Saturday, 13 August 2022

Preston Climate Emergency Centre OPEN DAY 13 Aug 2022

A big day for the wonderful Deb's Whiteside and her family as they open the UK's 19th Climate Emergency Centres @climateEcentres (the first in the North!) in Preston, Lancashire.
[The aim of the Climate Emergency Centre is to provide a space where the people of Preston can come together to learn, and discuss how to reduce our carbon footprint and tackle other social issues as they arise. Many of us were unprepared for the pandemic, let's not let this happen with our children's futures, the environment and natural world. By working as a community we can achieve big things]

Friday, 22 July 2022

Chair Green Party Executive Committee - Alison & Tina

Really honoured to be standing for the position of Chair Green Party Executive Committee 2022... we'll upload more videos from the campaign as they go live but here are some clips from recent hustings:
*Green Party Members:
Voting opens: 1 August, 10.00
Voting closes: 30 August, 22.00

Sunday, 10 July 2022

Systems failing...

The Green Party of England and Wales doesn’t have a zombie-like membership of identikit views – you only have to look at debates, discussions and disagreements around the Jewish declaration/IHRA, HS2, nuclear, transgender and women’s policies to see that. What membership DOES uniformly agree though… I suspect looks something like this:

                                                                           Broken Systems

The political system:  our ‘democracy’ is no longer worthy of the definition and paramount to fixing this, is to change the voting system from First Past the Post – to Proportional Representation (Make Votes Matter campaign etc). 
The social system: life under capitalism is a direct threat to nature and individual life choices have come to clash with species responsibility; what many want and expect to have in life, is just no longer possible and we need to adapt.
The life-support system: our lives and those of all that depends on the diversity and bounty of nature to survive… are already impacted and the floods/crop failures/fires/temperature extremes and suffering/migration/extinctions that come with these impacts, will continue to increase …if we don’t immediately address the emergency.

    Fixing systems

On these things… amongst the membership, there is unity around our solutions ie: winning politically in order to change ‘the system’ and do all we can to tackle the climate/environment/bio-diversity emergencies. Yet we see huge division amongst members on a few policies and this is harming any chance of success. All the arguements are playing out in public too.

One of the questions for an upcoming husting of candidates for the Green Party Executive, asks what policies the candidates disagree with’; this is a question asked of candidates in General Elections and not really relevant for positions on GPEx which must by necessity be impartial. GPEx is the body that manages the day-day workings of Green Party England & Wales and is tasked with implementing the dictates of conference and the will of the membership – not personal opinions. Perhaps an adaptation of the question that would be better suited is:

                                          Why do some policies lead to so much division?

GPEW policies are supposed to reflect the will of the membership, brought into being through conference… however I do think it’s worth considering just how true this is. And to ask: is our GPEW ‘system’ broken too? 

Less than 1% of GPEW members are involved with the passing of a policy

A rough summary of how policy happens in GPEW:
-Every policy starts with one member putting it onto the members’ site (*Green Spaces) in the *pre-agenda forum. (*for some reading this, these are links they will not have clicked before as the members’ site is used by a mere fraction of the membership. The agenda forum is currently filling rapidly with policy proposals for the next conference and yet:

Just 83 members are posting or engaging in the forum

-The policy proposal may get some comments and ‘likes’ in the pre-agenda forum that will help the individual proposing it to work on it – or not. The proposal then needs a minimum of 11 members to co-propose it. Of course, the more members co-proposing, the better. 

It is rare though that proposals get more than 25 co-proposers

-The policy will then be discussed in a workshop by members (online and in-person) at Conference before being introduced at Plenary (approx. range of 0-50 members in the room and 20-200 on the Zoom) - most plenaries have a quorum of 200-400 members for the votes to count - and it's often a struggle to meet this number at conference, particularly on the last day when much of the voting happens.

So… if the proposal makes it onto the agenda, it does so with the involvement of about a few dozen members. And if it ‘wins’ – it would have become GPEW official policy for all 50,000 of us, with the involvement of less that 1% of our membership.

The beginning of a solution?

Engage the membership - ensure this almost 'closed shop' of policy making is more clearly explained and shared and that the regions are encouraged and resourced to bring local parties and their membership into the conversation. 

