Thursday, 31 December 2009
But no-one really wants to vote for the Tories either - certainly not in Moulsecoomb, Whitehawk, Kemp Town, Peacehaven or Saltdean. Many of us can remember the socal destruction wrought last time we had a Tory government. Younger residents are just gobsmacked, it seems to me, by the gibberish the Tories seem to speak on everything from the environment to the economy, the wide gulf between the words and spin coming out of Tory HQ and the reality of the Tory councillors and candidates here in Brighton and Sussex, and the Eton and Oxford background of so many of them. Voters want change - but not THAT change.
That's why the Green Party's vote share has been increasingly, steadily, over the years - and why polls are now predicting the Greens will pick up seeats for the first time: that 2010 will be our year.
To be honest, I reckon we'll end up with a Tory government (although I hope it's a hung parliament, so the voices of all parties will have to be listened to - as Mary Mears is beginning to understand at Brighton Council) - and the question facing those of us living here in Brighton Kemptown is simple: in the context of a Tory government, who do you want to represent you locally?
I think the best answer is a Green Party MP. Of course, I would say that wouldn't I - but Greens have consistently shown they work tirelessly for the communities they serve (unlike some MPs from other parties).
So, please vote Green in 2010 - whether you live here in Brighton or not. Not only will you get a hardworking and honest constituency MP (unencumbered by a party line that will surely hamper Labour or Tory MPs whatever happens) you'll be playing a key role in changing the nature of debate at Westminster.
Remember, one more Tory or Labour MP will hardly be noticerd - but electing some Green MPs to Westminster will make a world of difference.
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Labour's early Christmas present seems to be paying off already - latest poll shows Greens on track for victory here in Brighton
To take the one issue that voters most often say they trust the Green Party on more than anyone - and make that the thing Labour candidates will talk about most (especially when Gord-help-us Brown and Energy Secretyary Ed Miliband were busy pretending the failed climate talks at Copenhagen had produced a deal worth the paper it was written on) seemed bound to make it more likely that we will win seats at Labour's expense in areas where the strategy was applied.
And the latest poll of voting intentions here in Brighton seems to show that to be the case: an ICM poll of more than 500 voters in Brighton Pavilion show that Green Party leader Caroline Lucas is on track to pick up the seat, with 35% of voters saying they'll vote Green in March - or whenever Gord-help-us decides to call this year's election.
Some 27% of people said they'd be voting Tory, and just 25% Labour. The Lib-Dems, who don't hold a single council seat anywhere in Brighton, look set to claim the votes of a mere 11% of people.
Perhaps even more interestingly, a full 63% of those who said they'd be likely to vote Labour or Lib-Dem said they'd switch to vote Green if they thought doing so would be the most effective way of keeping the Tories out. I'm not a fan of tactical voting myslef - I have always voted for the candidate I believed in most, and I hope most voters do too - but it does seem as though tghe Greens are set to win here in Brighton, however you cut it.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
If you were moved by my previous post about the nine-year housing backlog in Brighton and Hove then here's some excellent news - Shelter, the homeless charity that produced the figures in the first place, has benefitted to the tune of about £80,000 (and counting!) thanks to a bit of direct action to reclaim the Christmas Number One slot from X-Factor and Tory luvvy Simon Cowell's shmaltzy TV-produced pop.
More than a million people joined a facebook group dedicated to promoting download purchases of the Rage Against The Machine ditty (sample lyric: Fuck You! I won't do what you tell me!) in the hope of it becoming the Christmas number one single ahead of this year's predictable X-factor winner, Joe Someone.
It wasn't just about protesting about the way manufactured music has taken over the charts - but about the whole notion of an over-commercialised Christmas. And best of all, each purchaser was given the option of donating to Shelter with their purchase, in an attempt to do something a litte more useful than symbolic with the campaign's energy.
And best of all - it worked. Rage Against the Machine's 'Killing in the Name' was duly named Christmas Number One on Sunday - and the band has now said it will donate some of its 'windfall' profit to Shelter, and come over to the UK sometime in the New Year to play a free 'thank you' gig for British fans. I can't wait!
