National and global news of relevance to Herefordshire

Prime Minister’s actions appalling, says Ellie Chowns

From Hereford Times 4 September 2019

“We live in extraordinary political times. This is a crisis on a scale not seen for decades. And the most extraordinary thing of all? This is an entirely manufactured crisis, homegrown in Britain, created by the actions of a handful of people – Boris Johnson chief among them.

Last week Johnson took the unprecedented step of announcing the suspension of Parliament – a move that rightly outraged the majority of MPs and citizens. No wonder so many thousands took to the streets across the country, including here in Herefordshire, to defend our Parliamentary democracy and stop the coup. It was indeed a coup, albeit without ‘tanks on the lawns’ – it was a brazen, autocratic attempt to seize power from elected representatives, by a prime minister with a wafer thin majority.

It was indefensible and appalling – and those are the words of a Conservative MP!

Johnson has been gambling recklessly all along. He gambled that he could pretend the blockage was the EU, when the truth is that his problem is the division within his own party. He gambled that he could side with the Brexiteer hardliners and force moderates to give up. He gambled with the country’s future by threatening ‘no deal’ – a strategy of catastrophic self harm. Johnson’s gambles have backfired spectacularly.

All other parties have been absolutely united in opposing Johnson’s attempt to silence debate – and a significant number of brave Conservatives have put principle before party, and country before personal interest.This week, Johnson not only lost his party’s majority in the House; he lost his very first vote as PM, and all shreds of credibility as a leader.

There is another way forward. As a country, we have been deeply damaged by this Brexit mess. It’s high time we started looking for common ground and rebuilding our broken politics. That’s a task that goes way beyond Brexit – but first we do indeed need to resolve Brexit.

I believe we are better off in the EU, but I recognise that a narrow majority wanted to leave, more than three years ago now. So what we need now is a compromise agreement – the best possible withdrawal deal – which should then be put to the people for the final say.

I would of course campaign, as I have always done, to remain.

Because Brexit was never our core problem. Membership of the EU costs less than one per cent of government spending. Brexit has left us no time to think about the other 99% of government business – vitally important things like the NHS, schools, social care, and tackling the climate crisis.

Brexit would make things worse in all those areas. We are quite literally fiddling while the planet burns.

Fundamentally the Brexit mess has shown just how broken our political system is. Our democracy is creaking at the seams, in desperate need of fixing.

Here are three positive ideas for starters: change the electoral system so that all votes count equally, abolish the unelected House of Lords, and clean up politics by removing the influence of dirty money. A fairer, cleaner, more grown-up politics would encourage our leaders to act in the long-term interest of the country as a whole, and seek common ground rather than taking extreme positions.

It would enable us to re-set our relationship with the European Union, and finally turn our attention to other things that really matter – starting with the climate emergency.”

23 June – The March for a People’s Vote on Brexit, London

The March for a People’s Vote (on a final Brexit deal) is being supported by organisations including Open Britain, the European Movement UK, Britain for Europe, Our Future our Choice, For our Future’s Sake, Healthier In, Scientists for EU, Trade Deal Watch, Wales for Europe, In Facts and others.

Herefordshire for Europe have arranged a coach to the march.

Seats available £20 – to book your seats contact Pat Gordon on hereford@4eu.org.uk

The plan:

7.00 – Ledbury Railway Station Car Park

11.30 – Arrive Park Lane London

12.00 – March starts from Pall Mall to Parliament Square

2.30 – Speeches TBA

4.00 – finishes

Return 5.00 – Leave Park Lane, London

8.15 – Ross-on Wye

8.45 – Hereford

9.15 – Leominster

 

To contact Herefordshire For Europe:

Response to consultation on revised national Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)

The NPPF is an important piece of government policy. It shapes the way development decisions are made – for example on where houses can be built and what sustainable transport arrangements should be made. The current proposals (May 2018) to revise the NPPF include support for Fracking and restrictions on on-shore wind.

Our brief submission to the consultation addressed these two issues:

Onshore wind power developments

The draft text in paragraph 153 and footnote (40) are wrong to make provisions specifically for onshore wind, which have the effect of making it more difficult for developers to get planning permission. This is contrary to the aspiration set out in Para 147 which says (paraphrased) –  that the planning system should help to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

While para 153 requires that local authorities should approve an application for renewable and low carbon development if its impacts can be made acceptable, footnote 40 penalises developments where more than one wind turbine is proposed. There is no justification for this approach, which will only serve to hinder progress towards the objective set out in para 147.

