Could Hereford’s M&S close?

The Hereford Times is reporting that Hereford Marks and Spencer could be closing after the high street retailer announced it is going to close 30 of its larger stores.

National newspapers have quoted experts at the Local Data Company, who have compiled a list of areas that it thinks are vulnerable. Hereford’s branch in High Town, which sells clothes, homeware and food, is included in this list but this has not been confirmed by M&S.

Read the full report at Hereford Times.

Mobility: A New Urban Design and Transport Planning Philosophy for a Sustainable Future

The book sets out a rationale for a transformation of the mobility landscape and argues that the sustainable transport options simply cannot thrive in a world that remains wedded to more mobility and the manifestations of that cultural and political bias (subsidy, infrastructure and an astonishing lack of attention to death, injury, air pollution, climate change and social justice).

The book argues for the explicit adoption by all levels of government of 3 zeros:

  1.  Zero death and injury in the road traffic environment
  2. Zero air pollution from traffic sources
  3. Zero carbon transport

We have experienced over 200 years growth in mobility measured by the distances we travel every day or every year and this growth is fed by eye wateringly large subsidies, a persistent bias in politics and planning in favour of more distance and more speed and an astonishing lack of awareness of the huge negative consequences of the growth in mobility. This book takes a detailed, forensic look at mobility and concludes that it is bad value for money, damages health and community life and consumes vast amounts of scarce public cash in the name of more and better infrastructure.

Every government and political party with the exception of the Greens, proclaims the benefits of more airport capacity, more roads and bypasses, more high speed rail and accepts the growth in mobility as good for happiness, wealth and quality of life. This book sets out a very different story. More mobility does not produce the good things in life and kills over 3000 people every day in road crashes, creates noise and air pollution that damage health, feeds the growth of greenhouse gases that make damaging climate change more likely and destroys healthy, active travel and community life in sociable neighbourhoods.

The time has come to bring an end to the mobility fetish, to replace far with near, to create liveable and child friendly cities and to bring an end to the role of the car as a default option.

The book shows why this must be done, how it can be done and sets out a policy process to get it done.

Enderby Wharf & Air Pollution

Planning permission has been granted for a new cruise ship terminal in Greenwich. Ships moored in port run their diesel generators to provide power, and this creates terrible air pollution. Yesterday the Radio 4 programme ‘Costing the Earth’ investigated the situation. The answer is simple. Connect the ships to shore based electricity supply so they don’t need to run their generators. This requires some additional investment, but when planning a new port like Greenwich’s cruise liner terminal at Enderby Wharf providing such infrastructure should clearly have been a condition of the planning approval. Los Angeles was the first port in the world to build such a system, back in 2004. By now it ought to be standard practice. Radio 4’s Tom Heap interviewed lots of people in making the programme, but nobody from either local or national government, or the developers, were prepared to talk to him. As ever governments and commercial developers drag their feet, hounded by community groups, health professionals and environmental activists.

London has long had air pollution problems, dating back centuries. I was born not long after the Great Smog of 1952 and one of my earliest memories is of my family replacing open coal fires with gas ones as a result of the 1956 Clean Air Act. By the 1960’s pollution from cars was a big issue. On the 1971 ‘O’ level English paper, one of the questions was ‘Should the car be banned?’ I argued that it should. The many disadvantages, including local air pollution, climate change, accidents and communities divided by roads outweighed the benefits. This, I recall, became the policy of the Ecology Party, first called the People Party, (later, the Green Party) when it was formed in 1972-73. Since that time the evidence of the damage to human health has grown very much more detailed.

Air pollution from various forms of fossil fuels has long been a problem, for London, and for all big cities. As an issue it has periodically risen up and slid down the media agenda. Now at long last the Cleantech Revolution means that we can still have the many benefits of modern city life, but with radically reduced pollution. Technically much is possible. What is needed is for governments to understand this and take action. Tragically they seldom do, unless forced to do so by the valiant efforts of campaigners and activists, with the support of wonderful organisations like the activist lawyers of Client Earth and insightful radio programmes like ‘Costing the Earth’.

