Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Lib Dem Choices

We recently heard that a Lib Dem MP was likely to choose to vote for the tripling of university tuition fees to "punish" students for daring to demonstrate at his office. Today (8/12/2010) we have Nick Clegg telling us it is all about choices. So let's see what he has chosen to do instead of honouring his pledge on tuition fees.
The Lib Dem choice is to spend billions of pounds on fighting a war in Afghanistan, rather than on educating our children. The Lib Dem choice is to invest billions in nuclear power stations, none of which will be operational before the shortfall in energy predicted by Ofgen in 2015 and which will leave our children with a legacy of nuclear waste as well as debts of £39,000 each. The Lib Dem choice is to spend billions on a replacement for the Trident nuclear missile system, to let the banks pay only a fraction of what their mistakes cost the UK taxpayer and let tax dodgers squirrel away untaxed billions in tax havens.
Most shamefully for me, a former Liberal Democrat candidate, is that all of those decisions represent promises made by Lib Dems at the general election, which have been broken within weeks of getting elected. Nick Clegg was lying then and is lying now. He said that no Westminster party was offering to abolish tuition fees. The Green Party and our leader, Caroline Lucas MP has long called for the abolition of tuition fees, paid for by not doing the things above that Lib Dems said they would not do. In addition millions would be saved just abandoning the bureaucracy of collecting tuition fees.
Sadly, we know that the Lib Dems (unlike Caroline Lucas) are now an irrelevance in Parliament. Whatever they decide to do on the Tuition Fees vote, they are too divided to make a difference to the outcome. However, if they all vote against a rise in tuition fees as they promised at the general election, they might just save what little credibility they have left.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Torture on British Streets

We saw torture on our streets last week. More shockingly, the torture of schoolchildren by British police officers, whose job is to protect and serve, not bully our children. A joyful protest by students last Wednesday was turned into a new attack on democracy in the UK by the police.
Let's be clear kettling is deliberate and unlawful torture. We all have the right to peacefully protest and the police have no right to unlawfully stop peaceful protesters from going home.
What is kettling? In the words of Laurie Penny of the New Statesman, who was caught up in the heat of the kettle, it is to trap people in the open with no water or toilets or space to sit down. “It takes a shockingly short time to reduce ordinary kids to a state of primitive physical need” she says. “Without blankets, food or first aid, it's unspeakably cruel when it's done for six hours on the coldest night of the year, in sub-zero temperatures, to minors, some of whom don't even have a jumper.”
“Children who have fainted, and need medical attention, or the loo are denied their basic rights. The Police decide when old people can get warm, when the diabetics can get their insulin, when the kid having a panic attack can go home to her mum. It's a way of making you feel small and scared and helpless, a way for the state's agents to make you feel that you are nothing without them, making you forget that a state is supposed to survive by mandate of the people, and not the other way around.”
This is torture and we need the legal eagles to take them to court. There will be further protests and next time we may not have brave school children stopping the agents provocateur from turning a peaceful protest into a riot. That, of course, is what the police want. They were hitting peaceful protesters with their batons last Wednesday, just imagine what they could do if they can cause a riot? In recent protests most students have said they did not know the minority who caused trouble. A combination of agents provocateur and police unlawful kettling is going to provide government with the excuse they need to further curtail our civil liberties. With a Government of liars who were elected on false promises, we are going to see big confrontations on our streets in the coming months. As a former Liberal, it is a source of great sadness for me to see the Liberal Democrats being part of removing Liberty from our society and causing children to be tortured on our streets.

Friday, 29 October 2010

EU Budget Farce

Forgive me if I treat David Cameron's boast of saving money from the EU with some scepticism. When our local services are likely to be cut by 28% in line with the cut in Local Government grants, a 3% increase in the EU budget is hardly to be celebrated. When 600 jobs may be lost among Armed Forces support staff at Catterick, local people should rebel at such EU profligacy.

Thanks in part to Tony Blair's spiteful hand back of our EU rebate as he was hounded out of office in 2007, this country will still be forking out £6.5bn every year to pay for the EU. What does that pay for? Among other things an increase in EU bureaucrats' entertainment budget! And the extraordinary thing is that the EU budget has never been properly audited. Millions are lost every year and the EU budget office fail every single year to account for it, leaving the EU with qualified accounts (i.e. inaccurate).

The Tories and Liberal Democrats should honour their pre-election promises and have a referendum on our EU membership. As the Germans are insisting on an amendment to the Lisbon Treaty to facilitate the latest Euro-zone bail out of failing economies like Greece and Portugal, the coalition has the perfect opportunity. After all it was part of the Con Dem coalition agreement that there no further powers would be handed to Europe without a referendum.

Will we now see the will of the majority of the people prevail and Britain at last throw off the shackles of EU membership? Don't hold your breath. How many other promises have the Con Dem coalition kept?

Monday, 25 October 2010

Coalition Cause New Recession

UK economic growth in the 3rd quarter has fallen to just 0.4% from the 1.2% in the previous quarter. A two-thirds reduction in growth is likely to bring about another lot of "quantitative easing" i.e. printing another £50bn of fake money by the Bank of England. As on previous occasions when the Government did this, it will undermine the pound, causing yet another fall in the value of sterling.

The cuts and one million job losses (estimate by accountancy firm PWC) that will be caused by the Con Dem coalition's £81bn annual reduction in public spending, is already "damaging household confidence, weakening investment intentions and depressing the economy" (Independent 25/10/10). Along with a devaluation of the currency, the coalition is well on its way to causing yet another recession.

We should be spending money saved from cancelling Trident and withdrawing from the Afghanistan on investing in Green Jobs making our homes, hospitals and public buildings more fuel efficient and saving much more money (and lives) in the long run. All things the Lib Dems promised, but reneged on once elected.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Stop Finger Printing Children

Yet another local school is introducing the finger printing of school children. These systems are used for such things as libraries and cashless catering as an administrative convenience.
As Terry Thomas, Professor of Criminal Justice Studies at Leeds Metropolitan University has said "A whole generation of children not involved with any criminal behaviour may be growing up thinking fingerprinting is just a 'normal' way of being identified, and innocuous phrases like school 'kiddy-printing' only further minimises what is going on. Children are being inducted into the world of the 'surveillance society' without really knowing what it means."