But in towns and cities like Brighton, Perth and Cardiff wannabe-MPs from other parties can, and will, receive substantially more votes than any of the 'big three' parties.
Here in Brighton and Hove its the voters wanting to learn more about the Green Party that will lose out from having the door closed on its leader, the MEP and Brighton Pavilion candidate Caroline Lucas. In some areas it's the SNP, in others UKIP, in still others Plaid Cymru.
Now it seems some of the smaller parties are preparing to take legal action over plans to exclude them from the debates. They're beginning by taking detailed legal advice on whether such US-style debates break election rules.
Whatever the law says, it's clearly unfair to ask voters to choose between candidates when some - but not all - have benefited from massive media exposure.
The Greenpeace volunteers were trying to encourage some of the heads of state in Copenhagen for the recent climate talks to show some real leadership - and demand a binding treaty likely to stave off the worst aspects of devastating climate change.
Not only were they ignored when it came to agreeing a treaty, they were rounded up and arrested too - and now face Christmas in prison.
I've written to the Danish authorities today demanding they are immediately released on bail: you can find out more about the case, and take action yourself, here.
Monday, 21 December 2009
This is terrible. According to Help the Aged and Age Concern many older residents who break a limb in a fall never fully recover.
Brighton and Hove City Council is working hard to keep the roads open, both for traffic and the emergency vehicles having to rush around helping all the casualties, but many residents are feeling a little left out in the cold - literally - by the council's failure to grit side streets and pavements, especially in residential areas and outside the shopping centre.
The priority for everyone now must be getting the streets and pavements passable again, and ensuring all residents, especially those who are older or otherwise especially vulnerable, are ok.
When the thaw has come and gone we'll need some serious scrutiny into the council's response to this entirely predicted cold snap.
Of course the council can't control the weather, but it can control its response to it - and, crucially, how much money it spends on ensuring we are all safe and well in winter.
I hope some lessons are learned - they clearly weren't last time.
And if you think I'm being a little unfair on the council - just take a look at this self-congratulatory press release it issued before the weekend. Talk about pride before a fall! Trouble is, it's the council's political masters who are proud, and the city's older and more vulnaerable residents who are having the falls.
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Hey ho. Failure was predictable enough after all. No-one really thought the likes of Barack Obama, Gordon Brown, Manmohan Singh and Wen Jia-boa could put self-interest to one side to guarantee the future of the species. It was a bit like a game of poker between cowboys in which they all cheat, suspect each other of cheating, and all end up dead in a simultaneous shoot-out. Never has it been more obvious that we need politicians with policies for the next 100 years - not just the next 100 days.
So, a binding deal to cut global carbon emissions proved impossible to agree - and instead we've got the rather pathetic Copenhagen Accord.
It doesn't contain any binding targets for emissions reduction, and although it contains the hope that global temperature rises won't top 2 deg Centigrade it contains no mechanism, or even suggestion, for how that might happen, or who might be responsible making sure it does.
It's as though the world has signed up to a deal to promote lots of motherhood and apple-pie without mentioning either breeding or baking.
And even the Copenhagen Accord wasn't 'adopted' - it was merely 'noted', after objections from China, India and Africa.
The Accord spells the end of the Kyoto Protocol - the mechanism for cutting emissions agreed in 1997. Kyoto was deeply flawed, but was, as has been oft-repeated, 'the only game in town'. Well now there's no game at all.
And yet Ed Miliband, so upset at the idea that African nations were comparing the talks' failure to a deal that would lead the widespread slaughter of their people that he reportedly rushed from his hotel bedroom to save the talks (!), has bizarrely hailed the agreement as a good news story.
According to The Observer, Miliband said the Accord "was definitely worth saving".
The deal "is a document that it substantive ways will make the lives of people around this planet better".
What nonsense. It won't make life better for the millions living in the floodplains of Bangladesh. Or the people of Tuvalu. Or the millions dependent on glaciers for drinking water in Africa, China, India and South America. It won't make life better for the 60,000 Brighton and Hove householders told their homes will be overcome by storm surge floods in the next few years. And it won't make life much better for my five-year-old son, who might be best off learning, as his Grandpa has advised, how to use a gun to make sure he's one of life's winners when society goes tits up.
