Monday, 10 March 2014

IS IT SUPPORT FOR SELF DETERMINATION OR SELF INTEREST THAT SHAPES UK POLICY ON UKRAIN

It is somewhat unfortunate for the government and for that matter the UK as a whole that our current Foreign Secretary William Hague is such a maladroit character, the modern day equivalent of Lord Curzon (1919) our William shoots from the hip and never fails to turn a crisis into a drama.
His over eagerness to “talk big” quickly define the bad guys, and to be seen to then side with the good, led the Government down a very dangerous dark alleyway over Syria as his support for the Syrian rebels descended into appeasement and fused support for Al Quida on the ground.

And so it came as no surprise to find the Tory parties own Billy Big Boots at it again in the opening
scenes of the current crisis in Ukraine, warning the Russian federation that it faced "significant diplomatic and economic costs" for its actions “"Be in no doubt, there will be consequences” he said before travelling the news studios to declare that the situation was “certainly the biggest crisis in Europe in the 21st Century” albeit only 14 years in!

Hague’s tough talking of course came before his own civil servants pointed out to him that economic sanctions on Russia would hurt the UK far more than it would Russia, and little press comment (with the exception of Jessica Helgot, Huff Post)  was made about the threat to Britain’s Arms sales! Britain it seems has sold more than £86m of sniper rifles, ammunition, drones and laser technology to Russia in the last 18 months alone.

According to official Whitehall documents There are 271 arms export licenses given for arms sales, air vehicles, military helicopters, and spy equipment to Russia that remain active, despite the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Between 2008-2013  the UK licensed over £406 million in military and dual use licenses to Russia. 

Perhaps William therefore had misplaced his arms sales figures when he told the House of commons last year that "The British Government will not issue licenses where we judge there is a clear risk the proposed export might provoke or prolong regional or internal conflicts, or which might be used to facilitate internal repression.”

He also I guess forgot, prior to sitting down with his European colleagues on Thursday 6th March that for any peaceful outcome for the situation in Ukraine to be possible that Russian President Vladimer Putin, the man whom he accused of declaring “baseless” concerns over ethnic Russians, would by his very central position play a critical part in any future peace contract.

Our EU neighbours and their governments have been thankfully less “Gung Ho” about what we all accept are still very serious matters unfolding on the edges of Europe’s Map, but the over keen and over willing habit of the Foreign Secretary to simply follow the USA’s lead in encouraging the people of nations states to rise in revolution irrespective of their chances of success or of the consequences for the wider civilian population has produced cyclical unrest, mayhem and murder on a tragic scale across Europe and the Middle East as the Arab Spring turned into deadly Winter of international discontent.

Do the governments of the West really care about self-determination? Or are they simply being expansionist in their never ending quest to create more and more puppet regimes for the capitalist machine to exploit?

There are also other valid reasons for us to be very cautious of taking sides in the current Ukrainian crisis too early and that is the unpalatable nature of the parties and groups who are currently leading this latest national revolution.

We should worry that Ukraine’s  newly appointed secretary of the Ukrainian National Security and Defence Council is none other than Andriy Parubiy, founder of the Social National Party of Ukraine, a fascist party styled on Hitler's Nazis, with membership restricted to ethnic Ukrainians, which went on to become the far-right nationalist party Svoboda, 

We should be cautious of his deputy Dmytro Yarosh, the leader of the Right Sector - a group of hardline nationalist street fighters, who previously boasted they were ready for armed struggle to free Ukraine the Right Sector is an alliance of hardline far right gangs including both Patriot of Ukraine and the paramilitaries of UNA-UNSO, whose members parade in balaclavas and wear uniforms bearing far-right insignia, including the wolfsangel.

President Putin knows all too well the dangers of  UNA-UNSO having witnessed their involvement in fighting against Russian  troops in both Chechnya and Moldova.

Most worrying is though is that the new Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych is also member of the Svoboda party. Svobada managed just 10% of the vote in the last Ukrainian election but now since the beginning of the unrest and reformation of the National Government has 7 government ministers in very powerful and pivotal positions.

Amongst Svobada policies you will find plans to put a stop to immigration into Ukraine, and to make sure that only ethnic Ukrainians can be employed as civil servants, these ambitions together with the suggested ban on the use of the Russian Language within Ukraine no doubt did little to alleviate the concerns of President Putin over the future safety of ethnic Russians within Ukraine.

So despite William Hague’s attempts to avert all eyes in the direction of Moscow and pin all blame on Putin, the West is really stuck between a rock and a hard place over how or indeed whether  it should intervene in the  Ukraine, as I write the Crimean Parliament has called for a referendum on reunification with Russia on March 16th and across Ukraine preparations are well underway for a Presidential elections to be held on the 25th May.

As a believer of self-determination I must sit back and hope that both polls enable the hitherto silent majority in the Ukraine and Crimea to find their voice and make their contribution to the debate on Ukraine’s future clear, it may now not be possible for a majority to unite under a one nation banner, ethnic tensions may have been stretched too widely, but we can but hope that the far right in Ukraine are not allowed to benefit electorally from their seizure of power on such a low national support base, and we must also hope for everyone’s sake that our European Partners find a suitable muzzle for our hapless Foreign Secretary before his Lord Curzon impressions morph into some form of modern day Alf Garnett albeit with a Yorkshire accent.


The real accent, and the energy of our leaders should be on finding a peaceful way forward through dialogue and consent and  not simply by grandstanding and showboating to impress our so called friends across the Atlantic.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A LOW TIDE EBBS AND A HIGH NOON BECKONS FOR THOSE WHO SHRINK THE STATE AND SINK ITS PEOPLE



I wonder if anyone in No 10 Downing Street reads my blog or the Herald And Post website?? If not perhaps they should start to!

Those who read my earlier blog warning the Prime Minister of ‘trouble ahead” should he continue to fail to respond appropriately to the flooding crisis rocking Britain will know only too well that the “events dear boy events” trap was set wide open for him to fall into, and how spectacularly he has fallen.

Of course all politicians and particularly Prime Ministers and Government Ministers will come under fire in times of severe crisis, that’s only natural, but its how they respond or even more importantly IF they respond that matters, and the response from our government on this issue so far has been woeful.

But how can they respond, how can they call upon the state to respond when the state itself has been dismantled to the point of paralysis?