This practice is the thin end of the wedge in an increasingly intrusive state. Deputy PM Nick Clegg denounced the practice in his "freedom" speech just after the election, committing the Government "to end the scandal of children being fingerprinted at school without their parent’s consent".

However, at the same time the Con Dem coalition has provoked a civil liberties storm after reviving Labour's "Big Brother" plans to track details of every phone call, email and website visit in Britain (Independent 22/10/10).

Which ever of the three grey parties is in power, the Whitehall mandarins and local public servants are bent on creating a "big brother" society. Given the scandal of lost computer files and Government IT cock-ups, this personal information is not safe in the hands of the bureaucrats who run our schools and security services alike. Stand up for the rights and stop big brother now!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Politicians support Tax Avoidance

Yet again we have seen crocodile tears about opposing tax avoidance. The chancellor George Osbourne, whilst casually throwing an additional one million people onto the dole, claimed he would crack down on tax avoidance. But he continues to avoid taxing the real culprits of the recession and increase in public debt.

Mr Osborne, himself apparently supported by a £4m offshore trust, a form of legal tax avoidance, has apparently allowed Vodafone to write off outstanding tax bill of £6bn. According to Johann Hari in the Independent ( bankers have just awarded themselves £7bn in bonuses for their part in causing the recession.

Nor are Labour politicians free from blame. As Mark Thomas pointed out last year (see him on You Tube) Government buildings sold off under PFI are paying rent to offshore companies paying no tax. These include the Treasury building where George Osborne hatched his plans. It also includes Home Office buildings, hospitals and even the Albert Bridge House tax office. So the HMRC tax collectors, who are paid bonuses for the tax demands they send out (whether or not they are correct), are paying rent to tax avoiders.

This Con Dem budget will push the country back into recession. The job losses will continue into the private sector as sub-contractors and temporary staff are the first to be laid off by local government and the NHS. The overall loss of tax and additional unemployment benefit will cost more than the savings made and I predict that the public deficit will go up, not down, in the next 4 years. Surely it would be so much better to tax the tax avoiders and use the money to invest in new Green jobs, as the Green Party suggested at the general election?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire!

There is nothing more shameful than for politicians, only a few months after an election, to renege on an election promise. Abolishing University tuition fees was not only part of the Liberal Democrat manifesto, but it was also a written pledge by every Lib Dem candidate who publicly signed their name to a written undertaking. It was a central part of the Lib Dem claim to fairness, along with opposing Trident and a promise of proportional representation (AV is not PR).

The Lib Dems have now broken all of these promises, but nothing is more shameful than their complete volte-face on tuition fees. Instead of abolishing tuition fees, Vince Cable has announced they could quadruple up to £12,000!

The British Medical Association warned: "Graduates are currently leaving medical school with an estimated £37,000 worth of debt under the present £3,290 annual fee. There is the potential that some students could incur debts up to and beyond £100,000 if fees are set at £10,000 or above by medical schools."

It is no wonder people do not trust politicians, when the Liberal Democrats betray our trust in this way. It is neither liberal nor democratic to lie to us the way the Lib Dems have done.

Compare and contrast Caroline Lucas, the single Green MP, who has already had more impact on the House of Commons than the whole Lib Dem backbench put together. Clive Aslet, editor-at-large of Country Life magazine said, “She appears to be doing the work that might otherwise be done by several dozen politicians.”

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Liberal Democrats

See Green MP Caroline Lucas talking about the broken promises in the Lib Dem manifesto at:

I never thought to see the day when Liberals, given their first share in Government in my lifetime, proposed keeping Trident, cutting public services, privatising Royal Mail, voting against proportional representation in voting and continuing the war in Afghanistan. Strange and sad times indeed.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Allerton Quarry Incinerator

North Yorkshire County Council and York Council propose to build a £900m incinerator to dispose of waste. There will be a series of public consultations, including one at the Catterick Garrison Leisure Centre at 10.00 am on Wednesday 22/9/2010. NYCC have issued what I believe to be a misleading briefing in their propaganda sheet, the NY Times. To redress the balance, I have written what I believe to be relevant facts about this controversial proposal.

1. I understand that this is a commercial venture belonging to Amey Cespa of Spain, but is being funded by NYCC and York Council under a PFI scheme. The Councils, not the Spanish company will therefore be taking the commercial risks. This will saddle North Yorkshire Council taxpayers with 25 years of debt. The minimum total cost to NYCC taxpayers over 25 years is estimated at £1.4 billion at today’s prices, assuming all the financial assumptions are correct.

2. These assumptions include the OVER capacity that has been built into the contract, based on an unrealistic future waste tonnage INCREASE (not decline) and population growth. The contract assumes only 50% recycling is achieved by 2020 (we are nearly there now!). The contract will further financially penalise the councils if the level of waste to feed the incinerator is too LOW! It therefore discourages attempts to recycle above 50% or reduce waste generally. Switzerland, the Netherlands and Austria have national recycling rates of 60% or more.

3. At least half a million jobs would be created in Europe if member states recycled 70% of their waste, according to a Friends of the Earth (FoE) study The report comes one week after José Manuel Barroso called for three million new green jobs by 2020. The Allerton Park site will only employ up to 70 staff, with a similar or greater LOSS of jobs likely at landfill sites.

4. The scheme depends on the import of at least 100,000 tonnes of commercial waste per annum to feed the incinerator. There is no guarantee that that amount of commercial waste would be available to Allerton Park, which would be a substantial financial risk to NYCC. There are currently plans for 65 new incinerators to be built in the UK, in addition to the 25 incinerators that already exist in the UK. Overcapacity in the stock of waste incinerators in Germany and Netherlands has led to the import of waste from other countries. Sheffield City Council Planners asked their incinerator operator Veolia to explain why in 2002 Veolia argued that a projected 80,000 tonne per annum shortfall could be filled with commercial waste, when now “it is now being argued that this level of commercial waste is a problem”. RPS replied: “The composition [of] commercial wastes today do not reflect the circumstances which prevailed in 2001”. ) It is likely that Amey Cespa are equally being over optimistic in their forecasts of commercial waste available.

