The case for Co-Leaders

Congratulations again to all those elected in the Green Party Executive elections, particularly to Caroline Lucas MEP with her huge mandate as female ‘Principal Speaker’.

One of the reasons I support the proposal for change in our Leadership structures is that, provided that leading people put themselves forward in these ways, it potentially allows members to choose between a single and deputy leader and Co-leaders every two years, which currently they can’t do. For many this will I believe provide the ‘middle ground ‘ between the status quo and moving to a single leader.

Here is what I think might be a dream _Co-Leaders_ ticket: Adrian Ramsay and Caroline Lucas.

The huge extra profile that this would give Adrian, our Leader on Norwich City Council, could play a critical role in getting him into Westminster. Norwich is now clearly our second strongest Parliamentary prospect, after Brighton. Let’s get the referendum passed, and then get not just one but at least two MPs into Parliament — our Co-Leaders…

Sure Caroline is pretty obvious as the outstanding Leader candidate. But why not do Leadership and do different at the same time?: Co-Leaders could be the way to go. It works in New Zealand, in Scotland, in Northern Ireland… why not here?

Alternatively, if you don’t like that idea: how about Caroline and Peter Tatchell as Co-Leaders? That would certainly guarantee us some profile!

At Green Party Conference last month, I spoke, in the leadership debate, in favour of Co-Leaders, as a reason for voting Yes. I’d like to quote here these words penned by Cllr. Matt Follett, on this topic:

“What was pretty clear from party conference last month, was that the current set up of Principal Speakers was not doing the party any favours and at the very least these titles and form of language had to change. The Green Party will in November vote in referendum for or against proposals to remove theses and in their place have a choice between Co-leaders or single/Deputy Leaders. A leading member of the ‘No’ camp in the referendum acknowledged publicly at Conference that ‘the status quo can’t remain whatever the result’. Similarly leading member of the Yes camp stated that ‘whatever the result I believe both sides share many ideas about what changes are needed and that they need to be realised quickly’.

It’s clear that those set against the leadership proposal are most concerned with the notion of a single leader. Interestingly, many undecided and new members wondered out loud what the middle ground might be. For me, the option of Co-Leaders in the proposal provides this. That doesn’t satisfy those for whom the very word leader or leaders shouldn’t be on any publications ever issued by the party, but there are many others, who are worried about a single figurehead, but who recognise the need to change, and who feel more comfortable with this prospect. Personally I think this shows up the flexibility of the proposal that we’ll be voting on next month, and demonstrates how much consultation and consensus was achieved in the drafting of it.”

The Northern Development Road — it’s official! Bad news for Norfolk County Council and their partners May Gurney

A very interesting document has fallen into my hands. It is the letter sent to Norfolk County Council by the government, on the question of whether the proposed ‘partnership deal’ with May Gurney for the building of the Northern Development Road (NDR…) is legal or not (see http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/10/northern-lots-of-unwanted-new.html ). The answer is that the government believes it is not.
Here is the heart of the letter (emphases in second para. mine):
The key question for us is the scale and proportionality between what the strategic partnership contract was set up to do and the scale of the proposed major scheme…

From our view, the scale of the proposed NNDR is entirely disproportionate to the scope of the framework and therefore it is our view on your proposals that the use of the framework contract would be potentially illegal. We are not convinced that the construction of the proposed Norwich Northern Development Route (NNDR) can be procured under the subsisting “strategic partnership” contract.

If Norfolk proceeds along this proposed route, we believe that there is a real risk of a complaint being made to both the Commission and/or the English High Court. If there was a complaint and we were unable to satisfy the Commission that the scale of the NNDR is proportionate to the original value of the contract, then that complaint could result in infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom Government on the basis that Norfolk County Council is an emanation of the State. Depending on the timing of any complaint, any proceedings in the High Court could also lead to the suspension of any proposed contract, a proposed contract being set aside or damages awarded.

I am afraid that our overall conclusion and strong advice is therefore that Norfolk County Council should not proceed any further with appointing May Gurney to construct the Norwich Northern Development Route scheme through its Strategic Partnership contract and should instead commence a new procurement for this scheme.”

This goes even further than my previous post on this issue surmised, and way further than the _EDP_ article on this, which only said, quoting the County, that proceeding with the cosy deal with May Gurney would be “inappropriate”.