If you cut the Environment Agency’s budget year on year (down 36% since 2010) reduce its staffing levels to the bone (550 job losses last year another 1700 planned in the year to come) then you know that the agency would not be in a position to meet the ever increasing demands  placed upon it.
Equally if you cut Local Authority budgets year on year, farm out all the services to the private sector and reduce “local Government” down to pre war levels then as much as they might like they are not in a position to respond to the crisis.

It’s the same for our Police Forces, our Fire and Rescue Services, who through cuts to front line staff are no longer able to release “spare” capacity. Our Social Work teams are not able to contribute to emergency plans any more due to crippling case loads and chronic under staffing.
And so when the floods come, the true nature of David Camerons “Big Society” adventure is laid bare for all to see.

Its DIY Britain, house holders ferrying sand and bags from the local B&Q to try and save their homes, Farmers setting up makeshift ferry crossings with their tractors, Local Volunteers themselves worried about their own homes, being stretched beyond any acceptable level to fill in where the previous statutory agencies have failed to deliver.

Today on the Lunchtime news a local “unpaid” volunteer flood warden was interviewed and half way through the interview broke down in tears of frustration, pleading for someone from the government, anybody to step in and respond to their crisis.
Her tears were washed away in the ever rising tide, meanwhile “Dave” will chair another Cobra committee and Eric Pickles will try and offload some of the blame on those whose pockets his department has picked over the years, and more and more people will lose faith with our lack of local democracy and inadequate national intervention.

Some of those whose homes have been flooded will I am sure be less pleased to be told now that their Council Tax is still amongst the lowest in the country, and few if any will be feeling that we are “all in this together” 

In a period of 3 years this awful Tory/Liberal coalition has ripped apart the very foundation of our civic society, they have shrunken the state, removed the safety net, and even more unforgivably they have turned their collective heads eyes and ears away from those calling out so desperately for help.

We in Northampton now the full extent of the misery that is bought about by such severe flooding events, I can honestly say that as the MP for the town during the 1998 Floods that the experience changed my outlook forever, leading more than ever to the point of campaigning to make government stand up to its responsibilities and to act on funding flood prevention and take seriously the challenge of Climate Change.

Often in that period since 1998 under two different Governments I have had to come to a conclusion that “they” our political masters were not listening.

And still the cries for help fall on deaf ears!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

EYES ON THE WRONG FLOOD

Its not too difficult to determine a point in time when a political pendulum swings, not too difficult to ascertain when a politicians stock is on the wane, and as has been said a hundred times before its "events dear events" which shift governments more than actions. But inaction and or the wrong actions are as equally revealing.

Over the Xmas period and into January 2014 those events and inactions and wrong choices have been made by our Prime Minister in plenty, probably without him even realising what was happening, perhaps he took his eye off of the ball? perhaps he was badly advised? whatever it was, it now looks odds on that next years general Election will lead into more coalition, but this time with the Tory Party firmly in opposition.

Their position was shaky to say the least, the country remains unconvinced that the economy is on the turn and less convinced that it is as a result of anything George Osborne or the Tory Party have done and in the months to come with inflation turning to deflation and interests rates rising to match other cost of living hikes the pips will well and truly start to squeak.

But David Cameron's new year woes have as much to do with him and his party believing that the rest of us "think" like Dave and George, and that their concerns are our concerns. As a result they were too busy making sweeping statements on immigration to notice the real tide of woe engulfing Britain.

They had their eyes on the wrong flood!

Victor Spirescu, a 30 year old Romanian handyman looked rather bemused when he arrived as one of just two migrants on the first flight of the year  from Transylvania. Victor and his indistinguishable fellow Romanian traveller WERE the flood of migrants to hit our shores as warned by UKIP and half of the Front bench in a downward race to the bottom of EU race relations

29m Romanians and Bulgarians will flood Britain looking for work according to UKIP, thats the entire population of both Countries!  The Tories ever keen to trump their new worst enemy rushed through new legislation to curb the impact the invasion would have on benefits and even Ed Milliband chipped in not wanting to be left out of the xenophobe club by declaring that it was right to address "understandable" fears and calling for EU loop holes to be closed.

But it was Victor who spoke with the most conviction and clarity and honesty when he told the hoards of reporters and officials awaiting his arrival at Luton Airport that

"I don't come to rob your country, I come to work, to make money, to go home"

In the 3 weeks following Victors scary welcome to the UK immigration records show that the "tidal wave" of immigrants had risen to a shocking high of 30!

Meanwhile the defenders of Britain's coastline and inland waterways were playing King Canute with a completely different enemy, climate change and severe weather wreaked havoc as thousands of UK homes were flooded, and families evacuated out of their houses over the Xmas break and beyond as they endured three weeks of torrential rain and gale force winds. The worst weather for 20 years the Met office declared, no part of the UK could escape the soaking, but where was Dave?

By the time he got to Kent to face the cameras local residents were all but  ready to lynch him.

"We were left abandoned" said one another angry at the Prime Ministers belated visit said  

"Until Cameron came we had been left abandoned,When we knew he was coming this morning the police showed up, the council turned up but until then the only people helping us were volunteers. It was just a publicity stunt."

We know how they feel in Northampton, and despite the initial interest by the cameras and the politicians it takes months and years for communities to recover from such devastating flood events, something my colleagues in the House of Commons at the time failed to understand and grasp. Its seems as if they still don't get it?

Oh Dear Dave, bad call that, but then again the Environment Agency wouldn't and couldn't have been their for local residents anyway could they? as Dave's government has axed 550 staff from the EA in recent months as part of the "austerity" cuts and slashed the flood defence budget year on year! They put a little bit back in last year and announced it as "new money" but is still remains well below even the 2010 level of investment whilst the water it seems and the anger continues to rise.

I guess this is part of Dave's cutting back on the Green crap? but he has had his eyes on the wrong flood

Whatever the cause of his woes, the outcome is in my view crystal clear.

Bring on Prime Minister number 54

FREE SHAKER AAMER

The Green Party continues to lend its unqualified support to the campaign to free Shaker Ammar the last UK detainee in Guantanamo Bay and for the closure of Camp Delta and the removal of all prisoners held therein without trial. 

Justice delayed is justice denied, and throughout history nations and their governments have defied international law to punish and imprison the innocent whilst maintaining their own misplaced commitment to democratic freedoms and human rights.

