Category Archives: Politics

I gave a speech

Pretty much what I said above… I gave a speech at a college in West Bromwich this week. It was about politics in general and the green party. I figured I’d blog it, as i worked quite hard on it by my standards.

Here it is:

Afternoon. My name’s Ben, and I’m the coordinator of Sandwell Green Party, and I’m here today with Rob, who is the chair of the West Midlands Green Party, and so is annoyingly more important, smarter and better looking than me. My job basically means I organise what we do locally, and do all the jobs nobody else wants to do. We’ll get onto this in the Q and A, if you’re interested, but doing a lot of work for the Green Party for no money has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.
I’ll be kicking off, talking about the scale of the problems we face, and some of the high level solutions to this, then Rob will take over and talk about some of the more detailed solutions we think might solve problems here.
And thank you for choosing to spend your lunchtime listening to us. I am just about young enough that I remember being at college, and I’m not sure I was quite as mature and diligent as you. Well… I’m certain I wasn’t, and I’m more than a little jealous of the better future you’ll have ahead of you for it.
Except… I’m not confident you’ll have a better future. You’re a generation who, if lucky enough to go to uni, will leave with an average £44,000 of debt. You may have to grow up never owning your own home. You’ll pay a small fortune for a sandwich – well, even more of a fortune, I’ve eaten in a Starbucks too – because intensive farming will have rendered our land unfarmable, and besides, we all voted to close our borders to anyone who might actually work on our farms anyway. And that’s before I even to get to the Greens specialist subject of climate change, and the devastation it will cause if we don’t address this LAST WEEK!
By the way, don’t worry – I’m not going to stay this gloomy for the full 40 minutes. But I kind of feel that we need to point out the huge challenges that face us. These challenges are here for a few reasons, which I would like to outline before we get to the less miserable bit. Because I’d like to say here that there are answers. There aren’t easy answers, unless you want to blame someone who doesn’t share your skin colour or religion, but there are answers, and that’s what inspires me to do what I do.
So, why are we in the mess we’re in?
The main answer I have is our system rewards short term thinking. All the problems above started, at the very least, before you were born. Some of them before I was. Some of the BEFORE EVEN YOUR TUTORS WERE BORN. Pollution started in the Industrial Revolution, in the 19th century. House prices started going stupid in the 1980’s. Free university ended in the late 1990’s – it did me over too!
Our system is such that it doesn’t pay for our MPs to think of the consequences of their policies. Our media sees a problem and wants it solved yesterday, and politicians agree to this, rarely, if ever, thinking of the long term consequences of acting too quickly.
And the causes of this go back even further. We haven’t seriously reformed our political system since the 17th century. And don’t get me wrong… it was brilliant then. But since then, pretty much every country, save for maybe North Korea has overtaken us. The House of Lords, which is completely unelected, is the second largest government chamber in the world, after Communist China.
Our antiquated first past the post system means that the Conservatives only need 35,000 votes to win a seat, Labour need 40,000, Lib Dems 300,000, and Greens over 1,000,000. And yet we have it better than UKIP, who got one seat for nearly 4m votes. Whatever your feelings about Mr Farage, that isn’t fair. Power is kept amongst a select few, making them unaccountable, and significantly more vulnerable to corruption.
To move this closer to our own doorstep – do any of you know the make up of our local council?  Of 72 seats, 71 are held by Labour. Regardless of how you feel about them, they hold 97% of the seats, despite only getting 58% of the votes . This means the views of two out of every five people who vote in Sandwell don’t count, and nobody represents them.
And the combination of these two things means that politicians play only to win. We only elect one chamber, and that only once every five years. As a result, politicians will say pretty much anything to get in at election time – it doesn’t matter if it doesn’t work, because by the time it breaks, there will have been another election, and a whole new bunch of short term promises to keep or break. Most other countries – even America, the land of the Trump, have two chambers, and staggered elections so that this isn’t completely changed every five years, and there is at least some long term thinking.
