15 December 2014

Raising Money for Liverpool Riverside

Right now, Liverpool Green Party are running an online crowdfunding appeal for our target constituency, Liverpool Riverside. We launched last week and nearly £900 has been raised by today, with a target of £3,000 which we need to reach early next year.

I was the candidate for the Green Party in 2005 for Liverpool Riverside. We spent £2,628 (see P264) and we held our deposit. I put a decent amount of money personally towards that total as our national freepost scheme was in jeopardy otherwise and despite very little "on the ground" activity, the addressed freepost that went out across the constituency meant that nearly every voter heard from us.

Between 2005 and 2010, we went from zero to two councillors, and in our target ward alone we were getting nearly as many votes as I gained across the whole constituency. We had far more "on the ground" local election activity than in 2005, with a full campaign in one ward and leafleting in others. Yet our vote dropped by 2% and we lost our deposit. Cleggmania (remember that?) played its part, but our reduced spend and the lack of an addressed freepost hurt our campaign. Our spending was only down a bit at £1,852 but the effect was significant.

In 2015 we come into the General Election as Liverpool's largest opposition party. In Riverside, our local election support was 27% compared to Labour's 53%. The Liberal Democrats have collapsed locally (they were in control of the council in 2010) to 3 councillors and will likely have just one left after May. We've now taken all three seats in St Michaels ward and a seat in neighbouring Greenbank. Our campaign team is active in all wards in the constituency. Even if we kept our spending on the General Election to a minimum, we would see considerable progress.

However, we actually want to win Riverside, in this election (or the next one) and that will need financial support. We've seen that it is not enough to just do the ground campaigning. If every voter is to hear from us, we need to raise the money to enable us to do that. So if you want an alternative to Labour in Liverpool, then the Greens need your backing, click on the campaign to the right and help us maximise our impact.

11 December 2014

If only this had been Ed Miliband's Speech

Ed Miliband MP, Leader of the Labour Party, gave a speech on the deficit, today. If you want to read the original, then go to this Labour site. If only the leader of Britain's largest opposition party could have given the following speech.

My speech today is about the deficit.

Its place in our priorities.

How a progressive government would deal with it.

And how we would do so consistent with our values.

Eight days ago in the Autumn Statement, it became clear what the Tory plan for the country is.

They promised to clear the deficit in this Parliament and they have failed.

Now they say they want to run a big surplus by the end of the next Parliament.

And their plan is to return spending on public services to a share last seen in the 1930s: a time before there was a National Health Service and when young people left school at 14.

There is only one 35 per cent strategy in British politics today: the Tory plan for cutting back the state to that share of national income.

They have been exposed by the Autumn Statement for who they really are.

Not compassionate Conservatives at all.

But extreme, ideological and committed to a dramatic shrinking of the state, whatever the consequences.

They are doing it not because they have to do it but because they want to do it.

That is not our programme.

That will never be our programme.

And I do not believe it is the programme the British people want.

But the British people do want to know our approach.

And today I want to set it out.

We start from the clear facts that the government, on behalf of all the people of Britain, underwrote and saved the private banking companies who caused the financial crash, believing that not to do so would have worse consequences for us all. This country needs a long-term plan to make the country work for the majority, but it has only been the privileged few at the top who have felt the benefits of the resumption of economic growth in Britain.

Now, some people have argued that who caused the deficit simply doesn’t matter when we are thinking about how to cut it.

They are wrong.

It matters.

Because unless those who most enjoyed the good times, whose reckless speculation and pursuit of profit above all other things, pay back their real dues, then it will be the people of this country and the cherished public services we have defended for three generations who will be sacrificed. This will harm us and our society. It will be harmful to our economic stability. It will be harmful to social cohesion.

And it is working people who will end up paying the price in the economic instability that is created.

Dealing with our debts is also necessary for funding our public services.

Higher debt interests payment squeeze out money for those services and for investment in the long-term potential of our country.

So there is no path to growth and prosperity for working people which does not tackle the deficit fairly and decisively.

But what we need is a radical approach, which deals with our debts, but does so in a way that does not punish the people of this country any further.

Today, I want to lay out the principles of a genuine and radical alternative.

Not a shadow Budget, but a sense of how a government that will not decide policy by focus group, will approach the key issue of our time.

This is the central contrast between our approach and the Conservatives’:

We will deal with our debts but we will never return to the 1930s or the 1990s and 2000s, when we were wrong to be relaxed about people becoming filthy rich.

We won’t take risks with our public finances but we won’t take risks either with our public services, our National Health Service.

Our tough and balanced approach will balance the books through an economy based on high wages and high skills, common sense spending reductions and fair choices on tax.

