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Sunday, 22 November 2015

Litter Pick Up in New Town

Despite some atrocious weather yesterday morning, a determined band of volunteers set out to spend nearly an hour cleaning litter from New Town streets. Some Greens, a Labour supporter and Colchester's Conservative MP Will Quince made a cross-party effort to raise awareness of how we can all do our bit to help to make Colchester litter-free. If everyone just took a small amount of time to pick up a few bits of litter near to their homes then we'd be a fair way to cracking the problem. In just a short time the bags of litter below were collected:
Once this was sorted into recyclables and non-recyclables I was surprised by the sheer amount of cans some people deem fit to just throw onto our streets.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

LITTER in Colchester: Your Chance To Do Something About It

Want to do something about litter in Colchester? Then come along to an awareness raising litter pick up in New Town on Saturday 21st November at 10.00 am. The PLACE = meet up outside the Co-Op on Wimpole Road (next to the funeral parlour). The TASK: go out to the nearby streets and pick up five pieces of litter or more if you wish. This should take no more than 20 minutes (probably much less).Then meet back to pool the hoard.
The aim is to raise awareness of the problem and how a small amount of litter picking by everyone can stop New Town and the rest of Colchester looking like a dump. This is non-party political and all are welcome.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

LITTER in New Town

I'm increasingly concerned about the amount of litter I'm seeing around New Town. In one twenty minute trawl this morning I picked up a whole bin bag (see above) of rubbish just from Morant Road, King Stephen Road and part of Winnock Road. I mean the kind of low-level casual litter that makes an area look generally a bit shabby. Beer cans left on the pavement or on road signs and telephone wiring boxes are commonplace along with fast food packaging and plastic bottles. For some reason there were a fair number of plastic coat hangers thrown into the road and half-drunk bottles of lucozade. This kind of littering creates the impression of a lack of pride in an area and the last thing and street needs is to gain a reputation as 'a bit of a dump'.
The solution to this is however is a basic and easy one. If just one person in every New Town Street spent 20 minutes on a weekend day just walking up and down it picking up the most obvious litter a huge difference can be made. I've started doing this on Morant Road.
See below for some examples of the litter I saw this morning.


Some of the perennial beer cans, a tray of chips dumped on a hedge next to the pavement and general mess:

Sunday, 4 October 2015

The Fight Against Bradwell Continues

Colchester Green Party members were out this afternoon supporting the demonstration on monkey beach, Mersea Island against the building of a new Chinese built nuclear power station across the estuary at Bradwell. We were happy to support BANNG (Blackwater Against New Nuclear), FAB (Fight Against Bradwell) action group and the many local people of all ages who were there. This follows George Osborne's decision to use £2 billion of UK taxpayers' money to underwrite a new Chinese built nuclear power station at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
Admittedly it was a fine, sunny early autumn afternoon today, however I was struck by how beautiful the Blackwater Estuary is. Since the decommissioning of the old Magnox station began in 2002, there has been an explosive recovery in the marine environment. However the proposed new power station would take six times as much water from the estuary as the old one. Removing that amount of cooling water would severely damage the ecology of the estuary. It is also likely that high level nuclear waste could be stored on the site.
Moreover the new plant would be built using Chinese components and most likely by Chinese labour. In China the safety of the Chinese nuclear industry has been questioned by their own scientists. The GMB union has issued the following statement:
"Chinese nuclear technology is unproven and no government should even consider allowing it to be used in a new nuclear power station 60 miles from London".
Mr Osborne has stated:
"If we want places like Bradwell to have jobs... then we must get behind these projects."
Er right......  Its a shame then that 'these projects' are likely to be built using a Chinese reactor, parts made in China and by Chinese labour. Meanwhile the government has slashed funding to renewable energy projects in the UK, placing 27,000 UK jobs at risk in solar energy alone, including 4000 in the south east.

