Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Corbyn, Trump and the Prince from Across the Sea

Your Choice
Your Choice
Currently the country is in political, financial and social turmoil. With the lack of a clear leadership voice for the country, its difficult to see a way forward. The upper class leaders of the Leave Europe campaign have fled and the two largest parties are embroiled in internal power struggles.

For us, the massive surge of support for Jeremy Corbyn has been a concern, so far left unanswered by the Greens. 

Can it be argued that joining Labour in support of Corbyn is potentially a dangerous thing?

Here is a scenario that starts with suggesting that Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump find themselves in exactly the same position.

Putting the difference in politics aside, both are outsiders elected to leadership by their memberships over the wishes of their party representatives, with both sets of representatives having tried to remove their new leaders.

In England, the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is currently trying VERY hard to remove its leader. But it is being checked by its grassroots activists (and in particular the Momentum movement) buoyed by a massive surge in membership.

Momentum

Momentum in particular seems powerful. As most of the new joiners are specifically joining in support of Jeremy Corbyn, and engaging with Momentum to do so, it is clearly the strongest organising force in the party. 

But if Corbyn stays, with their support, the PLP though in retreat, is not going anywhere. 

So what now?  With weak alternative PLP candidates and a strong Momentum, is it stalemate until the next attempted coup? Maybe. 

Part of the strength of Momentum's position is that there is no viable, strong enough candidate within the PLP that can challenge them, challenge Corbyn. And that is true.

The Prince from across the Sea

On the assumption that there is no snap election called, one possibility could be that the 'Prince from across the Sea' would break the deadlock. 

This Prince could regain a seat in a by-election and position himself as, not just coming back to lead the Labour Party but to save the country. He would have the support of the PLP, be of wide enough appeal to the country that the grassroots activists would grudgingly accept him. And so he would defeat Corbyn in a leadership election, at the same time breaking Momentum across his knee.

A defeated Corbyn would be a massive blow to the progressive movement in the country.

Only the progressive alliance talked of with the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru could possibly defeat both the government and keep the Prince at bay.

Building that alliance cannot be focussed on joining Labour, its too unstable a situation. While the party is likely to keep hitting itself in the face for the foreseeable future, in England, a larger Green Party has to be a better bet.



In the meantime, the Prince, David Miliband continues to comment in the US media.

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Saturday, 2 July 2016

Brexit, Racism and Accountability

Brexit
Brexit - Voting to Leave
Brexit surprises - the ‘Out’ result itself, who voted out and the ensuing political turmoil.

Generally, the media has characterised those who voted out as the disenfranchised white working class, and given the spread of the ‘Out’ vote, this applies to most of the country.

The rise in attacks and abuse against Asians, Blacks and Europeans has been swift. Many column inches have been devoted to ‘Shock’, pointing to the effects of austerity and the words of grey, white people in small towns.

But England and its people hasn't substantially changed over the years and certainly not since the EU referendum vote. For some, it would seem, are now more comfortable being openly racist because, through the vote, they believe most people think like them.

And the fault for this lies squarely with the leaders of this country.

Recently, too many politicians have taken Race and used it to demonise as a cover for the negative consequences of their policies or the deficit in their thinking.

They have 'weaponised' it.

Race played a major part in last year’s General Election with the main parties all promising to be tough on immigrants and doing nothing to dampen down the resulting xenophobia. 

The Labour Party even produced its infamous 'Controls on Immigration' mugs.

The recent London Mayoral campaign was openly Islamophobic.

The use of high levels of fear by BOTH the Remain and Brexit campaigns was new, with Brexit basing their fear platform on immigration and Europeans.

That immigrants and Europe have been the main cause of England's problems – lack of services, housing, jobs - was not only a central plank of Brexit but also often used by the government over the years.

By voting 'Out', the majority of the public accepted these argument.

What have politicians been doing to allay these fears? 

Nothing. 

Leadership battles have turned politicians inward instead of outwards to the country. No-one is trying to close the wounds this campaign has opened.

A pox on all their houses. Blame for this situation should be pointed in the right direction.

So what does this mean for the Greens?

  • The national leadership to be much more vocal about their anti-racist policies and practices.
  • Hold any racist, xenophobic actions and policies of the other parties to account.
  • Local parties to be much faster to condemn racist incidents wherever they happen in the country.
  • Show more diversity in its leadership platform.Its done that relatively successfully over the last couple of years with Shahrar Ali and Amelia Womack presenting a different complexion to its membership, Natalie Bennett covering almost every inch of the country in support of local members and Caroline Lucas retaining her popularity with the press.

