Saturday, 25 December 2010

Seasons Greetings

Wishing all our readers a peaceful, joyful and happy festive season.

Here is an awful festive joke:

Russian rain
A Russian couple were walking down the street in Moscow one night, when the
man felt a drop hit his nose. "I think it's raining", he said to his wife.
"No, that felt more like snow to me", she replied.
"No, I'm sure it was just rain" he said.
Well, as these things go, they were about to have a major argument about
whether it was raining or snowing.
Just then they saw a Communist Party official walking toward them.
"Let's not fight about it", the man said, "Let's ask Comrade Rudolph whether
it's officially raining or snowing".
As the official approached, the man said, "Tell us, Comrade Rudolph, is it
officially raining or snowing?"
"It's raining, of course", he replied, and walked on.
But the woman insisted: "I know that felt like snow!" to which the man
quietly replied:

"Rudolph the Red, knows rain, dear".

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Petition to cut military spending not education!

I just signed a petition calling on our leaders to act now to stop cutting funding to higher education leading to increased fees and instead cut the immense amount of taxpayers' money given to the military and in subsidies to profit arms companies.

I feel that spending £97 billion replacing Trident nuclear weapons, over £5 billion on aircraft carriers we don't need and subsiding arms exports to a tune of hundreds of million of pounds every year is WASTEFUL! It is calculated that every person in the UK gave arms company BAE Systems £64 last year. The government's priority should be young people and not arms companies profits. Cut military spending not education!

Please support this petition and send it to anyone you think would be interested.

Here's the URL to go to in order to sign the petition:

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Govt cuts wind, gives to nuclear

from Dave Toke:

Government to cut wind power programme by at least half and give the resources to nuclear power

The more details emerge of the Government's electricity market reform, the worse things look. Huhne is going to adopt the 1990s NFFO auction approach (favoured by Tim Eggar the former Tory Energy Minister) which will massacre the onshore wind power programme and halve the offshore wind programme at least. In the 1990s the auctions for renewable contracts took years to organise and when they ended half of the projects were economic and half of th rest did not get planning consent - so only around one in four proposed projects could be implemented.
The auction proposal will also destroy the arrangements that the Crown Estates have organised for offshore wind in that the developers given leases in Round 3 at least will have to compete in this auction. Obviously not all will get contracts. Others will end up being uneconomic because the auction system encourages developers to put in optimistically low bids to get contracts (which can be sold on to others). This system has been tried several times around the world (UK, Ireland, California,and Denmark under the post 2001 right wing governmen) and low capacity out turns are always the result.

So, in effect, companies like E.ON are going to succeed in cutting the renewables programme by half and replacing it with investment for nuclear power which will be given much more relatively favourable treatment under the 'low carbon' mechanism' (Paul Golby of E.ON is behind this idea).

The Renewables Obligation (RO) (although expensive) is much preferable to the auction system being proposed because it at least allows companies to set up whre and when they can with a good price. Of course, what we need most is a REAL feed-in tariff system like they have in the bulk of EU countries (led by Germany) which allows the same effect but with a more cost effective outcome. I've talked to a couple of people about starting up a 'Campaign for Real Feed-in Tariffs'. If there's a consistent campaign supported by the Green Party, green NGOs and others on this we have a good chance of success, although the problem will still remain of getting good prices set for the different renewable technologies. - Co-ordination with RenewableUK would be needed there, although they are likely to try to defend the RO as their first choice.

One thing's forcertain - we can't place ANY trust on Chris Huhne's green publicity hype. What Labour did was heaven compared to this Government's proposals. Really, what the Lib Dems are doing is an about turn as radical as they did on tuition fees. It's just that people don't realise it (yet).
Chris Huhne is abandoning the anti-nuclear, pro-renewable stance which they campaigned on and is promoting a policy which funds nuclear at the expense of renewables.

Dave Toke
See also some details on

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Letter in today's Independent.

Your report on Ireland's severity budget ("More misery for Ireland as brutal cuts revealed", 8 December) falls into the trap of describing the emergency €85 billion IMF / EU package as a bail-out of the Irish Republic. Surely everyone can see the package for what it is: a bail-out of the European institutions that recklessly invested in Ireland's property bubble. Far from rescuing Ireland the package has turned her people into indentured servants. Ireland must endure tax increases, social welfare cuts, reductions to vital public services so that European bond holders do not suffer losses on speculative investments. Only the debt saddled on Irish taxpayers is far too high to be paid off by the current generation, insitutional investors will eventually have to take a fair share of the losses if we are to avoid weighing future generations of Irish taxpayers down with this burden.

Noel Lynch,
Chair, London Green Party

‘Fuck off Harrods’:Santa's revenge.

[Includes photograph of store with "alternative" illuminations]

‘Fuck off Harrods’ done by a disgruntled employee, fired by Harrods from his job as the toy department’s Father Christmas, took revenge last night in spectacular style.

Gaining access to a maintenance control room, Lloyd Hudson, 35, from Ilford, Essex, was able to locate the chart and corresponding switches for Harrods’ 10,000 external lights.

Barracading himself in, Hudson disabled the correct lights until he could spell out his feelings to Harrods bosses and Christmas shoppers alike. He was removed by security guards after an hour-long stand-off, then handed over to police.

“He had drunk the best part of two bottles of whisky,” said a spokesperson for the iconic London store, “and it’s that kind of behaviour that got him the sack in the first place.” Hudson has since been released on police bail.

Knightsbridge visitors were stunned.

“Honestly, I am disgusted, ” said Irene Rider, 59, from Gary, Indiana. “I was with my grandchildren. We had just gotten off the bus. I said ‘look everybody’ and pointed up to the lights – but you know what the lights said? They said f**k off. And that is not an appropriate message for a child. At least not at Christmas time.”

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

'Candle Auction' takes place in Berkshire.

An age-old tradition of a candle auction has been held at a Berkshire village.

The ceremony, which is held every three years, sees people bidding to lease a local meadow while a candle containing a horse-nail burns.

The person with the bid when the nail drops out of the specially-made tallow candle is declared the winner.

The event, which originates from the early 1800s, was being held at Aldermaston Parish Hall from 1930 GMT.

'Frantic bidding'

The local vicar was the auctioneer for the night and church wardens, in-keeping with tradition, were given pipes, although they were not be allowed to light them.

Councillor Dave Shirt, Aldermaston Parish Council chairman, said: "[Bids are] initially at a leisurely pace, and tension increases as the flame approaches the nail and the wax around it begins to soften.

"At this stage the bidding becomes frantic, and the bid that is live at the time the nail falls out wins the auction.

"Candle auctions have a long history.

"It was traditional to hold ship auctions at Lloyds Coffee House at Tower Hill in London and Samuel Pepys describes the sale of three hulks in his diary entry for 3rd September 1661."

The piece of land up for grabs this year is called Church Acre in Fishermen's Lane.

Organisers believe Chedzoy in Somerset is the only other village in the country which still holds the tradition, although only once every 21 years.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

‘Police Only’ Hospital Tries To Turn Away Injured Protester

Enough to make ones blood boil!! Well done to the ambulance driver who stood up for Alfie and insisted that he was treated.

This is beyond despicable

Police officers 'tried to stop hospital staff treating injured protester'
From Today's Observer.

Police officers 'tried to stop hospital staff treating injured protester'Mother of injured student Alfie Meadows said that her son's life could have been put at risk by the journey to another hospital

Share536 Shiv Malik and Mark Townsend The Observer, Sunday 12 December 2010 Article history
Police clash with demonstrators in Parliament Square during protests over student fees. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Police have been accused of attempting to prevent seriously injured protesters being treated at the same hospital as officers hurt during last week's tuition fees demonstration, igniting claims that one student's life could have been put at risk.

The mother of 20-year-old Alfie Meadows, who required brain surgery after allegedly being hit by a police truncheon, claimed that when her son was taken to Chelsea and Westminster hospital officers objected to him being treated there.

Susan Matthews, 55, said that only the intervention of an ambulance worker allowed her son to receive urgent medical treatment for the stroke he suffered after receiving his injury. "If he hadn't, Alfie would have been transferred and he could have died," she said.

After allegedly being hit by police, the philosophy student fell unconscious and later sustained bleeding on the brain.

His mother added: "The ambulance man took us to Chelsea and Westminster hospital. That [hospital] had been given over to police injuries and there was a standoff in the corridor. Alfie was obviously a protester and the police didn't want him there, but the ambulance man insisted that he stayed."

She said that he was then asked to take Alfie to another hospital. "The ambulance man was appalled and he said: 'I'm getting angry now, and I'm not going to do this.'

"The senior nurse in charge took us into a resuscitation room to keep us away from the police because, she said, they were finding it upsetting to see protesters in the hospital."

The injury to Alfie, a second-year undergraduate at Middlesex University, is already the subject of an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

Yesterday afternoon investigators interviewed Alfie at Charing Cross hospital in west London, where he was taken for surgery as his condition began to deteriorate. His mother, an English literature lecturer at Roehampton University, said that her son had made a good recovery after a three-hour operation.

"The first thing Alfie said when he woke up was about how many other people had been hurt and how the police had been striking and bashing everyone. Any one of those kids there could have been Alfie.

