Journeys, Speeches & the Wrong Clothes

As you read this I’m packing (more on that sort of thing further down) and getting ready to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine. I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions, in helping to find a way forward for Palestinians and the Israeli people. I’ll write more about this when I return. Also very much on my mind this week, has been the awful news from near Blackpool, where Cuadrilla have triggered more fracking-induced seismic events, including a 1.6ML that some residents felt. The worry and stress that the community has gone through since the first shale gas operation and earthquakes there in 2011, is just awful and seems never-ending.

Israel & Palestine

Ahead of my trip, I’ve written to various groups and individuals that I thought might find the feedback from the trip of interest.  I’m delighted to have received responses from bishops in the region. You can read more about the delegation visit here and I will be posting fully about my visit upon my return.

Peterloo

Thank you so much to Geraldine Coggins, Trafford Green Lead Councillor for speaking my words to the rally. I wish I could have been there

My speech:

I am really sorry that I cannot be with you in person on this important anniversary, commemorating the horrific and senseless slaughter of men, women and children, protesting peacefully for their right to vote 200 years ago. The day of the Peterloo Massacre was a key event at the beginning of a slow victory for the reform of our voting system.

But today’s celebrations must highlight that the fight is not over and we have a long way to go, and indeed we have to fight right now to keep the democracy we have won so far.

It is no coincidence that those who seek to undermine democracy and human rights protections are so often also of the self same group that is promoting climate change denial and who seek to prevent action to deal with the climate crisis.

Today we have to fight for two major reforms.

One is to change our first past the post voting system to proportional representation.

The first past the post electoral system has disenfranchised a huge section of the electorate. The British adversarial political system is incapable to find solutions to the most important issues we are facing as a nation: the climate crisis; the inequality born out of austerity politics and the sense of disempowerment that lead people to vote for Brexit three years ago.

Proportional representation allows for respectful cross-party working to tackle the climate and ecological emergencies, and listen to available solutions, like the Green New Deal.

The Green New Deal demands a wholesale transformation of our systems of production, consumption, and social relations – rewiring our systems ensuring: recycling, reuse, repair and care are central. This means a circular economy that empowers citizens and their communities, raises the standard of living, guarantees decent jobs and recognises that housework, childcare and care for the elderly are recognised and rewarded, but also that activities which contribute to the regeneration of our natural systems play a central role in our economy.

I was delighted to be voted into the European Parliament as the first Green North West MEP – which of course uses a form of Proportional representation. The UK is about the only country in Europe -indeed among any democracies that uses first-past-the-post in its general elections.

Across Europe and in the European Union those recent European elections are now referred to as the climate elections, when voters demanded that politicians put the climate crisis at the forefront of their minds.

It is now crystal clear since the referendum that we urgently need new reforms to control the use of personalised information on the web for all future elections. We must now urgently review rules about elections campaigning to address fairness and accuracy of information, to close electoral law loopholes created by our dependence on the web. We cannot allow rich individuals, organisations or other states to exploit people’s fears, personal data, interfere in our elections through data mining and spread lies without any transparency and controls.

But there are reasons to be optimistic. Those people boldly involved in Extinction Rebellion and the Youth Climate Strikers are now part of the vanguard of a new peaceful democratic movement and they need to be listened to! Citizens are taking to the streets here in the UK and across the world in a sign that patience is running out with outdated systems that are not geared to meet the needs of our people and the demands we have for change.

You are all here because you care about the future. I am with you in spirit today and all the way on our continuing fight for real democracy.

The Wrong Clothes

One of the wonderful perks for MEPs – if I could only find the time to avail myself of it –  is that we are encouraged, in as much a budget is available for lessons or packages, to learn new or refresh other languages. I haven’t actually opened the email with what’s available yet!

My trips to Brussels have allowed me to practice my s’il vous plaits and remember a few unexpected words plus learn ones I never knew: gaspiller = waste!

I was once almost fluent, although I didn’t do more than ‘O’ Level French at school.

While my mum was a school secretary in a primary school in Clapham, south London, she became friendly with a new mother from France, who had a friend near Orleans with a daughter looking for a pen-friend. It was arranged that I should have my first visit to Sabine in her very rural tiny village and off I went after only four or five practice letters.

A big question – as it would be for most 14-year-old girls at the time – what to wear? My mum was a tailor and I was an only child. I had three older girl cousins whose hand-me-downs I loved because I thought they were all so cool. In short, I had loads and loads of clothes and in the absence of knowing what might be appropriate for life in a French village… I took 70% of my whole wardrobe for that first 10-day stay in an enormous grey suitcase that was almost too heavy to lift.

