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.

 

 

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.

Ireland, Inundation & 12-Steps

This week afforded some free days and it was a joy to get over to Ireland to have much-valued family time; sadly I had to miss the Climate Action Bolton event but clashes of timetables couldn’t be corrected. I’ve also been getting on with planning; I decided early on that it would be important to have some tangible outcomes as a result of my first four months (whether or not that’s the only four months) in the European Parliament. With funds and resources available to MEPs that can contribute to our work here in the North West, I’ll be producing a report in October about the Green New Deal and what that means for our region.

It’s so encouraging to see councils up-and-down the country but also here in the North West declaring a ‘Climate Emergency’ and it’s vital to ensure that those calls result in fundamental changes in what local authorities do as providers of local services, in their procurement and practices, but also as community leaders. As a long-serving councillor, despite our media being dominated almost exclusively to the point being obsessed with national Government, I know it is in reality, local councils who have the ability to provide good leadership and to whom people relate in the first instance as their democratically elected representatives.

To this effect, our report will aim to be about “Responding to the Climate Emergency…turning a call for action into a plan. How a Green New Deal will address the social, economic and environmental crises in the North West”.

Climate Action Bolton

Early this week in my absence (but not without my input!) was the Climate Action Bolton meeting; lobbying Bolton Council to join seven other Greater Manchester Councils and declare a Climate Emergency. It’s 16-year-old Paris Hayes who is the driving force behind this. I wish I could have attended the “packed room with an impressive range of speakers” including Ali Abbas from Friends of the Earth, Lisa Nandy MP (Wigan), Dee Codd of Youth Strike 4 Climate Manchester and Extinction Rebellion and Astrid Johnson my Greater Manchester Liaison Officer.

Astrid said:

“It was a great meeting with an engaged audience and good questions that brought inspiring discussion. There was a spirit of co-operation along with collaboration; Lisa Nandy was very positive about the Green Party and Caroline Lucas in her speech. It was good to have Gina’s virtual presence and a pleasure to read her statement.”

My statement included:

“Today, I support in particular, the efforts of the Climate Action Bolton group and all interested parties that here today pressure Bolton Council to do the same. It is not only in Bolton that we are seeing our brave youth rise up to the challenge and demand that our political leaders take the climate crisis seriously – it is their future that is at risk. The youth climate strikes for example, have grown on a global scale and are simply inspiring: our young people are to be commended for taking a stand and we should hear them.”

Ireland

It was great to spend a few days accompanied by my son in Ireland this week visiting family. There’s a story -and a personally epic one in itself; although adopted, loved and brought up by Londoners, I have a wonderfully welcoming birth family (on both paternal-Protestant and maternal-Catholic sides) in the Republic of Ireland – discovered 21 years ago.

My birth father and half-sister are incredibly proud to have an MEP in the family, but bewildered and concerned about how Brexit is playing out on the island of Ireland. Sadly I don’t have any inside information or particularly greater insights than most who are following this. But I’m horrified to see the way that new Prime Minister Boris Johnson is seemingly trying to stir up trouble with the Irish Government and blame them for what is in effect, an impossible conundrum to solve. If Johnson gets what he wants- a hard Brexit – then that has to involve a border in Ireland between the EU in the south and the UK in the north. And no one of any political persuasion in Ireland wants that.

Meanwhile this week

Good:

I watched with deep concern as the news of the dam risk unfolded this week in Derbyshire and there’s more on the issues to consider around this below; the ‘good’ of it though is the efforts of the people who stepped up to help and offer kindness. The people of Whaley Bridge and surrounding areas acted from the best part of themselves in offering accommodation, toothbrushes, transportation, food and clothes to those who had left so quickly in the evacuation.

There were social media posts from mountain rescue teams thanking local businesses for providing food and rest for workers, a Muslim faith-based charity brought food to the school where many were evacuated to and countless other stories of human kindness that must have at least helped to ease immediate concerns. People at their finest.