The sooner we get rid of Miliband, Brown and their ilk - and replace them with politicians who are more committed to the survival of the species than of business as usual - the better.
As Sussex grinds to a halt in the face of a little climate chaos, perhaps the future is as well predicted by this snowman in Queen's Park as any other story: Endangered Species, reads the label. I guess the Sussex snowman has got a little less time than the rest of us, but I guess (s)he's talking for all of us.
Friday, 18 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
So what next? In February next year we'll have to vote on a budget for 2010/11. The Tories' plans - for 160 redundancies and cuts in services, pretty much across the board, are completely unacceptable. They'll make the city a cold and hard place - for all but the richest, those who live in the most expensive houses but use few public services.
Watch this space.
Sunday, 13 December 2009
Now whatever we think of Council Tax - I think it's a deeply unfair tax that doesn't allow for the thousands, particularly older people, who live in larger homes (and therefore pay a higher rate of Council Tax) but have to live on low, and often fixed, incomes, and should be replaced with a form of Land Value Tax - it remains just about the only mechanism we’ve got for ensuring the cost of delivering a fair society are met according to people’s ability to pay.
For the Government to threaten direct intervention against any local authority who threatens to try and do exactly that is a direct assault on local democracy, and it will cost jobs, all for the sake of saving a few pence a week for those who, in the main, are most able to afford it.
And we're already seeing the effect. At a meeting of the Sussex Police Authority last week members effectively abandoned a promise made last year to create 31 new frontline neighbourhood policing jobs in order to escape the government's wrath: but creating these jobs was part of the democratic mandate that saw Police Authority members elected in the first place.
Add these 31 jobs to the 160 redundancies announced the week before by Brighton and Hove City Council, the 450 at Lloyds TSB, the jobs to go at former retail giants Borders and Threshers, the 115 at the University of Sussex - well you get the picture - and we're talking a real jobs crisis here in Brighton, all for the sake of saving the richest a few pennies a week!
Just to be absolutely clear - I will continue to push for Sussex Police to try to boost neighbourhood policing by boosting its share of Council Tax by 3.77% next year - even if it means, not for the first time, that I find myself in a minority of one. I didn't take up local politics to be bullied by the Government - or to restrict myself to popular arguments.
In the last year, records for a staggering quarter of all addresses in central Brighton have changed, either as a result of people moving in to the area, people moving addresses within the area, people (mainly women getting married) changing their surname.
Some areas (Regency ward, for example, have seen more than a third of all records change in the last year) - I'll post all the details for Queen's Park when I've done the number-crunching!
Figures released this week show that Kemptown MP Des Turner claimed £14,565.89 - more than half the average wage of his constituents - on top of his £65,000-a-year salary for taxpayer funded improvements and gadgets for his second home in central London.
The Argus carried as all the gory details - notably that we all paid about £2.5K for his new kitchen - and £350 for a telly.
I thought this was as good a reason as any to reproduce this cartoon - which tells the story of another Labour MP, former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, who found herself in hot water when it emerged her husband had been using her parliamentary expenses to pay his bill for porn films.
Obviously there's no suggestion that Des has been getting the taxpayer to fund a porn habit - but it made me chuckle anyway.
Friday, 11 December 2009
The Cuts Won’t Work shows that, contrary to the policy of all the major political parties, cutting public spending now will tip the nation into a deeper recession by increasing unemployment, reducing the tax received and limiting government funding available to kick-start the Green New Deal. Instead a bold new programme of ‘green quantitative easing,’ rather than simply propping up failing banks, could help reduce the public debt and kick-start the transformation of the UK’s energy supply while creating thousands of new green-collar jobs.
This could be a real opportunity for the UK to show global leadership by implementing an interlinked package that recognises the need for targeted public spending in a downturn. Not to further fuel an economy hard-wired into ever increasing use of fossil fuels, but to revitalise the productive economy and lay the foundations of the low-carbon infrastructure of the future.