Let us hope that the media pick up the true full gravity of this government reprimand for Norfolk County Council’s proposed actions.

Remember… you read about this key aspect of this story here, first!

p.s. It is also intriguing to note the name that the government uses to describe the NDR: namely, the ‘Norwich Northern Development Road’!! Now THAT is truth in advertising…

The funding of this road is all about encouraging more development around the north side of Norwich, which will worsen congestion, not ease it.

If only the County had been honest about that, and called it, as the Department of Transport is doing, a Development Road rather than a Distributor Road (still less a ‘bypass’), then perhaps far fewer members of the public would have been hoodwinked into supporting it and paying lots of Council Tax already for dodgy deals with May Gurney, etc etc…

Caroline Lucas elected Green Party ‘Principal Speaker’ by huge margin

The results of this year’s elections to the Green Party’s National Executive have just been announced. The results were all close, except for the most striking result: the enormous majority for Caroline Lucas, elected to the position of female ‘Principal Speaker’. Caroline garnered 78% of the vote; her opponent, Jenny Jones A.M., got just 22%.

Caroline is the main standard-bearer for the ‘Yes’ campaign, who are looking to get the Green Party a Leader in the unprecedented binding membership referendum on this topic next month. Jenny is the main standard-bearer for the ‘No’ campaign, who are fighting to preserve the status quo.

So: If this result is anything to go by — and it may of course turn out that it isn’t, but IF it is — then the ‘Yes’ campaign clearly stands a strong chance of winning the two thirds majority it needs in order to win the referendum, and transform the public image of the Green Party. And then Caroline would surely stand a very strong chance of being elected the first Leader of the Green Party — tonight’s results clearly confirm her status as very much the number one figure within the Party. That would place her in a powerful position to challenge the political status quo in Britain — it would empower her to lead…

With Ming Campbell’s rapid resignation this evening, political attention will focus strongly once more on the question of who will lead Britain through the crises we currently face; above all, the crisis of dangerous climate change [see my post on this from Oct. 5, http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2007/10/will-it-be-tories-or-greens-who-offer.html ]. Announcing Campbell’s resignation this evening, Vince Cable, Acting Leader now of the LibDems, said that Campbell had clearly shown that the LibDems are the “only Party” campaigning for a “fairer and greener Britain”. The Green Party are about to step up to the plate, to vigorously and publicly contest that claim, and to make a serious case for why it is the Green Party that deserves public trust in fighting for a fairer and greener Britain.

Whoever is chosen to lead the LibDems next, they may have a real fight on their hands. I for one relish the prospect of Caroline Lucas being able to take on on equal terms Chris Huhne or Nick Clegg. . .

p.s. For an account of why I chose to leave the LibDems and join the Greens, see http://www.socialistunitynetwork.co.uk/voices/read.htm

Generation Less

Exclusive to this blog, here is a DRAFT of my next One World Column (see www.oneworldcolumn.org or http://new.edp24.co.uk/content/commentary/OneWorld.aspx for previous columns by myself and fellow columnists.).
Constructively critical comments welcome! Any help improving what will go into the paper would be welcome.
best, and thanks in anticipation; Rupert.

GENERATION LESS

How do we go from Generation Stressed to what could perhaps be termed Generation Blessed? Since ‘X’, one negative term after another has described the rising generation; how can we break the circle, and at last create a new generation that is… blessed?

That we – and in fact not just children, but all of us (http://society.guardian.co.uk/children/story/0,,1871309,00.html ), are Generation Stressed, is scarcely to be denied (for the uptodate evidence, see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6897485.stm ). To verify this, just ask yourself when the last time was that, when you asked someone how they are, they replied, “Yeah, just fine; really relaxed. Totally unstressed.” For many of us, I suspect it was sometime in the 1970s…

I want to propose a way forward. I propose that the way to start to de-stress, is to see that one is actually rich if one has much less than virtually all of us in a country like contemporary Britain have. We can be rich, while living in every sense within our means; and if we live with less, we will have a chance of turning the tide, and showering blessings thereby on our children and their children. We can create Generation Blessed, only by first becoming Generation Less.

