Saturday, 6 November 2021

Activist is not a dirty word

It’s been all waves of hope and despair churning away at my optimism/pessimism as #COP26 fills the screen… I’m speaking later today in Glasgow at the Rally (from the top of a fire engine!) and it’s hard to know what’s even worth saying and I can’t work out how I feel about where we’re at right now and whatever’s next ☹

What the hell is the appropriate tone to take when discussing potential extinction? Some say "be positive, we can't give up hope" - others say "talk about adaptation, about dealing with the reality of the worst that could come". And what point is there to all this anyway – to us gathering in Glasgow and all the others at gatherings all over the UK and the world today… why are you and I even bothering to pay attention when so often we’re failed and have no reason to expect better? My friend Alan asked in a poll: “Do you believe #COP26 will result in significant global change on how we tackle climate change?” 90% or people said NO. Not me – I was in the 10%. I said YES - but not necessarily BECAUSE of #COP26 the conference - but because of the increased awareness and understanding of what we're actually facing. Our survival depends on action and that at least, is more obvious than it’s ever been. 'The Leaders' may fail - but I don't believe that 'The People' will. We gather because WE want to plan ahead and not live for just this moment and the next. Our OBLIGATION drives us - our obligation as parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters – and as co-dependent creatures in a habitat that's sick and sickening more every day. ACTIVIST is not a dirty word - it's an aspiration and an essential ingredient in *democracy. (*We don’t seem to currently have a democracy though; we are in the hands of businessmen and their greed. That's what needs to change in order for anything positive to come. ) There’s been an awful lot of false-promising and lying coming from those at COP26 who are trying to deny reality and keep on profiting… but also, there’s been a huge amount of determined, powerful energy and unity in the protests and the knowledgeable words I hear from activists on media. So many good people, far out-numbering the bad… we may not hold ‘the power’ but we are powerful when we realise it in ourselves ...and each-other. We activists, we’re the optimists - we see what CAN BE and we fight for it. The Greenwashers are the killers – they see what they can get away with, what ‘growth opportunities’ they can seize, what future technology they can imagine as a magic solution and they condemn us and other species to extinction. The wealthier countries are trying to claim credit for cleaner back-yards at home… whilst off-shoring the dirty industries that their voters won’t tolerate. UK-supported fracking in Argentina or Canadian-supported fracking in Namibia – is STILL BLOODY FRACKING! It’s still bloody methane in the air, plastics as a by-product and earthquakes that come as standard. Yet the UK government and Canadian will not own those emissions, seismic activity, water pollution, lost habitats, ruined lives and fractured communities… they off-shored it! We know, there is a better way. We know that there are multitudes of clever, creative innovators who already have the solutions – they’ve just been silenced by the system... denied funding, denied support, denied a place to put their solutions and been kept out of the conversation by big business and its big lobbying. In fact it’s not even lobbying anymore is it? As we’ve seen this week – politicians can be lobbyists & politicians & in industry all at once… multi-tasking for profit. I read a quote yesterday: “State capture happens when narrow interest groups take control of public policy, buying influence to rewrite the rules. There are signs it’s happening in Britain” - Liz David-Barrett So why gather? We need to roar to be heard and we’re louder together. We need to show that we are watching and we will act to preserve life – even if they won’t. We need to reassure ourselves that we are many and they are few… we need to make our connections and weave our networks so that we can call on each other as we did when we fought fracking… to know that those boots will come to the ground we’re preserving or the tree we’re protecting or to halt trucks, hinder HS2, prevent more coal mines and oil fields. Each and every one of us can take a role and increase the power to the good-side… and although not everyone can physically be present – there’s plenty else to do to add weight to the good-side; research, sharing, writing, informing – all this matters. WE need to take back control of the conversation… to ensure it’s not bullshit from politicians that we hear the most but authentic voices, speaking out for the right reasons. We each – as far as we actually know – are born and get just this one ride, this one go-round at life… and we gift the same to our children and theirs. No ONE of us was born with a special-issue ticket entitling us to a different class of life or an upgrade… this fight for our lives, is OUR fight, every one of us. I'm on a one-ticket go-round with you – let’s stay close, refuse petty divisions and fight first for the one thing that matters above all else – ensuring the life-support system can support life. We can deal with the rest once we’ve got that bit sorted 💗

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Hustings Intro for LGBTIQA+ Greens

 Thank you. Tonight I’ve written a script for the intro – something I rarely do but I  wanted to be sure I got my words out as well as I can.

