Author Archive

Green Party

Standing for chair of the Green Party executive

So, exciting times; I am standing for chair of the Green Party’s national Executive. Having seen the rest of the field I don’t expect I’ll win – not least because I am off on a (British) holiday in a couple of days… hurray…!  But the main rationale behind my standing is to draw to people’s attention the unfortunate staff losses the Green Party office has suffered this year, through, I believe, poor leadership from the Executive. I am hoping Green Party members will engage more with the process of electing Executive members, and watching what they get up to once elected, as I do not believe the Executive has enough scrutiny given to it. I also believe the general consensus on the Executive this year has been that communicating their actions and behaviour to the members has been a long way down the priority list, and I am not the first Green Party blogger to have mentioned this. The contest will be decided by postal ballot of the Green Party’s 9000-odd members. The new chair will be elected some time in September.

Here is my candidate statement:

“I am standing for the Green Party Executive in a long tradition of independent protest-vote candidates standing to raise a particularly important issue into prominence.

If elected as Chair my single issue would be to protect, nurture and grow the staff complement of the organisation, and to protect staff members from interference – political, practical and emotional – by Executive members. I have stood for the role of Chair because the Chair has direct responsibility for line-managing the party’s paid Chief Executive/Head of Office, and is therefore the point of contact between the paid staff and the Executive. It is vital that whoever is elected Chair prioritises having an empowered, sustainable workforce.

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anti-racism, BNP, EuropeanElections2009, Green Party, politics

How close were we to a Green landslide?

(the answer is…. about 1% away)

This month’s European election was not a disaster for the Greens, but equally the party’s intentions of moving forward were dashed. With opinion polls hitting 9%, 10%, even 14 and 15 per cent nationwide for the Greens, it seemed at one point that there might even be the chance of a Green landslide – echoing the momentous Green vote of 15 per cent in the European elections in 1989. This could have seen Green MEPs for the South West and Yorkshire at least, as well as the target seats of North West and Eastern and the existing seats of London and the South East. Depending on the extent of the landslide, indeed any other region, including Scotland, could have had a Green MEP representing it – one for each region. There might even have been 2 Green MEPs to represent the South East.

But in the event, the Greens did not manage to gain their further two target seats of North West and Eastern.

Of course, the consequences for the Greens are not limited to the ambitions of the party; their agenda will also now remain less prominent for another 5 years.

Greens have already had to suffer dismissive articles such as Leo Hickman’s on The Guardian’s Comment Is Free “The grass wasn’t Greener: The European elections showed that, sadly, the Greens will always remain at best a tokenistic minority in party politics” .

Although hostile in tone, Hickman claims “I would love to see a Green MP – we might realistically get one in the form of Caroline Lucas in Brighton and Hove come the next general election – but I still struggle to see how this will come to be seen as anything more than a tokenistic presence at Westminster. We just don’t have the luxury of time for these small, incremental steps forward”.

And indeed – given the timetable of global climate change and the loss of natural resources and habitats – a Green landslide, of some extent, would have been very timely indeed.

But just how achievable was it? And did the Greens miss it by a whisker, or a mile?
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BBC, BNP, EuropeanElections2009, Green Party, politics

Greens’ loss is the BNP’s gain

With the election to the European Parliament of BNP leader and convicted racist Nick Griffin, British politics has entered a subtly different era. We were hoping that the storm over expenses would lead to a higher vote for smaller parties: well it did, with UKIP gaining 2nd place nationally, and the Green Party’s vote up by 44% nationally. However, Britain still only has the two Green MEPs it has had for the last 10 years and the one place where this is a tragedy more than anywhere is in the North West, the new European seat of Nick Griffin, where the Green Party needed only 0.3% more of the vote to overtake him and to occupy the seat instead. Even on the night of the count, as the ballot results rolled in from around the region it looked like the Greens were ahead time and time again… 13.6% in Manchester, ahead of the Conservatives in Manchester and Liverpool, ahead of the LibDems and on 14% in their stronghold of Lancaster. But when the Returning Officer took the agents and candidates aside and revealed the final seat allocations, the Greens still needed an extra 0.3% of the vote to overtake the BNP, and the seat went to Britain’s leading fascist Nick Griffin, instead of the Green, Peter Cranie, a former social worker and a life-long anti-racist campaigner.

