Success, Failure & Determination

Quite a week that started and ended so brilliantly, with a group of young climate campaigners from the North West visiting the EU Parliament and coming home to the UK, inspired and energised to be the voice the environment urgently needs. In between were the darker times, as along with fellow MEPs, I signed a joint letter on the truly awful situation in Kashmir and discovered more about the antics of 25,000 corporate lobbyists in Europe.

“The young people striking opened doors for me that had not opened in 10 years of climate action here in Parliament.” – Molly Walsh, Friends of the Earth Europe speaking with our visiting group of young climate campaigners.

The Visit

Taking 17 young climate campaigners to the European Parliament was everything I hoped it would be and much more. Fellow MEPs and European Parliament staff took the time to explore with them the way the Parliament here works and although a demanding schedule, it was very much worth it. Treated with the respect they deserved, our group were inspiring to watch and asked questions that would have given Dimbleby reason to applaud!

This visit to the European Parliament in Brussels is the first of two I have planned and if we stay in the European Union, I’d like to do many more. The opportunity to visit a place of politics in this way is rare and valuable, making it available to people from diverse backgrounds will benefit all involved – including those in Parliament who so attentively answer the questions and explain the processes.

The following snippets from just some of our participants make clear why I am so delighted with the outcome of this visit and eager for the next. We will have the full range of feedback uploaded on to the website next week:

Paris Hayes, 18, Bolton

“To be told by MEPs from across Europe that climate strikes have had an impact is nothing short of inspiring and provides hope to climate justice campaigners of any age. Knowing that collaboratively in Europe there is people trying to tackle the looming climate catastrophe signals to us that our future is looking brighter. As we know, environmental issues do not remain within the man-made borders of countries and by working together we can deliver better and stronger environmental protections such as clean air directives.”

Amy Woods, 21, Crosby, Liverpool

“I feel very privileged to have been apart of this trip to the European Parliament in Brussels, alongside so many amazing young activists from across the North West. Our time in Brussels allowed us to gain a greater understanding into the intricacies of the European Parliament. We were also able to have meetings with several green MEPs, who answered many of our questions surrounding the climate crisis – it was great finding out first hand how much our activism has influenced conversation at the European Parliament. In the evening, we got the opportunity to meet with a group of young climate activists from Belgium, where we exchanged ideas about future climate strikes.

“The only downside to the trip has been how sad we all felt at the prospect that other young people from the North West may not be able to have such an experience in the near future.”

Juliette Chandler, 18, Morecambe

“I feel incredibly grateful to all the Green Party staff and MEPs who facilitated our visit to Brussels. It was so inspiring to see people from so many countries collaborating and learn about their work regarding climate change, as well as what they are hoping to achieve in the future.

“The most interesting part for me was talking to MEPs about their experiences, as well as watching part of a meeting of Greens- European Free Alliance. The visit has shown me the impact that our strikes and protests are having and inspired me to continue to campaign harder to prevent climate change.”

Clare Pearson, 22, Knowsley

“The opportunity to visit the European Parliament has been absolutely incredible and inspiring! I think we’re all returning to the UK with extra drive and passion to keep campaigning for our climate and spread the word that the EU is listening.

Meeting the other climate activists from the North West and from Brussels was a great way to exchange ideas and build a network of contacts for future collaboration. We left Brussels already planning on starting up a North West youth climate group.”

Rosie Mills, 18, Lancaster

“I have never felt so incredibly impressed, but at the same time sad, as I have whilst visiting the European Parliament in Brussels. The building itself – the massive scale, the intense security, the modern architecture – and the people inside. I felt as if I was walking into a place of cooperation and compromise, which is so foreign to British politics but so incredibly needed. As a linguist myself, I was in awe at the fantastic translation services and 24 official languages.

“As a climate activist, it was amazing to hear from some of the Green/EFA MEPs how they thought the school strikes for climate were helping to bring climate change to the top of the European agenda.”

Miette Deady, 20, Chorley

“Thank you so much for the incredible opportunity to visit the EU Parliament! It was bittersweet to get the opportunity to visit the European Parliament amidst the current Brexit situation, seeing exactly how amazing what we will be missing out on is, should we leave the EU. Especially with parties like The Greens who support the youth strike movement and environmental activism being on the rise in the EU Parliament.