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.”

Building a Better Britain

The new Green Co-Leaders set out their priorities for the next two years and explain how Greens do politics differently.

Wherever we go in Britain – from Brighton to Birmingham, Durham to Dulwich – we see the same picture. The country is in a crisis. From a creaking health service and environmental chaos to a crumbling politics and a broken economy – we live in an age of insecurity. The Conservative Party Conference was a real low point, with a Prime Minister attempting to put on sheep’s clothing while preaching the politics of the wolf pack. In the face of all that’s wrong in Britain, the Tory leadership’s main messages appeared to be that migrants were to blame and that we need to go back to the failed education system of the 1970s.

In recent weeks, it’s fair to say that the Labour Party has attempted to shift onto our territory by joining us in calling for a ban on fracking – and rolling out a pledge for the same £10 minimum wage we had in our manifesto. Of course, huge differences still exist – from Labour’s support of both nuclear power and weapons, to their leadership’s failure to support a fair voting system, their wavering on airport expansion and their reluctance to oppose the government’s reckless ‘hard Brexit’. But, overall, the change of direction is extremely welcome, particularly because it gives us space to put forward the truly bold Green policies that unite our party, and are so desperately needed in Britain.

The truth is that this country is at a fork in the road. The politics of anger and despair are knocking at the door, and people are clamouring for something new. That’s where we come in.

Take, for a start, the state of our economy. We are a rich nation plagued by poverty – with millions of people living paycheck to paycheck, without any real job security. We work all of the hours in the day, yet wages have stagnated for a decade now. We can do better than this. That’s why the Green Party goes beyond calling for wage increases and pay ratios within firms – and looks to a future where people can work less and know that a genuine safety net exists to support them when they’re not working. Our long-standing policy of a basic income – a universal payment to everyone in Britain – is gaining traction precisely because the economy is failing to deliver for so many people. It shouldn’t be radical to say that everyone deserves time with their friends and family, or enough money to live on.

Then there’s our environment – the lens through which we see every issue. Climate change is accelerating and our most precious species face being wiped out. We’ve known for a long time that the situation is critical, but now it’s getting desperate. Both the government and opposition talk the good talk when it comes to climate change – but their actions fall short of what’s needed. Laying down new tarmac for airports, ploughing billions of our money into Hinkley Point and ripping through the countryside with HS2 send us in entirely the wrong direction and are applauded by both Conservative and Labour MPs. The recent decision on fracking was the latest in a long line of backwards steps from a Conservative cabinet seemingly hell-bent on driving us off the climate cliff.

This is about the kind of Britain we want to build – and whether we want to invest our resources in oversized, overpriced projects and starting a whole new fossil fuel industry in this country or the clean renewable technologies of the future. We can build a better country – but that means saying ‘no’ to twentieth-century solutions to twenty- first-century problems, locking fossil fuels in the ground and embracing a real energy democracy.

And then there is the state of our democracy. It’s utterly dysfunctional. We have a government elected by less than a quarter of those eligible to vote and a Prime Minster who has never won a general election. The House of Lords is unelected and unaccountable to anyone. The EU referendum showed that people across the country come out to vote when they know it means something, but we can’t hand back control to the people unless we radically reform a Parliament that systematically locks them out.

Britain is a tough place to live for many people at the moment, but perhaps those facing the worst time are people who have come here from other countries. The mood is toxic and the streets feel unsafe for many migrants and for many others who feel scapegoated by this government for its policy failure. The rhetoric from the government and, sadly, some in the Labour Party too has only inflamed an already tense atmosphere. As Greens, we’ve always welcomed people who come here to make a life – it’s a big part of what makes this country what it is. That’s why we’re fighting to keep free movement within Europe, and pushing the government to take in more refugees and give local authorities the resources they need to welcome them. Ultimately, in the face of rising division across our continent we need to be building bridges, not walls.

The challenges we face – as a country, as a party and just as people trying to make sense of all that’s happening around us, are immense. But we’re resolute that we won’t let this time be de ned by those who want us to be a smaller, more closed country.