Bad:

The awful situation for those 1,500 residents of Whaley Bridge who are still not able to return to their homes after they were evacuated due to life-threatening damage to a dam above the town. The Toddbrook Reservoir, like so much infrastructure, is just not designed for ever more extreme rainfall as the climate changes. I’ll be writing to the Environment Agency to ask what measures have been taken to increase the frequency of inspections and range of safety checks, taking into account changes in the way infrastructure like this behaves in a changing climate. A New Scientist article reports:

“Dams are typically designed to cope with a so-called 1-in-100-year flood event. But as the world warms the odds of extreme rainfall are changing, meaning the risk of failure is far greater.

“The 1-in-100-year event is perhaps happening every five years,” says Roderick Smith at Imperial College London. “I’m absolutely convinced that it is due to climate change.”

More here:

Where hope lies:

With the government and more than half of our councils having declared a ‘Climate Emergency’, the task now is how to react. Helpfully, the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) has been working with a number of authorities to support them with strategies, action plans and projects. Focusing on strategic and practical considerations, APSE Energy’s 12 points will help Councils to plan and act (full details in the link at the end):

  1. Leadership: the local authority has a duty of leadership

2. Strategy: a strategy to address a climate emergency

3. Capacity: enough political will to perpetuate an approach; human & financial resources

4. Action Plan & Projects: monitoring, reporting & reviewing

5. Targets & Data: setting a target date for carbon neutrality and monitoring targets

6. Finance & Risk: the skill is in prioritisation

7. Partners: the local authority has a responsibility to support businesses, employers, academic institutions, public services    & citizens to work towards reducing their emissions.

8. Suppliers: a local authority cannot have a climate-related target whilst ignoring the activities of its suppliers that have a duty to supply sustainably

9. Education & Culture Change: making a definite effort to put in place materials & resources that will educate in order to change behaviour

10. Innovation: invest in technology, deliver services and collaborate in new ways

11. Review & Inform: reviewing strategies and action plans to ensure outcomes

12. Behaviour Change: supporting people to change their eating, travelling & buying habits. Ensuring this agenda remains at the forefront of people’s minds.

Full information here.

Onwards 💚

*Image: Whaley Bridge, Sikh Sewa Organisation Manchester

Firsts, Perks & Purpose

A week with pause to reflect on my time so far in the European Parliament; how it treats MEPs, why it treats us this way and the tools and systems at our disposal – some flawed, some vital.

There have been lots of firsts for me these past few weeks. It’s the first time that I have been elected as a Green to a level of Government higher than local council level. It’s the first time that I have travelled five separate times beyond the borders of Britain in seven weeks; thank goodness for the ease and speed of the Eurostar. It’s the first time I have had a budget to appoint staff to help with my duties as an elected representative; a huge relief to have researchers, administrative support and media help.

Last week’s first was an invitation to give an after dinner speech. This was to the Cumbria and North Lancashire ‘Forward in Europe’ group in Kendal. This group sprung from The European Movement, which has been in existence since 1947, founded after the end of the second world war and centred on fostering peace and cooperation with our European neighbours and partners. Never has there been a greater need for such an organisation. But since the 2016 referendum and before cross-party groups, grass-roots groups like theirs have sprung up all over the country. Ironically, the UK is now probably the most pro-EU country in Europe, with the greatest number of grass-roots groups striving to Remain.

I can’t begin to express my personal and professional excitement and joy at another first: being with so many senior elected representatives from the Green Party in one room. My first day in Brussels involved a meeting of the Green group of over 60 committed, competent, capable and experienced Green MEPs from all over Europe. One of my initial conversations was with Ville Niinistö, a new Finnish Green MEP, who until recently was Government Minister for the Environment in Finland.

In the UK we have Caroline Lucas who as an MP has set the bar high for what can be achieved through parliamentary and campaigning dedication. But due to fairer voting systems in nearly all other European countries, people are used to having Green representation in their national parliaments and indeed in Government.