In contrast, elsewhere in the NPPF, provisions are made to allow large-scale infrastructure developments, like roads, to be permitted on the grounds of compelling public interest, even where significant harm will result to landscape, heritage and biodiversity.

 For instance in para 173 regarding SSSIs, development is generally to be avoided but: “The only exception is where the benefits of the development clearly outweigh both its likely impact (…)”;

and then regarding ancient woodland and trees, “Where development would involve the loss of individual aged or veteran trees that lie outside ancient woodland, it should be refused unless the need for, and benefits of, development in that location would clearly outweigh the loss;

 and again, “development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats (such as ancient woodland) should be refused, unless there are wholly exceptional reasons [49]”

 “49 For example, infrastructure projects (including nationally significant infrastructure projects, orders under the Transport and Works Act and hybrid bills), where the public benefit would clearly outweigh the loss or deterioration of habitat.”

Given the importance of climate change, we consider the NPPF should take a similar approach to onshore wind turbines as it does to other infrastructure development like roads – that is to allow the public benefit to be weighed against the landscape and other impacts on a case by case basis, rather than there to be a presumption that multiple wind-turbine developments are to be screened out of consideration.

Our view is that avoiding the worst effects of climate change is of such importance that developments that add to genuinely low carbon energy supplies, like onshore wind, should be treated in the same way as other infrastructure projects of national significance.

 Oil, gas and coal exploration and extraction

In the draft para 204, the text states that developing on-shore oil and gas reserves supports the transition to a low carbon economy. In our view, this is far from the truth. Prospecting for, extracting, and in particular, burning oil and gas contributes significantly to atmospheric concentrations of green house gases. This is incompatible with the UK’s statutory obligations under the Climate Change Act, and its moral responsibility to take urgent and effective action to minimise the likely negative effects of global warming / climate change for UK citizens today and in the future.

It is also in direct conflict with the objective set out in para 147 – that the planning system should help to achieve radical reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

We therefore ask that support for all developments that extend Britain’s use of fossil fuels, including on-shore oil and gas extraction, be removed from the new NPPF

Owen Jones misunderstands the fundamental philosophy of the Green party

Letter from Edward Milford in The Guardian 26 Feb 2018

Owen Jones misunderstands the fundamental philosophy of the Green party. We have an overall goal that is to allow all of humanity to thrive, democratically, while making only sustainable use of the planet’s resources. Under this overarching approach, a fairer distribution of resources (which some might want to label as “leftwing”) is just one, albeit essential, component. By contrast, Labour continues to rely on infinite growth on a finite planet to underwrite its policies. When it eventually grasps the physical contradiction this implies, the damage it does to us all, and adjusts what it stands for accordingly, I’m sure it could easily affiliate with the Green party.
Edward Milford
Hereford and South Herefordshire Green party

referring to Owen’s opinion piece “The Greens’ best hope is to sign up with Labour” on 22 February

 

March For Europe

Greens are opposed to the ‘hard’ Brexit being pursued, we think recklessly, by Theresa May. We think this will damage the economy, makes Britain a more backward and inward looking nation, and wastes valuable time and resources when we should be focussed on much more pressing emergencies. We do not think most Leave voters wanted to pull out of the single market (in fact Leave politicians stated this would not happen), nor see EU and British citizens used as bargaining chips in negotiations.

It is also dangerous to sideline parliament in its crucial role of scrutinising the process and the outcome. Democracy is not a single event on the 23rd June 2017 after which we abandon power to an unelected prime minister to do whatever she wants. This is totalitarianism and un-British. We voted by a narrow margin to leave – we have not voted on where we want to go. Our MPs not only have the right, they also have a duty we gave them when elected to ensure decisions made in our name are good ones.

We are therefore happy to promote the March for Europe on 25th March which is being attended by the Herefordshire in Europe group who would be keen to welcome more locals aboard! There is a Facebook Group here, and you can contact the organiser, Polly Ernest, here.

 

Budget fails to address today’s challenges

You might have thought that there was no one left on a trolley in a hospital corridor. That our social care system wasn’t on its knees. That climate change wasn’t a crisis that threatens our very future or that there was no air pollution epidemic linked to the deaths of tens of thousands.

This budget should have been an emergency intervention to end the chaos in health and social care and address the air pollution emergency, but instead it’s another resounding failure from a Government that’s got no ideas beyond an obsession with scaling back the state. With our NHS in peril and social care in crisis, this Budget was a chance for the Government to take a stand for the public services upon which we all rely. Instead they continue to push ahead with planned corporation tax cuts, and their handout to high earners, while unveiling woefully inadequate funding changes for the NHS and social care.

