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 💚

 

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 💚