Monday, 31 January 2011

Olympic Stadium

The Olympic Park Legacy Company has deferred its decision on whom to recommend for occupancy of the Olympic Stadium. Most of the press coverage has focused on the Spurs (seems more commercially compelling) and West Ham (more emotionally compelling but requires public subsidy) bids.

I'm not a huge football fan or that crazy about the Olympics either, but the Olympic legacy is vitally important to east London.

Our commitment to provide an athletics facility at the site means we should not countenance any bid that does not incorporate this. It would trash London's reputation. It would make liars of us. It would mean we could no longer complain about duplicitous sports administrators at FIFA and the IOC as we would have behaved just as badly!

What I can't understand is why there seems to be no suggestion whatsoever for Spurs and West Ham to bid jointly. The benefits seem obvious to my non-expert mind. Could the cost savings be partly used to pay for a more sophisticated technological solution that gives a 60,000 seat football stadium with a retractable tier that can be moved to provide a 40,000+ seat athletics facility fit for major championships? I dont know! Shouldnt someone ask?

If AC Milan and Inter can share the San Siro surely Spurs and West Ham can share the Olympic site!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

ConDem attack on Employment Tribunals.

Conservative governments are usually inclined towards attacking employment rights. It seems Conservative / Liberal Democrat coalition governments are no different.

Vince Cable's business department is consulting on changes to the employment tribunal system (see: http://www.bis.gov.uk/Consultations/resolving-workplace-disputes?cat=open ).

Pesky things, employment tribunals - they allow workers to exercise their hard-won rights!

So why dont we discourage workers from doing this by introducing a charge to access justice through tribunals? Well, that's exactly what the government is planning!

But why stop there? Well, they dont. They also propose increasing the time you have to be employed before being able to take an unfair dismissal claim from 1 year to 2 years. Genius! The government's consultation document indicates that will deny access to justice to about 4,000 workers every year.

Today it's employment tribunals, elements in the government are already making noises about the right to strike, who knows when they will look to challenge that.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Clean air standards in London

The UK government has just weeks to convince EU officials that it will meet European clean air standards in London, if it is to avoid a court case. The European Commission is assessing UK data for London and will decide in a month's time whether to give the UK an extension until mid-June to comply.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12296617

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

The 2008 financial meltdown was avoidable...........

The 2008 financial meltdown was avoidable and largely caused by unnecessary risk-taking, corporate mismanagement and inept regulation, according to the US government's official report. The financial crisis inquiry commission's official report is due tomorrow but according to leaks in the New York Times it will conclude: "The greatest tragedy would be to accept the refrain that no one could have seen this coming and thus nothing could have been done. If we accept this notion, it will happen again." Regulators "lacked the political will" to oversee and hold accountable the institutions they were supposed to oversee, the report says. Politicians let the regulations slide. Finance chiefs were guilty of questionable practices and incompetence.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/jan/26/financial-crisis-us-commission

Monday, 24 January 2011

Drivers should turn off idling engines and save lives - say Greens

Green party activists are calling on the City of London (CoL) to take urgent action to help save thousands of lives a year due to soaring pollution levels – with toddlers and the elderly most at risk. [1] [2]

Idling engines are identified in the CoL’s Air Quality Strategy consultation paper as a major contributor to poor air quality, and now activists are urging the private sector to take the initiative and enforce their own ‘no idling’ codes of conduct for drivers.

Green Party member and Square Mile resident, Michael Coffey (see photo attached), said:

“I moved to the City of London a few months ago, and one feature that struck me is the extent to which motorists – mainly waiting cabs and delivery vehicles – leave their engines on while parked.

“The Mayor of London wants to make the whole of London a no-idling zone with a particular focus on buses, coaches, taxis and delivery vehicles – but nothing is likely to happen for another twelve months. We don’t think bureaucracy should get in the way of cleaner air for London. We want to see action quickly.

Michael Coffey continues:

“This is a chance for the private sector to be green heroes by taking a lead and creating their own codes of conduct or ‘We Don’t Idle’ pledges. We don’t want more street clutter, we want firms saying ‘don’t leave your engines running’. Our suggestion is a win-win for everyone. It will save companies money on fuel and make the capital a cleaner, healthier place for all.”

Police and Community Support Officers and City of London Civil Enforcement Officers have powers to issue Penalty Charge Notices to vehicles idling. Their success in enforcing this is currently being reviewed. [3]

The Greens will be making a representation to the City of London consultation on the Mayor’s draft air quality strategy which closes on January 31st.

