A Flavour of the Times

The Green Party passed the following Emergency Motions at Sheffield Conference, Sept 2011. (These are in addition to agenda motions).

Legal Aid and Justice for All

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill is at the Committee Stages of the Commons. If passed, it will remove access to advice for 650,000 people a year in employment law, welfare benefits, housing, debt, immigration, etc. In light of this, Conference calls on the Green Party Campaigns Committee to support the “Justice for All” campaign which campaigns for everyone, no matter what their financial means to be treated fairly under the law and for free legal advice.

Robin Hood Tax

Conference welcomes the endorsement of a Robin Hood Tax by Chancellor Merkel and President Sarkozy and calls on the UK Government to follow the lead of France and Germany in regulating speculation on international financial markets and generating the revenue needed to fund public investment. Conference calls on Green Party Parliamentarians to raise this with the UK Government in advance of the G20 meeting in November at Cannes.

Anti – ATOS Motion

Conference expresses deep concern at the use of ATOS to assess incapacity benefit receivers for their ability to return to work. As evidence continues to mount that the work capability assessments are being used politically to remove Employment and Support Allowance payments, with 12 doctors referred to the General Medical Council in August, Conference calls on the party leadership to demand that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions removes ATOS as its assessor of benefit claimants.

Nuclear Waste Disposal

We call on policy committee to develop a policy on legacy high and intermediate level radioactive waste in time for Spring Conference 2012. The policy to be based on best environmental practice, not political expediency. We also call on Conference to support Allerdale and Copeland Green Party and other local groups, including West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, Radiation Free Lakeland, and CORE in their work to oppose the deep geological disposal plans and to call for alternative disposal methods to be revisited. In particular lobbying local authorities not to proceed to the next stage of the Managing Radioactive Waste Safely (MRWS) process (January 2012), at which stage the right of withdrawal would be severely compromised.

The NHS Listening Exercise

The Green Party reaffirms its commitment to a fully publicly funded NHS and its opposition to the Health and Social Care Bill, deplores the fact that the Conservative / Liberal Democrat government ‘listening exercise’ has (unsurprisingly) proved to be a sham, and demands that the Government abandon forthwith in its entirety this Bill which, if passed, will lead to the marketisation and privatisation of the NHS, having no lesser ultimate consequence than the complete destruction of our National Health Service. Conference calls on GPEx to make active campaigning against this Bill a priority.

The National Planning Policy Framework

Conference condemns the Coaltion Government’s proposed National Planning Policy Framework. The Green Party believes a function of the planning system is to protect people and the environment not to generate unsustainable economic growth. The abolition of targets for building on brownfield land, the lack of any understanding of sustainability coupled with a presumption in favour of development will make it a developers’ charter. Conference calls on elected Greens at all  levels of government to campaign vigorously against the NPPF and for the Green Party as a whole to campaign against these proposals to ensure we protect our communities, countryside and quality of life from unrestrained development.

Bombardier – Rail jobs

The Green Party condemns the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government decision to give the order for new rolling stock for Thameslink to Siemens. This failed to take into account the effect on the UK economy and jobs.

Derby-based Bombardier, the last remaining train builder in this country has announced the loss of 1400 jobs as a result of not winning the bid. The Bombardier factory in Derby is now under threat and so are thousands more jobs in the Derby area in other rail businesses that supply the factory.

We need more train carriages for our railways, both to replace those that are life-expired and to increase the size of the fleet in order to reduce overcrowding and carry more passengers.

Conference instructs GPEX to write to the Sec of State for Transport requesting him to reconsider the allocation of the Thameslink trains contract to Siemens and to ensure that British jobs in the industry are protected.

Emergency Motion on the English Riots [amended]

Conference is appalled at the outbreak of violence, looting, arson and murder that took place in English cities in August. The riots were a manifestation of anger that has deep roots and obvious triggers. The roots include inequality, loss of social cohesion, cuts in local public services, unemployment, increasing poverty, resentment against the police, consumerism and gang culture. The triggers were the death of Mark Duggan and the exceptionally inept handling of its aftermath.

To address these problems we advocate immediate action to reverse the cuts in public services, increase support for disadvantaged communities and provide a 100% earnings disregard for work of local benefit. In punishing rioters there should be more use of restorative justice and community payback orders. There must also be an independent inquiry into the death of Mark Duggan and its aftermath.

These measures, however, will not deal with the roots of the problem. We call for a public inquiry into the deeper causes of social breakdown which lie as much in the excesses of the powerful as in the conditions of the powerless. This inquiry should seek to create a consensus for remedial actions which need to be as radical as those that created the welfare state 60 years ago.