We’re proud to be leading this party at this most defining moment in history – we know how much it matters. Thank you for being part of this movement – without you, none of what we do would be possible.

This article was originally published in Green World.

SLR: Why Greens Object

HEREFORD & South Herefordshire Green Party strongly opposes the plan for a Southern Link Road for the following reasons. We have included detailed Notes but you don’t need to read this unless you want this detail.

1. THE ROAD WILL PASS THROUGH AND DESTROY PART OF GRAFTON WOOD, DESIGNATED AS ANCIENT WOODLAND. 

Four of the route options originally considered for the SLR were deemed not feasible because they affected another ancient woodland – Newton Coppice. It is inconsistent for this application to propose that Grafton Wood can be damaged but not Newton Coppice, when both have the same protected status (1).

National Planning Policy Framework requires that planning permission is refused where ancient woodland is lost or damaged, unless the benefits of the proposed development clearly outweigh the loss.

Notes:
(1) Transport Assessment Part 8 of the application explains how the route for the Southern Link Road was chosen, stating on page 4:

“In total eight options were initially developed.
 As further detailed work and appraisal has been undertaken on these options, four routes have been identified as affecting the ancient woodland of Newton Coppice. National policy now considers ancient woodland as an irreplaceable habitat which is unlikely to be fully mitigated. These options are therefore not feasible.”

(2) National Planning Policy Framework:

118. When determining planning applications, local planning authorities should aim to conserve and enhance biodiversity by applying the following principles: 

(…) planning permission should be refused for development resulting in the loss or deterioration of irreplaceable habitats, including ancient woodland and the loss of aged or veteran trees found outside ancient woodland, unless the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh the loss;

(3) Planning Inspectorate decision regarding an ancient wood:

1) Northside Copse (Lake House), Fernhurst (Ancient Woodland) (Appeal decision 2013)

The case involved a proposal for a single very large dwelling which would have been built in part within ancient woodland, and also within the South Downs National Park (SDNP). The decision took into account a number of issues which make it an important case study.

The Inspector noted that the NPPF has stronger wording for ancient woodland than PPS9:

‘…whilst NPPF… cancels the advice in PPS9, the test in respect of Ancient Woodland is very similar in NPPF paragraph 118 to that in PPS9 paragraph 10 save for the fact that there is now a more onerous requirement on developers to show that “the need for, and benefits of, the development in that location clearly outweigh” as opposed to simply “outweigh” the loss.

Considering whether the need for a development outweighs the loss of ancient woodland, the inspector upholds that small incursions into ancient woodland are unacceptable.

Impacts on the Ancient Woodland caused by the proposal would include the direct loss of flora and irreplaceable ancient soils and a substantial change in the character of the woodland arising from the development and its ancillary services. Whilst the Appellants have suggested that this would be only a small proportion of the woodland identified as AW, NPPF considers any loss to be unacceptable.’

2.  THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL CONTRIBUTE ADVERSELY TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR POLLUTION

The application acknowledges that the Southern Link Road will “have an adverse impact on the environment, including increasing traffic noise, reducing air quality, and impacts to the landscape and heritage assets”. Whilst not specifically commenting on how it affects CO2 emissions, elsewhere the application claims that it will slow the growth in carbon emissions, implying that carbon emissions will increase as a result of traffic on the SLR.

This is contrary to adopted Local Plan policy SS7 ‘Addressing Climate Change’.

Notes:

1. Local Plan Policy SS7 Addressing climate change

Development proposals will be required to include measures which will mitigate their impact on climate change. At a strategic level, this will include […] delivering development that seeks to reduce the need to travel by private car and which encourages sustainable travel options including walking, cycling and public transport’

3. THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL ENCOURAGE CAR USE

The aim of the road is stated to be to reduce congestion and journey times. Unless modal shift to non-car use is actually achieved through other measures – which are not a part of this application – the result will be more car use. This is contrary to adopted Local Plan policy S6 Transport.

