Saturday, 15 May 2010

Lib Dems Turn Blue

It’s true to say that the Green Party in Haringey had a disappointing result in the general and local elections, you can see the results here

With the general election being held on the same day as the local elections here, we were swept away somewhat, by voters with a change of government on their minds. Even so, in percentage terms we had a small gain in our target ward of Stroud Green, which is testament to all the hard work put into the ward. It augurs well for the future when over 1200 people voted for us at an election such as this.

Moreover, the decision of the Lib Dems to go into a coalition government with the Tories at national level, also opens up possibilities for us Greens in Haringey. All the Lib Dem voters, (and members for that matter) that I know, will be horrified that voting Lib Dem, has got us a Tory government. These voters tend to be on the left politically, and voted Lib Dem on the strength of their opposition to the Iraq war, and other political positions associated with the left, not to prop up a minority Tory administration. Of course, many of these voters will now return to the Labour Party fold, but it is our job to persuade them that a Green vote is the only viable progressive one in town. Interesting times ahead, I think.

It is also interesting to watch what happens to this coalition government over the next year or so. The right wing of the Tory Party is not at all happy with what it sees as a watering down of their manifesto commitments, such as tax breaks for married couples, and a softening of the stance on the European Union. At the same time, the left wing of the Lib Dems will not be happy at the expansion of nuclear power or the decision to update the Trident nuclear weapons system, and must be generally uneasy about being in government with characters like Michael Howard and Ian Duncan Smith.

All the talk of being responsible and putting the national interest above party politics, is just a cover for a few Lib Dem bums getting to sit in ministerial limos, and rake in ministerial pay checks. The logical extension of this sort of thinking is not to have elections at all. Although, as this blog observed, Nick Clegg’s leadership has taken the Lib Dems to the right politically, and so this coalition is ideologically rational. It’s just a shame that the voters didn’t realise this before casting their votes for a Tory government, in effect, by voting for the Lib Dems.

We will now have to suffer the ‘savage’ slashing of public expenditure that this government will bring. Hopefully, it will tear itself apart before too long, and all those left leaning Lib Dem voters will get a swift opportunity to put right their mistake.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Lesser Evilism or Voting For What You Believe In

The General Election campaign of 2010 has been dominated by the televised prime ministerial debates, a sort of X Factor for not so good looking people. Instant polls have declared first Nick Clegg then David Cameron the winner, with Gordon Brown mostly trailing in third place.

Although the opinion polls seem to point to a Tory government over the last week of the campaign, Clegg has done well for the Lib Dems, to shake up most pundits predictions, by appearing as the anti establishment figure. The fact that he is as establishment as they come, public school, university, professional politician without ever living in the same world as most voters, doesn’t appear to have affected this. If only the Green Party leader, Caroline Lucas had been allowed to take her place, we would have had a proper anti establishment figure to rally around, as well some real choice in the election. It is quite possible that if this had happened, the Green Party would be at 25% in the polls, and we would have seen a truly watershed election.

Instead, the choice placed before the voters by the TV debates, was three shades of blue, much as we have had for the past 30 years, so all this talk of breaking the mould of UK politics etc, is at best media hype. All the talk of change is complete spin and we will wake up on 7th May with yet another reactionary government, albeit possibly a coalition of two of the main parties. We may get a change in the electoral system out of a hung parliament, but I doubt it, the Tories particularly have too much to lose by it.

The stark thing is, policy has taken a back seat in this campaign, with the three main parties talking of the need for cuts in public services, but barely detailing 20% of what these cuts will amount to in practice. All this, in a desperate effort to get back to where we were before the recession hit in 2008. But why would we want to go back to this failed system of casino capitalism? Have we learnt nothing from this traumatic economic catastrophe? It seems not.

Some very big new thinking needs to be done to put our economy on a sustainable footing, to deliver fairness and equality, and real democratic renewal to a corrupt and discredited system, in which MP’s line their pockets by maintaining the status quo. If ever there was chance to really break the mould of British politics, then this is it. It will not come though, by voting Tory, Labour or Lib Dem.

If you really want political and economic change, then you need to place an X by the name of the Green Party candidate in your ward/constituency. We will only gain a handful of seats at Westminster this time, in Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South and Lewisham Deptford at best. But, if you really want our policies, and surveys show you do, vote for them. You'll never get them otherwise. A big shift towards us will cause the other parties to adopt more of our policies.