"I'm from the generation of Blair Peach [hit over the head by police at a London demonstration in 1979] and we knew that anyone could die if they were hit. He's amazingly jolly now. I don't know it that is from a sense of having survived or the morphine."

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The issue is under IPCC investigation."

Meanwhile, pressure is growing for an inquiry into how the Royal Protection Squad allowed a car containing Prince Charles and his wife Camilla to be attacked by protesters.

Police rejected reports that a communication breakdown led to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall being caught up in the protests as they travelled to a theatre in central London.

I understand there is a call-out from Alfie Meadows fellow students for another peaceful kettling of Scotland Yard on Tuesday at 1pm

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Stop the crackdown - incredible response!

Incredible - nearly 400,000 signatures in one day for press freedom! Join the massive outcry and forward the email below -

Dear friends,

The massive campaign of intimidation against WikiLeaks is sending a chill through free press advocates everywhere.

Legal experts say WikiLeaks has likely broken no laws. Yet top US politicians have called it a terrorist group and commentators have urged assassination of its staff. The organization has come under massive government and corporate attack, but WikiLeaks is only publishing information provided by a whistleblower. And it has partnered with the world's leading newspapers (NYT, Guardian, Spiegel etc) to carefully vet the information it publishes.

The massive extra-judicial intimidation of WikiLeaks is an attack on democracy. We urgently need a public outcry for freedom of the press and expression. Sign the petition to stop the crackdown and forward this email to everyone -- let's get to 1 million voices and take out full page ads in US newspapers this week!

WikiLeaks isn't acting alone -- it's partnered with the top newspapers in the world (New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, etc) to carefully review 250,000 US diplomatic cables and remove any information that it is irresponsible to publish. Only 800 cables have been published so far. Past WikiLeaks publications have exposed government-backed torture, the murder of innocent civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan, and corporate corruption.

The US government is currently pursuing all legal avenues to stop WikiLeaks from publishing more cables, but the laws of democracies protect freedom of the press. The US and other governments may not like the laws that protect our freedom of expression, but that's exactly why it's so important that we have them, and why only a democratic process can change them.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether WikiLeaks and the leading newspapers it's partnered with are releasing more information than the public should see. Whether the releases undermine diplomatic confidentiality and whether that's a good thing. Whether WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has the personal character of a hero or a villain. But none of this justifies a vicious campaign of intimidation to silence a legal media outlet by governments and corporations. Click below to join the call to stop the crackdown:

Ever wonder why the media so rarely gives the full story of what happens behind the scenes? This is why - because when they do, governments can be vicious in their response. And when that happens, it's up to the public to stand up for our democratic rights to a free press and freedom of expression. Never has there been a more vital time for us to do so.

With hope,
Ricken, Emma, Alex, Alice, Maria Paz and the rest of the Avaaz team.

Friday, 10 December 2010

London Winter Party


Saturday 11th December 2010, 7.00pm to 11pm

Seven Dials Club

42 Earlham Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9LA

Free admission, Vegan supper available £5, Pay bar, Disabled access Original raffle prizes, auction lots, sketches, competitions, music & more

From Covent Garden tube (Piccadilly Line), walk down Neal Street, across Shelton Street, turn left into Earlham Street and the club is on the left.

If walking from Cambridge Circus, cross Seven Dials, into Earlham Street and it is on the right.

No need to RSVP and for any further details, contact Tel. 07939 072534

Children welcome, so long as they don't approach the bar.

I'm getting very excited as I hear about the preparations for sketches and as the raffle prizes and 'goodie presents for all' are rolling in !

Hope to see loads of you at the event. It is not confined to Green Party members.

Another shocking eyewitness account of police violence

What follows is clumsily written, but my head still hurts like murder and I can't bring myself to think about it too clearly. I hope that it can stand for now as a preliminary report of my experience at the protest.

I was on the edge of a group of protesters in Parliament Square, standing peacefully. We weren't even moving. Suddenly, police on foot in full body armour (and wearing balaclavas so we couldn't recognise them) charged us with batons raised. I was pushed backwards into the people behind me in the initial charge but the crushed and scared crowd pushed back to stop everyone falling over. I saw several around me hit by batons and fall, screaming. I was then hit over the head by a baton, hard enough to knock me sideways, then hit again, I think by the same officer. My ears rang, everything went quiet and I couldn't hold my balance. My knees gave way and I fell over. An officer stepped forward and deliberately stamped his foot into my chest, winding me. Another officer rested his boot on my head. A huge man, a protester, who had stood next to me picked me up and held my bleeding head in front of the police (this I have heard from him as I was semi- or un-conscious). They did not hit him but did not move aside. He repeatedly screamed for a medic but the police pretended not to hear him although it was clear to look at me that I needed one. He held me in both arms and pushed at the police line with his shoulder. They pushed back once, but then let him through - but hit a man who tried to follow. Next to him, a police officer spontaneously collapsed, apparently feigning unconsciousness. As the officer was not on the front line, had had nothing thrown at him and was wearing full body armour including helmet with visor down, he could not have been injured. The only nearby medic immediately tended to this officer, who had apparently faked an injury. Both medics and police ignored me and my friend who shouted repeatedly for assistance. Giving up, he half walked half carried me to hospital. Once there he attempted to get police to take a statement from me but was told there were none available.I spent three hours in hospital, dizzy, bleeding from the head and being repeatedly sick. My speech was apparently slurred and I have poor memory of what happened for the rest of the day. I had been told to stay overnight but feeling scared and victimised from being hit I left and returned home. The man who'd saved me was named Adam but I never learnt his surname. He left once I'd assured him I was fine as he had friends still at the demo and was worried about them.

I could justify being violent as using subjective violence against sytemic violence. I could justify being violent as I saw the innocent being beaten to the ground around me. More than anything, I could justify ripping the armour from these heavily armed cowards, as to hit people so heavily protected could never be called violence.

But I didn't. I didn't lift a finger. I didn't push. I didn't even shout "fuck the police" as I should have. I didn't have the chance to. I was beaten to the ground, and stamped on when unconscious by brutal men who couldn't have cared if they'd killed me.

I later learned I was one of the luckier ones. I am thinking of Alfie today, and of others who might not have made the news. Thanks to everybody who has sent me messages of support - it's meant a lot. I can't describe how confused, frightened and victimised I felt, bleeding and vomiting in a hospital bed. I'm not ashamed to say I cried a few times.

I hear Bob Brecher has suggested the police were ordered to scare protesters into not coming back. I'm coming back. They have no idea how strong they've entrenched hatred in me, hatred for their actions, their facelessness, their carelessness, their inhumanity.

We're all coming back. For Alfie, for everyone who was hurt, and most of all for the countless wrecked lives that will never make the headlines - the poor, the disabled, the homeless, the students, everyone in the gunsights of this government. We're all coming back.

Eyewitness account of yesterday's protests

From Joe Rooney, Green Party member:

Rhythm section of the revolution
So, after the last time I did this, I thought I'd write another post about what it was like to be a member of UCU staff involved in yesterday's political activity. I should say before I start that I'm writing this in my personal capacity, on my personal blog, and nothing I say here should in any way be taken to be necessarily reflective of any position or policy of UCU's. I'm also not writing this as a dig at individual Police or to condone any acts of violence or vandalism (although there is a clear ethical distinction between violence against the person and violence against property so far as I am concerned).

NUS and UCU organised three events yesterday. The first was a lobby of MPs ahead of the vote. The second was a rally with speeches on Victoria Embankment. The third was a "candlelight vigil" using 9,000 glowsticks to make the point that 9,000 is a big old number.

The day started with a briefing for stewards (including me) from the Police. We'd hired a professional stewarding firm for the rally and vigil after what happened at the first demo we did, so we were only stewarding the Lobby. The guy from Westminster Palace Police told us that officers had been shipped in from all over London, and that their upper estimate for number of students in attendance was 100,000 (that's one hundred thousand). I almost fell off my chair laughing - moreso when he told us that he was keen to avoid running battles in Westminster Hall. I'm not sure that was ever a risk, but fine.

Anyway, so I was stewarding outside the Houses of Parliament, right behind the police line. To start with, there wasn't much there - a truck deploying sandbags onto the road, but very few police - although quite a few riot vans drove past us at speed. When a colleague and I went to get a coffee, however, we turned the corner to see a huge number of riot vans parked up, and lots of burly-looking police in sky blue baseball caps* with truncheons already in hand walking around in groups.

Over the course of the next hour or so, a line of regular police just sort of materialised alongside us, while a small number of protesters appeared at the Whitehall police line. There were walls of police everywhere I looked around midday. They brought out the horses around 2pm, and they lined up behind rows of the blue-caps who were now in full riot gear.

And then the protesters arrived - organised by God-knows-who, and certainly not the 100,000 the police had (massively over-)prepared for. The first thing they'd have seen is the three-deep riot cops waiting for them with masks down and shields up.

