I get a top GP job…

Rupert Read gets Green Party “shadow” public services portfolio –
and calls for major re-nationalisation programme

Norwich City Councillor Rupert Read has been appointed to an important national post in the Green Party.

The Green Party of England & Wales will announce on Thursday April 9 that Dr Read, a Norwich Green Party councillor and lecturer at the University of East Anglia is the party’s new national spokesperson on public services – a key area of policy for the Greens.

Councillor Read has greeted his appointment by immediately stressing the party’s determination “to fight for accountable public services, and to keep pushing the radical and ethical agenda on public services that separates the Green Party from the big three parties.”

Speaking from his home in Merton Road Norwich today, Rupert Read condemned the government’s plans to continue privatising public services. He said:

“The Green Party wants public services which do what it says on the tin: serve the public, not simply oil the wheels of a business.”

Threat of privatisation

He said: “The most immediate threat to public services is the plan to part-privatise the Royal Mail, which would mean reductions in both jobs and standards of service.

“That’s why the Green Party wholeheartedly supports the campaign of the Communication Workers Union to keep the Royal Mail in public hands.”

He said the Greens were urging the public to remember this is a political issue, driven by the decisions of politicians and parties, and privatisation should not be regarded as inevitable: “If you want to keep the Post public, then put the matter into the hands of the Green Party. Sadly, none of the other three parties are committed to running the Royal Mail and the Post Office as public services, and so the universal ‘one price’ postal service across the nation is now at risk.”

Promise of re-nationalisation
But there’s much more at stake than that, he continued: “If nationalisation is good enough for the banks, then why isn’t it good enough for the railways? Everyone knows that you can’t have a proper railway system without having it run as one combined service, for the public good. Labour talk about joined-up government; but they haven’t even got a joined-up railway system!”

The Green Party also favours bringing the utilities (water, gas and electricity) back into public ownership and public control. Said Cllr Read: “It’s mad to have essential services that form a ‘natural monopoly’ in private hands.”

Need to defend British public services in the European Parliament
Rupert Read is standing for the upcoming European Parliament elections. If just one in ten voters in the Eastern region vote Green on 4th June, Rupert will join the three dozen existing Green Party MEPs who have already done a great deal to fight for public services across Britain and Europe.

Cllr. Read concluded: “Were it not for Green Party MEPs such as Britain’s own Jean Lambert, the European Parliament would have forced through a bill that would have made it impossible to stop health services being privatised. Here in Britain, we all love the NHS. If you want to keep the NHS public, there is only one choice on June 4th: vote Green.”

£165 a week state pension needed [Media release]

“Time to lift every pensioner out of poverty”

On the recent National Pensions Action Day, the Green Party announced its key election pledge for pensioners – a £165 a week non-means-tested citizens’ pension for every pensioner in the UK.

The pledge will form part of the Green New Deal for Older People, which the Green Party will launch in the build-up to this year’s elections (1).

Jean Lambert, Green MEP for London, the Green Party’s spokesperson on social affairs, said today:

“The Green Party celebrated Pensions Action Day with possibly the best action a political party could take for British pensioners: a policy that would lift all our pensioners out of poverty.”

Rupert Read, Lead Green Party candidate for the Eastern Region at the 4th June 2009 Euro Elections, said:

“This policy forms part of the Green Party’s Green New Deal for Older People and would ensure that pensioners can live in more comfortable, dignified conditions. We Greens have campaigned long and hard for pensioners’ rights at the European level and I will continue in that vein if elected to join Jean Lambert in June this year.

“The Green Party lobbied the UK Government when the energy companies hiked their prices up by 30% at the end of last year, leaving many pensioners with the choice between heating and eating this winter.  A Citizens Pension will take
all pensioners out of fuel poverty, leading to a more dignified retirement for all, which is nothing less than they deserve.  Only the Greens will truly deliver social justice in the UK today.”

The National Pensioners Convention (NPC) has been calling for a pension at or above the official poverty level, which is defined as 60% of median population earnings less housing costs. For 2007/8 this would have meant a single person’s pension of £151 per week – compared to the actual full state pension of £90.70 and a pensions credits guarantee level of about £120 a week.

The NPC  has recently pointed out that:

– Between 1997 and 2006, the number of British people living in severe poverty – defined as living on less than 40% of median population income – increased by 600,000.

– Last year the poorest quarter of UK pensioner households saw their incomes rise by less than 1%, well below inflation. The poorest single pensioners saw their real incomes drop by 4%.
– At least 15% of UK pensioners – over 1.5m older people – are living in persistent poverty (below 60% median population income for three out of the last four years).
– Pensioner poverty in the UK has risen in the last year by 300,000 – equivalent to 822 people a day – and now reaches 2.5m (1 in 4 older people). Two thirds of these pensioners are women.
Rupert Read commented:

“If the other parties are unwilling to lift pensioners out of poverty, then it’s clear pensioners will need to elect Greens to fight their corner.