“Overall the trip has been very empowering, and has instilled more hope and motivation in us to keep protesting and to use what power we have as young people to put pressure on our government for system change that will benefit the environment.”

Kayleigh Crawford, 19, Manchester

“My involvement with the school strike movement began in February and grew from there. The first strike I went to was my first ever protest, and I have been to countless others since. Yet in all the months I’ve spent organising and campaigning for climate justice, I’ve never really felt a part of the bigger picture. Visiting the European Parliament with other climate activists from the North West of England has thoroughly changed my outlook and relationship to my activism.

“I made local connections to other campaigners in my area, but also had the opportunity to contextualise our efforts in an international setting. This combination of local and global was amazing and insanely enlightening.

“The visit was inspiring and gave me amazing opportunities which I hope will carry me forwards with my activism and campaigning. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and all it has given me and I can’t wait to get back to campaigning!”

Grace McMeekin, 20, Clitheroe, Lancashire

“I particularly enjoyed the Q&A session with German Green MEPs, Michael Bloss and Damien Boeselager who were able to explain the goals and objectives of the European Greens in tackling the climate crisis.

“Equally inspiring was talking to Green MEPs from the UK, Gina Dowding, Alexandra Philips, Ellie Chowns, Magid Magid and Scott Ainslie who have proved that anyone can make a difference by putting themselves forward and standing in elections.

“I was in awe of the wonderful institution that is the European Parliament and saddened by the thought that we may soon not be a part of it. I could not have been more reassured that all of our nations are stronger when we stand together and collaborate for a more positive future for everyone.

“Yet I will come away with hope after meeting a group of incredibly inspiring young people who are completely dedicated to fighting for the future of all life on earth.”

Isobel Deady, 16, Chorley

“I found the trip really informative, and it was great to see how the European Parliament works, that even people of completely opposing political opinion must find some common ground and compromise. Also through talking to youth activists in Belgium, we gained new ideas of how to get more young people involved in the fight for our futures.

The trip also made us realise how much power we hold as young people, People’s votes and strikes/marches have helped hugely in bringing the issue to the front of people’s minds and so making it a priority in the parliament. From the trip we gained the motivation to make our voice louder and fiercer, and really push for fast, effective action against climate change.”

Lily Mills, 17, Lancaster

“Chatting and hanging out with young activists from Brussels was really fun, it was interesting to hear about how they do things differently to us, it gave me a great feeling about how incredibly wide this movement really us. Many more of them turn out to strikes, it seems easier for young people in Belgium to strike than it does for us in England. We need to enable people my age to express their views on climate and other important issues so that our ideas and priorities influence the major changes that are necessary.”

Millie Prosser, 27, Lancaster

“Brussels was an inspiring political experience where over half of the MEP’s we spoke to, all part of the Greens/European Federation Alliance group, were also activists. The message from them was clear: that our efforts protesting with recent youth climate strikes give them political leverage to forward the climate agenda. We were informed that the recent EU elections were named the climate elections and that the climate change issue has shot up the agenda in the European Parliament.”

Corporate Europe Observatory

I had a very interesting talk and tour by the Corporate Europe Observatory in Brussels this week. They focus on watching the lobbyists who work here in Brussels and there’s a lot of them – more than 25,000! The aim of lobbyists is essentially to undermine the regulations and legislation the European Parliament puts forward and it’s deeply concerning that if they don’t get away with it in Europe with Parliamentarians, they go back to national governments and put pressure on them! This is so important in terms of democracy and giving power back to the people; this is something I really want to explore more in the coming months.

Kashmir

When in Manchester a couple of weeks ago (March for Change), I gave an impromptu speech at the rally for Kashmir there. Like many, I am astounded at the assault on human rights and the plight of the people of Kashmir. This week in Brussels, the Green MEPs have written a letter to Dominic Raab, on the tensions in Kashmir and the UK government’s obligation to be a strong voice in demanding a human rights abuse allegation investigation, as requested by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. This is an issue that we just can’t let slip from the news.