Sunday, 13 September 2015


The Lib Dems in Castle Ward are angry. Very angry. One of their councillors, Jo Hayes, has put out a leaflet blaming Colchester Green Party for their losses in the May local elections because our vote rose and theirs declined. Cllr Hayes is disgusted that people chose to vote Green when apparently, so Cllr Hayes tells one of our members, all our election leaflets contained was, "generic motherhood and apple pie", and all we do is, "lecture people".
Well I am more than delighted that they are angry and upset. It is about time that they took responsibility for their own failure, both within Colchester and nationally. They are a sinking ship in wards such as those Cllr Hayes represents, while our vote is on the increase there. The momentum is with us. In a first past the post system a split vote can indeed let the Tories in, therefore it is safer to vote for a rising party (the Greens) than a party which is in decline across the whole of the UK. In addition the Lib Dems lost more votes across the whole of Colchester to UKIP, the Tories and Labour than they did to us. They lost votes in all directions. This was their own failure and their own fault. High time they took some responsibility rather than pontificating about how its all the fault of others. They chose to betray young people over tuition fees, be so slavishly pro-EU that they support TTIP (which would give large corporations the right to sue our government for requiring them to drop zero-hours contracts or stop fracking), prop up and de-toxify the Tory brand, support the bedroom tax, do precious little in Colchester about transport and overdevelopment and generally take their voters for granted.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Jeremy Corbyn Labour Leader

Today's news regarding the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader has massive implications. I think it is both very positive and a grave and serious threat all rolled into one. The positives first. Corbyn's election is further evidence that many people are sick of the neo-liberal 'consensus' way of doing politics with politicians talking from a script and spouting mantras written by spin-doctors. He opposes Trident, attacks on basic Trade Union rights, raiding public sector pensions and running down the welfare state and he is for free education, scrapping tuition fees, income tax increases on the wealthy and the NHS. All of this I personally agree with and is common ground with Green Party policy. He is somebody who I believe the Green Party could and should explore ways of doing business with in terms of certain joint campaigns, although I completely oppose electoral pacts.
However Mr Corbyn is not green, despite having a more positive approach to environmental issues than much of his party does.
When Jeremy Corbyn talks about re-opening the coal mines, he shows clearly how his priorities differ from those of the green movement. The same is true regarding his support for airport expansion. We are the only political party in the UK which places ecologism at the top of the agenda as well as opposing austerity and supporting the public sector. The Labour Party has never, when in power, prioritised environmental issues. I am also very uncomfortable with his willingness to share platforms with organisations who advocate terrorism and with his complacent attitude towards Islamic State and their horrific abuse of basic human rights. The challenge now is to set out to voters clearly not just the common ground we have with Corbyn but most importantly where we differ.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Green Party Open Meeting : Climate Change

The next open meeting is tomorrow (Monday 7th September) at the New Inn pub at 7.30pm. The subject is global warming and how the current economic system, based on consumerism, free-market neo-liberalism and endless growth cannot solve the problem. You cannot delude people by suggesting that individuals can solve global warming just by using the car a tad less or reducing their 'carbon footprint' by buying the right products. The whole system needs to change and that means action by governments. Find out more by coming to the meeting. All welcome.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

My Reaction to the Budget: 8th May 2015

There is a mixture of good and bad in Osborne's first post election budget. Mostly bad. However in the interests of balance I'll start with the good:


New national living wage will be introduced for all workers aged over 25, starting at £7.20 an hour from April 2016 and set to reach £9 by 2020 - giving an estimated 2.5 million people an average £5,000 rise over five years.

Fine. A step in the right direction. However many would now question whether £7.20 an hour really is a living wage when rents are rising and in-work benefits cut.

Personal allowance, at which people start paying tax, to rise to £11,000 next year. The government says the personal allowance will rise to £12,500 by 2020, so that people working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage do not pay income tax.

Again fine.

Tax credits and Universal Credit to be restricted to two children, affecting those born after April 2017.

Yes. This needs doing. We must stop paying people to have children. However it should not affect people who already have more than two children. Also it doesn't go far enough. Wealthy people who have more than two children should face tax increases.

Permanent non-dom status to be abolished - from April 2017, anyone who has lived in the UK for 15 of the past 20 years will pay same level of tax as other UK citizens, raising an estimated £1.5bn.

A good idea.


There are so many that I will just highlight the main ones:

Working-age benefits to be frozen for four years - including tax credits and local housing allowance, but maternity pay and disability benefits exempted.

