General Election 2019 – a thank you from Diana Toynbee

Huge thanks to everyone who helped with delivering election leaflets, for campaigning in all weathers and for your donations and support. The overall result for the country is dreadful, but Greens are strong, locally and nationally – thanks to you! I got 4.8% of the vote, well above the England average of 3%. And Ellie got 9.3%, the sixth highest Green vote share in the country!

This amazing effort and result deserves celebration. On Wednesday 18th there’s the Big Green Festive Drinks at Left Bank Hereford from 7.30pm with complimentary mince pies and mulled wine.

We’ll also use this opportunity to have our next Hereford & South Herefordshire Green Party meeting, at 6pm – all welcome. 

Green Party Manifesto for 2019 General Election

The Green New Deal – Unleashing a Green Economic and Social Revolution.

This is a comprehensive ten-year plan ambitious enough to tackle climate and ecological breakdown at the scale and speed set out by science.

It will deliver a fast and fair transformation of our economy and society, renewing almost every aspect of life in the UK: from the way we produce and consume energy, to the way in which we grow the food we eat, and how we work, travel, and heat our homes.

This will be a combined investment of over £100 billion a year in the Green New Deal, with an additional investment in Universal Basic Income. Through this investment, we will provide new opportunities for everyone to work and live more sustainably and more securely.

more at https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/#gnd

Remain and Transform

A People’s Vote to decide the way forward on Brexit, in which the Green Party will campaign for remain. A commitment to realise the full potential of the European Union to lead the fight against the Climate Emergency and to improve the lives of workers, low income families and refugees.

more at https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/#rat

Growing Democracy

Replace the First Past the Post system for parliamentary elections with a fair and proportional voting system. We are champions of the Good Systems Agreement, a cross-party commitment to democratic reform brokered by the Make Votes Matter campaign group.

Create a fully elected House of Lords. Members will be elected for a maximum of ten years with half of the house being elected every 5 years.

Give 16- and 17-year-olds the right to vote and have a say on their future. We will also allow people to stand for Parliament and all other elected offices from the age of 16, offering support to elected young people so that they can combine their duties with studying. We are proud to march with the inspiring Youth Strike activists against climate chaos and know the passion and wisdom young people can inject into our policies.

Require all political parties to report the diversity of their candidates, so that progress in selecting more women and minorities to contest Westminster and local government seats can be monitored.

Protect the BBC, reinstate free TV licences for over-75-year-olds and tighten the rules on media ownership so no individual or company owns more than 20% of a media market.

Back a Citizens Convention and citizens assemblies to examine further ways to strengthen democracy, including developing a written People’s Constitution and Bill of Rights, and ensure the proposals come before Parliament. This will enshrine genuine democracy at the core of our political system, making sure that ultimate power will always rest with the people.

more at https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/#gd

The Green Quality of Life Guarantee

Delivering Secure Incomes and Secure Homes

Restoring the NHS

Unlocking Education

Restoring our Nature and Countryside

Tackling Discrimination

Preventing Crime

Ending The War On Drugs

Transforming our Relationship with Animals

more at https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/#qol

The New Deal for Tax and Spend

Simplifying Income Taxes

Making Big Business Pay Its Fair Share

Supporting Small Business

Ending Wasteful Spending

More at https://campaigns.greenparty.org.uk/manifesto/#tas

Our General Election Campaign starts here: Diana Toynbee and Ellie Chowns say “Yes to Europe, No to Climate Chaos, Yes to a Fairer Britain”

Diana Toynbee and Ellie Chowns are our Parliamentary candidates. Here is our Manifesto

Diana says: “I’m delighted to be giving voters in Hereford and South Herefordshire a chance to vote for a fairer greener society. We all want a healthy, safe future, but our public services, democracy and countryside are under threat and real action is long overdue.

I’m a practical, realistic person – I understand the issues and am determined to support our economy and protect our quality of life.

I’m very proud to be receiving so much encouragement from local people. They’re telling me that more than ever we need a Green MP in Westminster championing what we care about.

I want to speak for you in Westminster, and work with others for fairer politics. You can be confident that my experience, understanding and energy will make me an excellent MP.”