Back in the North West

Lovely to get back to the region and thank you for the warm welcome to the Liverpool Green Party – it was great to meet up with fellow Greens for a local party meeting and catch up with the important campaigns here. Although I couldn’t get to Manchester this time, I did send my thoughts to those attending the Great Pension Robbery rally there. An important event for all women who are suffering the massive injustice of not receiving pensions.

 

I sent the following:

“I am really sorry that I cannot be with you in person today. This is an important rally for the women who were born in the 1950s and so unfairly lost out on their pensions through the 1995 and 2011 Pensions Act. The dilemma of our current political situation is that so many issues are not being addressed. But I feel passionately about the injustice and hardship you are experiencing through this legislation.

I pledge to be a voice for you at a time when this current government is not listening to your plight; a government that does not have the time or inclination to listen to the reality of your experience. Just last week, Chancellor Sajid Javid published his spending review and has not mentioned this important issue at all.

Pension poverty overall, is on the rise again. Austerity politics and our failing welfare state disadvantage the most vulnerable and poorest in our society. Why do women have to bear the brunt of this?

  • By 2020, 86% of the burden of austerity will have fallen disproportionately on women.
  • For women, there is a 40% gender pension gap.
  • British basic pensions are in any case particularly low and fewer women than men have a private pension.
  • It is often humiliating to ask for income – or means-tested additional benefits.

Although Job Seekers Allowance and Universal Credit applications have generally fallen over the past years, there has been an increase of about 115% amongst women who are over 60 and a shocking increase of 413% of those women who are claiming Job Seekers Allowance.

It is often claimed that pensioners prosper, and the young suffer.

  • Poverty amongst pensioners with below-average income rose from 13% in 2011-12 to 16% in 2017-18. This year, one in six pensioners lives in poverty
  • The proportion of elderly people living in severe poverty has the largest increase in among western European countries. It went from less than % in the 80s to around 5% this year.
  • With a lack of affordable housing and rent hikes, pensioners who are renting are affected disproportionally.

It is not those pensioners that make it hard for young people to get a decent paying job, that threaten the climate or fail to build council homes.

This is all bad enough.

But you have been hit particularly hard.

  • In most cases, you were not informed within any reasonable time frame or not at all about the pension age changes that affected you, robbing you of the ability to make alternative plans. You may even have accepted early retirement or redundancy, not knowing how it would impact you.
  • You now have to secure unstable work in an employment climate that discriminate against older, especially female people.
  • You may have to seek that work although you are caring for your elderly or ill parents or you may be ill yourself.
  • You may have to rely on your partners or family to survive until you are eligible for your pension or on other quickly dwindling resources. You may even have lost your property.
  • And often your retirement plans with your loved ones have to be postponed or abandoned.

With this, you have been robbed of more than money, you are being robbed of your health and mental wellbeing. Your plight is a loss for society. Instead of being with your family and grandchildren, following your passions or contributing with your wealth of experience to the third sector, you are forced to struggle.

It does not have to be like this.

It is not a question of the adjustment of the pension age to that of men – that is wrong. But the issue is, that the rise in women’s pension age has been too rapid and that it has happened without sufficient notice. That must be addressed.

Many other European countries are re-thinking their approach and even re-considering lowering the pension age. The UK is implementing the most severe changes and should follow rational thinking as seen with our European neighbours.

Caroline Lucas, our Green MP, co-signed with 187 MPs, an Early Day Motion this year, to fight for the 3.8 million women who are affected.

This October, our Autumn conference will decide on supporting all involved campaign groups and ask the government to step in and stop women of your generation having to live in unjustified hardship.

The Green Party supports the idea of Universal Basic Income, which would:

  • end poverty
  • discourage low wages
  • support unpaid care workers and
  • eliminate the stigma of having to apply for welfare benefits

Should that policy come to pass, I will suggest that the women born in the 50s are the first to receive it.

You, women and men, are all here because you are asking for justice in this matter. I am with you in spirit today and all the way in our ongoing fight.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

For the moment, Scottish courts have found PM Johnson’s suspending of Parliament to be illegal. The key question now is about whether he actually lied to the Queen. The ruling has been challenged and will be in the Supreme Court next week where it will be for them to decide this; while the public look on in absolute astonishment that this is what our politics has become.