5. DEFRA on behalf of the Government is reviewing the treatment of waste nationally. Their aim is (I quote): “The Review will look at all aspects of waste policy and delivery in England. Its main aim will be to ensure that we are taking the right steps towards creating a ‘zero waste’ economy, where resources are fully valued, and nothing of value gets thrown away.” This presumably includes being thrown into an incinerator, so the Allerton Park plan seems premature.

6. Professor Paul Connett, a leading environmental campaigner over the last 25 years, has ridiculed the “pathetic” recycling targets set by North Yorkshire County Council and York Council. “It is an out-dated technology with no flexibility and the councils are living in the 19th century if they push ahead with the incinerator plans. It simply should have no place in the 21st century. (Yorkshire Post 13/9/2010). Prof Connett claimed a 75 per cent recycling target is achievable and pointed towards cities such as San Francisco, which have made huge strides in boosting recycling rates. The Californian city hit a 50 per cent recycling rate a decade ago and is now up to 75 per cent and is aiming towards a zero waste policy by 2020.

7. All incinerators produce dioxins that are vented into the atmosphere and are a risk to health. In Sweden, the lowest levels have been measured at 0.1 ng/m3n in Malmö, Sweden, which is equipped with a dry scrubber/fabric filter. This technology is regarded as being the best technology available for municipal waste incinerators, but it is not clear whether this is included in the Allerton proposal. Either way some dioxins will still escape into the atmosphere.

8. Sweden is held up as an advertisement for incineration as 45% of waste is incinerated there. Sweden has a major industry exporting Waste to Energy schemes, often linked to district heating schemes in very cold areas. These industries date back to the 1970s and are increasingly controversial in Sweden, blamed for keeping down the country’s recycling rate, which is less than in other European countries.

9. The proposed siting of the incinerator near Knaresborough is close to a Grade 1 listed building.

10. There are fears that having commissioned an incinerator, recycling rates will plummet, as happened in Nottingham and Sheffield. Sheffield now has to negotiate efforts to improve recycling with the operators of their incinerator. York Green Party have commented “Other Councils such as Milton Keynes and Lancashire have ruled out using incineration in their waste policy. Incineration has proven again and again to be costly, polluting and deeply unpopular – and to undermine waste reduction and recycling. As a method of energy generation it is absurd. It would be far more cost effective to invest in energy conservation and renewables than building inefficient plants to dispose of material we didn’t need to produce in the first place.”

11. Materials produced by the new facility will include methane from the anaerobic slime that will be used to increase Co2 in the atmosphere by burning it to generate power. Also produced will be potentially toxic residue (bottom ash) that will be incorporated into building aggregate for use under your new drive or house. This toxic waste will be transported out via the nearby A1 and will potentially be blown from these lorries into villages adjacent to the A1, such as Brompton on Swale.

12. Workers from North Yorkshire County Council were sent out to remove signs protesting against the Allerton Park plans that had been put up in villages close to the proposed site. According to Mr Drury, the parish clerk for Little Ribston, 18 signs have gone missing in recent weeks. “It seems the council is intent on smothering any dissenting voices about the scheme to make sure that is goes through smoothly. I’d hate to think that it is a foregone conclusion that the incinerator will be built but that is the way it seems,” he said. “No-one who I have spoken to is against the Allerton Park site being used for recycling. But what every person who I have talked to is against is the incinerator.” (Yorkshire Post 03/09/2010).

13. Liberal Democrat groups and Councillors have campaigned against planned incinerators in Dovesdale, Wiltshire, Plymouth, Bedford, Marston Vale, Bardon, Suffolk, Widnes and many more places. Their general election manifesto opposed incinerators unless alternatives such as waste reduction and increased recycling were not possible. Waste reduction and recycling above 50% are not catered for in the Allerton proposal, so York and NYCC Liberal Democrat councillors should oppose this incinerator if they are going to be true to their manifesto commitments. Unfortunately some still need persuading of this.

14. Richard Lane of YRAIN (York Residents Against Incineration) says “It was no surprise that the Waste Management companies consulted all came back with plans for big burners. It’s easy and profitable to build an incinerator – just stack up the rubbish and send it up the chimney for the next 25 years. But we need to do better than this – we need to protect recycling, reduce greenhouse gases, and reduce waste. That is the sustainable route, but unfortunately also the less profitable one. Private operators looking to turn a buck will not do this without political leadership, and this has been sadly lacking.”

15. Further information can be obtained at The North Yorkshire Waste Action Group (NYWAG - website - others include the Tockwith Residents Association,, who fought a long-running campaign against an attempt to build an incinerator near to their village, and the Marton-cum-Grafton village website. There is also an online petition at

  • Monday, 24 May 2010

    Over the Rainbow?

    What was more important to the British public: David Cameron winning the general election or Danielle getting the role of Dorothy? As the Green Party candidate for Richmond at the last general election, my feeling is that as contests, there was little to choose between them.

    The general election was dominated by TV debates focused on three grey men in suits. The Over the Rainbow TV show focused on twenty pretty girls in gingham, so perhaps was the more interesting! There were similarities in that it was youth that won out over experience in both cases. However, unlike Dorothy, in the general election the contestants were not treated equally. All of the smaller parties were excluded from the main debates, with the Green Party and UKIP particularly disadvantaged. At least the Nationalist Parties had separate debates in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, but neither the Green Party or UKIP were invited onto the panels and their vote was squeezed as a result. In my own case the BBC refused to talk to me as candidate for Richmond throughout the election campaign, unlike the Tory, Labour and Lib Dem candidates. My complaint of bias to the BBC Trust goes unanswered after two weeks, contrary to their own rules.

    Yes, the Green Party won in Brighton, which was down to an excellent candidate in Caroline Lucas and a lot of hard work over many years. But think how much better those TV debates would have been with the wit and wisdom of a woman like Caroline Lucas to contrast with the sameness of the three grey men in suits? That is something that this coalition has shown us. The difference between the three grey men was in style not substance. Their policies are interchangeable, as is demonstrated by Nick Clegg’s endorsement of the Tories’ Big Society idea. Tory, Liberal and Labour agree on Afghanistan, nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and punishing the public for the mistakes of politicians and banks. To cover up their MPs’ expenses scandal they have set up yet another quango full of over paid bureaucrats.