The annual household benefit cap will be reduced to £23,000 in London and to £20,000 in the rest of Britain.

Basically an all round attack on the poor. Most people who claim benefits are in work.

18-21-year-olds will not be entitled to claim housing benefit automatically, with a new "earn to learn" obligation.

Or in other words, the under 21s will be prevented from getting Housing Benefits via the introduction of a load of hoops to jump through. More young homeless on the streets.

Student maintenance grants to be replaced with loans from 2016-17, to be paid back once people earn more than £21,000 a year.

Driving students into more and more debt. A stealth tax on those who work hard at school and try to get on while those with rich parents get hand-outs from mummy and daddy.

A consultation will take place on changing Sunday trading laws.

Thus damaging family life, creating a 7 day working week and eroding the rights of people to leisure time.

£7.2bn to be raised from clampdown on tax avoidance and tax evasion with HMRC budget increased by £750m.
WHAT? When there is an estimated £120 billion lost in tax evasion and tax avoidance? Nowhere near enough.

Rents in social housing sector will be reduced by 1% a year for the next four years.


Inheritance tax threshold to increase to £1m, phased in from 2017, underpinned by a new £325,000 family home allowance.

And they say its a time of austerity. That we are all in it together. A massive tax break for the wealthy.


Sunday, 17 May 2015

The May 7th General & Local Election Results Colchester


                                                                                VOTES          SHARE%        +/- %

Conservative:                                  Will Quince               18,919            38.9                     +6.1
Liberal Democrat:                 Sir Bob Russell          13,344            27.5                   -20.8
Labour:                                    Jordan Newell             7,852            16.2                     +3.8
UKIP:                                        John Pitts                     5,870             12.1                    +9.2
Green Party:                            Mark Goacher             2,499               5.1                    +3.6
Christian People's Alliance:  Ken Scrimshaw              109                0.2                   +0.2

Conservative Majority = 5,575

Turnout: = 65.5%

The Green Party vote has increased by over three and a half times since 2010, when our candidate Peter Lynn gained 694 votes (1.5%). This is a significant increase for us and shows that the party is gathering momentum.
Clearly the most significant change was the drop of 20.8% in the Lib Dem vote. The most significant gainers from this were UKIP with their 9.2% increase, although the Conservatives were able to take the seat with a smaller increase (6.1%) because they were already in second position.

For the Green Party this result is encouraging but it shows that there is still much hard work to be done.


The full list of results are: 

Berechurch: Labour (Dave Harris) 1,958, Conservative 858, UKIP 521, LD 406, Green 152
Birch and Winstree: Conservative (Andrew Ellis) 1,913, UKIP 569, LD 291, Lab 287, Green 145
Castle: Conservative (Darius Laws) 1667, LD 1172, Green 982, Labour 821
Christ Church: Conservative (Annesley Hardy) 964, LD 670, Labour 433, Green 319, UKIP 148
Copford and West Stanway: Conservative (Jackie Maclean) 673, UKIP 177, LD 115, Lab 155, Green 46
Fordham and Stour: Conservative (Nigel Chapman) 2,023, labour 396, Green 336, LD 327
Great Tey: Conservative (Peter Chillingworth) 979, LD 257, Labour 170, UKIP 162, Green 104
Highwoods: Independent (Philip Oxford) 1,592, Conservative 1,192, Labour 479, LD 466, UKIP 395, Green 187
Mile End: Conservative (Ben Locker) 2,101, LD 1,769, Labour 707, UKIP 533, Green 368
New Town: LD (Annie Feltham) 1,289, Conservative 832, Labour 772, Green 631, UKIP 493
Prettygate: Conservative (Will Quince) 2,269, LD 967, Labour 522, UKIP 489, Green 196
Shrub End: Conservative (Pauline Hazell) 1,571, LD 1157, UKIP 757, Labour 736
St Andrew’s: Labour (Tim Young) 1,462, Conservative 715, LD 447, Green 317
St Anne’s: LD (Barrie Cook) 1173, Conservative 976, UKIP 770, Labour 600, Green 241
Stanway: Conservative (Fiona Maclean) 1861, LD 1611, Labour 616, Green 261
Tiptree: Conservative (Margaret Crowe) 1,873, UKIP 1,313, Labour 535, LD 194, Green 129
West Bergholt and Eight Ash Green: Conservative (Marcus Harrington) 1,578, UKIP 370, Labour 306, LD 265, Green 204, Independent 151, Patriotic Socialist 12
West Mersea: Conservative (Patricia Moore) 2,154, UKIP 988, labour 402, Green 330, LD 278
Wivenhoe Cross: Lib Dem (Mark Cory) 668, Labour 328, Green 130, Conservative 271, UKIP 90

