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

 

 

PUTTING THE ‘ART AND SOUL BACK INTO BURNLEY

14 October

For immediate release

PUTTING THE ‘ART AND SOUL BACK INTO BURNLEY

Thursday 17 October 0930-13.00hrs, will see the North West Green MEP, Gina Dowding, visit Burnley’s new flagship digital hub – The Landmark – to lead ‘art and Soul – an engaging seminar, highlighting the relevance of art in the town. This event is in conjunction with a project from Girona in Spain which has been selected as a twinning scheme to enhance community cohesion through arts in schools.

The event will be a showcase from local professional creatives, Jai Redman and Ian Brownbill, talking about the strong cultural heritage of Burnley and how art is a potential for revitalisation of the town. 

A section of the event will be delivered by the Spanish group, ConArte, to explore the “Planters” [1] project in Girona and the positive results the programme had in terms of achievement, wellbeing and community cohesion from facilitating art in schools.

Gina Dowding MEP said:

“The idea behind the seminar is to create a space for stakeholders to explore the important role art has to play in community cohesion, cultural regeneration and economic development, and that those things are inextricably linked. Our suggestion is that art and culture should become intrinsic to a community cohesion strategy: high-quality arts education within schools can help facilitate community cohesion and growth.”

The event has been created by Gina Dowding MEP and funded by the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor:

1.     The “Planters” project from ConArte International

 

 

Brexit, Brexit & Brexit (again)

More focus this week on this failed and failing venture that sees our politics and our international relationships in such disarray, and the people of our country divided, uncertain and under pressure. The notion of Brexit alone, never mind its implementation, is costing vast sums of money, time and energy that would be better spent on the urgent things that matter more.

I could list reams of issues from the NHS, to the very survival of our species in a climate catastrophe. In this never-ending loop of political turmoil, it seems that almost everything this week had a ‘taint ‘of Brexit’ about it. I went from signing a ‘Brussels Declaration‘, to calls for a People’s Vote UK in Parliament Square, to Wilmslow for a well-attended debate on the climate emergency…all while arranging travel plans for young climate campaigners this coming week and young women from the NW next month to come to the European Parliament. Everything feels urgent as the horizon keeps changing and these opportunities could disappear.

Brussels Declaration

In Brussels, a Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament got together to sign a Declaration; committing ourselves to work together in the face of Brexit and calling on our EU colleagues to support us. 

MEPs from Green, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Alliance (Northern Island), Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party signed Brussels Declaration stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us. Brussels declaration

Trip to EU Parliament for aspiring young women leaders

Monday 9 September 2019, I’ll be with our 15 young climate campaigners en-route to the European Parliament, where they’ll find out more about the climate work we do, meet with other MEPs and spend time with other young climate campaigners from Brussels. And in just a few weeks time (wonder what the political view will look like then!) my amazing team and I are arranging a trip for young women in the NW to visit the European Parliament to meet and hear from other ‘young’ women who have an interest in community building about ways to develop community leadership skills. These wonderful opportunities are EU sponsored and serve to unite us, find shared solutions and create networks and links that can fuel change. I dread to think of the UK without these warm, welcoming connections with our European family.


Rallies in London

On my way home mid-week I stopped off in London to stand with others in Parliament Square to join a rally with ‘pop up’ speeches by a range of prominent MPs including our wonderful Caroline Lucas. All spoke passionately for No Deal to be taken off the table, and a People’s Vote to help re-clarify what exactly the people want. Caroline, however, made the most important point about the need for root and branch reform of our democracy, a call for proportional representation and a written constitution.

At the DSEI Stop The Arms Fair protest with my colleagues.


On Friday last week, I was back in London to join three of my fellow UK MEPs and protesters outside the Arms Fair (the DSEI). Scott Ainslie, Green MEP for London, highlighted the shame that London hosts the worlds largest arms fair; Ellie Chowns MEP for the West Midlands called out the illegality of the UK’s sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia that are now proven to be used to target civilians in Yemen; Catherine Rowett Green MEP for East England and I both highlighted the intractable links between climate change and war. Apart from the tragic human cost of war, waging war is by definition the most environmentally damaging activity that any government could undertake. However, this leads to a vicious spiral of destruction: not only does climate change result from war, it causes further conflict.

Rarely mentioned by the media, the conflict in Syria was preceded by the worst drought on record between 2007 and 2010. Climate-related extremes causing drought and water shortages, failing crops and resource shortages give rise to the desperation of populations that create the conditions for armed insurgencies. We were all honoured to speak to the protesters as they sat in the road trying to cause delay and prevent the delivery of the world’s deadliest weapons to be on show next week.

You can watch my speech here.