    Why is it important that the smaller parties are heard? Well apart from the democratic principle of a level playing field, sometimes we get things right. For instance, on Afghanistan, the Tory defence secretary Liam Fox is quoting as saying last Friday that Britain was not a “global policeman” and he would like to see British troops return home “as soon as possible”. Well I hope William Hague, Foreign Secretary and the victor of Richmond, was listening. He may then recall that this was exactly what I said to him in the Richmond hustings at our last general election battle in 2005 (Richmond Zetland Centre 29/4/2005). Since then 282 British service personnel have died in Afghanistan and 104 in Iraq, along with thousands of civilians. If the Government and the people had heard the Green Party message then, perhaps those deaths might have been avoided?

    Monday, 10 May 2010

    BBC Bias?

    Well, the election is over and as we speak, Nick Clegg and David Cameron (and possibly Gordon Brown?) are locked into negotiations as to who will form the Government. This is as it should be as all politics should be about compromise around the common good. No British Government since World War II has had the support of the majority of the British people (in terms of votes) and it is time that democracy, in terms of the will of the majority, be returned to the UK. After all coalitions were common in the UK after the rise of the Labour Party up to and including the war.

    We in the Green Party had mixed fortunes. There was the astonishing win by Caroline Lucas to become the first Green MP in Britain and the very first in the world to be elected under a first past the post system. My congratulations go out to Caroline and her Brighton team.

    In the rest of the country, however, the Green Party and to be fair ALL the smaller parties were punished by the polarisation of support brought about by the TV debates. Not just the Prime Ministerial debates, all the local and cabinet debates focused just on three grey men in suits from the Westminster parties. In Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales the nationalist parties were given a platform, but in England, TV viewers were told again and again that the race was between Tory, Labour and Liberal Democrat and other voices, including the Green Party were suppressed.

    Here in the Richmond constituency, BBC North East steadfastly refused to talk to me as the Green Party candidate for Richmond. How many times did you see the Conservative candidate William Hague on the local news and debate programmes (Look North etc)?
    Most blatantly, however, was a report by BBC Radio Tees (repeated on BBC Radio York) on Friday 28th April. I am told that BBC Radio Tees did a feature on the Richmond (Yorks) constituency. I am told that they interviewed the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat candidates. I am told, but not by the BBC, who did not have the courtesy to inform the Richmond Green Party that the programme was even being broadcast. The BBC editorial guidelines say that the BBC should be impartial in its election coverage. How is it impartial to interview just three out of the four candidates standing in the Richmond constituency? How is it impartial to give dozens of opportunities for other Richmond candidates to voice their views on the BBC during the campaign, but to block all attempts by the Richmond Green Party to get its views across?

    Never again must local and national broadcast stations be allowed to manipulate public opinion in the way they did in this election. Never again should such blatant discrimination against the smaller parties be allowed to undermine democracy. Never again will we allow BBC bias to go un-reported. Watch this space!

    Monday, 3 May 2010

    Green Grand Tour

    Still travelling around the constituency today (Monday). We continue to get a positive response from people in all parts of this, the largest constituency in England. Even got a new Green Party member.

    Today’s swing through the Yorkshire Dales National Park included stops at East Witton, Middleham, Leyburn, Bainbridge, Gayle and Hawes. Whilst William Hague continues to make just brief appearances in the constituency, the Green Party is continuing to visit the parts other parties cannot reach.

    Previously I have visited most parts of the constituency including Stokesley, Great Ayton, Osmotherley, Northallerton Bedale, Richmond, Catterick, Swaledale and Arkengarthdale and many points in between.

    The Liberal Democrat is so committed to Richmond, his election leaflet has a photograph on the front with cars driving on the right hand side of the road, clearly taken on the continent. If you look closely there are other clues too: the driver sitting on the left of the car, the WHITE rear number plate, the number one on the wall that looks like a seven.

    As Mr Meredith lives in Brussels, I guess he could not spare the time to visit Richmond for a photograph until the election was called. The likelihood of us seeing much of the Liberal Democrat after the election is remote.

    Unlike the Tories and Liberal Democrats, I am fully committed to the Richmond constituency and not focused on my own political career like Messrs Hague and Meredith. As for Labour, well the Green Party got 50% more votes than Labour in the County Council seats we fought last year. For real change, you need the Green Party.

    Freedom of the Press (not to turn up)

    Great hustings on Friday night, if you, like the Darlington and Stockton Times, happened to miss it. I got the first round of applause and the first laugh. I even had William Hague promising to read the Green Party manifesto.

    As reported, all the Richmond Candidates turned up, even William Hague who had said he was too busy. Then I got a letter pointing this out printed in the D&S Times and, hey presto, William appears! The Labour candidate tried hard, but was weak. The Liberal Democrat has been parachuted in from Brussels: clearly given a seat the Lib Dems can't win to serve his apprenticeship. His inexperience showed.

    Not everything was perfect (you know how you think of something more pithy to say just after sitting down?), but all in all it was a good night for the Green Party. It was just a pity that BBC North East continues to refuse to talk to me and BBC York interviewed all the other candidates that morning, deliberately excluding the Green Party. As for the Darlington and Stockton Times they reported on the hustings, going into detail about William Hague. It was just a pity their report was printed the morning BEFORE the hustings took place!!!!

    Wednesday, 28 April 2010

    Success !!