Wivenhoe Quay: Labour (Rosaling Scott) 1295, Conservative 1251, Green 325, LD 295

Hilighted are Castle ward, where Andrew Canessa came third with 982 votes ( approx 21%) and New Town ward where I came fourth (beating UKIP) with 631 votes (approx 16%).
These results are particularly encouraging and show that we have the potential to get Green Councillors elected in 2016 when every seat in Colchester will be up for grabs.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Poll Result: The Hospital/NHS is Your Top Local Issue

Thanks to those who voted in the poll of top local issues on this blog. It is clear that the NHS/Hospital is the top concern of those voting. What I and the Green Party would aim to campaign to bring about is:

1) Investment in our hospital must increase at the same rate as local demand and population. Yes the hospital is currently trying to recruit more nurses and has gained some additional doctors in the last few years. However it is still overwhelmed because Colchester's population increased by 17,000 from 2001-2011 and is still increasing. Also the hospital is cutting non-front line staff which means more work for those left. We need increased funding to end the problem of the beds being available but patients not allowed to occupy them because of lack of staff.

2) The Green Party will increase overall national NHS funding by 12 billion per year. this will be paid for by a combination of a Wealth Tax, increasing the top rate of income tax to 60% and saving £30 billion lost in tax evasion / tax avoidance. Labour has not made it clear by how much they would increase NHS funding.

3) We would reverse the 2012 Health & Social Care Act. This removes from the Secretary of State For Health the duty to provide healthcare and gives it to new GP commissioning bodies. These have to give equal consideration to private providers and are encouraged to buy cheap services from the latter. This is a key stepping stone to privatisation and the driving down of quality.

The video below explains what it currently happening to our NHS. The Green Party would reverse this process.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Green Party Action Day Saturday May 2nd : BE A STAKHANOVITE!

In 1935 Aleksei Stakhanov mined 102 tonnes of coal in one six hour shift, 14 times his weekly work quota. He became the hero of the second soviet five year plan.

How about becoming a Green Stakhanovite!

We have two boxes of undelivered Green Party New Town election leaflets and only FIVE DAYS to deliver them. 1000s of them and every one delivered increases our chances of making a real impact in Colchester. This is where you come in.

THE PLACE: 124 Morant Road

THE TIME: Saturday 2nd May 9am - when it gets dark.

Simply turn up and collect a round from the house. Maps and spatulas are provided. If we are all out delivering, go down the side passage to the left, push the green door to the yard and collect leaflet rounds from the recycling bin for bottles on the left. Make sure you sign the form when taking them.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Essex Highways Should Keep Their Hands off Our Pedestrian Crossings

You may have seen the article in the Gazette on Thursday (April 23rd) regarding plans by Essex Highways, led by Conservative Councillor Rodney Bass, to close two pedestrian crossings. One is at the top of North Hill between Pat Molloy's Irish bar and Chewton Rose estate agents. The other (the closure of which has been formally rubber stamped) is between the same estate agents and Coral betting shop.
These plans make no sense whatsoever. Anyone who knows this area of town will be well aware that nearby is Colchester Sixth Form College, where I teach History and which has approximately 3000 students. Both crossings are regularly used by the students as they pour out of college at lunchtime or at the end of the college day. In addition they are regularly used by the residents of Balkerne Gardens sheltered housing accommodation.
Like the recent plans to mess around with the Cymbeline Way pedestrian crossing, this all smacks of decisions being made by people who not only don't use their feet to travel around Colchester town centre but also have conducted no basic research into the needs and requirements of nearby educational institutions or senior citizens. It is gambling with people's safety in a reckless and slapdash manner.
Essex County Council argue that the plans are part of the recent new Park and Ride scheme and that they would allow buses quicker access to the High Street. I have no problem with the intention here, indeed I totally support the need to make public transport more attractive. So does the Green Party, which is why we favour a return to proper bus regulation and major investment into bus services. However removing pedestrian crossings in key locations is not the right way to go about it. They are there for a reason and the last thing we need is an accident because people are still cutting across at those points.
Yes I want students and senior citizens to get a more efficient bus service but not if it leads to them being knocked down by one!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Green Party Open Meeting : Inequality : Monday April 13th