Please click here to donate to Diana’s campaign

Contact Diana at diana.toynbee@greenparty.org.uk

Ellie says: “I’m delighted to be the Green candidate for North Herefordshire.  It’s time for change!  The old political system is broken, and we need some fresh Green thinking.

I’m standing because I believe North Herefordshire deserves better. We need an energetic MP with strong local roots, strong principles – and a record of getting things done.

I’m proud to have served my local community as a Councillor and as an MEP.  But I know that the big decisions that shape the future of this country are made in Westminster.  If we want to change politics in the UK, we have to change our government.

Bill Wiggin has been the Conservative MP for this area for 18 years, but he’s failed to represent us effectively.  It’s clearly time for change – and with my record of winning elections I’m the best-placed candidate to challenge the Tories here.

Greens success in Herefordshire proves our positive and practical ideas appeal to people across the political spectrum. We lead the political fight against climate change. We’re clearly and strongly pro-Europe. And we’ve always worked for a fairer Britain.”

Please click here to donate to Ellie’s campaign

Contact Ellie at ellie.chowns@greenparty.org.uk

Be In It to Win It:

Register to vote. Registering is easy: follow this link with your National Insurance number to hand. Register by midnight on 26 November. If you don’t have a NI number or you can’t register online, call 01432 260107 for help. And, make sure everyone you know is registered to vote!

Want a postal vote? If you’re not registered yet, you’ll need to register by 5pm 26 November. If you’re already registered, you need to fill in this form and hand it in or post it to Hereford Town Hall by 27 November. If you’re already registered and working away, studying at Uni or ill you can apply for a proxy vote. Here’s the link to the forms: these need to be handed in or posted to Hereford Town Hall by 3 December.

ELLIE CHOWNS RE-SELECTED AS NORTH HEREFORDSHIRE PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE

North Herefordshire Green Party selected Ellie Chowns as its prospective parliamentary candidate at a constituency meeting in Leominster last week.

Dr Chowns, of Canon Frome near Ledbury, the mother of two teenage sons, first contested the North Herefordshire seat for the Greens at the 2017 general election. Later the same year she won a Herefordshire Council by-election with a large majority in the formerly safe Conservative ward of Bishops Frome & Cradley.

She told her selection meeting: “I pledge to work with all others of goodwill to build an alternative to the old-style politics that has failed us all. Politics today alternates between stalemate and crisis due to selfish agendas and short-sightedness.

“We need to look to the future and think about what sort of world we want to create for today’s young people. That means building a sustainable, locally-rooted economy that provides decent jobs and homes for all, and helps small businesses thrive.

“It means creating a fair society and strong communities, with proper investment in the NHS, education, social care and public transport. And it means protecting the environment on which we all ultimately depend.”

Dr Chowns added: “The Green Party offers a fresh, honest approach to politics: principled opposition, constructive solutions, and a willingness to look for common ground. In these times of upheaval, more Green voices of reason are needed at all levels.”

Bridge over the River – Wye?

Letter to Hereford Times 17 August 2017

River’s role
THERE are interesting links to be made between recent items in the Hereford Times.
The river party ‘Wye Float’, and Herefordshire Lore’s new project ‘River Voices: Stories from the Wye’ are just two examples of the central role this beautiful river plays in our lives.
And of course this is the time of year when we see hundreds of tourists enjoying canoeing, birdwatching, and walking the Wye Valley walk.
Our council promotes the Wye as a prime attraction, and recommends walking from Hereford to Breinton Springs to admire this unspoilt stretch of river, and its surrounding meadows, orchards and woods.
Meanwhile, Tony Johnson, our county council leader, tries to persuade us of the ‘need’ for a massive bridge and road through west Hereford ‘to open up space for new housing’.
This road is also being promoted by the council as a relief road for the motorway system! More houses and more traffic – not exactly solutions to congestion!
Last week’s item on planning permission being refused for the decking and summerhouse overlooking the river Wye quoted councillors’ views that the construction ‘adversely affected the character and amenity of the landscape’. Following that reasoning, how much would smashing an enormous new bridge and road through Breinton’s unique scenery ‘adversely affect the character and amenity of the landscape’?!
Mr Johnson also appears in the paper making another desperate plea for suggestions on how to save money.
A good place to start would be to cancel this hare-brained scheme, which, as we know from experience, would end up costing us all a fortune, as well as causing irreparable damage to the precious green lung to the west of our city.

