Thursday, November 4, 2010

Student debt debate

Student debt debate

This new regime proposed by the Con Dems, puts UK education amongst the most expensive in the world whereas the Green Party wants to see education free including at university level, and to fund it by tax changes for those on 100k and over, among other changes.
At least £20K for fees over 3 years, plus a similar amount for accommodation and living expenses, will be hanging over most graduates for a good deal of their working lives, and may have to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 plus over 30 years - much like a mortgage. Many young people would feel intimidated by this prospect and the total number of students is likely to fall. If a graduate who was in employment later lost his/her job, the debt would remain on the books and actually increase as there is an interest charge, so that if the graduate returns to employment in a job earning more than £21,000 pa, s/ he will stand to pay back the added charge in the long run.
The position of the very poorest students was better covered, but the implication for those just above the bread line would be serious . Nick Clegg and Vince Cable have made the economic argument that these changes are necessary and "progressive", but the changes are going to hurt and there will be political repercussions, if not on the scale of the derided poll tax, but widely and permanently. The shift from state responsibility for the costs of higher education on to the shoulders of the individual is going to be profound. with thanks for commentary from Peter Reeve.

Friday, May 28, 2010

We must demand proportional representation

We have had many queries since the election, asking why the Greens didn’t do better at a time when most people are now aware of the very real issues which only the Green Party has been seriously addressing - for more than 35 years!

It became quite clear as we approached polling day that people were going to vote tactically. Many people said to us, apologetically, that although they wanted to vote Green, they would in fact be voting Lib Dem or Labour because they wanted rid of the Tories and they wanted proportional representation. Even the far right wing parties did better than the Greens because those voters are typically less reflective and so tend not to vote tactically.

Knowing that we could not win this time in this very conservative area, a lot of the energies of the local party were focussed on supporting the Greens' campaign in Brighton Pavilion – where, at 6am on May 7th, Caroline Lucas was elected Britain's first Green MP . She is the first Green MP worldwide to have been elected under a first-past-the-post system: a spectacular achievement. There are of course, many Greens in government in other countries, as well as in the European Parliament. In the UK, Greens are in the Scottish Parliament, London Assembly, on many councils – and, at last, in Westminster!

So thank you to all those who voted for a fairer world (whichever box you put your cross in). The next job for us all is to push for a fairer electoral system which will make every vote count, so that people can vote from the heart, and the real issues can come to the fore and be addressed in the interests of people and planet instead of in the interests of corporations and the very rich.

comments welcome to

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

poster parade 4

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poster parade 3

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poster parade 2

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poster parade 1

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A Reminder

A pleasant day in Swanland - this poster is close to the polling station.

Bank Holiday - campaigning in Beverley

The other placard messages were: 'Cut pay to fat cats not jobs in public services - all Tories out.'
and 'ERYC leads where Cameron will follow' (referring to the grotesque discretionary early retirement pension fund payment for a senior officer of East Riding of Yorks Council)
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Saturday, May 1, 2010

David Davis refuses to join debate - again!

The article below by Jonathan Reed appeared in The Yorkshire Post on 27 April 2010:

'Call for apology follows market confrontation

A ROW has broken out between a clergyman and former Shadow Home Secretary David Davis after a confrontation at a market place.

Father Oliver Coss has called for an apology after a confrontation with Mr Davis in Cottingham market as he tried to persuade him to take part in a hustings event he was organising.

But Mr Davis, who is campaigning to regain his Haltemprice and Howden seat, insists that during the exchange he was "firm but polite" and dismissed the incident as a "storm in a teacup".

Mr Coss, assistant curate of St Mary's Church, Cottingham, approached Mr Davis at the market along with Father Paul Smith, the Rector, after being told the politician was unable to attend Sunday's event, and said they were "astonished" by his response.

Mr Coss, who said he was a Tory voter but would be rethinking, said the meeting turned into "a deeply confrontational episode in front of our parishioners".

Now Mr Coss has written about it on social networking site Facebook where he said: "I want nothing more than an apology and this hustings to take place without any further unpleasantness".