    In a previous blog I reported that William Hague had refused to turn up to the hustings due this Friday (30/4/10) at the Methodist Church in Richmond (7.30 pm). I repeated this complaint in a letter to the Darlington and Stockton Times (see last blog).
    On the doorstep, his constituents started to complain about being taken for granted. As the sitting MP with a large majority, Hague showed his complacency by touring marginal seats the length and breadth of the UK (including Northern Ireland) whilst being unavailable to his Richmond constituents. Even the Red Fox from “Make Cruelty History” could not find him (see the hilarious clip of the Red Fox failing to find anyone at William Hague’s campaign HQ at then scroll down to day 2. The only candidate that met the red fox face to face by the way, was me - see same video where I make my support for the hunting ban clear.)
    After my letter was printed in the D&S Times, the Tories started to panic. For weeks they had made it clear that no one from the Conservative Party would be at the 30th April hustings. Then yesterday (Tuesday 27/4/10) a telephone call from the Church minister organising the hustings informed me that Anne McIntosh was going to appear in place of the “far too busy” William Hague. Ms McIntosh was made notorious during the MPs’ expenses scandal for having her gardening paid for (tax free) almost every month from 2004 until the Daily Telegraph rumbled her. Clearly an embarrassment to her Party, perhaps this was something to do to keep her out of the way?
    But still, my letter had worked and the Tory stonewall was crumbling. Then the Labour and Liberal Democrat candidates, perhaps a little shaken by the prospect of facing “Rotweiler” McIntosh, complained that she was not a candidate. The Labour Party rang me to persuade me to join their opposition, but frankly I was looking forward to tackling Ms McIntosh about her MP’s expenses.
    However, the minister rang me late this afternoon (28/4/10) to say the Tories had changed their mind again and William Hague was now going to come to the hustings after all!
    SUCCESS! The Green Party had succeeded in getting Hague to meet his constituents. I rang Elizabeth, my press officer to tell her the good news, only to discover that she had just been told this by her press contacts. It seems that the Tories had informed the Press first, before anyone else.
    But the bitter pill comes at the end. William Hague has appeared on TV and radio broadcast by the BBC and others on numerous occasions during this election. Last night on the BBC Look North Election 2010 he was introduced as the “Conservative candidate for Richmond”, a clear breach of broadcasting guidelines as the BBC had not invited me or the other Richmond candidates to the debate. In fact not once during this election has BBC North East invited me to appear on a programme. Now with their last opportunity to redress the balance, none of the broadcast media are going to attend the hustings. Even worse the newspapers are refusing to attend as well. Was that the reason why William Hague contacted the media first? He knows that facing his electorate will be embarrassment for him. So whilst William Hague basks in the spotlight of the media, his political rivals go unreported. This election is supposed to be about you electing your representative to Parliament. It has become a media circus of celebrities, with fair and balanced debate left out in the cold.

    Lib Dems Economical with the Truth

    Here is a copy of a letter I sent to the Darlington and Stockton Times:

    Politicians have been known to be “economical with the truth” in the past, but it concerns me when they do so in your letters page. The Liberal Democrat candidate for Richmond in his letter “Vote for Change” (D&ST 16/4/10) made a number of false claims, which need to be corrected. Mr Meredith, who lives and works in Brussels, used the address of a well-known local Liberal activist on his letter to wrongly claim that Richmond was “OUR great constituency”. Mr Meredith does not live in the Richmond constituency, nor can he vote in the constituency and his sycophantic use of the term “great” contradicts your front-page article of the same day. In that Mr Meredith’s Lib Dem colleague Stuart Parsons quite rightly claims that Richmondshire is being stripped of jobs as the Benefits offices are moved to Northallerton. This deplorable betrayal by Richmondshire District Council hardly suggests greatness.
    Secondly, Mr Meredith claims, “Only the Liberal Democrats are committed to changing this unfair electoral system”. Untrue! There are a number of political parties fighting this election on the platform of electoral reform, not least my party, the Green Party.
    I have had many years of fighting the unfair electoral system in the Richmond constituency, which has left our councils awash with Tories, (far more than their share of the vote deserves) and with few effective opposition councillors.
    Unlike Mr Meredith I do not concede defeat to William Hague, who has been noticeable by his absence in this election, taking voters for granted so much that he has even turned down the traditional “Churches Together” debate by candidates in Richmond on 30th April (Methodist Church 7.30 pm). Mr Hague has a lot to answer for, including his part in the MPs’ expenses scandal and I, as a truly local candidate, will continue to challenge him all the way to Election Day.

    Yours sincerely,

    Leslie Rowe
    Published and Promoted by Leslie Rowe on behalf of the Richmond Green Party, both at 73 Richmond Road, Brompton on Swale, Richmond, North Yorks. DL10 7HF

    Wednesday, 14 April 2010

    William Hague takes Richmond Voters for Granted

    Are you a voter in the Richmond constituency? Feel taken for granted? Well you should be. William Hague is so confident of victory in the Richmond constituency that he has refused a request to debate the issues with fellow candidates. After all, the Darlington and Stockton Times says that voters in the Richmond constituency are so predictable that Hague’s victory is inevitable (D&S Times editorial 9/4/10) and clearly William Hague agrees. So an invitation to the traditional Richmond “Churches Together” electoral debate has been accepted by me on behalf of the Green Party and all the other candidates (Methodist Church 30th April 2010), except for the all too superior Mr Hague.

    Why is William Hague so afraid to meet his opponents in public debate? Is he afraid that his twenty-one years of doing little for his constituents in Parliament will come into question? Is he afraid that his support for the Iraq war, exposed by me in the Richmond "Churches Together" debate in the 2005 general election, will come back to haunt him? Or the thousands of pounds of untaxed income he claimed in Parliamentary expenses will actually be discussed by his constituents? Or are there other dark secrets that William Hague does not want to risk coming to light? Has he and Seb Coe been secretly riding that log flume wearing baseball caps again? Or has he been out on the town drinking the 14 pints of beer he boasted he drank a day as a teenager? (BBC News. 8 August 2000, source Wikipedia).

    The truth is that William Hague is “frit” as Margaret Thatcher would say: he is too frightened to risk a debate that may expose the shallowness of his policies and the limits of his commitment to the Richmond constituency. He is so wrapped up in his own importance that he believes that he will be swept back into parliament on his reputation alone.

    Well, in a 2001 nationwide poll for the Daily Telegraph, 66% of voters considered him to be "a bit of a wally" and 70% of voters believed he would "say almost anything to win votes" (source Wikipedia). Now he is saying nothing to his constituents and refusing to debate with his opponents.

    So I appeal to voters in the Richmond constituency: please do not be taken for granted and waste your vote on Hague. Vote with your head and your heart, vote for the Green Party!

