Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Red, Green, Silver or Black?

As police and demonstrators prepare to clash in the City of London tomorrow during a wave of protests ahead of Thursday's summit of G20 leaders, I can't help fearing that the police, rather than any demonstrators, will be responsible for any disorder that erupts.

The Met's finest have been parading their intentions to face down any demonstrations with superior manpower, spending ($7.2 million at last count - how many rape investigations could that fund?) and, if need be, violence.

In Saturday's Guardian, for example, unnamed senior officers were reported to have said, of the possibility of any violence or disorder tomorrow the police were 'up for it, and up to it'.

Hardly a quote from a conflict resolution handbook! Am I the only one out there who hopes tomorrow's demo will be peaceful, and that the police will act to defuse violent tension while facilitating lawful protest, as they are required to do under the Human Rights Act.

The senior officers concerned obviously didn't get the memo.

I have already made my concerns known to Brighton Police's commander, Chief Superintendent Graham Bartlett, and he has assured my that no Brighton and Hove officers will be taking part.

I'll be going (along with fellow Brighton Green Party councillor Vicky Wakefield-Jarrett) - making sure my voice is heard, trying to dodge any disorder the police and media spark up, with my eyes and ears open, and talking with as many people as I can, especially anyone from Brighton and Sussex.

I certainly haven't been put off by any of the media coverage or police pronouncements. I only face one real question - which march should I join?

There are four - representing the four horsemen of the apocalypse, with a red horse march against war, a green horse march against climate change, a silver horse march against financial crimes, and a black horse march against land enclosures and borders (honouring the 360th anniversary of the Diggers).

They're all so important, after all. We really need a Green New Deal to address all the problems the marches signify.

I guess my final decision will depend a lot on when I make it up to London - I'll hot foot it after dropping Sammy at school at 8.45am.

I'll let you know how the march went tomorrow.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Spoof FT sweeps City of London

More than 10,000 copies of a spoof edition of the FT have been circulated around the City of London today, ahead of the G20 protests. It's well worth a read - the language is more intelligible, and the arguments far more coherent, than the original. Here's a link.

Lift a Finger, Flick a Switch, Save the Planet

This from Do Something About It: I can't make the rally (but I'm looking forward to attending the 'Financial Fools Day!' and Climate Camp protests next Wednesday) - but I will be turning my lights off!

The Put People First rally is not the only event that's taking place tomorrow.

If you can't make it to the march, you can still participate in a protest of global significance - and you don't even need to leave the house.

To campaign against climate change, all you need to do is turn off your lights between 8.30 and 9.30pm. The organisers of Earth Hour aim to collect millions of 'votes' from around the world, which they will then present to politicians at the Global Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen later this year.

Wherever you are in the country, wherever you are in the world (if you're outside the UK, just flip the switch at 8.30pm local time wherever you happen to be), this is a great opportunity to show politicians that you're taking global warming seriously - so they better do so too.

And while we're at it, here's a great video which explains what's wromg with carbon trading:

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Meta-Waiting for Godot, and better LGBT youth homesness services

Hot on the heels of Brighton Council agreeing to work with the Albert Kennedy Trust, its patron and old-skool luvvie Sir Ian McKellan comes to Brighton tonight to star in a touring production of Samual Beckett's incredible Waiting for Godot. Godot famously never appears - it's really an examination of the reality that we're all waiting for something, even if we don't really know what it is: the human condition necessarily has a future tense, a 'what next' sidebar, if you like.

Anyway, I know what I'm waiting for: seeing the play! There's an interview with McKellan all about it here.

More on LGBT homelessness later...

Lucas on Question Time tomorrow

Just a quick one: Brighton Pavilion MP hopeful, South-East England Euro-MP and Green Party leader Carolinre Lucas is to appear on BBC One's Question Time tomorrow (Thursday, March 26th).

The debate takes place in Newcastle. Other panellists include Charles Clarke, Eric Pickles and Michael Winner so it's bound to be a weighty discussion.

Here's a link to more info.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Jamie Oliver's doublespeak on pigs exposed!

Protest outside Jamie Oliver's new eatery in Black Lion Street - here's the pic, read a report in t'Argus here

Monday, 23 March 2009

Locals like Brighton - but feel disempowered, says survey

Green councillors have called on the council to devolve cash to communities across the city after an Audit Commission supervised survey found city residents like living here - but want to get more involved in local decision-making.

The 'Place Survey' found that though 86 per cent of city residents are generally happy with the area, a growing number (39 per cent) wanted to be directly involved in making the decisions that affect them.

I think the council should listen - and allow local communities to determine neighbourhood spending priorities for themselves.

Community cash back is used by councils across the country - in Lewisham (South London) each ward gets £100,000 annually, for example.

Here in Queen's Park the excellent Tarner and Eastern Road partnerships were doing exactly the same thing - spending cash on local projects, from buying computers for community use to employing a domestic violence outreach worker. The decisions on which projects to support were taken by the partnerships themselves, with each residents' association or local group getting a vote.

