Bad PR for Bahrain’s PR agency…

 ‘The really ethical PR agency’, a new protest group targeting the unacceptable face of the PR industry, was born today, in a protest this morning against Bahrain’s PR agency, the British firm Bell-Pottinger, at Bell-Pottinger’s HQ on High Holborn. Here is TREPRA’s 1st communiqué, that we handed to passers-by and to B-P employees (one of whom stopped to congratulate us and to tell us, “I agree with you”!), outside B-P’s HQ:

 

Bell-Pottinger needs to stop trying to spin the unspinnable…

The Bell-Pottingers of this world need to wake up: the world is changing. As tyrants fall across the Middle East and North Africa, it becomes more and more clear that it makes no sense for Britain to ‘lead the world’ in representing the last ones standing. So, we in ‘The really ethical PR agency’ urge B-P to drop its business-relationship with the murderous Bahraini regime; but also to pre-emptively take the same step with regard to all its other tyrant-clients.
For in the new, more democratic, cleaner world that is starting to emerge, there will be no place for dinosaur companies that try to spin the unspinnable: autocracy and government-sponsored terror and murder. A new breed of ethical PR agencies is starting to emerge. In the future, the only PR agencies that will be taken seriously are ethical ones, who only take clients with clean hands. For no-one will believe a word that the front-men for murderers and dictators say. . .
We urge B-P to drop the briefs that they are holding for dictators, before it is too late. (Otherwise, we in ‘The really ethical PR agency’ will dog them until they do.)
Because, at the end of the day, it isn’t just that we are ashamed that it is _British_ companies who the Gulf autocrats turn to to spin for them, when they commit terrible crimes (though we ARE ashamed, for Britain, of this). It’s that, at the end of the day:

REPRESENTING DICTATORS WHOSE HANDS ARE BLOODY IS JUST REALLY BAD PR…

 The really ethical PR agency, Spring 2011.                        thereallyethicalpragency@yahoo.co.uk

 

DROP THE BAHRAIN BRIEF, B-P!

______________________________

The protest today was covered by PRWeek, the industry’s in-house mag. It went straight in at number one story on their website!!   J

Here is the story:

http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/1057005/Bell-Pottingers-work-Bahrain-Government-spotlight

After you have read it, do read the 1st comment to the story, by someone called Stuart Bruce, of Wolfstar PR agency:

http://www.prweek.com/uk/news/1057005/Bell-Pottingers-work-Bahrain-Government-spotlight/#comment Very interesting, well put. Lord Whatshisname, boss of B-P, clearly hasn’t got a leg to stand on in his ‘defence’ of B-P against our criticisms – what he said to the PR Week reporter surely goes against the PR industry’s own code of practice, without a doubt.

This is exactly why B-P and their ilk give themselves a bad name over accounts like that they have with Bahrain. And why no-one can believe a word that they (or those that they are clients for) say, any more…

 

Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
http://rupertread.net
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT gmail.com]
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Green Party House of Lords candidate selection

The Green Party is currently selecting who to nominate from within our ranks for House of Lords. Unlike other Parties, we do this democratically.

Greens! Here’s a few reasons why you might want to vote RUPERT READ (that’s me! 😉 for the House of Lords selection:

Experience:

  • An elected Councillor living in my own mostly working-class ward.
  • One of the top Green bloggers: The only Green in the Top 10 ‘Total Politics’ Councillor blogs: www.rupertsread.blogspot.com .
  • A key player in the team that has seen Norwich Greens reach such heights of success over the last decade.
  • Green Party’s candidate in 2009 Norwich North byelection. We achieved the highest-ever Green byelection result.
  • Green Party’s candidate in 2009 Euro-elections: we in Eastern-Region achieved the highest vote-increase anywhere in the country outside SE, and came within 1% of getting me elected.
  • Hugely-experienced media performer; many times on national TV and radio.
  • Effective communicator – look for instance at my supporting statement in the candidates’ booklet. I know how to reach people.
  • Reader in Philosophy at University of East Anglia, where I work closely with the world’s leading environmental scientists.
  • Eight published books, including the popular Philosophy for life.