Their unbalanced approach of 1930s public spending and unfunded tax cuts will put at risk our National Health Service, undermine our economic future and threaten working families.

Today I want to lay out the five real policies which will show that my words are not merely rhetoric but show that we have principles and that we have learned from the mistakes and missed opportunities we had while we were a New Labour government.

Our first policy is that we will set out now credible and deliverable cuts to help deal with our debts while protecting public services.

This starts with an end to the Trident nuclear weapons system. We will defend services from real threats and we will defend our country from real threats. Our nuclear weapons are obsolete and act as no deterrent to the very real threat of terrorism that we face today from extremism.

We will also scrap the planned HS2 rail line. At a time when we can work online, at any time and in most places, the need to get from one British city to another faster than the 125mph our quickest trains currently manage matters only to elite business people. What most of us want are reliable buses and trains serving our local communities, not a white elephant of a project that will serve only those who will be able to afford what will be very expensive fares.

Removing these two items from public spending will be essential if we are to prevent debt interest payments mounting up.

The second policy is that a successful deficit reduction strategy depends upon reform of our economy.

That is the biggest lesson of the failures of this government and New Labour.

For some time, I have heard people claim that our economic argument around the cost of living crisis has been missing the main economic challenge, of tackling the deficit.

But the facts are now in: it turns out that tackling inequality is the key to tackling the deficit.

Last week, the Office of Budget Responsibility confirmed that income tax and national insurance receipts are £43 billion a year lower than forecast in 2010.

Sixty percent of the drop in tax receipts in the last year is because of weaker wage growth but we are also seeing the corrosive effect of tax avoidance. Where tax can't be avoided is if we are willing to tax wealth, not income, making it far harder for corporations and wealthy individuals to avoid paying their fair share to society.

Putting our young people back to work will improve tax revenues and cut the social security bill but we need to move beyond that to ensure that those who are most able to pay do so. Britain bears a great responsibility for a number of tax havens around the world. It is time to make the kind of tax evasion and avoidance that is routine in the corporate world becomes unacceptable to the British public.

We'll raise the minimum wage to £10, end the scandal of zero-hours contracts and ensure people have the right to fair pay, a value enshrined in United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

And reforming the banks, requiring them to make an ongoing contribution that reflects the size of the problem they have left the people of Britain with, a public works programme to tackle and mitigate the effects of climate change that will provide job and training opportunities for those who have found it most difficult to find work with low skills. We'll rebalance our approach to businesses of tomorrow: with our focus on small and medium sized businesses, not the large multinationals that least need our help.

This is the modern agenda for both successful businesses and social justice.

And there is a lesson for Labour here.

The last Labour government increased spending year on year, but year on year inequality increased. We didn't get it right. We could have done more.

That option will not be available to us but an ongoing commitment to reduce inequality in our society, with a clear statement that we will, year on year, used the proceeds of progressively higher taxation on the very richest to fund the boost in spending power that a citizen's income would provide for the majority of us in a way that would benefit communities up and down the country.

Our third policy is that Britain needs common sense taxation, not a vastly overcomplicated system.

We can tax wealth in a way that redistributes it year on year from a minority who hold the most, to the majority who hold the least. We know that if wealth was spread fairly in Britain, every child, woman and man would hold a £135,000 share each. That is more than many families can even dream of.

Here we should take inspiration from what the radical 1945 Labour achieved and believe that another world is possible.

We will devolve unprecedented levels of spending from Whitehall to local and regional government over a whole range of areas, including transport, skills and back to work programmes.

Local government leaders rightly want control over these budgets.

They know those budgets will be smaller than what is spent at the moment.

But they know they will make better decisions because they are local decisions that suit local needs.

And just as we need to spend money better by giving power to local people, so too by breaking down the old bureaucracies.

Our fourth principle is that we should ensure that those with the power to influence others in our society will no longer be able to scapegoat, blame or attack the most vulnerable.

It was not immigrants who crashed our economy. It was not those claiming Disability Living Allowance. It was not those claiming unemployment benefit. This crash was caused by those with the most wealth, who were hellbent on amassing even more. Let's make sure we always remember who caused the problems.

Our fifth policy is that this party will only make promises we will keep.

The promises we make now will shape our society for the next century, not just the next five years. To tackle the problems of the 21st century, we need real radicalism. We promise not just a Tory-lite approach to austerity, but the alternative. We present it to you the British people so that country has a real choice at this election.

