis are thinking -- and it found 70 percent "strongly supported the piracy as a form of national defence of the country's territorial waters."

During the revolutionary war in America, George Washington and America's founding fathers paid pirates to protect America's territorial waters, because they had no navy or coastguard of their own. Most Americans supported them. Is this so different? Did we expect starving Somalians to stand passively on their beaches, paddling in our nuclear waste, and watch us snatch their fish to eat in restaurants in London and Paris and Rome? We didn't act on those crimes -- but when some of the fishermen responded by disrupting the transit-corridor for 20 percent of the world's oil supply, we begin to shriek about "evil."

If we really want to deal with piracy, we need to stop its root cause -- our crimes -- before we send in the gun-boats to root out Somalia's criminals.

The story of the 2009 war on piracy was best summarised by another pirate, who lived and died in the fourth century BC. He was captured and brought to Alexander the Great, who demanded to know "what he meant by keeping possession of the sea." The pirate smiled, and responded: "What you mean by seizing the whole earth; but because I do it with a petty ship, I am called a robber, while you, who do it with a great fleet, are called emperor." Once again, our great imperial fleets sail in today -- but who is the robber?

Sunday, 12 April 2009

*Who is going to deliver on Green Jobs? That’ll be us, then!

by Dave Morris
Sustainable Haringey communications group

Who is going to deliver on Green Jobs? That’ll be us, then!

A report from the Ford Visteon occupied car parts factory - Enfield North London

Being shown round the Enfield factory during the 8 day occupation by the workers, its clear that the workers anger at their bosses, is matched by their pride in their manufacturing work.

For over 15 years the factory has been making primarily plastic mouldings for Ford, Jaguar and Land Rover cars and vans ­ dashboards, gearbox casings and the like, often quite intricately assembled as well as cast. But, they could make just about anything out of plastic, given the right moulds. Changing the moulds to allow the workers to cast different products would take as little as half an hour.

Apparently the workers have been suggesting to their bosses for several years that they should diversify into making different products. They saw how the car market was going, and they have the same environmental concerns as everyone else, too. Garden furniture was one suggestion which was put forward ­ maybe not an especially ‘green’ product itself, but a lot greener to have it manufactured in the UK, than made in China and shipped halfway across the world.

Another idea originating from the workers was to make recycling bins. In the surrounding areas they live in, there is currently a shortage of recycling bins (something to do with Germany soaking up all the spare capacity!) ­ so why can’t they make them here, they suggest?

Many of the workers had 20 years or more of manufacturing experience. The factory used to employ 1500 workers ­ now there are only 200 left. It used to make electronic parts like the dials for dashboards ­ some of those workers were still working at Visteon this year and could have easily turned their skills to making parts for the growing industry of energy monitoring, for example.

They are open to suggestions. Plastic parts for bike trailers, for bus interiors? “Definitely. We don’t work here because we love cars!” one says.

But the bosses had refused to listen to any suggestions that had been put forward by workers over the last few years. Workers said the bosses’ response had been that if they turned to making different products ‘we’d be a laughing stock at the automotive shows’. One worker said when he started he’d been told ‘you’re just a pair of hands’.

The bosses fail to see that in fact these workers had more ideas and vision than the bosses whose only concern seems to be to save their own faces and arses!

It’s reminiscent of the Lucas aerospace company in the 1970s, where management sacked trade unionists for having the temerity to come up with their own ‘alternative corporate plan’ to make ‘socially and environmentally useful products’ like wind turbines, health monitors, and electric vehicles, rather than military aircraft. Nonetheless, the plans, which were developed with the help of supportive technical academics, went into production or prototyping, but Thatcherism killed of many of these initiatives which were ahead of their time. So now, whilst the wind turbine industry supports quarter of a million jobs in Germany, it supports only about 7000 in the UK.

These ideas ­ that workers should be able to take control of what they do - are ideas whose time has come again. Meanwhile the government claims it plans to create hundreds of thousands of ‘green jobs’, but then allows its manufacturing base to crumble away, throwing countless people onto the dole, rather than step in to convert these factories to green production.