Even more countries across Europe have a much fairer form of democracy, normally a form of Proportional Representation. I know I’m talking to smart people here , but I’ll very quickly explain that PR awards seats based on vote share, so that all votes, or at least most votes count. If the Angry As Hell At Adults For Not Getting That We’re Old Enough To Set Our Own Rules, Now Stop Ruining My Life Mum Party gets 30% of the vote, they’ll get 30% of the say in Government. This means more people’s views get represented. It means smaller groups don’t get ignored. And that’s brilliant.
Better still, it makes it a lot more likely that every law gets properly challenged – when you create a fake majority, they can essentially pass any law they like, irrespective of how stupid it is. This is how we end up with poorly planned policies and pointless wars. By making larger parties rely on other parties to pass laws, they iron out the sort of short term thinking that has led to so many of our problems today. It’s of little surprise, to me at least, that Germany has one of the strongest economies (and best rent prices) in Europe, and also has a proportional system.
None of this has destroyed our country. Yet. We are still one of the world’s leading democracies. But we have fallen three places in the Global Democracy rankings in recent years. We’ve taken a huge risk in leaving the EU (I’m not discussing the rights and wrongs of this here. I only have 15 minutes) and our democracy will now have to stand alone. With the problems I have listed above, we will surely sink unless we take action now. And to do this, we will need practical LONG TERM solutions.
Finally, and I almost don’t want to say this – because it feels like I’m saying what you want to hear – but we believe that you should have the vote from 16. Any decision politicians make are going to affect you more than they’re going to affect me, and a lot more than they’ll affect you’re Nan, so why shouldn’t you have a say? Simply put, you can join the army, you can have a kid, you can get a job and pay tax. Surely you should have a say in what happens when you do those things?
I suppose the main thing all of this has in common, is that our system is built so that those who have power do everything they can to hold onto that power. This is the main problem anyone who wants change faces. But this is also where the solution lies.
Because we do actually live in a democracy. And that means that people have the final say. When I joined the Green Party, a bit over two years ago, I didn’t think I could change anything. I just thought I’d pay membership once a year, and hope that paid for someone else to do some work.
Then I went to a meeting, and everyone was nice. Then someone convinced me to leaflet. Then to run for election (I lost), then to manage our local elections, to help on campaigns for renter’s rights, refugees, clean energy…
I quickly realised that if you get up and just do a little work in your spare time (I do have an actual job outside this) you can actually make real change happen. I had the good luck to meet our previous leader, Natalie Bennett, and she said what is probably the most powerful thing that sums up why I’ve found this work so rewarding. She said that there is one big lie that lets things go wrong. And that is that politics is something that’s done to you. And this isn’t true. Politics is something YOU DO.
I’d go so far as to say it’s your job as a citizen to do it. A small group of well organised people getting out there and trying to change things, can change things. Almost every good change through history from the abolition of slavery to breaking Trump’s travel ban most likely started with a few people, in a room, saying… “Wow… this looks difficult… LET’S DO IT ANYWAY. (I know that’s how the Trump one happened, the activists behind it have given interviews).
So if you take one thing from my bit today, it’s that if you see an injustice, a problem, anything that irks you… you’re probably the right person to fix it. Politics isn’t for any one group of people, and you aren’t excluded from it. And if giving up my lunch break to chat to you today gets even one of you out there deciding to change things… Well… It’ll be worth the cost of that overpriced Starbucks sarnie.
Now, I will be the first person to say that you should never trust an adult who is sure they know the answers. However, I believe we have a strong set of possible solutions to the problems facing us today, in the policies that we in the Green Party fight over every conference. So I would like to hand over to Rob now, who will talk to you about these.

Why does the left seem weak?