Conference calls upon our elected representatives to put forward these measures at every relevant opportunity.

The “Single Issue” Party

A frightening number of left-leaning progressives dismiss the Green Party as a single issue party. By this, of course, they mean the environment – surely one of the most complex “single issues” ever!

The left is also known for being highly ideological and to split frequently on ideological lines. (It’s easier on the right; when ideology hinges on market advantage and material profit, life is much simpler). But the main leftist division, that of workers and bosses, leaves important things out of the equation such as the exploitation of the Earth (which we call “resources”) and the exploitation of labour abroad, which is often not given due weight and seen as another resource.

Hence the importance of internationalism, but where better to start than to adopt a global perspective in the first place?

Many leftists remain unaware of Marx’s writings on capitalist agriculture and soil ecology or on the changing human relationship with nature. Were he writing today I have no doubt he would be writing about species, oceans, air, rivers and forests under human-capitalist assault; let alone the human species itself with the capital-driven 16 million who die a year in a world of plenty. Just from greed.

The three major parties have all well and truly sold out to international capital and are determined to make our education, forests, pensions and health, its victims. Maybe the left should look more closely at Britain’s fourth biggest party.

In a way, we are all a single issue party. It’s called Life. It means living and allowing to live; it means looking after the balance which once we inherited and soon we will pass on. Or neglect it at our peril.

The Hull Lib Dem Cuts

1400 Hull jobs are expected to go. The unions warn this could rise to over 2000. Cuts include museum services where hours will be cut as well as opening times.

But the headline cut in Hull is surely the massive attack on Youth and Children’s Services.  1 in 5 young people in Hull live in poverty. 1 in 5 adults are unemployed.  School attainment is amongst the lowest in the UK.

The Council cuts mean young people in Hull will be affected by:

  • 32% cut in Children and Young People’s services.
  • SureStart: funding slashed by 50% (1).  Lib Dems technically not “closing” the 14 of 21 centres, but staffing and provision are set to be  minimal, the unions claim “a receptionist and a caretaker”! (1)
  • Unison estimates only 46 of 244 workers will remain. (1)
  • Connexions: 100% cut in careers guidance for young people. (2)
  • Young People’s Support Service cut 50%. Used by 1500-2000 young people every month, for help in finding a place to live, a job, education grants, etc. (2)
  • Youth Worker Training cut. No further provision to train youth workers. (2)
  • Looked-After Children’s Services cut — only two learning mentors to remain for the city. (2)
  • Family Group Conferencing cut. Help for families to stay together when crisis hits, and preventing youngsters being taken into care. (2)
  • Disability Respite cut—did provide short term breaks for disabled children and young people. (2)

Day Care Centres: NINE still threatened with closure …

Teaching Assistants cut: the Council has already made hundreds of TAs redundant and will cut back classroom support further.

It’s not as if Hull can afford more redundancies at this time, or that Hull doesn’t have enough unemployment! But this attack on communities and services cannot go unanswered which is why 5 Green Party members have put themselves forward as candidates:

Avenue Ward:          Martin Deane

Newland Ward:        Mike Lammiman

Myton Ward:            TJ White

King’s Park Ward:   Mark Gretton

University Ward:   James Russell

– If you can help, please get in touch.

Hull candidates in full.

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1. Guardian

2. Hull College SU

Where is the party of opposition!?

TJ White, Hull, writes from a piece first posted on the Labour fb page. 

Here is my post where they can’t delete it!

I have joined this page to support John McArdle and all the other people at Black Triangle (facebook cause): YOU are our official party of opposition. Start OPPOSING!!!!!!

We, as disabled people, are being told that … if we can push our own wheelchairs 30 yards on a flat surface we have no mobility problems, how many places in reality fit that description?… We will be trapped in our own homes, sanctioned by the DWP on income based benefits because we can no longer leave the house to get to work OR go to work focused interviews.

Atos healthcare is stealing taxpayers’ money in their disability denial factories; they have been given a blank cheque and the consent to harass and persecute those who are too sick to work. What did you think would happen when you told them if they wanted to they could reassess people every three months and you would pay them to do so? Appeals have rocketed and as soon as people have won their appeal they are being reassessed again!

It’s money for old rope, it’s persecution. And you couldn’t give a damn because all you care about really is the Daily Mail readers that you have been partially responsible for whipping into a frenzy to win votes from them.

STOP the lies, make a fair test, and yes test us, test us in a fair evenhanded manner, remove profit from the testing or you will always skew the figures.