Whilst the Enfield Ford Visteon workers hope their union negotiations will bear fruit - and get them (at the very least) the redundancy and pension protection that Ford has tried to cheat them out of - they face an uncertain future without the manufacturing jobs that they depended on for their livelihoods.

It seems like if we want a ‘just transition’ to a greener, fairer society, and green jobs, we’ll have to make it happen ourselves - working together as workers, activists, trade unionists, and academics. Hopefully, the vacuum left by a total absence of effective government action, might be filled by the kind of spirited fightbacks and developing understanding and connections that we’ve seen at the Enfield factory, over the last 8 days.

We all know that over the coming months capitalism will continue to reveal its true, brutal face. As one of the organisers said today, thanking all those assembled for their support: “This is a beginning, not an end”.

(Dave Morris was one of the defendants in the McLibel Trial)

Friday, 10 April 2009


Separating fact from fiction on the environment

Opinon: Traditional media can still play a major role in highlighting risks to the Earth or human health, writes Frank McDonald.

The Irish Times, 8 April 2009:

Also: Comment from GM-free Ireland

8 April 2009.



Opinion: Traditional media can still play a major role in highlighting risks to the Earth or human health, writes Frank McDonald.

The Irish Times, 8 April 2009:

IT IS quite remarkable how few early warnings about risks to human health or the environment over the years turned out to be unfounded. Whether the dangers came from X-rays, DDT, tobacco smoking, asbestos, lead in petrol or chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), early warners were proved right, often after decades of denial by vested interests.

Similar struggles are still being waged over electromagnetic radiation from powerlines, dioxins from waste incineration or desirability of producing food using genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

And, as in the past, scientists who stick their necks out on these issues have been disowned, harassed and even vilified.

Árpád Pusztai, a Hungarian protein scientist whose 1998 study of GM potatoes showed that they had negative effects on the immune system of rats, was dismissed by the Rowlett Research Institute in Aberdeen, his research team disbanded and its laboratory work destroyed because of the controversial nature of their findings.

But Pusztai had his supporters. Despite objections from the Royal Society and Sir Robert May, the British government's chief scientific adviser, his findings were published by the Lancet, and 20 scientists from eight countries signed a petition. In 2005, Pusztai won a "Whistleblower Award" from the German Federation of Scientists.

His story was told by one of his supporters, Dr Christian Vélot, at a major conference in Lisbon last week - The media and the environment: between complexity and urgency - organised by the European Environment Agency (EEA), the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the University of Lisbon's institute of social sciences.

Comment from GM-free Ireland:

Nice words, but the The Irish Times is unlikely to provide any semblance of balanced coverage of the GM food and farming controversy so long as the newspaper's owner - the Irish Times Trust - continues to be chaired by Prof. David McConnell, the hardline pro-GM biotech industry lobbyist who is also the Co-ordinator and Co-Vice Chairman of EAGLES - European Action on Global Life Sciences (_http://www.efb-central.org/eagles_ (http://www.efb-central.org/eagles) a task force of the European Federation of Biotechnology whose members include Monsanto Europe, the Association of German Biotech Companies, the Biotechnology Industry Organisation (USA), etc.

The Irish Times' demonstrable bias on GM issues is a flagrant breach of the Revenue Commission requirement that registered charities must avoid promoting commercial vested interests.

When I was a London Assembly member, I organised a conference on GM food, with Dr.Pusztai as the main speaker. He is a brilliant scientist and a real gentleman. He started his work under a Stalinist regime in Eastern Europe, but found that the establishment over here were much worse.

*Many Americans prefer socialism to capitalism, new poll finds

With the U.S. government taking a majority stake in banks and bossing around the auto industry, there have been rumblings that the U.S. is leaning toward socialism. A new poll suggests that if there's merit to those arguments, many Americans wouldn't mind.


According to the poll, adults over 40 strongly favour capitalism, while adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided.

However, their ideas about socialism may be a bit different to ours:-)

Thursday, 9 April 2009

*The town hall workers on £100,000+

By politics.co.uk staff
Over a thousand town hall workers are claiming salaries of over £100,000, new research has revealed.

