Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Green Party members vote for new leadership model

The results are out in the ballot on changing the leadership model of the Green Party of England and Wales. Members voted by more than the required two thirds majority to change the Constitution of the Party so that Male and Female Principal Speakers are replaced by a Leader and Deputy Leader (or Co-leaders if a balanced ticket is fielded in the leadership election and wins on that basis). I have to say I am disappointed at this, but nevertheless, radical Greens will have to live with the vote and try and pull together with those members that voted Yes or abstained but hold similar views to Green Empowerment on structural and political issues other than the leader issue (i.e. those who voted for a Leader as a figurehead to make us more visible in the media, but seek to deepen and improve the democratic and anti-hierarchical structures) I am convinced the majority of those voting Yes did so on these grounds, not because they want a conventional leadership model and further erosion of the radical structures and policies of the party as a minority of the Yes Campaign appear to be eager for. Those who voted No must pick themselves up, dust themselves down and make strong alliances with those who voted Yes or abstained, but want to defend and improve a radical, left-of-centre, member-based party.

The vote was as follows :

Turnout 3605 48.3%

Yes 2634 73.07%

No 963 26.71%

Spoilt papers 8

It goes without saying that there will now be an election. Members will need to think very carefully about whether the people they elect as leader and deputy or co-leaders are fully committed to the vision of the party put forward by Green Empowerment which won support even where the Green Empowerment position on the specific leadership model did not. Beyond this of course, normal internal politics in the Party will resume without so much of the artificial division created by the leadership issue over the last six months.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Free Gillian Gibbons!

The Liverpool teacher accused of "insulting religion" by running a poll amongst her very young pupils to name a teddy and accepting their suggestion of "Muhammad" has been sentenced to 15 days in jail by a Sudanese court.

This is better than the lashes, fine and/or six months in jail we were led to believe might be given out, but still a disgraceful attack on an innocent teacher, doing no more than what many primary school teachers do in Britain every week. The innocence of what happened shows up the injustice of what has happened. The most the teacher could be accused of would be a lack of cultural awareness, surely not a crime.

We should not allow this case to be used by extremists who want to whip up communal tensions. It seems clear that there are political axes being ground and Gillian's case could well be being used as a pawn in a political/psychological and propaganda battle. She should be released and allowed to return to England as soon as she wishes.

Here is the Amnesty International 2007 report on Sudan.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

No To Heathrow Expansion

Gordon Brown's intention to expand Heathrow underlines the Government's short-sighted approach to combating climate change.

Jean Lambert MEP joined Greenpeace protestors outside the CBI annual conference earlier this week to call for an end to the Heathrow expansion plans.

Responding to Gordon Brown's speech, Jean Lambert said:

"Gordon Brown's intention to expand Heathrow underlines the Government's short-sighted approach to combating climate change. Building a third runway will undermine efforts to reduce UK carbon emissions and the Mayor's attempts to improve London's failing air quality.

"The Government appears to be ignoring the many Londoners who will be directly affected by the expansion and is instead jumping to conclusions before the public consultation has barely begun. What we need is more investment in rail transport to give travellers an affordable alternative to short-haul flights."

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Weekly Links - 26/11/07

I have delayed these links from yesterday due to the Australian election post.

Green Party of England & Wales
First of all this week the Green Party of England and Wales Referendum on leadership models enters its final stage this week. The Guardian give their take on it here, whilst Red Pepper have a debate between Shahrar Ali and Rupert Read and a poll on the subject.

Speaking of Red Pepper they currently are also carrying stories on the IWCA in Oxford and the Respect situation.

Biofuels are currently a hot topic on the Ecosocialist International Network E-list and tomorrow sees a demonstration at a Biofuel Finance and Investment Meeting in London. More details here.
I noticed on that leaflet a link to this blog of radical cartoons that is worth a look -

A National Day of Local Actions on Biofuels is scheduled for Saturday 26th January 2008. More info on Biofuels at Biofuelwatch.

Rank and File Organisation
I came across this Rank and File UK Building Workers blog this week.

West Papua
On Friday this week there is a demo and film showing on West Papua in London. More info here.

Finally this week, the weekend sees the 20th World Aids Day on December 1st. This year is also the 25th anniversary of the Terrence Higgins Trust, the organisation named after one of the early victims of the disease. More from the Green LGBT group here.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bush's Australian Ally Defeated!

The good news from Australia is that George Bush's main man in Australia, the right-wing PM John Howard of the Liberal Party has been soundly defeated in the country's general election.
Whatever the direction of the new government in Australia (and in Britain we know all about not putting our faith in "Labour" governments to deliver)the fact is that the Australian people have voted for change, and what is more have voted for parties that have put climate change and social justice at the heart of their programmes. The Australian Green Party have fought a good election by most accounts - let us hope as the electoral picture becomes clearer that they may be able to bring their influence to bear to get the incoming Rudd Government to make good on their limited, (compared to the Greens, but still a vast improvement on the previous administration) promises on Climate Change.
Internationally this result will hopefully mean further isolation for the Neo-cons and more difficulty for them in pursuing their goal of war with Iran.
So, no illusions of a bright new dawn, but definitely a more positive picture internationally than before.
A good early report by Takver of Sydney Indymedia here.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ecosocialist International Network

The Ecosocialist International Network (E.I.N.) continues to develop in a positive way and bring together more ecosocialists on an international basis.