At this point, the lobby was done - shut down by the cops, two of whom were standing on the ramp down to the visitors' entrance with their automatic firearms in hand. Other police suggested we move away for our own safety, and most of the other stewards did, our work effectively being done. My colleague and I elected to stay, and I spent the time taking photos and tweeting when something noteworthy occurred. We saw riot police dragging out broken fences. In fairness, protesters were using firecrackers and smokebombs (at least I assume it was protesters) but no violence.

It wasn't long after that people started tweeting about Shiv Malik getting hit by a baton and having to go to A&E. Not much after that, a student activist was pulled out of his wheelchair by the police. Twice.

The police told us the line was going to break soon, although it didn't. I did see the protesters turn to leave Parliament Square, though, and later heard how the mounted Police charged into the rear of the retreating students while the front encountered the kettle.

Blissfully unaware, my colleague and I headed into Central Lobby, handed in our fetching pink hi-vis vests, and went to the rally. We had to go cross the river twice to avoid the police lines but we got there, to a pretty understated rally; the Police weren't letting anyone out of the kettles to let them come to the rally despite claims to the contrary. The rally itself was very cool, with lots of quality speeches. The best was, of course, the Green Party's Caroline Lucas, able to say with confidence that we're the only Parliamentary party in England with a genuine commitment to free education. She talked about Business Education Tax and Robin Hood Tax and got a really good response. A later speaker, from the Union of Jewish Students, made the very good point that Labour got us into this mess, and the Tories and Lib Dems made it worse - who can we trust. My personal answer is obvious, but I'm not keen to preach.

Anyway, I headed home at this point, as I was shattered. As I left, however, I read about the Met's claims that the kettle was over with interest - only to discover that it was apparently a trick, as protesters trying to leave were kettled on Westminster Bridge, away from the toilets the Met had "generously" provided, and weren't allowed to leave without submitting to being videoed. Y'know, waiving their rights - a friend of mine checked with a police station and was told that it was non-negotiable.

Other highlights - protesters being told they were being kettled under first common law, then breach of the peace, then common law again, then a spokesperson on News 24 claiming they weren't using kettling tactics..!

Please distribute wherever you'd like.


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Bankers were paid nearly £7 Billion in bonuses this year!
 Vodafone told its OK not to pay most of their £6 Billion tax bill!
 Con-dem Government doing a £2 Million survey to see if we are happy!
 We get a safe place to go and are not hanging on the streets
 We get involved in positive activities like sports, media & volunteering
 We get educated on drugs, sexual health, politics & other cultures
 We are able to achieve certificates like the Duke of Edinburgh Award
 We get help with jobs, college, university, housing and counselling
 We get advice and shown the right path by our youth workers
 We get involved in the community & fundraising for charity
 We are helped to become better adults of the future
 8 Youth Centres already shut down in the last 6 months
 Exposure magazine axed
 Youth Opportunities Funding gone
YOUTH WORK , Right to Work Campaign, UNISON, TUC, etc.

Thursday, 9 December 2010


A story from the Daily Express...

Red boxes clock up 11,000 miles.
By Alison Little

TAXPAYER-funded Whitehall cars have driven more than 11,000 miles since the election carrying only official ¬papers – and no minister.
At least 562 unaccompanied trips for Government “red boxes” were notched up, including one journey of just a third of a mile.
The figures, which relate to a car pool service used mainly by junior ministers, show that papers were transported 11,350 miles between May and October. The Cabinet Office and Foreign Office clocked up the most mileage when delivering lone red ¬boxes.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: “This is reminiscent of David Cameron’s briefcase being driven behind his bike.
“A ministerial car is a functional necessity for conveying a minister on official business. It’s not supposed to be there for transporting your hand luggage in air-conditioned splendour, clocking up major mileage and CO2 emissions at the taxpayers’ expense for no good reason.’’

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Petition against kettling - please sign.

The Young Greens have launched a petition against kettling which they plan to present to the MPA in January. Please get as many people as possible to sign it:

*"We the undersigned call for the Metropolitan Police Authority to ban the tactic of containment (kettling) of demonstrations, where there is not the threat of violence between conflicting groups of protestors, as it damages the community's trust in the police and confidence in the right to protest."*

On the 24^th November demonstrators were kettled by the Metropolitan Police in Whitehall for up to 9 hours. These demonstrators were prevented from marching to Parliament and were in effect imprisoned and punished for attending a protest. In contrast on the 30^th November protestors evaded the police no damage was caused and the protest remained peaceful until it was kettled and around 150 people were arrested.

When police kettle demonstrations, where there is not the threat of violence between conflicting groups of protestors, they damage the community's trust in the police and confidence in the right to protest.
We call on the MPA to ban the tactic of containment (kettling) in order to restore confidence in the police.
Calling all Londoners: PLEASE SIGN This is a petition to tto the Met Police Authority, so the signatures need to have a London postcode.

Support Wikileaks

Wikileaks has been helping us all to be more more fully informed about the less than pleasant work being done by some governments and corporations. Now they're being harassed by governments which can't find any laws they've broken so they've set up the founder and are trying to prevent people donating money to it.

Do please support this petition if you feel able!

I've just signed an Avaaz petition to stop the Wikileaks crackdown.

Check out the link below and join me in signing:

The Irish Budget: My letter to to-day's Independent.

Your report on Ireland's severity budget ("More misery for Ireland as brutal cuts revealed", 8 December) falls into the trap of describing the emergency €85 billion IMF / EU package as a bail-out of the Irish Republic. Surely everyone can see the package for what it is: a bail-out of the European institutions that recklessly invested in Ireland's property bubble. Far from rescuing Ireland the package has turned her people into indentured servants. Ireland must endure tax increases, social welfare cuts, reductions to vital public services so that European bond holders do not suffer losses on speculative investments. Only the debt saddled on Irish taxpayers is far too high to be paid off by the current generation, insitutional investors will eventually have to take a fair share of the losses if we are to avoid weighing future generations of Irish taxpayers down with this burden.

Noel Lynch,
Chair, London Green Party

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Animal tests for PG tips, Lyons and Lipton teas

The multimillion-pound company behind PG tips, Lyons and Lipton teas has caused animals to suffer and die so that the company can make health claims about its teas. PETA has uncovered numerous cruel tests that the maker of PG Tips, Lyons and Lipton has conducted on animals to evaluate the effects of tea. The following are just a few examples: . Rabbits were fed a high-fat diet, giving them abnormally high cholesterol levels and hardened arteries and then fed tea in their water. After the experiment, the rabbits' heads were cut off. Mutant Mice bred to suffer bowel inflammation were administered tea ingredients in order to see if there were any effects on their condition. After the test, the mice were killed by neck-breaking or suffocation. . Rats were forced to eat a high-fructose diet, damaging their brains. Others had their abdominal wall punctured and were fed radioactively labeled tea ingredients through a tube in their stomach. All the animals were later killed. . Piglets were exposed to E coli toxins which cause diarrhoea. As part of the tests, experimenters cut the pigs' intestines apart while the animals were still alive. The pigs were then killed. Typhoo, Twinings, Tesco and Fortnum & Mason have given PETA written confirmation that they don't test their teas on animals - but the maker of PG tips refuses to end its torment of animals.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


The Government is trying to tell us that there is no alternative to painful cuts to public services and job losses and that ‘we are all in it together’. This is NOT true:
• The deficit was caused by bailing out the banks NOT by spending too much on public services;
• We are NOT ‘all in it together’ - the poor, the young, students and older people are being hit hardest - while the bankers still get their bonuses;
• The Conservative/Lib Dem decision to focus on massive cuts is a political choice (described as an ‘opportunity’! by some Conservatives) – and one many top economists disagree with.
We DO need to cut our deficit and start living both within our financial means and within the ecological limits of our planet. To do this we need to switch the focus from cuts onto how we can increase revenue, safeguard public services, create jobs and protect our environment:
There is an alternative!
The Alternative:
Make taxes fairer - including
1. Tax those earning over £100K at 50% raising £2.3 billion/yr
2. Get tough on tax avoidance and evasion by the wealthy – this could raise over £10 billion/year!
3. Put fuel duty and VAT on air flights – we are currently subsidising flying by £7 billion/yr!
4. Tax un-earned income at the same rate as earned income raising £5 billion/year
Make cuts sensible
5. Cut the replacement to Trident nuclear missile system – saving £90 billion in total!
Invest £18 billion/year in a Green New Deal – this would:
6. Create 1 million new jobs in energy efficiency, low carbon public transport and renewable energy;
7. Build our skills and engineering capacity for the economy of tomorrow;
8. Reduce our dependence on expensive and dwindling oil and gas;
9. Mean pensioners and families living in warm, efficient cheap to run homes;
10. Cutting 80% of our carbon emissions by 2030 – helping the planet and our pockets!

This approach would cut our deficit without a recession, without making a million unemployed and would create a better future for us and the planet

(Thanks to Stroud Green Party for this)

RIP David Fleming 1940-2010

We have some very sad news to report. David Fleming, Hampstead’s titan of alternative economics, who helped to found the Green Party, was Chairman of the Soil Association, invented the concept of Tradable Energy Quotas, and was a founding father of the Transition movement and Transition Belsize, died on Sunday night [28.11.10]. David was a huge intellectual force and a wonderful friend to many. The first steering group of Transition Belsize used to meet in his living room surrounded by overflowing bookcases. He loved to see the energy of a grassroots organisation taking shape before his eyes. Perhaps it reminded him of the late 1970s when the office of the newly formed Green Party was also his Hampstead flat.