The next open meeting of Colchester Green Party is tomorrow (Monday April 13th) and the topic is 'Inequality'. There will be a presentation by Colchester Green Party Political Education Officer Howard Metler, followed by a discussion. All welcome. The time is 7.30pm - 9pm and the venue is the New Inn pub, Chapel Street South.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Vote Green For Jobs and Our Countryside

Vote Green for jobs. The Green Party aims to create up to a million new jobs in climate change related initiatives. This includes specific plans for £45bn investment in home insulation, creating around 100,000 jobs, and £25bn in renewable energy.

Vote Green for our countryside. I keep being asked where the Green Party would build the 500,000 new council homes which we aim to provide. The answer is on brownfield sites. There are over 66,000 hectares of brownfield sites in England alone and the government itself estimates that this could provide room for 1.5 million new homes. Within central London the figures are even higher. The point is clear, we do not need to concrete over the countryside to address the need for more social housing.

The Secret Culling of Seals in the UK

The Tuesday April 7th edition of the Daily Mirror featured a shocking article about the secret culling of seals which goes on in the UK every year, yet has had hardly any media exposure. There has been much publicity over the years regarding the brutal seal culls which take place in Canada and a range of other countries however few people seem to know that it goes on here at home. Despite the fact that seals are supposedly 'protected' in the UK, hundreds are shot every year. In Scotland alone 205 were killed in 2014 and this year the government has authorised the deaths of up to 859-662 grey seals and 197 common seals.
The simple fact is that their so-called protected status is a joke. A loophole in the law allows seals to be killed if they 'threaten fisheries' which basically means the farmed salmon industry and other farmed fish such as trout. This does not mean that the seals are being culled in order to conserve wild fish. It means that they are being killed in order to defend artificial fish farms which are springing up all over the coast to meet consumer demand for, in particular, farmed salmon. This is not a conservation exercise it is a base profit driven one. Moreover in Scotland farmers and waterways managers need a licence to cull seals and they have to stick to quotas and record the numbers killed. But no such requirement exists for the rest of the UK. Therefore in England and Wales seals are a 'protected species' which have no protection. Nice.

The way in which the seals are culled in the UK can be particularly cruel as the licence in Scotland allows seals to be shot all year round, including during the breeding season. A request to ban culling during the breeding season was turned down by the SNP led Scottish government. In the rest of the UK they can also b e shot all year round. This means that when the mothers are shot the weaning pups slowly starve to death. A spokesman for the Sea Shepherd UK campaign group said:

"Typically every year over 300 seals are declared as having been shot. We are convinced that the real number of seals shot greatly exceeds this official number and some conservation groups have put the number at 2000 grey and common seals shot annually around Scotland's coast".

It is clear that Nicola Sturgeon's SNP has failed completely to protect seals in Scotland and that the situation in the rest of the UK is even worse. While I'd be reluctant to support an organised boycott of farmed salmon except as a last resort, this may well ultimately be something which we need to consider and which the Green Parties of England & Wales and Scotland can take the lead in.

Some music: Tom Robinson Band "Up Against the Wall"

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Change the Tune - Green Party 2015 Election Broadcast

Nuclear Insanity

The Conservatives want to spend £100 billion replacing Trident, the UK's nuclear weapons system. Despite their attacks on Ed Miliband over the issue, Labour (and the Lib Dems) want to do the same. Its odd isn't it. We have no more money for our schools and colleges. No money to expand our healthcare provision. Absolutely no money for the poor. Yet we can suddenly, as if by magic, put our hands on £100 billion to renew a pointless weapons system that could never be used. It could never be used because, as members of NATO (which the three main parties want to keep us in) we could never use Trident without US permission. The US have enough nukes to obliterate the world several times over and would not need the support of us in such a situation. Therefore Trident is pointless. It is like piling up £100 billion in notes in Castle Park and having a huge bonfire while charging Joe Public an entrance fee to watch.