This is a great blog, written by a lad local to me and less than half my age. If I could write half as eloquently as he does about politics about anything, I’d be happy! Well worth a follow.

politicalanalyser

The left these days seems to be in a very precarious situation. The right-wing media say that the left is full of ranting loonies, austerity is flourishing allowing the rich to get rich, and the major leftist parties of old have moved towards a center-right, austerity lite, authoritarian position. This is clearly not what the left wants. So what has happened?

It starts in ’94, with the death of John Smith and the resulting election of Tony Blair as Labour leader. It’s very likely that Labour would have won the ’97 election with John Smith. A week before his death they smashed the Tories in the council election. People were tired of the Conservative Party. His untimely death, however, paved the way for Tony Blair and his followers to morph the Labour party into a center-right party. As the Blairites took over, chasing the center ground, the Overton window moved…

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A short but heartfelt political post

The Guardian posted this today.

Labour leadership election: 260 members of rival parties ask to vote

http://gu.com/p/4bb9k?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_WordPress

I would be less worried about the 150 out of 70,000 Green Party members who have signed up, and worry about that one chap who has lifted all of his policies from the Green Party manifesto who may well be leading the Labour party in a month!

If you fancy joining a party a that had morals and integrity before a humiliating,  Australia at Trent Bridge defeat, here’s a link…

https://my.greenparty.org.uk/civicrm/membership/joining

Minister No More!

I am proud to share both a continent and a blogging platform with this man. Would that the UK had more principled, decent and honourable politicians like this.

Maybe on Wednesday, we can say OXI too.

Yanis Varoufakis

The referendum of 5th July will stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.

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Election 2015- some thoughts from 4.30am

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1. Oh dear.

2. Looking good for the Greens though.

3. If Labour had offered something better than Tory lite we’d be looking at a different result. I might not have even become a Green in that instance. So thanks for no longer representing us, red team.

4. Scottish passport anyone?

5. While a Conservative majority is a bad thing, I do happen to be white, not young, middle class, able bodied, in secure employment and shortly to become a homeowner, so in terms of its effect on my actual life, I think it’s only that my job is in the public sector that is of major concern. However, I try to vote for 60m people (or For the Common Good, if that’s your thing!), and this scares me for any BAME, young, poor, disabled, insecure and  renting people.

6. It’s going to be deeply uncomfortable for the Tories next time, when they have to admit that the economy has shrunk by one whole Scotland.

7. And finally, this one means a lot to me. UKIP will be losing a lot of support soon. All it would take would be continued work by the Green Party to let them know there’s a home for the disaffected, who feel that red and blue alike have shat on them too many times, and that they offer a real program of change to help everyone, rather than hatred towards the foreign. This gives me hope. And yes. I am saying the majority of kippers seem like decent people. Campaigning over the last month has shown me that I too, was a bigot and had written off a lot of people as I disagreed with their party. I was wrong.

8. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t laughing my arse off when Farage lost. Eventually, all clowns slip on that banana peel.

9. ‘Cons’, in French, means cunts. Quite literally, cunts are still running the world.

10. RIP Lib Dems. Although as this happens, Charles Kennedy has lost his seat. I liked that chap. Otherwise, I’m still aggreived that they tricked me last time around.

11. Tory minority government, reliant on the SNP. This could be funny at least.

Nature’s Marketing Strategy – A Poem

Once again, my friend, and Real Life Poet Robert Casey, and an inspiring poem imploring you to vote with your heart tomorrow.

Rob Casey

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It’s the General Erection.
Banners and boarded hoardings
adorn the roadsides countrywide.
Glossy faces with their pearly whites
frighten children from on high,
despite the hours of Photoshop deblotting,
carefully constructed to fit
the identikit image of ‘genuine’.
“Can you make me look slim?
A more convincing grin?
Warm and familial, yet destined to win?”

There are signs of true blue,
and red and yellow too.
On some exclusive white roads
then purple is on view.
Yet very little Green.
Indeed, their banners can’t be seen
between the multi-coloured adverts
for the ethically obscene.

