Saturday, December 22, 2012

Cobblers to the Council!

East Riding Council is threatening the imminent removal of the historic setts (cobblestones) in the market message today was Save Our Setts and ....Cobblers to the Council! This was just the first of a list of other important issues to be dealt with.

I spoke with MP Graham Stuart at the end and asked him what the Tory Government does about errant Tory councils like this one... 'surely you're not proud of the way they carry on?' I asked.  He replied that it's democracy - people vote for them....!

Friday, December 21, 2012

School cancels Christmas

Bah Humbug!

The cancellation of Christmas by the Oasis Academy at Nunsthorpe, near Grimsby (in N-E Yorks according to today's Metro!)  says it all about the madness of the current approach to education.   The primary school says  they have to 'raise standards'  before reintroducing music and drama productions because they came bottom of a league table for  English and Maths.  An angry parent renamed the school  'the Scrooge Academy' .

A head teacher who had turned round a London school through music and the arts was outraged. The fact that schools have now reached the stage of  bizarre decisions like this is an indication of the depth of the crisis in education. School governors and heads have bought in to the myths of Gradgrind methods because they are lacking wise leadership from government.  Dickens' ‘Hard Times’ has morphed from being a satire to becoming a text book.  Talking of Dickens, the  UK government should be put through Scrooge’s nightmare experience in ‘A Christmas Carol’…..they need a dose of those ghosts warning against a preoccupation with cash boxes, ledgers and exploiting the workers.  Then they might – just possibly – realise the error of their ways.

The North East Lincs 'academy' may be an oasis from Christmas, but the UK government's approach to education (and society) is now an oasis from humanity and good sense.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Surely by now people should know the Greens are NOT a one-policy party!

My reply to a comment on the Yorkshire Post site:  Thanks for your reply, Circe, but please check out the Greens' comprehensive manifesto (on website) and you will see it is definitely not a one policy party! ... It's not surprising that people don't realise it, because the media concentrates on the old parties,  and the FPTP system conspires against change.
Green policy has been built up since the 70s by Conference.  The Green Party is actually growing steadily,  and when policies are set out for people to choose (without labelling them) most people choose green policies.
Green policy re NHS is to stop the rampant privatisation and fund it properly (savings from no new Trident, fairer taxation etc) - please see the Party website.
Re Europe: I agree there is a lot wrong with it at present, but there are so many issues which do not respect borders, that Greens believe that states must work together.  The Green Group is a strong force in Europe, working to make Europe democratic, honour subsidiarity, and support the welfare of people and planet instead of corporations. The Greens believe we have to work within Europe but not towards a superstate.  If we are outside, Europe will carry on without us - and get worse, taking us with it.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Beverley Town Meeting 7 Dec 2012

Beverley spoke!  Feathers were spat....
A packed Toll Gavel Methodist Church was full of (about 400) seething Beverlonians!   Sandy Patience for the Civic Society introduced the issues - East Riding  of Yorkshire Council  proposals to:  replace the setts/cobbles in Saturday Market;  demolish Longcroft School for housing; build more housing in the north and south of the town;  allow more retail on the Grovehill site. 
The Mayor chaired, and speaker after speaker asked why ERYC behaves in the arrogant way it does. Why were the Council leader and chief exec not present?  Why does the council do whatever it wants without consulting? Why do they want to destroy the historic fabric of the town rather than improve council housing?  Why is there no Beverley Councillor on the Cabinet?   Why did ERYC set targets for new houses in Beverley which far exceed (proportionately) anywhere else in the country? 
Resolutions were : to retain the granite setts (and the character of the Market Place);  to leave Longcroft School on its current site; to reduce the housing targets for the town as a whole; to prohibit supermarkets on Grovehill.  Other points were to take infrastructure implications of more building (re flooding) to the Ombudsman....and to get the MP to ask why there is no VAT on  newbuild when there is  VAT on renovation.
Friends of the Earth and the Green Party pointed out that land is no longer in production, and must be prioritised for food and not for building.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Redefining Business Success 3-4 Dec