But Mr Davis denied allegations he was rude. He said he already had campaign commitments when he received a written invitation the day before the encounter, and said a call received by a secretary several days earlier had not been passed on to him.

"I had no intention to be rude to anyone," he said.'

This has become a pattern. In the 2008 byelection the Tory campaign team used the same excuse (communications mix-up) to explain Mr Davis's refusal to engage with me on the civil liberties issue. What is he worried about?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

domestic solar energy

Today's report in the Independent concurs with our experience of getting a solar hot water system installed about 6 years ago now by Smart Energy UK. Although their own assessor said our house needed 2 panels facing in 2 directions to make the most of the sun, the SE installers turned up and installed only one panel. This has meant we lose the sun too early in the day to heat the water for the morning. We have complained several times but have never managed to get the firm to do anything about it. As with so many other issues, there needs to be regulatory bodies (as there are with tourism for example) to safeguard the public from cowboy operators who are not interested in follow-up.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday in Beverley - vote for your kids

Took leaflets and placards into Beverley. Sunny, busy. People walking past trying not to make eye contact. Feeling rather disconsolate - when a wonderful thing happened: 2 girls aged about 13 came up and asked what I was doing. I explained. One said 'Why are you dressed like that? It's weird' (boots, skirt, Green Party tabard, rosette and straw hat). The other said, 'That's rude', and I said, 'It's to attract attention.' Then they offered to take some leaflets to give out!! They did this for several hours, parading the placard up and down the crowded street....and they want to do it next saturday as well!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

robin looks suspicious

thought you might like another shot

It don't mean a thing if it aint got that Green swing

We moved down Toll Gavel and found some live jazz - The Black Cat Swing Club - perfect. What we need is a big Green swing! Spoke with people from all around the East Riding and Hull - and further afield.

On the stump - Saturday Market

Great day today - Beverley, Saturday Market, Butter Cross. We thought how little this spot is used when it could be a wonderful stage for street theatre etc. Just shows how much our community needs enlivening. More trading of locally grown food needed too.

'leader' debate

The debate last thursday was a good thing if it helped increase interest in politics. Nick Clegg came out marginally better than the others, BUT, if the Green leader, Caroline Lucas, had been on stage she would have outshone them all. Clegg said he would do things differently – BUT, how differently? All three still cling to the idea of economic ‘growth’. The Greens know that we have to change our ideas fundamentally if we are to climb out of recession without massive job losses and/or more damage to the environment. It was Caroline who came up with the term Green New Deal which the old parties have now adopted, but - the Greens’ policies actually hang together. ALL the old parties forget that the economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment. We forget this at our peril. We can’t continue with infinite growth on a finite planet.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


A few words on hunting: We walked up to see the Holderness Hunt meeting on Beverley Westwood last Boxing Day. You might assume the Greens are opposed to hunting and you would be right that we are against hunting with dogs for sport. On the other hand, we are happy to see the vestiges of an ancient tradition in the form of horses, people and hounds getting some exercise - but without killing foxes - as was the case on Westwood on Boxing Day. If foxes need controlling there are more humane ways to do that than using packs of dogs to tear them apart.

The Tory MP, Graham Stuart, on the other hand, said that if the Tories get into government at the coming election, he hopes the anti-hunting law will be repealed - so that this bloodthirsty 'sport' can resume. Mr Stuart spoke of retaining the 'freedom' to indulge in hunting foxes. The Greens' view is that we certainly want to retain our freedoms, but that archaic customs such as hunting and killing animals with dogs should no longer be seen as acceptable behaviour. Barbarity towards animals supports and encourages barbarity towards human beings.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Friday, March 19, 2010

Early spring in Howden (and Hornsea)

On the train on the way back to Beverley from a meeting in Leeds last tuesday, I felt impulsive - must have been the weak spring sunshine - and jumped off at Howden. Howden station is perhaps a mile from town so I had a good walk to start with - and noticed the ditch between the path and the fields. It looked lifeless - at a time when other still water is surging with frogs. Is it full of chemicals due to our current intensive agricultural methods? Can anyone tell me?