If people keep voting for the lesser evil party of the establishment, then you surely will always get evil in the end. Make a stand, Vote Green in the local and general elections this year.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Challenging Lib Dems over "double-ring-fenced" respite money for carers

At a Haringey Carers Hustings on Friday 30 April, Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green) said that Lib Dems would improve access to respite breaks for carers who devote more than 50 hours per week to caring. She said that the money would be "double ring-fenced." I had previously heard/read that Lib Dem policy was toward improving carers' access to short-breaks, but not discovered detail of how they would ensure the money would get to carers.[1] (Notably, Nick Clegg talks about carers' rights to respite care and talks about carers' rights to respite care. But it seems to me that that repetition gets in the way of spelling out how carers would actually get the money.)
So I questioned her afterwards as to the relationship between "double ring-fenced" funds and what Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Vince Cable's statement that no budget should be ring-fenced. She seemed unaware of Cable's widely reported statement about ring-fenced funds, and said, "I will speak to Vince about it."
At this time of writing, a Yahoo! Search "Vince Cable" "ring fenced" or "ring-fenced"produces 1,800 results.[2]
An essential theme of the GPEW manifesto is combating inequalities and supporting the most vulnerable. We are committed to: "Providing more short breaks to families, including disabled people or those with long-term illnesses. Such early intervention schemes have been shown to save money by preventing crises."[3] [4]The existing reality regarding ring-fenced funds for carers is that by October 2009, £40m of the £50m allocated to carers for the year 2009-10 had been spent by PCTs, but not on carers.[5]
Anne Roberts, Chief Executive at Crossroads Care [said]: "Carers need support. Without a break they can often reach crisis point where their own physical and mental health deteriorates. When carers reach this point, PCTs will have to provide additional support at additional cost, so failure to provide carers' breaks is short-sighted."
It took a Freedom of Information request by two carers' charities to provide the info about PCTs' misspending of Carers Strategy money in order to 'balance the books'. Carers' issues were largely ignored by the editors/censors of questions used in the televised leaders debates -- much as the sham of 'work capability assessment' results was avoided despite questions being submitted.Our emphasising the importance of ring-fenced Carers Strategy money now can add to our track record of speaking out for carers in the likely event of a hung parliament leading shortly to another GE within the year.
Alan Wheatley is Disability Spokesperson for the Green Party and a member of Camden Green Party

Notes[1] Clegg sets out respite for carers guarantee The Liberal Democrats: News Detail[2][3][4][5] research reveals health bodies are failing carers

Green Lanes is getting ‘Greener’

Last Saturday, April 24, the Green Party set up its stall outside Harringay Green Lanes station and found a fairly welcoming and curious public, but only a handful who actually said they would vote for us. Today, May 1, three of us gave out leaflets to maybe 250 people and I counted at least 22 who spontaneously said they are going to vote Green. Not to mention one shopkeeper who rushed out of his premises this morning to congratulate me on the Green contribution to a hustings for Portuguese and Spanish speakers on Thursday evening. Or the waiters in a café where a Green badge got us free lollipops.

The mood is visibly changing. But some people are still put off by the ‘first past the post’ system. They are asking, is a Green vote a wasted vote ? Won’t it just be beaten by the ‘big three’ parties ? Or will voting Green take so much off Labour that the Tories will get in ?

Let’s think about that. In the last general election David Lammy had a solid majority of over 13,000 votes, with 57.9% of the total. That time the Lib Dems came second with 16.8% of the votes cast and Tories third with 13.5%. This time, the national polls as we all know are showing a big swing away from Labour to everybody else – but it would take an implausibly big swing for the Tories to win here in Tottenham . UKIP have now entered the fray here; the Tories will probably lose more votes to UKIP than any other previously-present party. Labour will lose some not only to the Greens but to the independent ex-Labour candidate, Cllr Sheikh Thompson, and to Jenny Sutton, although she will also find a lot of support amongst the people who voted Respect last time (6.4%). Neville Watson’s platform will probably appeal to some people right across the big-party spectrum, taking some votes from all three. So my guess is that there’s no danger that voting Green will let the Tories in here - David Lammy will win by the skin of his teeth, and the Tories will again come third after Lib Dem David Schmitz. Seeing his safe seat turn into a marginal will make David Lammy listen to his constituents a whole lot more than in his last term.

This time in Tottenham, we’re hoping to save our deposit and, working alongside the ‘non-party’ power base of the residents’ groups, the health service campaigns and Sustainable Haringey, make the Greens a force that seriously needs to be listened to by Tottenham’s next MP.

David Lammy seems a bit worried. He’s had a pretty bad reception at two hustings meetings I attended. At the West Indian Centre and at Tottenham Chances he faced angry shouts that the job prospects of local black youth have advanced so little since he was first elected. Today I met him in the street and he asked me, with an air of bewilderment, what are the Greens offering on the environment that Labour are not ? Well, the difference to me seems pretty obvious. If you want to move on to my personal blog, you’ll find on a comparison of the main points in the jobs and environment areas.

Anne Gray is the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Tottenham