That's local democracy in action, surely?

But this council (of course) isn't always much of a fan of democracy in action - and slashed funding to the partnerships back in February.

Perhaps this survey will help refocus their minds on what residents actually want when they're setting next year's budget.

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Greens more relevant than ever, says Lucas (BBC report)

BBC NEWS | Politics | Greens 'more relevant than ever'

Tory technophobes - sosumi 2009!

I wanted to post this video more than a month ago: it comes from the council's webcast of the annual budget-setting council meeting, and shows me calling for more cash to employ a domestic violence outreach worker in the Tarner and Eastern Road areas. The Tories like to shed a crocodile tear or two about domesic violence, but when it comes to the crunch they'd rather spend the money on trimming grass verges, or tax cuts for the richest, every time.

Anyway, I haven't posted this until now, partly because I have only recently learned how to do so, and partly becuase I've been waiting to get my head round a complaint made against one of my Green Party councillor colleages, Jason Kitcat, for re-posting video clips from council meetings.

If there was a decent reason for one of the old Tory duffers (sorry cabinet members) wasting taxpayers money (as usual!) by getting councillors to examine the rights and wrongs of reposting video already in the public domain, then obviously I didn't want to make things worse.

Maybe, for example, a council officer appearing in the background was in hiding from an abusive ex-partner or something.

But no - having spoken to Jason it seems the complaint is entirely speculative. It doesn't really allege anything at all, it just hopes the standards board will be able to find something. I naively thought trying to increase the audience for council proceedings was all good for open democracy - but apparently the Tories think otherwise.

I'm not really surprised. In the flesh they so often (with a few notable exceptions, of course) look like gibbering idiots that showing them at it would probably bring the whole council into disrepute. Certainly it would lead to a collapse in the Tory vote.

There's another, simpler, reason, that's probably behind the complaint: they don't really know how to do it themnselves and their natural state is one of technophobia!

Anyway, here's the clip - I challenge the Tories to bring another standards board complaint against me too if they think they have a case - and they wouldn't rather spend the money any such complaint costs on cutting grass verges... Sosumi, as Apple Computers infamously said to the Beatles' record label!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Slurpin' at the gravy train

With all this talk of bonuses,I thought regular readers might be interested in knowing how much their councillors get in 'extras'. All councillors receive a 'basic allowance' of just over £11k a year. The chosen few get a bit more. Here's a full list:

The Tories, unsurprisingly, top the poll:

1 Mary Mears Leader of the Council 28,758
2 Vanessa Brown Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Children & Young People 17,254
3 Maria Caulfield Cabinet Member for Housing 10,927

4 Ken Norman Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care & Health 10,927

5 Ayas Fallon-Khan Cabinet Member for Central Services 10,927
6 David Smith Cabinet Member for Culture, Recreation & Tourism 10,927
7 Ted Kemble Cabinet Member for Enterprise, Employment and Major Projects 10,927
8 Geoffrey Theobald Cabinet Member for Environment 10,927
9 Jan Young Cabinet Member for Finance 10,927
10 Dee Simson Cabinet Member for Community Affairs & Internal Relations 10,927

11 Denise Cobb Deputy Leader with responsibility for Sustainability 17,254

12 Lynda Hyde Chairman of Planning 10,927
13 Carol Theobald Chairman of Licensing 8,626
14 Ann Norman Chairman of Governance 8,626
15 Averil Older Chairman of CYPOSC 7,188

16 Geoff Wells Deputy Chairman of Planning 7,188
17 Brian Pidgeon Deputy Chairman of OSOC 2,156
18 Pat Drake Deputy Chairman of CTEOSC 2,156
19 Tony Janio Deputy Chairman of ECSOSC 2,156

Labour Opposition Group SRA’s

1 Gill Mitchell Leader of Opposition 13,803

2 Les Hamilton Deputy Leader and
Chairman of Audit Cttee 8,626
3 Pat Hawkes Deputy Leader 7,188
4 Anne Meadows Chairman of ASC&HOSC 7,188
5 Warren Morgan Chairman of EOSC 7,188
6 Juliet McCaffery Deputy Chairman CYPOSC 2,156
7 Kevin Allen Deputy Chairman of HOSC 2,156
8 Christine Simpson Deputy Chairman of Governance 2,156
9 Jeane Lepper Deputy Chairman of Licensing 2,156
10 Melanie Davis Rep on Arts Commission 2,156

Green Opposition Group SRA’s

1 Keith Taylor Convenor 7,188
2 Bill Randall Chairman of CT&EOSC 7,188
3 Georgia Wrighton Deputy Chairman ASC&HOSC 2,156

Liberal Democrat Opposition Group SRA
1 David Watkins Deputy Chairman of Audit 2,156

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

If we don't have a planet to live on, everything else ceases to matter...