I was un peu embarraseé to say the least. I learned then that less is sometimes more; that the French really do have style, that girls in rural France were not obsessed with clothes! But Sabine and I developed a good friendship that lasted a number of years and I got to be almost fluent. It would be such a ‘domage’ not to improve again.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

Got some time away with family ahead of the next working-trip – although the ability to ‘relax’ and just let go of all the thoughts about what’s going on, is near impossible!

Bad

Fracking failure

I have campaigned to ban fracking alongside residents not just here in the North West, but across the country: it’s a dangerous practice and yet another fossil fuel we can’t afford to burn even if they do get the gas out. Reading the updates of seismic activity on the British Geological Society page specifically for seismic activity caused by human activity (!) was sickening – update after update as the events kept happening. Yes, they’re small, mostly not ‘felt’ events but back in 2011 and the first of the fracking-induced earthquakes, the tremor did indeed damage a well and there’s every reason to be concerned about a repeat event.

Last night’s 2.23ML earthquake (according to Cuadrilla, but the BGS state 2.21ML) has caused great worry and unease across Blackpool and the Fylde, with hundreds of reports that the quake was both felt and heard, with some people reporting property damage. Campaign group, Frack Free Lancashire, have called for an “urgent reconsideration of a fracking moratorium” and I completely back this call. The fracking industry is neither wanted nor needed in Lancashire or anywhere.

Ban fracking

The Burning Amazon

In Brazil and its surrounds, the Amazon rainforest is burning. It is heavily ablaze and it is no natural disaster: it has been done on purpose.

Magid Magid MEP said:

“We are literally burning the lungs of our planet.”

And Molly Scott Cato said:

The stakes couldn’t be higher. The burning of the Amazon places the planet on red alert. This is a globally significant eco-system and carbon sink, vital in the fight against climate breakdown. If we lose it, our planet and civilization face meltdown.

“Bolsonaro is encouraging this torching of the forest to appease his agricultural paymasters so they can use the land for beef cattle and soya. He is guilty of ecocide and politicians across the globe must stand up to this environmental criminal.”

Where hope lies

Aside from the awful updates about seismic events and the condescending response to residents’ concerns by the industry, I could see where the power, wisdom and determination was coming from and that’s the incredible community who have protested at the site since January 2017: events planning, press releases, freedom of information requests and freshly-made charts and diagrams filled up social media timelines and the press. There is no stopping a community that’s fighting for the health and well-being of their families and until fracking is gone, the protests will continue.

Onwards

 

On Trains, On Football and On Air

This week 

Another busy but enjoyable week of combining opportunities to get about the North West region, meeting up with staff and attending events; from Blackpool to Liverpool, Manchester and Preston. 

A particular highlight was catching up with so many Green Party members at Tuesday’s public meeting in Manchester on ‘No to Climate Change, Yes to Europe: How to Stop Brexit’. All but one of the 10 Manchester boroughs were represented. Brilliantly organised and chaired by Astrid Johnson in Manchester.

Later in the week, I arranged to go with Laurence, who is working with me on producing a report on a Green New Deal for the North West, to meet the new Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.

I also had an enjoyable, friendly interview with Mick Coyle of Radio City Talk in Liverpool, and was wowed by the stunning views of the Mersey at the public viewing gallery from right outside their studios! 

This week I’m having a break before travelling to Palestine and Israel for a full programme of events. More on that here.

Radio City Talk Liverpool

Kashmir

I’m really concerned about events in Kashmir after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, leaving the region and its residents “virtually cut off from the rest of the world” and upended a decades-old arrangement of the region, contested between the two nuclear nations of India and Pakistan. 

I’m hearing from constituents around our region about the issue, and it should be of concern to all of us. This, of course, being one more legacy of British colonialism whose disastrous impact still lingers. We need the UK government to advocate for an ethical foreign policy that builds capacity for conflict resolution. The defence of human rights in Kashmir, including freedom of the press and of assembly, should be the starting point of any definitive peace talk.

Although the next Strasbourg plenary isn’t until September, I will be looking to see how we can use the European Parliamentary urgency resolutions process. This is used to address human rights abuses and seek, along with my fellow Green MEPs in the UK, to find a cross-party agreement for a condemnation statement of what is happening in Kashmir by fellow European parliamentarians.

More here.