DIANA TOYNBEE

Green Thanks: post-election letters

Green thanks

THANK you to everyone who voted Green in the general election and for helping Ellie Chowns in North Herefordshire achieve one of the best Green results in the country.

We’d also like to commend our opponents on their campaigns and to thank Herefordshire Council officers for their very efficient administration of the election.

It was tough for us to see the Green vote squeezed by tactical voting both locally and nationally.

But, despite this squeeze, the Green Party gained more than half a million votes across the country. Regrettably that won us just one seat – Caroline Lucas was returned as MP for Brighton Pavilion with a much increased majority.

In contrast the Democratic Unionist Party, which looks set to prop up Theresa May, had 10 MPs elected on fewer than 300,000 votes.

This is another clear indication of the unfairness of the First Past The Post voting system used to elect MPs.

A system that means millions of votes are wasted and which leads people to vote tactically instead of for their best candidate.

A system which can allow the Conservatives to form a government when only 29% of the electorate voted for them.

Under a Proportional Representation system, as used, for example, in Germany, parliament would more closely reflect the wishes expressed by voters, and far fewer votes would be wasted.

As a way of countering the unfairness of the voting system, Greens across the country sought in this election to make alliances with other progressive parties.

Green candidates stood aside in dozens of marginal seats to help better placed progressive candidates, Labour or Liberal Democrats, to win.  We took a hit for democracy and made a difference.

Unless progressive parties build on this and continue to work together, making local tactical alliances and pushing for electoral reform, the country will be stuck forever with a parliament that is not representative.

This is a dreadful prospect and we invite all who share this concern to become politically active and fight for change.

DIANA TOYNBEE Hereford & South Herefordshire candidate

ELLIE CHOWNS North Herefordshire candidate

The Green Party

published in Hereford TImes and Ross Gazette w/c 19 June 2017

Post Election Celebration

Join us for our Post Election Celebration and Thank You.

We did OK in the face of strong national trends! We learnt a lot, and built strong foundations for future success, especially at local level. And we had two fabulous, hard working candidates.

So come along to thank them, and allow us to thank you at a green knees upthis Friday 16th June.

All members and supporters welcome, whatever role you played -including keeping things going at home to allow others to campaign! 7pm onwards at Canon Frome Court, HR8 2TD. Bring and share food and drink.

A message from Ellie Chowns

THANK YOU so much for your support, your activism, and your votes. I feel really proud of what we’ve achieved in North Herefordshire. We got 5.5% of the vote – one of the highest Green vote shares nationally, and more than three times the national Green average of 1.6%. Although we lost some votes, the decline here was much lower than nationally, and of course we saved our deposit! The Green vote was squeezed hard everywhere by the growth in the Labour vote. Of course I am sad that the Green voice hasn’t been heard strongly enough in this election, since our messages on climate change, on wildlife, on Trident, on voting reform and so on are still not getting the attention they deserve. But I am also very pleased that so many Green ideas have been adopted and promoted by Labour, with such great success!

In North Herefordshire – a very safe Tory seat – Labour came second with 18.9%, a completely unprecedented result for them. All credit to Jeremy Corbyn and Labour for proving everyone wrong. I’m amazed that Theresa May thinks she can continue as PM having shot herself in the foot so completely; and I am horrified at the thought of her coalition of chaos with the reactionary DUP. Heaven knows what the coming months will bring. But I can promise this: I will continue to stand up for Green principles and ideas; I will work to hold Bill Wiggin and the chaotic Conservatives to account; and I will certainly stand in more elections!

It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to represent the Green Party in this election. Locally we have run a fantastic, high-energy, high-visibility, high-quality campaign. We’ve been a credible, effective opposition to Tory cuts and hard Brexit. We’ve offered an inspiring vision of a better, greener future: investment in public services, serious environmental protection, and an economy that works for everyone. And today’s results show, yet again, that we urgently need political reform so that everyone’s vote counts.