    Friday, 9 April 2010

    Lies, damn lies ... & taxation

    We all know that the politicians are going to put up taxes after the election. Doesn’t matter what party you vote for: it is going to happen. The only question you have to ask is: which tax increase would you prefer?

    The Labour Government has already announced that they will increase National Insurance contributions for both employers and employees. That means if you are a small business you will be hit twice. The Tories will cut jobs in the public sector by privatising everything, but also put up VAT, of that there is no doubt. They use the usual weasel words of it “not being in their current plans”, but we all know that once in power, VAT will go up to at least 19%.

    So Labour will be taxing jobs and Tories will be taxing spending, so what of the Green Party? Well, the Green Party will be taxing bankers. Not just on their excess earnings, but also a Tobin or “Robin Hood” tax on the 97% of financial transactions which are not necessary to buy goods and services. All those swaps, options and other casino banking transactions that got us into this mess in the first place, will have a tiny percentage added to bring billions into the treasury.

    So, the choice is yours. Increase NI under Labour? Cut jobs and increase VAT under the Tories or give the Green Party the power to tax the bankers? I know what I would choose, but then I am already going to be voting for the Green Party. How about you?

    Monday, 5 April 2010

    Budget Cuts or Green Investment?

    When is a budget not a budget? The answer is when it does not address the elephant in the room. Whilst Chancellor Darling has tinkered with a few figures, he has failed to address the cause of the recession, the banks.

    As Caroline Lucas, Green Party Leader commented:
    "This budget is a missed opportunity to put fairness and sustainability at the centre of Britain's recovery plans. After 13 years of a Labour government, this country is more unequal today than it was when Labour came to power. Bold measures are needed, like the higher rate of 50% on incomes above £100 000 per year, abolishing the upper limit on NI contributions, and reinstating the 10p tax band. While we welcome the introduction of a green investment bank, it lacks sufficient resources to create the huge number of jobs that should be at the heart of this approach."

    As a former city worker myself, I believe that having nationalised the commercial banks, the Government then stupidly allowed the bankers to pay themselves massive bonuses generated by the Government’s short-sighted policy of “quantitative easing” (printing money to you and me). In casino banking terms making money off QE was a dead cert.

    As Green Guru and Green Party Candidate for Cambridge, Tony Juniper wrote in the Independent: "The Chancellor could have acted unilaterally to introduce a Tobin-style tax on international currency transactions, instead of hiding behind the countries which don't want to do it. Reckless bankers have taken so much out of our economy, and it is the poorer people who will feel the most pain in putting it right."

    The only real solution Darling proposed for cutting costs was to reduce inefficiencies like cutting the level of sickness in nurses. Who was to provide this miracle cure was not specified, but I'm sure a lot of over-worked nurses would be grateful to know what it is!.
    There is scope for savings in the Health Service. Bureaucratic management has doubled since Labour came to power, whereas their productivity has decreased.Taking management and accounting in the NHS back to basics will save thousands of administration jobs, who then could be redeployed to do something more useful.

    There is also a very simple way to cut Local Government costs. Look on any Local Authority web site and try and work out what the Chief Executive does. Launching initiatives and giving awards seems to be the sum total of their labours. Yet Local Government Chief Executives have doubled their pay since Labour came to power. So, Alistair Darling, a quick win would be to sack every Local Authority Chief Executive in the country, thereby saving half a billion pounds and hand power back to elected councillors.

    Monday, 22 March 2010

    Turning over a new Leaf or perhaps the End is Nigh?

    I am very excited about the first mass-produced electric car for the European market being made in the North East. Hopefully this will be the first of many such vehicles. I will be saving up for one.

    Of course I would not need a new car if the Grey Parties had invested properly in Public Transport. Here in rural North Yorkshire it is near impossible to hold down a job without a car. We should be cancelling all the big ticket road-building programmes and investing in public transport, especially in rural areas. Even the High Speed rail link between London and Birmingham, welcomed by many in the South East, in my view should take second place behind a massive expansion of ordinary railway services across Britain.

    But if you are a motorist, one of the big mysteries of life is how the price of petrol always goes up significantly BEFORE the Chancellor's budget. Every year it is the same. Garages across the country all raise their prices at the same time. This year it has increased between 5p and 10p a litre in a matter of days. Then when the extra tax is put on petrol at the budget, the oil companies pretend the price hike had nothing to do with them.

    Mind you, the value of the pound dropping has not not helped, pushing up the price of oil in Sterling. This is the direct result of "Quantitative Easing": the Government euphemism for printing money. Any GCSE Economics student knows that if you print money, you devalue the currency, causing inflation in the economy. We have not yet seen that inflation fully impact on the economy, but it is coming. Linked with the dip in the economy during the bad weather, with the VAT increase and the cessation of the scrappage scheme to come, I predict that worst of all possible worlds, stagflation (stagnant economy linked with inflation). Then of course, if, God forbid, the Tories form the next Government we will have massive cuts in public expenditure, deepening the recession even further! The End is Nigh!

    Looks like I will not be able to afford my new Nissan Leaf after all. Unless of course, Sanity prevails and the country votes for the Green Party. We need Government investment in things that will create jobs in a sustainable economy. The Green Party are fighting for an immediate £44bn investment package, to create over a million new jobs that will start building the 21st Century infrastructure that Britain needs, with public transport that works and with warm, cheap to run homes. So, don't panic: just vote Green!

    Tuesday, 16 March 2010

    Parish Council puts County Council to Shame

    The appalling inefficiency of Conservative controlled North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) has once again hit the pockets of local residents. As we speak Council Tax bills are thudding through letter boxes, weighed down by the above average increases by North Yorkshire Local Authorities.

    Not just the County Council, but also the District Council, Police and Fire Authorities have all abused their power to impose increases up to 60% higher than the national average. But the highest is the NYCC increase of 2.94%, compared to a national average of just 1.8%. This is despite the cynical increase by the Labour Government of the subsidy to Local Authorities by 4% this election year. (There will be no increase in this subsidy next year and probably a reduction in Government support for Local Authorities if either the Tories or Labour win the general election.)