This is – ironically – exactly what the Greens predicted and feared happening. Continue Reading »


Scrap the scrappage

Here’s my video on why the new car scrappage scheme announced in the Budget is a terrible idea. It speaks for itself (unfortunately, sometimes out of sync!). The other reason of course why it’s rubbish is it would encourage people to scrap amazing beautiful classic vehicles like Max the VW campervan…!


Now it’s time for BBC chief Thomson to resign

Mark ThomsonSo, I have just this morning read Seven Jewish Children by Caryl Churchill, as not seen on the BBC. It won’t be seen on the BBC at all in fact because the BBC have decided that – even though they like it – it would “compromise their impartiality” to air it. Where have we heard that before?

In my post on the BBC’s refusal to air the Gaza humanitarian appeal, I gave BBC Director-General Mark Thomson one more bat, in baseball terminology. Well, after the BBC’s decision this week not to broadcast this excellent little play, Thomson’s had, in my view, his third strike, and he’s outta there.

It took me about 5 minutes to read Seven Jewish Children. I read it in the bath. It’s not terribly upsetting, it’s not really particularly graphic either. In fact, like the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s opinion of the Earth, I would say it was “Mostly Harmless”.

The Jerusalem Post gives some useful background information that each of the series of mini monologues in the play is referring to an event in Jewish history. This relatively crucial information is not in the script, and seeing it now I can understand how it makes it more politically precise and cutting as a commentary. But overall, I must say I think this little play is fairly harmless. Its monologues consist entirely of variations on the formula “tell her” or “don’t tell her”, said by a parent thinking about what to say to a child, as in “Tell her she’ll have cake if she’s good” and “Tell her not to come out” or “Don’t tell her about the trouble with the swimming pool”.

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Why Jonathon Porritt has been “irresponsible” over Population

jonathon porritt

When Jonathon Porritt publicly advocated couples having no more than 2 children recently, the press jumped on it. For the Green Party, one direct result was elected Green councillors in Liverpool having to suffer a Lib-Dem smear leaflet telling voters of a “looney” and “despicable” Green plan to “ban” children through a “2 child legal limit”. The only element of the LibDem leaflet that was factually true – and of course upon which their ridiculous fabrication was based – was the quote from Jonathon Porritt “Having more than two children is irresponsible”.

Now, to be fair to Jonathon, even that quote was taken out of context. What he said was “I think we [“we” meaning civil society in general] will work our way towards a position that says that having more than two children is irresponsible”, which to my mind is an especially politic way to say it.

Furthermore, in the Daily Telegraph, the headline became “Government Green Guru Calls for 2-Child Limit“, which, again, makes it sound like a legal limit, when as far as I’m aware he was making a judgement, not indicating that there should be some sort of legal enforcement.

Indeed, Jonathon Porritt’s logic is to my mind impeccable, as seen on his blog where he also admits “I’m in the population doghouse” not because of his logic, but because of people’s emotional reactions to it.

Nevertheless – although I cannot think of another time when I have thought this (including his defense of capitalism) – I believe Jonathon Porritt has made a mistake. Only a very small mistake, and one that was distorted by even the papers who interviewed him, pounced upon by the Tories and pro-life campaigners (personally I see abortion as an entirely seperate issue), and distorted monstrously by local LibDems in their libellous leaflet… but a mistake nonetheless.

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The BBC are making an ugly and crass mistake that will (incidentally) cause innocent people to die

Why can the BBC not broadcast an appeal by the Disasters Emergency Committee about Gaza?
The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) concerns are humanitarian, not political. They are a committee made up of representatives from the world’s aid agencies, including Oxfam, the Red Cross, Cafod, Christian Aid, Help the Aged, Save the Children and so on. Their job is to provide humanitarian assistance wherever it is needed, aside from any political considerations.
So why is the BBC – and now Sky – standing in their way?