As part of our Earth Charter in Business project (DfID funded), we instigated this Consultation at St George's House, Windsor Castle .  St George's was set up in 1966 by the Duke of Edinburgh and the then Dean, Robin Woods, as a place where people can come together to explore contemporary excellent idea.
On this occasion a group of  people from business (global and local) met with academics, NGOs and people from media, economics,  the arts, education, faith groups and government ministries  to discuss how we can redefine success in business - ie move away from profit as the sole measure of success.  Business could be the engine which moves us towards a sustainable world instead of away from it....but it will need education and encouragement, legislation from governments,  regulation and enforcement. Some very useful ideas and connections came out of the 24 hours, so,  many thanks to St George's House for this valuable opportunity.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Coalition of Resistance AGM - Dec 2nd. London

COR Chair , Romayne Phoenix of the Green Party,  with new COR president, Tony Benn.  A very busy day, meeting colleagues to resist the appalling cuts to services which are devastating to the most vulnerable members of society.  That a government made up of millionaires can do this is truly grotesque.  NEF's Olivier Vardakoulias , a Greek, and member of Syriza, gave a particularly insightful analysis.   Across Europe it's the elite on one side, the people on the other.  It's not an economic crisis - it's a political crisis.  Welfare provision has been funded by borrowing from future generations instead of a fair contribution from the rich.  Powerful interests prevent change.  

Saltaire: Yorks and the Humber Greens

Saturday Dec 1st.... members of Hull and East Riding Green Party (Martin Deane, Mark Maloney, Bill Rigby and Shan Oakes) , along with the Party's deputy leader, Will Duckworth, and other Yorks and the Humber Greens - at Titus Salt's magnificent Saltaire Mill,  that once thriving hub of the wool industry - now a gallery dedicated to David Hockney's work.  After the AGM and  hustings  for the  European candidacy, we visited the community hydro-scheme and the Mill.  Its always good to meet party members from across the region - and what great stuff they are all doing!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

new community shop and pub - York

Today,  in York, as i was mourning the closing of the Blakehead bookshop and veggie cafe,  near the top of Micklegate,   I found a new shop  - The Emporium, in Tudor premises owned by York Civic Trust.  It's a community venture, selling art, crafts and produce from local organisations,  along with fair trade and eco products - brilliant!    I bought a renovated  and artistically decorated  lamp ( along with local honey, jam and chutney)...  On top of this, I discovered the nearby Golden Ball pub is now a community pub - fantastic news  - so we dropped in this evening and the beer's great too! ( pics as grandaughters dropped the camera...)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Biosolids Conference

I'd  had very short notice of this event  (see my last post) so, even having perused the website, I'd not fully realised that biosolids means the organic 'fruits' of  sewerage.  I'd had in mind  the broader concept of biomass.  Euphemism getting in the way, perhaps, but apparently the experts in this large and fascinating field stick together and use familiar words with different meanings :  their 'cake' is not edible!   The invitation was to give a keynote speech about a green vision for the economy.  As I was short of time I'd adapted  a speech given by Caroline Lucas.   Luckily I was able to arrive an hour or so before my slot to eat and talk with stallholders (selling sludge management machinery, consultancy etc) and listen to other presentations. It was a steep learning curve. I discovered they are (in general) a green-minded group, so I chopped out of my speech the bit about climate change.  They are very aware of greenhouse gas emissions (as the photo of the presentation by ADAS shows).  They  want government to stop backtracking on renewable energy, and they say that regulation often gets in the way of greener ways of doing things as it's too inflexible.  Apparently the policy makers don't listen: e.g. they promise to meet at a plant and then change the venue to London, so they never really get to grips with the industry's issues.  Clearly, better communication between all sectors is needed (as it is with everything).  I'm really glad I had the opportunity to meet the biosolids gang...and I now have an invitation to speak at Leeds University, and a few contacts in this crucially important and, it seems,  misunderstood field. see

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

... sharing our vision

Speaking today at a conference in Leeds at the Royal Armouries  - the 17th European Biosolids  & Organic Resources Conference  - on a Vision for a Green Economy. There is a link to the text on this page, or you may click here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

London: GPEX , and Guerilla campaigning

Green Party Exec Meeting 17th Nov, Development House;

and Guerilla Campaigning - Leon, Kings Cross Station.  We were very surprised to see this stack of Coke at Leon which purports to espouse wholesome values ...maybe they don't know that Coca-Cola sets up plants in places where it can pay staff very low wages (we saw a plant in Uganda), uses up all the water, and then sells the sugar-based product to people, making out its good for them.See this link, for example

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Athens in November

....a few tourist shots on top of the Acropolis:  most of the dogs we saw in Athens seemed large and knocked out like this one - its clearly stressful guarding the Parthenon and all the other world heritage sites.
The crocuses are on the wonderfully named Areopagus  - the rock from which St Paul spoke to the assembled Athenians

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Aspects of solidarity

With Greek Greens at Athens Council of European Greens.
Truck drivers inspect ferry docking procedure at Brindisi this morning
Nov 14th European Day of Solidarity against austerity - Brindisi

Monday, November 12, 2012

Publish lists of rich tax dodgers. Get inquiries set up!