The opportunity for action is even more pressing than it was when President Franklin Roosevelt instigated his bold New Deal programme that touched almost every aspect of economy and society say the Group. The timescale is limited by the urgent need to stabilise concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere before the risk of uncontrollable global warming increases significantly. Today, there is a plan on the table that could revitalise our damaged economy while also radically restructuring it for a low carbon future.
The vision is needed to implement it before it is too late.
I think the report is spot on - although the most devastating impacts of climate change are yet to hit Sussex, mass unemployment is just around the corner. With about 1,000 local redundancies announced just this month, it's time to protect jobs and create new ones quicksmart.
The billions of national debt racked up to prop up failing banks, and to fund the disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mean next year's budget will be one of tax rises for everyone - and massive cuts in public services.
We've already seen a hint of that, in a letter send to all local authorities yesterday by the Government warning that any councils trying to protect local jobs by raising Council Tax more than 3% could be 'capped' - this has already put paid to plans to offset 100-odd job losses at Sussex Police by diverting some of the staff to neighbourhood policing duties (though I haven't given up fighting to keep Brighton's bobbies on the beat rather than put them on the dole yet!)
Then, of course, there's the Tory plans to slash 160 jobs from Brighton and Hove City Council - I am already being lobbied by staff warning that the plans will hit social care for older people hardest.
Anyway, the Tories' logic is that Labour won't want any election to happen after next year's budget, when much of this bad news will be out in the open - and I think their reasoning is pretty good really.
This week I have been invited to a Muslim wedding in Sudan next Februrary -I guess I'd better decline, and send best wishes by post instead!
Monday, 7 December 2009
It's the early Christmas present we could never have dared wish for. Over recent months it's become pretty clear to everyone that there's little policy difference between Labour and the Tories, but people have had enough of the war, sleaze, bank-bailouts and economic collapse that Labour have imposed on us all, so we'll probably end up with a Tory government by default.
The only real questions left are whether the Tories will win an outright majority, and if so how big will it be - put simply, the more Tory MPs we return, the more scope they'll have for tax cuts, job losses and privatisation - and how many seats the smaller parties will pick up: will the Greens win seats in Brighton, London, Norwich and Edinburgh, in other words.
Personally, I think a Green MP here in Brighton Kemptopwn will be best able to challenge the Tory government to make sure the cuts don't hit us too hard locally - and to champion the interests of the constituency (and make the argument that 'Fair is Worth Fighting For') - without being encumbered by top-down party that's just suffered its heaviest defaeat in a generation.
And by stating their aim to make the policy battle about the environment, the one issue where Greens consistently outpoll the Labour Party - Mandelson and his cronies have juast made a more likely than ever that a Green MP is what Kemptown will return.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
In the week when the University of Sussex, Brighton Council and Sussex Police are all considering large-scale public sector redundancies right here in Brighton, the campaign could hardly be more urgent.
Unison. the country largest public sector union, hopes to persuade a million diferent people to join its campaign for people to come above profit in the public sector.
I hope they do - and I hope the Government listens - protecting public services and fighting for a fairer society are what drove me into politics in the first place.
I've just heard that Andrew Falconer, the man chosen by the Liberal Democrats to stand against Caroline Lucas in Brighton Pavilion - has stood down.
We all know the Lid-Dems are too yellow to be green. The Tories have just finished selcting their replacement candidate after David Bull quit - I wonder if Nancy Platts will be next to throw in the towel?
More news as I get it...
This week alone we've learned of almost 1,000 job losses in Brighton - as Brighton Council, Sussex University, Threshers, Borders and Lloyds TSB have all announced redundancies.
I think this is an absolute disgrace - and it reminds me why it matters so much that we return some Green MPs to Westminster to try and stop the rot.
We need urgent action, starting with a guarantee that there will be no no redundancies in the public sector, a massive increase in public sector investment in green technologies - creating jobs not just happy bankers - no more welfare cuts for the most vulnerable, and an increase in support for education, training, play and children's services.