    Tory Councillors on NYCC are using the excuse of having to repair roads damaged by recent frosts to justify the Council Tax increase. But we all know that if NYCC had maintained those roads properly in the past, repairing those minor cracks which are later turned into potholes by the frost; then the pothole problem would not have been as severe. A more glaring example of a stitch in time that would have saved nine I cannot imagine.

    But Tory incompetence does not stop there. Even in the good years NYCC have built up a deficit reported as £40m. It falls to North Yorkshire's most vulnerable residents to pay for this shortfall. They are now facing savage price rises imposed on vital care services to support them in their homes. Without the slighest sense of shame, NYCC has increased charges to those who pay for Community Services by 10 per cent in just one year.

    These increases cover personal care as well as meals, transport, day care and laundry services. They were proposed in a NYCC report, "Fees and Charges for Community Care Services 2010-11", which was approved by Tory leaders but missed by the Liberal Democrat opposition at the time.

    Even worse, the report suggests that people will soon be expected to pay the full cost of services, eliminating all council subsidies. There is now no maximum limit to what they can charge. The County Council currently supports 11,000 adults in the community and with baby boomers now retiring; this figure is expected to rise. It also supports 2,000 adults in residential care and 4,000 carers. But that support is being swept away to pay for Tory incompetence.

    Despite these increased charges, the Council Tax rise and the increased subsidy from the Government, a pay freeze for staff and 500 redundancies are predicted. I can guarantee that the person most deserving of redundancy, Tory Leader John Weighell unfortunately will not be losing his job.

    However there is some good news, for residents of Brompton on Swale at least. The Parish Council there agreed a proposal by Green Party Councillor and Deputy Chair Leslie Rowe which has led to a 0.7% decrease in the Parish Council Tax Levy. Well, every little helps!

    Sunday, 7 March 2010

    William Hague Disingenuous?

    William Hague got Lord Ashcroft a peerage on the basis that he would become resident in this country for tax purposes in the year 2000. But in the ten years since William Hague, paid thousands of pounds for his speaking skills, has never asked Ashcroft if he had ever become resident in Britain for tax purposes?

    Hague has been quizzed on this dozens of times in those 10 years. His answer has always been the same; “I have no reason to think he has not complied with the commitments that he gave.”

    Disingenuous or what? Perhaps he did not want to ask the question, because he knew he would not like the answer he would get? It is not as if he did not have the opportunity for a quiet word. Despite not being part of the Tory foreign affairs team, it appears that Ashcroft, at his own expense, has flown William Hague to meetings with foreign officials no fewer than 5 times in the last few years. Apparently not even Hague’s wife, Ffion, accompanied him on these trips, so why, in the privacy of Ashcroft’s luxury yacht moored off Cuba last March or on Ashcroft’s private jet flying to China in 2006, did Hague not just ask Ashcroft the simple question, are you resident in the UK for tax purposes?

    The former head of the Civil Service, Lord Turnbull has stated quite clearly that it was Mr Hague’s responsibility, as Lord Ashcroft’s “sponsor”, to ensure that the billionaire Tory donor fulfilled the undertakings he gave in return for his peerage. In a letter to Tony Blair, William Hague promised that Ashcroft would become permanently resident in the UK.

    William Hague has always been good at promoting his own squeaky clean image and avoiding controversy. Even during the MPs expenses scandal last year, he avoided criticism despite receiving thousands of pounds of untaxed subsidy on his luxury home in London.

    We residents of Richmond expect better from our MP. In former times, an MP would already have done the honourable thing and resigned. Unfortunately, in these cynical days, I expect that we will continue to see the unedifying spectacle of William Hague ducking and diving to avoid his responsibilities.

    Tuesday, 2 March 2010

    Alice in Wonderland Debate?

    So the leaders of the Labour, Tory and Liberal Democrat parties have agreed to have a televised debate. A debate on what? I think the most difficult thing will be to spot the difference between them.

    Frankly, a plague on all their houses. You will not get rid of sleaze in the House of Commons by voting for the same old MPs. You will not get change in society by voting for Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee. There is not a ha'pth of difference between the old grey parties represented by these grey leaders.

    So its your choice. Waste 4½ hours watching 3 discredited politicians pretending that their policies are significantly different in front of a selected audience banned from clapping or booing, no matter how poor the content . Or use that time looking at the alternative and different policies of parties like the Green Party. Remember, the choice is yours. If you want to change the politicians, then change the way you vote.

    Thursday, 25 February 2010

    Richmond Green Candidate Confirmed

    At a meeting of the Green Party in Richmond this week, I was confirmed as the Green Party candidate for the Richmond constituency at the next General Election. I want to thank Green Party members in Richmond for their support.

    This general election represents a real opportunity for North Yorkshire to send a clear message to Westminster. To end the creeping privatisation of the health service by both Labour and Conservatives. To fight the greed shown by MPs in Parliament by voting for a candidate not financed by either Big Business or the Unions.

    As an active campaigner & parish councillor, I claim no expenses for my work in the community. The Richmond Green Party campaigns all year round for local residents, not just at election time.

    We need a transition to a sustainable society, based on living in harmony with our environment. My slogan will be put the planet before profit.

    I lives in the Richmond Constituency with my wife and 3 kids. I am not parachuted in from Brussels like the Lib Dem candidate (only in it for the practice - look out for him in the next Euro-elections). The Green Party represents a real alternative to the tired old politics of Conservative or Labour.

    The Green Party is the only party that has the policies to tackle head-on the economic crisis and at the same time lay the foundations for a sustainable and fair society. The Green Party rejects as false the choice between ‘economy' or the ‘environment' - we CAN do both.

    Our 2009 Green Party manifesto sets out a plan for creating 1 million jobs through investment in renewable energy, housing, public transport and social care. We call this the Green New Deal - an approach to the economy that puts Britain firmly on the road to recovery, addresses the urgent climate crisis while improving the way we all lead our lives.

    We believe in fighting for fairness - not crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. Our proposals would create a million lasting jobs - not ones dependent on cheap fossil fuels or financial bubbles. We want skilled jobs in public services, renewable energy and low carbon industries. We would nurture small to medium enterprises to encourage domestic manufacturing and local agriculture.

    So don't waste your vote on the old grey parties. Vote for a Green New Deal with the Green Party.