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Obama’s inauguration speech – what we as Greens can learn

obama's inaugural speechPresident Barack Obama’s inauguration speech has much in it for British Greens to be happy about. Not only does it frame climate change, peace and global co-operation as urgent issues for “a new age”, it contains relatively little that is otherwise offputting. Most of all, it provides a sterling example of the kind of speeches that WE as Greens could and should be making, complete with a range of “reframed” strong takes on the climate crisis, and a clear underlying emotional appeal to common values, contextualising him in the story of America’s history.

…. click to read more below….

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Max gets converted to LPG

Max with T25 friends

Max arrives at Gasure in Chester

In December 2008 I got my 1977 VW Type 2 Bay Window campervan “Max” converted to run additionally on Liquified Petroleum Gas (as well as petrol). Hurray! Below are some pics of the process, done by Gasure in Chester; in general, even around £1000, it was well worth the money!

Even at 5,000 miles a year, Max would make that money back in petrol savings in well under 2 years, possibly in 1 year (even with a disgraceful 15 MPG), with the price of LPG (less than 50p a litre) now often half of that of petrol. There is an excellent calculator at LPG is not quite as efficient as petrol because it has a lower energy density, and this calculation includes a typical 20% MPG loss.

They say wear and tear on the engine is less, too. In fact this FEELS the case, just driving along.  Apparently my oil will also last longer without changing (which is an issue in an Air-Cooled (or rather, an oil-cooled…) VW).

Environmentally, LPG is not a panacea. But LPG does give a 10-20% carbon dioxide reduction in comparison to petrol. LPG also delivers 80% lower nitrous oxide emissions than diesel and produces zero particulate emissions.[1] That means that if cars generally ran on LPG there would be no smog, no asthma…

Surprise advantages!
But it’s even better than that! Turns out Max loves LPG as a fuel. He:
– is smoother generally, with less bumpy gear changes
– starts up much MUCH more easily (see about the pre-heater below)
– can go into 2nd and 3rd gear earlier and leave later


For the full story on how it works, with nice big pictures, visit


I’ve been arrested at Climate Camp – for having Vitamin C…

Okay, okay, so I was arrested at climate camp. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.
But guess what my crime was? Um, yes, that’s right: having some Vitamin C.

As the story on the Green Party website “Police hold Green activist for five hours for possession of Vitamin C” says, I was held for 5 hours before they tested the substance in my wallet and let me go without charge (although stopping short of an actual apology).

March to Kingsnorth power stationIt got me thinking about the whole process in general and the way police treat people (especially when all we had gone to do was to peacefully camp and then participate in an organised and police-sanctioned march to the gates of Kingsnorth coal-fired power station).

Obviously my arrest was not a usual occurrence, for me or for the police. As Green Party Principal Speaker Derek Wall said at the weekend: “This is another example of how over-the-top the policing of this event has been. This shows that the priority of the police is not to protect the public but to suppress legitimate protest.”

But I pity anybody that’s in that sort of cell for more than a few hours. It was a windowless, concrete, plain white cell. It had a bed – well – a platform with a sort of plastic-covered thin hard foam mattress, a metal toilet, and a sink inset into the wall. The only good thing about it was the acoustic, but after a couple of hours I had run out of slightly melancholy a cappella folk songs to sing (a sign of the times is that I stopped myself from singing in any foreign language in case I was overhead and it started a line of inquiry about my right to remain in the UK or something ridiculous).
There was a “sink” of sorts (like you get on a Virgin train), inset into the wall, that you could just about get your hands into, not anything else. It spurted out hot water that was – I suppose – drinkable, but not exactly what you’d call drinking water. There was a metal toilet without a seat, but no toilet roll. There was a “bed” (and an equally hard pillow); I loved it because I have a bad back, but not to everybody’s tastes… There was no blanket of course. Everybody is tacitly treated as a suicide risk, hence no blanket, no toilet roll, no towel, plastic fork at meal times…..
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A tribute to Sophie Lancaster