‘Generation Less’. At first blush, it can sound negative. But being taught that what we need is more more more is what has made us Generation Stressed in the first place. The cult of consumerism is a treadmill – what used to be called the rat race – that terminally stresses individuals, families, cultures, and ecosystems. I stress “terminally”. The ultimate stress we are under is that cloud hanging over us in the form of a climate that we are changing such that human civilisation itself is under threat. Worse than the threat of non-state terrorism, or of the mushroom cloud, or of the exhaustion of natural resources (according now even to the FT — see www.thepeakist.com/world-will-face-oil-crunch-%e2%80%98in-five-years%e2%80%99/ — ‘Peak Oil’, which will lead to an economic crisis and to a speeding up of dangerous climate change – see my http://oneworldcolumn.org/132.html — may be less than five years away), the abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is the ultimate stressor, the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. Our endless more is coming back to haunt us. More: to consume us. With each more throwaway ‘good’ that is produced, we add another brick to the CO2 wall that we are throwing up around our planetary home, and bring terminal over-heat one step closer.

It is the rising tide materialism and consumerism that has brought us to this literal rising tide. Generation Stressed is literally a product of ‘the affluent society’. The way out of stress is through: less.

But less needn’t translate to lack.

Because: Less really is more.

Less stuff. Less waste. Less junk. Less impatience. Less marketing. Less competitiveness. Less working hours. Less travelling. Less carbon emissions. Less fear. Less mental illness. And yes: less speed, and less choice. The speed of life and the amount of choice we are faced with are making us ill and distressed. Just as they make the planet burn.

We’re not talking about hairshirts and deprivation. We’re talking in fact about a better way to live (www.marklynas.org/2007/7/10/a-better-way-to-live ). The convenient truth of the matter is that the very things we need to do in order to stop climate catastrophe are the very things we need to do in order to become happier. Happiness comes not from affluence, not from material goods, but from the recreation of community, security, and simple human kindness. As we relocalise our society, as we reverse the neo-liberal globalisation that has brought us to the edge of catastrophe, we will willy-nilly recreate the seeds of well-being that have been withering since roughly the 70s.

Generation Blessed can come to us. But only if we take the road of Less.

We know that, in the true sense of the words, less is more. So let’s seize the day:

Let’s be Generation Less.

Norwich: congestion capital of the East

The Conservative County Council in Norfolk, in their desperation to fund their beloved Northern Development Road, are looking at all options, including congestion charging. Therefore, a pilot study is being undertaken into congestion charging for Norwich. This is only a study, mind you, and the results aren’t in yet. Nevertheless, the old Parties have all decided that they don’t have to wait for the results…
Some time ago, the Conservative Party in Norwich itself came out all populist guns blazing against the possibility of a congestion charge for Norwich. The LibDems then said that they didn’t think there was enough congestion in and around Norwich to justify a congestion charge being looked into. Now Labour have come out and said exactly the same thing as the LibDems (Norwich Evening News, front page, yesterday (Monday)).
This morning, I travelled out to Easton College, to speak to the students there about dangerous climate change and what we can do about it (e.g. encourage people to drive a little less…). I was travelling out from Norwich, just as the morning rush was travelling in. I have to tell you, I was gob-smacked by the appalling volume of traffic on the B1108 (Earlham Road / Watton Road). Traffic was backed up all the way — a continuous queue — from the Outer Ring Road to well beyond the A47, not far short of Barford. To those who don’t know the area: that is about 5 miles of continuous queued traffic.
To those who say that Norwich is not congested enough to even merit studying a possible congestion charge for the city, I say: please spend a few minutes on the Earlham Road or Watton Road, at rush hour…
Anyone who thinks that Norwich is not a congested place is living in a different universe from the one that I and all those thousands of drivers are living in!

Be prepared: An inspector calls…

So, as predicted in my post of the 5th, no election after all.
This long false alarm, this false inspector calling, has helped all us politicians get prepared… and hopefully that will put us in the Green Party in really good stead for when it really is next time, in 2009 (or 10).
We’ll have more candidates in place, and we’ll be in much better shape to win a Parliamentary seat in Brighton, and maybe in Norwich and Lewisham and Oxford, too.
So overall, I’m pleased by Brown’s announcement. It would have been exciting to have had a crack at kicking some Labour MPs out; but another couple of years will significantly increase our chances of success.

Will it be the Tories or the Greens who offer ‘Green leadership’?