The Town Hall Rich List 2009, published today by the TaxPayers' Alliance, shows 1,022 people are on more than £100,000 – up 27 per cent on last year. Over 115 of them are earning over £150,000.

The organisation said at least 16 people earn more than the prime minister, who takes home a salary of £194,250, including his MPs' salary.

"The size of council executives' pay and perks is staggering, and every year the cost continues to rise," said Maria Fort, policy analyst at the TaxPayers' Alliance.
"The fact that executives who have overseen increases in council tax, cuts in services and major policy failures are getting ever more generously rewarded is frustrating for taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet."

But the Local Government Association said the salaries were necessary to ensure the best people were found for the right jobs, and pointed out that the numbers raised related to just 0.0005 per cent of the local government workforce.

"Many councils have bigger budgets than FTSE 100 companies and to get the brightest people to deliver the best services for local people they need to pay a competitive wage," said John Ransford, head of the association.

"Unlike the private sector, people can show whether they think this is wrong by voting at the ballot box," he added.


I don't always agree with the Taxpayers Alliance (Have a look at their sponsors), however, in this case they have a point. I remember, a few years ago, the the CEO of Barnet Council was being paid more than the PM.

You hear loads of calls for councillor allowances to be cut but nothing about the fat-cat executives who are definitely not good value for money. When a GP councillor suggested it recently, she was told it was impossible as they all have unbreakable contracts.

The statement by the LGA spokesperson must take the Nobel Prize for Spin. When do we get a chance to vote on fat-cat salaries?

*Blue Plaque for Peter Tatchell

Green Party Human Rights spokesperson and Oxford East PPC Peter Tatchell is to be forever celebrated and remembered by having a Southwark Blue Plaque erected in his name.

Full details are below.



*Petition against police violence


Please sign.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

*Mayor of London cancels multicultural music festival Rise

Green Party London Assembly Member, Darren Johnson made the following statement.

"The Rise festival brought Londoners together in a celebration of multiculturalism.

Rise embodied the two underlying features that makes the capital such a great place to live; its diversity and its tolerance.

When the Mayor removed the festival's anti-racist message last year sponsorship was always going to be harder to find, but I am extremely disappointed that one of London's most entertaining and important cultural events will no longer be going ahead."

Ken Livingstone said:
'Boris Johnson's cancellation of London’s anti-racist music festival, Rise, is a blow to good community relations in the city. Rise was the biggest anti-racist festival in Europe and on that basis attracted significant sponsorship. It lost much of this when Boris Johnson dropped the central anti-racist message last year. It is no surprise that Johnson is now cancelling the festival altogether. But it is misleading for his administration to try to blame this on trade unions withdrawing sponsorship, when sponsors had signed up to an anti-racist festival and obviously saw no reason to fund an event with no coherent message. There is now a clear pattern of Boris Johnson cutting funding to events celebrating the contributions of different communities to London and promoting good community relations. And, as with the still-birth of the Mayor’s Fund and the loss of most sponsorship for the St Patrick’s Day festival, his claims that he will save tax payers’ money by bringing in outside sponsors have been shown to be just so much hot air.’

Sunday, 5 April 2009


The pro-GM lobby group Sense About Science (SAS) has been caught with its pants down by Private Eye.

The famous satirical magazine has obtained a confidential draft copy of SAS's recently published GM guide which shows it had a "ghost writer" that SAS failed to declare – Monsanto former employee Andrew Cockburn.


*Johann Hari: Crime problem? Just lock 'em in the lavatory

I have just come across this excellent article by Johann Hari. By coincidence, I have just finished reading 'The Prison Diaries of Jeffrey Archer' - Johann's old boss. JA makes some excellent recommendations not too dissimilar from Johann.

Previously published in The Independent

Johann Hari: Crime problem? Just lock 'em in the lavatory

And so the story of the moral implosion of the British prison system comes to this: we are imprisoning people in toilets. Doncaster prison – run by the private firm Serco – was designed to hold 800 people, but it now pens in more than a thousand. So the governors have put beds in the toilets, and detained people there for more than 18 hours a day, week after week. In toilets. In Britain. Today.