This budget is another climate failure – with the Chancellor failing to mention climate change even once in his speech. Rather than reversing the solar tax hike or ploughing money into renewables, the Government seems hell bent on drilling for more gas and oil in the North Sea, and handing further cash to the motor lobby with the fuel duty freeze. Britain should be leading the world in climate change technology and green jobs, but instead we’re lagging behind and laying the foundations for another dash for gas.

The time is now. Join us to stand for the Common Good.

Action Against Military Spending

If we cancelled Trident, imagine what we could spend on home insulation, reducing energy bills for struggling households. A safer world, reducing climate changing emissions, warmer homes and wealthier families – what’s not to like?

As part of the Global Days of Action Against Military Spending, Hereford Peace Council will be having a stall in High Town, Hereford, from 10.00-14.00 on Saturday, 22nd April.

More information on huge military spending in a time of austerity can be found here.

Public railways for everyone

In what is quickly becoming the only punctual thing about our privatised rail system, the annual increase in rail fares came into effect yesterday.

This year, prices have gone up by 2.3%. And in the last decade, fares have gone up at twice the rate of wages. This is effectively forcing people off the railways, because they simply can’t afford it.

Not only that, but while we’re made to pay more and more, the service gets worse and worse. We now have one of the least efficient and most expensive rail networks in all of Europe.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Today, Green Party activists around the country have come together to campaign at their local train stations, calling for the railways to be brought back into public hands

The message is clear. We want reliable, affordable, convenient trains. For everyone. 

This isn’t about harking back to the last period of UK public ownership. This is about looking to today’s best examples of modern, clean, connected rail networks – run in the interest of passengers rather than profits. 

Sadly, our government is more interested in spending tax money on roads rather than rails, making people more dependent on highly polluting forms of transport, while passing the spiralling costs of privatised rail onto passengers like you and me.

We want commuters in the UK to enjoy their journey to and from work, rather than endure it. Nobody should have to perch on a luggage rack, miserably crushed against someone else’s back. And they certainly shouldn’t be paying more and more for the privilege each year.

We need low carbon transport and high quality journeys. And the first step is taking back our railways from greedy, inefficient private companies.

Sign and share the petition today, and demand that railways be brought back into public hands

Four more councils vote against fracking

Opponents of shale gas in the west country are celebrating a series of recent council votes against fracking.

In the past fortnight, Conservative-controlled Gloucestershire and Herefordshire County Councils have backed anti-fracking motions while Forest of Dean District and Watchet Town Councils have declared themselves Frack Free Zones.

Read a full report here.

100 days: a message from Caroline, Jonathan and Amelia

In the 100 days since we were elected as your leadership team, the world has changed.

2016 has been confirmed as the hottest year ever on record. A man who talks hatred and division is on his way to the White House. Thousands more refugees are fleeing for their lives from places like Aleppo. And the Government is negotiating our future relationship with Europe on the basis of having our cake and eating it. Literally.

We are better than this.

And in the last 100 days we have seen evidence of this far and wide.  Between the three of us, we have visited Birmingham, Bristol, Brussels, Calais, Cambridge, Canterbury, Dublin, Exeter, Glasgow, Grantham, Isle of Wight, Leeds, Lewes, Liverpool, London, Machynlleth, Malvern,  Manchester, Much Wenlock, Newport Gwent, Norwich, Oxford, Scarborough, Sheffield, Shropshire, Somerset, Lancaster, Winchester, Witney and York.Everywhere we go we find passionate people who know the power of working together and are rolling up their sleeves and getting on with it. Millions who know that Trump won’t last and Brexit solves nothing. Who are already working for what comes next.

We stood for election on a promise to crack open the system and build a new modern politics, where power is redistributed and every vote counts.

That means having an ongoing conversation about progressive alliances – and we have been overwhelmed by the positive response. Local parties are rising to the challenge, asking themselves if this is something they should consider and exploring whether it might help them achieve their goals.

Over the weekend, we marked our first 100 days of leadership. And as part of this, we are pleased to announce the first of a special series of Q&A sessions with Green Party members to ensure this conversation continues and the whole Party has a say. On 23rd January 2017 you can join the co-Leaders live at 6.30pm on the Green Party’s YouTube channel for a live video Q&A. You’ll be able to ask us questions and we’ll try to answer as many as we can. You can also submit your question in advance.