David was Economics Spokesman for the Green Party from 1977 to 1980. He was Chairman of the Soil Association from 1984 to 1991. In 1996 he came up with the idea of Tradable Energy Quotas, a way to use the market to phase out fossil fuel consumption. He was also a powerful critic of nuclear energy. When he died he was putting the final touches to “Lean Logic”, a book encapsulating his thoughts on the craziness of our fossil fuel-based, destructive and wasteful economic system. Hopefully his former researchers will complete this work and it will be published posthumously.

There will be a service in Hampstead Parish Church in due course.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Derek Wall Coalition of Resistance

Rousing speech by Derek Wall at Saturdsy's COR. I just loved his reference to the 'emperors new clothes' and the bankers testicles hanging out:-)

The COR was a huge success with 1,500 people registered as attending. Well done to Romayne Phoenix and Joseph Healy who were instrumental in organising it and to the seventeen Greens who were elected to the national council.

Thanks to Chris Smith for the film.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

At the Hyde Park demo yesterday.

Londoners should shame the mayor into protecting home insulation scheme

The tragedy of 2,100 extra deaths of older Londoners should shame the Mayor into protecting his flagship home insulation programme.

Figures published yesterday showed that there were 2,100 excess deaths of people aged 65 and older in London last winter (1). The Office for National Statistics calculates excess winter deaths by comparing the number of deaths over the coldest, winter months with those that occur in non-winter months. The estimate is taken as a measure of how many people die due to cold, wintry conditions.

This level of excess deaths in London is disgraceful. There are measures that could be implemented to reduce this and these should be a priority. London's councils should work harder to encourage older people to claim the hundreds of millions of pounds of benefits they are owed as these could be used to keep people warm.
"The Mayor of London should also respond to pressure (2) from Green party members on the London Assembly to protect London's vital home insulation programme that would make it cheaper for people to keep their homes warm.

(1) See:
(2) See:

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Westminster Green Party banner flys again.

Saturday's demo: The first appearance in over ten years of the Westminster Green Party banner which had been lost for years. WCL Coordinator, Jules Lyle (centre) tracked it down in Hackney.

Also in the photo is Ken Burgess and Tristan Smith.

Tristan, Alan Wheatley and Jules.

Monday, 22 November 2010

‘Walk in The Green Park’ to save ancient parkland

Greens launch ‘Walk in The Green Park’ to save ancient parkland

Photo opportunity: Tues 23rd November, 1.00 – 1.15pm

Meeting Point: Proposed site of tree felling within the park

(Opposite the Hard Rock Café - where Picadilly meets Hyde Park Corner)

Green Party activists will join Westminster residents and conservationists from across the capital, for a ‘Walk in The Green Park’ on Tuesday in a last ditch attempt to save ancient treescape from destruction as proposals for a war memorial costing £5 million get the go ahead.
The groups will tie ribbons around the trees earmarked for felling near to Hyde Park Corner, in an appeal to the Bomber Command Association and its donors to reconsider their choice of site for the memorial.

Opponents say the plans will destroy biodiversity, cause the loss of ancient trees, mar the special character and tradition of the parkland, alter ground levels and forever change the centuries old physical historical boundary between town and country. (See attached before and after image of the site.)

Westminster resident and Green Party activist who is co-ordinating the event, Jules Lyle said:

"To damage the natural parkland which has been enjoyed by all for centuries when a suitable alternative site exists, defies all understanding.

“The United Nations named 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, yet London doesn't listen. We should be planting more trees and increasing and improving wildlife habitats not uprooting mature trees and hedges in an historic central London park.

”Other sites have been offered to Bomber Command which are much more suitable, such as The Embankment near the Battle of Britain memorial. I think hundreds of tonnes of Portland Stone should stay in Portland and they should leave our lovely park to nature as it was designed."

Questions are being asked as to how and why Westminster Council refrained from exercising a duty of care to protect the heritage parkland when policies had been established for this purpose, explicitly stating: “no more memorials in the area”.


For more information contact Jules Lyle on 07939 072534

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Mark Steel: Being honest is no longer official policy.

From yesterday’s Independent.

Now Phil Woolas has been banned from parliament for lying on his election leaflets, I suppose the Liberal Democrat MPs who vote for increasing university fees will all be chucked out as well.
Some of them insist they haven't been deceitful, because: "scrapping fees is still our official policy." And too often we're judged by what we do rather than by our official policy. If for example you take out a mortgage and don't make a single payment, you should be able to write to the bank, saying: "Although I'm 20,000 pounds in arrears, please be assured it remains my official policy to become King. So there's no need to worry."
Also, if the Lib Dems are still tied to this policy, they'll all soon be demonstrating against themselves. Nick Clegg will be interviewed holding a banner and yelling: "I voted for myself because I promised to scrap fees and now look what I've done. So I'm here to peacefully protest against myself, and I hope no one's distracted by extreme elements like Vince Cable who's getting us a bad name by throwing stones at himself."
Students should follow the Lib Dem example, and not pay back a penny of their loans, but write a letter reassuring the bank their official policy is to one day own Poland, at which point they'll throw in a shipyard as interest. And any of them arrested for last week's demonstration should say "Your honour, I assure you my official policy is to leave windows alone. Look, here's a clip of me on YouTube promising to never so much as look through one", and the charges would have to be dropped.
Several Lib Dem MPs suggest they're being treated unkindly, because Labour also introduced fees after promising they wouldn't. This is a valid point, except that once you're measuring your morals by the standards set by New Labour you might as well flee the country in disguise. They might as well say: "You complain about the necessary cuts in public spending, but how often do our critics complain about the dreadful regime of the Roman emperor Nero in the first century AD?"
In fact it's remarkable how easy a time they've had, because even by the grubby standards we're used to, this was lying on a spectacular scale. They didn't just gradually abandon a promise, in accordance with the politicians' fibbing handbook. They launched a pledge to scrap the fees, and their leader had himself filmed while signing it, and then slapped it across the internet. Four months later they supported trebling the thing they pledged to scrap.
For the next election Clegg will be filmed cutting his arm with a dagger and sealing a parchment in blood, kneeling in a black cloak and muttering; "By the ancient order of LibDeminium I pledge to thee that no fee shall, on any account imaginable in the cosmos, upon the sacred name of all my family in any circumstances in the universe, even in the event of my being violated and most graphically tortured, be raised by as much as a fraction of a penny." Then a week later he'd say: "Yes but we have to be realistic so we're putting them up to 20,000 pounds a year."
So there's no point in him saying anything anymore. From now on when a Lib Dem MP who supports the increase gets to speak in Parliament, or on the news, they might as well say: "There's no reason to believe a thing I say, so for my allotted time I shall perform some finger puppetry. Hello Hammy the hamster, where have you been today?"
Instead they insist the increases are fair, and won't put anyone off. And this is from a government that believes almost everything should be determined by the free market. Presumably then, they now follow a new sort of economics in which price makes no difference. "There's no reason why a price of ninety pounds will put people off buying a tin of plum tomatoes", they'll say, until they're all thrown out of parliament for lying, and join Woolas in having to apply for 10 jobs a day or have their benefits cut.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Front page coverage.................. Canterbury.
YourCanterbury features commens by me on subsidies to private school pensions (17th November 2010 - at

Monday, 15 November 2010

DATABASES meeting.

The NO2ID campaign is pleased to host speakers from ARCH and Genewatch who will shed some light on the issues.

Monday, 22 Nov, 7pm prompt start
Terri Dowty, ARCH - 'Children's Databases'
Helen Wallace, Genewatch - 'National DNA Database'

Bertrand Russell Room, Conway Hall;
25 Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL
(Updates on
NB This is not a train strike day)

For more information, please ring 07976 414913.

Genewatch -

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The great animal rights betrayal

from to-day's Independent:
Government scraps protection for hens, game birds, pigs, cows, sheep – and circus animals
Labour's environment minister, Jim Fitzpatrick, said he was 'minded' to ban performing wild animals after research showed that 94 per cent of the public supported a ban
Millions of hens will have their beaks mutilated; game birds will remain in cages; pigs, sheep and cows in abattoirs will lose crucial protection from abuse; badgers will be culled and lions, tigers and other wild animals will continue to perform in the big top.
In a series of little-noticed moves, the Coalition has scrapped or stalled Labour initiatives to improve animal welfare some weeks before they were due to come into force.
The Agriculture minister James Paice, who part-owns a farm in Cambridgeshire, has been behind most of the moves – which have infuriated welfare groups. In the latest of a series of controversial decisions, Mr Paice this week delayed by five years a ban on beak mutilations of laying hens due to come into force in January.

See rest of article here:

Revealed: Lib Dems planned before election to abandon tuition fees pledge

I just love the bit about Danny Alexander writing about 'clear yellow water' - an accurate description of the Lib dems and their 'policies'

Thursday, 11 November 2010

My letter published in today's Southwark News.