There are now two prison systems in this country. There is Her Majesty's Prison Service, where mad and broken people are warehoused alongside the genuinely violent in cramped and fetid cells. Then there is the Fantasy Prison System, implanted by the press in the public imagination, where pampered prisoners are given foot massages while watching flat-screen TVs.

No matter how many prisons I visit, from Wormwood Scrubs to Feltham Young Offenders Institute, I cannot find the holiday camps. Instead, I find prisons that clunkingly conform to every "tough" demand of the right – and are therefore placing you and your family in greater danger.

Allow me to explain. When our prisons contained 40,000 people, back in 1993, they managed to make 47 per cent of the inmates go straight. But today – after cramming twice as many people into almost the same space – that rate has dramatically plummeted to just 25 per cent. The rest graduate to the same or worse crimes.

We know what makes criminals less likely to reoffend. We have known for years, from study after study after study – but drunk on rhetoric, we are speeding in the opposite direction. So let's go through the recipe that really turns prisoners into law-abiding citizens, abandoned in the mid-1990s when Michael Howard got Britain smoking the crack-down crack.

Ingredient One: Transfer the mentally ill into secure hospitals. The first thing that strikes you in any prison is how many of the people there are insane. One 60-year-old man diagnosed with serious brain damage staggered up to me in the bowels of Wormwood Scrubs thinking I was his father. The Government admits 13 per cent of our prisoners have schizophrenia and 70 per cent have one or more diagnosable mental disorder. I could fill this newspaper with descriptions of prisoners who stab their own necks with knives or set fire to themselves at Her Majesty's Pleasure.

There is another way. The state of Pennsylvania was facing the same prison problem as Britain – so they decided that if the police arrest a mentally ill person, he should no longer go into the normal courts system. When, say, Sally Judson – a diagnosed schizophrenic who developed a heroin habit – was picked up for disorderly conduct recently, she was taken to a mental health "court". Instead of jailing her, they drew up an action plan with her. They found her a doctor, a therapist and a waitressing job. If she relapses on heroin, there is a rehab place waiting for her. This system works: mentally ill people have a 55 per cent reoffending rate in the normal courts, but in the mental health courts it is just 10 per cent.

Ingredient Two: Make sure prisoners stay in touch with their families. You can hear the Gaunt-groans and the Littlejohn-lies now: who cares if some criminal bastard can't speak to his baby-mother? But the evidence shows this is the single biggest factor in keeping a criminal from reoffending. If you manage to keep your partner, you are 20 per cent more likely to stay out of jail. But our prisons actually militate against this. Because of the severe overcrowding, some 37,000 prisoners are being held more than three hours' journey from home, and 5,000 are being held more than six hours away. Their mostly broke families can't afford the long journey. Telephone? BT charges up to seven times more to call home from prison than it would cost from a normal phone box. Far away and expensive to phone, nearly half of male prisoners currently lose touch with their families.

Ingredient Three: Make sure prisoners aren't illiterate and homeless when they walk out the prison gates. When they arrive, a third of prisoners can't read or write a word. They almost invariably leave as they came. The Adult Learning Inspectorate found fewer than 8 per cent of prisoners are taught to read and then given meaningful work that could lead to a job on the outside. Worse, one-third of prisoners are released to "No Fixed Abode" – a friend's couch, if they're lucky.

In Liverpool prison, I saw a brilliant scheme where prisoners are taught construction skills – and then use them to do up an abandoned council house to live in when they leave. It's a crime-busting double whammy: work skills, and a house nobody else wanted. Why isn't this being done in every prison in Britain?

Ingredient Four: Medicalise prisoners' drug addictions. Some 12 per cent of prisoners are heroin addicts, imprisoned either for possessing the drug or committing property crimes to feed their ravaging need. Wouldn't it be better to spend the £40,000 of jail money to put them in rehab? True, heroin addiction is so powerful that the even the best rehab in the world fails with 80 per cent of addicts. But for them, we can prescribe a clean, legal supply for £4,000 a year. Then they can lead healthy lives: Arthur Conan Doyle and the father of modern surgery, William Halsted, did. When the Swiss did this, burglary fell by 70 per cent.

