Saturday, 17 December 2011

We need to design a new economic order

I want a debate about how we move away from today's failed economic order and build a new one that is socially just and ecologically sustainable.

In a month dominated by the political and economic crisis in Europe, those of us following events at the COP17 climate summit in Durban took what little hope we could from the talks.

Politically, there was some success in the form of a roadmap towards a new treaty to succeed the Kyoto protocol. The fact that this new agreement to cut emissions, which will have legal force, is to include the United States, as well as the fast growing economies such as China, India and Brazil, is encouraging.

Sadly, it says a great deal about people's faith in the UN climate negotiations process that, after so many summits and empty pledges over the years, an agreement "in principle" to tackling climate change without much in the way of substance could still be hailed as an overall success.

But at least we do now have an international consensus on the need to cut emissions. The real tragedy is that our government will completely fail to rise to the challenge in the post-Durban, euro crisis landscape - and seize the opportunity to build a different kind of economy.

Drowning out calls for the coalition to deliver on its green pledges and invest in the low-carbon industries which can help lift us out of recession and create jobs, are those who frame the debate as a false choice between "going green" and keeping the economy on track.

And drowning out news about critical decisions made in Durban has been the coverage of the prime minister's euro-sceptic swaggering at the Brussels summit, where he singularly failed to defend the interests of the people of Britain who, like Europeans, are threatened by a financial crisis that could result in the loss of their homes, their life savings and livelihoods.

Preventing financial meltdown was, after all, the purpose of the summit. Instead, Britain used the occasion to defend the interests of a tiny minority - the 1% - that are the cause of the crisis, and that thrive on the back of taxpayer-backed subsidies in the City of London.

In answer to my question to the prime minister this week: "Why did he choose to conflate the interests of the nation, with the interests of the City of London?" no real explanation was offered.

Meanwhile, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy appear hellbent on accelerating the crisis by intensifying austerity across the eurozone. This is likely to be explosive: in economic, political and social terms.

But for all their misguided approach to the consequences of the crisis - rising public debts - German and French politicians are clear about the causes: lax and loosely regulated financial centres like the Square Mile.

And in that analysis they are not wrong. The City of London is set, once again, to play a major causal role in the coming financial catastrophe.

The reason is not hard to find. This week we learned about the impotence of the Financial Services Authority (FSA) in dealing with bankers at RBS that destroyed a bank, caused many to lose their jobs, and stripped British taxpayers of £45bn.

That's £45bn which could have been used to keep millions of young people in employment for a considerable time, to support renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to create jobs and help those in fuel poverty, or to pay more nurses and teachers.

Payday lenders have scuttled across the Atlantic to avoid the anti-usury laws of Canada and the United States, and found refuge in what the FT calls the "singularly attractive market" that is the City of London - where there are no usury laws.

According to Thomson Reuters, the City's "lax and loose regulation" allows companies, like the recently bankrupted MFGlobal, to gamble with money that belongs to clients and then " …to finance an enormous $6.2bn eurozone repo bet … a position more than five times the firm's book value, or net worth."

It is this kind of financial speculation that once again threatens not just Europe, but the global economy.

Occupy Wall St protesters at St. Paul's are exploring alternatives to this failed system of financial liberalisation. Even the Bank of England, in papers published this week, is considering a transformation away from deregulation towards a rules-based system, that constrains capital mobility and secures stability and "internal balance" for countries like Britain.

Our politicians should be debating these profoundly important issues. They should be leading us out of this global financial morass, towards a more just, stable and sustainable future.

But they are not. Across the political spectrum - from Ed Balls, to Ed Miliband, to Nick Clegg and David Cameron - we are governed by politicians that have all promoted and defended the current neo-liberal system: "light touch regulation".

They are all part of the design team that brought you credit crunch 1.0 and that is about to deliver credit crunch 2.0.

The fact that the government has confirmed it will not support a financial transactions tax such as the Robin Hood tax, or offer anything new to tackle tax avoidance and evasion, tells us all we need to know about the commitment to social justice amongst the cabinet's millionaire ministers.

So I want to appeal for a debate about how we transform our economic system away from today's failed economic order - designed to serve the interests of the City of London's 1% - and instead build a new one.

