Do we Councillors get paid too much?

Norfolk County Councillors have just raised their allowances by 28%. I agree that it is fishy that the County Council increased their own allowances massively when they are about to be abolished — but in general, Council allowances ought to be higher. If you compute the hourly rate of pay that most Councillors (the ones who work hard — which is most of us — and the rest can always be voted out!) earn from their Council work, it probably comes to below minimum wage. In my case it certainly does — I reckon that I work in effect about 60 hours a month on Council business, averged out over the year, for which I get paid a little over £300. Hardly a handsome sum.
If Councillors’ allowances are low, then the only people who do the job are pensioners, the rich, ‘housewifes’, etc. . Surely, we want our Councillors to represent the population at large, not just a fortunate minority?

Green Leadership? – last thoughts…

Here is my final post advocating a ‘Yes’ vote…

Climate crisis is here [see my _Guardian_ piece on this, at http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/rupert_read/2007/11/emergency_talk.html ]. How to lead a way out of it?

If we had 500 years, maybe we could afford to move at the current
painfully-slow pace of political evolution. But we don’t have 500 years – we don’t even have 50. We must effect huge policy changes within the next decade.

So for green politicians just being different just ain’t good enough – we need to make a difference. A very big difference – and fast.

Global over-heat is of course a different sort of crisis – because its climax is in the future. Decisions now may create a better future — but the full effects of those decisions, good or bad, won’t be known for a long time.

A measure of our success will precisely be that people never knew quite how terrifying — how devastated — things could become.

It’s a no-brainer that, in this situation, the Green Party is needed more than ever. We need to give people personal confidence that, as we all play our part in the big changes required to prevent climate catastrophe, and as the government regulates to make that possible, our lives will improve in the process: as we live more local, more secure, healthier, more sociable, less stressful existences. We need to show and embody the true and steady leadership that is missing from other political parties.

The Green Party needs to be much more visible itself to articulate this type of leadership.

Right now, the LibDems are getting lots of airtime as they look among their own ranks for a Leader to succeed Menzies Campbell. Campbell claimed that the LibDems are the “only Party” campaigning for a “fairer and greener Britain” [ http://politics.guardian.co.uk/libdems/story/0,,2191824,00.html ]. The Green Party needs to step up to the plate, to vigorously contest that claim, to make a serious case for why it is the Green Party, and not Clegg or Huhne, that deserves public trust in leading the fight for a fairer and greener Britain.

Meanwhile: a recent national opinion poll by YouGov [ http://www.yougov.com/archives/pdf/Green%20results.pdf ] shows that 5 out of every 6 people in the UK think the Green Party would do better to change its leadership structures. Of those offering a view, 84% answered “Yes” to the question “Do you think the Green Party should have a ‘Leader’ rather than the ‘Principal Speakers’ it has at the moment?”. This proves what many have long suspected: That electing a Leader or co-Leaders will broaden our popular appeal, giving us a chance to compete on an equal footing with the LibDems and the other ‘mainstream’ Parties

— and without violating any Green principles at all in the process. If I believed that making this presentational change would make the Green Party one scintilla less politically radical, I would quit the Green ‘Yes’ campaign immediately.

But what this change might just give us is: a shot at making the difference that will save the future.

Stopping catastrophic climate change is the biggest challenge this country – and human civilization itself — have ever faced. If you need to do something very big very fast, you had better be organised to do it. You had better have a Leader.

In one week’s time, the Green Party leadership referendum will close. In other words, on the 1st December, the Green Party will announce to the world what decision its members have made, on this key question. I urge all Greens out there who haven’t yet voted to seize this one chance that we have, to step up to the plate and offer Leadership, without reservation, at this critical moment in British politics – and in human history.



Would a Green Leader be done in by the media?