14 November 2014

A Week in Liverpool Politics - The Matrix has him

What a great week for libraries in Liverpool. There has been a massive campaign both inside and outside the city to keep all of libraries functioning. At the 29th October Mayoral Select committee, St Michaels Green councillor Tom Crone asked the Mayor to redirect some of the savings from LDL to saving the libraries. Minutes are not available, but the answer to the question was no at that time. Cathy Cassidy, Alan Gibbons and many others made their voices count, but most of all, it is the people of Liverpool, raising their voices together who stopped this from happening.

At Wednesday's council meeting, the Green Party opposition, Liberal (not Liberal Democrats) councillors, Liberal Democrats councillors and Jake Morrison (independent, formerly Labour) put down a common motion in the council chamber to protect Liverpool's Green spaces. As usual, the Mayor adopted his confrontational and dismissive attitude, rather than accepting that people can take a different view. He said that the opposition councillors "...were not fit to hold office." Labour councillors voted along with the Mayor to reject the motion. You can read it here and decide for yourself.

In summary, anyone following politics in our city could be forgiven for thinking the Mayor has stumbled into a Matrix-style dream world and seems seized by it. Mr Anderson needs reminding, that opposition to his decisions by members of the public, authors and opposition councillors can be legitimate and genuinely held. He needs reminding that people feel strongly about protecting green space, bus lane closures and other issues, and they can and will fight their corner against him. Finally, he needs someone within Liverpool Labour to have a quiet word and tell him that he is not Neo in the Matrix, he is not endowed with powers that make his judgements better than anyone else, and that he won't automatically become Mayor of the Liverpool Region. Here is what Jim Hancock writes about the Mayor's response to devolution in Greater Manchester:

"...on the issue of devolution he is not handling things well. He needs to work with Phil Davies, the leader of the Combined Authority, not continue to make snide comments about part time politicians meeting every four weeks. Also his ambition to be the elected metro mayor takes no account of the democratic processes of the Labour Party. If an elected mayor was on offer, Phil Davies or Jane Kennedy (the current Merseyside Police Commissioner) might at least want to offer an alternative to Joe’s coronation."

I'd go further. I think that as things currently stand in relation to how Labour councillors and activists view the Mayor around Merseyside, privately at least, there is a huge amount of concern at the way he runs the city. There would undoubtedly be a "anyone but Joe" candidate who would stand if a Merseyside Mayor came along.
This is how Liverpool Greens responded to the news. Martin Dobson, Green Party Candidate for Liverpool Riverside 2015 said:

"The Green Party supports the decentralisation of powers to local communities and this could be a great opportunity to move some power and responsibility from Westminster to the regions. But before any regional mayor and assembly is granted there needs to be consultation with the people of Merseyside."

"It is important that any Merseyside wide Mayor should be accountable to a democratically elected body - possibly a Merseyside Assembly, in the same way that the London Assembly holds the Mayor of London to account. Like in London this is an opportunity to make everyone’s vote count by adopting a proportional representation system of voting."

John Coyne, Leader of the Greens on Liverpool City Council added:

"Liverpool's city mayor was imposed by the Labour Party over the heads of the people of Liverpool without a referendum and we have seen some of the risks of having so much power in the hands of one person. Any future change for Merseyside should only go ahead if it is backed by a referendum or the people.”

Finally, Jake Morrison has announced that he will not be contesting Liverpool Wavertree as an independent. That is a shame. Jake has shown genuine commitment to the local community he represents but he has endured a torrid time from his former Labour colleagues. He's made clear that he will be campaigning for a candidate other than Luciana Berger in the General Election. He has other priorities to pursue in life and rightly so, but I think (and hope) we'll see him back in Liverpool politics in the future.

8 November 2014

No Change For Labour Now

I wrote in June that the Miliband endorsing the Sun moment was the last chance for Labour to act internally to secure a majority at the next election. Had Liverpool MPs and others acted then, there would have been a reasonable time in which Ed Miliband could have stepped down or been pushed. A new leader could then have taken Labour into the election. At this stage to try and stage a coup against him would be seen as desperate. Labour have made their choice and they have to stick with it.

I think what is clear now is that we are heading into an election where there will be no clear winner under the First Past the Post system for the second successive election, and the maths might be very complicated for any party to form a majority. The perceived wisdom is that UKIP will cost the Tories seats but as we are about to see in the Rochester byelection, a seat that Labour held up until very recently, and the kind of seat they should really be winning at this stage in a parliament against an unpopular incumbent government, they are no longer in the running to be a majority government.

We'll be putting forward a radical programme to lift Britain out of austerity, that emphasises redistribution and a fairer society. We absolutely must see the inspirational Caroline Lucas re-elected to Parliament. It is the kind of programme Labour could have put forward. Miliband would still be under unrelenting attack from the right wing press, but the working class Labour voters who are deserting them for the Greens or UKIP might instead be backing him. As a leader, whether you are a member of Labour or otherwise, he has been disappointing. That isn't good when you consider the alternative to Labour as the largest party is likely to be five more years of coalition.