Football

I had a really interesting and very productive meeting with Andy Walsh, the National Game Development Officer of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA). Who would have thought that Football could be so interesting without even watching a game?! The FSA represents over 600,000 football enthusiasts in England and Wales and is the leading advocate for supporter ownership, better fan engagement, cheaper ticket prices, the choice to stand at the match, protecting fan rights, good governance, diversity and all types of supporter empowerment.

Five of the 20 premier league football clubs are in the North West, and three in the Championship which means not only is football a part of so many people’s lives in this country, it has a significant impact on the economy in this region. 

I was glad to discuss football with someone so well-informed. From ideas and questions about improving sustainability in football, encompassing everything from easy public transport to and from stadiums, the kits and their shelf-life – right to the environmental management of the clubs and their services, including single-use plastic, pitch surfaces, paying the living wage and reduced inequality in staff pay. And then, of course, there is the really big issue of ownership models to reflect the interests of football supporters and club sponsorship. 

So much could be done. This was only the start of a conversation and we agreed that this would be a very important project. It’s something I would love to lead on as an MEP with fellow MEPs across Europe. 

Meanwhile this week

 

Good:

I was glad to see that Caroline Lucas’s proposal for a Government of National Unity was then followed up by a serious proposal at last by Jeremy Corbyn. The situation with Brexit remains as unclear and as worrying as ever and it’s going to take quite some negotiating to get us anywhere near unity. The potential alternative of a crash out no-deal Brexit demands we treat this with urgency and put the people of the UK ahead of Party red-lines. 

Bad:

Fracking started again near Blackpool and the community who have stood against it for so long, are both fearful and determined. I visited the site on Monday for the 2nd Anniversary of ‘Green Mondays’ – just days before the drills started up.

Despite the company’s protestations that they could not frack successfully within current regulations and limits on seismic activity, Cuadrilla ploughed on and caused 12 seismic events in the first day-and-a-half. One of the safety measures they’re challenging is the ‘Traffic Light System’ (TLS) that sets the limit on how strong a seismic event can be before shutting down and doing safety checks. Earlier this year, Claire Perry MP said:

“It would be a very foolish politician who would do things that would be considered to be relaxing regulatory standards when we are trying to reassure people about safety.” 

This week, however, just in time for renewed fracking, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published an updated statement that indicated they may indeed now re-assess when they have more data.

 

Where Hope Lies:

Today, people are coming from across the country to Manchester to commemorate the Bicentenary of the Peterloo Massacre. The event organised by unions reminds us:

“Two hundred years ago, about 60,000 people assembled, including a high proportion of women and children, in St Peter’s Field in Manchester. What followed was a brutal dispersal, by armed cavalry, with 18 people killed and over 500 injured. People had marched from all around, many miles, to peacefully demonstrate, amidst widespread hunger and deprivation, for the right to vote.

“That working people, by securing a voice over their fate, might be heard and might share justly in the wealth they toiled to create in the workshop of the world…this event, known as the Peterloo Massacre, has come to symbolise the centuries of unremitting political struggle that moved working people from abject poverty and squalor, and back-breaking labour, to the rights we now enjoy today.

“It inspired the rise of the Chartists and modern trade unionism and helped transform our history. Yet these struggles are never over, they must be fought again and again. After a decade of pay stagnation, growing poverty and austerity, it is more important than ever that we use the rights that others had to fight and die for to improve the lot of all work.”

I can’t make it but am delighted that Trafford Green Councillor, Geraldine Coggins, will be reading out my speech and I will share that next week

Onwards

 

A New Report States Fracking has “Dramatically Increased” Global Methane Emissions

A new scientific study into the cause of global methane emissions has been published today. The report – Ideas and perspectives: is shale gas a major driver of recent increase in global atmospheric methane? – was written by climate scientist, Professor Robert Howarth from Cornell University.

He concluded that the emissions from fracking “makes up more than half of the total increased fossil fuel emissions”. And that in other words, the “commercialisation of shale gas and oil in the 21st century has dramatically increased global methane emissions.”

He also talks about the 2018 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, where the climate is impacted by methane and that reducing methane in the atmosphere is one of the best methods to mitigate global warming.

Howarth found that:

“…natural gas (both shale gas and conventional gas) is responsible for much of the recent increases in methane emissions, we suggest that the best strategy is to move as quickly as possible away from natural gas, reducing both carbon dioxide and methane emissions. Natural gas is not a bridge fuel.”

My own views on today’s finding are as below:

“This latest report adds weight to the common-sense view that there is no place for fracking in any energy strategy fit for purpose. There is an abundance of renewable energy sources still to be brought into the electricity grid, and that is where the UK government should be focussing its attention and resources.