The Network now has a website and an active and growing e-mail list. I have added the website to my links column. The website has the original ecosocialist manifesto and a growing links page (which includes a link to this humble blog!)

A priority for the Network at the moment is promotion of the international day of action on climate change scheduled for December 8th 2007.

I am pleased to report that I have just got hold of the new, paperback 2nd edition of ecosocialist writer Joel Kovel's book The Enemy of Nature. Here is a review of the book from the FEASTA website, by Green Party of England and Wales Male Principal Speaker Derek Wall. Coincidentally, FEASTA - (The Foundation For The Economics of Sustainability) had its' AGM today. Keep up the good work, folks.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Young European Greens Oppose Return of Nuclear Power

The following is a news release from FYEG - the Federation on Young European Greens.

The Federation of Young European Greens (FYEG) participated last weekend in the celebrations (in Rome) of 20 years without nuclear energy in the transalpine country of Italy. The event, organized by Giovani Verdi (Italian Young Greens) was supported by more than 10.000 people from all over the country and by activists coming from different countries in Europe.

Marina Barbalata, Spokesperson of FYEG, comments: “In 1987, Italy voted against the use of nuclear energy sources. 20 years later, opinion polls and the high level of mobilisation in last weekends’ demonstrations show that Italian citizens’ strong feelings against atomic energy have not changed. Hence, there is no point in trying to re-open the debate and if that appears to happen it is merely due to powerful economic interests that do not care of neither public opinion nor citizens’ safety. Furthermore, it is cynical and thus unacceptable that nuclear lobbies use climate change as a pretext for the use of atomic energy. It is a fact that we are not speaking at all about a clean energy source, especially considering the risks of a catastrophe and abuse for criminal purposes. The fact is that so far there are no solutions for the safe disposal of radioactive waste, let alone the menace it poses in terms of potential atomic weapons proliferation. Assuming nuclear energy is the solution for climate change is similar to putting a patch to an open wound – it will turn an existing problem into an even bigger one.”

Rafi Korn, National coordinator of Giovani Verdi and Project Coordinator of FYEG, shows his satisfaction to the positive response to the event. However, he underlines: “Climate change and nuclear energy are both global threats and therefore we must take a global approach to both. We can not just adopt the Nimby attitude (Not in my backyard), and pretend that it is all over when we have accomplished having our nearest region free of nuclear power plants. Moving power plants to Eastern Europe under the camouflage of an economic injection towards development, as illustrated by the cases of the Mochovce and Belene power plants in Slovakia and Bulgaria, is not the solution. In order to be completely safe from the nuclear threat, a worldwide ban is required.”

Marc Giménez, Campaign Coordinator of FYEG, also points out: “There are economic and political aspects in addition to the social and ecological criteria that cannot be overlooked when talking about nuclear and energy policies in the EU in general. First of all, nuclear power plants can only provide around 15% of the EU’s energy demand, thus it is in no case a complete solution, but a merely partial one. Therefore, the risks taken by using atomic energy are unjustified in comparison to the solutions it provides. Moreover, it does not solve the external dependence on raw materials. There is little uranium found on EU territory and the uranium resources on the Globe are concentrated in specific regions. This can very well lead to future geopolitical tensions, as oil and gas resources cause today. Renewable energies on the other hand are unlimited and there is plenty of accessibility to them. Thus, it is clear that renewables are the only sustainable energy form of the future.”

For images of the Rome demonstration:

FYEG is currently running a campaign against climate change and the fight against a nuclear renaissance is one of the major issues covered

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

HMRC Discs Fiasco Should Seal The Fate Of ID Card Proposals

For all that is being said about the current fiasco over the missing discs containing personal details of 25 million Britons, one thing comes out loud and clear - this should (though with the current government who knows?) seal the fate of the unpopular and expensive national ID card proposals. The following is from the NO2ID website :

It's hard to know whether to laugh or cry. The cabinet insists we should trust them to manage everyone's life through a National Identity Register. Meanwhile HMRC has mislaid discs containing the names, dates of birth, national insurance numbers and bank details of 25 million British people — more than seven million families.

The package was sent in the state's internal post — and was neither recorded nor registered. The value to organised crime of the information on the two "lost" discs is incalculable — but certainly runs into hundreds of millions of pounds. The government, of course, blames junior officials for a failure to follow protocols.