If though, as a party, we are going back to having a white, middle aged, middle class leadership, that is a statement in itself.


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Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Comment: Europe - A Mistimed Referendum

This post is my personal view.

Galloway Farage
Galloway and Farage
“…unless I have blood as the Law says all Narnia will be overturned and perish in fire and water.” So demanded the White Queen at a pivotal point in her conflict with Aslan in the children’s book ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’.

It does not seem so different from how both the Bremain and Brexit campaigns have presented their doom-ladened cases. In the last days of the campaign, things have become calmer. Its taken blood to make it so.

Both sides of this campaign have been, lets say, ‘misleading’.  

Brexit quite simply have often lied and have been quite open about not being sure what leaving the EU will mean for the country (given that they will be antagonising their main trading partner) but are hopeful British ‘pluck’ will pull them through. It won’t. For all the talk of ‘freedom’ the campaign has talked about, its been poorly outlined and arguments, often irrational.

Bremain point to the social and environmental safeguards that Europe has and does provide that maybe lost if we leave the EU, the travel freedoms and shared work opportunities all gone forever. No. Some of these things are under threat anyway but Europe has and does so far, provide a safety net from some of the wilder schemes of this somewhat extremist government.

On both sides political enemies line up alongside AND against each other arguing together that the other side is wrong. The most striking image of this (for me) was George Galloway sharing a platform with Nigel Farage for the ‘Leave’ campaign. Anti-racist and racist campaigners arguing for ‘freedom’..? No wonder people are confused and campaigners on the ground much less certain than their publicity materials.

And why is this happening anyway? Has anything substantial changed in the EU recently? 

No.

But the EU IS changing. Its becoming much more right wing and ‘neo-liberal’. Its promotion of austerity, its treatment of poor EU nations particularly Greece has been sickening, and the treatment of refugees coming to and within its borders has been shameful.

But as important is the current and coming TTIP issue, the trade agreement  currently being negotiated between the US and Europe. Most of the current focus in the UK has been on keeping the NHS out of its reach but TTIP will be so much more than that.

The Bremain argument on TTIP is weak at best and Brexit does not have one.

This referendum and more importantly, its timing, is from a ill-thought through campaign promise from David Cameron. As it is, its pointless.

The time to have the vote on whether or not to stay in Europe will be at the presentation of the TTIP trade agreement. At that point the country will have a much clearer idea of Europe’s direction of travel and be able to decide if that’s the direction it wants to go in.

For me the question is when TTIP comes, will the UK have a referendum?


Until then it’s a weak Yes to Remain.
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Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Hulme pub 'The Junction' at Crossroads

The Junction - present day
After years of rumours about Hulme's 'The Junction' pub [1], news has arrived that it has been sold by owners, Hydes brewery [2].

Pub advocacy group CAMRA [3] reports that it has been sold to a local property developer, separately identified as PortfolioUK [4].


Built in the Victorian era, The Junction is an iconic Hulme landmark [5] and one of the last traditional community pubs in the area. Its said that there was once an underground tunnel between the The Junction and the nearby Hippodrome [6] so that performers staying at (there was once accommodation on the long ago removed third floor) could get direct access to the theatre. [7]
The Junction - 1924


Local activists are looking into how the venue can be retained as a community asset pointing out that the new Plunkett Foundation programme [8] aims to support up to 80 local pubs with a fund of £3.6 million over 2 years.

Hulme Green, Deyika Nzeribe commented 'Its a shame that Hydes did not appear value the importance of The Junction as part of the Hulme community, I'm sure they would have given a chance to local people to put in an offer.

'Over recent years we've lost The Grants [9], The Seahawk [10] and now The Junction seems to be heading the same way.


'The Universities [11, 12] and Housing associations [13] in Hulme have spent millions on their private property projects, well here is a chance for them to support a real piece of Hulme history. If they really do support the local community, they can put their money where their mouth is'.


Ends. 

Notes



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Monday, 25 April 2016

Comment: Race to the Top? Not In Manchester


R and R
April sees Bury City Council elect its new council leader Rishi Shori. He is the first Black Minority Ethnic (BME) leader [1] in the history of Greater Manchester.


With this in mind, it’s worth looking at the current composition of Manchester City Council.


Manchester City Council has 96 councillors [2]. All 96 are currently members of the Labour Party [3]. Labour has historically enjoyed solid support from the ethnic minority population of the city.

Lets look at more numbers.
  • The population of Manchester is approximately 500000 [4]
  • The ethnic minority population is roughly 30 percent of this [5]
  • Of the councils 96 representatives, 16 are from non-European ethnic minorities. Its about 17% of council body. [6]
  • Of these 15 are of ‘Asian descent’ and there is a token African Caribbean member
  
The Manchester City Council decision making body is the Executive Committee.