My own political timeline is marked out in such campaigns. My very first political act was as a fund raiser for the ANC helping to raise funds and bring world attention to the plight of Black South Africans held without trial under Apartheid for crimes that they had never committed. 
In the 1980’s whilst in the Labour Party I also remember well the campaigns we fought to free the Birmingham 6 and the Guildford 4, all innocent victims of the British Government  collusion to punish the innocent borne out of the governments need to find individuals guilty at any cost to use as scapegoats in their war against terror.

But Guantanamo Bay of course is very different to these earlier imprisonments, miscarriages of justice and freedom, because it involves the complicity and almost certain involvement of multiple governments not just as above just one.

These earlier examples however do have two familiar components, 
First of all they involved governments and heads of state willing to breach International Law and the Geneva Convention in order to deprive the innocent of their liberty.
Secondly they then relied on a dominant or mass public being either disinterested, ignorant or suspicious as to the guilt of those being locked away.

Few would now question Madeba’s, the late Nelson Mandela’s innocence, but too few at the time of his arrest and detention were willing to fight for his freedom. Equally at the height of the troubles too many in Britain wanted scapegoats and people to punish to ever lead them to question the innocence of those convicted.

But whilst Guantanamo is very different to the past plights of political prisoners in South Africa or the UK , and whilst it is clear that all those held are held without access to trial, we must still find that that we need to do more to educate inform and explain the facts to the wider world public.
I congratulate the Shaker Aamar campaign for their excellent work in this area and in the production of their “Who am I” video released last year, but after 12 years and too many broken promises I ask once more that we redouble our efforts to expose the lies of the USA and to defend the innocence of those still held.

Any man or Women has the right to answers to four simple fundamental questions when threatened with incarceration.
Why have I been deprived of my liberty?

How can I defend myself against any charges brought against me?

How can I appeal against any miscarriage of justice?

How is it that I can secure my freedom?

The innocent in Camp Delta have been denied any answers to any of those questions since day one of their captivity.

The last question however is the one we must concentrate so hard on today, how can we collectively secure the freedom of those detained against a US government who having accepted the innocence of those held, having given individuals promises of their release, having pledged to close the facility, still carry on their torture and their beatings regardless of world opinion?

There are of course just two reasons left for the failure of President Obama to live up to his promise made in 2010 to close Guantanamo Bay, the first I reject the second I hold to be true.

I reject the idea and perceived threat that by torturing and beating those innocent of any crime that the US has made terrorists out of torture. Of course the few who were arrested as combatants may go on to fight against their captors again, but for the innocent all they wish to do is to return to their families and to live in peace. Having offered passage to Shaker Aamer to return home to his family, successive British Governments have failed to convince the US government of our ability to ensure those released will not take up arms against them? Why this is so it is hard to believe? Of the 14 British detainees so far released the sum total of their crimes committed since return to British Soil is a solitary speeding ticket. So no the threat of future action against the USA is not a valid or credible reason to deny their release, so we are left with only one conclusion.

That is that by their release the remaining detainees will expose and implicate members of international security services including those in the UK who were complicit in the arrests, tortures and beatings which occurred within Camp Delta cages. They are being held simply because they now know too much.

It is for this reason that we must now redouble our efforts to fight for their release but also to be prepared to expose and campaign against the complicity of those whose actions assisted the USA in their crime , and that fight will go far beyond the closure of Guantanamo Bay and Bagram and every other known and unknown detention centres where the hidden and disappeared and are cruelly harmed
We are not the lawmakers, nor are we served with orders to protect the law against itself, we are the campaigners, the public voice, the voice of those unable to speak out, and therefore it is the spirit and not just the form of law that will keep justice alive.

Justice is not a freely given freedom, it is a fought for at each and every step, at each and every turn at each and every demonstration when good people refuse to simply stand aside and ignore the plight of the innocent.

Together, today in unison we fight that good fight.


Friday, 6 December 2013

“AMANDLA NGAWETHU” Sleep Well Madiba

"We seek to create a united Democratic and non-racial society. We have a vision of South Africa in which black and white shall live and work together as equals in conditions of peace and prosperity. Using the power you derive from the discovery of the truth about racism in South Africa, you will help us to remake our part of the world into a corner of the globe on which all -- of which all of humanity can be proud."

It will seem strange to some that I should precede a tribute to our beloved Madiba with a quote from Oliver Tambos (ANC president 1967-1991) But as a founding member of the ANC Youth League alongside Walter Sisulu and Nelson Mandela in 1943, Tambos (pronounced Tambo) was in the 1980’s the voice of the ANC in the West, the spokesperson of Mandela, whose own voice was silenced by his white oppressors within a wicked South African regime willing to use its system of Apartheid to butcher and murder so many of the nation’s young for daring to even believe that all men are born equal.

But it was Tambos’ words as prĂ©cised above that made me the political activist I am today, His words of unity, equality, peace and humanity following on from those of Martin Luther King in the 1960’s and preceding Madiba’s own actions and words of the future are all major parts of my political education.

I joined the ANC in the mid 1980’s whilst working as Local Government Officer with Northamptonshire County Council, and became a fundraiser for the cause, peddling mugs, t shirts, badges and flags on behalf of the movement. A strange political awakening and activity for a boy born in the Barratt Maternity home in Northampton but one which was itself born out of admiration for a movement willing to fight for world change and for a man who was still incarcerated and as such denied the oxygen of publicity by his enemies.

In 1990 when Mandela was finally released from his Victor Versta prison cell (he was only at Robben
Island from 1964-1982) and began his long walk to freedom on behalf of a whole people, I wept like a small child, tears of joy, hope and anger tears not just at the sense of collective achievement bought about by a world community who had boycotted and protested South Africa into submission but because of the injustice of this true giant of world politics having been incarcerated for so long and for the world having been denied the opportunity to find hope and comfort in his words and in his voice for 27 years .

Having been informed of his freedom by the then South African President FW De Clerk, on the 10th February 1990 Madiba, despite his 27 years incarceration, is reported to have told the then president that “at the risk of appearing ungrateful I would prefer to have a week's notice in order that my family and my organization could be prepared." His request though was denied and his release then arranged for the very next day.