But still, you only need to travel
around this pleasant land
to see nature has its marketing
meticulously planned.
When May comes round
there may be found
some clues for who to choose:
The rolling fields and leaves on trees
sing green persuasion in the breeze.

(Click here to find out more about how and…

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Get Rid Of The Corrupt Government and Corporate Powers Overnight

More reasons to vote Green this Thursday. Please do.

Jamie Catto

OK, I’ve never been political but here are a few things that I’m sure we can collectively agree on:

1. The current Power and Money system doesn’t work. It’s almost banal to say ‘it’s destroying the planet’ because it’s just stating the obvious. Even if we accept that some people are going to be financially richer than others, the current gap between rich and poor, and the amount of money and resources held by a tiny amount of companies and individuals is OUT OF CONTROL. When you add to that the biggest companies wield so much control over governments by leveraging the economy that they can avoid contributing anything like their fair share of taxes, and that the fixation on making more and more money has resulted in nearly all current wars, dispossessed cultures, no regulations on hurting creatures or the environment, and while there are billions and billions of…

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Why I am a Green

With apologies to my regular readers, who do not come here for the politics!

I miss the days when newspapers would outline who they are supporting and why, instead of screaming ad hominem abuse at the party they don’t, with little regard to the truth, or whether this might be the reason nobody buys their dead trees any more. As blogging, if you want it to be, represents a part of how people get their news in this day and age, here is my own editorial, on why I shall be voting the way I am, and why I believe you should too.

I will try to be positive about the other parties involved. I am running as a council candidate for the Green Party, and in doing so have met various other candidates in my area, all of whom have been thoroughly decent people, and all of whom believe that their party has the best ways to provide real change for their constituents. However, where I feel our systems and methods are broken, I make no apology for my cynicism and loathing.

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The 10:1 ratio

This is probably the one policy idea I like the most, but this has had very little airing, in spite of it being a real piece of common sense thinking.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “A rising tide lifts all ships”? Since the global economic crisis of 2008, has this felt even a tiny bit true? The very richest in our society have doubled their wealth since 2009, according to The Rich List in the Sunday Times this weekend (no link, because paywall), and now own the same wealth as the poorest 40% of the country. No other party appears to have a viable solution to this, but the Green Manifesto suggests regulating business pay, so that the highest paid member of any business can make only 10 times what their lowest paid member of staff makes. If you can afford to increase your own pay to £300,000 a year, your business must be doing well enough that the keyboard jockeys, cleaners and salespeople can be paid £30,000.

There is an argument that this would be anti-competitive, and would prevent us from hiring the best talent. However, this ‘talent’ of which we speak appears to be those executives that first created this mess, and again, it only spreads the success throughout the business, and encourages talent at all levels. When you look at the businesses that have remained successful over the past 7 years, businesses like John Le
wis stand out, where the staff have a genuine investment in the business, rather than an investment in their payslip.

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The End of the ‘Whip’ system and our broken parliamentary system

This is probably one of the most broken things in our political system, and because of our drab two-and-a-half party system, it appears almost unavoidable unless progressive parties with a real will to change the system come in, it will ever remain so.

Currently, parties appoint organisers, known as ‘whips’ to ensure that their motions pass in the House of Commons. Their job, by fair means or foul, is to ensure that members of their party ‘toe the party line’, and don’t rebel based on their own, or their constituents ethics. Indeed, it has long been accepted that an act of rebellion against your party can get you removed from a committee you care about, or have your private transgressions leaked to the press.

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Caroline Lucas, in her book, Honourable Friends?, writes at length about the ridiculousness of this system, and that MP’s are often shepherded through a vote without even knowing what they are voting for! Really, with a system like this, can we really view our parliament as a democracy at all, when nothing is discussed, and the opinions of the voters are worthless for all but five weeks every five years?