Notes:
1. Policy S6 Transport – The safe, efficient and sustainable movement of people and goods will be promoted within the context of reducing the need to travel by:
(2). encouraging alternatives to the motor vehicle which through reducing energy consumption and pollution have less environmental impact

4. THE PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT WILL CONTRIBUTE TO FASTER GROWTH IN ROAD TRAFFIC. ITS FORECAST IMPACTS ON ROAD CONGESTION, JOURNEY TIMES, AIR QUALITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT ARE UNRELIABLE

The application claims that because the development is a link road it will not generate traffic. This assertion is behind the traffic modelling used to forecast vehicle movements in the surrounding network in 2017 and 2032. There is considerable and widely accepted evidence that building roads of this type does generate traffic – the induced traffic effect.

Induced traffic tends to increase environmental damage and tends to reduce the calculated benefit-cost ratio of a road improvement, because the period of relief from congestion will be shorter than planned; also because the benefit to the marginal extra travellers is less; and because assuming the extra traffic is not induced makes the ‘without’ case artificially worse than it really would be.

Notes:
1. The application Transport Assessment states:

7.1.1  Unlike residential or employment development proposals, which are trip origins or destinations in their own right, the application development will not in itself generate traffic. The purpose of the traffic impact assessment in the TA is therefore to understand how traffic is likely to re-route from existing roads when the SLR and Clehonger Link are opened, and the degree to which this is considered likely to occur.

2. In 1994 SACTRA, the Standing Advisory Committee on Trunk Road Assessment, published its best-known report, on what it renamed ‘induced’ traffic. The average traffic flow on 151 improved roads was 10.4% higher than forecasts that omitted induced traffic and 16.4% higher than forecast on 85 alternative routes that improvements had been intended to relieve. In a dozen more detailed case studies the measured increase in traffic ranged from 9% to 44% in the short run and 20% to 178% in the longer run. This fitted in with other evidence on elasticities and aggregate data.

The conclusion was:

“An average road improvement, for which traffic growth due to all other factors is forecast correctly, will see an additional [i.e. induced] 10% of base traffic in the short term and 20% in the long term.”

The Department of Transport accepted this. The report was updated in a special issue of Transportation in 1996

3. Countryside Agency and CPRE’s 2006 report ‘Beyond Transport Infrastructure’ studied the traffic changes resulting from many by-pass and relief road developments. Three of note:

A27 Polegate bypass – 76% total traffic increase in the Polegate corridor one year after opening – of which up to 27% may be generated traffic. Casualties across the area increased
A34 Newbury bypass – A34 traffic growth far above both predictions and national averagePeak-time congestion in town back to original levelsTraffic relief to old road
is being eroded by development-generated traffic
M65 Blackburn bypass – M65 traffic in excess of predictions, leading to pressure for road wideningTraffic generation by developments omitted from appraisal process

5. ALTERNATIVE SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORT MEASURES HAVE NOT BEEN APPRAISED ADEQUATELY

The application proposes that a package of measures such as behavioural change, cycling and walking promotion, will / may be introduced at some unspecified time in the future to complement the SLR and help achieve the stated aims of improving transport conditions in Hereford south of the Wye. These Sustainable Transport Measures are described in the application but because they have not been implemented there is no evidence of their effectiveness, or their value for money relative to the SLR.

It is very possible that these measures will make a positive contribution to the problem and will provide better value for money than new road building.

The Highways Agency (now Highways England) has commented on the SLR proposal that it would expect to see evidence that sustainable transport measures have been introduced and found to be insufficient before a new road is built.

Notes:

1. Highways Agency letter of 7 August 2014 to Hereford Council said that “under current guidance the building of new road infrastructure could only be justified in policy terms when other avenues such as travel planning and sustainable travel modes had been developed and shown not to address the transport needs and issues identified.”

Fracking: unsafe, unproven, bad for Herefordshire

THE GREEN PARTY strongly opposes fracking. Not only is a dangerous and unproven technology, even if it were safe it would be unacceptable because our overriding priority has to be to reduce our carbon emissions. All our efforts must be to reduce carbon use and increase renewable energy capacity.