Thursday, 30 June 2022

With Alison for election to Green Party Executive

 Hi, we’re Alison Tina and Tina.

We are making this joint statement as our reasons for running for the job share role of Chair of Green Party Executive (GPEX) are aligned and we feel we can offer valuable skills and experience to the position.

Tina is co-chair of Green Party Women and Blackpool & Flyde Green Party. Alison spent the past six years as a Green Party councillor in Sheffield and her last year as a cabinet member. We both have extensive experience in working on committees, chairing meetings and bringing disparate parties together to work productively on shared goals. 

We’re dedicated to ensuring the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) is the political and campaigning party that is needed for the environmental and social challenges we all face. We recognise that GPEX is pivotal in this. 

Strong leadership and cooperation are required if GPEX is to fulfil its role efficiently and effectively to ensure:

“the framework and resources are in place for campaigners and activists across the regions to have what they need to achieve our shared goals of climate and social justice.”

GPEX enacts GPEW policies that consider present and future generations. As a Party, we have radical plans to Green the economy, and socialist credentials as proponents of the re-nationalisation of the railways. We ought to be gaining support from disillusioned trade unionists and working-class voters throughout England and Wales who feel their only choice is to vote red or blue.

We need to work harder to manage party resources and structure - members want our messages for change and hope shouted from the rooftops.

GPEX can empower members’ campaigns by allocating resources and time to what the members of GPEW want us to focus on and what will bring us the best results for our Party and our planet. 

Election campaigning is vitally important but so is the reality of environmental degradation happening NOW; we know members are fighting in their regions for climate through various campaigns. We must support them more. 

As determined campaigners and activists, we (Alison - Sheffield street trees and Tina - anti-fracking) have seen the positive effect that visible climate activism has had on increasing the Green vote and membership. We’ve also seen the missed opportunities when resources and support are in short supply and when regions outside of London feel abandoned.

Tasked with the day-to-day running of the party and ensuring the direction of travel is in accord with what the members want and conference dictates, GPEX needs to be in the hands of those who have shown the dedication to our philosophical basis: 

“Conventional political and economic policies are destroying the very foundations of the wellbeing of humans and other animals. The pursuit of economic growth as a force driving over-exploitation of the Earth must cease to be an automatic aim of human societies.” 
(Green Party Philosophical Basis)

We’re passionate advocates for positive change. It will be our honour to serve the party and planet if elected.

Thursday, 17 March 2022

Green Words for a Blue Conference

Tomorrow see the return of the Conservatives Party Conference to Blackpool, for the first time since 2007.

Not only will the welcome not be warm but protesters from a range of campaigns and issues will be making sure they're heard at 2-days of protest on 18 & 19 March 2022.

As well as unions, NHS workers, environmental and social justice campaigners, there will be raised voices calling for fair treatment of refugees, to stand up to racism, to raise the standard of living, improve local services, insulate homes - and very much in this town, anti-fracking campaigners.

Blackpool is the site of the first and only attempt at a shale gas production site in England - it was brought to an end in November 2019 after continued failures and seismic activity. Local residents and campaigners staged over 1000 days of continuous protest at the fracking site and during that time, speakers came to show their support for the protesters. Some sent messages to be read out tomorrow at the Tory Conference:

>>Kate Raworth: Professor of Environmental Practice at Amsterdam University, & author of Doughnut Economics
“This is no moment to go backwards to the fossil-energy past that we have finally left behind. It’s time to head, even faster, towards the renewable energy future that we already knew we wanted - and that this crisis gives us redoubled reason to pursue.”
>>Julia Steinberger: Professor of Societal Challenges of Climate Change at Lausanne University, Switzerland:
"Fracking is a non-starter in the UK. It is economically, socially and environmentally unviable, as well as contributing to climate breakdown. The only way forward it to escape from fossil gas dependence: by mass retrofitting and using renewable-powered heat pumps. Retrofitting, renewables and heat-pumps create real, long-term jobs and benefits all over the UK, as well as being the only climate-friendly option."
>>Kate Hudson: General Secretary, CND:
“It is deplorable that the catastrophe in Ukraine could be used by government and business to reintroduce fracking - a cynical commercial move which will speed up climate breakdown and destruction of our planet. Let’s work together again to make sure it doesn’t happen.”
>>Jem Bendell: Professor of Sustainability Leadership, Cumbria University:
"The view that f**king up Britain’s environment is showing solidarity with Ukrainian people is simply mad. The view that starting gas projects that take years to come on stream will help people in fuel poverty today is just as bonkers. We know that anyone saying either doesn’t actually care about what’s happening in the world. We care. We want a just transition to low carbon living for everyone. And we know that corporate greed is the enemy of peace, health, freedom and our families.”
>>Clara Paillard: PCS union (associate member) and Unite Community:
"Russia's war on Ukraine highlights strongly we need to become free from our fossil fuel dependency, it is renewable energies we need to urgently invest in, not fracking gas! Being blind to the climate emergency in the name of peace is a total hypocrisy, as climate change is only bringing in more potential war! Climate Justice - not fossil fuels!"
>>Dr. Gail Bradbrook: Co-Founder, Extinction Rebellion:
"Only those with their paymasters profiting from fracking would push this highly toxic, short-term industry. Time for energy security through renewables!”
>>Donnachadh McCarthy: Climate Columnist for The Independent:
"Investing the proposed £33billion in fracking would be a crime against humanity in the light of the unfolding climate catastrophe. If this money was invested instead in home insulation, it would not only radically reduce carbon emissions but would also importantly reduce energy poverty for millions of low income families, choosing between heat and eat."
>>Jamie Peters: Campaigns Director, Friends of the Earth:
“It is beyond belief that anyone would want to inflict fracking on communities around the country, particularly at a time of climate crisis. Fracking has been shown to be unfeasible, unpopular and something that will exacerbate the climate with zero impact on lowering bills. The people of Lancashire and communities all around the country killed the fracking industry. And people will rise up stronger than ever before to stop it again if they are required to. History will judge those pushing fracking with crass opportunism just now very harshly. And again people like you here today will be the heroes of this story.”
>>Nick Dearden: Global Justice Now:
“Despite the energy crisis and the Ukraine crisis, it is wrong to kow-tow at the feet of a Saudi government that created the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis in Yemen, and to end the moratorium on fracking in order to bring it back across the UK. if we are serious about ending the climate crisis, we should continue saying ‘No to Cambo’, and continue to press for clean energy!”
>>Jack Lenox: Lancaster City Councillor:
“Even if we ignore the climate emergency and enormous environmental damage caused by fracking, there is no evidence whatsoever that trying to resume fracking in the UK will have any impact on energy prices. It will be years before any gas is successfully fracked, if it can be at all. Instead, the focus should be on rapidly rolling out more renewable energy infrastructure, and retrofitting our homes and buildings so that we don’t need to use gas at all.”
>>Romayne Phoenix: Ecosocialist:
“We need to be fossil-fuel free for a peaceful and sustainable future on this planet. No fracking!!
>>Steve Masters: West Berkshire District Councillor & Anti-Fracking activist
“If ‘fracking’ is the answer, you’re asking a really dumb question! There is no economic, social or environmental case for fracking.”
>>Chris Bluemel: Earth First activist:
“Fracking has been rejected by communities across the UK, and the cost of renewables has fallen so much that they should be the go-to for the UK;s energy security.”
>>Sue Hampton: author & climate activist:
“I’m just a drop-in Southerner who witnessed the deeply-rational passion that for six sacrificial years bound this indomitable community together, but I’d share their rage and grief if freeing the UK from Russian oil led us back to fracking hell, pumping out genocidal methane IN A CLIMATE EMERGENCY!”
>>Doug Maw: XR/Animal rights activist
“There may be estimates of how much shale gas in the UK may be recoverable, but that’s not the same as proven reserves. The size of the proven reserves is neither known nor knowable without significant exploratory drilling, and this is unlikely to happen. So this new push for fracking needs to be halted”
>>Allan Todd: Ecosocialist & environmental activist:
“Euripides wrote: ‘Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad’. It’s certainly madness, in the middle of an ever-worsening Climate Emergency - and especially in light of the recent dire IPCC Report - to argue for abandoning ‘net zero’, bringing back fracking, developing new oil and gas fields, pushing ahead with nuclear, and even opening up new coalmines, as ways of reducing dependency on Russian oil and gas.”
>>James Walsh: author of The Northern Greenhouse
“The future of The Fylde is EcoTourism, sustainable agriculture and renewable energy, a completely different vision to the type of pollution-riddled future that the likes of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Cuadrilla are peddling! I personally find it difficult to believe that fracking is being suggested again when we have spent the last decade winning the argument for a cleaner, greener future for the North.”