We have always been open and honest about why we personally back progressive alliances and the chance to secure a fair voting system. And for us that doesn’t mean standing down, it means standing up for what we value. So we have travelled to Labour, Liberal Democrat, SNP and Women’s Equality Party conferences to demand they stand up too – because all of us deserve better than we are currently getting.  Wales Green Party Leader, Alice Hooker Stroud, took the same message to Plaid Cymru conference.

Support is growing at a pace we never imagined, and in this final month of 2016, a year marked by division and despair, Greens took a small but important step for unity and hope.

Bold, brave Greens were instrumental in defeating a regressive alliance in the Richmond Park by election, showing that when we have more in common, it can make sense to work together.

The past 100 days have been historic. We live in a country where it seems people are feeling more insecure than ever before in our lifetimes. More frightened, more angry and more left behind.

But as 2016 draws to a close, we look to 2017 with hope and confidence.

Work for a better future always starts now and we want to thank you for being part of the change we all want to see. Together we can make sure 2017 is a different kind of year: Operation Hope starts now.  Please ask your family and friends to join us.

And please read our new blog to find out more about what the three of us have been doing on your behalf during our first 100 days as your leadership team.

Thank you,

Jonathan Bartley
Co-leader of the Green Party

Caroline Lucas MP
Co-leader of the Green Party

Amelia Womack
Deputy leader of the Green Party

Is the Richmond Park by-election a test bed for a better politics?

‘We support a progressive alliance: Greens are not standing a candidate’. That’s the Green Party leaflet for the Richmond by-election happening this Thursday, following the resignation of Zac Goldsmith in October over Heathrow expansion, writes Josiah Mortimer of Left Foot Forward.

And it’s brave stuff. This is the first time in recent history that a political party has put out materials backing (albeit indirectly) another party.

Something interesting is happening in Richmond. As I left the train station this Saturday, I was greeted first by a Green stall, explaining why they’re backing a Liberal Democrat-led ‘progressive alliance’ – and by activists from Compass, the left-pluralist think tank who want left-wing parties to work together.

Read the full article here.

End HP’s involvement in Israel’s oppression

Hewlett Packard (HP) is the technology behind the Israeli occupation and oppression of Palestinians.

Their systems are used in biometric ID cards which restrict and control Palestinians’ movement. They provide technology and equipment to the Israeli Navy which maintains the blockade of Gaza. Their technology supports the Israeli military checkpoint system.

HP profits from the discrimination and oppression of Palestinians in the West Bank and within Israel. So together with our partners around the world we are campaigning to end HP’s involvement in Israel’s oppression.

More information from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Will Trump bring down the West?

Readers may be interested in a series of articles by Oxford academics, highlighted by an alumnus on our Exec. These reflect on the US Election. Discover the answers to questions such as ‘Will Trump bring down the West?’ and ‘Is social media killing democracy?’ from authors such as the former Hong Kong Governor and current Oxford Chancellor Chris Patten. Read the articles here.

Chancellor’s statement has nothing to say on climate change emergency

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader and MP for Brighton Pavillion, has accused the Government of ‘shirking its responsibilities’ after today’s Autumn Statement.

Lucas accused the Government of having ‘deeply skewed priorities’. She said: 

“Britain is drifting towards the stormy and unchartered waters of brexit with ministers refusing to reveal the route, or properly adjust the sails according to the headwinds. We needed an Autumn statement which rose to the challenges of the day, but we see a government shirking its responsibilities, lacking any moral compass and leaving us dangerously exposed to both economic shocks and climate change.

“This Autumn statement shows a Government with deeply skewed priorities. At a time of uncertainty they are continuing with plans to give a tax cut to corporations and the highest earners – while our NHS is strapped for cash and local services are under immense strain. We could save billions by scrapping the plans to cut corporate tax and raising the threshold for the highest earners – and we could plough that money into our ailing NHS – but the Government has refused to change course.

Lucas slammed the Chancellor for failing ‘even mention climate change’ in his speech. She said:

“With Trump’s election this could have been a moment for Britain to become a world-leader in the fight against catastrophic climate change but, instead, we see little evidence of a commitment to facing up to the greatest challenge of our times. Indeed, it is shameful that the Chancellor failed to even mention climate change in his speech. By caving into the motor lobby and freezing fuel duty again for the seventh year in a row the Government has made a mockery of the fact that it is the hottest year on record and condemned us to more carbon emissions and deadly pollution.”