Michael Coffey is available for interviews.

For further information contact Anna Bragga on 078616 77343.

Notes to editors

[1] The City has some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country. levels of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NOx) remain high. Fine particles and NOx are the cause of respiratory problems – especially affecting the elderly and children.

In reacting with sunlight, Nox also damages vegetation- ie our parks and green spaces.

At least 3,500 people in London die prematurely each year due to poor air quality, and this figure could be as high as 8,000.

In the most recent City of London Place Survey, when presented with a list of 20 key concerns for the Square Mile, pollution was just second to the level of traffic congestion as the issue residents felt was in most need of improvement.

In CoL Over 80% of fine particles are emitted by vehicles , and 60% of the FP vehicular emissions (ie 50% of all FP emissions) are from taxis and light vans.

In CoL Vehicles make up almost 60% of total emissions of NOx., with buses and coaches the main culprits.

After a number of years of decline, measured roadside concentrations of Nox have risen dramatically on key roads in the City since 2003.

Source: City of London Air Quality Strategy 2011 – 2015, Draft for Consultation

[2] Evening Standard, 30.06.2010: ‘Pollution kills 4,200 people every year in the capital’ by Pippa Crerar and Mark Blunden.




[3] City of London Air Quality Strategy 2011 – 2015, Draft for Consultation

Letter to the FT.

Your report on public sector pensions (Osborne faces dilemma over cap on 'fat cat' pension deals) states that the "funding gap" will increase from £4bn this year to £10bn by 2015. This gives a totally misleading picture of the changing cost of public sector pensions. As the schemes in question are not actually funded, the basis for the "funding gap" figure is completely arbitrary. If those lobbying against them got their way and they were abolished today then the "funding gap" would balloon from £4bn to about £27bn which only serves to highlight how unsuitable these figures are as a measure of the true cost of these commitments. The interim report from Lord Hutton's Commission cuts through much of the confusion surrounding estimates of these costs; his projections show that the net cost of the main schemes will fall from about 1.5% of GDP today to 1.1% of GDP by 2049-50.

Noel Lynch
Chair, London Green Party

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

I love 2030 competition

Your world. Your vision. Your future

Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party member, Saci Lloyd is running a competition, I love 2030. The competition invites original entries in these four categories – Creative Writing; Moving Image; Animation; Photography & Graphics.

What is being looked for… A fresh and stunning take on climate change. You are living in 2030 and you asked to send back a glimpse of your future world.

How to enter – Go to http://www.sacilloyd.com/ and register for all competition details.

Closing deadline 18th Match 2011

GREEN MP IS OFFICIALLY A "DOMESTIC EXTREMIST"?

A UK NATIONAL NEWSPAPER HAS SAID IT BELIEVES CAROLINE LUCAS MP, GREEN PARTY LEADER, MIGHT BE LISTED ON A NATIONAL PUBLIC ORDER INTELLIGENCE UNIT DATABASE OF "DOMESTIC EXTREMISTS" along with other law abiding citizens - including Vince Cable - on a National Public Order Intelligence unit database of "domestic extremists" according to one of the UK's major newspapers, which has contacted the Green Party privately about the matter.

Responding today, Caroline said: "I wouldn't be surprised if my name was on the list. Anybody who takes part in any kind of protest, however peaceful and however justifiable in terms of the public good, appears to be at risk of being labelled an extremist. "After attending the 2008 Climate Camp at Kingsnorth in Kent, for example, I wrote to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner with a Freedom of Information request to find out whether my name was one of those being held on police databases. I was told that this information could not be released.

"At Kingsnorth, I saw for myself the extent to which the policing of peaceful protests was becoming aggressive and disproportionate. There has been a real escalation of excessive police responses to environmental protests, student demonstrations and anti-war actions.

"Controversial techniques like kettling have become normalised. And the revelations about police infiltration of non-violent groups represent an ever more dangerous step towards to a police state. "Given the discovery that even more undercover officers like Mark Kennedy are involved in covert operations against green campaigners - at great expense to the taxpayer - the police must now act urgently to bring ACPO's policing units into the Metropolitan Police."

A quarter of the hostel beds available to homeless people could vanish

A quarter of the hostel beds available to homeless people could vanish within months as a result of public spending cuts that threaten to force tens of thousands of vulnerable people on to the streets, a study backed by leading charities suggests. The charities warn the problem of so-called "visible homelessness" will resurface as councils prepare to make savings of up to 65% to budgets that provide key services for mentally ill people, ex-offenders, drug addicts, refugees, care leavers and teenage parents.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jan/18/spending-cuts-homeless-hostel-beds

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

An honest argument about FPTP

A No vote this 5 May is more than a vote against AV.