Ingredient Five: Make sure prison is only for violent and sexual offenders. There are about 16,000 vaguely sane people in our jails who have committed violent or sexual offences. They need to be banged up while they are rehabilitated, for however long it takes. But if they are crammed in with 64,000 others – the shoplifters and cannabis dealers – nobody gets any treatment and nobody gets any better.

Indeed, the evidence shows the opposite happens. Professor Carol Hedderman has calculated that the growth in the prison population is due to a huge rise in short sentences of six months or less. They are all for crimes that used to be dealt with by community service – like the two teenage boys in Deerbolt who have just been sentenced to 15 months in an adult jail for graffiti. That's long enough to put in place all the factors that drive up crime – they lose their job, their house and their girlfriend, and their debts spiral – but not long enough to teach them anything, even if we tried. This is the reason for the surge in reoffending.

Yet still the Government builds more mega-prisons, while the Tories yelp for them to go even further and faster. Why? Every politician wants to be seen as the Toughest Daddy, cheered on by a press that raves against a prison system that doesn't exist. But the "tough" approach – shove 'em in the toilets, teach 'em nothing – produces more crime. The macho swagger hides glass testicles. No: we need to show this isn't about soft vs. tough, but about smart, crime-busting policies vs. dumb, crime-boosting policies.

But for today, reason and evidence remain locked away in the prison toilets. Isn't it time we let them out?


*Shell faces Saro-Wiwa death claim

By Matthew Green in Lagos and Michael Peel in London

Published: April 4 2009 03:00 | Last updated: April 4 2009 03:00

The death of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian activist, will return to haunt Royal Dutch Shell next month when a potentially groundbreaking court case opens in the US alleging the company was complicit in his execution.

Lawyers are hoping to hold Shell to account for sponsoring what they describe as a campaign of terror by Nigeria's security forces in Ogoni in the Niger Delta that culminated in Saro-Wiwa's hanging in 1995. The case is a key test of whether multinationals based in the US or operating there can be successfully sued for damages over their operations abroad. Proceedings are due to open at a New York court on May 26.

The claim filed by plaintiffs including Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, the late activist's eldest son, accuse Shell of complicity in human rights violations committed by the former military government.

Shell is also accused of collaborating with the authorities that arranged Saro-Wiwa's detention and eventual execution along with eight other Ogoni activists on trumped-up murder charges. The suit says the company tried to bribe two men to testify against Saro-Wiwa at his trial before a special tribunal.

"Almost daily you get a reminder that your father was hanged for a crime he didn't commit," Mr Saro-Wiwa Jr told the Financial Times. "We've always maintained that Shell was complicit in the conspiracy to silence my father and thousands of other Ogonis."

Shell says the allegations contained in the case are false and that the company appealed for clemency for Saro-Wiwa. "We in no way encouraged or advocated any acts of violence against Ken Saro-Wiwa or the other Ogonis," said Rainer Winzenried, a Shell spokesman. "We believe that the evidence will show clearly that Shell was not responsible for these tragic events."

Saro-Wiwa mobilised hundreds of thousands of Ogoni people to launch peaceful protests against environmental damage caused by oil companies in the Delta. His hanging provoked a global outcry and precipitated a backlash by human rights groups against Shell.

To many in the Niger Delta, the deaths of Saro-Wiwa and the other activists was the turning point that pushed the region into the rampant violence that persists today.

The suit is being brought under the Alien Tort Claims Act, a law that has been used in a number of cases since the mid-1990s to target companies over their actions in nations from Liberia to Indonesia.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

*They just don't get it!!!

Today's Guardian has a half page advert for TESCO. It is headed 'Turn lights into flights'.

It shows a low energy light bulb and says that if you buy it you can get a clubcard voucher that you can turn into 60 Airmiles.

So that's save a small amount of energy by buying a low energy light bulb and then consume a large amount of energy by flying an extra 60 miles. Doh!

(Thanks to Alan F for this)

*Wordie Ice Shelf has disappeared: scientists

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - One Antarctic ice shelf has quickly vanished, another is disappearing and glaciers are melting faster than anyone thought due to climate change, U.S. and British government researchers reported on Friday.

