15 April 2014

Remembering Hillsborough


I was on a train travelling back south from Carlisle at 3.06pm today. We commemorate those who lost their lives at Hillsborough, but we also pay tribute to the local people in Liverpool that have fought and still fight to bring the truth into view, against the powerful forces of the establishment.

I work with and know a few people who were personally hit by that tragedy. It's important we remember.

11 April 2014

Youthsight Student Poll Has Greens at 14%


After my visit to Chester University on Thursday night to catch the excellent Hannah Clare, Chair of Young Greens North, in debate with Labour, Tories and UKIP, and some really good conversations with a few of the students there, I decided to look how we are doing in terms of student support. These figures came from a google search and although the link is broken at the moment, the cached page is available (published on April 9th).

Support for the General Election for different parties stands as follows:

Labour 43%
Tories 24%
Greens 14%
Lib Dems 6%
UKIP 5%

Given that some of the students I met at Chester, were Labour members but would be voting Green in the Euro Elections, my view is that this would be at the bottom of the range for our support for the Euro Elections from students.

There are some really interesting quotes from the Youthsight article:

"At their peak (April 2010) the Liberal Democrats were polling 50% of the student vote, while the most recent figures show their student support at 6%."

and

"The Green Party student support has more than doubled since the last election (6%-14%), first pushing the Liberal Democrats to fourth place in April 2013."

So some good news on polling for us here in the North West, but also in other regions. We have Cumbria, Lancaster, UCLAN, Edge Hill, Liverpool Hope, Liverpool JMU, Liverpool, Chester, Manchester Met, Manchester, Salford and Bolton with large number of HE students. Many come into the North West to study and the unusually early date of the Euro Elections should provide us with a welcome electoral boost.

To support our campaign sign up on Facebook to Green Not Griffin as we look to replace Nick Griffin with a Green MEP for the North West. We need just 8 to 9% of the vote to win a North West seat, so a big student turnout is really crucial.

9 April 2014

A New Front Against Nationalism: Taking on UKIP


With apologies for the delay since Friday's hustings, which deserves a write up. I've been a bit under the weather since Sunday and although I made Monday night's meeting in Macclesfield, I've had to miss one campaign event in Lancaster on Tuesday. I'm returning to the election battle tomorrow though.

If you missed it, please read this comment piece in the Manchester Evening News. I'm now a full on target for the UKIP online machine, because the truth for UKIP really does hurt them. Share widely and make sure people know that there is one party that will take on UKIP, from the front, and challenge them, as I have at the West Kirby hustings two weeks ago, where I destroyed their "City of London" spokesperson on the issue of benefit fraud.

3 April 2014

Nick Clegg Loses His Gamble

The challenge to Nigel Farage was a politically astute move by Nick Clegg, but it was also a gamble. It was also a necessary risk because the Liberal Democrats are at risk of losing all 12 of their sitting MEPs, and needed a game changer. The first debate probably encouraged the view that he had got this right, but the second one may have just made things that little bit harder for his party.

The media narrative is that he lost the debates and he lost the second one fairly convincingly, despite the open goal of Nigel Farage's admiration for Putin at the start. Like it or not, politics can be affected by how people perceive leaders. Neil Kinnock, Iain Duncan-Smith and Gordon Brown are all clear examples where a leader can disadvantage their party.

Losing to Nigel Farage in a debate on Europe is a desparately poor result. As I cheekily tweeted last night, the biggest winner in the debate was Tim Farron (although of course Tim had to disagree with my analysis!) but what this does mean is that we could try and bring this government down within months, rather than wait for another year of austerity. If you haven't already read it, please look at how a strong Green vote could bring down this government early.

The battleground for the Greens to overtake the Liberal Democrats is the North West region. This is their 3rd safest seat out of the 12 they hold, and it is the seat we were closest to winning in 2009, and our first likely gain in May. If we win a seat in the North West, the Greens will overtake the Liberal Democrats nationally. If you want to help, donate here.