Do check out this from the South-West's regional news. Wannabe Euro-MP David Taylor sums up why, for me, environmentalism must be a key component of the struggle for a fairer, more democratic world.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Lucas, just back from Gaza, joins Tony Benn at Brighton meeting

Brighton's Green Euro-MP and Westminster contender Caroline Lucas is to speak about her experiences during a visit to Gaza earlier this month at a public meeting organised by the local branches of the Stop the War Coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign tomorrow.

It should be a cracker - I'll let y'all know how it went afterwards. Caroline, who, as a member of a European Parliament delegation to the region visited areas devastated by recent Israeli attacks on the occupied Palestinian territory, will speak alongside 'Stop the War' president and former Labour MP Tony Benn.

Speaking after her return from Gaza, Dr Lucas called for the Israeli government to pay reparations to affected communities – and for the international community to recognise a ‘government of national unity’ in Palestine.

She said: “The people of Gaza are being collectively punished for electing a government unpopular with Israel.

“The devastation I saw was absolutely shocking: the millions lucky enough not to lose their lives in the recent Israeli attacks are being forced to live in a blockaded bombsite – often without access to enough food, clean water, medicines – or even a shelter.

“This is a complete denial of Palestinians basic human rights and it’s time the international community said clearly: ‘Enough is enough’ – Israel must end the occupation now.”

The meeting, which takes place from 7.30pm this Friday at the Hilton Metropole Hotel, is free and open to all: peace campaigner Andrew Murray will speak alongside Dr Lucas and Tony Benn.

Burglary charges dropped against peace activists

Just saw this - and thought I'd share it here. The peace activists facing criminal charges of trying to damage the war machine here in Brighton (that's the EDO-ITT factory in Moulsecomb, where bomb-release mechanisms have been made for the Israeli Air Force) have had charges of burglary dropped.

According to a report on the Peace News website, the nine activists who 'decommissioned' the EDO arms factory in Brighton in January, in protest against the supply of British arms to Israel and the assault on Gaza, are now facing the much vaguer charge of 'conspiracy to cause criminal damage' as well as the charge of criminal damage itself, following a court hearing on 16 February.

The charge of burglary was dropped against all nine. Because of this change, the three activists who were arrested outside the factory, and who caused none of the damage, are more likely to be convicted. In addition to the change in charges, the claimed value of the property damaged has risen to £300,000, up £50,000 from the initial estimate.

Two of the protestors remain in jail: Robert Alford in Lewes Prison and Elijah Smith in Bristol. Robert applied for bail, but was turned down. Elijah refused to apply for bail until Alford was released. Though the two men were originally held in Lewes Prison together, Elijah Smith was moved to Bristol earlier this month for 'security reasons'.

A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for 8 May.

Here's more on the whole saga

Friday, 6 March 2009

Today's world...

As I walked to a meeting at Brighton Town Hall today I saw a van parked on double yellow lines outside the Royal Bank of Scotland in Castle Square. Nothing unusual there - I'm not a traffic warden, but I did peer in the windscreen to see a nice laminated sign:

'Engineer on emergency call-out to RBS'

Fair enough, I thought, until I saw the writing on the side of the van:

'Futurama - Corporate Identity Specialists'

Guess they were having a PR disaster! Made me laugh anyway.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Global warming 'underestimated'

According to the BBC, a leading climate scientist has warned that the severity of global warming over the next century will be much worse than previously believed (just in case you weren't convinced).

Professor Chris Field, an author of a 2007 landmark report on climate change, said future temperatures "will be beyond anything" predicted.

Prof Field said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report had underestimated the rate of change.

He said warming is likely to cause more environmental damage than forecast.

Speaking at the American Science conference in Chicago, Prof Field said fresh data showed greenhouse gas emissions between 2000 and 2007 increased far more rapidly than expected.

"We are basically looking now at a future climate that is beyond anything that we've considered seriously in climate policy," he said.

Prof Field said the 2007 report, which predicted temperature rises between 1.1C and 6.4C over the next century, seriously underestimated the scale of the problem.

He said the increases in carbon dioxide have been caused, principally, by the burning of coal for electric power in India and China.

Prof Field said the impact on temperatures is as yet unknown, but warming is likely to accelerate at a much faster pace and cause more environmental damage than had been predicted.

He says that a warming planet will dry out forests in tropical areas making them much more likely to suffer from wildfires.

The rising temperatures could also speed up the melting of the permafrost, vastly increasing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, Prof Field warns.

"Without effective action, climate change is going to be larger and more difficult to deal with than we thought," he said.

Caroline Lucas on recession, drugs, the monarchy (and everything?)

I think this is great - Caroline gives some pretty sensible answers to a few really quite ridiculous questions from the BBC Politics Show's Max Coton. In short, she confirms that we have policies to try and boost our happiness, democracy and freedoms.
If you missed it, you can check it out here.