Yes, I know: that all sounds expensive... It's all about priorities after all - the Government could find the money in days to prop up the failing banking sector. To my mind, fair is worth fighting for - and creating jobs and ending child poverty is worth Government investment, even if that means Government borrowing rises a little, or those most able to afford it have to pay a little more tax...
Wednesday, 2 December 2009
We are seeing the costs of bailing out the banks and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan coming home to roost: effectively we are being asked to pay for bankers' bonuses with the safety of our communities.
Here in Sussex the Chief Constable had already warned that jobs could go in the face of a £35m shortfall, even before today's announcement.
Greens believe that neighbourhood policing is working - and shouldn't be abandoned: no police jobs should go.
Tuesday, 1 December 2009
But already the candidates are lining up, it seems.
A well-known Labour Party activist I bumped into in St James's Street the other day told me that he had been rejected as a local Labour council candidate here in Queen's Park - and that he may stand here as an Independent against Labour (and me!).
He suggested that only one candidate had been chosen for sure - and that she was a woman, though he wouldn't tell me who.
My money's on perennial election-loser Lis Telcs. Lis has contacts at the very heart of the party - and has desperately sought to be a councillor: she came 6th in the formerly safe Labour ward of Moulescoomb and Bevendean in 2007, and was beaten again, this time by Green councillor Alex Philips in the Goldsmid by-election earlier this year. If she wants to stand again, Queen's Park is just about the only ward left in which she hasn't been rejected by voters already, isn't already taken, or has no chance at all of returning a Labour councillor.
Whoever it is, I can't wait to meet her when she is finally selected. I hope she's as keen as the nice Tory boy I met yesterday, Patrick, who turned up to last night's monthly meeting of the Friends of Saunders Park, introduced himself as the Tory candidate for Hollingbury and Stanmer ward (if that's what it's called these days?), and promised to come back next time.
Monday, 30 November 2009
As things stand, there is little prospect of more than a handful of these staff avoiding compulsory redundancy, obviously with serious consequences for local jobs and the local economy.
I'm flabbergasted: almost half the bank is publicly-owned - and I think the Government has a duty to step in and save the jobs, relocating some of the bank's call-centre activities from India to Brighton to do so.
It might costs the bank a little more money in the short term - but the costs to the Government - and the fabric of our society - of mass unemployment are much, much higher.
Yet again the Labour government seems more interested in protecting its investments - and encouraging the banks to make as much money as they can - even at the cost of hundreds of jobs.
Simon Burgess must be absolutely ashamed of himself.
As many as 122 academic jobs face the axe - and another 20-odd support staff.
The decision, which is subject to a 'consultation period' until next March, has already sparked fierce opposition: more than 1,500 people have joined a Facebook group opposing the cuts, and more than 500 have signed an online petition.
There have been demonstrations on campus - and another is planned for this Thursday (Dec 3rd) morning, at 9.30. If you want to join and make your voice heard, meet at Library Square.
here, courtesy of the Times Higher Education Supplement.
Personally, I think The University of Sussex plays a vital economic and cultural role in our city. Any redundancies or cuts – or even threats of them – are the product of privatisation and the introduction of the profit motive into the provision of higher education and must be opposed.
It is for the Government to fund universities, including Sussex, properly – not just leaving the job to vice chancellors to do so by juggling the figures, short-changing students and slashing less profitable academic courses.
I urge the vice chancellor to reconsider his decision, and to appeal to the Government to put its money where its mouth is in terms of its support for universities and students.
Sunday, 29 November 2009
Perhaps best-known for his haunting keyboard riffs in the background of most of Roxy Music's tunes, Eno has migrated into the world of politics a little. He's a regular critic of the Labour Government and the Tories alike on BBC Question Time, and a champion of civil liberties at a time when the cause of freedom from state interference needs a champion or two.
Check out this video - and watch this space for more on Brighton Festival as and when there are more tales to tell.
Simon Radford Kirby, the former pub mogul and Pevensey councillor who hopes to become Brighton Kemptown MP, and Scott Seaman-Digby, who was ditched at potential Tory candidate for neighbouring Brighton Pavilion a fortnight ago, have both quietly dropped their double-barrelled names, but deny being asked to so by their cuddly leader Dave Cameron.