Nearing town, the first thing I noticed was the huge carpark in a field. I later discovered it's for the Press Association. As its quite a step back to the station, I decided I'd better first find out train times and was told Shire Hall was my best bet for tourist information - but - Shire Hall is closed on mondays and tuesdays. So where could I get information? This search gave me insight into the kindliness of people in Howden: the owners of the Minster View Hotel found me a train timetable, the landlord of the Wellington Hotel let me use his computer to try to check current train times (not easy!), and one of the post office staff found me an up to date timetable. I bought a meaty little magazine - Howden Matters - and chatted with the owners of various hostelries and shops. Some were angry about East Riding Council drawing yellow lines on the road and fining people for parking...but, to be fair (and I'm no admirer of ERYC), others felt it wasn't such an issue. Cars! It was nice to be free of one.

Having spent monday evening at a meeting in Hornsea of small traders trying to develop survival strategies for the arrival of Tesco, I do feel Howden is very lucky to have the ethical Co-operative and not to be dominated by the big-bully supermarkets. There are some great little shops in Howden - including butchers, deli, homecare - long may they thrive.

I spent a really pleasant afternoon in historic Howden and hope to return soon - thanks for the friendly welcome!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

'All war is organised murder'

Brian Haw's Awesome Peace Protest

We had a chat with Brian Haw on February 21st. He’s been camping opposite the Houses of Parliament for 8 years to protest against the aggression, death and destruction perpetrated by this country on Iraq. Brian deserves all our respect and admiration for standing up for human rights and civilised behaviour.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Politics Show Sunday 21st Feb

The Green Party was featured on the BBC Politics Show last Sunday with film of Hull North candidate Martin Deane, Huddersfield's Andrew Cooper, and myself doing a live bit from the London studio. Trouble is they asked me about climate change, and that's just not our main issue. I had about five points I wanted to make - but no time!

Young people and political debate

I spent a very interesting afternoon last week observing an East Riding Youth Assembly meeting in Beverley where young people were putting themselves forward as potential members of the Youth Parliament for the UK. 30 secondary school students spoke about what mattered to them - and it was all about justice. Issues included lowering the voting age, divorce and its effect on kids, bullying, the need to listen to young people’s views and to talk about disability in schools, unfair attitudes towards young people, and lack of things for young people to do. It was very impressive – and all these issues are championed by the Green Party whose slogan is ‘Fair is worth fighting for’.

The afternoon proved how caring young people can be, so it’s worrying that, in my experience, many young people don’t vote at all, often saying they know nothing about it. This allows the ‘grey’ parties (and the far right parties) to win seats because many older people seem to vote out of habit - or protest. It’s often younger people who want sensible fair Green politics, but who don’t vote…so its easy to see why we don’t get the positive change we so desperately need.

So, I’m inviting colleges and schools to please hold hustings (a meeting with questions to a panel of politicians) in the run-up to the general election. There was a Green landslide vote at Wolfreton School hustings (see below) : when people hear Green policies they like them. If you know a school or college (or, for that matter, any group at all) which is looking for a Green speaker, or a Green panellist for a hustings, do please get in touch with us.

Greens Landslide Win at Wolfreton School

I was delighted to be invited to Wolfreton School recently to participate in a political hustings in the run-up to the General Election. The audience was the whole of Year 10 and some sixth form politics students. The venue was the lecture theatre with adult politicians stage left and student politicians stage right. The adults represented Labour, Lib Dems, Conservatives, and myself for the Greens. The students represented Labour, UKIP, Green, BNP, Tory and Lib Dem. Tom (aged 13) also spoke as a member of the UK Youth Parliament. The politicians, young and old, described their policies, and questions followed.

Natalie and I gave the message that Green is the only way out of the recession. We can afford our policies because we would cut out the massive UK spending on ‘defence’. We would create hundreds of thousands of green jobs in agriculture, house refurbishment, insulation, public transport, and new energy technologies.

The audience voted and the result was a LANDSLIDE vote for the Greens!