It's a vote in favour of our existing electoral system, first past the post.

But we've yet to hear the No campaign clearly explain the merits of the system they're campaigning to uphold this May.

I delivered a letter this weekend to the president of the No campaign, Margaret Beckett, challenging her to an honest debate about FPTP's merits.

Help make that debate happen by signing up to my petition for a debate now:

http://www.yestofairervotes.org/Debate-Challenge

We're inviting Beckett to name the time, the day, and the place for the debate.

All we ask is that the No campaign answer, with clarity and honesty, why they'll be voting Yes to FPTP in a few months' time.

We've yet to hear a logical, consistent, and coherent argument from the No campaign in favour of the broken status quo.

Join me in challenging Margaret Beckett to give the public the standard of debate they deserve:

http://www.yestofairervotes.org/Debate-Challenge

Jonathan Bartley
Yes to Fairer Votes

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Great Green Rock Anthem

Listen to SAVE THE EARTH by Tokyo Rose which the Green Party has been given the right to use:
http://airplaydirect.com/music/bands/36474/index.php

Saturday, 8 January 2011

“The season of the witch”.

Guest post from Dr. Haroon Saad.

One of the songs I have been listening to on and off this year is an oldie by Donovan, called “The season of the witch”. It’s a great number but it also echoed with some of my thinking. It is as we are in the season of “witchcraft”, infact in the season of a lot of “bad witchcraft”. There is a kind of bewitched charade being played out on issues that are at the root of why we are living in an “age of crisis”. Infact what I’m saying is nothing new.

Its important to remember that for the last decade we have lived in periods of “ mini-crisis” and one ongoing crises of the “war against terror”. Infact the word “crisis” has become endemic in classifying a series of issues-obesity, mental health, eating disorders,diabetes,aids,political, military, and financial .

I say bewitched, because everywhere there is infact a healthy assessment of the shit we are in, BUT reaction/response/struggle are somewhat muted.

Take the big crash, that’s what we’ve had, its not just another “crises” as our leaders would have us believe , what we have had is a crash that leaves the model fundamentally broken, even on its own terms. No amount of patch work remedial repair work will put it back together again. A lot of people know this and yet we buy the policy of our respective governments. We are in effect “bewitched” into accepting solutions that will impact badly on our own children as well as ourselves. At EU level we have the EU 2020 strategy as our guiding light when its predecessor the “Lisbon strategy” so spectacularly failed. We are accepting coca cola light when in actual fact its not coca cola we need.

If you are interested in my thought on the issues of why we can be bewitched and why it’s a broken model then check out my blog : Paradigm shift.

http://povertyofpolitics.blogspot.com/2011/01/towards-new-paradigm.html

It also seems that we have been bewitched by solutions that we are offered to solve poverty .

In 2000 global GDP was assessed to be some 30 trillion dollars. By 2006 global GDP was 67 trillion dollars. Surely in the fight against poverty this should have been great news. Loads more money to go around and therefore at least some “trickle down” should have taken place.Its infact the exact opposite. Median income levels have not increased since the 1970 and yet the income of the top 10% has grown by 15% and for the top 1% by over 60%. This was the European Year against poverty and social exclusion and yet it’s the year in which levels of poverty and exclusion have risen throughout Europe. Infact our working model has created a new large group of people in work but poor.

If you are interested in my thought on how not to solve poverty then check out my blog : Mission Impossible.

http://povertyofpolitics.blogspot.com/2010/10/mission-impossible-why-eu-strategy-for.html

Wikileaks has also in effect highlighted our bewitched state. I have really been struck by how many times I have read or heard the words “Its nothing new, we’ve heard it all before”.

Sure it may come as no surprise to followers of politics that Sarkozy and Putin have negative images. However, Wikileaks was not just about political gossip.

America was directly involved in the “civil war” in the Yemen. It was doing the bombing and yet it denied this. Wikileaks also revealed that the “coalition of the willing” locked up 180,000 Iraqi men.It toutured (directly and indirectly) nearly 109,000 people. It allowed the assassination of over 15,000 others. No wonder there was such a great resistance, its simply too facile to blame the ongoing civil war as simply fundamentalist led.