Start OPPOSING!

This is Class War!

Speech to Coalition of Resistance, Scunthorpe, 20th January.

This is Class War!

What’s happening right now is class warfare.

The Con-Dem coalition is using the excuse of the deficit to wage war on ordinary people in this country using just about every means at their disposal.

This class war will cost lives. The question is how many. And as for quality of life, the cuts will mark a downturn for countless millions across the country.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies says the biggest losers from these cuts are the poorest 10% of families with children…

Last month we saw the horrendous u-turn on tuition fees by the Lib Dems. This means many fees will go up threefold, many to £9000 a year. For students now, by the time they pay it off, the total debt could be £50,000! – A mortgage for going to university!

While Osborne, Cameron and Clegg slash the NHS, abolish EMA and impoverish the poorer – the rich fat cats get fatter and greedier.

And then there’s the NHS reform bill… This will mean 24,500 jobs lost in a so-called “patient-centred” shake-up. This Bill is a disaster of “Titanic proportions” that will “destabilise the NHS… ”

If you analyse the 367 page Health and Social Care Bill using a word search: Consultant is mentioned 0 times, Nurse 0, Accountability 3, GP 2, Patient 79, Privatization 0, and Consortium 623 times!

Meanwhile the chief executive of the NHS is warning of the dangers of allowing hospitals to compete on price!! (not realizing it’s government policy, by the way) AND admits the UK is short of 4,500 midwives.

This Bill “threatens to sink the NHS  – and the only survivors will be the private health companies circling like sharks, waiting to move in and make a killing.”

But what precisely should we expect from a cabinet of millionaires – led by millionaire PR man Cameron, and millionaire Clegg, the son of a banker?

And we must really ask, is Labour the answer? How can they convince us, when Labour brought in tuition fees, privatized whatever healthcare they could, crafted PFI schemes and PPPs, pioneered academies, the privatisation of the Royal Mail, continued the deregulation of the banks and presided over the greatest inequality in Britain since the second world war.

One Million Jobs

The harm to the economy we can already see in the 3.7% inflation rate (CPI)(4.8% for RPI), let alone the impact of the likely one million job losses – half a million from the public sector and half a million more in knock-on effects on private firms.

In HULL we face a 8.9% budget cut – the worst hit authority in Yorkshire & the Humber. Hull Unison is telling us that Hull will suffer,  not just the council’s claimed £50M cuts, but in reality the effect of £80M cuts this year – by the end of March – with another £25M, minimum, in the next financial year. But Hull’s libraries are safe – according to LibDem Council Leader Carl Minns.

Hull City Council will definitely lose 1400 jobs as compulsory redundancies – this Carl Minns admits to – plus another 300 he doesn’t, and possibly up to 500 more to come. This means Hull Council is likely to lose 1 in 4 jobs – and possibly as many as 1 in 3 when we see next year’s cuts take their toll.

The cuts that Humberside Fire Service are forced to make will literally mean cutting one fire fighter from every engine. – Were those firefighters there for fun??? How many lives will this cost?

One Month Before Heartbreak

For disabled people across the country we are now “One Month Before Heartbreak”. The cuts to DLA will affect 80,000 disabled people and their mobility and independence. These cuts are “really nasty” and are “a blow against social inclusion” – and they are likely to drive some over the brink.

Incapacity Benefit claimants are NOT to blame for the deficit!

This targeting of the disabled in residential homes by the attack on DLA benefit will be devastating. It will mean virtual house arrest for people in residential homes and for all those disabled with high rate DLA mobility.

All this to save George Osborne a mere £135 million a year!

False Economies

These are False Economies that will harm the economy itself as well as society. They talk about bringing benefit costs down but when they lay thousands upon thousands off – making them poorer and requiring benefits –  this will not work, even in their own terms!

The Capitalist Model has proved itself not fit for purpose. We should be investing for the future so we don’t go back to business as usual – or banking “as usual”. Our ideas on economy must change to move on to an ecologically sustainable society.

These cuts are totally ideological. So what could we do differently?

You could put Britain onto a sound footing without ANY of these cuts – but with a few simple, effective measures:

  • Crack down on tax havens and tax loopholes.  –  Raising £10 bn.
  • Abolish the upper limit for NI contributions. – Raising £9 bn.
  • Reform inheritance tax to reflect the wealth of the recipient. – Raising £3 bn.
  • Tax those on £100,000 at a rate of 50%. – Raising £2.3bn a year.