They said the Wordie Ice Shelf, which had been disintegrating since the 1960s, is gone and the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf no longer exists. More than 3,200 square miles (8,300 square km) have broken off from the Larsen shelf since 1986.
Climate change is to blame, according to the report from the U.S. Geological Survey and the British Antarctic Survey, available at pubs.usgs.gov/imap/2600/B.

"The rapid retreat of glaciers there demonstrates once again the profound effects our planet is already experiencing -- more rapidly than previously known -- as a consequence of climate change," U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

"This continued and often significant glacier retreat is a wakeup call that change is happening ... and we need to be prepared," USGS glaciologist Jane Ferrigno, who led the Antarctica study, said in a statement.

"Antarctica is of special interest because it holds an estimated 91 percent of the Earth's glacier volume, and change anywhere in the ice sheet poses significant hazards to society," she said.

In another report published in the journal Geophysical Letters, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports that ice is melting much more rapidly than expected in the Arctic as well, based on new computer analyses and recent ice measurements.

The U.N. Climate Panel projects that world atmospheric temperature will rise by between 1.8 and 4.0 degrees Celsius because of emissions of greenhouse gases that could bring floods, droughts, heat waves and more powerful storms.

As glaciers and ice sheets melt, they can raise overall ocean levels and swamp low-lying areas.

Friday, 3 April 2009

* Operation Glencoe.


From: BBC News online

Concern over G20 police tactics

Britain may have entered a new era of overt violent policing that could deter people from protesting in future, the Green Party's Jenny Jones has said.

She says protesters' stories of police brutality at the G20 demonstrations and the police's story of complete professionalism "just don't stack up".

Ms Jones, a Metropolitan Police Authority member, has written to the Met Commissioner about her concerns.

The Met have said their tactics were "proportionate and worked".

Police made 122 arrests during the protests in London on Wednesday and Thursday.

Some 5,000 people took part in the demonstrations that were mainly peaceful and good-humoured but marked by sporadic violence.

Ms Jones said she was particularly concerned about the treatment of protesters outside the Bank of England, many of whom were kept inside a police cordon for several hours.

“ They were trying to agitate and hijack that protest - we believe our tactics were proportionate and worked ”
Commander Simon O'Brien

"If the police were hitting people who were sitting down with their hands up, we have entered a new era of overt violent policing in Britain that will deter people from protesting and cut back our civil liberties," she said.

She went on to say that people at the Climate Camp in Bishopsgate reported that they were given no warning they were about to be contained by police.

The Metropolitan Police have defended the strategies used in Operation Glencoe, the name given to the the police plan.

Speaking on Thursday, Commander Simon O'Brien said only a small proportion of the protesters outside the Bank of England took part in the violence.

"They were trying to agitate and hijack that protest. We believe our tactics were proportionate and worked. The lawful protesters were the victims of them, not the Metropolitan Police," he said.

The police estimate the number of hardcore trouble-makers stands at between 300 and 500.

Ms Jones said she had been assured that Metropolitan Police Authority members would be able to ask questions about the police operation at its next meeting on 13 April.




After spending about an hour and a half at Excel, where there was a small STW demo, but not much sign of further protest, I joined the solidarity vigil outside Bank at 1pm this afternoon in memory of the fallen comrade who lost his life last night.

The vigil was quite an emotional occasion. I met up with some comrades who had been at climate camp last night and had witnessed first hand the events as they unfolded. Their stories I hope will be told, as they underline our worst fears about the oppressive and provocative tactics of the police. I salute the bravery and resolution of the climate campers, their courage should be an inspiration for us all. I heard emotional accounts of what really happened leading up to the tragic death last night. The story not told by the press or the police was that the protester was being chased by police dogs, fell and cracked his head. My thoughts are with his family and friends, and also with those who had witnessed the tragedy.