It is no surprise that the News had three separate stories on housing last week. The coalition government’s housing benefit proposals and the Labour council’s planning proposals have serious implications for many ordinary Southwark residents and even for the future of London as a whole. Local families worrying about their future are not interested in hearing political parties squabbling about who is to blame. They need to know that local and national politicians have solutions. We have a housing crisis because we have not been building enough social housing. This is why the average price of a home has climbed to £400,000. When house prices are so out of line with the salaries most people actually earn it is no surprise that rents and ultimately housing benefit costs have escalated greatly. Long-term, more social housing has to be built if the housing crisis is to be solved. If government wants to reign in housing benefit costs in the short-term they should hit the root of the problem and control the rents that landlords charge rather than the benefits paid to the poorest.

Noel Lynch

Chair, London Green Party

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Green Party research reveals hidden millions spent subsidising public school pensions

A response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Green Party shows that millions of pounds of tax payers’ money is being spent subsidising the pensions of teachers at England’s most expensive public schools, including Eton, Harrow and Cheltenham.
An article published in today’s Guardian shows that eleven named institutions in the FOI response (including the schools attended by the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Secretary) have 1,639 members of staff in the scheme. The Green Party has calculated that the top 100 schools are looking at over £40 million in subsidy per annum.
As Chair of London Green Part, I initiated the request, and the Guardian quotes me:
“It’s scandalous that taxpayers are unknowingly paying towards the pensions of teachers at schools like Eton and Harrow. It will come as a surprise to a lot of people that these elite, private sector employers have access to the government’s Teachers’ Pension Scheme to the tune of over £40 million.
“It’s unfair that these schools are exempted from the risks of stock market fluctuations while other similar sized organisations must suffer the consequences of a volatile market.”
The Green Party believes the money should be ploughed into more urgent areas within the education budget such as building new local schools in deprived areas and employing more teachers to reduce class sizes.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The greatest comeback since Lazarus?

An interesting point for me in the U.S. elections was the election as California Governor of Jerry Brown, one of the heroes of my youth. Brown replaced Reagan as Governor and served until 1983. He fought against the oil industry, against capital punishment, appointed the first gay judge, supported environmental causes and Trade Unions and appointed more women and minorities to office than any other previous California governor. In 1977 he sponsored the "first-ever tax incentive for rooftop solar" among many environmental initiatives.

He was the youngest Californian governor and now the oldest. Just shows 'you can't keep a good man down' and a blow against ageism.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


02 November 2010
A DAY OF SHOCKING VIOLENCE AGAINST LONDON'S FIREFIGHTERS Vehicles driven at speed into three FBU pickets Two strikebreakers arrested Strikebreaking contractors refuse first aid equipment to the injured Yesterday, three members of the Fire Brigades Union were hit and hurt by speeding vehicles driven by strikebreakers.
First, a Croydon firefighter was hit by a speeding car driven by a non-union manager at Croydon fire station. FBU president Mick Shaw, who was there, described what happened.

"A fire engine returned from an incident and drove into the fire station, its crew refusing to wind down their windows and talk to the pickets. But at least it drove slowly, at the brigade maximum of five mph, so that the pickets could get out of the way before they were mown down.

"It was followed by a car driven by the officers, and as the pickets tried to talk to the driver of the car, it accelerated suddenly and one of the striking firefighters was thrown up and into the windscreen, then several feet in front of the car.

"We asked the AssetCo employees who had control of our fire station for the first aid kit and some blankets, but they would not give them to us despite the obviously serious nature of the injuries.

"An ambulance was called at once, and the ambulance crew asked for an air ambulance. Our member was not able to move during the 25 minutes between being hit and being taken away in the ambulance."

The LFB manager was arrested at the scene. Mr Shaw and general secretary Matt Wrack intend to visit the member (whose name cannot be given until his family consents) today, Tuesday. It is understood he has injuries to his spleen and spine.

Second, two hours after the strike, Dagenham firefighter Graham Beers held his hand up at the side of a road in Southwark, to signal to the crew of a fire engine being returned to Southwark Fire Station that they should stop and speak to him. "The fire engine swerved towards me and hit my hand" says Mr Beers, who suffered a sprained and badly bruised hand.

Third, a fire engine was deliberately driven into the FBU London representative Ian Leahair, at Southwark fire station. This happened more than two hours after the strike ended.

There was a huge police presence at Southwark, and FBU members who were there accepted with cheerful good humour being penned in across the road, away from the incoming fire engines. Just eight pickets were allowed.

Although the strike ended at six, the fire engines did not start coming until about 8 pm. When they did start coming, the permitted eight pickets, in the midst of dozens of police officers, stood in front and asked the drivers to stop while they spoke to them.
The first two fire engines stopped, and waited for the two minutes or so the police allowed the eight pickets to try to talk to them, without winding down their windows.

But the third didn't stop. It just kept coming. As the pickets fled before it, the great, heavy fire engine actually picked up speed, and hit Ian Leahair and then one of the police officers, before the police finally persuaded the driver to stop. By then, Ian Leahair's legs and half his body were underneath the fire engine and he was clearly in pain. If he had been standing an inch or so further left, his legs would have been crushed under the fire engine's wheels.

FBU pickets yelled at the driver to reverse, but he would not do so until instructed to do so by the police. The police officer, we understand, had a bruised leg. Ian Leahair has injured ribs. He was pulled out and helped to the side of the road.

The fire engine was deliberately driven at the pickets. There was no reason to do this. The driver cannot have felt in any way intimidated.
He could see at least 50 police officers who would have protected him, had any violence been offered, which it was not.

After that, the police handled the arrival of the rest of the fire engines very differently. They decided, with great fairness, that they were not going to stop the picketing because a driver had endangered the pickets. So police officers themselves stopped the fire engines, gave the pickets their couple of minutes, then cleared the way for the engines.

The police, in effect, began to protect the pickets from the strikebreakers. It was the police who ensured the right to lawful picketing.

FBU general secretary Matt Wrack said today: "This has been a day of shocking violence directed at London's firefighters.
"An incredible pattern seems to be emerging. It looks as though the private company hired to do our work has instructed its drivers to drive fast through picket lines. We ended the day in the extraordinary situation where the police had to protect striking firefighters from recklessly speeding vehicles, which were driven by those paid to break the strike.

"If our people had done a fraction of what they did, there would be inflammatory and self-righteous condemnation from the London Fire Brigade, and no doubt it would find something else from the personnel files to feed to its friends in right wing newspapers. But they have not even condemned what happened. Can it possibly be that they do not care about the danger in which their contractor has placed their LFB's own employees? Could they, incredibly, even be a party to decisions which have led to this? They have brought hired thugs into London who have driven around at speed with their faces hidden by balaclavas in an attempt to menace and intimidate our members. Tragically three of our members have been injured as a result. I wonder whether the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and the others who have spent the past week condemning the FBU for our industrial action will now condemn this violence against us."

Monday, 1 November 2010

Protest works. Just look at the proof

Inspiring article by Johann Hari in the Independent.
Johann Hari: Protest works. Just look at the proof

Yes, you can choose to do nothing. But you will be choosing to let yourself and your family and your country be ripped off

There is a ripple of rage spreading across Britain. It is clearer every day that the people of this country have been colossally scammed. The bankers who crashed the economy are richer and fatter than ever, on our cash. The Prime Minister who promised us before the election “we’re not talking about swingeing cuts” just imposed the worst cuts since the 1920s, condemning another million people to the dole queue. Yet the rage is matched by a flailing sense of impotence. We are furious, but we feel there is nothing we can do. There’s a mood that we have been stitched up by forces more powerful and devious than us, and all we can do is sit back and be shafted.

This mood is wrong. It doesn’t have to be this way – if enough of us act to stop it. To explain how, I want to start with a small scandal, a small response – and a big lesson from history.

In my column last week, I mentioned in passing something remarkable and almost unnoticed. For years now, Vodafone has been refusing to pay billions of pounds of taxes to the British people that are outstanding. The company – which has doubled its profits during this recession – engaged in all kinds of accounting twists and turns, but it was eventually ruled this refusal breached anti-tax avoidance rules. They looked set to pay a sum Private Eye calculates to be more than £6bn.

Then, suddenly, the exchequer – run by George Osborne – cancelled almost all of the outstanding tax bill, in a move a senior figure in Revenues and Customs says is “an unbelievable cave-in.” A few days after the decision, Osborne was promoting Vodafone on a tax-payer funded trip to India. He then appointed Andy Halford, the finance director of Vodafone, to the government’s Advisory Board on Business Tax Rates, apparently because he thinks this is a model of how the Tories think it should be done.

By contrast, the Indian government chose to pursue Vodafone through the courts for the billions in tax they have failed to pay there. Yes, the British state is less functional than the Indian state when it comes to collecting revenues from the wealthy. This is not an isolated incident. Richard Murphy, of Tax Research UK, calculates that UK corporations fail to pay a further £12bn a year in taxes they legally owe, while the rich avoid or evade up to £120bn.