But it simply should not be possible for junior staff — or the chancellor himself — to collect or copy such details in one place. That it is, is a direct result of the government's obsession with centralised databases and its contempt for citizens' privacy.
Something positive may come of it, though. With your help, NO2ID can use this a clear illustration of the real danger in state control of personal identity to defeat the ID scheme quickly.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Education : Fighting The Neo-Liberal Assault

Workers in France are today stepping up their attempts to defend themselves against the gathering neo-liberal assault of Sarko, whose attacks are being given the full support of the right-wing media apparatus. Students are already in struggle, along with railworkers, joined today by other public sector workers and teachers. Sarkozy's attack on pension rights and the all-too familiar attempts by the media to set private sector workers against public sector ("Why can't they have as crap conditions as we have?")are just the latest stage in the global neo-liberal assault as manifested in Europe.

Meanwhile in Britain the policy auction, whereby the two main neo-liberal parties try to outbid each other in their attempts to break up and privatise the remaining elements of what could be democratically controlled and fairly provided public services continue. The Tories have announced their latest wheeze - a variation on their trojan-horse mutualism/co-operativism that I commented on previously. The Tories want to give "parents" (no prizes for guessing what sort of parents!) the right to set up their own independent schools - funded by the tax payer. New Labour, for their part are quite miffed at this, being as it is an attempt to upstage their own corporatist break-up policy - City Academies - whereby religious evangelicals of various stripes and entrepeneurial "evangelicals" for free market dogma are given the right to get their sticky fingers into local education.

The net effect is of course the same - to impoverish and deprive the remaining locally controlled schools and prepare the way for the final destruction of any potential for locally controlled and fairly resourced education. A small example of this process is the policy on exclusions - City Academies are allowed to break free of the penalties that normal schools now suffer for expelling disruptive pupils and are allowed to expel far more frequently. And where do these disruptive pupils end up? Result - a downward spriral, hardly a "level playing field". Education should not be a field for commercial or religious exploitation or competition, but a field of common endeavour where the interests of young people and their communities should come first.

In a way we should be grateful that this is all so blatant. Both Tories and Labour are now acting quite blatantly in class interests - the interests of the ruling class and their ideological and philosophical props in the churches and "entrepeneurial" communities. The French are showing at least part of the way it can be fought - through militant workplace organisation and action. We should not be afraid to put forward our own demands - we are not in the position of simply defending the current inadequately resourced and over-examined education system in the UK. Education should become more democratic and accountable - with the involvement not of religious zealots, big business and empowered selfish elements of the middle classes - but of pupils, teachers and the whole local community.

For those in East Anglia there might be chance to look at these issues at a meeting organised by Norwich and District Trades Council at 7.30 on Tuesday November 27th. They have Bill Greenshields, Vice President of the teachers union, the NUT, speaking on "The Future of State Education" at the British Legion Club, Aylsham Road, Norwich NR3 2HF.

Elsewhere the opportunity to organise for a more general fightback against neo-liberalism is given by the first Midlands meeting of the new National Shop Stewards Network. (NSSN) This is from 1.30 to 5.30pm on Saturday, November 24th at the Gallery Room, Birmingham and Midlands Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham 3. (The venue is 10 minutes from Snow Hill and New St Stations.)

Meanwhile, the IWW (Industrial Workers Of The World) are beginning to organise militants in the eduction sector in the UK through their IU 620 organising efforts. They have set up a UK web page here.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

Weekly Links - 18/11/2007

A whole range of interesting links for you this week.

Civil Liberties

First up this week, the news that Amnesty International have spoken out on the proposed extension of detention without trial in the UK.
The proposed 56 day detention (a doubling of the current limit)is condemned as being internment by another name.
The effect of internment in the Six Counties was disastrous. The introduction of similar policies by the back door to attempt to deal with the current security situation in Britain is likely to be similarly damaging to community relations and a recruiting tool for the extremists.
More sceptical views on the "anti-terror" policies of the UK government at CAMPACC (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities).

Human Rights

Green Party/Green Left supporter Peter Tatchell on Indonesia and Uganda -

Here, Peter interviews Indonesian Human Rights Campaigners Carmel Budiardjo and Adriana Siti Adhiati.

Here, on the Times Online, Peter looks at the situation in Uganda

Uganda is drifting towards dictatorship, just like Zimbabwe a decade ago. The Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, is a new Robert Mugabe in the making, a budding tyrant who is subverting democracy and human rights (according to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch) through voter intimidation, hounding opposition politicians, detention without trial, torture, extrajudicial killings, media censorship, corruption, suppression of protests, homophobic witch-hunts, and crackdowns on universities and trade unions.

And how is he rewarded for these abuses? By being given the honour of hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kampala in two weeks' time.


Greenpeace have also been active in Indonesia - against the destruction of rain forest for palm oil plantations.

The protest came less than three weeks before a UN climate change meeting on the resort island of Bali, where delegates from 189 countries will debate ways to slow down global warming, including the impact of dwindling tropical rainforests.