We could employ 120,000 new nurses and build 30 new hospitals. 

We could scrap student tuition fees for 30 years saving students from £27,000 of debt.

We could employ 100,000 more teachers.

We could fully fund all A&E services in hospitals for 40 years.

We could quadruple our annual investment in renewable energy.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Grill the Greens : Public Meeting Saturday April 11th

Please join us this coming  Saturday April 11th, 2.30pm-4.30pm, Colchester Town Hall  for  a chance to hear the Green Party's policies for Colchester, Witham and Harwich.

There will be a brief panel discussion followed by a question-and-answer session from the floor with our local Green candidates:

Mark Goacher 

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Colchester

Cllr. James Abbott

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Witham

Co-ordinator of Essex Green Party

National Green Party Spokesperson on Science and Technology

Chris Flossman

Party Parliamentary Candidate for Harwich & North Essex

Andrew Canessa

Local borough elections candidate for Castle Ward

This is a great chance to ask awkward questions and find out exactly what the Green Party stands for.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Colchester Needs Investment in Health and Policing Not Cuts To Them

I nearly choked on my coffee last week when I read in the East Anglian that Colchester General Hospital plans to axe 240 full-time jobs by this time next year. The hospital was rated as “inadequate” by the Care Quality Commission in January this year.According to the East Anglian article an email has been sent to the 3,400 members of staff at the hospital in which Chief Executive Dr Lucy Moore said the trust faced financial difficulties. Dr Moore apparently said only non-clinical roles were expected to be lost and compulsory redundancies “could not be ruled out” but would be “few in number”.
Assuming that the article is correct, it highlights how outrageous the situation is in Colchester with regard to over development and lack of infrastructure investment to cope with it. It doesn't require a degree to work out that building thousands of new houses and sucking thousands of new people into Colchester and then CUTTING hospital jobs is crazy. I honestly despair. In particular I despair that our elected representatives are not shouting from the rooftops how mad this situation is and that we cannot take the 30,000 extra homes that are planned for us without a corresponding increase in healthcare provision. If I was elected as MP it would be one of the first things that I will raise in the House of Commons
But this is just one aspect of the current barmy situation which Colchester is in . According to the 2001 census, Colchester town's population was 104,390. By the time of the 2011 census it was 121,859. That is an increase of over 17,000 in just ten years. By now it will be even higher. Yet have we received a level of investment in our NHS, transport systems and police services to match this massive population increase? Have we hell. Central government now expect Colchester to take 1000 new homes per year with a main target of 30,000.
A recent article in the Gazette pointed out that Colchester's violent crime rate per capita is now higher than that of inner city Birmingham and Liverpool. Yet in a recent TV appearance with Jeremy Paxman, PM David Cameron admitted to a live audience that if the Conservatives win the general election then cuts to police funding will continue.
Therefore Colchester is expected to put up with thousands more people, thousands more cars but with cuts to NHS provision, inadequate investment in our police services and a continued lack of investment in more school places.
The situation is frankly bonkers and unfortunately none of our elected politicians are challenging this level of expansion. Moreover, while they all like to talk about us needing more infrastructure investment, their record on delivering it is minimal. 
The Green Party is committed to a massive investment programme in our public services to match any expansion. We will use the £80 billion saved by not renewing the Trident missile system to pay for this. In addition we will preserve our green spaces and challenge the mad drive for expansion and growth at all costs which is the root cause of the problems. Only the Green Party is serious about challenging the mess that Colchester is in at the moment.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Food For Thought: A Foot Stompin' Fundraiser For The Foodbank