The Green Party believes in reforming this antiquated and undemocratic system, and in allowing it’s members to apply their own judgement, and the feelings of their constituents when voting. If a vote fails as a result, this means that the law needs more work, not that the party is weak.

The Party of the Poor

And by poor, I mean anybody outside of the top 2% of the UK’s richest. It amazes me that in this era of unprecedented austerity, you are 1800 times more likely to be prosecuted for £100 of benefit fraud than £100,000 of tax evasion by HMRC. That while cuts affecting the poor were passed night by night in Commons, that the champagne bill, subsidised by the taxpayer, rose to £35,000 from the previous year (do you even make that annually?). That it appears to be more acceptable to pass cuts that have led to disabled people dying, than it is to make 3% of our society pay tax on their inheritances?

The Green Party is the only party seeking to both raise taxes on the ultra rich, and close tax loopholes so that they can’t sneak out of paying them. They’re the only English party who are against austerity, as it is currently defined (“please eat less cake paupers, we important chaps at the top want more cake” works as a definition for me). They’re the only party that recognise that the majority of immigrants that come to our country raise taxes and work in the same proportion as any native citizen. They’re the only party speaking sense, in spite of a negative media, to try and apply common sense to solve emotive issues and remove vested interests.

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The Obvious One

We have real policies that won’t just mitigate climate change, that boring but very real threat, but that will boost our economy while doing so. I’ve seen the very real positive effects on employment that a wind farm near my hometown has caused, after the largest employer in the area decided to relocate thousands of jobs.

Combine the extra jobs with the very boring word in a common phrase, renewable energy. It’s renewable. We don’t use up wind, or light, or tides. They just keep on coming. Over time, the laws of economies of scale, and supply and demand mean that this could have a genuine effect on those utility bills that we all love to hate.

We also don’t have to source them from Russia or Saudi Arabia, where our reliance creates very wealthy people, who are buying up all of Central London, leaving it boring, and also, let’s be honest, funding terrorism, whether state sponsored or otherwise.

Unfortunately, this is neither interesting or exciting enough to win votes. It’s a long term plan that could just be the most important dull thing we manage as a society.

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So that’s it. They are the main reasons I feel I must vote Green, and be a member of this party. I hope that I have managed to convince you too. But even more than this, if you are planning to vote for a minority party this election, but are scared you’ll let in the party you don’t want, don’t. a greater worry is that by tactically voting for one of these, you will continue to give these parties legitimacy by not voting for what you want, which is the purpose of our democracy. You’re not wrong. The system is.

And if you happen to live in the Cradley Heath and Old Hill ward, you’ll make me really happy!

If you are interested, you can join, volunteer, or just hear more about the Green Party here

9 reasons why tactical voters can vote Green in Bristol West

I’m reblogging this, as I am both a newly minted Green, and in spite of the fact I don’t write about it very much, deeply into politics.

Let’s hope (and vote) for some real change this time, not another 5 years of the same old rubbish.

PsychoPolitico

In every ward in Bristol West, Bristol Green Party canvassers are hearing the same thing: “I want to vote Green, but I don’t want the Tories to get in, so I might vote Labour”. Needless to say, Labour love this line of reasoning, and the Greens do not.

If Bristol West was a Labour/Tory marginal, I would probably vote Labour to keep the Tories out, and stay Green for the local elections. But Bristol West is not a Labour/Tory marginal, and it frustrates me to see Labour win votes they don’t deserve by playing on people’s fears.

In an attempt to remedy this situation, I have pulled together in one handy blog post, all the reasons I think it is tactically safe to vote Green in Bristol West. When they are all brought together like this, I hope you’ll agree it makes a compelling case!

1. Ed Miliband is 69%…

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In Praise of… Run the Jewels

As I bemoaned earlier this week, rock and indie are in a bad way. But on the flip side of this, hip hop and R&B are flourishing in a new wave of creativity. I wrote a long form theory for this a while back, but since then, a strong contender for my album of the year has come out that I wish I could have mentioned at the time.