After it was reveled that fellow Tory MP hopeful Annunziata Rees-Mogg had refused Cameron's instruction to change her name to plain old Nancy Mogg, Mr Kirby said he was exactly the same person whether or not he went by the name Radford-Kirby or just Kirby. Well he's spot on treally, and I just guess the question is wheter he's the right person for the job of representing Brighton Kemptown, whatever his name. The people I meet around the constituency on a daily basis certainly won't be supporting him - but it's not his name they object to: it's his politics.
Friday, 27 November 2009
Wednesday, 25 November 2009
Of course rail users will be delighted to hear that he's sorry for the misery cancelled trains cause, but it's completely unfair - a a little cowardly - to lay the blame on the train drivers for refusing to work overtime, as he does.
Surely train drivers - like the rest of us - have the right to choose whether or not they work outside their contracted hours?
The fact is that responsibility for the reduced service lies squarely with First Capital Connect’s management, who have forced drivers into a position of industrial action with their unfair and unnecessary demands.
Imposing a pay freeze and requiring drivers to voluntarily work their rest days is symptomatic of a private company that puts profits first at the expense of passengers and staff.
The Green Party has long called for a renationalisation of the rail network and a commitment to an affordable, reliable and comfortable service. Let’s end the failed experiment of privatisation and get public transport back where it belongs, in public hands.
Tuesday, 24 November 2009
I am not a novelist: I'd like to be, I have a few ideas, and I can string a sentence together if I try hard. They say everyone's got one book in them, so maybe one day I will be. I certainly won't be betting my house on it though.
I am not a marathon runner either. I'd like to be though, and I hope I will be on April 18th next year, when I'll tighten up my trainers and try to get round 26.2 miles of Brighton and Hove's highways, twittens and beaches. My training's going more slowly than I'd hoped, but it's still going.
But I do love the novels of Haruki Marakami - and this non-fiction effort - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - is as good as any of them, really. Though there can't be many marathon-running novelists out there, I bet there are a fair few people out there who, like me, would actually like to be both.
Even if that's not the case - Murakami's insights into a world seen through not one but two pretty solitary and weird lenses are quite compelling. With every new description you just want to yell 'weirdo' - then, taking a moment, realise he's actually spot on.
'What I think about...' is certainly a product of the orient. We don't chose to live either healthy or unhealthy lifestyles, he posits, for example, we're all a product of both - and it's getting the balance right that matters most. The solitary and emotionally draining practise of novel-writing is his most 'unhealthy' pursuit - running, he argues, is one of the ways he prevents writing from killing him. Mostly through suicide, he notes, being a novelist has taken a fair few lives prematurely.
Though he calmly slips in the fact that he gave up smoking as he realised it was simply incompatible with being a runner (perhaps the most compelling argument I've heard, really), and that he's cut back a little on the alcohol as he's become older, there's no preaching here. It's a compelling, and readable, account of what makes Murakami tick. It's so gracefully done that it's more like listening to a gentle monologue than reading, really, and I've absolutely no idea if it rings true or not. I'll take his word for it though.
If you're inspired by any of this, you can buy the book via this link, or, of course, get it free from your local library.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
Friday, 20 November 2009
Last month we had the bizarre news that the council was using tax-payers' cash to sweep the corridors of its Hove HQ for bugs - and shuffle staff around to make sure no secrets are overheard through the walls (tip for worried Tory councillors: lower your voices a little!)
But the latest news to leak its way out of King's House is even weirder: apparently the word 'green' has been banned from council-speak so leader Mary Mears isn't constantly reminded of our presence.
It's not just 'green' that has been effectively banned - there's a whole list of words and phrases that will be missing from Brighton council-speak as long as the Tories run things: 'Europe' and 'Government initiative' also make the cut.
I wonder how the French cabbage likely to be served to councillors during our next official meal (as part of the Government's 5-a-day initiative) will be described? Vegetable matter of unspecified origin and appearance, perhaps? Or, more importantly, when will they start burning books at King's House?
