Budgets, EU Green Deal & Making Votes Matter

There is much to process about the results of the UK general election…but life in Europe will go on with or without the UK MEPs. We are still there for another month. I will share more thoughts another day.

Last week, I luckily managed to get to and from EU Parliament in Brussels, in spite of the ongoing travel disruption from the SNCF signallers strikes which impacts the Eurostar service in France. The strikes began on the 5 December and it is unknown how long they will go on for. This week, I’m in Strasbourg with the UK Green delegation of MEPs.

EU budget cuts endanger tens of thousands of UK jobs

Two weeks ago, EU Member States announced their first negotiating position on the Union’s long-term budget. In short, they propose to cut back on almost everything that the EU does. From infrastructure investments to humanitarian aid and support to farmers. I wrote briefly about this in last week’s Sunday Long Read.

Among the cuts is a proposal to decrease EU research funding by almost a third until 2027, from £100 billion to £71 billion. This is completely unacceptable. We are facing a climate crisis. To tackle that challenge we need a stronger commitment to research and innovation, not a weaker one.

Therefore, on Tuesday last week, the MEPs responsible for negotiating the EU’s next research funding programme met to discuss these recent developments and the way forward. I participated in the meeting as the Greens’ representative.

It was an encouraging meeting, with all political groups agreeing that we have to fight the Council on this. A rare moment of unity among Conservatives, Social Democrats, Liberals and Greens. In the coming negotiations, we will put up a unified front to secure an increased research budget.

A large EU research budget will be hugely beneficial to the UK, at least if we stay in the European Union. As a world leader in innovation, the UK will be able to attract billions of pounds of research funding. Money that will support the careers of many UK researchers and scientists, and help UK businesses innovate to remain successful. Tens of thousands of jobs will to be created, directly and indirectly, through EU research funding.

However, Brexit endangers our access to these funds. If we are no longer a member of the EU, we will not be able to receive from the EU budget as easily, and UK researchers and businesses will have a hard time participating in projects. I am currently preparing a report explaining more on this subject, to be published in January. Follow me here, Twitter or Facebook to get updates about the report.

European Green Deal

Last week, I wrote a blog on the European Green Deal, which is a core pillar of the 2019-2024 strategy of the new EU Commission led by Ursula von der Leyen.

My message was simple: the centrality of the Green Deal is already a big win for us Greens, but we need to be constructive allies to the Commission, and ensure some of our key demands are included in the process.

In my blog I argue that the Commission needs to show ambition by not only aiming at ‘hard policies’ that incentivise the rollout of renewable energy systems and increase the cost of emissions, we also need ‘soft policies’ that change the way we consume, live and travel without putting the responsibility of those changes on individuals – particularly the poorest.

The European Green Deal is a positive step and can bring many solutions to our communities’ problems. Now is the time to act.

GreenWave TV

After the extraordinary plenary session, I sat down with four other UK Green MEPs to discuss the European Green Deal announcement. MEP for Yorkshire and Humber, Magid Magid, chaired the session, and along with my fellow MEPs – Alexandra Philips, Catherine Rowett and Scott Ainslie MEP – we chatted, laughed and shared some great contributions on our visions for the European Green Deal. You can watch it here.

Palestine

Last week I met more NGO representatives from Israel and Palestine. What is clear is that civil society in Palestine looks to Europe for help in fighting against injustice and human rights abuses.

The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), is an initiative by the World Council of Churches that sees volunteers undertake a three-month fieldwork placement as human rights observers. They do not take sides in the conflict, and their only mission is achieving peace in the region. I had previously met volunteers there in August, during my fact-finding visit.

The three women told me accounts of the systemic, structural and symbolic violence occurring in the region. Expanding settlements for Israeli Jews only in the occupied West Bank, means a lack of access to basic resources such as land for agriculture or water for Palestinians. For example, while Israelis have access to around 240 litres of water per person per day, and settlers over 300, Palestinians in the West Bank only have access to 73 litres.

The EAPPI representatives also witnessed the destruction of EU-funded buildings by Israeli settlers. In 2019, 50 schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, became under threat of demolition, many of them had been provided with support from the EU.