2 April 2014

Merseyside Labour's Internal (and now external) Strife

When you are highlighting some of the problems in another party, it is perhaps worth doing so in a humorous way.
One of the best ever quotes I’ve read in a match report ran as follows:

“Everton's grit is exemplified by their central midfield pairing of Lee Carsley and Thomas Gravesen, whose bald heads glint so meanly that it would be no surprise to wake up one morning to discover that they had engineered a coup in a small Latin American state.”

The current civil war in Labour on Merseyside brought this quote back to my mind. From an outside perspective, it looks like Joe Anderson has failed in his attempts to engineer his own coup on the Combined Authority, and is now throwing his rattle out of the pram because he has not got what he wanted.

What comes across loud and clear is that Joe Anderson wants as much power as he can gather. He is a centraliser and tolerates no dissent within his own group in Liverpool. What is clear from this event is that the Labour leaders in neighbouring authorities are not cowed by his behaviour in the way his own councillors tend to be.

Rather than accept a democratic verdict, Mayor Anderson goes to the press and now creates an almighty row that reflects badly on our city and our region. He should perhaps reflect on the fact that he has a big enough job here in Liverpool already, with some of the worst budget cuts in the country. Maybe he should be finding ways to protect services with new funds, not putting them at risk with what appears to be very ego-centric behaviour.

EDIT:

I've had this comment from Paul Slater, but it has not uploaded so it is as follows:

"This sort of thing was apparent at the local level, in Liverpool last year, in the case of the awful decision of the present Labour administration to sell off the Sefton Park Meadowlands.

Some Labour councillors in Liverpool, told residents that they were opposed to the selling off, of this greatly valued, and appreciated, public open space. However, when it came to voting on the issue, at City Council meetings, these same people voted to proceed with the disposal of this public open space."

Corrections/Apologies Needed From the DT and DM

So what should we make of the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail editorial teams agreeing that Climate Change is caused by people and they agree with the scientific evidence? These are papers that have been serial publishers of committed climate change deniers like James Delingpole, yet now, quietly we’ve discovered they accept the evidence and the concerns.

What there now needs to be in these papers is a prominent editorial that makes clear to the readership that they were sceptical but that they were wrong, and that there is the need to accept the facts. There also needs to be a comment added at the start of all of the denial commentary pieces and stories with an update, making clear that this would not be published now.

We’ve seen with “Winterval” and other stories, the Daily Mail have demonstrated an extreme reluctance for an apology/clarification to be printed even when they have clearly been wrong, and still persist in linking to their version. As a result, the story has continued to be used to perpetuate the meme of “political correctness gone mad” and regularly been revived around social media.

The same risks remain while these Delingpole commentaries and Daily Mail “news” stories on climate remain. Sceptics will continue to trade off old stories as the source of new ones dries up. Blogs will be published passing off these old stories as evidence and used to continue to misinform the public.

While the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail’s new found respect for scientific evidence is to be welcomed, they have much further to go to repair the damage to their reputation and the delays they have helped to create in British society tackling Climate Change and its impacts. Our children and grandchildren deserve an apology and a real attempt to redress the harm they have done.

31 March 2014

"Wolf in Sheep's Clothing" - Political Strategy for Labour and the Lib Dems in the Euro Elections


[Please share this one with your Labour voting friends]

I tweeted last week my congratulations to Bob Dennett, a long standing anti-fracking campaigner in Fylde, who stood for us at a local byelection for the council. Fylde is an area with the potential to be badly affected by fracking and there is strong local feeling against it.

So there was some crowing by the usual suspects when the byelection was convincingly won by an independent, and Bob finished last with just 4.3% (although that compares with 5.1% for the Lib Dems). So what is going on? Does nobody care about fracking? Actually the winning candidate (an independent Ratepayer) was also strongly against fracking. He is a former councillor and a well known postmaster, and given the result last time, he was very much seen as the stronger of the two anti-fracking votes. His vote jumped by nearly 30%. The total “no to fracking” vote was 70%, with just 30% going to parties in favour of fracking.