The vigil was well attended with a good few hundred people paying their respects, and placing personal messages on the boarding placed around a piece of architecture(?) outside the Bank. There was also a bit of a feeding frenzy of press and photographers, obviously looking for another bloody story and maybe some more confrontation between protesters and police. Eventually it appeared that the police might be looking for the same - their response was, like the previous day and in particular in the context of why we had gathered there today, wholly inappropriate.

A minutes silence was held, well observed by all who sat down, downed flags and removed hats to remember the fallen comrade; during the 'silence' the air was punctuated by the sound of police sirens and a helicopter hovering overhead. This was a sign of things to come.

Soon we were kettled in as police encircled the gathering. Police cossacks appeared in a show of force, but left after a while. Some mourners were becoming agitated, and there were chants of 'shame on you' aimed at the police. But there was no violence. However, eventually the police dogs were brought out as an intimidatory tactic, walked around the kettle for a bit then vanned off again. I could later hear them further up the road so I can only assume that other protesters were being harassed elsewhere.

Eventually some protesters decided to leave, but were being searched by the police as they left. The police closed in the kettle as people left and a few of us were left in a small space as the majority succumbed to the search in order to leave. 20 of us remained and sat down refusing to have to be searched. We calmly and peacefully discussed what we would all want to happen, a consensus was reached that we would all refuse to leave if we were to be searched and that we would be prepared to ba arrested. By this time we were just encircled by City of London Police, whose 'superior officer' was invited into the circle to address us. He informed us that a section 60 was in force in the City until 6am. After further discussion we decided that we would all be prepared to stay there until 6am. Further negotiation was attempted to allow us water and toilet facilities, but the request was refused.

By this time a small crowd was beginning to form around us and some people lobbed in some food for us, which was gratefully passed around. It was approaching half past five by now, and more people were gathering outside us, and a few pictures were being taken - the press vultures were still circling (apologies if anyone finds that description speciesist). Bemused city workers leaving work were curiously looking in, and taking a few of their own snaps for the family album. Then, all of a sudden the head copper came and told us that the police were going to let us go without being searched. Just like that. The police dispersed. We cheered and hugged one another as we realised that we had won. We gathered for a group photo and a wall of cameras recorded our joy for posterity. My fear is that this story of peaceful demonstration will be less than a footnote to the last couple of days as the press don't seem to want anything other than bloody anarchy and violence to scream out from their headlines.

But we will not forget. As we will not forget the fallen comrade to whom we dedicate this small victory for the right to peaceful protest without intimidation and fear of reprisal, violence and infringement of civil liberties. In what some still call a democracy. The tactics of the police seem to be increasingly aggressive and antagonistic and must be challenged. And let us not forget that the struggle goes on, the neoliberal overlords whom the police are defending are still making imperialistic decisions which affect all of our lives, for the worse, and that the mortal threat of climate change hangs heavy over us all. We should all take heart and courage and build momentum, to carry on the struggle, in memory of he who gave his life last night defending the right to protest, for a better future, and for all the countless forgotten victims across the globe who suffer and perish at the hands of capitalism each and every day.

Hasta la victoria siempre


Andy is a member of the Green Party Regional Council.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

*Yesterday's Police Riots - another first-hand report


*Green Party video from yesterday - features Russell Brand


Thanks to Sasha Khan and Croydon Green Party

*G20 protest - policing tactics


In 31 years of active participation in peaceful street demonstrations I have NEVER before been close to the threat of being 'kettled' in / trapped by police. This tactic has more often been used at stages much later in the day after the majority of protesters have left, and when small groups seem determined to continue with their actions, and possibly a few of these who could have plans to develop their actions beyond the lines supported by the demonstrators of the day.

Planning to leave the area of the Bank of England, with a few friends, having made our peaceful protests for about an hour, we headed down Queen Victoria ST only to be met at a fork in the road by a solid line of police. Beyond them was a space and we could see two further roads where police lines were 'containing' other crowds of people, just as determined as us to leave . It was very warm, bright and sunny and it was lunchtime. As we became further 'herded' together the police seemed to sip from their water bottles in a very provocative and sensual manner. Someone was heard saying that the police had declared that hey were paid to work through the night in reply to her question as to when they / we might be allowed to leave.

