Peace, Pause & Paths forward

In the current state of politics, so much seems to happen on all fronts, every single week.

It was only last week on the 31st of October that I was able to celebrate with my staff team, UK Green MEPs and of course many more communities who have fought hard for a better solution to Brexit – that we are still in the European Union and I am delighted I can continue the good work as part of the green group in the European Parliament.

The announcement of the fracking moratorium on Saturday was a brilliant start to this week, and I have just announced that I’m running as the Green parliamentary candidate for Fylde constituency in the upcoming general election. The Green Party will prioritise environmental and social justice as always and I look forward to campaigning on issues close to my heart. Last week in the UK, we launched The Green New Deal for the North West: a report I’ve been working on since being elected as the MEP for the North West. I am pleased we are able to give some concrete, practical, real-world examples of what needs to be rolled out. There is much focus now on the concept of the Green New Deal from other parties, as well as in Europe.

Moratorium on Fracking

Some of the most welcome news for quite a while came last weekend. The government has finally accepted the position that the Green Party and anti-fracking protestors have had from the outset: there is no such thing as safe fracking.

Principally, there is no level of regulation that is capable of assuring the safety of this industry. More critically, there is no place for a new fossil fuel in a climate emergency, when all the evidence points to the need to move swiftly to a zero-carbon energy supply.

Local people will be hugely relieved following years of havoc this industry has wreaked upon their communities, and more than a few people will rest easier at night knowing that the risk of seismic tremors has gone.

This decision will give cheer to young people, climate strikers and those who understand the need to move to clean, green and cheap renewables, and I think this will be an occasion of real celebration for the hundreds of thousands of people have been involved in the anti-fracking campaign, who have helped to highlight the costs and risks associated with hydraulic fracturing.

It was clear from the start that there is no place for fracking in a 21st-century energy plan. All that remains now is for the moratorium to become a complete ban.

Green New Deal for the North West

The Green Party’s vision for industry was conceived long before it became as urgent as it is today and remains the best route out of the mess our environment, society and climate are in. The Green New Deal is a global solution that takes local, national and regional action to achieve its aims

In what was originally due to be my last week in office, last week I was proud to launch a report from my office on The Green New Deal (GND) in the North West. The report aims to demonstrate how the GND can do more than just stabilise the climate emergency: it can bring huge benefits to the region, providing meaningful and skilled jobs as well as tackling social exclusion.

Our report looks at future green energy supply, industry, sustainable transport, energy-efficient buildings, and food and land use. In every sector, we found examples of good practice which can be scaled up and rolled out. It’s all do-able and can be up and running quickly (and it needs to be).

Although the industrial sector will have to transition from current fossil fuels use to circular, zero-waste business models, it will be nothing like the damaging de-industrialisation of the past; a Green New Deal offers new opportunities to revitalise our manufacturing communities by shifting to new, greener products and services, produced with green energy.

At the launch event last week, it was great to have such excellent speakers – one for each of the different sections providing real-world examples of good practice in action. And we had such excellent feedback from those attending that we may just have to launch it all over again with a new audience!

You can download the report here.

Lancaster Peace Pole

I was delighted to be at the launch of Lancaster’s Peace Pole at the end last week, where the Lancaster Quakers together with schools and the local community held a 30-minute Dedication Ceremony. Since the Second World War, over 200,000 Peace Poles have been erected by many nations bearing the words “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in different languages. In Lancaster, the languages are English, Arabic, Japanese and Gujurati.

Meanwhile this week…

Good

This week marks 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down and the world rejoiced. It was a pivotal moment for freedom and democracy in Europe.

Having lived in Germany only five years previous to this, I was as amazed at that achievement as anyone – for many years no one has thought that such a change could ever happen.

Bad

Surely it’s not a good sign that in the year that the climate emergency became one of the most pressing issues in the political debate, the Conservatives have employed a lobbyist who works for pro-fracking agencies to write their election manifesto?

Where hope lies

There is an election on 12th December 2019 and there is every chance that on 13th December, we will wake up to a different future. Please vote for it to be a green one.

Onwards

 

PURSUING FRACKING IN THE UK IS “STUPIDITY”

Gina Dowding MEP commented on the recent report from the National Audit Office on Fracking for shale gas in England report, saying:

“I think the first thing that the public would be interested in this report from the National Audit Office is what is actually going to happen to energy prices. What is clear is that the NAO has finally called out the cheap gas prices myth and that energy prices are not expected to fall: that’s because the shale gas industry cannot be easily compared to the North American model both because of difficult geology here and how our communities are much more densely populated.

“Aside from the myriad issues surrounding fracking, to even think of progressing with a new fossil fuel industry during a climate emergency, is nothing short of stupidity.”

 

REACTION TO CUADRILLA’S ANNOUNCEMENT OF FRACKING KIT TO LEAVE LANCASHIRE SITE

Gina Dowding, Green MEP for the North West said:

“After completing just a few fracks back in August, and provoking another run of earthquakes, Cuadrilla have announced they will now be flow-testing whatever gas they may have found.

“Cuadrilla seem to be compulsively over-optimistic about their predicament.

“They have been over-optimistic since the very beginning of their operations. However, the fears and concerns of local campaigners have been justified every time they fracked.

“As they were able to frack just seven stages out of the planned 47 in the second well, it seems very unlikely that a commercially viable gas flow has been stimulated at Preston New Road.

“After the 2.9ML fracking earthquake that thousands of people felt across the Fylde and beyond, with many reports of property damage, there is no reason to believe that any future operations by Cuadrilla will achieve any other result. Their 100% failure record remains unblemished.”

 

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

 

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