Many people emailed me saying they were outraged that while they pay their fair share for running the country, Vodafone doesn’t pay theirs. One of them named Thom Costello decided he wanted to organize a protest, so he appealed on Twitter – and this Wednesday seventy enraged citizens shut down the flagship Vodafone store on Oxford Street in protest. “Vodafone won’t pay as they go,” said one banner. “Make Vodafone pay, not the poor,” said another.

The reaction from members of the public – who were handed leaflets explaining the situation – was startling. Again and again, people said “I’m so glad somebody is doing this” and “there needs to be much more of this.” Lots of them stopped to talk about how frightened they were about the cuts and for their own homes and jobs. The protest became the third most discussed topic in the country on Twitter, meaning millions of people now know about what Vodafone and the government have done.

You might ask – so what? What has been changed? To understand how and why protest like this can work, you need some concrete and proven examples from the past. Let’s start with the most hopeless and wildly idealistic cause – and see how it won. The first ever attempt to hold a Gay Pride rally in Trafalgar Square was in 1965. Two dozen people turned up – and they were mostly beaten by the police and arrested. Gay people were imprisoned for having sex, and even the most compassionate defense of gay people offered in public life was that they should be pitied for being mentally ill.

Imagine if you had stood in Trafalgar Square that day and told those two dozen brave men and women: “Forty-five years from now, they will stop the traffic in Central London for a Gay Pride parade on this very spot, and it will be attended by hundreds of thousands of people. There will be married gay couples, and representatives of every political party, and openly gay soldiers and government ministers and huge numbers of straight supporters – and it will be the homophobes who are regarded as freaks.” It would have seemed like a preposterous statement of science fiction. But it happened. It happened in one lifetime. Why? Not because the people in power spontaneously realized that millennia of persecuting gay people had been wrong, but because determined ordinary citizens banded together and demanded justice.

If that cause can be achieved, through persistent democratic pressure, anything can. But let’s look at a group of protesters who thought they had failed. The protests within the United States against the Vietnam War couldn’t prevent it killing three million Vietnamese and 80,000 Americans. But even in the years it was “failing”, it was achieving more than the protestors could possibly have known. In 1966, the specialists at the Pentagon went to US President Lyndon Johnson – a thug prone to threatening to “crush” entire elected governments – with a plan to end the Vietnam War: nuke the country. They “proved”, using their computer modeling, that a nuclear attack would “save lives.”

It was a plan that might well have appealed to him. But Johnson pointed out the window, towards the hoardes of protesters, and said: “I have one more problem for your computer. Will you feed into it how long it will take 500,000 angry Americans to climb the White House wall out there and lynch their President?” He knew that there would be a cost – in protest and democratic revolt – that made that cruelty too great. In 1970, the same plan was presented to Richard Nixon – and we now know from the declassified documents that the biggest protests ever against the war made him decide he couldn’t do it. Those protesters went home from those protests believing they had failed – but they had succeeded in preventing a nuclear war. They thought they were impotent, just as so many of us do – but they really had power beyond their dreams to stop a nightmare.

Protest raises the political price for governments making bad decisions. It stopped LBJ and Nixon making the most catastrophic decision of all. The same principle can apply to the Conservative desire to kneecap the welfare state while handing out massive baubles to their rich friends. The next time George Osborne has to decide whether to cancel the tax bill of a super-rich corporation and make us all pick up the tab, he will know there is a price. People will find out, and they will be angry. The more protests there are, the higher the price. If enough of us demand it, we can make the rich pay their share for the running of our country, rather than the poor and the middle – to name just one urgent cause that deserves protest.

And protest can have an invisible ripple-effect that lasts for generations. A small group of women from Iowa lost their sons early in the Vietnam war, and they decided to set up an organization of mothers opposing the assault on the country. They called a protest of all mothers of serving soldiers outside the White House – and six turned up in the snow. Even though later in the war they became nationally important voices, they always remembered that protest as an embarrassment and a humiliation.

Until, that is, one day in the 1990s, one of them read the autobiography of Benjamin Spock, the much-loved and trusted celebrity doctor, who was the Oprah of his day. When he came out against the war in 1968, it was a major turning point in American public opinion. And he explained why he did it. One day, he had been called to a meeting at the White House to be told how well the war in Vietnam was going, and he saw six women standing in the snow with placards, alone, chanting. It troubled his conscience and his dreams for years. If these women were brave enough to protest, he asked himself, why aren’t I? It was because of them that he could eventually find the courage to take his stand – and that in turn changed the minds of millions, and ended the war sooner. An event that they thought was a humiliation actually turned the course of history.

You don’t know what the amazing ripple-effect of your protest will be – but wouldn’t Britain be a better place if it replaced the ripple of impotent anger so many of us are feeling? Yes, you can sit back and let yourself be ripped off by the bankers and the corporations and their political lackeys if you want. But it’s an indulgent fiction to believe that is all you can do. You can act in your own self-defence. As Margaret Mead, the great democratic campaigner, said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Social Cleansing in London

Guest blog from Mike Shaughnessy of Haringey Green Party.

Boris Johnson, Tory mayor of London, has been courting controversy again with a comment he made in a radio interview about the coalition government’s proposed policies on Housing Benefit. Johnson said that he was not prepared to tolerate a ‘Kosova style social cleansing in London on his watch’. It is not the first time that he has made controversial statements in the media, but this time he has provoked outrage from government ministers, who have accused him off ‘making inflammatory remarks’.

It is perhaps a rather over the top comparison to cite Kosova, but he sure knows how to capture the attention of the media, and he is highlighting a very important issue. He may have been more accurate to compare government Housing Benefit changes to the enclosures and clearances of land in eighteenth and nineteenth century Britain, where huge amounts of rural land was cleared of inhabitants who were forced into the burgeoning urban areas by wealthy landowners.

Make no mistake about it, these changes to HB will cause profound social upheaval. The particular policy of capping the amount of payments to a third of ‘market’ value (down from a half) from next year, was what Johnson had in mind. In wealthy parts of London, HB claimants will be unable to afford private sector rents, and so will be forced into cheaper areas of the capital or outside of London altogether.

The Guardian newspaper reports that Haringey will suffer from an exodus in the wealthy western parts of the borough and an influx into the cheaper eastern areas, from claimants within Haringey and from outside more expensive boroughs. All this will lead to more pressure on other services, such as hospitals, schools and social services in the east of the borough, not to mention housing overcrowding, making these parts of Haringey more deprived than they already are.

Another change to HB which will cause social problems is the twelve month rule. HB claimants will automatically lose 10% of their benefit after twelve months, whether they are on Jobseekers Allowance or in low paid employment. How are these people meant to make up the difference when they are already on the breadline? Inevitably, this will lead to evictions and homelessness which in turn will lead to health issues and probably an increase in crime, at a time when police numbers, prison places and probation officers are all being cut.

Clearly huge sums are being spent on HB at the moment, but why punish the claimants when the problem is caused by a lack of affordable social housing and astronomical ‘free market’ rents in the private sector, in London particularly?

We are moving towards the kind of problems we saw in the 1980’s with poor ghettos becoming increasingly unsettled and a powder keg which exploded into urban riots in these areas in the end.

This is the ConDem government future, and it’s not going to be pretty.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Arms marketing department avoids cuts.

The UKTI Defence Services Organisation is a taxpayer funded department staffed by 160 civil servants, costing £13m or so per year, existing solely to promote weapons sales overseas. Needless to say, this piece of corporate welfare escaped the cuts. Why should the arms companies that benefit not be expected to pay for their own marketing. More info on

UKTI (UK Trade & Investment) is a government department that helps businesses sell their products worldwide.
. In 2008, it opened the Defence & Security Organisation (UKTI DSO) to promote arms exports. UKTI now employs 160 civil servants to sell arms
Despite its obscure name and low profile, UKTI DSO is at the heart of the government’s support for the arms trade.
• It exists purely to help arms companies sell weapons to other countries.
• Working on behalf of private arms companies, it promotes weapons sales to unstable and repressive regimes, with little regard for the impact of such sales.
• This work is all paid for by the UK taxpayer.
• UKTI DSO reflects the huge and disproportionate support given to arms companies: UKTI employs more civil servants to sell arms than it does to support every other industry sector combined.
• There is no economic justification for such support: arms sales account for just 1.5 % of UK exports and sustain just 0.2% of the national labour force. Instead of fuelling insecurity and abuse around the globe, this money would be better spent on tackling real threats to our security, such as climate change: a move that would also create new jobs and boost the economy.

Monday, 25 October 2010


Doubtless everyone knows that pets should be kept indoor on bonfire night to avoid being terrified by the noise of fireworks. However wild animals also suffer at this time of year, and none more than hedgehogs. These wonderful animals, which help to ensure that our gardens are not totally destroyed by slugs, find a pile of wood or leaves the ideal place to hibernate. And so it is if it remains undisturbed until spring, but if it is set on fire they cannot escape and are roasted alive.
So please, do not store stuff for a bonfire in the place where it is to be burned but move it to its final position as late as possible before setting it alight.
More information can be found on

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The London FBU go on strike today until 6pm.

PLEASE SUPPORT THEM. Go along to your local fire station picket line and give them your support.

The administration is hell-bent on wrecking the union to make way for the introduction of practices that will put us all in danger.