Now more than ever, Green voices in politics are needed. If you’re not already a member, please consider joining the Green Party. Thank you again to everyone who helped with this campaign. You have been BRILLIANT!

A thank you from Diana

THANK YOU so much for your confidence and support over the past 7 weeks. I’m disappointed not to have delivered a better result. I’m really proud of Ellie in North Herefordshire, who got one of the best Green results in the country.

Thank you to those of you who spent so many hours leafletting or canvassing. Our campaign was professional, principled and passionate – people saw that, and I know that our time wasn’t wasted.

Our 2015 and 2017 campaigns, three county councillors, and ongoing commitment, have demonstrated to Herefordshire that we are competent, hard-working and really care, and we can continue to build on that (after a rest!). I could not be more proud of the campaign we ran, or of the AMAZING team we are lucky enough to have in Hereford. I could not have felt more supported, and appreciate every word of encouragement, every card delivered, and every conversation engaged in on behalf of us all.

I literally lost count of the number of people who told me ‘I love Green policies, and I think you’re the best candidate, but I’m not voting for you’, and this was reproduced around the country. It’s obvious why Green supporters have voted Labour, but it’s been pretty galling when people say a Green vote is wasted here, and go on to vote for a candidate who clearly wasn’t going to beat Jesse either!

Even though this result has been hard for the party nationally, and the thousands of activists who have thrown themselves heart and soul into working for the common good, we are genuinely delighted to see progressive politics back in the mainstream, and very proud of our role in this. It’s so exciting to see young people getting engaged, Tory lies and arrogance backfiring, and national debates continuing about the sort of politics we want.

Caroline and Jonathan have received massive admiration in the media for their outstanding, eloquent, principled campaigning. More and more prominent commentators are calling for an end to the scandalously undemocratic electoral system. PR has to be one of our main campaigns now – not just for the Green Party, but for democracy, and to move beyond the reductive red-blue boxing ring. Democracy needs diversity, and in a fair system there is plenty of room for all. The tide is turning!

Here in Herefordshire we will continue to be active in opposition, exposing Jesse’s voting patterns, protesting cuts, and pushing the local council to be more transparent. And of course we will continue our work for the health of our people, society, public services and nature.

We can all be proud to be members of the most progressive party, and the only one that understands that our natural environment has to be at the centre of political decisions.

I stood for parliament, but I’m just an ordinary member, and would love to get together more with others so we can build our confidence and courage. Please get in touch, with feedback on the campaign, ideas for activities or campaigns, or anything else. Green policies, and the Green way of doing politics, is needed now more than ever, and we have come out of this campaign with increased respect. No-one else is doing what we do, so let’s keep campaigning with pride and courage.

Best wishes, and good heart

Diana

On tactical voting – General Election 2017, note date

There has been much debate locally and on social media about tactical voting and progressive alliances. Greens have stood down in quite a few seats nationally where there is a clear challenger to the Tories, but this has not been reciprocated by other parties apart from in Brighton.

There is no clear challenger in Hereford and South Herefordshire. Labour came third last time, beating the Liberal Democrats who came fourth only just in front of the Greens. Jim Kenyon has muddied the waters and seems to be taking a ‘none of the above’ vote, probably some of whom voted for UKIP last time. Labour, Lib Dem and Jim Kenyon all say they are best placed to beat the Tories. This basically means the votes will split and Jesse Norman is likely to win. It’s annoying, but it’s reality. It’s a similar situation in North Herefordshire, although without such a strong independent candidate.

We urge you to explain to your friends, family and neighbours that the next best result for both seats would be a really strong Green vote. It sets us up for next time – and local elections in 2019. It builds our credibility, and gets our issues on the agenda.

Voting tactically for another candidate isn’t going to beat the Tories here because the vote is splitting. It would be a wasted vote in Hereford. Every Green sympathiser who votes elsewhere actually weakens the Green message.

If you genuinely want parties to work together to beat the Tories and change the voting system, Greens are demonstrably more committed to this than others. A strong Green vote promotes this more strongly than one for more partisan parties. And Labour don’t even want electoral reform yet, which would change the whole political climate overnight.

Difficult days, but let’s hang in there. We are needed. And we need every vote. Please don’t lend it to others – you won’t get it back.