During preparation for that after dinner speech, I had cause to reflect again about my first impressions of the European Parliament, and some of my first actions as an MEP:

The European Parliament building is modern; maybe some would describe it as post modern. It has masses of space huge ceilings, plenty of light, and a somewhat complicated architectural design internally making it quite difficult to get around. It took a couple of visits until I understood that there is no way to get from one end of the building to the other on all of the floors; there are 12 or more. It’s counter-intuitive to go up to come down but the best place to start is always the third floor!

There is huge a welcome given to MEPs; offices and allowances, assistance and services. This compares interestingly with the experience of Caroline Lucas as she has noted in various books that the welcome for a new MP in Westminster is a dreary office-cum-cupboard if you’re lucky, in a long dark corridor in the bowels of Westminster. Very little is provided: maybe a stack of of old letter-headed papers but above all, the pink ribbon for which MPs can hang their sword.

There is no doubt that MEPs however are treated as VIPs. This was a shock to the system for me, and although it’s something I’m adapting to because it’s the reality and I’m getting on with the work, the trappings and treatment do not sit easy. But as an elected representative of millions of people it’s important to take the role seriously and perform the duties assiduously. The perks, like an in-house medical service, are often more about ensuring MEPs time is used as as effectively as possible.

In Europe, there’s a sense of looking outward. The European Parliament expects and welcomes its activities to be scrutinised. There are media and recording facilities for all to use; the Vox Box corners that MEPs can book in order to film and publicise their activities, are where you will have seen some of my impromptu interviews with other MEPs. The tools available to us are excellent and it’s good to be able to reveal and hopefully demystify the work that goes on here. Last week the film makers said probably less than half MEPs are using the facility.

Much has been said about the cost of the European Parliament and there is definitely scope for efficiencies to be made. Like many other European countries where MPs are paid well, respected and provided with access to resources that enable greater efficiency, the European Parliament similarly offers a good working environment. The awareness of the stark disparity between optimal working conditions and typical ones, is uncomfortable but brings to light another issue that needs addressing.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

Another interesting and ultimately satisfying process in the European Parliament worth highlighting: the commitment to gender equality enshrined already in some parts of the institutions. My first ‘constitutive’ meeting of the Foreign Affairs Committee, (that’s the first meeting whose business is only to appoint the Chair and the four Vice Chairs) was suspended when it became apparent that the political groups nominating people to specific roles (based across the board on proportional representation relative to size of the groups) had all nominated men to those five positions. After the election of the Chair and the first Vice Chair, the meeting was abandoned and those three groups now have to come up with at least one female nominee between them. The commitment to gender equality only goes so far that one of the five posts has to be a woman/man but still it’s there. I’m pleased to report that at the first constitutive meeting of the Transport Committee no such suspension was required. This is the committee for which the Greens get to nominate the chair and Karima Delli, Green MEP from Northern France is in the chair. She will be working with four Vice Chairs from other groups…all men.

Bad:

Despite the Government’s declaration of a Climate Emergency, they’ve done nothing to halt the progress of yet another fossil fuel source, shale gas. The Environment Agency this week put the health, well-being and future of a Lancashire community, in the hands of fracking firm Cuadrilla when they approved a second round of fracking near Blackpool. Operations had been stalled since October following 57 seismic events. This is the site I took direct action at, along with so many others since the protests started on 5th January 2017. Please do visit and lend support to those at Preston New Road if you can.

Where hope lies:

With climate emergencies declared this week in Burnley as well as Manchester, the message IS getting through; now for the hard work and scrutiny as we hold the Councils and Government to this commitment. It’s about getting started now; reinstating good public transport and halting the building of energy-inefficient homes. Green Party Councillor in Burnley, Andy Fewings who proposed the motion said: “This is not about paying lip service to protecting the environment. We need to see meaningful change in the council’s policies including supplementary planning guidance as lots of housing is not fit for purpose which is exacerbating fuel poverty.”

Onwards 💚

Pride, Misdeeds & Anniversaries

It’s been a very full week again, although thankfully the coming one is looking a lot less action-packed and offers time to review and plan. From the relief of getting a good team of staff to support me with my MEP tasks in place, to reflecting back to the awful ‘misdeeds’ in the Brexit vote, and later the joy of Lancaster Pride this weekend, it’s been a week of seeing the positives and acting on the negatives.