One that is socially just and ecologically sustainable. One that provides useful and meaningful employment for all and strengthens our communities. We can and must find a better way of bringing people closer together and building a better society, while operating within the limits of the ecosystem.

Why will my fellow politicians not engage in these debates? The system we have is catastrophically impaired, yet our leaders remain prostrate before neoliberalism - an ideology that has destroyed jobs and firms, ruined the life-chances of millions, while enriching crooks, thieves and oligarchs. I call on others to join me in calling on our political leaders to match progressive politics with meaningful action, and in taking a principled stand to challenge the deeply corrupt financial system that has plunged us into environmental and economic crisis.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader
The article was first published in The Guardian

Monday, 12 December 2011

Haringey sends a huge ‘message of hope’ across the world

Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty International again teamed up with Haringey Green Party to send messages of hope to political prisoners and individuals at risk around the world.

The ‘Greetings Card Campaign’, run by Amnesty International each Christmas, is an effective way of highlighting the plight of individuals and groups around the world, and often results in people’s safety being secured and prisoners being released.

On Sunday, residents from across the borough flocked to Stroud Green’s Hornsey Vale Community Centre to sign cards and enjoy homemade mince pies and Christmas cake.

This is the fourth year the event has been held, and this year an impressive 422 cards and letters were signed in total.

Green Party London Assembly member – and Green Party candidate for London Mayor – Jenny Jones was in attendance this year. Jenny commented, “The very simple act of sending greetings cards to these individuals and groups is extraordinarily effective. Receiving thousands of cards from people all around the world gives these victimised people strength and also shows the authorities that these people cannot be simply made to ‘disappear'.”

One of the recipients of the cards this year is Filep Karma of Indonesia who was arrested in 2004 after taking part in a peaceful ceremony. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for 'rebellion'.

Jenny Jones added, “It was a really special afternoon and we’d like to thank everyone who came along and took part. We can now send our messages of hope across the world – and they really will make a difference.”

Friday, 9 December 2011

Lib Dem Equality Minister opposes equality

Featherstone backs discrimination against heterosexuals & pro-gay religions

Peter Tatchell, Coordinator of the Equal Love campaign and Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, writes on the Liberal Democrat Voice website:

Lib Dems should stick to their principles and urge Lynne not to renege on equality pledge

Bravo to the Liberal Democrat party conference. Two years ago, party members voted overwhelmingly to end the twin legal bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. They committed a future Lib Dem government to scrap sexual orientation discrimination in marriage and partnership law. Well done. Thank you.

Sadly, the Lib Dem Equality Minister, Lynne Featherstone, apparently with the support of the Lib Dem Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, is now actively backing discrimination. She plans to keep unequal laws, contrary to the Lib Dem's election pledges.

Specifically, Lynne is vowing to retain the prohibition on heterosexual civil partnerships and on religious same-sex marriages by faith organisations that want to conduct them. This is in direct defiance of what her party members voted for: equality.

Nick Clegg has not dissented from her stance. We can only assume that he endorses it.

Lynne is lovely. I like her as a person. However, she has announced a long and unjustified delay in the government's promised consultation on civil marriage and civil partnership; pre-empting the consultation findings by ruling out straight and religious equality.

She said at the start of this year that the consultation would begin in June. Then she postponed it until October. Now it has been put off until March next year. Why can't the consultation start now? Despite all our requests, Lynne has failed to explain why this delay is necessary.

I am not persuaded that there needs to be any consultation at all. The ban on same-sex marriage is homophobic discrimination and should therefore be repealed immediately.

If black or Jewish people had been banned from marriage, the government would act swiftly to ensure marriage equality. There would be no long drawn out consultation period. There would be no appeasement of racists and anti-Semites. Why the double standards?

No other government legislation is being subjected to such prolonged consultation and repeated postponements.

The Scottish government has not hesitated. It's consultation on marriage and partnership equality is already underway. Why is the UK Equality Minister dragging her feet and delaying her consultation until next spring? It doesn't make sense.

The Westminster government has promised to legislate marriage equality before the date of the next election, due by May 2015 at the latest. However, the delayed consultation could result in the measure not completing its parliamentary progress in time. Likely resistance by the House of Lords might result in its being timed out. Is this deliberate?