One argument that the NO campaign have been making quite a bit in these last weeks of the referendum campaign is that they think that a good argument for not having a leader is that is that the media will FOCUS and pick on a leader like they would not pick on ‘principal speakers’. This would concern their past conduct, current weaknesses, and if there any signs of inconsistency between what they say and how they actually conduct their life, etc. NO activists think that this would be more detrimental to the general situation than any bit of extra attention we would receive.
Now I think three things about this argument:

1) It is simply false. Yes, the media would focus in on our leader, and look for problems; but given that they wouldn’t FIND so many problems (Caroline e.g. would never have a Lexus drive behind her as she cycles!), we will PROFIT out of this extra scrutiny.
2) Even those who suffer from intense media scrutiny (e.g. Cameron) also profit by it. Look how Cameron has transformed the Tories’ prospects.
3) EVEN if for some reason you don’t accept points 1 & 2, then this NO argument is still very weak. It basically says that we should be afraid and cower because of what the media might do to us. We in YES say: we should boldly step up to the plate, and take the calculated risk of getting ourselves a Leader. Because, at present, we are very small players indeed, nationwide.

Wouldn’t it be something if our Party’s fortunes were transformed, and we suddenly have a chance, the way that the Tories now do and the LibDems soon may?

Third and final post on why we should drop the term ‘climate change’

A key reason why people stopped using the term ‘global warming’ is that ‘climate change’ is a ‘safe’ substitute for ‘global warming’, because of patchiness – the chaoticness, in fact… — of the latter phenomenon. Because, for instance, as manmade climate change proceeds to over-heat the Earth, it will introduce some local cooling effects – most strikingly, if it yields Gulf Stream switch-off. That is of course no reason not to use the more humanly accurate terms (than ‘climate change’) that I propose in my posts below: climate chaos, climate emergency, etc. . But also, we need to recognise the other key reason, the reason detailed in Steven Poole’s book (see also http://www.newstatesman.com/200602200020 ), that I mention in my Guardian article [posted below]: that governmental pressure and business pressure impacted directly on IPCC, an intergovernmental body, not a group of scientists. It is naïve in the extreme – absurd, in fact — to think that an intergovernmental group is immune to… political pressure! Check into the facts that Poole exposes – various powerful economic interests including Saudi and U.S. interests wanted the least emotive term possible used as the term of choice. In that desire, their interests coincided with those of anti-political climate scientists. And so even the pretty anodyne ‘global warming’ was sidelined in favour of the ultimate in soft-pedalling what is happening to our Earth as a liveable planet: namely, calling it simply ‘climate change’.

Why are people so reluctant to acknowledge that ‘climate change’ is the ultimate slow-burning manmade weapon of mass destruction? The bottom-line, literally, is that it is notoriously difficult for people to understand things that their salary depends on them not understanding. There are millions of people – hundreds of millions – whose prosperity in the current set-up depends on our continued decadent use of fossil fuels. It is so tempting to find ways of thinking that one doesn’t have to change anything – that the science is wrong, or that there will be a techno-fix, or that it is too late to do anything about it anyway, or that the best way to deal with it is simply to remain completely calm and cool and stick entirely and rigidly to what science tells us about what is happening…

To those more sympathetic with my cause who say that nevertheless we shouldn’t use overly ‘dramatic’ language, I say:

Should we then rename ‘nuclear holocaust’ as ‘nuclear change’? Or the disaster/catastrophe/cataclysm (the ‘Nakba’ http://www.alnakba.org/ ) that hit the Palestinians in 1948; perhaps that should be renamed the التغيير [that’s ‘Change’ in Arabic, according to Google]. If not, in your opinion, why not? Or, to put the question the other way around: Why should ‘climate change’ have an anodyne name, when it promises to deliver far far greater destruction and death than the Israelis or Palestinians – or even Herr Hitler himself — ever experienced or even dreampt of?

Let’s not soft-pedal on the greatest threat that humankind has ever faced. Let’s not take refuge in euphemism. Our situation is comparable to that that we faced in the World Wars. …Only (potentially) worse… We are in the long (climate) emergency. As food rationing was needed in World War II, so carbon rationing is part of the answer now. Let’s not fool ourselves by using warm words such as ‘climate change’ or (indeed ‘global warming’, which still to my ears sounds pretty pleasant. I meet lots of people in my doorstep canvassing this time of year who say things like, “Yeah, we could use a little global warming around here!”).

In the emergency that we are in, let’s at least talk in a way that reminds us regularly that it IS an emergency.