We were told that our detention was due to their anticipation of a breach of the peace. Legal advice sought while we stood held against our will, confirmed that such a threat of breach of the peace was a valid power that the police could use. Supposedly, as soon as such a threat has passed then people should be released. In our 'pen' the mood was fairly stoical / calm and we kept ourselves amused as best we could. As time pressed on I made several challenges to the police about our civil liberties/ about methods they could use to plan an orderly exit using the helicopter views and their ground forces / about the lack of any actual breach of the peace in view / earshot of any of the hundreds of people so trapped in this particular road.
On one occasion a senior officer was contacted to answer my concerns but as he came towards the line he simply 'whispered' to an officer and retreated. We were then told that we were to be held. Told that we would be held until they said so.
If anyone had been arrested they would have been entitled to water , food and the use of a toilet. After being detained for (?) a couple of hours, having arrived an hour or so before that, with no estimate as to the duration of our further detainment, this treatment of very peaceful people certainly seemed to be a provocative police action and not an 'intelligent' use of police or an acceptable set of tactics. Added to this, at various intervals we could see riot police, in full kit, rushing out of their vans , causing some panic and consternation in the hitherto still and mostly silent crowds. Just as suddenly the riot police seemed to retreat back to their vehicles. Was the agitation of the crowds the essential factor in justifying the fears of 'breach of the peace' ?

Being at the front of the crowd I did on a few occasions make calls for our civil liberties, , listing some of the important responsibilities that these individual people had the need and the right to carry out ( child care , jobs, care of relatives, simply choosing where to spend their time, or preparing and heading for AGM of local council........). These seemed to go down well and at least broke some of the boredom factor of the situation.

On two occasions I saw an individual attempting to demand their freedom by walking 'through' the police line. This action resulted in a very aggressive response each time with four or five police officers to tackle the individual to the ground.

Eventually, when a group of people pushed forward together they broke the line of police in front of us. There was a sudden movement of bodies that could have resulted n a crush, but people were mindful of each other and no-one fell under foot.

The impetus was however 'forward', and as I made my way to the edge of the crowd I could see that the police line had collapsed and individual officers were standing alone looking lost and without a plan. Continuing to walk on, the crowds dispersed. Peacefully.

I returned to find friends as we had become separated in the surge. As we prepared to leave we could see others still being trapped in at the far end of the road. We decided to turn down a side street. Calmly we walked to the tube station. Free once more. For now.

Is this a taste of things to come ?

We need to challenge these counter-productive and unacceptable police tactics now.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

*Police tactics at today's demo.


I've just returned shaken and appalled at the policing tactics employed at the G20 protests in the City.

It is only thanks to my NUJ press pass that I managed to (eventually) escape the terrifying crush imposed by aggressive police. By that point I had spent at least two hours rammed in with other peaceful protesters, bursting for the loo and battling against a resurgence of a phobia of being trapped in tight crowds.

Before the police cordon around the roads leading to the Bank of England was implemented, I (along with another Haringey Green) had already decided not to proceed any further into the protest as it was becoming clear that the police had one thing in mind - to pen everyone in. However, when we tried to retrace our steps and move away from the crowds, we were prevented from doing so by a row of officers who ordered us to 'move on', aggressively pushing my colleague in the process. From then onwards we were condemned to a terrifying ordeal of being trapped in a confined space – a section of Princes Street - with an increasingly frustrated and angry group of protesters.

When police in riot gear appeared and one protester was arrested, bottles started to fly over our heads, so we edged away from our corner of Princes Street to try and find a safer spot. By now, a lot of people desperately wanted to be let out of the cordon and the atmosphere was becoming increasingly volatile. Luckily my NUJ pass gave me access out of the mob around about this time - just as my crowd phobia was escalating to a terrifying level!

I really hope that the Green Party will use its powers at GLA, Euro and National Party level to hold the Met Police to account for the heavy handedness of their actions against peaceful protestors. There must surely be a law against holding law abiding citizens against their will when they are at risk of harm..... As a seasoned activist, I can honestly say that I have never experienced such bullying tactics by our own police, and it makes me very sad.

What do others who were there think?

Anna Bragga

Haringey Green Party