“Across Europe, renewable energy is being developed and grows continually. This is the direction the UK should be heading in, not looking backwards at dredging up yet more dirty fossil fuels.

“Just today, it was reported that Europe has enough land space to house wind turbines that could power the entire world, with wind energy being cited as a major clean power source to help mitigate climate change.

“It was also published today, that over 150 MPs, including 35 Conservatives, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to consider more wind farms for the UK, demonstrating a turn in the tide for renewable support.”

“The untapped potential of a clean energy revolution has hardly been explored – we are just on the edge of technology here. Forging forward with a Green New Deal could be a game-changer for energy production and sustainable living.

“Fracking is not a bridge to a cleaner future – it is simply another fossil fuel. We should be banning fracking and transitioning to a low carbon society with great urgency.”

 

Palestine and Israel Delegation Visit

One of my new roles as an MEP, is being a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs in the European Parliament (AFET), and member of the delegation for relations with Israel as well as a substitute for the delegation for relations with Palestine.

For this reason, I am delighted to be able to take up an invitation to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine from 26th-30th August, organised by three sponsoring organisations: Danish, Norwegian and Swedish church groups.

During the visit, I will meet with representatives for both Israeli and Palestinian officials and NGOs, as well as a representative of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Program Leader of the World Bank.

I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions, in helping to find a way in which Palestinians, as well as the Israeli people, can be guaranteed their freedoms: to live without threat, to work, attend school and move about their daily lives in safety, alongside each other.

My interest in this region started when, as an 18-year-old, I spent some time on a kibbutz in the Negev desert; an amazing experience in itself through which I met wonderful and interesting people. It was not until quite a few years later that I learned of the wider implications of the Israeli nation-state, as it has developed.

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner and conducts trade under an Association Agreement, which in effect means there is a close diplomatic relationship. I believe that the fundamental premise of the European Union as a peace project means that states must uphold international law and abide by conventions on human rights, which are clearly being broken by Israel in the current situation.

I’ll be writing a full description of my visit upon my return.

 

Dictators, Democracy & Division

More shocking headlines and news this week on just how the rules of our democracy can be distorted and manipulated to play some immoral power-game that will impact every one of us; the Conservative government under Prime Minister Boris Johnson are willing to write our views out of history and use procedures in ways never intended, to achieve a what would be a disastrous crash out of the European Union.

A no-deal Brexit means safeguards will be lost and we will be vulnerable to the powerful influence of huge global business and bigger trading ‘partners’. How on earth we are ever going to deal with the key issue of our time – the climate emergency – if we are focused on division rather than unity?

We are all at risk from this international threat to our environment and it’s a situation that requires co-operation if we have any hope of averting the worst that could come.

About that ‘No-Deal Brexit’

  • The unavoidable reality: A no-deal Brexit won’t be a clean break: this nightmare will go on forever
  • The unpleasant truth: crashing out is now very possible
  • The urgency: it’s time to save our democracy

The idea of a ‘government of national unity’ is creeping gradually up the list of possible solutions for how to get out of the crisis. And it is gaining more traction even since the article below was written.

In the Guardian this week, Jonathan Freedland makes clear:

“The myths of a no-deal Brexit are about to collide with reality. Those myths are many, and they flourish on both sides of the great divide. For remainers, the greatest is that no deal could never happen. They look at the polls that show far more Britons oppose a crash-out from the EU than support it – 50% to 38%, according to Ipsos Mori – and they can’t quite believe that any government would defy the public will on so grave a matter.

“Still, the greatest myths lie on the other side. One is the fond hope that Britons will weather the disruption of a no-deal Brexit as stoically as they withstood the blitz. The sight of British holidaymakers driven to tears over flight delays this week, with its echo of that time Britons called 999 to complain about KFC running out of chicken, should disabuse us of that particular daydream.

“…after a no-deal Brexit, we’d be back where we started. The last three years would come to seem like an argument between a husband and wife that’s raged in the kitchen. After 31 October, as my colleague Rafael Behr likes to put it, it’d be the same argument – except now the husband would be standing on the street, the front door slammed in his face, shouting his demands through the letterbox.”

All-Women Cabinet?

And today, Caroline Lucas has made a bold proposal. An all-women cabinet of unity to deal with the crisis. Well done, Caroline. As always, clear, insightful and bold. It’s about options.