“Defend Herefordshire”, say Greens

Green Party parliamentary candidates issue an eve-of-poll warning that Herefordshire’s future could be at stake if voters fail to “rein in” the Conservatives.

“Today’s Conservatives have forgotten how to conserve, they are failing to look after what is best about our county,” claim Diana Toynbee and Ellie Chowns. “Current Tory policy could lead to the decline and break-up of Herefordshire as a self governing county.“

“Only the Green Party fully embraces the ‘small is beautiful’ concept where local communities retain control and where ‘big’ doesn’t necessarily mean better,” the Green challengers say in a statement.

The biggest immediate threat facing Herefordshire is the Conservative government plan to abolish grant funding to local councils by 2019 and force them to rely solely on Council Tax and Business Tax, they say.

Herefordshire with its relatively sparse and older population could be absorbed by a bigger authority based in Worcester or Birmingham. Deep funding cuts planned for school budgets could lead to the closure of some village schools, further impacting on the character of rural communities.

Added to this, the looming shake-up of parliamentary constituency boundaries will mean a large rural area of Herefordshire and three of its market towns (Kington, Leominster and Bromyard) will be transferred into a new constituency with Ludlow and South Shropshire.

Ellie Chowns said, “Brexit also means more uncertainty. While it gives us a welcome opportunity to reform farm subsidies, we need to safeguard vital environmental protection legislation and do far more to conserve nature and improve animal welfare. Last year’s State of Nature report [1] painted an alarming picture of worsening conditions for wildlife”

Diana Toynbee, the Hereford Green candidate and Ellie Chowns for North Herefordshire say: “We urge all thinking Conservatives to support us – we are the natural alternative to the Conservatives in Herefordshire. If elected we will put our hearts and souls into opposing the damaging changes facing our county. Herefordshire has a prosperous green future with the right policies in place.”

NOTES

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/sep/14/one-in-10-uk-wildlife-species-faces-extinction-major-report-shows

“More than one in 10 of the UK’s wildlife species are threatened with extinction and the UK’s most endangered creatures have plummeted by two-thirds since 1970, according to a major report.”

The abundance of all wildlife has also fallen, with one in six animals, birds, fish and plants having been lost.”

Does Jesse Norman speak for all? H Times letter 25 May 2017

Speak for all?
JESSE Norman has announced that he wants to represent the people of Hereford & South Herefordshire again.
But does he actually want to speak for all of the people in our community, or just the better off?
Does he actually care about those of us who are less well off?
In the last few years, Mr Norman has consistently voted in favour of policies that would restrict the income of people who are already struggling to make ends meet.
In 2013 he voted on numerous occasions to cap increases in benefits and tax credits at 1%, well below the RPI, which was running at over 2%.
In 2016 he voted in favour of cuts in housing benefits and support allowances.
While supporting these kinds of cuts, he also regularly voted against increases in taxation on incomes over £150,000, and voted against taxing the bonuses of bankers.
Child poverty rates are worse now than when the conservatives took power in 2010, hospital waiting times are longer, and social care services are in crisis, yet over the last seven years Mr Norman and his colleagues have consistently sought ways to look after their friends at the expense of those who really need help.
Surely it is time for a fresh voice at Westminster, who will speak for the majority and support those who most need it?
JOHN MCCLOSKEY
Cotterell Street
Hereford

http://www.herefordtimes.com/news/letters/15308666.This_week_s_Hereford_Times_letters/

Stop Theresa rubbishing our country

Dear Theresa. I think this rubbish belongs to you.

Yes, I am blaming you for the two bin bags of rubbish I collected in about 10 minutes this afternoon from the banks of the Lugg, an SSSI on the outskirts of Hereford. I was watched by a crowd of young people enjoying a barbecue, swimming, and dropping more litter – although one did stop to help me, whom I thanked.

We are all responsible for our own actions of course. But I am blaming your policies for making littering and environmental degradation a lot worse than it needs to be. Let me explain.