Wikileaks for me highlights the real problem we have with our current form of parliamentary democracy.We are simply lied to and the lies are simply justified on the basis of “security” and “informal diplomacy”. Our parliamentary model is fast actually eroding our rights to be properly informed and consulted. We are governed that by a “clubtocracy” that is destroying the environment and making us pay through austerity measures for things that we had nothing to do with. We have a business model that is based on fraud. Just one small example. In the year before Lehman brothers went bust, Ernst and Young helped to cook their books by removing bad debt from their balance sheet. How did they do this you might ask. Simple , they simply transferred it to friendly banks in Europe just before their balance sheets had to be made public and then these debts came back to Lehman. Its “peek-a-boo” accounting” , its fraud. The only ones who suffered were those who carried on buying the crap that Lehman were peddling on the basis that their balance sheet was good.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Sea Shepherd.

High-speed chases and confrontations as the Sea Shepherd fleet and Japanese whaling vessels clashed in the Southern Ocean last week.

While most of us spent New Year's Eve looking for the next watering hole, the three vessels of the Sea Shepherd society were engaged in oceanic clashes with three harpoon ships of the Japanese whaling fleet. 'What an awesome way to begin the New Year', said Captain Locky MacLean of the Gojira. This is the first time Sea Shepherd have managed to zero in on the whalers before they managed to kill a single whale. 'The fact is that these three killer ships are not killing whales while clashing with us.'

Saturday (1st) saw the opposing vessels almost collide as they sailed at full tilt whilst trying to dodge floating slabs of solid ice in treacherous waters. At the same time the whalers aimed their turbo water cannons at the Sea Shepherd crew who responded with volleys of stink bombs. Since the discovery of the Japanese fleet a week ago, over 1,200 miles have been covered in the frontier waters adjacent to Antarctica. There have been no injuries.

On Wednesday (5th) evening, the whalers attempted to charge the Gojira whilst she was stationary in order to receive supplies. But the attack was anticipated and the Steve Irwin intercepted the whaling harpoon by deploying a Delta boat in its path. The Delta then pursued the fleeing whalers for 11 miles back to port, bombarding them with dozens of stink bombs before returning to base.

Cables released by Wikileaks on January 1st revealed that the Japanese Government regards the Sea Shepherd as a major threat to their criminal whaling business. The cables indicate Japan hopes to compel the US to crack down on the Sea Shepherd by stripping it of charity / tax exemption status.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is confident the fleet can be kept on the run. The whaling harpoon vessels are no faster than the Gojira and with the aerial aid of helicopter Nancy Burnet, the anti-whalers should be well equipped to keep the Japanese fleet within their sights for the duration of their whaling season, which normally ends in late March.

* See www.seashepherd.org

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Why the cuts are the wrong cure

Why the cuts won’t help the economy.

How cuts will make Britain more unfair.

What the experts say.

Take action.

See;
http://falseeconomy.org.uk/

Gazan youth manifesto

Gazan youth issue manifesto to vent their anger with all sides in the conflict. An anonymous group of students has created a document to express their frustration born of Hamas's violent crackdowns on 'western decadence', the destruction wreaked by Israel's attacks and the political games played by Fatah and the UN

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jan/02/free-gaza-youth-manifesto-palestinian

A Gazan group of young people have issued a manifesto to vent their anger about the situation in Palestine. Photograph: Mohammed Salem/Reuters The meeting takes place in a bare room in a block of flats in the centre of Gaza City. No photographs, no real names – those are the conditions.

This is the first time that a group of young Palestinian cyber-activists has agreed to meet a journalist since launching what it calls Gaza Youth's Manifesto for Change. It is an incendiary document – written with courage and furious energy – that has captivated thousands of people who have come across it online, and the young university students are visibly excited, but also scared. "Not only are our lives in danger; we are also putting our families at risk," says one of them, who calls himself Abu George.

Gaza Youth's Manifesto for Change is an extraordinary, impassioned cyber-scream in which young men and women from Gaza – where more than half the 1.5 million population is under 18 – make it clear that they've had enough. "Fuck Hamas..." begins the text. "Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah.
Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!"

It goes on to detail the daily humiliations and frustrations that constitute everyday life in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian slice of land that Israel and Egypt have virtually sealed off from the world since Hamas was elected to power in 2006.

"Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed," reads the extraordinary document. "We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even can't think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!"

The text ends with a triple demand: "We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

On Facebook, the group calls itself Gaza Youth Breaks Out. When the cyber-activists wrote the manifesto three weeks ago, they gave themselves a year to gather enough support before thinking about further steps. But their text has travelled around the world at an unexpected speed and has harvested thousands of supporters, many of them human rights activists, who say they are ready to help.