There will be a charity concert at the Headgate Theatre on 1st May at 7.30pm. All proceeds will go to Colchester Foodbank. Tickets are £10 and can be obtained from the box office or by calling 01206 366 000. The show will feature a range of artists, including some talented young singer-songwriters from Colchester and the up and coming folk band Fishclaw.
Also performing will be my former landlord, the Colchester singer-songwriter Paul Riley whose CD "The Wanderer" I can fondly remember the recording sessions of.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Education Should be Debt Free

What We Can Learn From Richard III Today

The reconstructed head of Richard III, showing the DNA analysis discovery that he most likely had blond hair.
"Queen to Pay Tribute To 'Evil' King" screams today's Sunday Express front page headline. Thankfully they had the sense to put the word evil in speech marks, however it is still the case that the image created by Shakespeare of an evil hunchbacked murderer lingers. Put simply, this image, created as propaganda for the Tudor dynasty, is that Richard plotted his way to the throne long term, battered Henry VI to death, murdered his brother George, had his young nephews (the 'Princes in the Tower') smothered with pillows, carried out random executions on a whim and poisoned his wife.
I don't intend to go into into the complex historical arguments as to why it is unlikely that any of the above 'crimes' were committed by Richard. My aim here is to outline the positive lessons that Richard III's reign can teach us today and which echo down the centuries from the 15th to the 21st. Although for those interested in the supposed crimes, here is my video on the Princes in the Tower:


I grew up in Stapleton in Leicestershire, only a few miles from the site of the Battle of Bosworth where Richard died. Richard III is a local hero who has fascinated me since I was very young. I never accepted the view that a man who died such a brave death could have been a conniving, cowardly villain racked by guilt at his umpteen murders (ie the Shakespeare version of events). Later I discovered the classic biography by Paul Murray Kendall which challenged this negative view and the rest, as they say, is history.....


Richard III as King was progressive and years, if not centuries, ahead of his time. The main Ricardian principles which we can celebrate today are:

1) Richard as a legal reformer who championed the poor and disadvantaged.

During his brief reign, Richard III enacted the following legal reforms: reintroduction of bail; access to the law for poor people via a system of legal aid; measures to reduce corruption in jury trials; translation of the law from French and Latin into English and posting of the law in public places.
Before Richard, anyone accused of a crime, particularly poor people, could be locked up for long periods of time before trial. The poor would seldom receive justice as there was no system of legal aid. Richard tackled both of these problems and championed the disadvantaged in the face of the wealthy vested interests. We could learn much from this considering that the current coalition government has slashed legal aid provision. In addition, since 1066 legal documents were written in French or Latin which ordinary English people could not understand. It was an elitist way of denying them legal knowledge. Richard had the law translated into English and posted in public places to increase access to it.

2) Richard as an inclusive King who fought the North/South divide.

Richard was a popular ruler of the north of England during Edward IV's reign, despite not being a 'northerner' himself. During his reign he did much to try to end the imbalance of power in England and tackle the attitude of the southern gentry that northerners were inferior or foreign. He attainted 113 disloyal southerners and introduced the policy of plantations which was the progressive planting of northerners in the southern shires in order to achieve a more inclusive rule. Given the nature of the current House of Commons, which is dominated by white middle-aged, middle-class males we still have some way to go in terms of political inclusiveness.

3) Richard the opponent of sleaze in government.

Edward IV's court was racked by sleaze and scandal, much of it involving Lord Hastings and Mistress Shore.  The law by which Richard III was made king, Titulus Regis, condemns this sleaze and reaffirms the point that those in power have a duty to serve rather than just to amass wealth.

4) Richard the brave who fought on the front line.

Richard did not send people to war while remaining safe himself, letting others pay the price for his decisions. Unlike Henry Tudor, who tended to hide behind his army and do nothing, Richard fought on the front line and led the last great chivalric cavalry charge in an English battle.