Firstly, you impose a boring, irrelevant-to-the-21st-century, stress-inducing curriculum on schools that crowds out everything that matters, anything that builds relationships or confidence, and anything that is fun: care for the planet, teamwork, people skills, responsibility. We can blame parents if we like but we have little power over what happens in the home. We – or rather you – do however have power over what happens in the classroom – a huge part of our young peoples’ lives. And your education secretaries have made schools into exam factories. Schools need the time and space to teach our young people to love their local and global environment, and each other. You are making this very difficult. Shame on you.

Secondly, and related to this, exam results are held as the be all and end all of achievement. This is wrong. It priorities a personal ability to remember facts over multi-purpose skills, plus attitudes such as kindness, generosity, encouragement and just doing your best. It makes a huge number of our young people feel like failures. With no stake in society, and heading towards low paid jobs which don’t stimulate them, or the dole, they don’t care. These are not bad kids. They are not actively vandalising anything. They don’t understand the consequences of what they are doing. Perhaps no-one has bothered to tell them. Your car crash of an education policy is part of this.

Thirdly, schools have already had their budgets cut in real terms, and this is going to get massively worse if you win this election. My own local school is facing a 9% budget cut which is the money needed for two teachers, in a school with only 8 to start with. As a safety centre manager until 2015, I noticed schools were increasingly finding it hard to fund the £5 per head to pay for a visit during the coalition years – to learn exactly about this kind of thing. It is worse now. Schools I worked with as Regional Manager for a Community Interest Company in 2015-16 were finding it hard to pay for our enterprise programmes, despite saying ‘this is exactly what our children need’, because they were having to lay off support and teaching staff. If you measure schools by a narrow academic curriculum, and slash their funding, it stands to reason they will only be able to deliver that narrow academic curriculum. All the things that we tell our kids are important are dropped. The things most parents look for in a school – the ethos, how happy the students are, extra curricular activities, pastoral care and careers advice. It’s not just exam results. The budget cuts you are imposing are doing real damage, just to fund tax cuts for your rich friends. That’s immoral. It’s not even ‘conservative’. And it hurts our young people.

Fourthly, you have utterly failed to tackle the environment crisis, which is why, in my humble view, there is such a crying need for an effective Green Party. The sheer volume of plastic waste in particular is a scandal, and my two bags today were full of it. This plastic is polluting our countryside and our water. At current rates the oceans will have more plastic in them than fish by 2050. I know there are no easy answers, but a government obsessed by the incompetent and self-inflicted wound that is Brexit, tax cuts for millionaires and selling off public services to their mates is unable to give the environment the top priority it deserves. You know – environment – that’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat – in case anyone thought this was a minority interest. This is your rubbish, Theresa, because the idea of throwaway plastic should be something we see as dated as fox hunting. Oh, yeah, that too. You’re too busy with utterly the wrong priorities.

So, this is your rubbish. How on earth anyone thinks you and your gang of liars (£350 million for the NHS?) are conserving anything is beyond me. I see myself as a patriot too, and you are trashing everything I love about my country: our schools, hospitals, libraries, streets, and environment – our civic pride basically – as well as our international standing. And our young people feel disenfranchised and cynical. They are poorly educated for the 21st century, not through bad teachers, but through appallingly bad government. Littering the banks of the beautiful Lugg river doesn’t mean they are bad kids. They have massive potential which your Victorian workhouse education system fails to recognise. But it is a symptom of a much bigger challenge. Your government, and its twisted and immoral ‘power-to-the-strong’ ideology, continues to let young people down. If we fail to invest in our young, we threaten all our futures.

Best wishes for your retirement,

Rob

Stand up for what matters in North Herefordshire

I’m campaigning on four key issues here in North Herefordshire.  I believe we need to:

  • Reverse the devastating Conservative cuts to local services;
  • Rethink how we treat the environment;
  • Remodel our economy so that it works for everyone;
  • Reform our broken political system.

1: Reverse cuts to local services

Our local services have been cut back to the bone over the past 7 years.  Herefordshire Council’s budget has been slashed by more than a third (£70 million over the past 6 years), with more cuts to come.  This has had terrible impacts on vital local services such as libraries and road maintenance, and on voluntary sector organisations such as the Citizens’ Advice Bureau and Hereford Carers Support.  And what’s worse is – our own MPs have consistently and repeatedly voted for this over the past 7 years.