As a child in Australia and later as a teenager in Hong Kong, I watched in confusion and later anger as my mother’s dearest friend and boss Brian, a homosexual man – was forced to hide is love for his partner Colin. In Australia it was easier for them than it proved to be in Hong Kong, where the penalties were fierce and the determination to apply them, strong. At 17 I started working as a reporter on a Hong Kong daily and one of the first stories I was part of investigating was the use of conversion therapy to ‘help make homosexuals normal’ – it involved the use of varying degrees of shocks, depending on response to images. I was horrified. As a British colony, Hong Kong's criminal laws against homosexual acts were initially the same as British law, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment but then, in 1991 the Legislative Council agreed to decriminalise homosexual relations. I wish Brian and Colin had been around to see that. No-one should have to hide their love or be scared to be their true selves.

Here in the UK homosexuality wasn’t penalised or judged until Christianity arrived in 597 AD and later, the Buggery Act of 1533 got even more brutal and made it illegal and punishable by death. It wasn’t till 1967 homosexuality was finally decriminalised. Every battle for homosexual rights was a dangerous one and every campaigner risked so much.  It’s a massive credit to the gay rights movement that the hard-won campaigns on age-of-consent and same-sex marriage successfully changed laws to recognise these rights to be the same for all people. Research in 2019 showed that 86% of the UK agreed that homosexuality should be accepted by society. We’ve come a long way but there’s more to do here too.

When Martin and I decided to stand in this election, we spent a lot of time discussing policies and party issues to find out if we shared views and thankfully, we have yet to find one we don’t agree with each other on. Treating all people with decency and respect and ensuring diversity is welcomed and embraced, is at the core of who we are … and ensuring the Green Party of England and Wales is protected and propelled into power is why we’re here.

This particular hustings has weighed heavily for a multitude of reasons. Our unity and our party’s reputation are of paramount importance to the UK and indeed the planet – without the Greens fighting to get climate and ecological breakdown on the agenda and in the news, we wouldn’t stand a chance. NO other party genuinely cares – they pay lip-service for votes. WE tell the truth and the truth is needed now more than ever. But our unity and reputation are under threat because of disagreement between those fighting for trans rights and those fighting to protect womens rights.

Tonight I feel out of my depth and at risk of error at risk of adding to the dis-unity – as many members I know feel similarly… unsure of how to phrase things correctly, how to ensure others know you mean no ill-will and how to express concerns without causing further division. As we move through these hustings, the conversation will come round to the very serious matter of trans rights and womens rights and where our policies impact these. It’s serious because whether you are involved or not, this matter has become a focal point for our Party both internally and externally in the media, online and at meetings.  We’ve lost members, seen our disputes and disciplinary processes stretched beyond their resources and we know, that members are feeling anger and hurt.

It’s serious because for nearly five decades, members have worn-down shoe rubber and bruised knuckles getting our Party to where we are today… and our 450 plus councillors, one MP, thousands of activists and tens of thousands of members – need us to stop this from damaging our reputation beyond repair.

We must face the discussions that are needed to resolve it. We cannot say ‘we’ll educate the dissent away’ or suggest that if members aren’t happy with policies that they should leave the party. When Sian suggested this, I was shocked. Surely resolution is what we all want? The policy that 'Trans Women are Women, Trans Men are Men and non-binary identities are valid'… has caused members to question how this policy impacts the rights of women to single sex spaces and the right to request examination by someone of the female sex. And progress can’t come because even saying these words and questioning the policy has been damning to members of all views and none.

There’s no easy answers but it’s essential that we work till we find them and in doing so - ‘be the change we wish to see’ – treating others with dignity and without prejudice.  As with any subject or campaign, not all members will be aware of all that has gone on or even have knowledge of the issues and implications being referred to. We need to be sure that members aren’t in the dark and can access clear information and ask questions, in a safe and respectful way.