    Tuesday, 16 February 2010

    Military Action not the Solution To Afghan War

    I make no secret of my desire for the war in Afghanistan to end. I welcome any initiative that brings that closer. But, what is the purpose of the new military drive (Operation Moshtarak) in Afghanistan? Why do NATO think they will be successful militarily, when no other force invading Afghanistan in the last 200 years, including the much bigger Soviet invasion, has been?

    Many Taliban fighters are local Pastun, earning a living by any means. They were given plenty of time to go back to their homes, because of the way NATO publicized its attack well in advance. It even gave them time to lay many more lethal IEDs [improvised explosive devices]. They can just wait until the big push is over and the NATO forces retreat. The main threat to the Taliban is if the Afghan Government manages to win over the hearts and minds of the local population.

    Unfortunately, the killing of 12 civilians in a rocket attack by coalition forces undermined this process from the start. Everyone knows that if you wage war, innocent people will get hurt. Well everyone except Tony Blair and George Bush.

    One wonders how many of the invading Afghan force are Pashtun themselves and how likely the local population is to trust the previously corrupt Afghan police force? The pay for Afghan service personnel is said to be less than the Taliban pay their fighters and compensation for losing a limb is apparently only a one off payment of $400. How likely are the Kharzi Government to persuade the local population and particularly the local warlords to abandon their lucrative links with the Taliban? Massive investment in the local economy is needed, aid that should have been put in seven years ago.

    I hope that Operation Moshtarak brings peace to Helmand Province. But history suggests that military action without diplomatic negotiations with the Taliban will not succeed. NATO has to decide what is the best policy, not just for local Afghans, but also for world peace? Another 15 years of war (as predicted by President Kharzi) or an accommodation with the Taliban? I predict it will be the latter. I just hope we do not have the 15 years of war before we get there.

    Monday, 15 February 2010

    MP's Expenses Fiasco

    The news that the body to oversee MPs expenses is going to cost £6m, whilst MPs have had their repayments reduced to £1m, is a disgrace. As an accountant I fail to see why the expenses claims for 645 MPs needs 80 staff at an average cost of £75,000 each. How frequently does their claim change? Even if they claimed every month, you could do the job with a couple of accountants and two clerks. Cost £250,000 tops, including the paper clips.

    Don’t assume that just because the vast majority of MPs have not been prosecuted, that they are squeaky clean. Richmond MP William Hague for instance was reported to have claimed mortgage interest payments of up to £1,200 per month on a second home in London. That is £144,000 per year subsidy on a home he keeps and profits from. A home probably worth more than one million pounds, based on the interest paid.

    Did he pay tax on this benefit? Any other citizen provided with this benefit would have to pay income tax and national insurance on the full amount. The tax alone (at 40%) would have been £57,600. There was no scandal in the newspapers about William Hague’s expenses. Yet he quietly walked away with over £200,000 worth of benefits over and above his salary, plus all his office costs.

    MPs should work to the same rules and pay the same taxes as the rest of us. All MPs who have profited from their privileged positions, whether legal or not, should stand aside and let more principled representatives take their place.

    Wednesday, 3 February 2010

    Free Buses in North Yorkshire?

    The Green Party in Richmond is calling on local and national government to invest in a massive upgrade to bus services in North Yorkshire. We made the call in a leaflet issued to thousands of households around Richmondshire.

    To pay for bus services, the Green Party is calling on the Highways Agency and NYCC to scrap the A1 upgrade from Leeming Bar to Barton.

    Scheduled for 2012, this A1 upgrade is likely to be an early casualty of spending cuts by the next government. If it ever does get built, the price will have increased so much that it will no longer be viable. Just look at the A684 Bedale/Aiskew/Leeming Bar Bypass scheme. Originally estimated to cost £25 million, it is now £39 million and rising.

    Far better to spend the money on getting people out of their cars so they don’t need a new road. Current bus services are inadequate and a little tinkering around the edges will not make a bit of difference. Here in Richmondshire, we need a reliable, well-publicised service between all our villages and Richmond, Northallerton and Darlington. Tory Councillors on North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) are allowing rural bus services to wither on the vine, often not even insisting on bus timetables being displayed at bus stops, let alone promoting bus use for locals and tourists.

    A comprehensive bus service free to all users could be offered for at least six months, to get people used to the idea of taking the bus, not the car. This would reduce significantly CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions, cut traffic congestion and reduce the cost of commuting. It would also stop the disgrace of NYCC charging 6th Formers for bus travel. It is a win/ win situation for everyone.

    A free bus service saves massive amounts in administration costs and with sponsorship by local business, could be viable, with reasonable Council support, in the long term. The trouble is the local Tory and Independent (i.e. former Tory) councillors around here lack the vision to see the bigger picture. To get that, you need to vote Green.

    Tuesday, 12 January 2010


    Call me cynical if you want, but I cannot get over the feeling that the so-called Curry House plot against Gordon Brown by previously arch-loyalist Labour MPs Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt has all the hallmarks of a Machiavellian “cunning plan” by Mr Manipulator, Peter Mandelson.

    Geoff Hoon, in particular is not known for his radical views. The former Defence Secretary who took Britain into the illegal war against Iraq has always been a yes-man. His normal reaction when told to jump by the Labour leadership, is to ask “how high?” By botching the attempt to unseat Gordon Brown, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt have effectively stopped a more effective revolt by more competent conspirators like Charles Clarke. It has also left Mandelson in a stronger position, leading the Labour General Election campaign and consolidating his position as the power behind the throne.

    Of course, if you want to hear a true master manipulator then just listen to the former Blair spin doctor, Alistair Campbell. In his evidence today to the Chilcot enquiry on the Iraq, he once again demonstrated his economy with the truth, insisting that, almost alone amongst those in the know, he and Tony Blair “genuinely believed” that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that threatened Britain and that Blair had not promised Bush that Britain would go to war against Iraq a year before the House of Commons voted on the decision. Campbell also denies the dodgy September 2002 dossier had been designed to present the case for war, despite their reliance on it to present that case for war to MPs. But I'm sure the Chilcot enquiry will believe him. After all that is the job that Peter Mandelson gave them.