The group's Rainbow Warrior ship dropped anchor next to the MT Westama, which was set to leave for India from Dumai in Sumatra island, one of the Southeast Asian nation's main ports handling palm oil.

Greenpeace have also been targetting climate-unfriendly activities in Australia after a report exposed the country as the biggest per capita carbon polluter.

The Greenpeace protest came after a report by the US-based Carbon Monitoring for Action database (CARMA), found Australia was the world's biggest carbon emitter per capita, and ranked seventh in terms of overall carbon emissions.

Arms Trade

The reverberations continue from the landmark ruling where the Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House were granted permission to bring a full judicial review hearing against the UK Government's decision to cut short a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into alleged corruption by BAE Systems in recent arms deals with Saudi Arabia.

There are still two dates left in the speaking tour on this subject - in Edinburgh on Wednesday 28th November and Newcastle on Thursday 29th November - more details here.

The full judicial review hearing has now been scheduled for some time
after 28 January 2008, and is expected to last two days. The hearing will
not be about the allegations that BAE ran a 'slush fund' to influence
officials for its Saudi arms contracts, but will consider only whether the
UK Government acted illegally in ending the SFO investigation into these

In the meantime (but probably before the end of this year), a further
Court hearing will take place to prepare for the judicial review. At this
Directions Hearing, the Court will rule on matters such as:

- the extent to which the Government may apply for Public Interest
Immunity Certificates to prevent public disclosure of the Government's

- what, if any, safeguards may be put in place (such as the appointment of
security cleared Special Advocates to represent CAAT and The Corner House
in the event of any closed hearing);

- the full details of the Protective Costs Order awarded to CAAT and The
Corner House in principle


Amongst interesting blogs at the moment Derek Wall reports on managing to address both conferences of the opposing parts of Respect this weekend.

Meanwhile the Socialist Unity Blog report on the Labour Representation Committee conference.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

Latest IPCC Report - Urgent Warnings

The latest Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) report, the AR4 Synthesis Report, is issued today.

450 delegates have been working during the week on the adoption of the Synthesis Report at the 27th session of the IPCC in Valencia. The IPCC has three working groups working in different areas - I. The science of climate change, II. Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and III. Mitigation of Climate Change. Their annual reports were published earlier and the Synthesis Report brings the whole thing together.

The early reports of what is said indicate that the synthesis offers dire warnings that we may be facing "abrupt and irreversible" changes and impacts.

Among the report's top-line conclusions are that climate change is "unequivocal", that humankind's emissions of greenhouse gases are more than 90% likely to be the main cause, and that impacts can be reduced at reasonable cost.

The synthesis summary finalised late on Friday strengthens the language of those earlier reports with a warning that climate change may bring "abrupt and irreversible" impacts.

Such impacts could include the fast melting of glaciers and species extinctions.

"Approximately 20-30% of species assessed so far are likely to be at increased risk of extinction if increases in global average temperature exceed 1.5-2.5C (relative to the 1980-1999 average)," the summary concludes.


Ban Ki-moon of the UN has said that we are approaching a tipping point and there must be action now -

"We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy.

"Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."

The report is suggesting a probable temperature rise of between 1.8 and 4% and a possible rise of between 1.1 and 6.4%.

This all makes the events planned for early next month all the more important. Here, on You Tube is George Monbiot talking at the meeting in London on 8th November about the situation and the urgency of action.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

A Weekend Of Decisive Events?

A weekend of decisive events looms for Britain. However, most of them are interesting in that they seem all important to the participants, but less important to those outside their circles.

Firstly the football - Scotland take on Italy, which will probably decide whether they go any further in the Euro 2008 competition, whilst the match between Israel and Russia could well seal the fate of England, denying them qualification or giving them a faint glimmer of hope in the lead up to their match against Croatia. For their part, England have the minor distraction of a friendly game against Austria tonight. Meanwhile Northern Ireland take on Denmark and Wales play the Republic. The press guillotine awaits Mr McClaren if the result in Tel Aviv is not favourable.

Turning to matters less sporting, this weekend sees the dramatic climax of the veritable split in Respect, The Unity Coalition. Saturday will see rival conferences of the SWP dominated John Rees-led Respect at Westminster University and George Galloway, Salma Yaqoob et al's Respect Renewal nearby at the Bishopsgate Institute. Green Party Male Principal Speaker and Green Left member Derek Wall has been invited to speak at the Renewal event and was also seeking to speak at the other conference. Derek would be going to stress the importance of working together on key issues like electoral reform, the war and climate change and in support of a no compromise approach on the rights of women and the LGBT community. The Greens remain open to working together with the rest of the left on all the key issues.

Also this weekend, the battered fragments of the Labour Left are brought together at the Conway Hall under the banner of the Labour Representation Committee. Again, it was encouraging to see the latest articles of John McDonnell and others speaking about the importance of building a broad extra-parliamentary left coalition on the key issues of our time.