Wednesday, 18 November 2009
I feel sorry for her really: she'll be giving up on a life in leafy south-west London (well hopefully she'll be moving to Brighton now) and work with eco-millionaire Zac Goldsmith to become the England's first Tory to lose to a Green MP.
But her heart's clearly in the right place, even if her head hasn't remembered the long-term social damage done to this country by Margaret Thatcher. I've never really understood Tory politicians, if I'm honest. I look forward to meeting her soon.
Sunday, 15 November 2009
So you might be surprised (if you're kind) - or think me a hypocrite - to read that I spent much of yesterday dressed as Santa Claus selling 'gifts' at a church Christmas bazaar.
But I agreed to dress up as the big man because I thought doing so would be an opportunity to bring some smiles to St James's Street - and that saying no certainly wasn't likely to either reduce commercialism or religious fervour, either here in Kemp Town or anywhere else.
And so it proved: trade at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church wasn't that brisk, but almost all the children who came in made a beeline to my corner of the hall. They left with a smile, a photo - and a little Christmas magic on a stormy and otherwise depressing November day.
You could argue that the very presence of a man dressed in a Santa suit charging cash for 'gifts' in Brighton six weeks before Christmas merely provides evidence that the whole story is a myth so it would have been hypocritical NOT to have accepted the invitation! Discuss...
Saturday, 14 November 2009
After being refused planning permission to open in the conservation area, doing so anyway, and eventually winning a protracted legal battle to stay - despite opposition from Brighton and Hove Council, ward councillors, and regular demonstrations by residents' concerned at the multi-national's tendancy to threaten the viability of local, independent cafes - it is reported that the firm has now adopted a 'de-branding' strategy that could see it vanish from the street just months after opening.
In the face of collapsing sales around the world, the firm has decided that what most people really want these days is, you guessed it, coffee from a local, independent cafe.
So the firm has, in a desperate bid to stay competitive, closed one of its biggest stores in its birthplace, Seattle, and replaced it with a '15th Avenue Coffee and Tea' shop instead - with no mention at all of Starbucks, and the style and design copied directly from nearby successful independent cafes.
Don't be surprised then if, after all that fuss (and public money), Starbucks in St James's Street closes its doors soon, to be replaced by a faux independent coffee store that's part The Tea Cosy, part Red Roaster and part Metro-Deco.
Friday, 13 November 2009
Drivers employed by First Capital Connect - the private company that runs trains on the Thameslink line between Brighton and Bedford - have been refusing to work overtime in a dispute over pay. That's led to hundreds of cancelled trains - and misery for thousands of commuters.
Basically, the rail company is offering its drivers a 3% pay rise next year, but nothing at all this year.
That's a scandal. Inflation might be low, but it's rising - and it masks the reality that food and energy prices are rising fastest of all.
It's completely unacceptable to impose a unilateral pay cut - to ask anyone to work for less, effectively, than they were being paid this time last year.
And it's not as though First Capital Connect doesn't have the money: research has shown that Britain has some of the highest rail fares in the world.
First Capital Connect must sort this out by treating its drivers fairly - making a little less profit, if need be, but paying its staff a fair wage and not simply passing on the costs to commuters.
And in the longer term, the Government must simply renationalise the railways. If private firms are incapable of doing the job - as they have been on the East Coast mainline - then the state needs to step in to guarantee services and keep fares down by removing the profit margin from prices.
The Green Party has calculated that removing the profit margin, and a proper programme of Government investment in the railways, could reduce the price of a Brighton to London commuter season ticket by £110 a year.
Yesterday, Green Party Leader Caroline Lucas joined Green councillors at Brighton Station to discuss the issue with commuters - more than 100 of whom agreed that renationalisation was the answer.
Cheap, efficient public transport is simply too important to be left to the vagueries of the private sector.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Every month, residents, traders, local councillors, council officers and neighbourhood police gather to discuss ways to make the area safer - to find ways of working together reduce crime an anti-social behaviour in the area.
The packed agenda included heated discussions about cycling, whether or not to lock New Steine Gardens at night, the impact of Southern Gas's plan to close the street next year for weeks digging up the road, and the disturbance residents are suffering at the hands of those leaving the area's many pubs and bars late at night.