Monday, 21 February 2022

10 Hours in A&E

Valentine’s Day and I was floored by a terrifying chest pain – I’d been uncomfortable for a few days, just thought I’d ‘pulled something’ but this was impossible to ignore. Thankfully one niece is a nurse and another a carer and we were all at the same location… they were their usual fabulous selves and took my vital signs, reassured me, booked an ambulance and explained to staff etc.

I ended up doing 10 hours in A&E – without a loved one for comfort as covid restriction mean you go alone unless you’re too frail/mentally unwell etc. It was packed and quite a few did seem to have people with them – even the not-frail. I asked the nurse later about this and she said that if they tell people to go – they just walk up to reception, check-in and say they need to get medical help too! Crazy, sad situation.

Nearly all A&E’s seating is rigid grey plastic seats with scrawny arms that dashed any hope of slightly spreading-out… horridly uncomfortable and torture if bits of you hurt. In the corners of the room there were a few softer chairs that looked like heaven – nabbed by a deserving pregnant lady and a nice man caring for his frail mum. I sat on rigid grey plastic hoping it had more give than at first glance – it didn’t. Nearest to me was a man who must have thought he’d struck gold as he was in a bed-chair – except he was in a really awkward position that basically saw him ‘planked’ at about 20 degrees. The bed-chair couldn't be adjusted as it wasn’t plugged in.

Like most others, I was politely avoiding eye-contact with people – A&E is a strange place where you feel you need what fragments of privacy you can get. A young girl, small and quiet arrived and sat opposite me and our eyes did meet as she was holding her phone up to me – wanting me to read it. I stepped forward and read: “I need a sick-bucket”. I returned a moment later with one – and not a moment too soon!

Some triage stuff was being done in the waiting room with machines brought out from time to time to monitor something and sadly – left behind to go on beeping once they’d been finished with.

Meanwhile I was doing some calming breathing behind my mask… if I was having the heart-attack that the spasming pain in my chest felt like it was… then calm seemed the goal.

Nearby though was the source of much of the human noise in the room; a young girl, her carer/boyfriend and another male friend – all seemed to be under the influence of (perhaps) drugs… they’d been in good spirits but then started demanding medical attention for the girl who they said was having fits and pain. The carer/boyfriend was getting stroppy with the medical staff… then from the corner (in the heavenly chairs), the pregnant lady shouted to the carer/boyfriend that she was fearful she was losing her baby and EVERYONE here was an emergency! The shouting, the beeping machines, the crowd, the fear… my racing heart… “Will you please just keep quiet!” – I pointlessly added to the loudness.

“Look at me love, don’t look at anyone else or listen to anything else… we’re ok you and me… we’ll look our for each other.” said the quiet man in the awkward-angled bed-chair nearest me. I wanted to cry with gratitude at the kindness and care in his voice… it made such a difference. “I’m Fred’ he added.

A drunk woman in pyjamas and dressing gown arrives, leans into the doorway to survey us all and starts shouting. She does this for some time as security try to reason with her… she says “mental f*cking health issues mate!” and she’s left to carry on. She’s got alcohol with her, continues to consume and shout, then curls up in a ball on the floor. The woman I’d dubbed ‘Queen vic’ (older lady... elegant, silent, stoic) finally cracked too with the fresh round of shouting “You’re just being childish now” she said to the pyjama lady who swigged some more alcohol and growled in reply.

The kind man trying to keep his pained and fragile mother as protected from all the chaos as possible… handled her with such dignity and respect – a hard call to maintain any sense of that here.