That result matches up with the findings of national polls about how strong local opposition will be to fracking in a voter’s immediate area. Given how incredibly unpopular fracking is going to be in the many local areas affected around the North West (and the rest of the UK), how are the other parties going to deal with the fact that the Greens are the only credible Euro vote contender who are against the fracking industry?

At the first hustings of the North West campaign on Friday night in West Kirby on the Wirral, there was a key local issue about coal gasification under the Dee estuary. Unsurprisingly the panel were not all in favour. I hope to have a link to the hustings soon (it was recorded by Bay TV), but in the meantime I’ll summarise the party positions (forgive the paraphrasing):

UKIP: their representative at the hustings made clear that they were in favour of keeping the lights on, but that this had to be sited appropriately and that this sort of development would be better placed elsewhere

Liberal Democrats: it was not the clearest of answers so I can’t honestly say that either the audience or I was exactly sure about his personal position, but he wasn’t saying it had to happen in the Dee estuary either

Labour: the local parliamentary candidate is vociferously against fracking and coal gasification. She is campaigning against it and I don’t doubt her personal sincerity.

Tories: Esther McVey, the local MP, was there. They of course support it nationally but she tried to reassure the audience that it won’t happen to Hilbre island. If I’m kind, I think I’ll say that people were sceptical and they wanted more than just her reassurances.

So what did I say? All the parties above are in favour of fracking / coal gasification, but of course we are going to get local representatives campaigning against. In particular, Labour’s representative was well supported at the meeting, and she was saying all the right things. I thanked her for her opposition but told her that I wished that the answer she had given was the one that Caroline Flint had given to Caroline Lucas when our Green MP asked the Labour Shadow Minister for their position nationally.

We are going to see a lot of this in the run up to the European Elections. Voters can actually support policies that they want or they can vote out of tribal loyalty, familiarity or because they are simply not aware that the party they are voting for is in favour of such policies.

So for voters who currently support Labour or the Liberal Democrats, but are actually supporters of Green policies, it is important to recognise this:

- At a hustings or public meeting about fracking, expect Labour and the Liberal Democrats to often stand against whatever “local” scheme is being discussed and even against it nationally, because it make sense on those hustings to have a sceptical position

- A parallel example might be at a hustings about Trident, expect the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates to be against it personally, despite the relative records of their national party

By doing so, the other parties are trying to crowd out support for the Greens and our popular policies. I want to make clear that I’m not attacking the personal positions of Labour (or even Lib Dem) people on these issues – they agree with us and good luck to them in changing their own parties (they will need it) – but I am very critical of this “wolf in sheep’s clothing” politics. What I think the electorate does deserve to know is the positions of the people they will elect. If Labour are going to elect 3 Euro MPs in the North West, are they towing the party line on fracking, Trident and everything else, or where do they disagree? Whatever the position of the local person at the hustings, it matters about the politics of the person you are going to actually elect.

This is clearly to me a strategy, where other parties can get cover for their hugely unpopular policies, like support for privatised energy, TTIP, nuclear weapons and fracking, by making sure that the people who are on the frontline of the political debate at the grassroots more acceptable to the audience than the policy. For European hustings, you expect to see European candidates, and their absence should raise questions. Why at a European hustings was I the only North West European candidate?

One of the key issues for us ahead of the European Elections is to make the case that people don’t get falsely reassured about policy because their local representative has the right view on it. This is particularly true for potential Labour/ Green swing voters. They have to ask themselves about the direction of Ed Miliband’s Labour. If UKIP have a successful election and make some gains, where does that lead? However if both UKIP and the Greens have successful elections, with the Greens trebling our number of MEPs on a 1.3% swing, how will that influence Labour?

You get what you vote for. If the Labour supporters that want the very popular policies put forward by the Greens to be part of the policies of the next Labour government, the European Elections are their last chance to wield some influence. Otherwise expect more supine votes, like the one last week to support the welfare reforms, where the majority of Labour MPs back the coalition and are too afraid to strike out for a radical and better Britain.