Speakers at the European Greens final meeting: Eva Joly (France/EFA) said, "It's very important that the lists of rich tax dodgers is published and inquiries are set up." In this way the rich and powerful, withholding money from their countries, can be called to account.
This woman from Crete said there is a Greek saying that "The fish stinks from the head down." These governments have done nothing for Greece: the social fabric has been shredded and education has been devastated. Yet the pressure is still to vote for old parties but really dynamic interventions are needed now to break the vicious cycle.
Green Ways out of the Crisis: 
- Dany Cohn-Bendit speaking, and left to right, Monica Frassoni (co-chair of European Green Party), Rebecca Harms MEP (co-president of the Green Group in the European Parliament) and Nikos Chrysogelos Greek MEP. (9/11/12)
- This man (Greek Greens) was saying that there has been destruction of people's collective spirit and the only real solution is to build a socially-based economy: large cooperatives, local schemes, etc.
The Greek guy was saying that there must be more federalism.

Shan Oakes, Athens.
European Green Party Council

Balkan Green Network meeting: a Greek panel discussing the economic crisis in Greece. (8/11/12)

The European Greens meeting in Athens

Green Party of England and Wales delegates, Constantine Buhayer and Shan Oakes

We voted on important resolutions in Athens:
  • to condemn the authoritarian behaviour becoming evident in various countries, 
  • to support the Nov 14th strikes across the EU, 
  • to oppose the use of the EU budget for defence research and 
  • to oppose an increase in destructive mining practices, 
to name a few.

Shan Oakes

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The debates get under way

Issues emerging in the first full plenary of the European Green Party - 
  • the austerity measures are having a serious impact on both the community and the economy. They are leading to societal breakdown and the reinforcement of a system which has already badly failed
  • the importance of integrity and good governing as a key factor in any programme to move forward
  • the need to show that the economy cannot be relaunched. Instead it needs to be re-tooled systematically
  • a Green electoral platform will only make headway with the electorate by making clear what alliances it is prepared to participate in
  • and that corruption is not unique to Greece within the EU!

    Shan Oakes, Athens

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Athenian graffiti


Athens - demonstration last night

Everybody was out on the streets marching or supporting the marchers and awaiting the vote in Parliament.

People are angry that the Greeks are being portrayed as shirkers to justify these draconian measures:  ' They want to make Greece like a failed Balkan state.' 

Someone else not on the march who had seen the event on TV, thought a military government is the answer...  

People agree that the current government is useless, without a mandate, and is reneging on all its promises. Some comments were:

'Salaries are being cut by 50% and prices are going up - you can't live', said a woman who works in a research institute and staying in Greece only to support her elderly parents.

 'You just can't live on the reduced salaries... if you get ill you can't afford treatment - even if it's available' - a woman who works on the Parthenon restoration.

'Lots of the decisions don't even bring any revenue to the government... it's illogical, unprecedented and insupportable ... and it's encouraging the rise of the far right' - Aristides, a human rights lawyer. 

It was very much the ordinary people, not 'troublemakers' as the media would have us believe, yet the people in Syntagma Square still got the tear gas treatment from police. But the people kept marching - despite the rain.  

The proposed measures have no logic in economics or common sense.  

'New ideas are needed', a taxi driver says. 

The European Greens Council this weekend must get its progressive message out there... there is no-one else with the radical vision to get Europe out of this mess. 

Shan Oakes
Green Party

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nov 6th Athens, Anti-austerity demonstration

Today was a HUGE demo against the austerity measures. 

 The march took at least 3 hours to pass at a given point.   There was no violence.  Tomorrow's is expected to be even bigger.  

 Everyone marched into Syntagma (constitution) Square.  

The Communist Party marched separately, followed by the unions and other groups - one group we spoke to was people with MS.

We aim to get translations of the many photos we took of the banners from  Greek colleague Constantine who is also here for the European GP council.

Shan Oakes
Green Party