Young people invariably believe in Green policies, but if they don’t vote (when they can), the older voters put in the OLD outdated parties and we get old outdated policies to keep us in the same old mess.

Many thanks for the event, Mr Richardson – if only more schools would do this….well done Wolfreton!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Campaigning in Cottingham in the rain

A bit of multi-tasking here: we wanted to do some campaigning, and needed to take some pics for our General Election Freepost leaflet, so invited passers by to join us and choose a poster to be seen with - we really enjoyed it despite the rain. The dogs were camera-shy.

Imagine the old parties doing this - would they get people to stand by them with posters saying, 'Let's buy a new Trident missile' or 'Privatise the NHS' or 'Support Big Corporations' or 'Send more soldiers to war'?!!!

It's good being Green because our policies make sense.

fungus on apple tree

Beautiful fungus on an old apple tree - an example of awesome biodiversity!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Revisiting an old stamping ground in this piece the Beverley Guardian published on Friday. Tread carefully, though!

Norwood House Campaign takes a new twist

Our long running campaign to keep Norwood House as a community resource was helped by the Planning Committee refusing a change of use to offices last Monday, 18 January. The Yorkshire Post followed up the story and latched on to the fact that we have referred the whole matter of the sale to the Ombudsman. The story above was published on Friday 22.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I sent this to the BBC 'send us a story' site today:

The Greens take issue with the Tories’ elitist approach to teaching and learning. Tories, typically, would assume that a good teacher is a commodity: they can be ‘made’ and ‘bought’.

The Greens have a different view. We would say that a good teacher is someone who likes and can communicate with children, and this quality cannot be measured by academic means. A good teacher is not necessarily someone who is ‘academic’.

The assumption that more pay will attract ‘the best’ teachers is also at fault - but this is the attitude we would expect from the Tories. A committed teacher will not be ‘bought’.

What the Tories, and the other ‘grey’ parties fail to understand, is that the aims of ‘education’ need a fundamental rethink. It’s not ‘bad’ or ‘good’ teachers that are the issue, but outdated assumptions underpinning our education system. The Greens advocate education which develops the whole child: learning to be, to do, to know and to live together (as recommended by UNESCO), rather than the ‘jumping through hoops’ style of education which we have all become used to and which causes such havoc.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ice and no action from council

I sent this letter to the Beverley Guardian today....

East Riding residents say the icy roads and pavements are a disgrace. Driffield, for example, has been even worse than Beverley. I've spoken to officers of East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) and they say they treat 38% of the road network on a precautionary basis and an additional 12% on a ‘responsive’ basis, but little or no funding is allocated for cul-de-sacs or pavements. Meanwhile the injuries are mounting - along with all their pain, cost and inconvenience. A&E in Hull has had ‘unprecedented’ numbers of injuries and has been forced to send people on elsewhere for surgery.

The ice issue is yet another example of ERYC’s poor record in deciding on sensible and humane priorities. ERYC seems to have priorities other than residents' welfare and safety - or surely there would be plans in place for emergency situations such as this? It should be a priority to enable people to get out of their houses. There's job potential too. Plenty of people would have been pleased with some seasonal paid work clearing smaller footpaths. Maybe there is a lack of ‘special vehicles’, or maybe health and safety regulation is being allowed to get in the way of common sense? Whatever the reason, there’s no excuse for leaving residents trapped at home or risking serious injury by going out. It’s the Council’s job to sort this.

But it’s a political decision - and ERYC is Tory-dominated. Do we want to see more neglect of public service and cost-cutting in the future? It’s ironic in this context that Graham Stuart (Tory MP for Beverley and Holderness) talks of care of those who are ‘elderly, frail or lonely’ – the very people who have been frozen into their homes. Green politicians, whether on local councils, in Westminster, or in Europe, prioritise safety and welfare. For example, there are 7 Green City Councillors in Oxford, where ‘all the main roads and pavements are gritted’ (quoted from your article last week).

Let’s have more sense and fairness instead of hidebound political thinking in pursuit of ‘targets’…and empty rhetoric.

Sincerely, Shan Oakes Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Haltemprice and Howden