Events, dear Prime Minister, events… Cameron’s unexpectedly impressive polls-bouncing Conference speech – on the back of a ‘populist’ (though appallingly regressive) pledge to give tens of thousands of pounds to the children of dead near-millionaires – seems to have changed the landscape somewhat. The prospects of a November poll are receding a little. Unless Labour’s private polling over the next few days indicates a recovery of the Labour lead to at least 7 points (which remains altogether possible), I now believe that Brown will probably not go this year.
And what of the content of Cameron’s speech? The line that struck me the most was this: “what we must be is the party of sensible, Green leadership, and that is exactly what we are going to stay”. “Sensible” is code for “not actually proposing to do very much”. But it must nevertheless worry every Green Party member that Cameron – the Leader the Party of the super-rich and of John Redwood – can so much as talk about the Conservatives as exhibiting “Green leadership”, and seemingly get away with it. The Conservatives as Green leaders is a total joke; it’s the equivalent of New Labour claiming to be true socialists or the LibDems claiming not to be opportunists… But Cameron does get away with it, because of how invisible the Green Party is on the national media stage. (That we have some local and regional media impact where we are strong does not gainsay our deeply-worrying lack of national coverage, at the very time when ‘our issues’ are more prominent on the national stage than they have ever been.) We were quoted in none of the newspaper articles which quoted this line from Cameron’s speech.
And, while it is true that there is naturally bias against us in the corporate media, it is inaccurate sour grapes for us to blame the corporate media alone for this lack of coverage of the Green Party. The truth is that, despite real strength in our top target areas (we are at last truly in contention, in seats like Brighton Pavillion and Norwich South), we are in low single-figures in the national polls, and we still lack a single MP. We need to give the media a reason to take us seriously, so that they start conveying our message to the public for us for free, as they already do with Cameron’s vapidities. If it is after all going to be 2-3 years before we can get our first MPs, then we need to take maximum advantage of that period. We need to show – now– that we are serious about taking power in the existing system, which is of course what we are going to have to do before we can transform that system.
If the Green Party is to have any hope of competing on an equal footing with Cameron, Brown and Campbell, then we need to be ready to _show_ the public our leadership. The first symbol of this must be for us to move to having a national Leader. When someone like Caroline Lucas is empowered to respond directly, on an equal footing, to Cameron, then we might start seeing the kind of poll bounce that the Conservatives right now are delighting in. I say to my fellow Greens ((and to the rest of you, dear readers: do join! Just click the button at left to get started!…)): Lets be the Party of radical Green leadership — lets show that that is what we are going to stay, by giving our Leader the tools to do the job. Radical policy prescriptions are what is sensible, at this tipping-point in history. Let’s give ourselves a shot at power, when the world desperately needs us to have that power. Let’s lead, proudly and without apology.

No more blood for oil: looking back at the Falklands

Everyone now acknowledges that the Iraq war was about oil. But what about the Falklands conflict? At the time, a few small voices put forward the oil hypothesis: that vast oil deposits surrounded the Falklands/Malvinas and that that, rather than the alleged ‘paramountcy’ of the wishes of a couple of thousand vaguely-English sheep farmers, explained the Conservatives’ risky decision to go to war to recover them. Those voices were shouted down in an outraged and gushing chorus of patriotic fervour that engulfed the country, cheerled by the ‘Gotcha’ press. But now, 25 years on, it is plain to see (check out for example www.guardian.co.uk/oil/story/0,,2174615,00.html ) that those voices were right. The British government couldn’t care less for a couple of thousand of distant nobodies – just contrast the fate of the Chagos islanders, who stood in the way of our imperial designs, with that of the Falkland islanders, whose presence fortuitously assisted those same designs.

An ugly dotted line of savage militarist oil and gas grabs connects the Falklands war with the Iraq debacle (going by way of the 1st Gulf War and the attack on Afghanistan). Next time our soldiers’ lives and our own security from non-state terrorism, — not to mention the lives of millions of Hispanics, Arabs – or Persians – are recklessly put at risk for the sake of a shot at the very same black sticky stuff whose over-combustion is over-heating our fragile Earth, let us rise up, one and all, and say to our home-grown oil-addicted empire of short-sighted selfishness: Never again. We won’t be fooled again.

Who will lead on combatting dangerous climate change?