In my humble opinion, the Left in Britain must focus on the important issues and unity in action in workplaces and communities (including building workplace organisation) - and meaningful, coherent, political organisation will develop from this, not the other way around.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Save Our Post Offices!

Demonstrations are continuing around the country against the proposed wave of Post Office closures (here is a report on a protest in the Nottingham area)

77 Post Offices are to be closed in the East Midlands in January, jeopardising jobs and leaving vulnerable people with further to travel and more cost and inconvenience. 2500 Post Offices are to close across the country, bringing the viability of the National Network into question.

A demonstration is planned for this Friday, 16th November, at 1pm at the Post Office National Administration Building in Chesterfield. (Gather at 1pm at Future Walk, West Bars, Chesterfield, Derbyshire).

We need to defend this vital public service!

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A message for Green Party members in England and Wales

The Green Party of England and Wales referendum on the leadership structure of the party is now well under way. This blog is unashamedly in the Green Empowerment camp (against the proposal). I am pleased to post the following message to GPEW members from some supporters of Green Empowerment who have given many years service to the Party:

Dear member

If you haven’t yet voted in the referendum on having a single Green Party Leader, then we’d like to urge you to vote NO.

We are all committed to seeing the Green Party’s support and influence grow stronger, and we dedicate much of our lives to making that happen. The Green Party is making real progress. We have doubled our number of councillors in the last four years, through the dedication and hard work of local activists. But we believe that to adopt a more conventional structure, with a single Party Leader, would be a step backwards - abandoning the distinctiveness that attracts many of our most committed supporters and party workers.

We are all being told that many people outside the Party believe we should have a single Leader. But do those people actually support what the Green Party is trying to achieve? And do you think they appreciate the sort of obstacles that stand in our way, and the levels of commitment it takes to overcome them

In the early nineties the Party changed its structure because we were told that media attention and success would follow if we did. But the promised success and increased profile didn’t come, and over the next few years the Party grew weaker rather than stronger - losing members as it did so.

We believe passionately in the Green Party's commitment to participatory democracy and that we must actively demonstrate a model of collective leadership to wider society. The massive problems facing humanity can only be addressed by empowering people to contribute to the solutions we so desperately need - not by deference to distant leaders.

Those people who most want to see the fundamental changes that are needed to create a Green society, are those who are most opposed to conventional power structures. Over 300 members have now signed a petition against the current proposals, including many elected members, party officers, activists and new members.

The Green Party is widely respected for having principles that we’re prepared to stand up for. Let’s not start throwing them away.

Please vote NO

Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member, Southwark Councillor and former GPEx Chair
Derek Wall, Principal Speaker
Penny Kemp, former Executive Chair
Jonathan Dixon, Scarborough Councillor and lead Euro candidate for Yorkshire & Humber
Romayne Phoenix, Lewisham Councillor
Dr Shahrar Ali, London Policy Coordinator
Peg Alexander, former Principal Speaker
Andy D'Agorne, York Councillor
Margaret Wright, former Principal Speaker

For more information, please visit:

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Keep Our NHS Public - Forthcoming Event

With the festive season looming, there do not seem to be as many events organised by Keep Our NHS Public and other groups defending and seeking to improve NHS provision over the next few months.

However, in the Midlands there is a Keep Our NHS Public public meeting in Nottingham on Thursday 22nd November. This is at the International Community Centre (ICC), 61B, Mansfield Road at 7.30pm. They are hoping to have Alan Simpson, one of the greenest of the remaining Labour left MPs speaking. Alan has announced that he is standing down at the next election to devote more time to working on environmental and social issues and the key question of climate change. (I am sure he would be welcome in the Green Party!)

Meanwhile, more evidence has emerged of the indisputable link between poverty and chronic ill health.

People living in South Tyneside are 62% more at risk of hospital admission for lung disease than the UK average.

This was followed by Hull and Barking and Dangenham in London.

Affluent areas, mostly in the south of England, were least likely to be affected.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Weekly links - 11/11/2007

Given the date (Remembrance Sunday) it seems appropriate to start this week's links with peace-related topics.


Action is planned at Aldermaston Atomic Weapons Establishment (the site of the first big anti-nuclear demos in Britain nearly 50 years ago)this week. A blockade is planned for Monday 12th November - more details at Block The Builders website. This is from the Block The Builders website -

The government published its white paper on the future of Britain's nuclear weapons on Monday 4 December 2006. This decision was made without any public debate.

The building work at Aldermaston continued throughout the so-called "debate"; millions are being invested in new facilities. Right now, work on the Orion laser - a key facility for the future of Britain's WMD project - is well underway.

AWE is now reported to be developing a new nuclear warhead. The new device, designated the High Surety Warhead is understood to be under development at AWE in conjunction with the US who want modernised "failsafe" nuclear firepower for its own submarine-launched Trident missiles.