An upcoming visit to Palestine & Israel

My new roles in the European Parliament include being a member of the Committee for Foreign Affairs and member of the delegation for relations with Israel as well as Palestine. For this reason, I was delighted to be able to take up an invitation to join a cross-party delegation visit to Israel and Palestine from 26th-30th August, organised by three sponsoring organisations: Danish, Norwegian and Swedish church groups.

During the visit, I’ll meet with representatives from both Israeli and Palestinian officials and NGOs, as well as a representative of the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and the Program Leader of the World Bank.

I’m particularly keen to explore the potential role of the European Union and its institutions in helping to find a way in which Palestinians, as well as the Israeli people, can be guaranteed their freedoms: to live without threat, to work, attend school, and move about their daily lives in safety, alongside each other.

I also have a personal interest in the region, which started when, as an 18-year-old, I spent some time on a kibbutz in the Negev desert; an amazing experience in itself through which I met wonderful and interesting people. It was not until quite a few years later that I learned of the wider implications of the Israeli nation-state, as it has developed.

The EU is Israel’s largest trading partner and conducts trade under an Association Agreement, which in effect means there is a close diplomatic relationship. I believe that the fundamental premise of the European Union as a peace project means that states must uphold international law and abide by conventions on human rights, which are clearly being broken by Israel in the current situation.

IPCC Report – farming/agriculture

This week saw the release of the new Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which calls for radical changes to methods of food production and consumption. I’ll pass over to Molly Scott Cato Green MEP who sits on the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee and is the agricultural spokesperson for the Greens. She refers to the South-West, where she represents. I think that there are comparable messages for us here in the North-West with our hill farming in the National Park, as well as our larger dairy and beef farms. It is clear to me that we must work with our farmers as stewards of the land to redesign policies and interventions that expand on this crucial role.

“The report acknowledges that if we are to prevent climate breakdown we must adapt land use so that agriculture becomes part of the solution rather than the problem. But we must go further and find ways of recapturing some of the emissions already in the atmosphere. The land has an extraordinary capacity to absorb and hold carbon if farmed in a climate-friendly way, and the South-West, with its largely rural economy, can lead the way.

“The IPCC recognises that intensive agriculture is resulting in high emissions and soil damage. It is also widely acknowledged that organic farming methods can restore soil health and turn land into a valuable carbon sink. The South-West is already a leader in successful small-scale and organic farming so is well placed to lead a climate-friendly farming revolution. The region also has areas that could be converted to agro-forestry, be rewilded with extensive tree cover and where peatlands could be restored.

“The IPCC report is also clear on the need to reduce meat and dairy consumption. Some land can and should be converted to the growing of protein crops but as the South-West is a leading livestock and dairy region, we need to ensure that these sectors focus on high-quality meat and dairy products and farming methods that protect soils and ensure the highest standards of animal welfare.”

Meanwhile this week…

Good

The good news is that we have got the power to stop a no-deal Brexit. Across the country, there are groups applying pressure and good politicians doing the same in parliament. On Tuesday 13 August, I’ll be in Manchester with ‘Yes to Europe’ to discuss what can be done, what’s being done and how every one of us can help. I’ll be at the Friends’ Meeting House, 6 Mount Street, M2 5NS Manchester, between 7pm-9pm.

Bad

As Cuadrilla UK prepare the extract shale gas from Lancashire again (last time they caused 57 seismic events), news comes of more safety concerns that haven’t been addressed; yet the Environment Agency and Oil & Gas Authority have given permission to begin fracking anyway. Tomorrow, I’ll be back at the roadside to stand with residents on the second anniversary of ‘Green Mondays’. The site is between Blackpool and Kirkham on the A583 near PR4 3PE. I’ll be there from 11am – 1pm. Please do read up on why the recent approval by regulators is so wrong.

Where hope lies

Co-operation, alliances, allegiances and *whatever it takes to ensure a no-deal Brexit does not happen. But any unity must be clearly defined to ensure it is on this issue and that it is temporary; that the people will decide the Government once we have safely navigated the current treacherous storms of disunity and chaos brought about by Brexit and this Conservative government. We live in rare times and this is a unique situation calling for what feels like unnatural responses.

*To move forward we must agree that Proportional Representation is a vital ingredient and so too is an agreement on immediate climate action.

Onwards

 

ps: I wish I could attend an event next Sunday that is so close to my heart, sadly I’m not available. Councillor Geraldine Coggins though will be speaking for the Greens at the bi-centenary commemoration of the ‘Peterloo Massacre’. The rally will see unions, groups, organisations, campaigns, parties and individuals setting off from 10 different start-points at noon, to converge on Albert Square for 1pm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

RSS
Facebook
Facebook
Instagram