“Voting Green is about building a better future (2) – and that includes a secure economic future for older people.”

(1) The full Green New Deal for Older People will explain how the UK can afford to lift all pensioners out of poverty.
(2) The Greens are proposing a free insulation programme for all households in the country that need it. Better insulated homes will help elderly people reduce their fuel bills and keep warmer in the cold months of the year. The UK continues to have avoidable “excess winter deaths” in the elderly population of many thousands each year.  

Flight Blight: Making it an election issue.

How ought one to put the fear of God – or rather, fear of the voters – into the Parties who are responsible for the expansion of airports in our Region? [Namely, Labour and the Tories]:
My suggestion, at this June 4th PROPORTIONAL REPRESENTATION election, naturally, is to argue for a vote for the Green Party, as the one Party that has clearly, and consistently, stuck its head up and its neck out in outright opposition to expansion of airports anywhere in England [including in the Thames estuary!]. The Green Party list of seven candidates for the European elections includes several seasoned opponents of expansion at airports including at Norwich, Stansted, Luton and Southend – me included. 
If the old Parties think that they are about to lose a seat in the European Parliament to committed anti-airport-expansion campaigners, then they will perhaps finally start to worry about the electoral cost to them of their tacit or overt support of expansion in airports across Eastern England.
The Green Party is the ONLY Party to oppose airport expansion – period. We are the only Party, therefore, which can be trusted resolutely and consistently to oppose airport expansion where you live.
For less noise, and less air pollution, vote Green…

Less than two Months to go to the European Elections – Greens pledge to put trust back into politics – “Outdated deposit system” challenged [Media release]

Two months ahead of the European Elections, the Green Party is pledging to put trust back into politics by running a clean campaign and maintaining high ethical standards when elected.
Politicians have been hammered in recent weeks by a string of allegations on expense claims that go right to the top, including Cabinet Ministers. By association this has a danger of bringing the whole political process into disrespect, which could impact on voter turnout.
Cllr. Rupert Read, Lead candidate for Eastern Region at the June 4th European elections said
“We recognise the harm being done to politics in general by the expenses allegations. But not all parties are the same. The Green Party has shown that it is possible to have elected politicians who both work hard and behave ethically. Our two current MEPs Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas are respected for the way they have conducted themselves over the ten years they have represented London and the South East regions.
“A number of MEPs from other parties, including here in Eastern Region were elected on a wave of anti-EU sentiment, including them making corruption allegations. Yet some of those very same MEPs have been under investigation for serious allegations of defrauding the taxpayer through their expenses claims. And I believe people have every right to question just how effective some of those MEPs have been in representing their constituents in terms of their actual attendance and work.   
“If elected, I pledge to uphold the high standards that electors expect. The Green Party stands a good chance of gaining MEPs in 2 months time. Voting Green is a positive choice for voters seeking to once again be able to trust their elected representatives.”
Outdated deposit system challenged
As part of the European election campaign in Eastern Region, the Greens will be protesting against the outdated deposit system. The Greens will be welcoming £1 donations from the public to help pay for the £5000 deposit to stand candidates. The Greens have long been critical of the deposit system for elections which they regard as a “tax on democracy”. The deposit system has stifled the development of new parties in the UK but has not prevented extremists from standing. A fairer system would be one based on nomination support – where a threshold number of signatures from the public would be needed to secure a candidate or list of candidates, making it harder for extremists, but being a better test of broad support in order to stand.   
It is now two months to go before the next major round of elections in the UK on Thursday June 4th at which voters will have the opportunity to elect their MEPs for the next 5 years and County Councillors (where these elections are held).
This will be a major electoral test for all parties, but polls show that, increasingly, voters are becoming fed up with the “main” parties and are looking for an alternative.
The Green Party has consistently secured its highest nationwide vote share at the European Elections, with more than a million people voting Green in 2004. Every voter in Eastern Region and the UK will have Green candidates to vote for. 
The Green Party in Eastern Region is working hard to secure its first MEP, to join the 2 Green MEPs who have held seats in London and South East regions since 1999, when the proportional voting system was first introduced.
The Greens are also working to increase their number of County Councillors and will be standing candidates across the region, with a full slate of 75 being expected in Essex.   
At the time of the 1999 elections, there were just 2 Green Party Principal Authority Councillors in Eastern Region. There are now 28, with the Green Group on Norwich City Council becoming the official opposition in 2008. There are now Green Councillors in every county in the region. Since 1999, membership of the Green Party in the region has also risen.