But I could scarcely believe my ears when a council officer informed the meeting that Brighton and Hove had been selected to take part in a new pilot scheme designed to improve community safety.
We were all invited to visit a new Home Office website and enter details of where we felt safe, and unsafe, and why.
It was explained that the information entered would be used by the Home Office and the council to help them better target resources - but that actually there weren't any new resources associated with the scheme at all, so it'll just be another tool for shifting around the cash that's already there.
Sussex's police chief Martin Richards has warned that we face cuts, effectively, of £35m -and that police officers might have to be laid off to make ends meet. Police stations could even face closure as the cuts bite.
Tory members of Sussex Police Authority have voted to make things even worse, by increasing savings: putting tax revenue in the bank 'for a rainy day' - in other words choosing to make the cuts even deeper, ignoring the rain streaming down the windows.
The council's community safety team is under intense financial pressure too. The Tory administration has pledged to make the lowest Council Tax rise in the city's history, just as the Government is, effectively, cutting the amount of money it gives us here in Brighton and Hove.
The City Council's budget for next is yet to be published, but there are bound to be cuts somewhere.
But we've got a new website to help us weather the storm of cuts. Great. What we need is more cash for neighbourhood policing: more community engagement, more uniformed patrols on the streets - and more neighbourhood empowerment. Not another chocolate teapot which will uselessly gather information residents have been giving the police and Council, to little avail, for years.
Wednesday, 11 November 2009
I'm not a member of the committee, and therefore didn't have a vote or anything, but I was amazed really to find the meeting completely dominated by the Green Party's agenda - to see proof in action of how our 13-strong group is batting above its weight.
First there was the substantive stuff: the committee agreed to establish two separate scrutiny panels to investigate services for victims of rape and serious sexual assault (this was something I proposed myself, following conversations with victims, police officers and others, and discovering that rape victims in the city are taken to Crawley - as there are currently no round-the-clock support facilities available in the city), and one to look at whether following the lead of cities like Portsmouth and Bristol by establishing a blanket 20 mph speed limit would save lives and improve traffic flows - another Green Party campaign, this one led by Hove parliamentary candidate and St Peters and North Laine councillor Ian Davey (pictured).
And then there was the non-substantive stuff: a debate on roadworks (I've already blogged about this) sparked by Queen's Park Green councillor Paul Steedman. There was a discussion of the future of the London Road area which revolved around traffic congestion and the majority of residents' views that the last thing the area needs is a Tesco superstore. Although this was the clearly stated view of those living and working in the area - it tallies exactly with the Green Party's position on the issue, and a brief debate about the council's strategy for dealing with waste - and, perhaps bizarrely for such an urban authority, mineral extraction. There was wide acceptance of the view that we should do everything the law allows us to do to refuse to import waste from London, and that we need to boost recycling levels and find alternatives to landfill and incineration where we can. Again, exactly the Green party's position.
So it seems that the Greens' by-election win in Goldsmid is already making a huge difference. With 13 councillors, obviously we can't make any of the big, important decisions. But we can, and are, setting the agenda in which those decisions are being taken - that can only be good news for residents.
Tuesday, 10 November 2009
And it looks like, whoever is chosen, the party has already thrown in the towel.
Frankly I haven't heard of three of them at all - so I can't tell you anything about them.
But of the three I have come across, there's Andrew Wealls, who actually has some experience standing in an election locally and losing to a Green party candidate, Scott Seaman-Digby, a senior Tory national organiser, and Chelsea councillor Mary Weale.
Now it's up to the good folk of Brighton Pavilion to choose the final candidate, at an open 'primary' meeting next Wednesday. Anyone living in the constituency can vote, whether or not they are a member of the Tory party. Call 01273 411844 if you want to join the fun.
Of course it's all academic really: if this shortlist really contains the best candidates to Tories can muster it looks to me like they've already thrown in the towel.
Remember David Bull? His departure was clearly prescient - it seems the Tories just can't find a big hitter who wants to risk being the country's first Tory candidate to lose to a Green MP.