His words on the day of his release were as always, from the heart and as carefully crafted, thoughtful and true as all those that followed from him for the rest of his life when he told the massive crowds who came to witness his freedom  and the millions watching worldwide that

“It is only through disciplined mass action that our victory can be assured. We call on our white compatriots to join us in the shaping of a new South Africa”

And then he purposely repeated the words he had spoken at his trial those 27 years previous when he told the Cape Town crowd:

I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”.

On his first day of freedom, he called for peace, asked those present to act with calm dignity and put feelings of indifference aside, he began the remarkable journey and long walk to freedom that South Arica and its people were destined to make, it was his forgiveness of his enemies, his desire for one nation, and his total commitment to equality and fairness for all black and white that inspired so many across the world in the 23 years thereafter. In that his first act of freedom we were to witness first hand his calmness, his humility and courage.

Mandela didn’t just battle against and conquer racism, he crushed it as a very concept, he taught the world how futile ethnic indifference to be and on a personal note he personally helped alongside others to make me the person I am proud to be and helped me teach my children the importance of collective human endevour.

Madiba, the whole world is poorer for your passing, we grieve alongside your own “One Nation" in their loss, but we thank you as One World from the bottom of our hearts for precious gifts you gave to us, the lessons you taught us and the legacy you leave behind.


“Amandla Ngawethu” RIP Madiba, Sleep Well my Comrade

Monday, 18 November 2013

TIME NBC CAME CLEAN ON L&G DEAL

Call me old fashioned but to me when a developer wants to develop your land then they must first bear the cost of purchase AND then the costs of developing the same.
 
However it seems that Northampton Borough Council in pursuit of the ever elusive Grovesnor Centre Extension scheme has rewritten all the usual rules of commerce!
 
A contract we know was signed between the Council and the owners of the existing Grovesnor Centre, Legal and General in 2004, I was on the council at the time and was party to the detail of that contract.
 
Of the four political groups Lib Dem, Tory, Labour and Independent my own group the Independents were the only group not willing to support the deal, we felt that the land in question was being sold by NBC to Legal and General far too cheaply, and we thought the conditions resting on the shoulders of the Council Tax Payer to uphold its end of the contract to be far too high, that was our prerogative and our duty as elected members, the rest of council disagreed and the contract was signed.
 
Commercial sensitivity to this day excludes me revealing either the price paid to NBC  from L&G or the extent of the land purchased or even the fine detail of the contract. But the Councils actions and Legal and Generals inaction since speak with much far more authority than any whistleblower could ever achieve.
 
First of all The Council had to buy Stagecoach out of its lease on the Greyfriars bus station, this was done to the tune of £5m of Council Tax payers money being handed over to the Bus Company, an irony in itself considering that when Stagecoach first arrived at Greyfriars they were squatters having sold their own bus station facility on the Bedford Road for Housing and thus becoming homeless overnight!
 
But the £5m was pledged with £2m paid up front. Next to made public was the contractual obligation on the Council to vacate the Old Bus Station and thus build an inadequate replacement on the Old Fish Market site, another tenant (the Northampton Arts Collective) were paid off and another £8m committed to building what will be little more than a glorified oversized glass bus shelter in the middle of a predicted traffic hell. Meanwhile we heard that the Mayorhold Car Park was to have a £2m refit, supposedly as part of the deal (but we can't tell you why!) and in the last few days the Council have now announced they will spend another £4m demolishing the Old Bus station to allow for any  future development.
 
Those with good mental arithmetic skills will now be up to speed on the total figure of £19m of council tax payers money that has already been spent or committed on oiling the cogs of the Grovesnor Centre Extension contract.
 
And in all that time just what have Legal and General Done? and what have they spent? We have all seen the pretty pictures of proposed schemes press released to the local papers, we have even heard of their extended plans to build houses, hotels and Offices on the still to be disclosed site, and we shook our heads in dismay when they suggested they may have to "scale back" their plans on the size of the extension, but where are the planning applications? where is the financial commitment? Multi Million pound deals like this are not done without careful consideration of timed and phased clauses being imposed on both parties, each party is well aware of what should have been done by whom by when. So why does it seem to many of us that the spend and action is all one way.
 
I am fortunate in one sense because I have read the contract, I didn't like it, I was out voted by the Lib Dem, Tory and Labour Leaders who respectively went off to their group members and fellow Cllrs at the time and told them how wonderful the Emperors new clothes would be. I invited my two fellow Independents to view the document for themselves and lo and behold they both agreed with me that the Emperor was indeed naked and had even sold off all the Councils Silver and mortgaged our futures in order to afford the tailors bill!
 
This week The Lib Dem opposition on the Council questioned the spend of the £4m on demolishing the Bus Station, this late arrival at the table of doubt is far too little, far too late, they as a political group in power together with officers of the council negotiated the very same deal and then signed it. The Tory's now in the hot seat at the Guildhall will not want any of the fine details disclosed, they simply want to bathe in any glory they can furnish from ANY future build. and the Labour Party who were equally complicit in agreeing the deal it seems are just incapable of any opposition whatsoever!
 
So this week in my blog I throw down a challenge to the whole Council, in the absence of any submitted Planning Application or seen progress on behalf of Legal and General and in light of the heavy public expenditure on the development scheme to date from the public purse, then call the whole deal into Public Scrutiny using the Councils powers to give the public of our town the right to judge their actions. If part of the hearing has to be in private with proper explanation and authority then so be it, but it is high time that we all knew the truth, high time the people paying the bills can pass comment on the value they are getting for their money and high time we all were witness to the price Legal and general have paid the Council for the privilege of using this land in the future once the tax payer has dealt with all of the development obstacles.
 
A measured response would show at least a willingness for them to defend their actions, continued silence will only condemn them all further.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

DO OUR HEARTS SINK ALONG WITH THE BODIES OF THE INNOCENT?

On October 3 2013 359 passengers aboard a migrant vessel carrying some 500 people - mostly from Eritrea and Somalia sunk off of the coast of Lampedusa as unscrupulous traffickers overloaded the vessel with desperate people fleeing conflict and seeking a new life abroad

Last week the sea took a further 38 lives as another boat carrying 250 refugees from Syria and Palestine sank off of the island swelling a barbaric international sea grave which has now claimed 25,000 lives in just the last 20 years

As civil unrest and war around the world intensifies the numbers lost at sea off of the Mediterranean coast continue to rise and accelerate and in just the last two years over 4000 people have drowned in the local waters.