Another older, quiet lady arrived alone… in her Valentine’s-jumper – full of shiny pink hearts. I wondered where she’d been and what she’d been in the middle of before ending up in here with all of us, the noise and no-one to look out for her. There were no soft seats for her tiny frame.

It helped to ensure you had an ‘A&E-Buddy’ – without friends or family, a visit to the loo meant the risk of not hearing your name and waiting even longer. Fred and I were clearly buddies and went on to advocate for each other as well; I needed pain relief but staff said no because I had to be assessed first… I was too sore and tired to push but Fred wasn’t …and I was served some paracetamol.

Fred begged for his chair to be plugged in; he was suffering with a swollen belly and with his legs not elevated, they too were swelling. I asked for help for him but staff said they couldn’t. At this stage I reasoned with myself that I wasn’t having a heart-attack (I had no grounds for my internal-argument on this but I didn’t let that stop me) …so I told Fred to get out of the chair and he and I dragged it (the weight took us by surprise!) across to a wall with a socket.

OMG if ‘bliss’ was made visual, it would have looked like Fred’s face as he pulled his hat down, his mask up and finally got some comfort with freshly elevated legs and access to so many more positions.

The staff were doing the very best they could and the pressure is no fault of the NHS – it’s clearly the result of years of underfunding that’s forcing patients to endure awful experiences like this. When I first arrived I was quickly given an ECG due to my symptoms… the poor nurse couldn’t get the machine to work and said she’d go find another one as this one was ‘always playing up’ – by the time we finally got a result, so much valuable staff time had been lost on this alone. Much of the machinery looked as tired as the staff.

I was a lucky one… it wasn’t a heart issue or the potential blood clot on the lung they’d also searched for. I actually looked pretty well other than the spasms in the left of my chest which the kind doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics to tackle (*update 5-days later: they worked yay).

*My final blood test and xray had taken me into other bits of the hospital where many poorly people were on beds in hallways… I wondered how long Fred would have to wait for his bed. They’d told him at about 3am that he was 4th In line – not many being checked out at that time of the night though, so I was grateful we’d taken the bed he did have to the plug.

*thank you Fred x

Thursday, 13 January 2022

Green Party Women Q&A

Elections are underway for a new Green Party Women's committee and following the recent hustings (link to follow), we dealt with written questions. These are my responses as a candidate for Co-Chair: 

Question for Co-chairs: 

Q- What will you do to resolve the conflict GPW has had around the sex /

gender debate over the last couple of years?

A- The solutions are best found by involving more voices/views and yet there are so many who have been excluded from discussions because the environment has become hostile and cruel. We must be able to speak, even if we don’t get the words all correct and especially if our voices quake. We need a space for this discussion that does not involve being shouted down or labelled in ways that are just not true.

We also need to ‘quarantine’ (not sure the best word?) this subject so that it stops dividing us and tainting all the other aspects of our Party; making it seem this is all we are about. Members and voters expect the Green Party to be a political party focused on protecting life on earth and striving for system change to enable the best outcomes for all. We know that media and other parties are using this conflict to demean and degrade us so that we fail and so… we must unite in agreement that this conflict will be addressed.

Q- What's the
*first* step you would take in moving GPW beyond the debates that mire us down, so that we can actually start getting things done again
(lifting up women's environmental activism)?

A- Request the same circumstances that have enabled Young Greens to become the largest group within the party – auto-enrolment. When new members join and fill-in their details – if they match the criteria for Young Greens – they are automatically a member of the group and receive welcoming emails and engagement from the start (with an opt-out for those not wanting it) – for all other criteria, this doesn’t happen. I don’t understand why it’s different for the Greens of Colour, Seniors, Disability and Women’s groups - each would benefit hugely if this could be implemented.

I have come to realise that good outcomes come when we have many more voices in the conversation and I believe that GPW when populated with many more members, will thrive.