Experience directly relevant to the Lords:

  • Worked directly with the late Lord Beaumont (the previous Green peer), including succeeding in bringing his bill on reducing aviation levels onto the floor of the Commons.
  • Learned much about the House of Lords while successfully ‘prosecuting’ Hugo Charlton (in a Green Party tribunal) for his attempt to bypass Party procedures and seize a peerage for himself, the last time the Party was offered one…

As a Green Lord, I would prioritise:

  • Working closely with our MP, Caroline Lucas, as I have already for some years, looking to exploit opportunities to achieve legislative change (and pro-Green publicity) in the interests of the country and the Party.
  • Transport: I was ultimately responsible (as the Greens’ voting rep. on the ‘Joint Highways Committee’) for the introduction of 20mph speed-limits in significant areas of Norwich, and would work hard to push genuinely sustainable transport policy in the upper house.
  • Constitutional reform: I would actively campaign for the abolition of the Lords, and for a reformed upper house to have a direct responsibility for the well-being of future generations.
  • I would be a full-time working peer.

[p.s. Comments are enabled! Feel free, all.]

#Green Solar Panel Success

 
 
 

I am so proud of having been a small part of this (the renewable energy on Council buildings success): this is a real achievement that will make a big difference to people’s lives in Norwich:
 
Green Party City Councillors expressed delight that the Council has supported Green Party plans for a major new investment in renewable energy.
Tuesday night’s budget meeting voted in favour of the plan to spend £250,000 of an otherwise unused £5 million capital fund on renewable energy generation on council buildings. The move could lead to solar panels being installed on the roof of City Hall and other public buildings in Norwich.

Green Councillors were also successful in proposing £12,500 to increase the activity of the council’s planning enforcement service, and the same amount to purchase and install more than 50 new grit bins, some of which could be bought by businesses and community groups as part of a new scheme.

The ruling Labour Council’s "holding budget" was passed, paving the way for a consultation programme this summer to identify £2.35 million savings for the remainder of the coming financial year, and £12.2 million over the next 4 years.
The proposer of the Green Party amendments, Councillor Stephen Little said: "The renewable energy fund will go a small way to help the council tackle the twin challenges of climate change and government-enforced cuts to public sector funding and jobs. The money we’re using would otherwise have been sitting in the council’s bank account unused, but now I hope it will be put to good use providing clean energy and much needed regular financial income for the council."

Leader of the Green Party Councillors Claire Stephenson commented on the consultation to come: "This is only the start of a very tough project for the whole city. My colleagues and I will be working to ensure that no decision is taken in the coming months without the deepest possible consultation, with the council taking all views into account. It is also vital that the process takes place openly, with all relevant information made available to residents and councillors in a place and form in which they can access it."

 

Rupert Read
Green Party Councillor, Norwich.
http://rupertread.net
[If you have an urgent email for me while I am away from a regular computer, you may wish to try contacting me instead on rupertread+mob AT gmail.com]
WHY NOT FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER?: twitter.com/GreenRupertRead

The way that Brown helped #Gaddafi visavis Megrahi sowed the seeds for the current massacres

 
Let’s stop backing dictators!
 