I personally feel sick to the pit of my stomach that so many innocent lives can be lost, so many families murdered in the full sight of Europe’s leading political leaders and yet so few of those so called leaders have felt impelled to act. Italy and Malta’s Prime Ministers Enrico Letta and Joseph Muscat have both called for immediate action to be taken when the European Council meets in 10 days time and Pope Francis spoke of the world’s indifference when he visited Lampedusa by telling a world audience that

“We have become used to the suffering of others. It doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t interest us. It’s not our business,”

According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, about 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy and Malta so far this year, about two thirds of whom have filed asylum requests. Italy, deep in recession and pressed by EU budget rules to rein in public spending, has seen its reception facilities on Lampedusa and other parts of Sicily strained to breaking point and has called repeatedly for more help to confront a crisis it says is a European emergency.

The Green Party in recent years has consistently called for an educated debate on world migration and sees the movement of peoples around the globe as “a fact of life” and points out that many EU countries are seeing their populations shrink and could see their economy’s benefit benefit from controlled migration. But it is my own personal belief that we must strive to go further, a modern day European “Ellis Island” solution is needed (although not on an Island!) to match skills and numbers to need amongst EU countries, to bring order to the chaotic movement of peoples. We need to close “Detention Centres” and look to jointly fund “Migrant support facilities”.

It saddens me that in the UK most people still purposely close their eyes to plight of the refugee, and therefore it is my belief that only action at a European Level can have any effect,

Currently in Britain it is difficult to be heard when advocating common sense approaches to migration policy, austerity has hardened our hearts and public opinion leads political opportunity in a cyclical downward spiral, deep deep down into a pit of indifference and at times even to a hatred for our fellow man.

When I joined the The Green Party part of my decision was because I had no wish to be associated with the other political movements in Britain in simply calling for tighter border controls and two faced immigration policies which increasingly reward the world’s rich migrants whilst punishing the poor. We as a nation have played more than a part in creating unrest in the world and its high time we acted responsibly with our European neighbours to find a lasting solution to the plight of those fleeing conflict. Everyone talks of controlling borders rather than finding better ways of managing migration. It’s time for a rethink. I want to see the EU take immediate action in the Mediterranean and see more arrests of those involved in illegal trafficking and bring them to justice in front of the world’s press. But the situation needs, wants and demands action beyond the immediate, we must work with our EU colleagues to find ways of managing migration for the benefit of both mankind and the struggling economies of Europe, European populations are getting smaller and growing older. The negative population growth in Europe causes shortages on the labour market and consequently, it may problematise development, economic growth and well-being.

My heart tells me that those fleeing conflict would want to return to their homeland as soon as they are able, but my head reminds me that the historical movement and settlement of people across the ages shows a reluctance for families to place at any risk their newly found security and wealth. Therefore we have to manage the migration, criminalise those who seek to gain from the misery and desperation of others and above all be human and humane about how we interact with people whose only crime is to want a better life for their loved ones.

Monday, 30 September 2013

IS THE PARTY REALLY OVER FOR THE BIG THREE?

The rows upon rows of empty seats on show at all three big three party political conferences this year was less a sign of revolutionary zeal as in “Les Miserable”, and more a sign of “The miserable old sods” as in “no longer relevant”

Of course TV conference watching itself is hardly ever viewing figure gold, but even those of you who switched on during the adverts or caught brief glimpses on the news must have been as shocked as I was at the lack of interest being shown by those in the audience and also the lack of members actually in attendance.

What for me was even more galling were the Leaders Speeches, each played out against carefully choreographed backdrops worthy of the best the West End can muster, a blur of young, carefully ethnically mixed smiling faces, happy clapping at every opportunity, but just where had all these people been when I viewed the conference earlier I thought? it was if they had simply been shipped in for the occasion.

But that’s the state we are in, our politics are boring, they have become an irrelevance to most peoples everyday lives and even if we did listen to what they were saying we still wouldn’t believe what they were saying, their currency value it seems is at an all time low.

Of course it wasn’t always like this, in the golden age of British politics in the 1950’s and 1960’s the two Harold’s (Macmillian and Wilson) played to vast audiences. The Tory party in its heyday for instance had nearly 3 million members, Labour in the 60’s skirted around the 1 million mark, and even the Liberals in one guise or other at one point convinced hundreds of thousands of people to join their cause.

But today? Well the figures are shocking, out of a population of 68 million people the three main party’s can only muster between them less than 300,000 party members, and none of the three have anything to cheer about. The Tories, it is believed have seen their membership haemorrhage since the rise in UKIP’s stock and now even insiders suggest that the total figure may have slipped down for the first time in a century to below the 100,000 mark, and whats even more worrying for those in the blue corner is that this figure is less than half of what it was when David Cameron took over as leader (253,600).

Labour’s figures are believed to be steady at around 150,000 but they are not celebrating as with changes ahead to Union affiliation and a desertion of Left minded members they are now in a race to the bottom with the Tory’s as to who can first catch the Liberal Democrats whose dwindling membership is now as low as the 40,000 mark.

So to put it all into perspective that makes the total number of party members joined up to the three main political party’s in the UK in 2013 at around the 290,000 mark, or less than one third of the number who are paid up members of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Over 1,000,000 (1m).

Its not all doom and gloom for politico’s, some party’s memberships are actually on the rise. UKIP it seems may even have overtaken the Lib Dems at 40,000+ and my own party the Green Party is approaching the 20,000 mark after years in the single figure thousands bracket.

But even so those of us who make up the political classes all combined still only represent about 0.9% of the population!

And yet the same lack of interest is not to be found elsewhere in Europe to such a worryingly high extent. In Austria 17% of the population are in a political party in Greece 16%. On average in Europe 5% of the population are members of party’s, and only two countries Poland and Latvia show less interest in politics than UK citizens.

The UK public it seems have already decided that the idea of the political party is just not attractive to them any more, but what do we replace them with? After all as Pericles reminded us “Just because you do not not take an interest in Politics, doesn’t mean that politics won’t take an interest in you!”

For example that dwindling membership above is providing 95% of our 650 MP’s and 23,000 Councillors in the UK ,(others include SNP, PLaid Cymru, Sinn Fein etc) and as the numbers dwindle the age range gets higher and the task of finding candidates of any quality, let alone those really fit for office becomes ever harder.