Here is my video on what we can learn from Richard today:

Two essential books about Richard which present a positive view of him:

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Some music: Radiohead "Fake Plastic Trees"

Natalie Bennett & Shahrar Ali Conference Speeches March 2015

The Books Which Inspired The Founding of The Green Party

What is now The Green Party of England and Wales was founded in 1973 as The PEOPLE Party. In the summer of 1972 Lesley Whittaker a surveyor and property agent bought a copy of Playboy magazine in which there was an interview with Dr Paul R. Ehrlich about overpopulation and how he and his wife were giving up two years of their lives to the cause. Erhlich had recently published a book about population growth entitled "The Population Bomb", which the article was about. This article inspired Whittaker and her husband Tony to form a small group of professional and business people 'Club of Thirteen', so named because it first met on 13 October 1972 in Daventry. In November 1972 the Whittaker's, Freda Sanders and Michael Benfield agreed to form 'PEOPLE' as a new political party to challenge the UK political establishment. Officially formed at the start of 1973, The PEOPLE Party produced a Manifesto for a Sustainable Society as a background statement of policies. This was directly  inspired by "A Blueprint for Survival" (published by The Ecologist magazine). The editor of "The Ecologist" magazine, Edward 'Teddy' Goldsmith, merged his 'Movement for Survival' with PEOPLE. Goldsmith became one of the leading members of the new party during the 1970s.
The third book which inspired the founders of PEOPLE was "The Limits to Growth". Commissioned by the Club of Rome, The Limits to Growth is a 1972 book about the computer simulation of exponential economic and population growth with finite resource supplies.

Themes: Population and Economic Growth

The major theme of all of these books is the alarming rate of global environmental degradation resulting from human activity. They warn against the effects of unlimited economic growth and population growth on the world's resources, biodiversity and human well being. With the benefit of hindsight, it is easy to criticise these books, particularly The Population Bomb, for getting the timings wrong and predicting that utter disaster would happen before the end of the 20th century. However while the timescale may have been over the top, the essential warnings within these books remain starkly convincing. Moreover they show that ecological concerns were the main reason that what became The Green Party was founded in the first place. The key point stressed in The Population Bomb is that it took from the evolution of humanity until 1830 for the population to reach one billion. The next billion took only 100 years. The third billion took 37 years. The fourth billion took 13 years. And so on. The cause is not just too many births it is also the falling death rate. The world's population will continue to grow as long as the birth rate exceeds the death rate, it is as simple as that. When it stops growing or starts to shrink , it will mean either the birth rate has gone down or the death rate has gone up or a combination of the two.
My problem with those optimists who now criticise these books  is that they see the pattern in the West as a universal one (that increasing prosperity lowers the birthrate) regardless of cultural, religious or traditional factors. It also tends to fly in the face of the majority of the span of human history. Ehrlich says of the optimists in, The Population Bomb:

"They are a little like a person who, after a low temperature of five degrees of frost on December 21st, interprets a low of only three on December 22nd as a cheery sign of approaching spring."

It fails also to take into account that the death rate will continue to fall. Even the optimists accept that the population could be 11 billion by 2100. Given the likely increase in world consumption as consumerist lifestyles spread along with urbanisation, the result may well be that by 2100 the rain forests have gone, adding to global warming and we will have passed the point of no return. Also by then loss of habitat will have resulted in the mass extinction of tigers, elephants and a mass of other species, in the wild . The best hope is the reduction in world poverty, as economic security is the best chance for lowering the birthrate. Also the emancipation of women. However both need to be accompanied with an acceptance of the issue.

The Subsequent Development of The Green Party

In 1975, PEOPLE was renamed and relaunched as The Ecology Party. Then in 1985 it became The Green Party of Great Britain. In response to the rumours of a group of Liberal Party activists about to launch a UK Green Party, HELP (the Hackney Local Ecology Party) formally registered the name The Green Party, with a green circle as its logo. The first public meeting, chaired by David Fitzpatrick (then an Ecology Party speaker), was 13 June 1985 in Hackney Town Hall. Paul Ekins (then co-chair of the Ecology Party) spoke on the subject of Green politics and the inner city. Hackney Green Party put a formal proposal to the Ecology Party Autumn Conference in Dover that year to change to the Green Party, which was supported by the majority of attendees, including John Abineri, formerly an actor in the BBC series Survivors who supported adding Green to the name to fall in line with other environmental parties in Europe.

Finally The Green Party of England and Wales was created in 1990 when the former Green Party split into separate parties: Scottish Green Party, Green Party in Northern Ireland, and England & Wales.