We’ve also seen big cuts to school budgets.  My own sons’ school in Ledbury is losing £600 per pupil over the next few years. Fully 99% of schools are facing per-pupil funding cuts.  This is absolute madness!  We should be investing in our children before anything else.

These cuts have been driven by the discredited ideology of austerity.  What that really means is: tax cuts for the wealthy, and cuts to public services for everyone else.  We are all the poorer as a result.

Public services are an investment in making life better for all of us.  Tax should not be seen as a burden – it’s simply how we pay collectively for things that we all want but can’t buy individually, like safe streets and healthy communities.

2: Rethink how we treat the environment

We’re lucky here in Herefordshire to live in such beautiful surroundings.  But we’re kidding ourselves if we think everything’s fine on the environmental front.  The warning signs are all around us.  2016 was the hottest year on record, as was 2015, and 2014.  In fact, 16 of the 17 hottest years on record have been this century, and our planet hasn’t been this hot for 115,000 years.   The Arctic will be ice-free in summer by 2040.  There is an overwhelming scientific consensus that this warming is due to human activities.  Time is running out for us to change course.  We have to wean ourselves entirely off fossil fuels and move to a 100% renewable, zero carbon economy.

Biodiversity is also under threat.  60% of British species are on the decline, and 15% are threatened with extinction.  Sadly, farming is the main cause – so this issue is particularly relevant in Herefordshire.  Greens are calling urgently for an Environmental Protection Act – not least because many of our current environmental protections derive from European law and, as the Environmental Audit Committee said recently, there is a very grave danger that Brexit will be an excuse for watering them down or removing them altogether.

3: Remodel our economy so that it works for everyone

The economy should serve society, not the other way round.  Everyone should have the right to a decent job with decent pay, and a decent warm house to live in.  But we’re a long way from this.  The median wage is lower today than 10 years ago, and 6.2 million UK jobs (about a quarter) pay less than the Living Wage.  Meanwhile the wealth of the richest 1000 people in the UK increased by 14% last year, and the richest 1% own more than 20 times the wealth of the poorest 20%.  Greens would change the tax and benefits system to reverse these damaging trends, because greater equality is better for everyone.

Wages are low in Herefordshire, but house prices are relatively high, so we have a real problem with affordability of housing – we’re the second-worst in the West Midlands.  We also have one of the highest rates of fuel poverty too.  Greens would ensure that all homes are properly insulated, and make sure that all new homes are built to the highest environmental standards – creating thousands of new Green jobs.

4: Reform our broken political system

Currently, a small minority of voters in a few dozen marginal seats determine what sort of government we get.  It’s a recipe for complete complacency in so-called ‘safe seats’ like North Herefordshire, and so it’s not surprising that many people here feel disillusioned with politics.  We need a political system where everyone’s vote counts, and where MPs work full time for their constituents – unlike Bill Wiggin, who spends one day a week managing hedge funds in tax havens.  We need and deserve independent voices in Westminster, standing up for their home areas and holding the government to account.

North Herefordshire is the 46th safest Tory seat in the country.  It’s a place where the Conservatives, to be honest, take the electorate for granted.  It is not a key marginal, so it simply doesn’t make sense to vote tactically here.  Instead this is a place where voters can and should vote for what they believe in.  Greens are the fastest-growing party locally: we have more council seats than Labour and the Lib Dems put together, and we doubled our vote in 2015.  Every Green vote counts – it strengthens our message and demonstrates the depth of public support for the things that really matter: strong public services, care for the environment, an economy that works for everyone, and a political system in which everyone’s voice is heard.

On Brexit…

Dr Ellie Chowns, our candidate for North Herefordshire writes…

I campaigned for Remain on the streets of Ledbury and Hereford last year, and I believe that Brexit is a serious mistake.  It will cause many years of disruption to our economy, will limit opportunities for our children and young people, and is highly likely to undermine vital environmental and social protections.

Brexit was sold to the British people under false pretences.  Theresa May is now steering us rapidly onto the rocks of a hard Brexit, following someone else’s map, with her only concern being keeping herself at the wheel – no matter what the consequences for the country.  Meanwhile the vast majority of Conservative and Labour MPs have fallen into line (against their previous better judgment), citing ‘the will of the people’ when the truth is the country is split down the middle.