Pride

Back home, Lancaster Pride did Lancaster proud this week in Dalton Square. ‘Unity in diversity’ is a good way to sum it up. Loved meeting the Typhoons RUFC Lancashire’s first and only inclusive rugby team (who practice at Preston Grasshoppers RFC). Straight or gay, any ability, shape, or size they say – everyone welcome as long as you’ve got the right attitude to rugby… and they certainly do! The event was fabulous and fun.

Brexit

Today is the 3rd anniversary of the Referendum that gave us ‘Brexit’; seems like yesterday and an eternity all at once. Our co-leaders of Green Party of England and Wales reflected on what’s happened since: the key critical social and environmental issues that have not been tackled, and two million young voters have been denied a say in their futures.

Siân Berry said:

“Our politics has become entangled in what has been rightly described as Brexit chaos over the past three years. We could, and should, have been dealing with the fast-rising issues of poverty and homelessness, the collapse of bus services and the causes of the filthy air we breathe, the state of our nature-deprived countryside and the struggles of our small farmers to survive. Instead we have been bogged down in party in-fighting, fact-free debates about non-existent Brexit options and arcane struggles over parliamentary procedures.”

Jonathan Bartley added:

“More than two million young people have become voters since the 2016 referendum. Well over another million are aged 16 and 17, seeing society wrestling with issues that will have a huge impact on their futures. That’s more than 3 million people who deserve a say on their own future through the democratic option of the People’s Vote. Parliament has shown itself to be unable to find a way forward. The answer is democracy, and giving those young people the option to have their say.”

EU Parliament

In Brussels, I was pleased to sign a letter calling for an investigation into Brexit electoral ‘misdeeds’ that have come to light. It is a cross-party initiative, co-led by fellow Green, Molly Scott Cato MEP. Molly rightly says: “Brexit is a crime scene, yet our efforts to ensure the perpetrators face justice using the agencies available in the UK…have so far failed.”

Together, we 38 UK MEPs are calling on a high-level international legal commission to intervene over ‘declining democratic standards’ in the UK, asking the commission to investigate: breaches of spending rules and data-protection laws; the exclusion of non-UK EU citizens residing in the UK from voting during the 2016 referendum; the more recent disenfranchisement of UK citizens resident abroad, and EU citizens resident in the UK from the European elections this year.

There’s a lot more to this and an awful lot more to come. Alongside all this, MPs are preparing to take the Met police to court, after the force has failed to investigate alleged offences by Brexit campaigners for nearly a year. Separately, the Brexit Party has been told by the Electoral Commission to check its donations and tighten up its processes, after a loophole was revealed that could allow foreign donations to the party.

Meanwhile, this week:

Good:

The Green Party signed up to support the Manchester Declaration for a Right to Repair worldwide. It’s a call by independent repair businesses and citizens who are frustrated with the early obsolescence of most of today’s products. They ask UK legislators and decision-makers at all levels, as well as product manufacturers and designers, to stand with us for our Right to Repair, by making repairs more accessible and affordable, and ensuring that we adopt product standards making products better supported, well documented and easier to repair by design.

Siân Berry said: “We are committing to using our political influence at local, national and EU level to trigger the switch to a circular economy, and fight for our right to repair.”

Here’s a link to further information about the project.

Bad:

Just 0.34% of the UK”s population will now decide who the next PM is to be. Many of us lament the system that allows this to happen. Can we do anything to change this? Not right now but the fight for fairer voting and more representative democracy is at the core of the Green Party policies and we will not stop fighting for them.

Where hope lies:

Students, young people and school pupils rose again on Friday for another YouthStrike4Climate march and here in the North West, despite some Chorley students being told they cannot now go to their School Prom because they participated in the Strike, they participated in the Strike, they are not deterred. And that gives me inspiration.

Onwards 💚