Bad:

There is still a complete lack of clarity about even a timescale for democratic events that are unfolding and any opportunity for normal processes to proceed, has been hijacked and thwarted.

Where hope lies:

The youth of today!! I witnessed the energy, lack of cynicism, willingness to learn and challenges of our group and it raises my expectations for the future – as it will be in their hands. This Friday, the Climate Strikes will take place across the world – with students and workers walking out of schools and businesses and taking to the streets to demand action on climate; there WILL be an action near you so please try to make it. A member of my team noted the changing tide:

“My daughter wrote a letter about the Climate Strike earlier this year, to her headteacher who didn’t even reply. This term however, the teachers have got together and are helping the children create a climate focus group in school, and want my daughter to lead it. They’ve started already. They are also approving climate strikes as authorised absences. They’re also teaching fracking in geography. Big improvements.”

*On Friday I will be at the #ClimateStrike in Lancaster, please do come or attend a strike where you are. You can enter your postcode and find one through this link.

Onwards.

 

 

Brexit, Brexit & Brexit (again)

More focus this week on this failed and failing venture that sees our politics and our international relationships in such disarray, and the people of our country divided, uncertain and under pressure. The notion of Brexit alone, never mind its implementation, is costing vast sums of money, time and energy that would be better spent on the urgent things that matter more.

I could list reams of issues from the NHS, to the very survival of our species in a climate catastrophe. In this never-ending loop of political turmoil, it seems that almost everything this week had a ‘taint ‘of Brexit’ about it. I went from signing a ‘Brussels Declaration‘, to calls for a People’s Vote UK in Parliament Square, to Wilmslow for a well-attended debate on the climate emergency…all while arranging travel plans for young climate campaigners this coming week and young women from the NW next month to come to the European Parliament. Everything feels urgent as the horizon keeps changing and these opportunities could disappear.

Brussels Declaration

In Brussels, a Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament got together to sign a Declaration; committing ourselves to work together in the face of Brexit and calling on our EU colleagues to support us. 

MEPs from Green, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Alliance (Northern Island), Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party signed Brussels Declaration stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us. Brussels declaration

Trip to EU Parliament for aspiring young women leaders

Monday 9 September 2019, I’ll be with our 15 young climate campaigners en-route to the European Parliament, where they’ll find out more about the climate work we do, meet with other MEPs and spend time with other young climate campaigners from Brussels. And in just a few weeks time (wonder what the political view will look like then!) my amazing team and I are arranging a trip for young women in the NW to visit the European Parliament to meet and hear from other ‘young’ women who have an interest in community building about ways to develop community leadership skills. These wonderful opportunities are EU sponsored and serve to unite us, find shared solutions and create networks and links that can fuel change. I dread to think of the UK without these warm, welcoming connections with our European family.


Rallies in London

On my way home mid-week I stopped off in London to stand with others in Parliament Square to join a rally with ‘pop up’ speeches by a range of prominent MPs including our wonderful Caroline Lucas. All spoke passionately for No Deal to be taken off the table, and a People’s Vote to help re-clarify what exactly the people want. Caroline, however, made the most important point about the need for root and branch reform of our democracy, a call for proportional representation and a written constitution.

At the DSEI Stop The Arms Fair protest with my colleagues.


On Friday last week, I was back in London to join three of my fellow UK MEPs and protesters outside the Arms Fair (the DSEI). Scott Ainslie, Green MEP for London, highlighted the shame that London hosts the worlds largest arms fair; Ellie Chowns MEP for the West Midlands called out the illegality of the UK’s sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia that are now proven to be used to target civilians in Yemen; Catherine Rowett Green MEP for East England and I both highlighted the intractable links between climate change and war. Apart from the tragic human cost of war, waging war is by definition the most environmentally damaging activity that any government could undertake. However, this leads to a vicious spiral of destruction: not only does climate change result from war, it causes further conflict.

Rarely mentioned by the media, the conflict in Syria was preceded by the worst drought on record between 2007 and 2010. Climate-related extremes causing drought and water shortages, failing crops and resource shortages give rise to the desperation of populations that create the conditions for armed insurgencies. We were all honoured to speak to the protesters as they sat in the road trying to cause delay and prevent the delivery of the world’s deadliest weapons to be on show next week.