And renewables are great news for Herefordshire where we already provide leadership.  With this, and our economic dependence on tourism and agriculture, fracking is one of the most stupid policies for our county that we have ever come across. It is only happening because some people think they can make money from it. It must be stopped.

Event | 23rd Nov | R4H | Has Britain lost the art of joined up transport planning?

Professor John Whitelegg of the Stockholm Environment Institute, and former Green Party councillor in Lancaster, will be addressing the lack of transport planning in the UK and the impact on sustainability as well as efficiency at a meeting organised by Rail and Bus for Herefordshire.

The meeting takes place at 2pm on Wednesday 23rd November at the Merton Hotel, Commercial Road, Hereford. All welcome. For full details contact Gareth Davies (Chair) on 01531 633594.

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.

Trump vs. Science

When future historians look back at 2016, what will they see as the most significant change?

In Marrakech, Morocco, the COP22 climate change talks are underway. The evidence for climate change is utterly overwhelming. Atmospheric CO2 has passed the milestone of 400ppm.  Each year sees the global average temperature rise. Glaciers and permafrost are melting, sea levels are rising. Urgent action is required.

As I write this Donald Trump has just won the American Presidency. He has described Climate Change as a hoax. I can think of no better parallel than when the Nazi’s described any science they didn’t like as ‘Jewish Science’. Dismissing hard science based on careful study of empirical evidence is a very dangerous path to take. Donald Trump genuinely is a loose cannon.

Globally air pollution is re-emerging as a critical issue. This week Delhi has been described as a ‘gas chamber’ and the High Court in London has condemned our government for inaction in reducing air pollution.

The solutions to both climate change and to air pollution are a rapid transition from a fossil-fuel based economy to one based on renewables. Much of the Cleantech innovation is happening in USA.

What effect a Trump victory will have on any of this is hard to tell, but it is very likely that global leadership on these critical issues will move elsewhere.

Meanwhile real world events unfold. Sotheby’s have plenty of multi-million dollar homes for sale in Miami Beach. Sea level rise, plus the region’s porous geology and the increasing likelihood of storms and hurricanes make it almost inevitable that these properties will become utterly worthless before long, but exactly when, nobody knows. Trump may be dismissive of climate science, but he is keenly aware of property prices. Atmospheric gases and geological processes of change are completely oblivious to property prices or to the egos of politicians, yet they may dominate the news events of the Trump presidency.

We live in interesting times!

This blog was originally posted at RichardPriestley.co.uk

 

It’s Tories not agencies privatising our NHS

It’s good to read in Bill Wiggin’s ‘Talking Point’ last week that he wants to stop our money being wasted on agency staff in the NHS.  I agree with him that ‘it is important that the NHS is able to manage its staffing budget and is not privatised by agencies who pay far higher rates’. However, it is not agencies who are privatising the NHS, it is his own party!  Many Herefordians are disappointed to see the support Bill, and Jesse Norman, have given over the years to the Government’s starving of our precious health service, and encouragement of wasteful internal markets.

Do we want Herefordshire to go the way of Bath and North East Somerset, where Virgin Care are now running NHS and social care services?  Where do we want our taxes to end up – in a nurse’s pocket or in Richard Branson’s tax haven?  The NHS is in serious danger, and to protect it as a public service, not a profit opportunity for big business, we have to challenge this Conservative obsession with breaking up and selling off our assets and services. It’s sad to see Bill and Jesse sharing this ideology, and I would like to remind them that Herefordshire is not for sale, the UK is not a business, and we are citizens not consumers. Some things, like the NHS, are priceless. 

Greens campaign to keep two MPs for Herefordshire

Greens have called on the Boundary Commission to keep two MPs for Herefordshire, rather than splitting the county into three. Current proposals for new, larger constituencies mean North Herefordshire faces major changes. Some voters will be moved to Hereford & South Herefordshire, some will become part of a new ‘Ludlow and Leominster’ constituency, and others will find themselves sharing an MP with parts of Worcestershire in a new ‘Malvern and Ledbury’ constituency.  Having analysed the proposals in depth, Herefordshire Greens believe that the changes are harmful to Herefordshire and there are better alternatives.