“A Government with a genuinely bold vision could have used this Autumn statement to ensure that the economy is future facing on everything from the risks of a potential Brexit to the threats posed by climate change and growing inequality. Instead we have a backwards looking budget that fails to wage war on poverty and fails to grasp the realities of an uncertain world and the limited resources in it. A serious response to the situation we’re in could, for example, have included a nationwide insulation scheme to keep people warm in their homes, cut bills and create jobs in every community. Or the Conservatives could have scrapped their plan to hand cash to corporations and high earners and instead give the NHS the funding it so desperately needs.”

We don’t need a leaked memo to tell us there is no Brexit plan

Molly Scott Cato, Green MEP and EU relations spokesperson, has responded to news that a leaked Whitehall memo has revealed that the Government has no overall plan for leaving the EU. [1]

Scott Cato said:

“We don’t need a leaked memo to tell us the Government has no plan for the UK’s exit from the EU and is struggling to cope – that has been plainly obvious since June 24.

“It is only the right-wing bias of the media and the weakness of the opposition that has concealed the damaging and irreconcilable splits within the Cabinet and the Conservative Party.

“The Government must open up the Brexit process so we can have a nationwide discussion about what it will look like and build a true consensus about how we will go forward as a country. People voted to take back control so let’s actually give them the chance to do that.

“This revelation explains both the destruction the Conservatives are wreaking on our country and their long-running success for serving only their own interests.”

Progress in the Bus Services Bill

The Bus Services Bill continues its journey through the House of Lords: the next reading will be on 23rd November, before the Bill moves to the House of Commons. We are thrilled that the Lords successfully passed an amendment which would make franchising powers automatically available *everywhere*, not just in cities with an elected Mayor.

But the Government have made clear they want to remove this amendment, and it risks being struck out by MPs.

Ask our MPs to support Bus Services Bill powers *everywhere*

The good news is that the Bill is already primed to improve bus services. Firstly, for the first time, it’s mandating that all new buses are ‘Talking Buses’, fitted with audio-visual information systems. This is a huge win for blind and visually impaired passengers everywhere. Rachel Kitchin from the Guidedogs campaign team blogs about how their relentless campaigning won the day.

Tell Campaign for Better Transport your bus stories!

Bus users have been telling the Campaign for Better Transport – and their MPs- how important bus services are to them. These stories show how valued buses are to every aspect of life.

“I use buses to get to meetings which aren’t on the train line, so buses are important for my business”

“The bus cuts are so bad that I am considering getting a car again, and I am sure that others are considering the same thing. This will result in increased carbon emissions and increased traffic”

The Campaigns is asking bus users across the county to let them know how important the bus is to them, and of threats to cut services in their area. This will inform their campaigning and help promote buses to MPs and government.

Shropshire Greens: new constituencies shouldn’t divide counties

Green Party candidates for Church Stretton and Craven Arms in the May 2017 Shropshire Council elections put fairness and democracy at the centre of discussions about electoral boundaries.

On Tuesday, 8th November 2016, Hilary Wendt and Steve Hale who have been selected as Green Party candidates for the Church Stretton and Craven Arms division  in the May 2017 Shropshire Council elections took part in an Electoral Commission meeting in Shrewsbury to discuss boundary changes.

 In a wide-ranging discussion they requested that 4 key principles be met before any changes are made:

  1. Parliamentary constituencies must exactly match council areas and should not straddle a Shropshire-Herefordshire boundary
  2. Parliamentary constituencies should take into account the special circumstances of sparsely populated areas like South Shropshire.  Imposing a “one size fits all” population number risks making constituencies far too big in terms of square miles and does not take into account the difficulties of accessing MPs who may well be many miles away from towns and villages.  Our poor quality public transport in Shropshire makes accessibility much more difficult than it would be in a more densely populated part of the country
  3. We must have proportional representation and actively promote a fair electoral system where the number of MPs in any Party accurately reflect the number of votes for that Party
  4. We must not indulge in any kind of gerrymandering.  Boundary changes that favour one party more than another must be rejected 

Commenting on the meeting in Shrewsbury, Hilary Wendt said:  “Our voting system is clearly very unfair and proportional representation is urgently needed to make sure that the way people vote is reflected in the number of MPs from different parties in the House of Commons.

Steve Hale added:   “There are many things wrong with the current voting system and the way we elect MPs but as we make progress towards PR we must make sure that we do not make things worse.  This means we must make sure constituencies exactly match our council areas and very large constituencies in terms of area should not be imposed on sparsely populated areas.  There is a persuasive case for smaller constituencies (in terms of population) in places like South Shropshire where it is very difficult to move around.

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