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.

 

Bicycles, Dolphins & Strasbourg

My holiday plan for this year originally involved a couple of weeks cycling in France but after the election it got trimmed to a few days in Morecambe Bay; every moment though was worth it. Away from cities and work, cycling the fabulous Cumbrian coastal way was bliss; catching sight of dolphins off the coast at Piel Island, the icing on the cake.

These simple pleasures remind me why I am in the Green Party: to protect and preserve nature and promote the lifestyles and modes of transport that enable a less toxic future. Cycling has been a pleasure I and my family have enjoyed for years and it is such a shame to see cycling and cyclists marginalised again this week in Manchester.

There was though a fantastic turnout at ‘The Great Ancoats Street Swindle ’ where protesters gathered to demand bike lanes on this key route. Manchester City Council recently announced a £9.1 million “green transformation” to Great Ancoats Street, which, they said: “will radically improve the way pedestrians, cyclists and motorists travel”. However, the scheme will take out the existing cycle lanes without replacing them. There is a petition that puts the case well:

https://www.change.org/p/manchester-city-council-install-bike-lanes-on-great-ancoats-street-manchester

Coming up this week is an important trip to Strasbourg.

Following last month’s elections, the new session of the European Parliament kicks off on Tuesday, with MEPs meeting in Strasbourg for its ninth term. For me, it’s another ‘first’ and I’m genuinely looking forward to discovering how the processes work and what we can achieve with them. I’ll keep you posted where possible!

The European Parliament’s new term starts on July 2, but negotiations over political groupings have been underway since the end of last month. Now though it’s time to put MEPs into key roles and all the EU’s top positions are being voted on. According to the information:

“One of the big things to keep an eye on is who will replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the European Commission. The new European Commission will take office in November. EU leaders will attempt to pick a candidate, taking account of last month’s results, before MEPs cast their vote. Given the Commission proposes and enforces EU law, manages policies, negotiates international agreements and allocates funding, this is a crucial role.”

With the shift in the balance of power that came with the elections, the Greens as one of the four main blocks have been in talks throughout the preceding weeks. With considerably more power than in previous Parliaments, we aim and hope to use this position to prioritise action on climate and biodiversity, social justice, employment, poverty and transparency. As the democratic process unfolds, I’ll be curious to see how it compares to the politics here in the UK.

Meanwhile this week…

Good:

A good result for Blackpool after Garry Richardson of Blackpool & Fylde Green Party started a petition that eventuated in this:

“Councillors unanimously backed moves to ensure the authority does everything it can to tackle global warming including to make “clear its fundamental opposition to the practice of fracking.”

More here.

Bad:

Three anti-fracking campaigners from the Preston New Road Rolling Roadside Protest faced charges of Contempt of Court this week; accused of breaching an injunction at the site. The court found them guilty but has deferred sentencing until after a challenge to the injunction is heard.

The future will celebrate the protesters’ efforts and wonder what was driving government policy and Cuadrilla’s choices in this age of climate emergency. It will also surely learn the lesson that peaceful protest is a crucial safety valve in our societies, a way of the people pointing out to the government when they are getting decisions wrong and refusing to acknowledge their error.

Where hope lies:

There’s a fantastic interview out this week between two amazing young women, well worth your time. Here’s an excerpt followed by the link:

‘Hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions.’

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez:

“I went to Standing Rock, in the Dakotas, to fight against a fracking pipeline. It seemed impossible at the time. It was just normal people, showing up, just standing on the land to prevent this pipeline from going through. And it made me feel extremely powerful, even though we had nothing, materially – just the act of standing up to some of the most powerful corporations in the world. From there I learned that hope is not something that you have. Hope is something that you create, with your actions. Hope is something you have to manifest into the world, and once one person has hope, it can be contagious. Other people start acting in a way that has more hope.”

Greta Thunberg:

Most of us know that this is going to affect us in our lifetimes – it’s not just something that might happen in the future. It’s already here and it’s going to get worse, and many of us understand that this is going to make our lives much worse. And also that as young people, we aren’t as used to the system. We don’t say, “It’s always been like this, we can’t change anything.” ..it always reminds me a lot of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everyone believes in this lie, that only a child dares to question.”

 

Onwards 💚

 

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