Responsibility for Horizon Europe (funding for research and innovation)

As UK MEPs, we have divided up the allocation of places in the various committees within the European Parliament. These committees are spaces where MEPs really get to grips with European legislation. I have previously said that I was delighted to be given a place on the ITRE Committee responsible for Industry, Research and Energy. Of course, there are lots of threads of work addressed by each committee and this week I was delighted to learn that the Green EFA group has allocated me a role in developing the Horizon Europe programme on its behalf. I am now officially ‘Shadow Rapporteur’ (sorry for the Euro-English!); in effect, that means along with our Green group specialist advisors, I will work in a cross-party subgroup on that specific theme. 

Horizon Europe replaces the previous Horizon 2020 fun. It has been massively increased to around £120 billion and in April this year, the Green group got a commitment passed that in this new programme, 35% of the fund must be spent on climate-related research. At a meeting of the committee I raised the question to the commissioner on how important it is that mechanisms are in place to ensure that this binding agreement actually gets implemented.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

It’s hard to find the good but I think it’s important to celebrate this week the fact that there are MPs who have sacrificed their careers for the good of the country and to work cross-party in what seems, at least from outside Parliament, a constructive way to prevent our Prime Minister from trashing our democratic norms completely.

Bad:

There is still no certainty at all on what the next few weeks will hold. It is becoming clearer that a general election is likely to be called within the next few months but exactly how – we may know by next weekend. Personally, I totally agree with the Green Party’s stance that the Brexit question should be resolved before a general election by a People’s Vote. However. it’s important to have reservations when reflecting how the previous referendum campaign was conducted in the uncharted territory of Facebook, internet campaigning, dark money, and exploiting the absence of elections-regulation. With Dominic Cummings the unelected advisor to our Prime Minister and one of the key protagonists of illegal activities including illegal elections’ spending. I do recommend again for anyone who has access to Netflix to watch ‘The Great Hack’.

Where hope lies:

With the young. This week’s trip with young people from the NW to the European Parliament will I know, be as beneficial for us as it will be for them. There is clarity and wisdom in the messages sent by young climate activists that is refreshing in the world of politics and it’s important that we listen and act with the urgency they demand. With the upcoming (worldwide) Youth Strike 4 Climate on 20 September 2019, and the amazing work of Greta Thunberg in igniting and uniting youth – there IS every reason for positivity.

 

Onwards

 

 

UK MEPs sign joint declaration on Brexit

PRESS RELEASE –  Brussels, 04 September 2019

 

A Cross Party Group of UK Members of the European Parliament has signed a Declaration committing themselves to work together in the face of Brexit, and have called upon continental colleagues to support their efforts.

Meeting in Brussels, representatives of the Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Alliance, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party were able to sign “the Brussels Declaration” stating:

We, the undersigned UK Members of the European Parliament, representing England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, declare as follows:

The proroguing, or shutting down the UK Parliament in order to limit scrutiny of the implications of a potential no deal Brexit is completely unacceptable. Limiting the opportunity for MPs to debate, vote and crucially, to legislate, cannot be the response to a referendum in which Leave campaigned for the UK Parliament to “take back control”.

In the continuation of the spirit that UK MEPs have worked in since the 2016 Referendum we commit ourselves to continue to work across party lines and declare that it is vital that MPs do likewise.

We were all elected just four months ago with clear mandates. We are working together. We call upon our European friends and colleagues to assist domestic efforts in keeping the door open to us.

The Declaration was signed by:

Green Party

Molly Scott Cato MEP

Alexandra Phillips MEP

Magid Magid MEP

Scott Ainslie MEP

Ellie Chowns MEP

Gina Dowding MEP

Catherine Rowett MEP

 

Labour Party

Richard Corbett MEP

Seb Dance MEP

Jude Kirton-Darling MEP

Neena Gill MEP

John Howarth MEP

Theresa Griffin MEP

Jackie Jones MEP

Julie Ward MEP

Rory Palmer MEP

Claude Moraes MEP

 

Liberal Democrat Party

Catherine Bearder MEP

Caroline Voaden MEP

Chris Davies MEP

Phil Bennion MEP

Jane Brophy MEP

Judith Bunting MEP

Dinesh Dhamija MEP

Barbara Ann Gibson MEP

Antony Hook MEP

Martin Horwood MEP

Shaffaq Mohammed MEP

Lucy Nethsingha MEP

Bill Newton Dunn MEP

Sheila Ritchie MEP

Irina Von Wiese MEP

 

Alliance Party

Naomi Long MEP

 

Plaid Cymru

Jill Evans MEP

 

Scottish National Party

Alyn Smith MEP

Aileen Mcleod MEP

Christian Allard MEP

 

ENDS

 

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