21 October 2014

Power to the People

What if we could support a democratic state in North Africa by buying clean, green electricity, and potentially at the same time start greening the Sahara desert? It's a bit of a no-brainer and we need to monitor carefully how this bid is handled.

We know that the primary way of tackling our power needs is to reduce demand through energy efficiency (which is already happening) and that storage is also vital. It's also well worth reading the IPPR Report "Beyond the Bluster" that shows just how much of our energy needs can be met by wind, and that even if the wind doesn't blow in the UK for a few days, Denmark, Germany and our European partners will be producing more than they might need.

Finally, we have local solar, hydroelectric power and other non-conventional options which can all make a contribution. I'm an optimist about this. With wind dropping below the price of coal for energy generation, the writing is on the wall for fossil fuels and eventually nuclear. How fast we are going to get there will be about political willpower and our coalition government have been pursuing fracking and nuclear options instead. History will record that as a serious misjudgement not just environmentally, but economically too.

16 October 2014

Mental Health and Language

Yesterday, we sent out the following press release in response to the language used by Liverpool's Mayor on an article published on the Liverpool Echo website.

The Green Party in Liverpool have condemned the insensitive and offensive use of language by Mayor Anderson when he had been challenged in relation to the purchase of the Cunard building by Liverpool City Council.

Yesterday, the Echo reported that the Mayor had said he would:

“send an accountant and a psychiatrist around if any one says its not a good deal" and "if anyone thinks it's a white elephant, they should be certified".

After some strong comments below the article on the Echo website, the original quotes have been removed.

Speaking for the Green Party, Martin Dobson, Parliamentary Candidate for Liverpool Riverside said:

“I’m deeply disappointed by the Mayor’s use of language in relation to mental health. On the 10th October, World Mental Health day amongst other things highlights the need to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.”

“The Mayor’s comments were insensitive and offensive. It is not sufficient for someone to simply ask for them to be removed and for these to be airbrushed from history. The Mayor should apologise.”


Now there are a couple of explanations here. Firstly, it could be that the journalist wildly and inaccurately misquoted the Mayor of our city. Subsequently they had to remove the quotes. I don't feel that is likely but I won't rule it out. If any Labour councillor or member locally wants to make a statement to that effect, I'll add it onto the blog here.

Secondly, the Mayor made these comments, they appeared online and in response to the comments, either the Mayor or Labour's press operation asked for these quotes to be removed, hoping to bury this, at best, insensitive and ignorant use of language.

I haven't got a thirdly, but maybe someone else has. Comments are welcomed.

The story shouldn't be buried. The Leader of the Labour Party, Ed Miliband, rightly hauled Lord Freud over the coals yesterday for suggesting that disabled people should be paid less than the minimum wage. He has issued a full and unreserved apology. Surely for consistency, we should expect the Mayor of Liverpool to do the same?

29 August 2014

Scottish Independence and a Narrow Win

Today’s poll puts Yes at 47% and No at 53% after you strip out the undecided. Six months ago, polls like this, with less than 3 weeks to go until polling day were thought to be unlikely. It will be a very close finish. Whether the poll methodology is accurate will have to wait for polling day to come and go, but my feeling is that the groups of voters being targeted by the Radical Independence Campaign generally don’t vote and generally don’t register on polls.

The ground operation of the Yes campaign (and Better Together’s efforts) will now be crucial, but what happens if Yes succeeds by a very narrow margin (say a few thousand votes) on an 80% turnout. Will we have “hanging chads” and legal challenges to contend with from an establishment intent on preserving the union? If that is the case, then onlookers from south of the border need to be very aware of some key findings so far in this campaign.

A study by Dr John Robertson, from the University of West Scotland, pointed to media bias during Phase 1 of the campaign (up to 18th September 2013). He has experienced hostility since then from the BBC

BBC Scotland was found to have broken editorial guidelines on accuracy over one of the key issues of the independence debate - membership of the European Union

A narrower follow up study on a specific programme, again pointed to BBC staff making more negative statements about independence than positives

We shall have to see exactly how editorial comments are delivered the day before the election, but again it is likely that the mainstream media will be urging a “No” vote. Should Scotland then go on to vote Yes to Independence, no matter how narrow the margin, it will be a positive vote when the odds were stacked against them. Any vote for Yes needs to be accepted, and while the betting is still against it, the momentum is there for Yes and this really looks from an outside perspective that it will be going down to the wire.