So if you ever thought that our elected betters were simply a bunch of irrelevant nobody’s chosen from a dwindling list of the undeserving and the inadequate, you would probably be about right!

But is it really a healthy state to be? I don’t believe it is and I hope that a new politics can somehow rise out of the ashes of our failed political system, but one thing is certain, the party for the big three is most definitely over!

Monday, 23 September 2013

ADAM SIMMONDS: WANTED FOR CRIMES AGAINST COMMON SENSE

Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire’s newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner has hardly set the a blazing trail when it comes to any noticeable crime reduction and his very public promise to reduce violent crime by 40% whilst in office seems laughable given the recent spate of violent attacks in the County.
But he certainly gets his fair share of press inches. Hardly surprising really when you find out that since his election he has appointed 11 staff alone to work in the press room of his self named West Wing office! More than even work for either our beloved Herald and Post? or the Chronicle and Echo? and possibly both combined!
He has assistant commissioners and directors coming out the wood work overspending any comparable previous Police Authority budget four fold, We now have four assistant commissioners to help him in his task, 9 senior managers and policy advisors to work under them, 7 news producers , 2 digital media producers, a plethora of admin support and we haven’t even mentioned the soon to be appointed Faith Director and new victims Tsar. 
All posts we never knew we needed, carrying out tasks we never knew needed doing, and all at a cost of well in excess of £1m
Well at least his press team have plenty to write about, remember his pledge to bring back the old style Dr Who Police Boxes? Why? Haven’t we all got mobile phones now? Or his comments on drug use and children on Radio 4 recently when he said:
“It’s about educating our kids about proper drug use, from my point of view we can give out leaflets until we are blue in the face with kids. So we’ve got to teach kids. if they are going to use drugs, how to use them responsibly”
Most of us would simply rather teach them not to use them at all !
I sometimes wonder just when this very special Northampton clown and his bizarre statements will be judged to have gone too far?
Well last week he was at it again when addressing a group of chief fire officers he told them in his own words that “I haven’t come here to blow smoke up your skirts “ (whatever that means) before outlining to them his plans to take over the blue light universe.
He told the puzzled audience that his vision is that in 20 years time we would combine all of our blue light services who would be all singing all dancing “Emergency response workers” he envisages hundreds of thousands of young people signing up to be trained as multi skilled fire/ambulance/police operatives all at a time when in his own words “laws have changed and we’ve made a seriously important shift in our thinking about how we deploy, recruit and retain staff and work out a way to pay for the kind of protection our communities need.”
In other words more volunteers, more zero hr contracts and smaller budgets. In Simmond’s mind I guess they are all volunteers signed up to the “Big Society” taking it in turns to scrape up the remains of the dead from our motorways as part of them achieving their “roadside assistance” badge.
He begins by saying “Am I talking about a police car turning up to a fire with a ladder on the roof and buckets of water in the boot? No?” and then later on in his speech suggests just that when he informed his ever stunned audience that his vision of a response to a car crash in 20 years time would be that “we could perhaps consider sending just one vehicle to the incident, equipped with the relevant cutting equipment and the people trained to use them, equipped with the relevant medical equipment and someone with relevant medical expertise, and someone with the skills to maintain the scene of a potential crime.”
So one vehicle with firefighting equipment ladders? Cutters? Water to put out the engine fire? And with medical equipment with stretchers? And oxygen? And cones and lights and police and crime investigation equipment and a multi skilled team? WOW thats some vehicle and what happens when the medical experts want to take the injured to hospital do they then unload all the multi equipment and leave the rest of the team there at the roadside? Perhaps to get a taxi back to base later. Would we when injured in our vehicle be asked to both relax, stay calm and blow into this bag all at the same time?
Adam Simmonds ever bizarre statements and and lack of any meaningful action are not just embarrassing, they are also an insult to the professionalism of our Police, Fire and Ambulance officers who all at present do a very difficult and dangerous job despite being beaten up at every opportunity sometimes by a ungrateful community and continouously a government which simply sees them as a large budget head to be constantly cut back and abused.
For me enough is enough We HAVE to find a way to get this man out of post, and we need to put more pressure on two so far silent MP’s to bring him under some form of control. We also need to stop his over zealous ambitions and spending at a time when so many others in the public sector are seeing their budgets slashed.
Let’s also be clear here about the backdrop to all this unnecessary spend and activity. Last year it is assumed that 5 children died unnecessarily in Northamptonshire because our children’s service were inadequate, the single case reviews once published will no doubt have the whole country shouting out in outrage and calling for changes.
And yet in the last few years we have made experienced Social Workers redundant, replaced them with trainees, we have stretched case loads beyond the limit, and agencies including Social Services and the Police have stopped talking to each other because they are all too busy coping with their own cost centre savings.
THOSE CHILDREN IN MY MIND WERE THE VICTIMS OF AUSTERITY AND CUT BACKS TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUNDING and yet in the very shadow of their lost lives we have this egotistic maniac spending millions of pounds of public money on an ever growing army of unnecessary people all fulfilling unnecessary duties.
For a start, what should the 11 press staff he employs really do about promoting his words above? The best they could probably do is ignore them and hope no one had noticed.
It is nothing less than an insult to our local democratic society that we have to witness such extremes of heartbreaking failures due to lack of local government funding and yet at the same time witness such incompetent decision making being seen to be rewarded with ever rising administrative budgets.
This is not a political point I am making, I would say the same of anyone with the same agenda as this individual irrespective of their politics. But I would also urge the Tory party to rid us of this man before we are given the opportunity as electors to do so ourselves in 2016.
Every day he is in office their local credibility as a party will drop ever further downwards.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

SECOND PLACE AGAIN FOR NBC - (But this time there were two runners not one!)

Northampton Borough Councils "Silver Medal" in this years East Midlands In Bloom contest sounds rather an accomplishment until you discover they actually came second to Mansfield, a town half the size of Northampton and then the achievement loses more shine when you discover that these two were the only two cities that entered!
 
But it was however, arguably an improvement on last years floral efforts when our cash strapped Council once again finished second (another Silver Medal) but then having the shame of only coming second in a one horse race, Northampton being the one and only sole entrant as a Small City!
 