I fought for all of these last May – because they were all in the Green Party manifesto – along with the same commitment as Labour to halve the deficit by 2013-14! We are a rich country! If you honestly want a fairer society then you go where the money is.

But meanwhile – as if to add insult to injury – over the last year, Revenue and Customs has failed to collect the 50% tax  on people on £150,000 or more and a large amount of this will be uncollected or written off! How many of OUR taxes are written off ?!?

And then there’s the tax dodgers:

  • Like Vodafone and Top Shop
  • Like Barclays and Boots
  • Like Google and George Osborne

And STILL we have many millions  given in bonuses to City bankers – essentially for having just helped bankrupt the world – and essentially rewarding bad behaviour!

And so we are making common cause like never before with unions and like-minded people across the country to stand up for jobs, against these cuts, and for a fairer Britain.

On March 26th, the TUC demo is calling for 3 main  policies :

  • A Robin Hood Tax – because the international financial transactions of banks are not taxed! A tiny tax – even 0.05% or £1 in every 2000 would raise some £20 billion for Britain alone.
  • the closure of tax loopholes – again simple measures can be taken to make more tax collectible and make huge corporations live up to their responsibility to give back to the state they make so much profit from.
  • and for jobs and green growth. The current attack is first and foremost an attack on jobs.

As a Con-Dem nation, we are, right now, climbing back down the ladder of history.

And I’m not here to let Labour off the hook either! After 13 years in power they presided over the most unfair Britain since the end of the last world war! In so many ways Labour has paved the way for the havoc that the Conservative and Lib Dem allies are wreaking now.

So the fight now is for a fairer Britain – and for politicians who will loyally and committedly represent ordinary people.

Because if this doesn’t happen there will be a meaning to the phrase “poverty in Britain” that we haven’t seen in a generation.

Thank you.

Sometimes to be equal barriers must be removed

I’ve invited TJ White, from Hull, to give her take on government threats to disability support.

“It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades.”

I’d been asked to write something about the changes to DLA, and I’m afraid it’s taking me a long time to work through the consultation document so I can write something truly informed. I am at present bothered more by two other phrases that have been used in conjunction with certain disabled people by the current government and in use by the media a lot at present. One is the word ‘vulnerable’ the other is ‘unsustainable’ – put them together and you have ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’, not a nice position to be in, and certainly not a positive way of being described.

“It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability.”

My main problem with this is that it just betrays such a nasty, uncaring and patronising attitude to disabled people. It brings to mind begging bowls, dependance and incapability. It’s everything we’ve been fighting against for decades. There are two ways (simplification, if you will allow) to look at this really – disabled people are an expensive burden on the taxpayer who must be supported because…. well why? I’m not sure. I’ve seen nothing about why these ‘vulnerable unsustainable people’ should have any help or assistance, just that we can afford less of it. There is no real reason or incentive to fork out all that cash. However what if these people are equal, have a right to life, family, freedom, work – voluntary or otherwise, friends and communication? Sometimes to be equal barriers must be removed, some of these barriers are financial, some of them cost money.

I can tell you the only way in which I feel vulnerable personally is to government spending cuts:  I worry I won’t be able to go out any more – because they will take away my DLA, I worry I will struggle to live in a clean house, do my shopping, cook meals and to see my friends because they are going to cut my Personal Budget (social care package). I worry that even if I do become a little better I will never work again because they are cutting the Access to Work grants. I worry I won’t be able to feed myself or have a family because they are cutting my benefit (‘insurance’, according to my record, and ‘handout’ according to The Sun. Take your pick!). I worry they will move the goal posts again and declare me ‘fit for work’ – a meaningless phrase as, with a few exceptions, I am unemployable.

I am, however, only made vulnerable by these cuts. I am a capable, hardworking individual – even if that is not conventionally hardworking. I can take responsibility for myself and my life, I can be in control and I am still fiercely independent.

We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent.

I have known of people with varying levels of support and impairment direct their own lives, including those with severe mental health problems, learning disability and those living in residential care. We waste people when we declare them one thing or another without their consent, without their input, without even meeting them. We make an underclass, unseen, unheard and locked away by the barriers and the labels we place in front of them.

No one’s life is ‘unnecessary’. No one has to live in poverty or misery. Most people, with varying levels of support, can live fulfilling, varied and personally controlled lives.

It is our choice whether we make people vulnerable or not – usually by declaring them ‘unsustainable’ or ‘too expensive’.

It’s our choice what kind of society we live in.

TJ

TJ White is a singer, songwriter and disability activist and lives in Hull.