This year particularly, has seen a high level of demolished structures, with 582 documented cases by EAPPI. This poses serious questions for the EU and its external funding: should we continue the EU-Israel Association Agreement, let alone upgrade it, without Israel’s commitment to the peace process and respect for international humanitarian law?

Good

Finding the good has been difficult this last few days! But as I write, I am now back on the train to Strasbourg, albeit with a different emotion to my usual excitement and anticipation.

However, there are some achievements that we can celebrate: the Green Party ran a very clean and positive election, forcing the first-ever climate debate among political party leaders. And throughout, we promoted our positive vision and policies to deal with the climate crisis.

Bad 

It took 850,000 votes to get just one Green MP re-elected – Caroline Lucas MP! The devastating results of the general election within our continued broken First-Past-The-Post (FTPT) system means the Conservative Party win is described as a ‘landslide win’, despite only increasing the actual vote by 1% – the same as the Green Party. But with their massive majority of 80 seats, this sadly leaves them comfortable to push forward with any parliamentary business, with minimal scrutiny or opposition. Our antiquated electoral system is a colossal failure, giving power to the rich and influential and side-lining a generation of voices. We absolutely must push for proportional representation if we are to be represented properly in a democracy.

Where hope lies

There is no doubt that people want change and now the actual election is over, Greens across the country are ready to work with local communities to reduce carbon emissions in energy and local transport, bringing services closer to home. I have mentioned my Green New Deal for the North West many times before, but I am getting such positive feedback. I do I hope you will read it, if you haven’t already, and if please share with other people. We can still ensure we empower local people to work together to get change for the better, across-the-board.

It was great to see people fighting back immediately for a change in the voting system – do sign this petition here.

Onwards

 

Hearings, Conference & Welcomes

Following a week’s break in my Long Reads due to a busy Green Party Conference and Greens/EFA in London conference, there’s a lot to catch up on and I hardly know where to start! My week in Brussels before the GP conference was improved immensely by having 18 young women from the North West visit the parliament. The Green Party Conference was action-packed and wonderfully hosted by the Welsh Greens in Newport and followed again by the hugely demanding but very satisfying exercise in EU democracy that is the ‘Hearings’. Meanwhile, Brexit talks continue, UK politics continues to unravel and Extinction Rebels take to the streets in days of action to get the environment to be the priority that really should matter most. Rochdale and Manchester though were the best opportunities this week to engage with communities about their feelings on the current climate – in every sense!

Hearings in Brussels

The process of democracy in the European Parliament is fascinating to be a part of and these past two weeks the #EPhearings2019 provided the chance to question incoming Commissioners before their positions are confirmed. My question to the Commissioner-in-waiting for Innovation and Youth, concerned gaining clarity on her commitment to ensuring EU research and innovation funding properly meets the 35% guaranteed for climate-related research and came during a mammoth hearing that was nearly three hours long!

In the absence of our Green working group coordinator, I represented him in the cross-party deliberations before a formal meeting the following day. In effect, there is a now a question hanging over Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s top team. As members of all 18 committees in the European Parliament have now completed the grilling of her nominees for the European Commission. The entire process ended with what was essentially a veto by the parliamentarians of three commissioners-designate, due to actual or potential conflict of interests or lack of suitability. This is the first time this has happened and how it is resolved remains to be seen in Strasbourg next week.

Green Party Conference Wales

During the conference, the Green Party committed to its member-driven updating of policy, including this time, our drugs policy. Broad support is gathering among police authorities for decriminalising the use of cannabis in order for the police to focus on much bigger drug-related issues such as the problem of county lines trafficking.

I personally attended two plenary sessions on agriculture food and farming policy. And it was great to see a member of the National Farmers Union warmly and good-humouredly agreeing with much of Green Party policy. At last! The Greens and farmers should be natural allies in taking policies forward that prioritise stewardship of the land. There is now common agreement that the ‘agri-business’ model designed around large-scale corporate businesses isn’t working for people nor planet and we need to move instead towards an agro-ecological model which supports smaller farmers, biodiversity and moves subsidies towards those public goods that benefit everyone.