You can watch my speech here.


Responsibility for Horizon Europe (funding for research and innovation)

As UK MEPs, we have divided up the allocation of places in the various committees within the European Parliament. These committees are spaces where MEPs really get to grips with European legislation. I have previously said that I was delighted to be given a place on the ITRE Committee responsible for Industry, Research and Energy. Of course, there are lots of threads of work addressed by each committee and this week I was delighted to learn that the Green EFA group has allocated me a role in developing the Horizon Europe programme on its behalf. I am now officially ‘Shadow Rapporteur’ (sorry for the Euro-English!); in effect, that means along with our Green group specialist advisors, I will work in a cross-party subgroup on that specific theme. 

Horizon Europe replaces the previous Horizon 2020 fun. It has been massively increased to around £120 billion and in April this year, the Green group got a commitment passed that in this new programme, 35% of the fund must be spent on climate-related research. At a meeting of the committee I raised the question to the commissioner on how important it is that mechanisms are in place to ensure that this binding agreement actually gets implemented.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

It’s hard to find the good but I think it’s important to celebrate this week the fact that there are MPs who have sacrificed their careers for the good of the country and to work cross-party in what seems, at least from outside Parliament, a constructive way to prevent our Prime Minister from trashing our democratic norms completely.

Bad:

There is still no certainty at all on what the next few weeks will hold. It is becoming clearer that a general election is likely to be called within the next few months but exactly how – we may know by next weekend. Personally, I totally agree with the Green Party’s stance that the Brexit question should be resolved before a general election by a People’s Vote. However. it’s important to have reservations when reflecting how the previous referendum campaign was conducted in the uncharted territory of Facebook, internet campaigning, dark money, and exploiting the absence of elections-regulation. With Dominic Cummings the unelected advisor to our Prime Minister and one of the key protagonists of illegal activities including illegal elections’ spending. I do recommend again for anyone who has access to Netflix to watch ‘The Great Hack’.

Where hope lies:

With the young. This week’s trip with young people from the NW to the European Parliament will I know, be as beneficial for us as it will be for them. There is clarity and wisdom in the messages sent by young climate activists that is refreshing in the world of politics and it’s important that we listen and act with the urgency they demand. With the upcoming (worldwide) Youth Strike 4 Climate on 20 September 2019, and the amazing work of Greta Thunberg in igniting and uniting youth – there IS every reason for positivity.

 

Onwards

 

Division, Dictators & Democracy

I’m just back from an intense and impactful visit to Palestine and Israel. I will, as I gather my thoughts, write a fuller picture on my blog, but suffice to say I come back with such a deep sense of the injustice endured by the Palestinian people, and sadly, a shared sense of frustration that there are limited opportunities on the horizon to a peace process which will offer relief, mitigation or an end to the oppression of Palestinians.

I was, meanwhile, aware of our own government’s determination on running a wrecking ball through democracy and the very limited time available for a calm, fair and measured response to current Brexit issues.

Closer to home here in Lancashire, one of our oldest football clubs has gone and another is under threat – big business finance has ruined the beautiful game!

And then there are the damaged homes, terrified residents and rumblings brought about by the most seismically active part of the UK these days: Blackpool, home to Cuadrilla’s fracking site.

 

Palestine

The incredibly well-organised delegation trip, arranged by Danish and Norwegian church groups, with a focus on the West Bank, succeeded in giving us a broad insight into the complex situation with regards to the occupied Palestinian territories, and the increasing hardship and oppression of the Palestinians living there.

Our small delegation was given brief but informative access to a range of organisations and perspectives. These ranged from international humanitarian agencies, like the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid; local non-governmental organisations and civil society movements, such as Breaking the Silence – an Israeli group of former soldiers who served in the West Bank;  Israeli government and political organisations – meetings with a politician from the newly-formed ‘centre-right’ Blue and White Party hoping to form a government after the forthcoming general elections on 17 September 2019, and separately, a representative of the Palestine Liberation Organization; and most importantly, members of the communities directly affected by the Israeli occupation including urban Palestinian families facing forced eviction from homes in East Jerusalem, and the Bedouin community of Khan Al Ahmar.