It has 9 members and of these, all are English (White) European [7]. (Interestingly enough the half of the Executive Committee 'assistants' are councillors of Asian decent.)

Whilst this is not necessary an issue, its notable that there is little discussion of how the large changes that are occurring through devolution will affect the ethnic minority population.

Take the £300 million housing fund [8]. At the moment its almost exclusively being used to support commercial property development.  Given that BME population in the city are likely to be in lower socioeconomic brackets it means they are less likely to benefit from the fund.

Health devolution [9] was discussed at a public networking meeting recently, a health strategy officer presented. When pressed, the officer admitted that if the devolution plans didn’t work, that BME communities are more likely to bear to bear the brunt of any negative effects as they are already at a disadvantage in the health system. It is projected that the devolution health budget may have as much as £2 billion pounds deficit [10].

As for Greater Manchester Police and policing, ethnic minorities are more than twice as likely to be stopped and searched than the majority population [11]. Whilst there are actions that can be done to address this locally, very little effective action seems to be forthcoming the police or its Crime Commissioner.

These serious issues barely raise a ripple because

1)   There is a lack of diversity on the Council. There are more people called Murphy on Manchester City Council's select Executive Committee than there are African Caribbeans on the whole council. 

2)   What representation there is  - is whipped into obeying the local Labour party line.

Its worth noting that no councillors voted against the budget cuts this year and you will be hard pressed to find one councillor to have votes against any cuts within the past five years. [12]

Representation and diversity. 

Find a Green local council candidate. 

Vote for them.


Notes

  1. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/first-ever-black-minority-ethnic-11201544
  2. http://www.manchester.gov.uk/councillors/name
  3. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/manchester-local-election-results-labour-9220024
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester#Demography
  5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manchester#Demography
  6. http://www.manchester.gov.uk/councillors/name
  7. http://www.manchester.gov.uk/info/200033/councillors_democracy_and_elections/3195/the_members_of_the_executive
  8. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/300m-housing-fund-designed-unlock-9570783
  9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-31615218
  10. http://clahrc-gm.nihr.ac.uk/2015/11/helping-to-understand-health-and-social-care-devolution-in-greater-manchester/
  11. http://www.stop-watch.org/your-area/area/greater-manchester
  12. http://www.revolutionarycommunist.org/branches/north-west/3882-lf050215

Vote Green

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Friday, 22 April 2016

Green Candidate calls for Reversal of Cuts to Mental Health Services

 Green Candidate for Manchester - Hulme, Deyika Nzeribe called for the reinstatement of mental health services cut by the Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust (MHSCT).

The cuts to services [1], which are mainly aimed at keeping its users healthy and out of hospital [2], were announced last autumn in a bid to save £1.5 million [3].

The Trust agreed to go ahead with the proposals at a heated meeting last month[4].

Green candidate, Deyika Nzeribe points out though, that in Greater Manchester the health landscape has completely changed.

"As of the beginning of April, under devolution, Greater Manchester has complete control of its health budget and management of those funds [5]. The new Devolution health board can easily make the decision to maintain those frontline services which are a lifeline to many of its users.

“Its clear from reports, the Trust consultation was a sham so the Devolution Health Board should take the opportunity to develop some good will and save those services.

"Health devolution in Manchester comes with a £2 billion shortfall [6]. If the new regional health management can't retain £1.5 million of mental health services, the scale of cuts to come is going to be scary. Devolution in this city, especially health, should be rethought [7]".


Notes




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Monday, 14 March 2016

Devolution needs to be stopped and rethought


Let me just say it. Its time to stop the Greater Manchester Devolution. 

Stop it, rethink it. 

There seems to be so much wrong with this process that, not only is there an independent campaign calling for a referendum [1] but even Greater Manchester’s local newspapers, including the Manchester Evening News, have bandied together to form a ‘Fair Devolution’ campaign [2] to get a better deal. 

So what are some of the things wrong?

Housing. The £300 million pound fund [3] has mainly gone to private developers despite there being over 80,000 people on Greater Manchester housing waiting lists [4] and a sharp rise in homelessness. As it is currently structured it is very difficult for social landlords to access this fund to build badly needed social housing. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Health. The health budget (offered at £6 billion) [5] has been devolved and is thought to be between £1 to 2 billion less than it needs to run properly [6]. This will cause even further strain on the regional NHS. It remains to be seen if this regional approach is a threat to how the NHS operates as a whole. [7] 

Democracy. The majority of people in Greater Manchester know very little about this devolution process at the moment. The last time the issue of an elected mayor came up it was rejected by Manchester [8]. Having the role now imposed as part of the devolution deal, the interim Mayor was chosen with no opportunity for public discussion or public hustings [9]. The forthcoming full Mayoral elections will require a substantial amount of money to run [10]. This greatly narrows the field of potential candidates.