Listening to Radio 4’s _Today_ programme this morning, I had some trouble digesting my breakfast; I couldn’t help laughing over the repeated claims from Conservatives at Blackpool that their’s is “the green party”. What a total joke. For in fact, this Conference has already seen them junking most of their headline green-leaning policy-recommendations from Zac Goldsmith’s ‘Quality of Life’ policy group. John Redwood’s triumphant ‘Competitiveness’ agenda is clearly winning the day. Poor Zac must already be wondering when to return to the real Green Party. If you want to Go Green, you’ve got to VOTE Green. There is only one Green Party…

No-one can take seriously the fantasy that the number 1 Party of big business, the Tories, would truly have a green agenda. It is more interesting to turn one’s attention to the claims of Blair, Brown, and Brown’s most likely successor (if he manages somehow to blow the upcoming General Election), David Miliband, to have something to say about dangerous climate change. Opinion polls show that the populace do not trust the claims of Cameron (with his bicycle and his chauffeur-driven Lexus riding quietly along behind the bike) to be serious about the environment. But an alarming number do believe that New Labour’s commitment to tackling dangerous climate change is more than just spin, more than just dangerous hot air…

I am especially concerned that David Miliband has lyingly spun his government’s ‘achievements’ on dangerous climate change, and thereby lulled the populace into a false sense of security: such that most people don’t even realise that our CO2 emissions here in Britain are still going remorselessly up, each year. Miliband has misleadingly claimed on numerous occasions that the fact that the government is perhaps going to meet the Kyoto target in narrow technical terms implies that it is actually reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. But this is simply not the case.
Milliband has claimed that the UK had achieved major cuts in greenhouse gases since 1990 (incredibly, he has often cited alleged figures of Britain being on course to achieve 25% reductions in CO2 emissions by 2012). The figures that Miliband and his successors at DEFRA are using leave out embodied energy, the quite proper inclusion of which would make a
complete nonsense of any such notions (Britain is in fact ‘exporting’ its carbon emissions to China).
Even on the most generous figures available to the government (not only excluding embodied energy but also excluding international transport — see below), CO2 has more or less flatlined since Labour came to power, rising in recent years, and thus showing an overall
small rise and is only slightly (a few percentage points) below 1990 (Kyoto baseline) levels. The greenhouse gas “basket”, which Mr. Milliband and other Ministers are probably referring to is down more significantly on 1990 … BUT this measure EXCLUDES AVIATION AND SHIPPING !! When those are included, there has been little or no reduction even since 1990.
And in fact, there has been and remains a further systematic massive under-estimate of Britain‘s contribution to CO2 emissions from air travel, because only aircraft taking off from Britain are counted. That sounds reasonable, UNTIL ONE NOTICES that almost 70% of the passengers taking off and landing in Britain are Britons. I.e. Defra ought to be attributing 70% — not 50% — of the emissions of planes taking off from and landing in Britain to the UK. This makes a huge difference.
Between 1990 and 2003, estimated CO2 emissions from aviation rose by 90%, a staggering increase. And even then the government stats do _not_ take into account the full effects of ‘radiative forcing’ — the increased global heating effect of emissions at high altitude, with the cocktail of gases and water vapour that planes emit.

So New Labour’s claims as to its record on emissions are at best very partial and very deeply misleading. If the full effects of the increase in aviation, avidly promoted by this government, are included, then it is quite possible that there has been a significant _increase_ in global warming gas emissions due to Britain since 1990, and there _certainly_ has since 1997. A long long way from what Mr. Miliband and other leading New Labourites have claimed in print, repeatedly. For how can Britain possibly be “on course” to achieve the substantial reductions that they claims, in just a few years from now, if in fact there has been an increase in emissions, since New Labour came to power?!

[ p.s. Shamefully, Gordon Brown didn’t even mention global over-heat in his speech closing Labour Party Conference last week. But, in case you think that David Miliband would be likely to be any better, the following newspaper article is of potential interest. It sets out some of the ways in which even the Labour Party doesn’t really think that Miliband, behind the spin, is green…Perhaps this might help explain why Miliband was, in a surprise to many, moved on from DEFRA, after Mr. Brown took over?…: http://www.sundayherald.com/news/heraldnews/display.var.1300488.0.labour_green_group_seeks_to_oust_pronuclear_miliband.php ]