What is now apparent to me: there is no clear or straightforward way to even map a peace process. However, separate to any long-term solution, we, the international community, cannot turn a blind eye to the illegal, dehumanising and worsening occupation of the West Bank, which in itself is destroying any progress being made.

My aims over the next couple of weeks are two-fold:

  1. to find a way to best present the information I gathered – both at meetings which I will hold within the region, and on the website.
  2. to further discuss with cross-party colleagues, and members of my own Green/EFA group in Europe, what scope there is within the EU institutions and particularly by the European Parliament for bringing pressure to bear for an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Bolton & Bury

One of the oldest English Football League teams is no more. Bury Football Club and the loyal fans have endured an arduous few weeks as they faced eradication due to what is seen as complete mismanagement by their owner. League One Bury FC have now been expelled from the Football League – not due to the quality of the football or the results of their matches, but after a potential takeover collapsed.

Bolton Wanderers is also a team in difficulty.

Fans had tried to plead for a way to save the clubs but it seems the focus of the English Football League is less about the survival of teams and more about the ability to create profit. It’s been heartbreaking to watch loyal fans so let down.

A local football club is often the heart of a community – the place where a community comes together: it never was ‘just a game’.

In light of this, it seems timely that I had a meeting recently with Andy Walsh, the National Game Development Officer of the Football Supporters’ Association (FSA). 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.

As with so many sectors, radical, deep-rooted, systemic change is needed to return some power to the fans. Good on the FSA for the work they are doing on this.

Brexit & Prorogation

On Saturday I was proud to join a massive rally – and impromptu march – in Manchester with thousands of other people to demand democracy. Due to the weather, one apt slogan of the day: “Not singing in the rain, but singing to remain” was in force. However, the main mantra was Stop the Coup! And indeed for so many people, it does feel like there has been a sudden hijack of all of our democratic norms by our prime minister (and a tiny cabal around him led by the unelected Dominic Cummings). He is upending all the conventions that have held together our very British system of government which has survived without a constitution.

However, I fear that this has been much longer in the planning and is not a surprise move but a part of a much more strategic and dangerous plan to limit the scope of Parliament and hand far greater power to themselves as the executive.

Below are some excerpts of the draft of a letter I am signing from UK MEPs to European heads of government:

“Brexit cannot be seen as a process that only concerns the UK. Aside from the obvious and immediate consequences on our neighbouring countries of a disorderly Brexit, if the UK continues down its current path we are likely to become an extremely disruptive failed state on the European doorstep. We would implore you to work with us to prevent that from happening.

“More positively, it is clear that a process that began with an illegal referendum clearly demonstrates that there is no way that the UK can leave the EU democratically. The promises made in 2016 cannot be kept and, when British citizens see the reality of Brexit, they reject it. We are clear that without deceit, propaganda and illegal activity the referendum result would have been different in 2016. And we are confident that a majority of British citizens now support our continued EU membership, bolstered by the strongest pro-EU movement anywhere in the continent.

“We ask for your support for those of us who are fighting to save our democracy in the UK.”

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Fylde Conservative MP Mark Menzies took eight years to do it, but after the earthquakes that terrified residents and damaged homes, he has at last called for a ban on fracking. He could, of course, have done the research and reached this decision long ago and saved the residents all this worry and cost but instead of standing up for the community that elected him, he has weakly supported his Party line and only (usually around election time) called gently for caution and safety. Still, at least he finally arrived and is now off the fence and in our shoes.

Bad:

The damage to homes after Cuadrilla fracked and caused a 2.9ML earthquake last week is still unfolding with residents finding it difficult to know who to contact and how best to proceed with getting repairs and claims processed; fears too of insurance price hikes and diminished house values. The aftermath of the quake also shook loose the ugly truth of Cuadrilla’s total disregard (virtual contempt) for the community with social media posts and press releases comparing the fracking-induced earthquakes as similar to dropping shopping bags or melons!

Where hope lies:

  1. Fracking has been suspended in Lancashire.
  2. People like Jill, who I met on Saturday in Manchester, who was ‘angry, articulate and about to get active’. It was her first time ever at a protest.
  3. The resilience of the Palestinian people.

Onwards.

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