Our government lies habitually and persistently to cover up its crimes and pretends it is operating a democracy. It then considers itself fit to bomb other countries for their lack of so called democracy. Government gets away with its crimes with active assistance from the police, our armed forces and private enterprise looking to line its pockets.

The development of new nuclear weapons and systems is illegal, immoral and is already proven to be provoking a 'new cold war'.

It is unimaginable to allow the crooks and criminals involved to operate and profit from such behaviour unchallenged. If you are not able to take direct action to confront the criminals and disrupt their profits please join us in support. There are many non-arrestable roles in the Block the Builders campaign which always need filling!


From the nuclear threat to another major threat - the looming oil crisis. The film A Crude Awakening was on show around the UK this week. It was reviewed in the summer here and here.


A recent book release was Francis Beckett's The Great City Academy Fraud. This is a very timely book outlining the implications of the New Labour stategy for education and local democracy. Fortunately, the book is not just doom and gloom but shows how people have fought back against the theft of local democratically controlled education.


Results have been declared in the 2007 Weblog Awards. The left blog of Neil Clark fought off strong competition to be voted best UK blog. I do not always agree with Clark - he sometimes allows anti-imperialist dogma to get in the way of basic humanitarianism - but I would rather he won through than the sometimes rather rabid rightists who have for too long dominated the UK blogosphere.
You can still vote for this blog however, over at the Daily (Maybe) where Jim is running a Top 20 Green Bloggers poll.


I mentioned Jim Jay's blog earlier, and also Beckett's book on education - the two are brought together in Jim's recent post on the topic of education, with a range of interesting links and perceptive comment here.

An interesting guest post from Louise at the Socialist Unity blog on the private vultures circling the welfare state.

Finally this week a plug for the Green Party Trade Union Group blog - which carries photos of Green participation in last week's NHS demo in London.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Space News

It has been a while since I posted on Space related topics (for a run down on the stance of this blog on Space issues see here), but this week there are a number of stories worth reporting.

Spaceguard UK, the organisation working for action on near earth object threats have two interesting news pieces this week -
Firstly they report a grilling for NASA at the US House of Representatives over funding on addressing the threats from near earth object impacts. Secondly they report on an Italian team's assertion that a lake near the epicentre of the 1908 Tunguska Impact Explosion site in Siberia covers impact evidence from the event.

Also this week, it was reported that the British government had upgraded its' military satellite communications system with a launch of a new satellite from Kourou spaceport in French Guiana. Another satellite was launched in March. The new system will allegedly assist the remote controlled "Predator" drones as well as handling coded communications for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. This particular project of the military industrial complex has a price tag of £3.6 billion. It has been financed through a private company with City money, says the Morning Star. It is the UK's biggest, most expensive space venture to date - a pity, but no surprise, it had to be for warlike purposes. The platform is sinisterly or wittily (depending on your perspective) titled Skynet 5B - Skynet was the computer-based military network home of the evil anti-human artificial intelligence in the Terminator films. However, it has been the name for the British secure military communication
system since 1969 - so perhaps the joke was the other way round!
Brits are notoriously the villains of choice in Hollywood...still, it keeps British actors in work!

Meanwhile, in a historic event, China's first lunar module began orbiting the moon last week. Chinese officials have denied that they are in a "space race" with Japan, who have recently launched a similar module. India is said to be planning a mission for April next year. Meanwhile the Chinese have announced that they are looking at private funding for their space programme -
From Dragon Space -

China will accept private investment to help put a man and a rover on the moon, seeking outside funding for its expanding space ambitions, state media said Thursday. The funding opportunities will be open to "competent institutions and enterprises," the Shanghai Daily quoted a spokesman for the China National Space Administration as saying.

Things get closer to the prophetic Fall Revolution novels of Ken MacLeod every year!

Lastly today, for awe and wonder, some amazing stuff from NASA's Cassini-Huygens mission to Saturn and Titan can be found here.

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Reinstate Karen Reissmann!

Karen Reissmann, trade union activist in the mental health sector in Manchester has been sacked by management in what looks like a clear case of victimisation. Karen's "crime" has been to be too effective and outspoken in her opposition to privatization and cuts in the NHS.

A website has been set up by the campaign to get Karen reinstated -

Karen's Unison branch is solidly behind the strike action which began yesterday.

It is important that donations flood in from union branches, trades councils and individuals to sustain the action.

There is a solidarity rally next Wednesday 14th Nov at 7pm in Manchester and
a Demo in Manchester Peace Gardens, Sat 24th Nov, 1pm.

Messages of support can be sent to

Complaints can be sent to Sheila Foley, Chief Executive of the Health Trust

If the NHS Trust are allowed to get away with this it will set a dangerous precedent for all workers in the public sector. The IWW and the Green Party Trade Union Group have both started to mobilize support in their spheres of influence.

