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.