On Saturday evening, I was honoured to co-host the Green Party Awards Ceremony giving recognition to our members for amazing achievements. People and local groups nominated to the final three from the North West included newly-elected Councillor Judy Filmore from Ulverston; Liverpool and Trafford Green Parties and our wonderful anti-fracking sisters in Lancashire, Julie and Tina, nominated as Green Heroes for their amazing anti-fracking work. I love this part of the conference, when we take time to celebrate all that we achieve as a Green Party given our limited resources and despite the first-past-the-post electoral system.

#NotLeavingQuietly

As light relief between meetings, my colleague Ellie Chowns MEP for the West Midlands had organised the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Folk Ensemble to play in Brussels. This huge gathering of professional musicians created two hours of music attended by many staff and MEPs which turned into joyous sounds and dancing for staying in the EU. I don’t think the European Parliament has ever seen anything quite like it before!

Back in the NW

A packed Saturday started with a return visit to the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester for a discussion on Faith and the Environment (inspired by a conversation I had back in July) with among others, founder Nassar Mahmood and Bishop David of Manchester. We recognise that all three Abrahamic faith traditions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam – accounting for nearly half of all the world’s populations – share the common values of reverence and respect of the natural world and the role of man and woman’s responsibility as stewards of it.

Good discussion among attendees followed for taking forward some joint actions in the locality, for example in tree protection, as well as further afield. We agreed to send a message from us all welcoming and thanking the peaceful protests of Extinction Rebellion in London.

Then for a delightful meeting in Rochdale where I spoke on a panel which included local Vicar Mark Coleman, who had been arrested that week in London as part of the Extinction Rebellion actions and some very concerning thoughts from Sami Mir about the situation in Kashmir and the potentially horrendous implications of any further escalation of tensions between the two nuclear-armed nations Pakistan and India.

4th Largest Party in EU in London this week

Genuinely excited to welcome the European Greens/EFA in London this week – makes a change to bring the whole party here! All 75 MEPs agreed to come to show solidarity with British Greens and to celebrate the incredible efforts of environmental activists. Speakers at events included George Monbiot, Natalie Bennett, Green Party Member of the House of Lords Jenny Jones plus a video link to speak to Youth Climate Strikers.

Meanwhile this week

Good

The #GreenSurge in Europe continues to rise with the recent win in Austrian elections, this from Politico:

“The Green Party, which will return to parliament swinging with about 14% of the votes. The Social Democrats came second, but fell to a historic low of under 22 per cent of the votes. Still, Social Democrat leader Pamela Rendi-Wagner conceded that at least one goal was achieved, whether that was her party’s doing or otherwise: Another coalition between the ÖVP and the far-right FPÖ doesn’t look particularly likely. The latest mood in the wider European Peoples’ Party network, to which Kurz will soon return as a leading figure, is all about hugging green voters and courting Green parties, offering them a way into executive power at the national level. Green leader Werner Kogler has, of course, requested “signs of conversion.”

Bad

Rude, ineffective and detrimental to decent politics; during the plenary session, Nigel Farage and the Brexit Party voted against stronger EU measures aimed at countering “highly dangerous” Russian disinformation. The resolution also criticised Facebook, accusing the social media company of not following up on most of the parliament’s demands to prevent a repeat of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where at least 87 million people had their data harvested without permission for use in targeted advertising campaigns in the 2016 US presidential election. The Brexit MEPs cast their votes against a European Parliament resolution calling for an upgrade of the EU’s anti-propaganda unit East StratCom, as well as support for public service media. Thankfully their action made no impact and the text passed comfortably with the support of the largest political groups in the European parliament – the centre-right European People’s Party, Socialists, Liberals and Greens.

Where hope lies

Visit by Aspiring Young Women leaders of fabulous young women from all parts of the constituency to the European Parliament. My team had arranged for them to attend sessions on women in leadership and politics, and they were very inspired by the women leading them. Hearing personal stories and tips from Alice Bah Kuhne, one of our two Swedish Green MEPs and her personal story and again from our South East England Green MEP Alex Phillips, added to sessions with women in NGOs amongst others. Like the young climate strikers on the trip before, there is a passion, honesty and a genuine desire to work for a greater good. As one woman noted: “Even the seating arrangements in Europe promote better discussion via the ‘hemicycle’ rather than as oppositional benches face-to-face”.