Sophie Lancaster was by all accounts a sensitive, caring and kind 20-year old girl. The fact that she was so obviously a harmless, open-hearted person puts into perspective even more starkly the question “why would a bunch of teenage lads – who had never laid eyes on her 5 minutes before – think it was either fun, cool, hard or amusing to set upon her until they had taken her life?”

Sophie LancasterAs Sophie’s mum said today, “We were proud to know our daughter. She was funny, kind, loving and brave. She was a beautiful girl with a social conscience and values which made her a joy to know. Not being able to see her blossom into her full potential or even to see her smile again is a tragedy beyond words”.

Sophie Lancaster, 20, was kicked and stamped to death as she begged a group of teenage boys to stop beating her boyfriend in a park in Bacup, here in Lancashire, last August. When Sophie cradled her boyfriend in her arms and pleaded for them to stop, one of them delivered a flying kick to her head and another volley-kicked her in the face “like a ball in flight” said the judge. A rain of kicks then ensued. A 15-year-old witness told police: “They were running over and just kicking her in the head and jumping up and down on her head.”

Today, that group were sentenced, the two that kicked Sophie have received life imprisonment. Unfortunately in my mind for the profile of this case, all over the news today is a more bizarre story: the case of an Austrian pervert who kept his daughter locked up in a cellar for 20 years… But in fact, Sophie Lancaster’s case, happening right in Lancashire, affects me more deeply, and I’m much more interested in its implications for British society. I can more easily categorise and deal with isolated and inexplicable perversion: the Austrian outrage is an distinct exception; what is more troubling about Sophie’s case is that it has happened before in Britain, many times, and will happen again. What I find harder to understand – and even harder to accept – is how (essentially ordinary) teenage boys can suddenly turn into killers, and what happens to them in groups. I am sure that no single one of those boys could or would have set upon Sophie and her boyfriend Rob alone. But why did they suddenly do so as a group? What possessed them? How could they – as they were beating the life out of her – be so insensitive as to not appreciate the immensity of the act they were engaged in? We all perform countless acts everyday, without thinking: boiling the kettle, running a bath… in less than the time it takes to complete either of these actions those boys had met, taunted, attacked and practically killed Sophie Lancaster and left Robert Maltby scarred (and scared) for life. And with about as much thought and attention as most of us give to boiling the kettle. How can such casualness of thought occur? Is it video games, brutal fathers, uncaring mothers who prepare such boys for acts of sudden and devastating violence? Or none of the above? How on earth can it be avoided? We need and we DEMAND a society where these things don’t – in fact, essentially – cannot – happen.
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plastic bags

Plastic fantastic

Plastic is a wonderful substance. I can’t imagine a single other material that is so utterly versatile. The computer that I’m typing on, the kettle in which I’ve just boiled the water for my tea, even my ethically-sourced (vegetarian) shoes would be very much different without plastic.

What a shame therefore that we seem to make such a trivial use of an important substance as plastic bags.

Plastic is of course one of the smallest constituent products of the average barrel of oil, with apparently just 4% of crude oil consumption used for all plastics, and only 2% for all films, of which plastic bags is a very small proportion. 85% of oil is burned as fuel or heating.

And as a colleague of my father’s (a chartered chemist) once said “trust human beings to discover the single most useful substance in the world…. and then burn it.”

So, I guess that from a green point of view, making plastics is a relatively good use of a precious (and polluting) substance such as oil. All the more of a missed opportunity then to make such flimsy, disposable and ephemeral products with it.

Plastic bags become bag...

The British Federation of Plastics sells the concept of “placcies” to us by asserting that plastic bags are a “useful, hygienic, odourless, waterproof, robust and convenient way of carrying goods”.