Away from the view of journalists, Gaddafi is attacking his own people ferociously in Libya, to try to win back control over towns and cities which have been freed by acts of incredible bravery. It is time the international community acted decisively: at a minimum, we need a no-fly zone over most of Libya now, to stop Gaddafi bombing and strafeing his own people. This is what the many former Libyan diplomats who have resigned from the Libyan government are saying. The world needs to act on this now!
   Meanwhile, I wonder if Gordon Brown is (now) regretting having taken the extensive actions that he did and his government did, as we now know (http://politics.caledonianmercury.com/2011/02/08/megrahi-revelations-show-yet-again-that-gordon-brown-just-didn%E2%80%99t-get-devolution/), to get Megrahi the Lockerbie bomber released back to the care of Gaddafi. These actions by the British government basically sent Gaddafi the message loud and clear that all that Britain cared about was making money with Libya, not justice and the rule of law, let alone the fate of the oppressed Libyan people themselves. The heartrendingly unprecedentedly savage treatment that Gaddafi is now meting out to his own people who are daring to stand up for their freedom was in effect given the green light in advance by Britain, as soon as Brown started helping Libya to get Megrahi back.
    It is time for Britain to decisively change course, and abandon its support for Middle Eastern and North African rulers (including also those of Bahrain, Djibouti, Yemen plus of course Israel) who fire on people. This process might be helped along if Brown (and Blair, who initiated the process of making friends with Gaddafi and who played a role it seems, according to the Wikileaks cables, in the dubious freeing of Megrahi: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/221905?CMP=twt_gu) himself were to speak out, expressing regret that the last government didn’t take a far stronger line against the oppresive, murderous Gaddafi.
  At the moment, the signs that the British government is contemplating a serious change of course are limited, to say the least. Yes, Britain has now stopped certain arms exports to Bahrain (and Libya: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/crackdown-on-arms-exports-to-bahrain-2219269.html ) – but recall that just a week before the Bahrain uprising began, William Hague was in Bahrain in effect pledging our support to the autocrats there, warmly shaking their hands, pushing for more economic and trade links, and making a few gentle noises about ‘reform’ to cover his tracks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12413552 . Meanwhile, we have the astounding situation that LibDem peer Emma Nicholson is in Yemen to conduct trade talks, during the uprising there: http://www.sabanews.net/en/news236113.htm & http://www.sabanews.net/en/news236123.htm . I can find no record of Nicholson speaking out about what the government there is doing to its people (see e.g. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/protests-continue-in-yemen-algeria-and-morocco-as-strikes-banned-in-egypt-2220133.html ) right now. This really is a quite appalling, though not unexpected, state of affairs.

    The British government needs to wake up. The world is changing. It is simply no longer acceptable to be complicit with the violent and provocative repression of peaceful protests abroad – or, indeed, at home…
    Which brings us to the latest appalling event: Cameron’s trip to the MidEast to see dictators to do business with them and sell them arms. I kid you not: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/21/cameron-cairo-visit-defence-trade?CMP=twt_gu . A cleverly arranged PR opp in Cairo, and its off to Kuwait to sell arms etc. to a genuinely autocratic regime…
    You couldn’t make it up.

A new proposal for a green future… How House of Lords reform should really be done


Introduction: House of Lords reform is next

Now that it is certain that the AV referendum will take place on May 5, coinciding with local election day and elections in Scotland and Wales (incidentally, this date is one which I first broke to the nation, scooping the BBC and everyone else: http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/av-referendum-to-be-announced-next-week-held-in-may/ ), it is a good time to reflect on the strange beast that is the House of Lords, that almost scuppered this referendum (albeit not without some good reason!: see http://www.opendemocracy.net/ourkingdom/michael-wills/house-of-lords-is-right-to-challenge-coalition-on-where-we-vote ).

There is of course a lot to be said for the House of Lords, at least as compared to the conduct of many of those who have won election to the House of Commons! In respect of this latest example, for instance, it is clear that in some respects they have intelligently improved the bill that will allow the AV referendum to go ahead, in particular by loosening the tightness of the strictures on constituency size.

But in the end, one thing is inescapable: the method of selection of the Lords – essentially, patronage – is just fundamentally unacceptable in a modern democracy. We need to have a House of Lords candidates for which are picked in some other, better way: either by election via proportional representation (which is Green Party policy, and seems likely to be the route that the Coalition chooses), or by lot (selection, that is, via the so-called ‘Athenian option’, argued for by OK’s Anthony Barnett: see this intriguing review: http://telescoper.wordpress.com/2009/08/25/the-athenian-option/ ).

Once the AV referendum has been won (or lost – please let it not be lost! #Yes2AV !), then the burden of constitutional reform will switch to the question of the House of Lords. This is not a ‘long-grass’ issue – Clegg and others in his Party are determined to make progress on it, and rightly so. It is in this context that I have been working on this issue.

For I think that we need to broaden our sense of what can be achieved in House of Lords reform. It is not enough merely to democratise the upper house; we ought to seize this opportunity to rethink its raison d’etre. Especially as, if we have elections for the Lords, there will be a greater need to distinguish the Lords more radically from the Commons. One way to do so would be to give it a new purpose, besides just being a revising chamber. And that is the purpose of this ‘thinkpiece’: to suggest such a new purpose.

A new, ‘green’ purpose for the upper house; and how best to select candidates for it

What if we were to make the House of Lords into the House of the Voiceless? A place where the interests of non-human animals and of future people (see my http://www.opendemocracy.net/rupert-read/last-refuge-of-prejudice ) were, by oath, the first concern of the senators (if such is to be their new names)?