Keep an eye on my website for updates on their stories (you can also sign up for the newsletter there).

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

 

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 💚

 

Imperfections, Elections & Emergencies

Well, it’s certainly never dull or slow! An informative, somewhat disappointing but productive week that started with three days in Strasbourg and ended here in the North West with another Climate Emergency declaration on the cards, this time in Burnley (well done to Burnley Greens working cross-party to push this through). Back amongst friends and family and reflecting on this past week that has proved (if nothing else) that the fight for a genuine, representative democracy in the UK and in Europe, has quite a way to go.

Although we Greens believe that cross-border co-operation is more than just welcome, it’s essential if we’re to stand a chance of stopping the climate emergency, this isn’t to say the European Parliament is perfect. When we fight for Remain, we are also striving to Reform. This first week of the new European Parliament term in Strasbourg, the primary focus of the debate was about who gets the top jobs; it was somewhat confusing (and disappointingly narrow) even for those of us in the midst of it. I come away knowing that although the EU appointments system clearly remains more democratic than our UK system, it too is subject to manipulation, cronyism and vested interests.

Fellow Green Molly Scott Cato MEP summed up the current situation well and I share her perspective. Here’s an excerpt:

“We have always also been strong supporters of the Spitzenkandidat (the lead candidates) system, where each political family puts forward a candidate (during the European elections) who then engages in public debate to establish a profile so that we are not presented with unknown faces in leadership roles. None of these lead candidates has ended up in any of the top jobs, threatening a further distancing of European leadership from European citizens.

“There are many things about the European Union institutions that I am proud of. The way the top jobs are distributed in a stitch-up behind closed doors is not one of them. This time around it meant that the Parliament’s President became an after-thought in a game of four-dimensional chess where the good of the citizens of our continent was barely considered. This is not good enough.

“You may have seen some complaints by Brexiteers that they didn’t get to vote for these top jobs. This is either disinformation or ignorance since we elect our own Parliament President and have a veto over the Commission presidency. As Greens, we will not accept the nominations without a fight. Next week hearings will begin with Ursula von der Leyen who has already reached out for our support. Every MEP will get a chance to vote for or against her, unlike our own Prime Minister who is chosen only by one party. As for the head of the Central Bank, she will be scrutinised by the economics committee where I sit, unlike the governor of the Bank of England who is appointed behind closed doors by the chancellor. Here we see a familiar pattern with Brexit MEPs either not understanding, or spreading lies, or refusing to acknowledge how EU appointment systems are more democratic than those in our own system.”

This week The Green/EFA group will continue to wrestle with how best to re-shape the focus back onto climate action and our other key priority content we want to I’ll keep you posted.

Back home in the North West, I want to sincerely thank the volunteers, the Fairfield AssociationAldcliffe Road Triangle Summer Fair supporters, local residents and Green city councillor Dave Brookes for making a little corner of Lancaster, a hub for the community and adding to biodiversity.

And more thanks for the invitation to speak in Burnley ahead of the motion next week to declare a climate emergency. Good to see Green and Labour Councillors working co-operatively on this focused goal. Plenty of discussion, practical ideas and excellent food.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

There’s a few:

– It was totally possible to take a photo of all those standing for the European welcome anthem without even looking at the few at the back who rudely turned their backs. (Ha I genuinely didn’t notice!).

– Utilising an electronic voting panel made such sense; democracy made simple. Are you listening, Westminster?

– Translators we work with are darned impressive!

– I have an office now as well as a full team of staff.

– I realised that the plenary room in Strasbourg is the biggest meeting space I’ve ever been in where I’ve had a right to speak.

Bad:

Brexit MEPs; embarrassing, insulting to the electorate. rude and a huge waste of money.

Where hope lies:

“In order to defend Europe, we need to show the courage to change it for the better. As the only directly elected institution, the European Parliament has a key role in doing this leap forward,” says our co-president Ska Keller. For the next 5 years, we will fight hard for change and for the European Parliament to open for debates with citizens.

Onwards 💚