Martin and I want to work for resolution and I hope tonight goes some way to finding a less troubled path.

Green Party Leadership Hustings 2021

Monday, 23 August 2021

Guest Post - Martin Hemingway

Tonight is the first hustings in the Green Party Leadership Campaign - the opportunity for candidates to deliver statements and answer questions from members. It is the National Hustings and will be followed by regional and group hustings throughout the next few weeks.

Unfortuately, even though both of us have made ourselves available for most dates, the National organisers have limited tonight to just a single candidate. We are told that because one each of the other two 'pairs' of leadership candidates are not available - that this would be 'more fair'. We do not agree but their decision is final.

So tonight Martin will be representing us and on Thursday (and hopefully all future hustings) we will appear together.

This is Martin's opening statement:


Thank you Chair

Can I begin by expressing our feelings about the decision to only allow one of the two of us to appear on the national hustings – we are standing as co-leaders not to offer two leaders, but to offer a team that has complementary skills.

Tina is a campaigner, a big voice in environmental campaigning. We are all conscious that XR are out on the streets this week in London. A couple of years ago when XR last took control of Central London Tina was one of the invited speakers, and was introduced as representing the Nanas and the other protesters at Preston New Road and other anti-fracking sites, who had inspired that direct action.

Tina brings more than that, the organisational skills required to keep such a large protest going and win; the courage to speak truth to power on the road and in the courts; the anxiety about the future for our children and grandchildren.

I am no stranger to campaigning, I have attended and spoken at many marches and protests and been carried off at the Kirby Misperton anti-fracking site – and held the speaker that Jonathan Bartley spoke through while he was being carried off at KM8.

But what I bring to the partnership is decades of electoral campaigning; twelve years as a councillor, a member of the ruling group on the second largest local authority, with the experience of forming and enacting policy that that provides; and many years of activity within the Green Party at local, regional and national level that has given me an understanding of how the Party works, and strong commitment to the core values that created the Green Party – values that are I fear regarded as outdated by some in the Party.

And I bring experience that can only be gained as a candidate – in many council election, five general elections, two euro elections – one as lead candidate. Hustings, interviews, radio and television.

One of the core elements of our platform we share with all the other candidates, the need to campaign on the climate emergency, in the run up to COP26, at the wordfest itself, and then in seeking to ensure that our government at least sticks to its commitments. We in the Green Party must be the - radical campaigners.

There is another aspect of leadership, and this is important to Tina and to me, the internal support to local parties and in elections. I mention you here, Chair, not to curry favour, but to reference your model of leadership. As Local Party Development Officer in my region I had a struggling local party I invited Natalie to come we leafletted, publicised, and filled a ballroom and got back on track; when establishing the new party in Ilkley, again Natalie came and packed a theatre beyond its safety limit. I am confident that she was speaking all over the country, offering that same support, that is the model we have in mind.

We want to offer that same level of commitment and support to local and regional parties in the central work of any political party winning elections – we need that Green voice at the table, I have seen it in Leeds, in Bradford, In Huddersfield, in Sheffield and York.

Winning local councillors has little to do directly with the hands on contribution of the Leadership team, it is down to the work of local members on the street, local parties helping organise and fund campaigns, and regional parties providing support both organisational and financial. But the leaders can be there as much as possible, and that is part of our pledge, that support for the membership.

Putting this all together though requires party unity and a focus on the campaigning work we have to do. Electoral campaigning including campaigning for PR, but time is short; local campaigning in support of communities; campaigning on the overarching issue of climate change, as well as on the range of other environmental issues that are associated in the public mind with the Green Party; campaigning for social justice and building resilience in communities stressed by a history of poverty, worsened by austerity; by uncertainty, by poor housing, by fear, by a range of factors that many of us have no direct experience of.

We need to create that sense of Common Purpose in the Green Party; and to that task we bring enthusiasm tempered by Common Sense.

Common Sense and Common Purpose.
Tina Rothery and Martin Hemingway

Activist is not a dirty word

It’s been all waves of hope and despair churning away at my optimism/pessimism as #COP26 fills the screen… I’m speaking later today in Glas...