Questions for All Candidates:

Q-  Male violence against women is not high on all agendas as it should
be and too many males just can't or won't take responsibility. "Not all
males" is the usual deflection. How will GPW address this issue with GP
males?(for context, 2-3 women a week are murdered by their partners and
rape cases are increasing in the UK although convictions are down)

A- I recognise this and like most women, have relatable experience; the fear, limitation and perhaps worst of all – the dismissiveness that this is the massive problem that it is. A strong women’s group could and should be bringing this issue to members and requesting support at actions, campaigns and policies that will address it. The Green Party men I know (maybe I’m lucky?) are already supportive and I don’t doubt that the ones I don’t know are too but there is no opportunity or situation in which we discuss this in any meaningful way. The past few years of conflict over sex/gender have made this even harder to discuss and created more division. GPW though can continue to champion the rights of women to live without the threat of violence and for laws and sentencing to reflect this. Joining with other women’s groups with the same aims will ensure we have the numbers and volume to achieve more.

Q- What events, meetings etc would you organise for Green Party Women?

A- I’d hope to see our participation with other women’s groups of all sorts in order to expand our reach, enrich our network and understanding and truly begin to represent the rich diversity of women. From rallying and protesting around key issues for and about women – to joining as women together to tackle environment and social challenges.

Unity and power in a group are strengthened by social and creative events and we’ve seen how popular and enjoyable GPW’s book club, yoga and chat rooms could be (during the first lock-down, they helped to keep us connected and provided a calm, welcoming and warm place to be online when all around was becoming so unfamiliar; huge thanks to those on the committee that made this happen)… my experience amongst women in the anti-fracking movement was made all the more rewarding because we sang, danced, shared food, learned crafts from each other and found our unity outside of political/personal opinions.

I would also love to see us aim for a yearly ‘Women’s Conference’ not just as Green Party women but to have an inclusive conference open to all women.

Q- Women are crying out for a left-leaning political home. Why is the
Green Party failing to provide this leadership and how could you help to
reverse this lack?

A- I see this too, the need to provide a place for the politically homeless as well as ‘naturally Green members’ and the opportunity we’re missing in not reaching out to them. Our party has exceptional social as well as environmental policies and at the last election, I often felt that Labour was reading from our manifesto! There have been mistakes I think in the way we have engaged potential new members who’ve come from other parties – a genuine warm welcome would be an excellent start.

As a women’s group we can cross political and other divides and work, engage and unite with women of all parties and none, to achieve goals together ie: defend a women’s refuge against closure, support victims’ groups, join actions or create them around the impacts of climate and the lives of women across the world etc. We need to BE open and welcoming and inclusive of all women from differing backgrounds, beliefs, abilities and politics and in doing this, we will grow.

Q- Is changing gender the same as changing sex and are there
implications for policy if they are not the same thing? Including, how
can GPW act effectively to advance the interests of women as a sex class
if male non-binary people are included in the group?

A- No the terms gender and sex refer to different aspects of a person. Gender is how we express ourselves and can be fluid throughout our lives, whereas sex is about our physical state ie: anatomy/biology that is observed and noted at birth.

In matters of policy (particularly around healthcare) it is essential that the terms gender and sex are not misused.

I see Green Party Women as being about so much more than protecting women’s sex-based rights - but our sex-based rights are at the core of the group’s purpose. GPW must be an inclusive group for all women of every race, class, ability and religion and the introduction of male non-binary members can lead to the exclusion of women who due to religion, personal beliefs or experiences etc. will not be able to participate in a mixed-sex group.  


*I wanted to check ‘official’ use of the terms sex and gender and the Office of National Statistics definitions do in fact match my understanding.

[The UK government defines
Sex as: referring to the biological aspects of an individual as determined by their anatomy, which is produced by their chromosomes, hormones and their interactions generally male or female
Gender as: a social construction relating to behaviours and attributes based on labels of masculinity and femininity; gender identity is a personal, internal perception of oneself and so the gender category someone identifies with may not match their sex - where an individual may see themselves as a man, a woman, as having no gender, or as having a non-binary gender – where people identify as somewhere on a spectrum between man and woman]

(ALL candidates' answers here: Candidates 2022 written answers to hustings questions - Green Party Women)

Preston Climate Emergency Centre OPEN DAY 13 Aug 2022

A big day for the wonderful Deb's Whiteside and her family as they open the UK's 19th Climate Emergency Centres @climateEcentres ...