An injury to one is an injury to all!

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

UK Political "Cross Dressing" Continues

What journalists have termed "political cross dressing" seems to be continuing.

We have had “Vote Blue , Go Green”, and the Labour Party blatantly stealing the Tories’ right-populist Inheritance Tax policies, along with the Lib Dem’s Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne stealing policies from both sides and putting forward a slick Blair/Cameron-lite public image. Now it seems that the Tories are out to filch the co-operative history of the labour movement with Cameron announcing the foundation of a Conservative Co-operative organisation. The Tories see schools and other public sector bodies being taken over by groups of users and workers in co-operative ventures.

In one sense this is welcome – signalling further recognition from the Tories that Thatcherite dogma about the free market and cut-throat competition are still vote losers, and that generally people are better disposed towards local and co-operative solutions than options offered by rapacious transnational corporations.

On the other hand, there is the very great suspicion that, as with some of the New Labour enthusiasm for Arms Length Management companies and Housing Associations, the Tory move is still very much about attacking local democracy under a “libertarian”, anti-state guise, avoiding redistributive taxation and creating a transmission belt to the private sector. Piecemeal “cooperativisation” of public services without a specifically socialist or collectivist underpinning could weaken the remainder of services remaining under local or national democratic control and prepare the ground for a more general break up and privatisation. Also, as with Labour’s Academies one suspects that the move will be music to the ears of the various religious zealots that are itching to get more access to impressionable young minds through the dismemberment of state education. They would also, under the Tory plans, get their hands on public money to achieve their ends.

The fact remains that without powerful workplace and community commitment and structures designed to resist the encroachment of the privateers, then local mutual and co-operative ventures are vulnerable to be picked off one by one by the corporate vultures that now roam the planet in search of victims. All the signs from the major parties are that despite their localist and cooperativist rhetoric, when it comes to the crunch they support the vultures, who after all, are some of their major funders. Mutualism and Cooperatives could play a big role in the move to a fairer, more sustainable and more democratic society – but not whilst the corporations are unrestrained by either political or industrial opposition. Until that time the better ventures will be constantly under attack, or at risk of being co-opted into the neo-liberal project.

As ever, the eventual aim must be full spectrum workers’ control and self management!

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Support Burma Protests - Oppose Total Oil!

The following news is from campaigners against Total Oil - a company heavily involved in Burma.

This Wednesday Total Oil announce their third quarter financial results. Please join the weekly protest at Cavendish Square to help highlight Total's continued funding of the Burmese junta. Also a Day of Action is planned for Saturday 24 November, to ensure that Total realise that their involvement in Burma has not been forgotten by the British public (see below for details).


Wednesday 7 November
Protest at Total Oil HQ, 33 Cavendish Square, London
nearest tube: Oxford Circus

Thursday 8 November
5.00pm - 7.00pm
Protest at Total petrol station, Dorset House,
170-172 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5AR
nearest tube: Baker Street


Saturday 24 November
A day of action around the UK calling for Total Oil to stop funding the Burmese military regime and pull out of Burma. Protests are being organised at petrol stations around the UK.
Further details will be emailed soon. To find out more now, including details of how to get involved, go to


Waltham Forest Council 'invests in junta' (East London & West Essex Guardian)
The Green Party have uncovered details that Waltham Forest Council has invested part of its employee pension fund in Total Oil.

Activists in attack on financiers' profits from Sudan and Burma (The Observer)
Included in the story is information that European pension funds withdrew £110m from Total Oil in the past couple of weeks, due to Total's involvement in Burma.

Burma junta's exports lose sparkle (Financial Times)Despite Total and Chevron rejecting calls to divest from Burma other companies such as Cartier, Bulgari and Rolls-Royce are severing their ties.

Links to these stories can be found at, where you can also read about recent protests in Oxford and London.

For more information go to:
Facebook group: "Get Total Oil out of Burma"

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Report on NHS Demonstration in London

Despite great weather, a very colourful and noisy demonstration and visible unity of purpose amongst health workers and supporters of the NHS on Saturday there will be justifiable anger today over a missed opportunity.

I went down on a local Unison organised coach after a difficult search for a ticket (involving being passed around various people and asked if I was a Unison member, and getting an almost astonished response when I said that I was in Unison, but not in Health branch, but still wanted to go on the demo). Remember, this was a demo that had been pushed for by trade unionists and health campaigners - like the largest national campaign KONP (Keep Our NHS Public) - for a long time, with Unison Health section eventually calling a demo having waited too long for the union's national officers, or NHS Together (Representing all the unions in the health sector) to act nationally. The date was changed, and then gradually the dead hand of Unison's Dave Prentis and his Brownite Labour Party loyalists became clearer and clearer. They were obviously not keen to rock the boat for the "new" administration at Westminster. The demonstration was to be a "Celebration" of the NHS and a "family day out", not a public show of the strength and unity of health workers and campaigners against cuts, budget restrictions, closures, PFI and privatisation. Local hospital demos around the country have mobilised thousands - the demo could have made the links between the anti-closure and anti-cuts and anti-privatisation campaigns explicit and mobilised for maximum unity. Instead we had Prentis with platitudes and Ken Livingstone (does he think he is Nelson Mandela?) doing the "statesman's address" by video to his humble subjects. Most of the demonstrators were from Unison - the publicity and mobilisation had obviously not even reached as far as many other trade unions in Health, let alone the broader trade union movement and the local health campaigns.