As it stands, devolution doesn’t address the towns ‘left behind’ in Greater Manchester [11], the cuts to the police [12] or local Councils [13]. And it should do all of these things as well as being good for business [14].

Crucially, in addition, this devolution, ignores the potential of the process to reignite the Climate Change and Poverty agendas that are critical to the future for all of us.

Devolution as policy and principle is a good thing. When its works properly, it allows people to have a greater say in democracy, it allows greater responsiveness to the needs of those people. But that is not what is happening in Greater Manchester.

In Greater Manchester, a historic opportunity is becoming a badly thought through mess. Innovation is no guarantee of progress.

The Green Party in Manchester, as the second largest party in the city by vote, want a proper say for the people of this region.

Its not too late to stop this version of devolution. And rethink it.



Notes

  1. https://www.facebook.com/devolutionreferendumcampaign/
  2. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/manchester-devolution-fair-deal-campaign-10205154
  3. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/300m-housing-fund-designed-unlock-9570783
  4. https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/388698/LT_600.xlsx
  5. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-31615218
  6. http://clahrc-gm.nihr.ac.uk/2015/11/helping-to-understand-health-and-social-care-devolution-in-greater-manchester/
  7. http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/nov/11/devolving-health-social-care-manchester-nhs; http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/health/andy-burnhams-warning-over-swiss-cheese-8721228 
  8. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17949950
  9. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-32332399;     http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/tony-lloyd-chosen-greater-manchester-9357302
  10. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/greater-manchester-mayor-devolution-problems-11004805
  11. http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/northern-powerhouse-looking-grim-10-7461583
  12. http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/thinning-blue-line-gmp-left-9731055
  13. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-35360250
  14. http://www.uk-northern-powerhouse.com/; http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/business/business-news/thousands-expected-major-northern-powerhouse-10945003  




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Sunday, 15 November 2015

Comment: Where are Manchester Council’s emergency homeless shelters?


Post Ark 1
There has been much criticism of Manchester City Council and its approach to homelessness over the past few months.

This has especially been the case with its suppfor evicting the homeless from various buildings and shelters from around the city centre. The most notorious example of this was supporting Manchester Metropolitan University’s double eviction of the Ark [1].


A pivotal action in altering the council’s position came when homelessness activists briefly occupied an empty office block on Charlotte Street in city centre. They aimed to make it a community hub for the homeless from which they could get shelter food and advice [2]. Although swiftly evicted, almost immediately afterwards, Manchester United football legends Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs generously offered shelter in their empty ‘Stock Exchange’ building [3].

In an about face, the Council then declared it too would make buildings available [4].

That was two weeks ago.

The site of the Ark on Oxford Road is currently empty and fenced off by MMU. There is no sign of the activity MMU evicted the Ark for.

Its been a week of cold, wet, windy weather. Under the fly-over on Oxford Road on both sides, there are homeless again.

When asked why they were there, why didn’t they go to the ‘Stock Exchange’, they said that they did but it was full.

When they were asked about the Council’s empty buildings for the homeless, they knew nothing about them. At all.
Post Ark 2When it explained what was offered in the press the response was [to paraphrase and replace words] – ‘Goodness me, they should hurry up, this is no flowery joke being out here’.

Since then, as reported by the local press, the camp near Piccadilly train station has grown to about 30 people [5].

Its been a very bad week weather-wise. When are these buildings going to open?

What are the Council waiting for?

Christmas?


Notes




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Pomona Island Planning Hearing Report Back

Trafford Council Planning Committee gave planning permission for 2 blocks of flats on Pomona Island on Thursday evening (12th November). 

The site has not been in use for decades. In that time it has evolved into a rare and mostly undisturbed rich habitat for wildlife, including rare species.

Opponents of the plan want more imaginative use of the space than another spate of the same overpriced blocks of flats that have sprung up in the Manchester area. They are also deeply concerned by the ecological impact of development. 

The land is owned by Peel holdings and is probably most well-known to Mancunians who pass it on the tram route, alongside the Manchester ship canal on the border of 3 boroughs, Manchester, Trafford and Salford. 