The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has been required by the government to make proposals to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600, and to make the size of constituencies more equal across the whole country.   They are currently consulting on their proposals.  The Greens strongly support the idea that everyone’s vote should have equal weight, but are concerned that the current proposals for Herefordshire don’t give enough consideration to some key factors, including county boundaries, the geographical size, the small population and rural nature of Herefordshire.  These are all factors which the BCE says it wants to take into account.

Herefordshire Greens’ alternative proposal put forward to BCE is that every voter in the county should continue to be in one of two constituencies – the North or the South.  While both constituencies have to expand in order to meet the minimum size requirements, this can be done very easily. Just one ward needs to move from North Herefordshire to the Hereford & South Herefordshire constituency to make it big enough, and the North Herefordshire constituency could be expanded to meet the minimum size requirement by including some wards from northwestern Malvern Hills District.

Felicity Norman, Chair of North Herefordshire Green Party said, “It simply doesn’t make sense for our county to be split into three constituencies when it has fewer electors than are needed for two.  The Boundary Commission is proposing changes for us that are more significant than for any other area in the West Midlands, and which mean that the interests of Shropshire and Worcestershire would dominate over those of North Herefordshire for the new MPs.  We think Herefordshire needs two MPs that pay proper attention to Herefordshire issues!”

These boundary changes do not change the first-past-the-post electoral system, which determines who sits as an MP. “We are not against electoral reform – quite the opposite,” said Diana Toynbee, prospective Green Party parliamentary candidate for Hereford. “The Brexit referendum result showed that many people in this country feel that their voices are not heard in parliament. It’s scandalous that under our first-past-the-post system, parties which get millions of votes can end up with virtually no MPs. We are being governed by a party which only 24% of the electorate voted for. Tinkering with electoral boundaries is a waste of time while the basic system is so badly flawed.”

The Green Party is calling for a complete overhaul of the UK’s unfair electoral system, including the introduction of proportional representation so that parliament accurately reflects the votes cast by the electorate, a position with which the Liberal Democrats and many in Labour agree.

The Party has also long campaigned for an elected and smaller House of Lords and an end to the appointment of Lords by the Prime Minister (In his two terms as Prime Minister, David Cameron created over a hundred new peers, taking the total to over 800)

Event | 24 Nov | BGC | Fracking the Shire

‘Fracking the Shire’ is the title of our next Big Green Conversation at De Koffie Pot on Thursday 24th November, 7pm for 7.30pm. Come along to find out what the fuss is about, what’s going on globally, and how it could affect Herefordshire specifically.

We are trying this event without the complication of Eventbrite – just turn up. But if you use Facebook please do click ‘Going’ and share the event as this really helps us to spread the word.

All welcome – please invite family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. If you can, download and email this poster around – or print and display!

Caroline Lucas inspires local Greens

Greens from Hereford and Worcester joined with Malvern Green Party on Friday, for an afternoon with party leader Caroline Lucas, on an eventful day in British politics. Caroline is Member of Parliament for Brighton Pavilion, but actually spent her childhood in Malvern.

On the day after the High Court ruling that Parliament must be consulted on the terms of Brexit, and only a few hours after another Conservative MP resigned their seat forcing a by-election, Caroline outlined in her consistently positive way the urgency of building progressive alliances.

She explained how many people voted for Brexit partly out of frustration with out of touch politicians and a sense of a lack of control. Voting reform to ensure every vote counts was the foundation for for further progressive change and should therefore be the key principle in forming such alliances.

She mentioned how she had been subject to some unpleasant social media messages in the last 24 hours. ‘People need to understand parliamentary scrutiny on Brexit isn’t about whether or not we leave. That decision has been taken. Article 50 is about where we are going. The level of anger demonstrates the depth to which trust in political processes has fallen.’

People were getting cross about the idea of a second referendum being ‘ask the same question again and again until you get the answer you want’, but a second one wouldn’t be the same question, it would be on what Brexit actually looks like for trade, environmental and employee protection and free movement of labour. In fact, Caroline felt that a General Election would be a more positive way of consulting the British people about the outcome of the negotiations.

