Tackling Racism, Research and Rudeness

The contrasts between the Parliaments of the UK and the EU have never been starker than this week. I watched from Brussels as our UK MPs returned at last to the House of Commons only to end up embroiled in ugly scenes of disrespect and outright misogyny. It feels like we’re in dangerous territory and the situation is failing to improve despite the Supreme Court ruling making it clear that PM Johnson acted unlawfully.

In Brussels this week, the scenes playing out for me were warm, professional and with clear purpose; from the Shared Future Hearing attended by MEPs from many parties from the Republic, Northern Island and Britain, to the inspirational launch of work on anti-racism and diversity in the European Parliament and the huge exhibition and consultation days on research and innovation.

Back home and along with Cumbrian architects, sustainability experts and representatives from other political parties, I joined a panel discussion and Q&A following the film screening of the film The Age of Stupid in Keswick; and then to the fabulous Make it Matter Craft Fair in Cockermouth. I write this as I prepare to speak at the rally in Manchester (during the Conservative Party Conference) calling to ‘Defend Democracy and Reject Brexit’.

Shared Future Hearing

I attended this first cross-party hearing on Brexit in the European Parliament on the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland. With a keynote speech from former Irish Taoiseach, John Bruton, we watched a direct message from Tony Blair, had powerful accounts from community groups (both ‘sides’) and young people who had come from Northern Ireland and were reminded of just how hard-won and valued the Good Friday Agreement is.

Organised by Alliance Party MEP Naomi Long, the #BrexitHearingEU warned how devastating a Brexit could be on the peace process. All agreed that no hard border on the island of Ireland could be tolerable and that no realistic suggestions have been made to avoid it. It seems to many that this is a circle that just cannot be squared.

A highlight for me was hearing from Ellie Crawford of the Northern Ireland Student Climate Network and Doire Finn, co-founder of ‘Our Future, Our Choice’ who are determined to ensure that young people across Northern Ireland have their voices heard and gain a People’s Vote.

Anti-racism and diversity at EU Parliament #ARW19

Fantastic energy and commitment to anti-racism and diversity action at #ARW19 this week. It was uplifting to see our own Magid Magid MEP co-chairing and launch this new formally recognised cross-party ‘intergroup’ within the Parliament to address racism and increase diversity, with support from The European Network Against Racism (ENAR), a network of member organisations across Europe aiming to combat racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia.

Afterwards, I connected with Laurie and Kim from The Runnymede Trust, the UK’s largest race equality organisation, which has produced some extremely helpful briefings. One particularly welcome is about how we challenge current discussion around race and class. In short, they advocate a public conversation about politics and inequality which builds solidarity across ordinary people to address the urgent issues facing society today.

What we’re up against is that ordinary people from all backgrounds, from the rural towns of northern England to the tower blocks of London, have been divided and pitched against one another. Too often, people are pitched along the lines of Brexiteers/Remainers, deserving/undeserving, British/foreigner, white/migrant/BAME. So I’m pleased to have met these wonderful women. As well as Zlachar from Apna Haq. Short video clips coming soon.

Research & Innovation

Mid-week, I attended a couple of sessions in the European Commission’s research and innovation days – tentatively reassuring to hear loud and clear commitment within the Industry and Digital cluster to the Horizon Europe (research funding) objectives to research the circular economy innovation and climate-related activities. Europe is ahead again in terms of understanding the importance of the circular economy whereby industrial processes must use and produce materials that are inherently recycled and recyclable.

This was a massive event in a Brussels exhibition centre, and I was disappointed not to have had time to visit more stalls or sessions (the future generations of sustainable batteries nor to experience Sea Bubbles – the zero-emission boat on the canal outside). I am ever-more excited to be the Greens/EFA representative on these themes of EU work.

Formal business

Among other formal business, I also attended the Transport and Tourism Committee Meeting. All of the European Parliament’s committees are preparing for ‘hearings’ with the new Commissioners-designate (the new ‘college of Commissioners’ in-waiting). One Commissioner from each member state is proposed by the new President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

Each committee can give its consent to, or recommend rejection of the proposed commissioner for their specialist area. The Greens/EFA use this opportunity to test the understanding and real commitment of each Commissioner-designate to the values and climate targets the EU has set.

Supreme Court ruling

The UK Supreme Court ruling confirming that PM Boris Johnson’s proroguing of Parliament was unlawful, was a relief to hear. It had seemed obvious to most that the PM’s motivation was not for the good of the country, but to fulfil his own political agenda.

You can watch my short statement on this momentous ruling hereIn the press, I joined many in calling for Mr Johnson’s immediate resignation, and for Parliament to be reconvened straight away so that it could “begin to chart a sensible path through this national crisis”. Seeing Parliament return though was only briefly uplifting as the atmosphere and behaviour of some MPs were hostile and unprofessional. It was clear Johnson always wanted to make his mark on history – in reality, he has left an unpleasant stain on democracy. I just hope it will fade in time.

Meanwhile this week

Good

I was delighted to be in Cumbria for 24-hours (a treat to be in the rural landscape, even if briefly!) and enjoyed discussions with the crowd who came to the see the decade-old but must-see The Age of Stupid film. Highlighting inaction on climate as nothing less than stupidity, another ten years have passed when we could have been working on developing solutions. So good that organisations such as Cumbrian Action on Sustainability‘s Green Build Festival have been developing and showcasing solutions for energy-efficient and zero-carbon homes. In Cockermouth, the Taste Cumbria fair was busy selling locally made, delicious and healthy foods. Just as it should be.