Now, the authors are dealing with the impact of a document that could be a turning point in the life of the Strip. "We did not expect this to be so big," one of them admits. Eight people – three women and five men – wrote the text. They are normal students, from the more secular elements of Gazan society. All declare themselves to be non-political and disgusted with the tensions and rivalries that divide Palestinians between Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, and Fatah, the more secular party which governs the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank.
"Politics is bollocks, it is screwing our lives up," said one member of the group. "Politicians only care about money and about their supporters. The Israelis are the only ones benefiting from the division."

Two of the group have been detained by the Gazan authorities several times, accused among other crimes of "immoral" behaviour. They say that they have been abused in jail and claim that physical and psychological punishment is commonplace in Gaza's detention centres.

Another one obtained a scholarship to attend a workshop at an American university, but he says Israel did not issue a permit that would allow him to leave the Strip.

"We are supposed to be the engine of change in this society, but our voices are muted. In the press, at university, there is no room in our society to talk freely, out of the frame, without putting yourself and your family at risk," says one, who wants to be called Abu Yazan. He adds: "In Gaza, you feel watched at school, in the streets, everywhere.
You can be thrown into jail at any time. [Hamas] will threaten you with ruining your family reputation and that would be it."

These youngsters do not represent anybody except themselves, but their call for change has resonated strongly, not only abroad but also inside Gaza. Their Facebook page already has thousands of friends – including, they say, many from the Strip.

The causes of frustration are legion. The Israeli blockade forbids Gazans to travel in and out of the Strip without a permit, which is difficult to obtain. For Gazan students who wish to study abroad, the most difficult part is not being accepted at a foreign university or getting a scholarship, but simply being able to travel.

Inside the Strip, things do not get much better. Israeli shelling which follows the launching of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants is part of their everyday life. Power cuts and ruinous sanitary conditions are among the side-effects of the embargo suffered by Gaza's inhabitants.

With high unemployment in the Strip and little access to other job markets after graduation, many feel that they have reached a dead end.
Some keep studying and accumulating degrees and foreign languages, which they learn via the internet, hoping for better days to come. Others kill their time smoking hookahs with their friends day after day. There is an increasing number who rely on drugs to cope with their conflict traumas and frustrations.

Going out, meeting friends in caf├ęs – let alone clubs or discotheques – or attending cultural events has become an increasingly complicated task as Hamas cracks down on western "decadence".

In Gaza there are no theatres and few concerts aside from the Islamic musical performances organised by the Hamas authorities. In the places where young men and women are allowed to meet, considered an "oasis" by the less conservative youth, the police are quick to interrogate mixed couples suspected of not being married or engaged.

The "last straw" for the writers of the Gaza manifesto came a month ago, when Hamas closed Sharek, an internationally financed organisation offering training and summer activities for thousands of adolescents and young people. Sharek had also became a hang-out place for the more liberal-minded in Gaza. Human Rights Watch recently issued a statement condemning its closure. "Hamas authorities in Gaza should allow an organisation that helps children and youth to reopen, and penalise officials who have harassed its workers," it said.

According to Ihab Al Ghusain, a spokesman for the Hamas Ministry of the Interior, the problems highlighted by Gaza's disaffected youth are sometimes the result of over-zealous officials. "There are no laws prohibiting men and women sitting together in public places in Gaza," he said. "But some policemen at their own initiative interrogate the couples. Those policemen should be punished."

He says that proof of the government's commitment to Gaza's young generation is that it has declared 2011 the Year for the Youth.. But the authors of the youth manifesto are unlikely to be persuaded by such symbolic initiatives. The group is currently investing most of its time and energy in debating new strategies to pursue a web-based platform for change. The new year may yet become one for the youth of the Strip, but perhaps not in the way Hamas intended.

The Manifesto

"Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

"We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in...

"We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal-dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, home-made fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

"There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalising this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope.

"We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the Earth.
During the last years, Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want.

"ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart-aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want! We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask?"