‘We need to change the whole way we do politics’, she argued. ‘Parliament and councils must be more reflective of the communities we serve. Parliament is getting better – we’ve converted one bar into a crèche – but it is still a very difficult environment for most people – a kind of Hogwarts.’

Mentioning how Greens in Richmond yesterday agreed to stand down and support the Liberal Democrat against Zac Goldsmith, she added ‘Labour is now key, and electoral reform is now in Labour’s interests. It is vital to be talking to other parties. We need to be smarter, so that we can change the game once and for all.’

‘Time is running out. The climate crisis is urgent, inequality is urgent, the breakdown of our public services is urgent’, she said, before urging us not to give up on the fight for a genuinely public NHS.

 

A question and answer session followed. One questioner asked ‘What keeps you awake at night?’ to which she replied ‘When we understand so much about it, why we are not dealing with the climate crisis more urgently?’ She went on to explain how dealing with the issue is a win-win: more jobs, a better environment, better health and less poverty, yet so often it is presented as something costly to deal with.

Responding to a question about Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline explained that although she got on very well with him personally and liked him, Labour had one leader and two policies on many things, where the Greens had two leaders and one policy! Labour as a whole still don’t see the importance of electoral reform, or of the urgency of the climate crisis. But this was changing, she argued, as Labour began to realise it cannot win a general election under the current system on its own.

Caroline gave some advice for dealing with cynicism. ‘Online polls around actual policy show massive support for what the Green Party stands for. People like green policies when they see them. We have to ask people what they really want, big questions about what makes them happy and what they want for our country, and then connect that to our policies.’

She agreed that Greens have been right recently to emphasise social justice, as a way to deal with the myth that it is a one-issue party. But she felt it important now to rebalance that slightly on the environmental priorities as these have such huge implications for human health and happiness. ‘Air quality is a big issue for young and old. Fracking will have such massive implications for constituencies if done at scale that even Tory MPs will start to oppose it.’

‘Anyone who lazily alleges that all politicians are the same has never met Caroline Lucas MP’, said Rob Hattersley, from Hereford Green Party. As a final contributor from the audience said ‘Thank you Caroline for being a quiet, civilised, courageous voice of reason in the madhouse of parliament’.

 

 

 

 

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.

Rob Hattersley - Communications Officer (South)

No more PE sick notes?

The i reports today that PE lessons at one of the UK’s top private school are being replaced by wellbeing classes. Leaving aside our views on whether or not private schools help or hinder equality or overall educational attainment, is traditional PE the best way to promote overall health and fitness?

From childhood I preferred co-operation to competition, and as a result I hated PE as a child. Lots of us did. As an adult, I keep pretty fit; I love walking and cycling and in recent years have taken up swimming, running and the gym. As a primary school teacher who loved exercise but hated sport, I tended to focus on lessons which all the children could engage with, rather than the sports focus which excludes up to half the class and actually puts them off exercise.

So I applaud what Wellington School are doing as long as exercise is built into the wellbeing programme. We should be educating our children for real life. Some sport is fine – it’s a useful way to learn teamwork and resilience – but it should be more varied than either what I experienced or was encouraged to teach. The sport must also be outweighed by the exercise for fun, and wellbeing element. If pupils want to extend their sports skills, they can do it after school. Good for Wellington – now for state schools.

Slow news day

James Harding, Director of BBC News, is considering ‘slow news’ to counter the constant bombardment of simple but largely unexplained news headlines.

Describing a movement which began with ‘slow food’, Harding argues that people are given too much headline information they cannot deal with, and not enough considered background explanation or analysis. He said ‘The BBC is pretty good at reporting the ‘What’, but we need to be better at the ‘why.’

I agree with him. If people are unaware of the facts behind the headlines, including when there are genuine differences of opinion, we end up with the ignorance and anger we are now facing on both sides of the Atlantic. We’ve come a long way even from CEEFAX and TELETEXT.

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