The demonstrators made the best of a bad job and there were some excellent brightly coloured banners, props and flags. The non-approved slogans "The NHS is Not For Sale" and "Keep Our NHS Public" were very popular and rivalled the official fluffy "I (heart symbol) NHS".

The watering down of the demo and effectively attempting to limit participation to mainly healthworkers ensured a low turnout. I would have guessed 10-20,000, but the BBC says 7,000.

The Green Party had mass produced a placard with "Keep Our NHS Public" on it that went down very well (some people trading in the less eye-catching SWP ones for them!) It was good to meet up with comrades from Green Left, Green Empowerment and Green Party Trade Union Group. It showed that with good organisation and a good leaflet (I overheard praise for the Green Party leaflet from various activists on the coach I was on) the Party can have an effect.

The IWW also had a contingent and were giving out their National Blood Service Campaign leaflets. There were a few Respect banners and the obligatory SWP placards, but in their current troubles the Respect/SWP contingent seemed very subdued. I have never been on a demo with so few Socialist Worker Sellers - there almost seemed to be more AWL people selling their "Solidarity" (The centre page pull-out on the Grundrisse is not exactly light reading, comrades - but top marks for referencing the latest Michael Moore film on the front page!)

The crucial task of building a national movement to defend the NHS that links service users and the broader community with the organised workers still remains. Prentis et al can utter platitudes about defending the public service ethos and opposing free market dogma, but unless workers can defend themselves and a nationally co-ordinated movement is built to apply real pressure on this issue, then the death by a thousand cuts and stealthy piecemeal privatisations will continue as the likes of the US health giants exposed by Moore in Sicko dig their claws deeper and deeper into our healthcare system.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Green Party Trade Union Group Blog

Dave Walsh's speech regarding the Campaign against Tube Privatisation (as given to London Federation of Green Parties AGM recently) and Green Mayoral Candidate Sian Berry's statement of support for London Cleaners pay campaign are both now on the GPTU Blog at
GPTU is giving its full support to the NHS demonstration in London this weekend, despite some concerns about the watering down of the demonstration by elements in the union bureaucracies, keen not to embarrass the Brown government too much. Hope to see some of you there!

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

RESPECT - Split now inevitable?

Is a split up of Respect, perhaps into two organisations both fighting over the name, or two new organisations, or the SWP and a "Continuity Respect" now inevitable? It certainly seems so from the latest news and Internet postings. Earlier in the week the situation in Tower Hamlets where four councillors have resigned from the Respect group on the council led by Cllr Abjol Miah, spilled over into the national crisis in the organisation. Respect National Secretary and SWP leading light John Rees backed the councillors who had walked out on the Respect group but played down any suggestions that the SWP were about to split from the organisation. However, in the Morning Star a "spokesperson" for George Galloway, Respect's MP was reported as saying that

"By his presence at the press conference and support for these breakaway councillors, John Rees, and with him, the leadership of the SWP have declared that they are splitting from Respect. He is openly talking about backing candidates against Respect candidates. The SWP leadership by its actions has walked away from Respect. In no sense can Lindsey German therefore be considered the Respect candidate in the forthcoming London elections."

The four councillors are said to have formed a Respect (Independent) group on the Council.

Writing in today's Morning Star Ann Douglas says that the events herald the "death of Respect" and suggests that the planned November national conference of Respect "certainly will not take place" as the two sides cannot agree on the composition of delegations. The paper's editorial, clearly concerned that the feuding will spill over into the anti-war movement, pins the blame firmly on John Rees and the SWP, as reported here.

Meanwhile Socialist Unity Blog reports that the rebel councillors are said to be in talks with the Lib Dems. These posts on S.U.B. come after they published this forthright attack on the SWP from Respect leading lights Salma Yaqoob and Linda Smith.

Very interesting times, with shifting alliances and currents in movement, no doubt with dubious elements working in the background just as we could dimly discern in the events on the Scottish left last year.

Let us hope that with the situation over Iran hotting up and the Brown government planning further neo-liberal assualts on workers and authoritarian assaults on human rights, the parts of the left that have looked to the Respect project as a way forward can re-establish their priorities.

On another note, sorry to read today that my Green colleague Cllr Matt Sellwood is giving up blogging for now - but thanks go to him for linking to my humble efforts as an alternative on the left of the Green Party.

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