Although there has been a campaign group against building, the likelihood of lots of locals organising to protect the site is hampered by there not being many locals around in the first place. Across the water in Salford Quays there are some abodes of a similar demographic to those planned, often fairly transitory inhabitants not too likely to get involved with local activism. Also, being on the border of boroughs (or wards for that matter) can often make the geographical politics and identity of a location somewhat opaque

Pomona Island was very attractive, even to non-ecologists. But plans to build will have been bubbling under for a long time and a few years ago a large amount of vegetation was cleared, making it look less attractive. Funny that. 

The plan for the towers had been knocked back once for being below standard, but the development firm, Rowlinsons, had returned with some improvements, though they still look completely bland and identikit.

The development has been awarded £10,000,000 or our money via the dodgy democracy Devomanc scam, sorry...scheme.

The spooning out of money is detailed here, along with other background info.

http://www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/news/22-of-devo-manc-housing-fund-gone

A key theme at the hearing was that of councillors clearly being not very happy or impressed with the plans (though many were flat ignorant of the ecological importance of what is officially designated as a brownfield site). Still, most of those who spoke were minded to approve the plans, not least through fear of being taken to court if they weren't. The option to kickback the plan for improvements and consideration for environment didn't seem to be an option for them.

The council had asked Peel Holdings for a masterplan of their overall vision for the whole area. Peel didn't bother, but disrespecting the council turned out to be no great problem. A further disappointment that turned out not to matter was the total lack of affordable or social housing in the plan, despite the £10m bung from public funds.

The underlying message from the committee was one of "We don't like it, but we'll bend over anyhow, what can we really do?" (they are only elected representatives after all)

Trafford Council have sent a signal that banality, disregard for environment, lack of co-operation or clear strategy are all fine really.  One might wonder if they have the imagination to sense this.

It's an object lesson in how corporations trump people and planet time again via stultified and cowardly politics, and why so many have lost faith in that political system.

It is to be hoped that if/when future plans are submitted, the council won’t allow themselves to be a case study in "fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me".

Notable exceptions in opposition to the plans were Labour members Delores O'Sullivan and David Acton (who is not on the committee).


It's not too late for future development to be more eco-friendly and for Trafford Council to find some spine. It would be great for the area to be utilised as much needed urban park space, possibly in concert with an 
"Eden of The North" vision in contrast to Osborne's dubious Northern Poorhouse, er... Powerhouse.

For those who deem such ideas unrealistic, a realistic compromise would be housing that is in harmony with habitat and wildlife as well as social goals of affordable housing and employment. But so far it's just another instance of death by a thousand cuts for the ecology, including evictions of rare schedule 1 bird species, the Little Ringed Plover and Kingfisher not to mention, Sand Martin, Jacksnipe, Pipistrelle Bat, Daubenton’s Bat, Water Vole, Cormorant and many other species, all found to have been happily inhabiting the site. Rowlinsons could easily have earned brownie points and added green roofs to their designs but alas no and so another eco opportunity lost.

Urban green space is vital, yet almost every individual development can be legally / politically excused on it's own merits, especially in the light of housing and employment difficulties. However, the collective effect is calamitous. There is more to ecology than rainforests, Polar Bears and the contents of a David Attenborough documentary. It is the very life that surrounds us wherever we are, and it is being systemically destroyed for profit with scant regard for consequence.

Such awareness, and the necessary vision for 21st Century sustainability, elude too many politicians, stuck in the last generation, and too many of the current generation of capitalists. 

Steve Durrant

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Thursday, 29 October 2015

Hulme Green Party calls on Homeless Film Festival to boycott Manchester Metropolitan University

HFF boycott of MMU
Hulme Green Party are calling on the upcoming Homeless Film Festival (HFF) [1] to boycott film screenings and other events hosted by Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU).

The aggressive legal action that MMU have pursued in conjunction with Manchester City Council and the repeated evictions of The Ark homeless shelter have received much public attention in the last few weeks. [2]

The harassing actions of these large institutions against this vulnerable group were called out by homelessness campaigns, students and Manchester Green Party. [3]

Deyika Nzeribe, Hulme resident and Green Party campaigner said: "While we recognize the good work that the HFF are doing and have done, it is just wrong for them to ally themselves with MMU, who have aggressively pursued and evicted the Ark homeless camp twice in the last few months. It was a well organised shelter, which was doing a lot to raise awareness of homelessness and to provide support for vulnerable people.

"On the back of this ‘partnership’, MMU will be able to use HFF as an example of the good work it's doing for the homeless, to cover up what it's actually doing on the ground. HFF should do the right thing and boycott the MMU venues."

Notes.


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