This would of course actually fit particularly well, if the selection of all or some candidates for this chamber were to be done by lot. (You could for instance select most of the senators making up the new Upper House by PR, and the rest, those designated specifically perhaps as ‘guardians’ for the voiceless, by lot: that would be a ‘hybrid’ upper house that could achieve the tasks of revising legislation and of protecting voiceless people/beings, in tandem. See below…) For then it would make great sense, to think of those selected as being given a special vocation (as jurors have, in another context) to voice the concerns of the voiceless.

The idea that I had some years ago (here is one of the first places that I started to write it up: http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=1227), a proposal that I have been developing in my philosophical work recently, and that I have been speaking on in various fora (see http://rupertread.org/rupertread.org/wordpress/?p=456 , and http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_W5PrTdY3Jko/TTdrP14adxI/AAAAAAAAAfU/hrdjZXsSlIg/s1600/programme_25feb2010_draft.jpg ), is specifically that all or (perhaps better still) some portion of the new upper house should be constituted by ordinary citizens selected by lot to represent powerfully the voices of the voiceless, in the deliberations of the nation. I recently offered evidence to the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (on which Green Party MP Caroline Lucas sits: see here for my evidence: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmselect/cmenvaud/writev/esd/esd12.htm), along these lines.

It would be interesting to know what readers of Rupert’s Read think of this idea (or rather, more strictly speaking, of this phalanx of related ideas, for there are obviously various different ways in which the basic impulse here could be implemented, as I have already implied).

For those without time to visit the links, here is the idea is in a nutshell:

From the House of Lords to the guardians

Plato said we should be ruled by guardians. Habermas and other deliberative-democratic philosophers of course abhor the anti-democratic sentiment permeating Plato’s proposal, and rightly so. But… what if the guardians were selected democratically, for example by sortition? And: what if their deliberations became a high-profile model of what deliberation in a democratic society could be?

Still, there seems little case for substituting guardians for normal elected representatives, for decisions which can be made about us, by people who represent us. But… what about cases where the people, the beings who ought to be heard in or even to be making the decisions have no voice — even over matters which are life or death matters for them?

Future people are the most obvious case of such people. I propose therefore powerful guardians for future people / guardians of the future / guardians of future generations, either to take the place in our system of the royal assent, or to occupy part of the role of the upper house in the course of House of Lords reform.

Their most fundamental powers, besides standard revising powers, would be, on my proposal:

a) To veto in whole or in part new legislation that threatened the basic needs and fundamental interests of future people / of the voiceless.

b) To force a review, on petitioning, if appropriate, of any existing legislation or of administrative decisions that threaten the basic needs and fundamental interests of future people / of the voiceless.

Conclusion: A path to a green future, via constitutional reform?

Everyone is agreed that our current democracy is failing to achieve a green future. Why not seize the moment offered by House of Lords reform, and consider some much more radical version of such reform than the Coalition is currently intending? Perhaps then, the time is ripe for thinking about helping to achieve a green future, by creating a new role, that of guardians, who would, in the context of radical reform of the upper house, become and then be an intimate part of our democratic institutions…

For after all: The people who would rule, if we simply move to selecting candidates for the upper house by PR elections, or by lot, without altering the raison d’etre of the upper house, are only the people (in fact, the adult, registered-to-vote, not extremely-infirm etc. people) who are alive now. But surely, ‘the people’ ought to be thought of in a far more temporally extended manner. Does a people only exist as a momentary time-slice? Surely not. A people, a nation-state, a community, a society, is something extended over time. It extends into the past, and extends indefinitely into the future.

Burke, in a passage clearly forgotten by supposed c/Conservatives in UK and USA for 30 years or more, says that society is a contract between the dead, the living and those unborn (with no limit specified on the generations ahead)… He is right…

It is clear that we need Lords willing to radically reform or to abolish themselves, if we are to achieve Lords reform, 100 years on from the Parliament Act. But I think, with ecological crisis looming or upon us, it is also high time to think about how such radical reform of the upper house can be dovetailed in with institutional reform to try to help assure a greener future.

Maybe undertaking such thinking would even make the Lords more willing to accept their own exit, in the service of a greater good…