I’ve got no problem with that; if I’d owned one plastic bag in my whole life I doubt I could be criticised by even the most ardent deep green. The problem seems to be throwing the bags away, and them being made to be thrown away, necessitating UK consumers being given 13 billion plastic bags a year.

I myself am not remotely immune to the owning, wrecking and throwing away of plastic bags (and even though there is evidence that a large majority of people re-use the plastic bags they collect, let’s face it, they all get thrown away in the end). My local food shop has had what I’ve thought was a good policy of not giving out plastic bags, but instead having a big box of plastic bags available that other customers have brought in to be re-used.

But recently, on a couple of visits the stash of free second-hand bags has – shock horror – been exhausted, and I was even once obliged to buy a durable cotton bag instead, paying several pounds in the process(!). The emotions of guiltiness, having been caught-out in my plastic-bag-(re)using ways, and being forced to repent (and pay the price of a small cotton bag) were enough to make me question my whole approach to plastic bags, and to take reusable bags more seriously.

And since I’ve taken to riding home on my bike with shopping bags on the handlebars, I decided I could do with some more robust shopping-carrying technology.

So, I took the bold step of splashing out on a £2.99 extravaganza from Oxfam, on a bag that is sturdy enough to stand up to being slapped repeatedly against my bike frame on the way home.

Matt's new canvas bagI remember slightly resenting the “high” price of my latest acquisition, but feeling pleased with my “expensive” bag. It’s not going to wear out any time in the next 5 years. Or 10 probably.
It’s made of the same material they make sacks from. It has an austere, ascetic look. I like that though. It makes me feel just a little bit rough around the edges, just a little dangerous and radical. Strutting around town with my suit, and my brown, mean, canvas bag.

It does however have a thin layer of plastic on the inside to waterproof it. Surely all the plastic a bag needs…?

Also, in contrast to the anonymous and unrespected provenance of plastic bags, this bag has a character, and a history: it was handmade in Bangladesh, and is Fair Trade; a woman – Nazma of Action Bag – pictured on the label says “I was almost broken, I had nothing to do and was almost starving. Now I can pay the rent and maintain my livelihood.”

So already I feel like I’m getting a higher quality bag for my bucks.

Next post: the soup of plastic, bigger than the continental United States, that is floating across the Pacific. Oh, and my search for a manbag


Hello world!

So, this is my first post. Exciting! I really want this weblog to be informal and personal yet really tackle some big issues. There are many reasons for writing: the first is to get the green message out to new places, the second is to practice expressing that message in ways that really relate to ordinary people and that reframe green politics as something that means something to everybody, not as something niche. I also want to give myself an outlet to find the issues that are really important to me, and even just to talk about my day. But I promise to always bring it back to the global issues that everybody can connect with. And I hope people will take this blog as a basis to communicate with, debate and connect with me. Please see the About page for more information on my background and other websites.

Earth from spaceI’ve spent a lot of time on the look of the blog. With the exception of a huge stroke of bad luck, the look of this weblog should be unique. Thanks to Becca Wei and Beccary though for inspiration from her theme Sweet Dreams (I have put credits permanently at the bottom of the page). Thanks also to the designers of the Intense Simplicity theme and to the designers of the plugins and WordPress itself. I’m deeply impressed with WordPress as a tool and with the power of the Open Source community. Long may it thrive.

I’m pleased also to offer some (I hope) progressive social networking and bookmarking tools on the weblog. There are four different types: an RSS Feed, an array of social bookmarking icon-links, an option to Subscribe by email (very exciting) and a link to Email a post to a friend. (Suffice to say, any and all data collected or offered will be kept strictly to myself.)

I hope people will comment regularly, and indeed suggest links and other weblogs. I will also be developing my categories and links as time goes by, so if you’re visiting this blog in early 2008, please bookmark me and come back soon to see more green content. I hope you enjoy! Ooh, by the way, great name, huh? 😉

Matt Wootton – Lancaster

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