Greens believe that a hard Brexit would be immensely damaging, and is in no-one’s interest.  We will be campaigning vigorously over the coming two years to ensure that any Brexit deal includes a guarantee against erosion of social and environmental protections.  We also believe that the British people should have a say on the final deal: we are calling for another referendum in 2019 on the terms of the final deal negotiated by the government – with one option being to reverse Article 50 and stay in the EU.

If Brexit goes ahead, there may be one silver lining for Greens, and for Herefordshire – the opportunity to reform agricultural subsidies.  UK farmers currently get over £3 billion per year via the EU; in fact, subsidies make up more than half of farmers’ incomes.  Greens agree that the agriculture sector deserves public financial support – but it should be conditional on farmers contributing to public goods, rather than simply payment for owning land.  We would change the system so that subsidies would instead pay farmers for positive actions such as enhancing soil and water quality, protecting wildlife, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving animal welfare, managing flood risks, creating decent jobs (including encouraging new entrants to farming and horticulture), and producing healthy and affordable food.

Brexit and the Environment

Join us for a Big Green Conversation about Europe and the environment with Jill Hanna. Jill has spent many years representing the EU at high-level environmental protection negotiations all over the world, including on reforestation, the safe disposal of chemical waste, and climate change. All welcome!

A NEW DATE AND VENUE FOR THE BIG GREEN CONVERSATION FROM HEREFORDSHIRE GREEN PARTY: Burgage Hall, Ledbury on Friday 1st June, 7.30pm.

Big Green Conversations are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.

Why equality is better for everyone

Join us for a Big Green Conversation about the research on economic inequality and its effects on people and society, as shown in Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s book “The Spirit Level – why equality is better for everyone”.  We’ll be exploring the connections between inequality, over-use of resources, and climate change – and thinking about what we can do to change things for the better.  All welcome on Wednesday 31st May 2017, 7 for 7.30pm at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank, Hereford. Please note that this is the event originally scheduled for 24th May but which has been moved due to a BBC Hereford & Worcester election hustings at Left Bank on the 24th.

Big Green Conversations are held monthly at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford, usually on the 4th Wednesday. They are an informal, relaxed and sociable event to which all are welcome.

Ellie outside Parliament - let's put her in it!

Vote for What You Believe In – response to Polly Ernest, Hereford Times Letters 5 May

I sympathise with the desire of Polly Ernest (‘Get together’, HT letters, 5 May) and many others to see progressive parties unite around common ground and fight to oppose counterproductive austerity, growing inequality, environmental threats and extreme Brexit.  Indeed, the Green Party has been leading the push for electoral alliances against a deeply unfair voting system.  That system delivered a fragile Conservative majority in 2015, based on only 24% of the electorate’s votes, which led us into the instability of the Brexit referendum and now back, again, to another election.
Greens have been calling for months for Labour and the Lib Dems to discuss electoral alliances to secure reform of our broken political system – and we’ve put our money where our mouth is by standing down in key marginals like Richmond Park.  But the other parties simply haven’t reciprocated.
In any case, electoral alliances are only really relevant in marginal seats where an alliance can unseat the Conservative – and where it is a genuine agreement between parties, not one just standing down and losing its democratic voice.
In Herefordshire several candidates could claim to be best placed to beat the Conservatives.  For example, the Greens have more councillors than the Lib Dems and Labour put together; we more than doubled our vote in 2015; and we are the only opposition party to have gained seats nationwide in last week’s local elections.  But the fact is, neither Herefordshire seat is a ‘key marginal’.  Instead, this is a county where voters can and should vote for their own principles, and for the candidate they think has the ability and the integrity to represent them most effectively in Parliament.  This is not the time or place for tactical voting, but for voting for what you believe in.
For me, that means voting for someone who will campaign with all their might for investment in public services, protecting the environment, helping the local economy thrive – and holding Westminster accountable.
In the longer term, Greens will continue to work hard – looking for common ground with others – to reform our broken political system so that everyone’s voice counts equally.
Ellie Chowns
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