Buts that Britain In Bloom for you, its the municipal equivalent of the ducks at the fun fair where every ones a winner, and if you cant hook your duck well no problem have a prize anyway!
 
So keen are the East Midlands in Bloom organisers to take your entrance fee and pin a medal on your chest as a "winner" at this annual flower fest that they will it seems make up a category for whatever suits you or even break all the rules to ensure you don't go home empty handed without your press release worthy medal. 
 
This year there were no less twenty three categories to choose from Small Village - Village - Large Village, Small Town - Town - Large Town, Small City - City - Large City, Coastal resort, the list is endless and covers every hamlet and multi sized conurbation imaginable, my favourite being the Urban Community category which I guess you enter if you don't like the look of any of the competition elsewhere?
 
But shock horror, I take no pleasure in exposing to the world that our council are in fact plant inducing, muck spreading, dirty rotten cheats and scoundrels, cads of the flower showing world. Not since Joe Grundy injected his giant marrow with steroids to win the Ambridge Marrowfest have we witnessed such skulduggery!
 
You see the population of Northampton is officially as per the 2011 census 212,100, and yet the "City" category to which we entered has a limited entry range of 100,001 to 200,000 with the Large city category which would include cities like Derby, Nottingham and Leicester and having a range of 200,001 or more the contest for us!
 
But cheats never prosper and I for one am delighted to see that we were beat by a smaller city which it seems were also being slightly cheated by EMIB but this time at the other end of the size spectrum. Mansfield (population 2011 - 99,600) had to punch well above their seed weight to beat off our local council . Loughborough then as a result won the Small City category albeit thanks to Mansfield's enforced promotion and the large city category in which Northampton should have been entered was won by Nottingham, as the only entrant!
 
But does any of the above really matter? after all its just a few flowers in baskets isn't it? Well yes, but it does matter because  it is a misrepresentation and fraud not just against the other entrants but against the Council Tax paying public of Northampton. It's no good NBC waving around its shiny silver medal to the world and showing off its flower baskets in Abington Street whist at the same time uncut grass levels on some of our estates is often higher than the cover in the amazon rain forest, not much use to our park based footballers who have to dribble around the dog dirt on the local pitches let alone try and find a white line to determine where their pitch ends, no comfort to those walking the streets who are forced out off the pavement and onto the road by hedges larger than some leylandii just so the Guildhall steps look a pretty picture.
 
This whole competition has it seems become a farce, an orgy of self congratulation and deception at a time of municipal floral shame due to years of cut backs and privatised services. 
 
But never mind at least the Cllrs from across the region get the opportunity to go to go to Skegness for the day to pick up their medals and awards and the category winners can all then pop off to the national "Britain in Bloom" finals! Last year for NBC and their category winning Silver medal that meant an opportunity for weekend on the Island of Guernsey!
 
If only they could have won this year! it would have made my day, the finals weekend is in Cleethorpes.

Archives

Followers

Blog Archive

Thank You

Thank you for visiting "THE NORTHAMPTON INDEPENDENT" The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are made by me personally in my own capacity as free citizen and not as representative of any outside body or council that I may serve on or be employed by. However if anyone is offended by any of these comments or feels that they should be corrected then please contact me in the first instance at tony.clarke@email.com and I willl do my best to consider your comments and correct any errors.