FBU press release:

London's 5,600 firefighters will go on strike at 10 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday)
morning, and will stay out until 6 p.m., after the London Fire Brigade sent
them all letters of dismissal on 11 August.

"It is a terrible step to have to take" says Fire Brigades Union general
secretary Matt Wrack, who will join the walkout at Euston fire station.
"But London's firefighters feel it is the only step they can now take."

They are taking the action because, on 11 August, the London Fire Brigade
formally began the legal process of terminating the employment contracts of
5,600 London firefighters.

"If they had not started that process, we would not be going on strike. If
the dismissals are lifted now, the strike will be called off straight away"
said Mr Wrack.

He added: ""People say to me: it can't be that simple. But it is.
Firefighters hate going on strike, but they hate being bullied even more.
The London Fire Brigade is trying to bully them, and they won't have it.
That's why there was a 79 per cent majority in our ballot for a strike, on a
79 per cent turnout; a huge mandate by any standards."

The London Fire Brigade was acting under section 188 of the Trade Union and
Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992. If, 90 days after it sent out
the letters, the firefighters have not reached an agreement which is
satisfactory to the employer, the London Fire Brigade has placed itself in a
position where it may legally sack all of London's 5,600 firefighters and
offer them re-employment on a unilaterally imposed contract.

"It is a process which is designed to avoid having to negotiate a
settlement" said Mr Wrack. "Why negotiate when you can sack everyone and
impose new contracts?"

Matt Wrack will lead the walkout at Euston fire station on Euston Road at 10
a.m. tomorrow. It is the first of two days' planned strike action; the
second is on November 1.

London firefighters have been taking industrial action short of a strike
over the mass sackings threat, including a ban on overtime and "acting up",
since September 24.


Provisionally, FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack's programme on Saturday
morning will be:
At 10 a.m. he will lead his members out of the door at Euston fire station
in Euston Road.
At 11 a.m. he will speak in Chalcot Street at the start of the demonstration
against the cuts.

He will then visit other picket lines during the day until the return to
work at 6pm and will be available for interview throughout.

FBU media contacts on Saturday will be Helen Hague on 07889 792360 or 0208 340 5571; and Francis Beckett, who will be accompanying Matt Wrack, on 07813 001372.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Caroline 7th on Twitter - worldwide!

Caroline Lucas got so many complimentary comments on Twitter last night that she became a "trending topic", which means her name was one of the ten most used phrases on the entire network. The phrase "Caroline Lucas" was the most mentioned in UK on twitter, and the 7th most mentioned worldwide

This prompted even more messages from confused people around the world asking, "who is Caroline Lucas".

You can see it on iPlayer

Well done Caroline and also well done to Spencer, Scott and Cath for some excellent briefings.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A tiny tax on bankers that would raise billions to tackle poverty here and around the world.

In case you have not already heard of it, I want to draw your attention to a campaign called The Robin Hood Tax. Please take a look at their website, there is a great little video with Bill Nighy explaining what it means for the bankers, for us and for the Government.

On October 11th, MPs who support the campaign are hosting a briefing for their fellow MPs, please ask your MP to attend, by following this link:

You can also follow the campaign on twitter: @robinhood
And Facebook:

Tuesday, 5 October 2010


From 'Privatee Eye'

WHEN Vodafone bought German engineering company Mannesmann a decade ago for €180bn, it desperately wanted to use the mother of all tax avoidance schemes so taxpayers would subsidise what turned out to be a massively over-priced mistake. The plan was to route the acquisition through an offshore company.

This, however, would potentially fall foul of British anti-tax avoidance laws, and when the company asked the then Inland Revenue to clear the arrangement, it duly refused. Vodafone went ahead anyway and bought Mannesmann using a Luxembourg subsidiary company called Vodafone Investments Luxembourg sarl (VIL), in which it would go on to dump vast profits taxed at less than 1 percent.
An epic legal battle began, with Vodafone resisting the taxman’s efforts to get all the information on the deal and arguing through the courts that the British laws striking out the tax benefits of its deal were neutered by European law which granted, Vodafone claimed, the freedom to establish anywhere in the EU (including its dodgiest tax havens) without facing a tax bill.
VIL’s accounts show that, up to March 2009, €15.5bn income was stuffed into the company, suggesting it is now heading to the €18bn mark and resulting in £5bn in lost tax and interest so far. But, armed with strong advice from eminent legal counsel, tax inspectors were confident they could win the cash back, not least because until 2004 the scam was run through the Luxembourg company’s Swiss branch. This of course was not even in the EU (although that year Luxembourg changed its own rules to allow the trick to work without inconveniencing tax avoiders with the need for an Alpine branch).
A less ‘black and white view of the law’
Officials were further emboldened last year when the court of appeal ruled that British laws striking out the avoidance scheme could conform with European laws. But they reckoned without HM Revenue & Customs’ (HMRC) “permanent secretary for tax”, Dave Hartnett, and his customer-friendly approach to big multinationals.
Despite HMRC’s victories, Hartnett moved the case from his specialists and lawyers – dismissed in recent comments to the FT as “very intelligent people” suffering from “a black and white view of the law” – to a dimmer but more amenable group to negotiate with Vodafone’s head of tax, John Connors, who until 2007 was a senior official at HMRC working closely with Hartnett on handling big business.
The fruits of these talks, conducted without consulting HMRC’s litigators and specialists in the tax law concerned on the chance of success in the courts, was a bill for Vodafone of £800m, with another £450m payable over five years and, remarkably, an agreement that the arrangement can carry on into the future with a promise of no challenge from HMRC. The Eye understands that the settlement also swept up several other Vodafone tax avoidance schemes.
More sweetheart deals to come
The bill for all other taxpayers in lost tax is likely to be at least £6bn. Resentment within the HMRC ranks is high and one former official familiar with the case described it as an “unbelievable cave-in”. But there is no means for the deal to be audited: the National Audit Office refuses to look at specific cases.
Hartnett’s comments to the FT signal more sweetheart deals to come. The “conciliatory” approach can be presented as an urgent cash-gathering exercise, but in practice it encourages tax avoidance and sells other taxpayers well-short. It also masks the fact that staff cuts at HMRC are destroying its abilities to fight tax avoidance. Spending on the activity has already fallen from £3.6bn in 2006/07 to £1.9bn, with more cuts to come, prompting the association of senior Revenue officials to compare the government to “a drowning man who decides to throw off his life jacket, because it weighs too much”. How fortunate then that under HMRC’s reporting practices the Vodafone settlement will count as a £1.25bn success in the fight to close the “tax gap”, rather than a £6bn gift to a large phone company.
PS: The Tories have further cause to thank Mr Hartnett. As Eye 1136 revealed five years ago, government cuts adviser Philip Green had personal discussions with Hartnett over his tax affairs while legal battles raged over schemes for husbands and wives to share their income for tax purposes. Dividends from Green’s businesses continue to be paid to trusts controlled by his Monaco-resident wife Tina, undisturbed by the taxman.

Monday, 4 October 2010

A labour movement in the image and interests of women

From today's Guardian:

Beatrix Campbell

As he was Listening to Radio 4's Reunion series, film producer Stephen Woolley became enthralled by a group of working-class women involved in a historic event he'd never heard about: the Ford sewing machinists who went on strike in 1968. Ford was the biggest car-maker in Britain, one of the most powerful corporations on the planet, and 187 women working in one of their craggy hangars brought them to a standstill.

It was a revolutionary year: sex, drugs, rock'n'roll, riots, student sit-ins, protests against the Vietnam war, general strikes, institutions besieged. Even the Folies Bergere's burlesque dancers went on strike in Paris during the May 68 whirlwind.

I wasn't a student and I wasn't on strike, but one May weekend a group of communist women – we weren't yet feminists – sent off a missive congratulating the dancers for their militancy.

When Woolley heard the women on the radio he registered that they weren't in his historical memory. They reminded him of his own Islington mother, and together with his producer partner, Elizabeth Karlsen, he decided to bring their story out of the shadows of history.

I heard that Reunion broadcast, too: I'd met some of the strikers, but instead of feeling excited, like Woolley, instead of hearing this as a triumphant story, I heard a narrative that has been muted.

Woolley's resulting film, Made in Dagenham, shows us unexpected success. Those women almost triumphed. Certainly they triggered the then employment secretary to introduce an equal pay act. But Barbara Castle fixed a deal, she managed a crisis: she didn't honour those women's yearning for respect as skilled women. They never really got what they wanted. They were never really heard. Their convenor, Bernie Passingham, a genial, clever communist (played by Bob Hoskins) liked and believed in them and facilitated their militancy. But their unions, the government, the Labour party, the men of the left and their own men in Dagenham, weren't actually interested in them. They were foxed by the Ford women. So, they didn't learn from them.

Woolley and Karlsen took a strategic decision to mount a comedic Dagenham. They want their film to be popular. I would favour more edge, a touch of House of Cards or Mad Men – though there is an exquisite gesture in that direction: the trophy wife of a boss, Lisa (Rosamund Pike) relinquishes her poise, momentarily, and seeks affinity with Rita O'Grady, the strike leader. "Do you know who I am?" she asks. Her husband treats her like a fool, but she has a first-class Cambridge degree in history and adores reading about people making history. "That's what you are doing," she tells O'Grady. "Tell me what it feels like when you've done it." This is an elegant and clever moment where gender transcends class, and it provokes tears in the audience.