Monday, 3 January 2011

Doing Small Things With Great Love – by Bill Palethorpe

Guest post from http://gandhifoundation.org
With as always (but particularly in our age of 24 hour news coverage) so many negative stories making the headlines is it any wonder that people increasingly feel powerless? Some decide not to get up in the morning whilst others turn to a hedonistic life. Well friends, as many Gandhi followers know, we all have the power and talents to act for the common good of other people, our non-human animal cousins and our beautiful ‘on loan’ planet. To quote Mother Teresa
“We can do no great things but we can do small things with great love”.
So with this in mind I would like to share with you three simple and inexpensive events that Eastbourne Quakers, vegetarians, military personnel, town councillors (including the mayor) and others, many of them complete strangers, have recently been successfully involved in.
i) During National Vegetarian Week last September local Quakers, vegetarians / vegans and friends ran two very successful simple outside vegetarian stalls. Organisations such as Viva!, Animal Aid, The Vegetarian Society, The Vegan Society, and Advocates for Animals, gave us lots of very interesting and colourful information and recipes plus posters and stall banners. Also friendly veggie companies were only too pleased to provide food samples as this is a very good form of marketing for them. We even persuaded a butcher delivering meat to local pubs to try several vegan dishes, he declared them all delicious and apologised for his day job! Buoyed up by our success we decided to repeat this event at a big pre-Christmas Eastbourne Street Party in December. Our local health food shop Sunny Foods offered us the use of part of their premises. The stall was extremely popular gaining us lots of contacts and converts with widespread local press publicity.
ii) Last Spring/Summer we had noticed foie gras on sale at the French Market that visits Eastbourne and many other towns throughout the Spring to Autumn months. Foie gras is produced from the diseased liver of a duck or goose that has been forced fed, causing the liver of the bird to swell up to ten times its normal size. A pipe is inserted down the throat of the bird and pulped maize pumped into their stomachs, frequently resulting in severe injury or death. We therefore decided to try and get the product banned from all council land and premises. It is illegal to produce it in the UK and an increasing number of other countries. Due to the free trade EU regulations however it can be imported from mainland Europe.
We approached Eastbourne Borough Council (EBC) who advised us to write to them with several signatures. On reflection we decided to organise a petition. Within a few days friends, neighbours, sympathetic shop keepers etc. had signed and we presented this in person to EBC. After months of discussion and meetings including providing them with excellent information from animal welfare charities they agreed to debate it at a full
Cabinet meeting at the Town Hall on 31st March 2010. Prior to this they had watched a graphic DVD.
Quaker friends attended the Meeting and were amazed at the welcome we received and at the supportive speeches made by council officials and town councillors. Imagine our joy when the vote was taken and the LibDem and Conservative councillors joined forces and voted unanimously for an immediate ban. One councillor regretted that EBC had not already banned it and has now offered to approach trade organisations to influence their members to stop stocking the product at hotels, restaurants and other outlets. We have received a great deal of positive publicity both locally and nationally including a feature in The Herald (2nd and 9th April 2010) the main widely circulated local paper and The Friend the weekly Quaker publication.
iii) Lastly but by no means least a similar group of us in conjunction with the animal welfare charity Animal Aid of Tonbridge agreed to mount a local campaign to enable us to lay a purple poppy wreath in memory of all the millions of innocent non-human animals that have served and died in wars and armed conflicts. Some of us had already visited the beautiful Animals War Memorial in Park Lane central London. This is a powerful and moving tribute to all those brave animals which was unveiled six years ago on the 90th anniversary of the start of WW1.
Our format was broadly similar to our foie gras campaign. EBC agreed in principal to our request to take part in the formal Remembrance Sunday Parade and to lay a purple poppy wreath. However the final decision rested with the Eastbourne Combined Ex-Services Association Wreath Laying Committee. Much to our surprise we started gathering support from many ex-service men and women as well as individual residents and local organisations. These included the local branches of Quaker Concern for Animals; Vegetarian and Vegan Societies; Viva! and Animal Aid plus East Sussex Wildlife Animal Rescue.
Again imagine our delight when in October the Wreath Laying Committee met for the final time before Remembrance Sunday and unanimously voted in favour of us permanently taking part in the official memorial parade with the laying of our purple poppy wreath at its conclusion. Some purists may say that we should not get involved with a military parade but as Quakers say “cooperation is better than conflict”. Once again our campaign produced a lot of good publicity both locally and wider afield. The town centre Sainsbury’s has now granted us the week prior to Remembrance Sunday for selling purple poppies and giving out relevant information.
No doubt many Gandhi friends are involved in similar enterprises to the three examples above. However do please contact myself or the organisations direct (just Google them!) if you care to join any of these particular peaceful campaigns. Good news as well as bad can travel fast nowadays.
You can reach Bill Palethorpe at hobdell@fastmail.fm

Pete Postlethwaite RIP

Pete Postlethwaite dies aged 64
Oscar-nominated British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died in hospital in Shropshire at the age of 64