Killer mike (left) and El-P
Killer mike (left) and El-P

Run the Jewels is a collaboration between a long time guest on Outkast albums, Atlanta’s Killer Mike and the brilliantly dark producer, rapper, and sci-fi enthusiast, Brooklyn’s  El-P. They have between them been responsible for some of the best cuts of the last decade, but solo, neither had truly matched the potential they had shown when collaborating (not to say that they aren’t good!). The collaborations genesis was born on Killer Mike’s 2012 R.A.P. Music album, entirely produced by El-P, but Run The Jewels is a more equal collaboration, and they have both found their perfect partner here.

And a confession here, before I move on. When the first Run the Jewels came out, I was enjoying the equally dissonant, but more puerile thrills of Death Grips, and the frenetic fun of Danny Brown, and I didn’t give it the chance I should. I did enjoy it enough that I grabbed Run the Jewels 2 on it’s release last month, and both albums have been slowly creeping up on me since.

But this week, on the night of the verdict in Ferguson, Run the Jewels were playing in nearby San Diego. A clip of Killer Mike speaking before the show got online, and honestly, it’s one of the most honest, powerful pieces of oratory I have heard in recent years.

Sometimes, a record just needs the right time, and these are albums for a time when anger, and indignation fill you with frustration at the world. The hard, industrial beats, in tandem with some of the rawest, most vicious rhymes I’ve heard for a very long time, make it the right album for this time.

As with me, it may not grab you straight away, it is very aggressive, and almost dares you not to like it, but when it does, it holds on you like nothing I’ve heard in the last ten years. As most teenagers of the 1990’s will probably agree, Rage Against the Machine were both great to listen to, but also cathartic at the same time. To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut, it’s the knowledge that somebody is thinking what you’re thinking, and enough people are agreeing with it that it gets bought, and so you know you’re not alone in your feelings and thoughts. When Run the Jewels are angry and political, they are more than deserving RATM’s crown of raw politicised anger, which explains a fun cameo by Zach De La Rocha on the sublime Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck).

But even the above comparison doesn’t do them justice. I am not a great rap music historian, but these might just be the greatest screams of rage and antagonism since the two hander of Public Enemy’s It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back and Fear of a Black Planet. The musical dissonance combined with over the top, violent expression make them worthy successors, and like those, these are albums that perhaps only sound right because they’re released in a time where again, an elite is becoming rich, as the poor and marginalised become ever more powerless and impoverished. When Dead Prez dropped Let’s Get Free, or even in the wake of 9/11 when a great many political records were released, the general sense of prosperity meant that even while you agreed with the sentiment, it couldn’t especially feel vital, and Important. But right now, this works. The world is in the wrong place right now, which is the right place for a record like this.

RunTheJewelsRTJ2

And I have got this far without really raving about particular songs. Run the Jewels itself is a fantastic welcome to their world, a sucker punch of a track that immediately sets the tone for their sound. Banana Clipper shows what you should do when you get a big name to drop a guest verse- force them to do their best work over a beat you wouldn’t associate with them normally- and they really seem to have a habit of getting the best out of all their guests. Blockbuster Night, part 1 does more in two and a half minutes than other artists manage in five, and Close Your Eyes, mentioned earlier, takes the concept of A Milli by Lil’ Wayne, blackens it’s eye, and uses it to talk how sick the world is, rather than how ill they themselves are.

So. Go out. Get it. It’s brilliant. Even if you hate it, you’ll be doing good. Killer Mike backs up his feelings with action, and is working on opening a chain of 150 barber stores, called SWAG (Shave, Wash And Groom) in poor neighbourhoods, to provide skills training and employment to people there. And they’re also using Kickstarter to fund Meow the Jewels, a remix of the entire album using only cat sounds, with proceeds going to charity. So they’re not as po faced as I have made them sound above!