Bad

The way the House of Commons has looked this week has been ugly and painful to watch. The European Parliament is a pleasure to work in: a respectful, professional and fair workplace with resources, processes and behaviours that go a long way to improving outcomes. My heart goes out to those elected to be in the House of Commons who simply want to represent their electorate and do the job of an MP – rather than facing a barrage of booing and rudeness that only succeeds in further hindering any hope of good-purpose shining through.

Where hope lies:

Reading about the potential for Britain to enjoy 400 billion more flowers if road verges were cut later and less often! Wildlife charities have drawn up guidelines drawn along with highways authorities and contractors that show how this will provide grassland habitat the size of London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff and Edinburgh combined. Stunning what the little changes can do!

Onwards

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PM, Pride & Priorities

No one can have got through this week with much of a sense of joy or optimism; the newly appointed Prime Minister and his Cabinet peppered with lobbyists and apologists have seen to that. Thankfully by the week’s end, I’d been lifted by news from Brussels that the European Investment Bank has proposed cutting support for energy infrastructure projects (fossil fuels). And then there was the glorious colour and solidarity on the streets of Liverpool at ‘Pride in Liverpool’ to refresh and renew for the week ahead.

Brussels

I took time to pause this week when I recorded a 50-second video of my priorities to go along with the 750 other MEPs who represent the 500 million people in Europe. Just outside the European Parliament in Brussels is the ‘Parlamentarium’, a visitor centre (a little like a planetarium or an aquarium but about the activities of the Parliament) and it has an interactive wall, with details about MEPs. From local councillor to being part of a European-wide visitor attraction in a matter of weeks is quite a strange feeling.

Also this week in Brussels, there was definitely a feeling of winding down: the parliament doesn’t exactly close, but there are no formal meetings during the next month and obviously many staff have their holidays.

I attended formal meetings of the Transport and Tourism committee. The committee is not yet dealing with any legislative business but instead is really in a kind of end-of-term-report period. There are what’s easiest to describe as ‘hearings’ taking place. I witnessed one with the outgoing Commissioners, and one looking forwards with the representatives of the new European Council. For the next six months Finland takes that role in the European Council, with Romania just finishing.

Yes it’s confusing for newcomers. I guess in a Union of 28 countries it’s bound to be but there’s certainly lots of chance to challenge!

Along with a number of MEPs (and not just from the Green MEPs group) we emphasised the need in transport for all interventions now to look to reduce emissions; and to look towards the earliest implementation of a kerosene tax on aviation industry. The latter is essential for reducing flights. Let’s not forget that 70% of all flights are made by just 15% of the population!

I am so pleased that I have been able to appoint a good team of staff. One of our first jobs is to get a website up and running for updates and easy contact. Until the site is live, please do find and share updates on one of these channels:

Twitter

Facebook

LinkedIn

I made a big commitment this week; to attend a cross-party delegation to Palestine and Israel. More on that soon.

 

Back in the North West – Love is Love

Fantastic, well organised and thoroughly enjoyed event – Pride in Liverpool; albeit a bit damp! There was rightly a party atmosphere and it was great to meet LGBT+ staff from the British Veterinary Association, the Home Office and organisers.

Although the focus was clearly on solidarity and celebration, PRIDE is a necessary protest still and there is awareness that with the changes in government and potential for Brexit, there comes a serious risk of losing hard won rights and freedoms for our LGBT+ communities.

When the European court of human rights ruled that gay men and lesbians could not be dismissed simply because of their sexual orientation, Ian Duncan Smith announced that once returned to power, if the Ministry of Defence wanted to retain the ban; a Conservative government would re-introduce it. Full article here.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Always good to think that some news has sent a shiver down the spine of the fossil fuel industry. This week the EU’s lending arm (European Investment Bank) drafted plans which propose cutting support for energy infrastructure projects which rely on oil, gas or coal by barring companies from applying for loans beyond the end of 2020.

From the media report:

“The EIB said its focus on long-term investments means that it must align with the Paris Agreement which aims to cap global heating at 1.5C above 1990 levels by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

“This transition will be profound. Solidarity is required to ensure that potentially vulnerable groups or regions are supported,” the EIB report said.

“The lender said it will set up an energy transitions fund to support projects which help EU member states to transition to a cleaner economy.”

Full article here.

Bad:

Leading with typical bluster and bustle, Johnson has hit the ground out of step with reality and leading the country to a cliff edge clearly sign-posted ‘No Deal Brexit’. The new Leader of the Conservative Party and UK Prime Minister has shown outright contempt for the EU laws that protect us as consumers and workers, and his reckless threat to leave the EU without any arrangements in place, just demonstrates how irresponsible he is prepared to be.

It’s known that Johnson has a poor record on climate change (one of the most serious threats facing humanity) with his predisposition for fracking and having previously voted against setting a target for UK decarbonisation.

*I chatted with Scott Ainslie MEP in European Parliament about the former London Mayor becoming the new Prime Minister and how that might look: “Like a bad idea gone nationwide.”

Full video here

Where hope lies:

Hard to find this week but our Green MP Caroline Lucas always quick off the mark pointed out from Westminster: “…new Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s cabinet is the most right wing in years but Parliament is sovereign, he has no majority and we will fight his ‘No Deal Brexit’.”

If you’re not a member of the Green Party of England and Wales – please join and show where you stand on the environment and getting a say on our place in the EU.

Onwards 💚

 

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