Ending sexual orientation discrimination in marriage law is not only the right thing to do, it has majority public support. There is, therefore, no reason for the government to delay in bringing forward legislation to end this legal iniquity.

Nearly two-thirds of the public support marriage equality. According to a 2009 Populous opinion poll, 61% of the public say that lesbian and gay couples should be allowed by law to get married:

Lynne Featherstone's gay marriage consultation announcement looks like an attempt to head off the Equal Love - - legal case in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR.

In February, four gay couples and four heterosexual couples filed an application in the ECHR to overturn sexual orientation discrimination in civil marriage and civil partnership law.

Speaking as the appeal coordinator, I can say we are quietly confident that we will win the case - eventually (an ECHR ruling can take four years).

The current UK ban on straight couples having a civil partnership is clear discrimination. Lynne's commitment to maintain this inequality is both surprising and shocking. It is wrong for her to exclude in advance any discussion about opening up civil partnerships to opposite-sex couples.

I stand for equality and this includes equality for straight people too. It would be wrong for the LGBT community to demand equal rights for ourselves and then ignore or accept the denial of equality to heterosexual people. In a democracy we should all be equal before the law.

There are many heterosexuals who would like a civil partnership. To deny them this option is very unfair - and it is illegal under human rights law. How can a Lib Dem Equality Minister support inequality?

The Netherlands has an equivalent to civil partnerships. Called registered partnerships, they are open to both same-sex and opposite-sex couples. The vast majority of Dutch civil partnerships are heterosexual ones. They are hugely popular and would be equally popular in the UK, if the government allowed straight couples to have them. To deny British heterosexuals the option of a civil partnership is profoundly wrong and unjust.

This is bad enough. However, Lynne has also ruled that her consultation will not consider the option of ending the ban on religious marriages for lesbian and gay couples, even though some faith organisations - such as the Quakers, Unitarians and Liberal Jews - have requested that they should be allowed to marry same-sex partners. Lynne says no. She says the ban must stay. This is a violation of religious freedom. While no religious body should be forced to perform same-sex marriages, those that support gay marriage should not be barred by law from doing so.

I appeal to Lynne - and Nick Clegg - to rethink this ill-considered consultation timetable and its pro-discrimination parameters - to both ensure non-discrimination and to avoid an embarrassing defeat in the European Court of Human Rights.

It is outrageous that the Equality Minister wants to maintain the unequal, discriminatory laws that bar gay religious marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. Her stance is not compatible with her professed Liberal Democrat values or with the wishes of the vast majority of Lib Dem party members.

If you share my concerns, I urge you to email Lynne Featherstone via her Equality Office senior officials, Emma Reed: and Lucy Phipps:

Your help could ensure a much needed rethink. Thank you, Peter Tatchell

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Note: This article was published this week on the Liberal Democrat Voice website:

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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Haringey Sends a Message of Hope

Haringey residents will have the chance this week to send greetings cards to people at risk around the world. An event, held jointly by Haringey Green Party and Hornsey and Wood Green Amnesty International will take place on Sunday, 11th December, 2pm ‘till 5pm, at Hornsey Vale Community Centre, Mayfield Road, Stroud Green. It is the fourth consecutive year the event has been held here, with residents signing no fewer than 482 cards in one afternoon last December.

The event is part of Amnesty International’s annual Greetings Card Campaign. This campaign puts people across the world in touch with each other in a simple way – by sending a card with a friendly greeting or message of solidarity to someone who is in danger or unjustly imprisoned.

The recipients of the cards are prisoners of conscience, people under sentence of death, human rights defenders under threat because of their work, and others at risk.

One of the people Amnesty have asked signers to send cards to this year is Filep Karma of Indonesia who was arrested in 2004 after taking part in a peaceful ceremony. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for 'rebellion'.

The very act of sending these cards offers hope and encouragement to the people who receive them. It can also help bring about change - the impression their international mail makes on police, prison staff or political authorities can help keep these individuals safe.
Participants will be offered homemade Christmas cake and mince pies.

Green Party London Mayoral candidate and London Assembly member Jenny Jones will be in attendance, signing cards alongside residents.

For more information about the Amnesty International Greetings Card Campaign see