Etiketler

100 key seats 1980's 1997 2013 50th Birthday 96 Abington Park absent parents abuse Academy Status Adam Simmonds Adam Simmonds. Police and Crime Commisioner Northamptonshire. Class A drugs Adam Simmonds. Police commisioner. Northamptonshire County Council Afghanistan Afro Caribbean Agent airbrushed for change airlines Al Quida Aldi allowances AlQuida Anarchist ANC Andrew Mitchell animated fairy story Anjona Roy Ann Frank Ann Timson Apathy Archway cottages Arms raid arrears. Northamptonshire race Equality Council Ashes to Ashes Ask a Socialist astragate Asylum seekers Audit Baathe Party bamboo joint Banana Banker barbecue tax Bashar Assad bbc BBC radio 4 Bedroom Tax Benefits benito mussolini Big Freeze Big Society Billy Bragg Binners Birds black and white cats Black Swans Blair blogger blogs Blowing smoke up your skirt Blue Light Services BNI BNP boardroom buffoons Boris Johnson borough council boot and shoe borough council elections Borough Solicitor BP Bradlaugh Brian Binley Brian Hoare brighton Britain in Bloom British Government broken britain Brown Pelican Bryn Estyn Children's Home budget cuts Bulgarian Bullingdon Club Burglars Bus Interchange Bus Station Bush businesmen Cabinet Call in campaigning Cannes canvassers capitalism Captain Ska Car Park Revenue car parks career wreckers carillion carlisle Carrillion CASPAR Castle Ward Castle Ward 2 Catherine Tate CDC censorship Census 2011 change Charity Commision cheating cheats chicago Chicago Fruit Police Chickens Child Abuse China Chloe Smith Chris Grayling Christmas Christopher Myers chronicle and echo Clement Attlee Cllr Andrew Simpson Cllr Andy Mercer cllr Bill Parker Cllr Brian Hoare Cllr Brian Markham Cllr David Mackintosh Cllr David Palethorpe Cllr David Perkins Cllr Dennis Meredith Cllr Elizabeth Gowen Cllr Gareth Eales Cllr Jean Hawkins Cllr Jim Harker Cllr Jim Harker Road Safety Cllr John Caswell cllr John Yates Cllr Malcolm Mildren Cllr PD Varnsverry Cllr portia wilson Cllr Richard Church Cllr Robin Brown Cllr Sally Beardsworth cllr Scott Collins Cllr Tony Buckley cllr Tony Clarke Cllr Tony Woods Cllr Trini Crake Clr David Perkins Clyde Loakes Coalition government cobblers combustion committee places Community Basher conference 2013 Conservative Conservative Party Conservatives consumption Contracts Corby corporate fools corporate spin corrupt Council Council tenants councy council County Council Election county council elections CPS credit crunch crime Crimea cuts CWU Daily Mail daniel hannan mep. NHS Daventry District Council David Cameron David Harvey David Perkins. Brenden Glynane David Ross day fotlu DDC debt decent homes Defend Council Housing Delapre Abbey democracy wreckers destruction disaster DIT Britain Dostiyo Dot Cotton Duckenfield Duckinfield Ealing Council East Midlands in Bloom East Midlands Labour Party easy read economy Ed Balls Ed Millaband Ed Milliband education election Elections 2013 Electoral iregularity Ellis Island email Emilie Oldknow Emily Oldknow Empowerment fund Enterprise Enterprise Managed Services Environment Agency Eric Pickles ester ranzen EU euro European parliament expelled F W De Clerk F*ck you facebook FAir is worth fighting for Fairground ducks Fairytale of New York Far Right fire Fish MArket Fitzy fixed penalty notice Flashman Floods Florence and the Machine flytipping Fountain free Friends of Delapre Abbey Full Council Gaddafi Gang Culture GDP general election Geoff Howes George Bush George Osborne George Osbourne Germany Glasgow mosque GMB Golden Handshake google gordon brown government Government Cuts Grant Shapps greed Greedy Bankers Greek economy Green Green Party Greyfriars growth 1980's Guantanaomo Bay. Shaker Aamer Guernsey Harry Enfield Havelock Havildar Gaje Ghale haymarket Hazel Blears health Helicoptors Help the aged highways Hillsborough hoodies hope not hate House of Commons House of Lords Housing Housing numbers Housing. eviction human rights Ian Gibson il duce Immigration imprint Independent Independent Green Independent Network independents India Injunction inquiry international internet Iran Iraq Iraq war Islamaphobia Italy IVA jedward Jeremy Clarkson jerk chicken Jihadists Jimmy Carr Jimmy Saville jingles Joe Joyce John Dickie john gardner John Lennon Johnston Press Journalists justice justice for the 96 KBC Ken Livingstone Khudadad Khan KPMG Kraken La Madala Labour Labour Group Labour Party Lady Wantage Lampedusa Land Tax Lansbury last of the summer wine Leadership election league two Learning difficulty Learning Disability Lebanon Lee Barron leeds Legal and General Liar Liar Lib Dem Liberal Democrat Liberal Democrats Liberals Libya libya. david cameron Likely lads Lily allen Liverpool lloyd grossman local candidates local governance local government Local Government Association local press localism bill Loft insullation London Labour London Olympics london riots Loo of the year Lord Mandelson Lord Michael Ashcroft Lord Stuart-Smith Lord Taylor Lord Waterhouse LSE Mackenzie mad as a box of frogs Madiba Malcolm Mildren Margaret Thatcher Market Square Market Square Fountain Market Trader Martyn Gilleard martyrs May 2ns Medhi Hussein media Michael Ellis Michael Foot Michael Turner QC Micheal Ellis MP micheal martin Middle Classes migrants Mike Ferrigan Milk Snatcher millions Miserable old sod mk dons mortgages MP's Expenses mps expenses Multi Agency Group Muslim community mydavidcameron.com Narrowboats Nasseem Nicholas Taleb Nathan Worrell National Debt national front Nato Nazis. EU NBC NCC Neil Lewington Neil Magregor NEL. MIPIM Nelson Mandela Neo Nazis NEP New Statesman New Year NHS Nick Clegg nick clegg.norman clegg Nick Griffin Niel Kinnock NNDC NNJPU Noor Inyat Khan North Wales Police Northampton Northampton Borough Council Northampton Chronicle and Echo Northampton Conservatives Northampton Independent group northampton independent voice Northampton Labour Party Northampton Labour Party. Northampton Borough Council Northampton Liberal Democrats Northampton Saints Northampton South Northampton South Conservatives Northampton Town Football Club Northamptonshire County Council Northamptonshire County Council Elections Northamptonshire Enterprise Limited Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership Northamptonshire Music Service Northamptonshire Police Norwich North not all party's are the same ntfc Number 10 Observer Oil Old Labour Oliver Tambos Paddy Tipping MP pakistan Palais de Festival Palestine Parish Poll. Police Commissioner Elections parking parking services parliament parsons Paul Blantern Paul Varnsverry PCC Pegasus Penalty Charge Notices pensioners pest control pest express Peter Mandelson Peter Righton pfi phillip mears photos for all occasions Pinky and Perky Plain English planning police Police and crime Commissioner Police Commisioners Police Commissioner elections political Pope Francis poplar porkie pies President Obama privatisation Professor Pongoo proportionality public consultation public deficit Public Service cuts purdah que sara sara Racism Radio 4 rats Rebekah Brooks reccession Recycling refuse collection regional labour party relegation Rememberence Sunday residents parking retail Richard Hannon right wing riots Robert Cottage Romanian roofing RPA act RSA Rushden Sainsburys Sally Keeble Sam King Scrutiny Seb Coe Second Life Shame on you shameless Shami Chakrabarti Sheltered Housing Shire shirkers Shona Deans Messinger silver medal Simon Cox Simon Williams Skateboarders skivers. scroungers Slipping back in time SNC Snow Spad speaker spies spring boroughs Spring Boroughs Residents squandering St Andrews st andrews road St James Stagecoach stagnation standard and poors standards board stealth tax Stephen Pound MP. Jeffrey Archer Steptoe and Son Steve Messham Stock Market street lights supergran suspended Syria Taliban Tax Evasion tax the rich tea team GB Terry Waite Tescos Tess Scott Thatcher The Cobblers The Conservative Party The Green 'Un The Green PArty The Press The Queen The Report The Ridings The Saints the story of broke the story of change the story of stuff The Sun through the keyhole ticckle Till Death do us part" Tom Watson MP Tony Blair Tony Clarke Tony Clarke MP Tony Woods Tory Tory Government Tory Party Tory's town centre trade unions Trees Trevor Kavanagh TUC Trident TVC E-coli and coliforms tweets twitter UAF UK debt UK floods UK Government UK riots UKIP UKIP. Green Party UKIP. Labour Party Ukraine Ulric Cross ULT UN unemployment union flag unitary authorities unitary government Unite against Facism United Learning Trust united nations Unity College Upper class USA usual channels Vara Varnsverry. Guildhall vat Virtual vote Walter Tull Waltham Forest Wardens watchdog WDC Welfare welfare cuts west northamptonshire joint planning unit Westbridge Westminster Weston Favell School what's the point of Nick Clegg wicked William Hague window dressing winter wonderland witch hunt WNDC WNJPU workers Working Class working mens clubs workshy written questions WWII youth services