Made in Dagenham stirred my class hatred: we witness the contempt for these women not just in the bosses' tone and voice, but in the peeling, windy, sweating cavern in which they were employed. It doesn't exist now and Ford is reformed.

The Ford sewing machinists changed my life. I was a young journalist; I didn't get on to the newsdesk for three or four years, until the retirement in the early 70s of the news editor, fondly known as "the bosun", whose favoured maxim was "My arse is a teacake". He wouldn't let me be a reporter because he already had one woman on the newsdesk and one was enough. This was the Morning Star – formerly known as the Daily Worker.

I came alive in the 70s, in the excitement of the women's liberation movement and reporting on a tumultuous decade. In 1976 the Ford unions submitted, with the help of experts at Ruskin College, an annual pay claim that for the first time seemed to embrace not only wages but also life. It addressed pensions, access to adult education, sabbatical leave – Ford employed workers from India, the West Indies, for whom two weeks off in the summer was no use.

In the context of the first phase of the social contract between the government and the unions – which for the first time prioritised the low-paid, ie women – this was interesting. I wanted to write a story about the sewing machinists' reaction – where had they got with their own claim, not just for equal pay (on the bottom unskilled grade) but also for regrading as semi-skilled? One of the convenors spoke to me. "They're great, the women," he said. "Oh yes, and they're militant. But ..." Sucking his teeth: "I dunno, can't explain it ..." More sucking of teeth. They were an enigma. "You'll see," he said.

I did see. I asked what were their priorities in this claim? The money mattered, they said, but their greatest concern was control over their time. They wanted paid time to work with, rather than against, the demands of daily life. They wanted "facilities" at the workplace. I wrote their story. The industrial editor read it. "Crap," he said. "Wrong."

Lest we forget: the trade union movement's century-old historic compromise with capitalism was at the expense of women – trade unions fought for the expulsion of women from waged work; even as late as the 1930s they campaigned to ban married women, or all women, from the workplace.

During the second world war more than 7 million women worked in factories. They earned 53% of the men's pay. At the end of the war the Labour government, backed by the Trades Union Congress, closed nurseries and resolved that equal pay for women was "inappropriate".

Britain did not become a member of the European Union, whose Treaty of Rome affirmed equal pay. Towards the end of the 70s my own women's group, Red Rag, which published a feminist and Marxist journal, advocated an "alternative feminist economic agenda". It was provoked by a crisis. One of us had separated from the father of her young children. How would she manage? We investigated the ingredients of the pay gap – men's bonuses just for being men, men's hours, men's absence from home and the work of care; we proposed the abolition of the breadwinner (still in those days enshrined in the wages and benefits system) and a child benefit that corresponded to the costs of children; we suggested a new politics of time, instead of the polarisation between men and women's time that institutionalised inequality, a 30-hour week for all, and working time that synchronised with the seasons of daily life and children's time. Fashion an economic strategy around a woman worker, a "part-time" worker, we said, and you've sorted out stuff for everyone.

We have the opportunity, on the screen, to revisit those wonderful sewing machinists: to listen to their stories that are never only about the strike and always about life. Woolley and Karlsen have done something important and their film is radiating in the zeitgeist: feminism is stirring again and the chronicle of those nice, dangerous women is being aired all over the place – in cinemas, schools, blogs and on the streets. They are a reminder of what could have been: a labour movement in the image and interests of women. Revolutionary.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

World War One finally over.

According to Bild magazine, the First World War will finally end this weekend when Germany pays off the last instalment of the interest it owes on loans it took out in the 1930s to pay £22bn in reparations to the allied powers.

The idea isn't new, of course: Rome exacted punitive indemnities from Carthage after the Punic wars in the second century BC. But there has long been a feeling that the practice might be unfair: the people who end up paying are rarely those responsible. There are few more eloquent examples of the injustice of reparations than Haiti, which has never recovered from having to compensate France for the loss of slaves and property after independence in 1804. At one stage this absorbed 80% of Haiti's budget, and the interest on the foreign loans Haiti took out to meet the bill was not paid off until 1947, by which time its economy was pretty much shot.

In 2007, a disgruntled American founded the International Coalition for British Reparations, demanding £31tn from Britain as "the greatest criminal nation on earth . . . responsible for such atrocities as genocide, the industrial revolution and global misrule (but particularly in the Middle East), as well as atrocious inventions such as machine guns, slums, child labour and concentration camps," from the time of the Crusades to the second Iraq war.

I wonder about how long our decendants will take to pay off the debts incurred in bailing out another set of international criminals - the bankers.

Saturday, 25 September 2010


What is the Coalition of Resistance and what does it do?
The Coalition of Resistance …
1. is a broad united national campaign against cuts and privatisation in our workplaces, community and welfare services, based on general agreement with the Founding Statement issued by Tony Benn in August 2010.
2. is linked to no particular political party, but committed to open working in a non-sectarian way with all organisations seeking to co-ordinate resistance; and is dedicated to supplementing, rather than supplanting, trade union, student, pensioner and community opposition to austerity measures.
3. is based on thousands of individual supporters, together with national unions, union branches, anti-cuts campaigns, student, pensioner, unemployed, youth and other organisations which affiliate.
4. seeks to provide a national umbrella for a network of local and sectoral campaigns; and aspires to support, encourage, coordinate, and facilitate a transfer of experience rather than to command.
5. invites affiliation from functioning local campaigns championing public services or fighting the cuts; encourages the establishment of new local campaigns where there are none; and offers local campaigns the opportunity to call themselves local Coalitions of Resistance if they wish.
6. organises newsletters, a website , meetings, conferences, lobbies, rallies, marches, demonstrations and other events.
7. vehemently opposes all proposals to “solve” the crisis by discrimination or scapegoating on the grounds of disability, race, religion, ethnic origin, gender, age, sexual orientation or identity.
8. liaises closely with similar opposition movements in other countries and has issued a call for international resistance to austerity measures.
9. encourages a wide debate on how to protect the welfare state and develop an alternative programme for economic and social recovery in line with its founding statement.
10. is run by a steering committee meeting on a weekly basis and advised by periodic meetings of activist supporters of the founding statement until the Founding National Conference on 27th November 2010.

GPEX Campaigns Coordinator, Romayne Phoenix and Joseph Healy are on the steering committee.
I attended an anti-cuts meeting in Barnet on Thursday night. We were the only party with a stall there. Over 200 people attended. There was an even bigger meeting in Tower Hamlets a few night previously.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The Queen and dependency culture.

Paul Flynn MP:
"The Royal family is part of the dependency culture of Britain in the same way that Mr Cameron spoke about people living in a council house accommodation for life."

Thursday, 16 September 2010


Take the Joseph Rowntree Poverty Quiz. The answers may surprise you.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Nearly one million for GMO ban.

From Avaaz:

Wow - nearly 800,000 EU citizens have signed - let's hit 1 million! Forward this email to everyone -- and if you've already signed, click to make sure your signature is valid!

Dear friends,

The European Commission has recently approved growing genetically modified crops in the European Union for the first time in 12 years!

Caving to the GM lobby, the commission has ignored 60% of Europeans who feel we have to get the facts first before growing foods that could pose a threat to our health and environment.

A new initiative allows 1 million EU citizens to make official legal requests of the European Commission. Let's build a million voices for a ban on GM foods until the research is done; they will be delivered to the President Barroso of the European Commission. Sign the petition and forward this email to friends and family:

Consumers, public health, environmental and farmers groups have long rallied against a few international GM companies having such significant influence over European agriculture. Concerns about growing GM crops include: contamination of organic crops and the environment; their impact on climate due to the excessive need for pesticides; the destruction of biodiversity and local agriculture; and the effects of GM food on public health.

EU member states have voiced strong opposition to last week's decision to authorise BASF's potato and Monsanto's maize -- Italy and Austria are opposed, and France said it would ask for further scientific research.

There is still no consensus on the long-term effects of GM crops. And it is the GM industry, pursuing profits not public well being, that is funding the science and driving the regulatory environment. That is why European citizens are calling for more independent research, testing and precaution before crops are unleashed onto our land.

Now, the "European Citizens' Initiative" gives 1 million EU citizens the opportunity to submit policy proposals to the European Commission and offers us a unique chance to drown out lobbyists' influence.

Let's raise 1 million voices to put a moratorium on the introduction of GM crops into Europe and set up an independent, ethical and scientific body to research and determine the strong regulation of GM crops. Sign the petition now and then forward it widely:

With determination,

Alice, Benjamin, Ricken, Luis, Graziela and the entire Avaaz team.

More information:

Last Eurobameter Survey 2008 'Attitudes of European citizens towards the environment', page 66:

The Independent, Fury as Brussels authorises GM potatoes:

Reuters, France blasts GM crop approvals by EU agency:

New Report: GMOs Causing Massive Pesticide Pollution:

Summary of the International Assessment on Agricultural Science and Technology for Development, including critics of GMOs use in agriculture: