green left archive VIDEOS & POLICY STATEMENTS

Conference Newsletter of Green Left Spring 2014
I have submitted a conference motion to encourage the Green Party to help draft an inter-national treaty on the Arctic Ocean, forbidding oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and making it an international wildlife reserve. I would like you all to vote for this. Help the Green Party set an example to the world of how to protect the Arctic Ocean.
There is clear evidence that human caused climate change exists and is responsible for the accelerated melting of ice in the Arctic Ocean.

Despite this, oil exploration companies such as Gazprom, the Russian state-owned energy giant, have been exploring the Arctic for oil reserves. If enough Arctic ice melts sea levels in temperate and developed nations could rise catastrophically, endangering human civilisation there. Last year, Greenpeace decided to take protest action against Gazprom, whereupon 30 Greenpeace activists were detained. The dangers of damaging the Arctic Ocean are so great that even oil companies like Shell - infamous for destructive pollution in Nigeria - have stopped drilling inside the Arctic Circle. It is not just polar bears and seals who depend on Arctic stability. Indigenous communities throughout the Arctic region are heavily dependent on their environment, and oil exploration will endanger it. We can help them fight to protect their lands.
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In what passes for "newsworthy" political coverage one story that just won't go away is MPs pay and expenses. A major issue at the last general election and likely to be so at the next, especially given the popular perception that "they have given themselves an 11% pay rise" .
Of course the money paid to MPs is small change compared to the sums paid to bankers and the furore raised by stories of "duck houses. The " mortgage flipping" may well have served to take some of the heat off the real villains of the capitalist crisis. Nevertheless just as the Green Party wants to regulate the banks and the bankers so it wants to make sure that MPs are held properly to account, including in relation to pay and expenses.
Motion D05 takes as its starting point the newly operational rules drawn up by IPSA in response to the public outcry. It seeks to promote the Green Party as leading the way, backing up the exemplary example of our award winning MP Caroline Lucas. Its observation that the well paid job of an MP should be full time may be obvious to Greens but can be used to expose those MPs who think it is reasonable to supplement their income by well paid directorships and consultancies, even though their parliamentary salary puts them within the top 2% of earners.
The signing of a pledge by Green Party candidates, and the invitation to other candidates to do similar, will put our opponents on the spot and underline our commitment to a new politics.
The "friendly amendment" (proposed by the movers of the motion) updates the motion by addressing the issue of long term pay for MP's. Whilst opposing the proposed 11% salary increase it also recognises that there needs to be some mechanism for determining MPs pay and agrees with IPSA that this should be done by linking their pay increases to those of the workforce as a whole. MPs can then be "in it together" with their constituents, and part of the 99%, even if at the well paid end of it.  Please vote for this motion and the amendment .          
 Peter Allen Derbyshire Green Party


Green Party - Gagging Laws not fit for Democracy; Tory MPs and the Royal Family; Owen Jones and the Agenda of Hope; Petition demanding a Public Enquiry into policing at Barton Moss;  Pete Seeger We shall Overcome; Fighting the Bedroom Tax; Occupy London report on the anti-fracking campaign.


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A great opportunity exists for the Green Party to build support for its education policies amongst teachers and parents.
The convergence of the three main parties on education has left them seeking an alternative. Labour threw away an opinion poll lead amongst teachers when Shadow Secretary of State Tristram Hunt proposed a licensing scheme for teachers, to be renewed every few years by a monitoring system carried out by headteachers: no licence no job.
Teachers reacted with fury by blog, twitter and email, outflanking the official response of the NUT, which has reacted cautiously. It appeared that the NUT had been building a relationship with Labour behind the scenes and were wrong-footed by Hunts announcement.  There were despairing cries of Who do we vote for now? and There is nobody worth voting for. They are all the same from teachers.
Labour is of course tainted as the party that introduced academies, beginning the process of privatisation and the fragmentation of the local authority school system, as well as remaining divided over free schools, with the shadow of Lord Adonis still looming over policy. The Liberal Democrats still tacitly support free schools and academies and are hopelessly compromised by their role in the Coalition.
The Conservative policy that is creating most resistance is the over-powerful role of the Secretary of State. These powers were legislated by the Labour government and reveal both parties as wanting to dictate what happens in schools from the centre. It means that Michael Gove does not have to go through parliament to issue diktats on the curriculum and has used his powers to force local authority schools to convert to academies, particularly in the primary sector where few schools voluntarily converted.
Magically, as soon as a school becomes an academy or a free school, the need for central diktat disappears according the Goves Gospel. However this is being challenged by stories of financial mismanagement in academies, the employment of unqualified teachers, and the problem of what to do with failing academies. Similarly there are cases of free school headteachers leaving within a few months of setting up a school, new schools costing millions opening with only a handful of pupils, and schools being closed down because they do not meet safeguarding of children requirements.
One of the most significant developments has been parent campaigns against the forced academisation of primary schools. Parents are resisting the handover of their community schools to academy chains, insisting Whose Schools? Our Schools? and have made common cause under the Parents Against Forced Academies banner working closely with the Anti Academies Alliance (AAA).The AAA has worked with parents, governors and teachers to set up Towards A National Campaign for Education in recognition of  the need to bring the campaigns together in a common search for an alternative. It is early days but an initial meeting in West London attracted around 300 people and the Green Party was invited to attend. Further meetings are planned around the country and I hope Greens will attend and explain our policies as contributing to the alternative.
I was recently elected to the AAA National Steering Group and was pleased when the AAA AGM decided to affiliate to the Peoples Assembly.  All straws in the wind but I am optimistic that we can build a movement that does for education what national and local campaigns have done for the campaign to save the NHS.
Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meetings as lessons in 'Class Consciousness' by Swheatie of the KUWG
Unlike most campaigning groupings, Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group meets weekly. While the DWP, councils and landlords prove relentless in harassing our service-users, KUWG makes day-to-day life more bearable for vulnerable people.
Our meetings start with a round of introductions — first name, and what benefit[s] we're on, or why the person not on state benefits is in solidarity with us. Then we launch into Casework & Members' Well-being. That is run in a sort of 'open forum' fashion. A barrage of issues arise including privatised 'Work Capability Assessments', jobcentre sanctions and subsequent banning of claimants from jobcentres etc, massaging  monthly 'unemployment figures'. More and more of our work- is taken up by Council Tax Reduction, Bedroom Tax and Benefit Cap issues.  These are increasingly hitting people in waged work.
The open forum nature of the casework promotes real 'Class Consciousness'. Whilst  cuts in more-formal information, advice and guidance services and the moving of goalposts are being directed against the interests of our service-users,  some of our members have become largely self-taught in aspects of benefits law and housing law rather than dysfunctional 'skivers' of the "poverty porn"  documentaries that distort public opinion. We generally advise people to 'never attend anywhere official alone!
KUWG has met for at least three years now, and we have evolved from meetings in a room that could accommodate about 8 people at best to meetings of about 20 — including people referred from Kilburn Fair Credit Campaign's Saturday stall. We can sometimes cater for children with the improvised 'After School Club table' and sometimes the draft agenda is overwritten because “life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans”.
At times KUWG meetings are disorderly; but involvement in KUWG is liberating and always informing. Investment banker-cum-welfare-reform-minister David — now Lord — Freud still thinks that 'the solution to the growing welfare bill' is bonuses for businesses and bullying so called 'shirkers'. KUWG works aims to neuter the 'global public service-delivery' industry and support and listen to people serially and increasingly let down by successive governments.

Green Left supports the referendum on Council Tax increases in Brighton as a first step in a strategy to oppose austerity measures imposed by the coalition government and to restore the cuts that have been imposed on local authority provision. However, we deplore the suffering inflicted on the poorest people in society by central government austerity policies and the brutality with which these policies are enforced e.g.: in the collection of Council Tax arrears.
Why Population Matters are wrong on asylum!              by Derek Wall
I have a good friend who was imprisoned and tortured after the Chilean coup in 1973. I know him because he was granted asylum in the UK.  Asylum rights are under severe threat, tabloid extremism has fuelled the growth of UKIP, and mainstream politicians are competing with each other to reduce the number of asylum seekers and new migrants in Britain.  As we know, our tabloid media takes our worst prejudices, justifies and magnifies them and projects them back to us.  Politicians, rather than challenging the fear and hatred of others, are increasingly joining in.  When Ed Miliband, the son of a father who sought refuge in Britain from Hitler, seeks to show that Labour is  tougher on migration than Cameron, it is easy to feel disgust and pity.  Dismay that Miliband finds it impossible to take a stand in defence of the free movement of people, even people under severe threat of persecution, is mirrored by our understanding that it is difficult to challenge a well nurtured media campaign promoting prejudice.
I find it particularly appalling that environmental concern is being used to justify the UK halting asylum.  Yet this is apparently exactly what 'Population Matters', an NGO committed to reducing human numbers, is doing. Ever since the overfed clergyman Thomas Malthus claimed that poverty was a result of human breeding, Malthusian ideas have proved controversial and have often led to reactionary politics.  However even if one is concerned about population growth, rather than seeing corporate greed as a key source of environmental destruction, what has population growth to do with the movement of people?  We live on one planet; preventing people from moving from one country to another does not affect the number of people on our planet.
According to a post on the Population Matters website, entitled ' Distant countries shouldnt accept Syrian refugees' asylum seekers ideally should not be given refuge in the UK.  The crisis in Syria is so horrific that even Nigel Farage of UKIP, albeit briefly, called for Syrians fleeing the war to be given shelter in the UK.  Labour too has, despite much anti-migrant rhetoric, been campaigning for Britain to reverse opposition to Syrians seeking sanctuary here.  Yet a charity committed to environmental protection seems to be supporting those who would refuse to protect refugees seeking asylum in the UK and other developed countries. Population Matters has increasingly linked its work to reduce population to opposition to migration and now apparently is linking asylum, the need for refuge from persecution, to migration in general.  This seems pernicious but the author of their post claims it is based on a 'point of principle'. 'Refugees' are apparently a threat to the environment of developed countries which are 'already unsustainable in terms of resource use and the environment and quality of life of these countries are increasingly affected by growing populations.'
Of course, like the author of the piece, I would agree that countries that take in refugees in the developing world should be supported, and that conflict that displaces peoples should be addressed.  The priority of the article, though, is not the needs of Syrians or other potential refugees but the demand to cut the number of people living in the UK.
Climate change is with us, extreme weather conditions are becoming more common, conflict including war is likely to increase with the pressures caused by such changes, so there will be more refugees.  The poorest countries in the world are those with the least resources to help and also the countries whose populations have the least effect on the rising emissions that fuel climate change.  There is a fortress mentality in Europe and other developed capitalist countries. The wish of Population Concern has already been achieved, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, because in 2013 no EU country is in the top ten of countries taking in refugees.  Pakistan with 1.5 million refugees tops the list, EU failure to take in refugees is a cause, to my mind, for shame rather than Malthusian inspired celebration.
Sometimes it is necessary to move a long way from home to seek protection.  In the 1970s, Chileans might have found it impossible to seek refuge in neighbouring countries because they too (one thinks of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil), at the time, were right wing dictatorship where democrats were tortured.  Today, the countries around Syria are in turmoil, and when the UN calls for Britain to protect a relatively small number of the Syrian refugee population, we should do our bit.  Green politics, as opposed to environmentalism, has long held that ecological responsibility needs to be combined with social justice.  Environmental concern combined with social injustice and a fear of others can only lead to a bleak future.  As well as having a friend who sought asylum, I am in a political party led by a migrant.  Natalie Bennett, an Australian, leads the Green Party and I am proud that my party defends migrants, seeks to protect refugees and challenges those who link environmental protection to xenophobia.
A Letter from  Greece  by Laurence Pilfold

 Greeces problems started in 2010, when the PASOK administration admitted its debts: 299 billion (130%GDP), and a budget deficit of 15.6% of GDP.  The EU had stipulated a maximum of 60% debt-to-GDP ratio for Euro-zone countries, while for the IMF, a debt greater than 120% GDP, combined with a budget deficit of over 3%, was considered unsustainable.  Once the true nature of Greeces debt was revealed, its bonds became junk, and it was locked out of the private capital market.  The options were default or bailout the latter on offer from the troika of the IMF, the European Commission and the European Central Bank.
The approach of the troika towards indebted developing countries is to induce them to create an environment that is friendly to foreign goods and investment in general via loans strictly conditional on adopting neo-liberal policies.  This meant cuts to the IMF defined large public sector with generous pay, high minimum wage and  high level of public spending - also sell-offs and, opening up to foreign investors the standard austerity agenda: the goal being a return to growth.
New taxes have been introduced, others increased, public sector pay has been dramatically cut, employees sacked, public enterprises closed a startling example being the closure of the public broadcaster ERT: closed in an afternoon on the sole authority of the Minister of Culture, with all employees immediately losing their jobs.  The consequences ?  A 22% fall in wages since 2010, a record 27.8% unemployment (January 2014) up from 7.5% in 2007 youth unemployment hitting 58% in August last year, a quarter of the population at risk of poverty.
12 ports and 29 airports are to be, or have been, privatised and publicly owned land, roads, the post office, oil and gas infrastructure may also go.  The aim is to raise $50 billion by 2015.  However this short-term cash injection, will deprive the state of long-term earnings.  As for the environment, raw materials are attracting foreign investors: eg gold reserves worth 14 billion could be exploited through open-cast mining in Halkidiki but with little return for the tax-payer.  At the same time, unable to afford heating oil, millions of Greeks have turned to burning wood, or substitutes creating toxic smogs and threatening forests.
The rise of the fascist Golden Dawn party (6.92% of the vote in June 2012) is sadly unsurprising. In the same election the left-alliance SYRIZA gained second position (26.89%) while the Greens were reduced to 0.88% (3% is the minimum required for representation in parliament).  Economic desperation and disillusion with PASOK explain the surge in support for SYRIZA  but, should a SYRIZA-led government come to power, there will be little space to implement progressive economic reforms without a shift in the balance of forces in other countries.  If Greece was an economic junkie, the international financial system was the pusher.  Pushing debt has been the name-of-the-economic-game for two decades.  The symptoms are local but the problem is global.

Andy Chyba (Bridgend Green Party/Frack Free Wales/ Anti-Fracking Network)
Such has been the success of the anti-fracking lobby that very few people have NOT now heard of fracking. Furthermore we have consistently won the arguments such that every poll on the subject consistently yields massive majorities (85 to 95% typically) against allowing fracking in this country.
Now The Tories have backed themselves into a corner and It is likely to cost them dear in terms of lost seats at the next election especially in impregnable strongholds such as Francis Maudes seat in Balcombe. They have committed themselves to fracking for the benefit of their corporate paymasters, and the network of vested interests exposed goes right to the very heart of government. They are getting increasingly desperate and unscrupulous in their attempts to force fracking upon us. They have tried to bribe local authorities allowing them to keep 100% of the business rates generated by frackers. They will now pursue further changes to the planning system to take fracking related decisions out of the hands of local councils, allowing Westminster impose them on local communities. Their contempt for all of us is palpable.
But new local opposition groups start up often and seek the help of umbrella organisations such as Frack Off and BIFF. There is an ever-growing list of incidents of Police complicity with the frackers, and brutality towards peaceful protestors at Balcombe and Barton Moss in particular. Direct action is springing up everywhere. Witness the demos at Total petrol stations around the country as this French company eyes British shale gas since the French government has indefinitely banned fracking in France. And the list of countries and regions banning fracking grows.
Although the Police role needs exposing, the judiciary are not, as yet, buying into the establishment persecution of peaceful protest. Witness the acquittal of every one of the Balcombe 16. This has vindicated and re-invigorated the growing army of fractivists around the country. We do know what we are doing it is the Government who dont!
The prospects for the frackers are bleak.  Companies in are Poland realizing that it is not an economic proposition after all despite encouragement from the Polish government. In the USA, there are many signs of trouble for the industry at every level.  The New York Times carries stories of leaked documents revealing the growing scepticism within the industry economically viable (never mind the climate change implications)
So, this is another example of the Tories backing a complete loser and not having the sense to cut their losses. they keep on drilling themselves deeper and deeper into a mire from which they will struggle to extricate themselves, like the addicted gamblers chasing their losses. They are FRACKED!

Howard Thorp
Recently capitalism has shown that it is perfectly capable of bringing about its own demise. This isn't just about the collapse of banks. The current 'debt crisis' obscures and compounds the real problem, which is the collapse of ecosystems on which we depend for our survival. Capitalism is the driver of climate change, also of massive environmental degradation, and loss in biodiversity. It is capital accumulation that is devouring our planet and you cannot use the same mechanisms that are destroying the Earth to save it. We need to bring about economic change before climate change becomes unimaginably destructive. A post-capitalist economy is inevitable, but we can do it the hard way or the better way, and we need to think about how that economy ought to work.
I wonder how many people know that Karl Marx was an admirer of capitalism? - in the sense that he admired its huge productive capacity, which far exceeded any previous economic system. Marx recognised that if the productive capacity of capitalism was harnessed for the good of society, it could provide people with a much better material standard of living than they had ever had before. But he also recognised that capitalists were able to deprive workers of the wealth that they created, so there would always be a conflict between capitalists and workers, Marx was the first political economist to understand the massive forces that capitalism could unleash, and Marx and Engels were also more aware of environmental degradation than they have been given credit for.

Greens may have led the way in our understanding of the unfolding climate crisis but the 'free' market right have caught up, and are pouring millions into persuading people that climate change is not an issue, through climate change denial, because they are concerned about their profits and the end of domination of democracies by the market. The 'free' market fundamentalists are fighting to deny climate change precisely because they recognise that a genuine and meaningful response the climate change will mean the end of capitalism as we know it.
So what would a post-capitalist economy look like? It would not mean the end of the private sector, because this is not the same thing as capitalism, but initially it would inevitably mean a bigger role for the state because a collapsing capitalist economy would have to be replaced by extensive nationalisation of banks, transport and utilities. Energy and food production would have to be regulated, as would imports and exports. We would need planning in a democratically controlled economy. This would not simply be an ideological choice but a necessary response to crisis. We would have to grow as much as our own food as possible and economies would become more localised. It would be an economy similar to the UK during the Second World War.
We are beginning to experience problems with freak weather events, and disruption to agriculture, and we will inevitably soon experience difficulties with energy supply. We can begin to adjust our economy now, to deal with these problems, or we can carry on with 'business as usual' and face worse conditions later. We need to forget about the 'free' market neoliberal nonsense about competing with China, and work together to create a new kind of economy to deal with possibly the greatest challenge that human beings have ever faced.

Green Left urge local parties to say yes to Targeting to Win (TTW) - but lets not lose our core values
Roy Sandison - West Midlands Green Left member and former West Midlands GP Coordinator explains.
I do not hesitate to say, we have many excellent Green Councillors and  the West Mids team developing TTW,  I know are doing some excellent work, but I do think we need to discuss how TTW should integrate into the work we do. The Green Party proudly stands for Economic, Social and Environmental Justice and we rightly reject the idea of individual pursuit of political power as being in opposition to our core values
When one of our number gets elected, we have high expectations that they will keep true to our core ideas.  Therefore our Councillors are not Independent but are instead are key members of the Green Party that through the hard work and money of other Green Party members have gained a platform for our ideas. I have seen TTW skilfully developed in the West Midlands over the years and this has resulted in some excellent gains to the point that for every 72 members we have a Councillor!
TTW is not a new idea, as it is something that used to be done by the old Lib Dems. I do see there is some danger that some are treating TTW as fetish and ignoring what we as the Green Party are trying to achieve and have achieved through campaigning. There is also a danger that TTW, if applied poorly,  can overshadow the Green Partys need for political discussion  and campaigning  and can turn off members wanting to campaign on wider issues. Additionally as the Green Party becomes more successful electorally through TTW, we will find more people jumping ship from other parties. If they sign up to our core values this can be a real gain but not if careerists bring bad practice from their old parties.
The Green Party in my view needs to run elections professionally, but this must not be at the expense of our core values. As one Warwickshire Councillor said recently Being a Green Councillor is about how we bring our core green values into the work we do as Councillors, especially into the communities we represent. This means raising the issue about tax cuts for the rich impacting on local people and why we need real change in our society
I believe developing TTW in tandem with having robust Councillor support and accountability and also a 50/50 approach to electoral work and Campaigning.

 NO to T.T.I.P
By Peter Allen

The serious threat to democracy from the ongoing Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership negotiations between Europe and the USA is already recognised by many Green Party activists, as evidenced by the fact that it has been prioritised for discussion above all other policy motions at this conference. Sadly I suspect this concern is not shared by the bulk of the population, who are probably largely unaware of what the effects of TTIP will be. This needs to change, and urgently.

George Monbiot * sums up the TTIP succinctly. Its purpose " is to remove the regulatory differences between the US and European nations". Making use of a mechanism known as an "investor-state dispute settlement", which has already been used by corporations to take legal action against governments in other parts if the world, it allows corporations " to sue the living daylights out of governments which try to defend their citizens ".  And not just citizens but animals and the environment too, as Motion C1 makes clear.  For example European Governments, including our own, are stating that fracking (which of course we don't want at all!) will be much more tightly regulated than in the USA. Not if TTIP is implemented, in which case these tighter controls are likely to have to be rescinded.

Tougher regulations which Green MEPs might secure through action in the European Parliament might be ruled invalid by a secretive panel of corporate lawyers"

And the impact will not just be in Europe!

Investor-state rules could be used to smash any attempt to save the NHS from corporate control, to re-regulate the banks, to curb the greed of the energy companies, to re-nationalise the railways, to leave fossil fuels in the ground. These rules shut down democratic alternatives. They outlaw leftwing politics

With the details of the TTIP currently being finalised, it is imperative that the Green Party prioritises this issue in its European election campaign, as the "friendly amendment" to C01 demands. We need to cut through the acronyms and the jargon to explain to our potential voters what this "assault on democracy" really means. Please support this important motion, and the amendment.

Acknowledging the Defamation Act within the Green Party Max Wallis / Cardiff (Suspended for alleged "defamation" last July, an allegation accepted by GPRC without claiming "serious harm" or that the statement was untrue.)

The Green Party's GPRC has used accusations of "defamation" to suspend members, without applying any tests of criticisms being justifiable or reasonable opinion.  The Defamation Act in force from 1st January should change this.

If the GPRC had to apply the new "serious harm threshold" and resort to resolving a dispute directly as the Act prescribes, the Green Party would avoid the mess it got into over the disciplinary process, with SOC prevailing over the GPRC at last September's Conference.

·       "New serious harm threshold" aimed at helping people to understand when claims should be brought and discourage wasteful use of court time
·       Protection for scientists and academics publishing peer-reviewed material in scientific and academic journals
·       Protection for those publishing material on a matter of public interest where they reasonably believe that it is in the public interest
·       Introduction of a new process aimed at helping potential victims of defamation online, by resolving the dispute directly with the person who has posted the statement.
Journalists etc. have  in the past faced unfair legal threats for fairly criticising a company, person or product, and this motivated the new Act.  It provides "clearer, better protection for people publicly expressing opinions"  said the Ministry of Justice. Mike Harris, of the Libel Reform campaign said it was "good news for free speech".

The Tory justice minister Shailesh Vara is able to claim: "As a result of these new laws, anyone expressing views and engaging in public debate can do so in the knowledge that the law offers them stronger protection against unjust and unfair threats of legal action. These laws coming into force represent the end of a long and hard-fought battle to ensure a fair balance is struck between the right to freedom of expression and people's ability to protect their reputation."

Jo Glanville, director of English PEN, said England and Wales now had laws "fit for the 21st Century but the battle's not over yet". Scotland already had its own law. "It's essential that Northern Ireland now adopts the Act. Otherwise the new law could be fatally undermined and cases could be heard in Belfast under the old legislation," she said.

The Green Party says they follow UK laws, so it should not need a Conference decision to re-align its disciplinary procedure with the new Act - insist that claimants show evidence of "serious harm" and compel them to engage in discussions to resolve any issue.  Let's have a positive statement from the leadership!

Max Wallis / Cardiff
Suspended for alleged "defamation" last July, an allegation accepted by GPRC without claiming "serious harm" or that the statement was untrue.

The superheroes of today have all long passed their sell-by date.
Super, Bat, Spider and Wolverine are all just marketed, like tubs of margarine.
And the truth is that these yanks in tights all defend capitalism with all their might.
But those who fight for another cause are padding up through the dark
On their silent paws and with faces striped in black and white
And the Badgerpeople will join the class fight.
When the light of a new day dawns, therell be goalposts planted in Tories lawns,
And from the poles therell fly a banner: Cull the Bankers, not the Badgers.
Capitalists may strengthen walls and gates, but, its all too little and all too late,
As a different future now starts to take place and
Its got black and white stripes on its furry face.
The Green Party Trade Union Group
The Green Party Trade Union Group is part of the Green Party of England & Wales, FREE Membership of GPTU is open to any current members of GPEW. Contact Noel  or join at the GPTU conference stall. GPTU provides a discussion forum and  aims to further good relations between GPEW and Trades Unions, by putting forward policy and campaign proposals to GPEW and to Trades Unions.

The next meeting will be the AGM on Sunday 2 March 2014 at 6.30pm at the Green Party Conference, St George's Hall, Liverpool AGENDA TO INCLUDE Review of gptu related events in 2013-4 and election of committee 

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The Brighton debate: Which way for the first Green-led council?

Red Pepper brings together Green councillors and Green Left activists to debate the Brighton budget

Brighton and Hove has the first Green-led council in England. In February the minority administration faced the tricky dilemma of setting a budget at a time when government funding is being cut by a third over four years.

What to do and how to make the decision proved controversial both nationally within the Green Party and in Brighton and Hove itself.

Red Pepper brought together leading Green councillors and party members with Green Left activists to debate the issues around the budget and the general dilemmas about being in office with restricted powers and finances under a hostile Conservative/Liberal Democrat government.

Debate participants 

Green Left: Romayne Phoenix, Peter Murry and Peter Allen.

Green Party, Brighton and Hove: Councillor Jason Kitcat, Councillor Liz Wakefield, Councillor Phelim MacCafferty and executive member Luke Walter.

Davy Jones (Red Pepper board member) and Tom Robinson (Red Pepper’s student co-ordinator) are both Green Party members in Brighton and Hove and they chaired and recorded the discussion.

Romayne Phoenix What discussion took place about whether to take the council leadership?

Jason Kitcat Constitutionally the largest group on a council always allocates the council leader. So if the other two parties weren’t interested, we were by default the administration whether we wanted it or not. If we had said we were not interested, I don’t think we would have had any credibility. I anticipated some kind of negotiation with Labour for a stable administration. I never thought that we would be running the administration alone. But Labour weren’t interested. For this year, we have to be very clear: it is central government that is cutting us. The vast majority of changes we are proposing in the budget are savings, not cuts in services. So, for example, we propose to save £55k by changing how we contract our youth services – but there is no impact on the service. It’s literally about a procurement change, so that genuinely is a saving, not a cut.

Peter Allen It’s a £17.5 million reduction this year, isn’t it? We have heard about the small cuts in things like the mobile library, toilets etc but they only come to a few million, so where is the rest coming from?

Jason All over the place! For example, we got a fixed-price deal on buses – that’s £400k. We found out that we are able to reclaim VAT on admissions to the Pavilion – that’s half a million. Procurement – there’s several million there. There’s also a value for money programme – that’s about reorganisation. There’s a work styles programme – that’s £2.5 million in savings but cuts our carbon footprint and produces a better working environment.

Peter A What about the cuts to the adult assessment units?

Jason We have changed the system for the care providers. Beforehand if someone visited the client, even if it was only for five minutes, the minimum it would be billed for was half an hour. Now what they do is electronically dial in and out to prove how long they attended, so we are paying only for the time the contractors actually attend, and that alone is a huge saving. These are mostly private contractors.

Peter A Less home care or quicker home care – even less time spent in a vulnerable old persons’ home in order to save a million pounds?

Jason I don’t think so. Overall I really feel that the adult social care budget is well catered for. There are some issues about the repercussions for the external providers and their staff but that is difficult for us to control. Ultimately the ideal would be to bring it in-house but it’s just not affordable overnight. If you look at children’s services and adult social care they are really protected.

Davy Jones Everywhere else in the country there are big campaigns against council cuts. But there isn’t a campaign around changes in our core essential services because no one believes the changes are significant enough.

Romayne But people don’t always know how to speak up for themselves.

Peter A I don’t doubt for one moment that the best job is being done. I would defend Brighton council against other councils. But adult social care in the UK is provided mostly by private providers, usually with women working in appalling conditions and getting paid very little. Private contractors are trying to make a private profit and Brighton and Hove council is squeezing those contractors more, to get a better value for money service.

Jason It’s not perfect but given the scale of the challenge we face, we can’t change the entire scope of the social care system in the UK on our own.

Phelim MacCafferty Fundamentally, what’s behind all this, whether it’s the axing of the EMA or the slashing of legal aid, it’s about the Tories essentially shrinking the state. We are very aware of the pressure on us, not just electorally but politically. I have never seen anything so sombre as the way we have had to deal with this budget. One thing I am very proud of so far – and it is proof of how Greens have done things differently – is that one of the first things we did as a council was to introduce the living wage for the poorest people who work for us.

Peter A Of course it doesn’t apply to all those people we were talking about before – outsourced staff on the minimum wage – because contractors are now getting squeezed further in the interests of efficiency savings.

Liz Wakefield Specifically on that point, when we scrutinise contractors, we are looking at whether they provide the living wage or not, and obviously the preference would go to those that do.

Davy I think all of us are committed to trying to oppose what this government is doing in shrinking the state. We have – almost – survived the first year. So the issue now becomes in the next year or two what is acceptable for us to do and what is not acceptable? And how can we strategically use our position to fight against the cuts?

Peter Murry The Green Left statement about Brighton council was not intended as an attack on the Green council. Green Left has a variety of views. Some feel that you shouldn’t have touched the budget at all but resigned rather than implement it. Others feel you should have only set a needs budget and let it get voted down. Others would support you because you are a Green council, despite the fact you are making some cuts, and would probably accept quite a lot of the arguments you have made today. But people want to know what is the difference between a Green council adopting a humane attitude to cutting and any other council doing it? What else are you doing that makes it worthwhile having a Green council?

Jason We are different because we are doing the least cuts possible; because we rejected [local government secretary] Eric Pickles’ gimmick of a tax freeze [a one-off increase in government grant to local authorities that didn’t increase council tax]; because we actually listen. The local paper reported that West Sussex Council were making cuts to music services and all sorts of things, and they had a two-week consultation period, massive protests and at the end said well, we are doing it anyway. Whereas we have held a very long consultation period where we’ve been able to go through the details with people and have a conversation, and we have amended it as a result.

Liz People voted in a Green council. So we have a duty to those people to be in power and deliver a Green budget in as Green a way as possible. I belong to the anti-cuts movement. I don’t want to make cuts. But if there have to be cuts, and I am cabinet lead for housing, I would rather have the control of any cut in that area because I wouldn’t trust the bloody Tories or Labour. I can’t trust them to care for the people. Whether I should completely step down and not be a councillor is, of course, another dilemma but I was voted in and people wanted me to be their councillor and that’s my responsibility.

Phelim Some people on the left argue that we should just set an illegal budget. Well, we are not allowed to. I was not elected to deliver control over our pot of money to some poxy civil servant sent from Eric Pickles to do the dirty work of his government. I was elected to stand up for my residents, for the vulnerable people I represent. And if we all resigned, it would cost around £230,000 that taxpayers would have to spend on a bunch of Green councillors who found it too hot in the kitchen and had to get out.

Luke Walter The local paper ran an online poll on the proposed council tax increase with heavy campaigning against it. Still, 32 per cent agreed with the Green administration on the council tax rise. Thirty-three per cent voted Green in May. So we are keeping Green voters with us.

Davy We survived our first eight months in office, making very minor cuts in services, and made sure that the first Green council in the country didn’t immediately fall apart. The Green Left statement refers to the danger of the first Green council being ‘nationally discredited, like the Green Party was discredited in Ireland, after implementing an austerity programme’. But, equally, had the first Green council collapsed in chaos and acrimony in the first six months, that too would have discredited the Green Party nationally. We can now play a major role with people in the party to build up the national anti-cuts movement at the same time as we develop a needs budget – with the option that we can stand down if we get defeated and we feel we have to propose a budget that is unacceptable to us.

Romayne You should not make it sound like you are improving a service, if you are not, if it’s really a cut. They are the cuts of a Tory government. Don’t say this is the fairest budget we can make in hard times because that is very de-motivating for anyone who is in the campaigns movement. Would you be prepared to have a conference of councillors – I’m sure the Coalition of Resistance could help – to lead that movement?

Peter A The alternative scenario is that the Greens don’t make these cuts, even if it means losing office. Then we have an election across Britain in a few months time, knocking on doors as the anti-cuts party, with [Brighton’s Green MP] Caroline Lucas in parliament single-handedly doing a better job than the whole of the Labour Party and we also have a council who refused to cut, and a vote for us is a vote against austerity. Some people will say the Greens are not serious, they don’t do proper politics. But others will say yeah, this is a different type of protest politics. Or maybe people who haven’t voted before will say yeah, I’m up for that, they’re right in Brighton. The politicians gave up power because they stand by their principles and I am voting for them so that I can show this government that I am on the side of the people. If the Green Party said we are not doing it in Brighton, it would give us the opportunity to transform our political fortunes across Britain.

Peter M In the elections across the country, in London and elsewhere, we are going to be faced with a contradiction between what Caroline Lucas is saying at a national level and what has happened in Brighton. She is saying no austerity, and presenting anti-cuts literature, then people say well what about Brighton council, they made cuts? At what point do you start saying we can’t do this? I think Liz gave us some indication that there might be a red line for her. I think over the country people would like to know at what point do you say that is enough.

Jason I am very open to having a conference, though it will get the usual suspects. It would be valuable and interesting but it’s not going to build a national movement. If there was a situation with the budget by which we were doing things that were against our values, our answer would be to increase the council tax to offset the cut and have a referendum on it. We would say central government is cutting our funding so dramatically that we have to go to the people and ask for a big council tax increase. We have to go down fighting. People are not going to thank us if we leave Labour or the Tories to run the council. Fundamentally, people recognise there are choices out there and would rather we make the best choice we can. I wouldn’t fancy our chances on winning the referendum but I’d go for it. We also need to re-evaluate what it means for there to be a Green council and say what do we want our council to look like. We have inherited a council that is a product of years of Labour and Tory rule. So what does a Green council really look like? We could shape a new council to meet all the challenges and desires we want to. I don’t know what that looks like but I think that’s a conversation worth having.

Romayne I want to mention UK Uncut and the [Occupy] LSX statement. If you read much of that, it’s so like Green Party policy. We have to encourage them on board. And the fantastic success we have had with getting a minority administration down here in Brighton and Hove, we want all of us to be able to benefit from that for the Green Party of England and Wales.

What happened with the Brighton budget?

Huge government cuts mean that Brighton and Hove faces starkly reduced funding (down by around one third over four years). The reductions in the Greens’ first budget were less damaging than in most other councils around the country. Nevertheless, some proposals were controversial and jobs will be lost.

The Greens were the first to reject the government’s bribe of a one-year subsidy to freeze council tax, which would have led to much bigger cuts in future years – over £5 million in Brighton and Hove. Around 10 per cent of councils eventually followed Brighton and Hove’s lead. However, at the budget council meeting, the local Tories and Labour colluded to take the government money to freeze council tax against the votes of the minority administration Greens. The amendment entailed extra cuts of around £1 million this year and a further £3.6 million next year.

The Greens then faced a difficult dilemma. Should they stand down and let the Tories and Labour form a de facto coalition to run the city? Should they vote against the amended budget, call a recall council meeting and mobilise the community against it? Or should they vote for it, as it was still similar to their original budget?

After much debate in the Green group, with one exception they all eventually voted in favour of the amended budget. There were inevitably different views in the party. The national Green Party conference in Liverpool a day later discussed their stance, with Green Left supporters leading the opposition. Eventually, the conference voted by a two-thirds majority to support the Brighton and Hove Green councillors’ decision.

The Green Party in Brighton and Hove

The Green Party emerged as the largest group on Brighton and Hove Council in May 2011, when it won ten additional seats to make a total of 23 against 18 Tories and 13 Labour. The Greens won 33 per cent of the popular vote across the city (Labour got 32 per cent and the Tories 29 per cent). Previously the Tories ran the council from 2007 to 2011, while Labour ran it from 1996 to 2007. Arguably, it was the worst possible time for the Green Party to lead its first council – with a government making unprecedented cuts to public services, a hostile local Labour Party (although the council unions are sympathetic) and a minority administration of councillors with no previous experience of running a council.

Green Left

Green Left is an association of Green Party members, launched in June 2006, when 36 Green Party members agreed its founding statement (the Headcorn Declaration). As Sarah Farrow, Green Left co-convenor, said then: ‘Activists in the Green Party have founded Green Left because many greens believe the only path to an ecological, economically and socially just and peaceful society has to be based on an anti-capitalist political agenda.’ As well as the Headcorn Declaration, Green Left supports the Ecosocialist Manifesto. Green Left is not a part of the Green Party of England and Wales, it is not funded by the party and does not stand candidates in governmental elections in its own right.




Front de Gauche (Londres) meeting on 21/6/2013, "Leaving the System by the Front door" Ecosocialism, the viable alternative.
Introduction Tatania Zarzabek(Front de Gauche (Londres))
Louise Hutchins (Greenpeace)

Romayne Phoenix (Coalition of Resistance & Green Left)
Derek Wall, (environmental author and Green Left)
Corinne Morel-Darleux - Front de Gauche (France)
Questions & discussion part 1
Questions & discussion part 2 Front de Gauche (Londres) meeting on 21/6/2013, "Leaving the System by the Front door" Ecosocialism, the viable alternative.
Introduction Tatania Zarzabek(Front de Gauche (Londres))
Louise Hutchins (Greenpeace)

Romayne Phoenix (Coalition of Resistance & Green Left)
Derek Wall, (environmental author and Green Left)
Corinne Morel-Darleux - Front de Gauche (France)
Questions & discussion part 1
Questions & discussion part 2 Coalition of Resistance: European Assembly against Austerity, London 23/6/2013

 Introduction (Kate Hudson CoR) and Yannis Baskosos (Syriza: Greece)

 Cagdas Canbolat (Daymer Turkish and Kurdish Centre, London)
David Perez (Corriente Roja, Spain)
Questions and Discussion: Session 1 part 1
Questions and Discussion: Session 1 part 2
Session 2 Introduction (Jude Woodward (CoR) and Chris Nineham (CoR)
Session 2 Michael Burke (Economists Against Austerity)
Session 2: Felipe Van Keirsbilck, CATDM, Belgium
Session 2: Questions and Discussion, part 1
Session 2: Questions and Discussion, part 2
Session 3: Introduction Romayne Phoenix (Coalition of Resistance) and Hugo Braun (Attac, Germany)
Session 3: Andrew Burgin(Coalition of Resistance)
Session 3: Walter Baier (Transform Network)
Session 3: Alexandre Gonzales (Front de Gauche)
Session 3: Rachel Newton (Greece Solidarity Campaign)
Session 3: Luisa (Socialist Liberty Party and Rio de Janiero University Students)
Session 3: Questions and Discussion

 Green Left Committee 2015/6

Chair: R.Phoenix

Deputy Chairs: J.Ennis, , M.Bailey, R.Sandison

Secretary: P.Murry

Treasurer. P.Allen

Membership Secretary: M.Bailey

Website & Watermelon Editorial Committee: R.Phoenix, P.Murry, ,D.Taylor, , M.O’Bierne, M.Bailey

International Officer: J.Ennis

Trade Union Liaison Officer: S,Tibbles, R.Sandison,

Youth and Students Officer: J.Alipoor

Campaigns Officer M.Francis

Delegate to PAAA: L.Pavone

Equalities Officer: co-option proposed

Regional Support Officer: R.Sandison,
 Regional Contacts: 
London M.Shaughnessy,
South East J.Medhurst, (V.Phillips, D.Walker tbc)
South West  Robert Ponsford +D.Taylor+L.Pavone
West Midlands: R.Sandison,
 East Midlands P.Allen
 Eastern: M.Bailey
 Yorkshire and Humber Javaad Alipoor
North East
 North West 
 Wales: K.Beddoe, Jim Scott 
  Scottish Green Party 
Nb: Regional Contacts can decide how they wish to sub-divide duties etc within their region

Conference co-ordinator. P.Murry, M.Francis

GP Election co-ordinator: A. Borgars

Facebook Committee: admins are Peter Murry, Peter Allen, Derek Wall, Romayne Phoenix, Mike Shaughnessy, Roy Sandison, Jane Ennis, Malcolm Bailey, Katy Beddoe

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