Wednesday, May 30, 2007

UN World Environment Day - 5 June; Bristol Festival of Nature - 2 and 3 June

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On 5th June each year its United Nations World Environment Day. This year the focus is on melting polar ice (due to our pollution changing the climate) and all its ramifications for people and wildlife. Find out more at:

"We will not solve this problem if we do not each take our share of the responsibility for tackling it. Nobody can protect themselves from climate change unless we protect each other by building a global basis for climate security. To put it starkly, if we all try to free ride, we will all end up in free fall, with accelerating climate change the result of our collective failure to respond in time to this shared threat."
Margaret Becket Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Pity her words are not matched by actions - the Govt she speaks for has allowed a situation where UK carbon dioxide emissions are higher now than they were 10 yrs ago when they first came to power!

A very good way to get informed and involved in all sorts of environmental matters is to go to the Bristol Festival of Nature, taking place this Saturday and Sunday:

Friday, May 25, 2007

Try out OpenLearn

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I know I'm biased because they employ me but much about the Open University is brilliant. I love its aim to be open as to people, places, their work

Take the project making a wide range of high quality learning materials available free of charge on the internet for instance - go to and sample some material to find out more.

With the environment currently a very hot topic eg the Severn Barrage/NuclearPower issues in our region, you could go to:

and find some very useful stuff on sustainable/renewable energy issues for example.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Response to Cllr Gary Hopkins criticism

Criticism of me from Cllr Gary Hopkins (below, with my reply underneath) in the Bristol Evening Post's letters page. It seems he feels that the Greens - an independent political party - should not contest Lib Dem seats because he (not us!) feels there has been environmental progress in Bristol due to them! Actually we dont agree (...Lib Dems support the South Bristol Ring Road and Airport Expansion plans as well as agreeing with Labour and the Tories on building many thousands of houses on open, green spaces...). Even if we felt that there had been environmental progress, there are other reasons to oppose Lib Dems, not least on social policy including the lack of social justice in Home Care privatisation (Gary, it seems, does not yet understand that there is much more to being green than environmentalism)

THE GREENS REALLY HAVE TO FACE REALITY - Councillor Gary Hopkins, Liberal Democrats, Knowle Ward

It is very understandable that the Green party candidate, Glenn Vowles, complains about the electoral system ("How voting system itself affects result", Open Lines, May 12). It distorts not only the result, but also the nature and style of politics, and we, the Liberal Democrats, have campaigned against it for years. It is, though, the reality imposed by the New Labour and Tory parties successively from Westminster, and it is noticeable that nationally, Labour got a sizeable parliamentary majority with 35 per cent of those who made the effort to vote.
If the Greens had faced up to political reality - and the system - better, they would have deployed a little more precious resources into making sure they removed another environmentally-damaging Labour councillor, instead of futile attempts to unseat Lib Dems, who have actually made real environmental progress in Bristol. In other words, do something practical, don't just dream about it.


Dear Open Lines

Its touching that Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins is so concerned that the Green Party should get its electoral strategy right ('The Greens have to face reality', Open Lines, May 23). However, given that his party have just lost two seats to Labour and has been replaced as the party running Bristol, I'm not inclined to trust his political judgement! He would be better off turning his attention to the strategy of his own party, not least on the issue of Home Care privatisation.

Greens, being as keen on social as ecological justice, have completely opposed Home Care privatisation from the start and, given the verdict of voters, feel that there is a democratic case for the end of the Lib Dem running of Bristol (Labour gained the largest share of the vote, with 29%, as well as gaining seats).

Lets not forget that Councillor Hopkins has obviously not been present at our meetings and so knows nothing of Green Party local election plans, intentions and resource availability. He is thus not in a good position to make judgements about our deployment of resources, though nevertheless he gives an - uninformed - opinion!

Just like the Lib Dems in general elections Greens have the dilemma of needing to target seats whilst at the same time wanting to give as many people as possible the option of voting for us and generally raising our share of the vote with a view to future election performance. Greens have no rich private backers or powerful union support. Given the small size of the party and its resources the fact that we came within 6 votes of winning in Southville, forcing Labour to pull out all the stops (including sending Environment Secretary David Milliband out canvassing!), and 110 votes of winning in Ashley,as well as raising our average share of the vote significantly, is a remarkable performance. Its a clear indication of the ongoing rise in popularity of Green ideas.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Tidal Energy from the Severn - Small is Beautiful

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Its good to see the Severn Barrage issue covered in the Bristol Evening Post (‘Barrage Fans in Severn Heaven Now’, May 22) but why is the debate currently so narrowly focussed? I was disappointed to read about ‘the scheme’ discussed as if the only way to extract the energy is by going for the well publicised ten mile barrage.

Many agree that we have a fantastic natural, renewable resource here that we can and should harness energy from. However, its seems that we still have not acknowledged that the scale of a development is often a key feature of whether it is green or not. Have we forgotten that famous green book ‘Small is Beautiful’ by EF Schumacher?

The huge scale of the ten mile barrage means huge costs and significant potential for costs to spiral due to the unforeseen technical problems and time delays that so often arise on such projects. If we in the UK cant build Wembley Stadium on time and within budget can we expect to build a £14 billion, ten mile long barrage as originally intended?

Yes, a feasibility study into tidal energy from the Severn is a very good idea but it would be very short-sighted not to study other energy extraction methods such as tidal lagoons and tidal stream turbines (already being researched off the Devon Coast) at the same time. If we don’t get the technological assessment method right we could be missing out on the scheme that best combines effective and efficient energy generation with minimal environmental impacts.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

All parties on the council should form an executive together

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In breach of the law, the first meeting of the newly elected Bristol City Council on 15 May failed to select a council leader and appoint an executive.

The electorate in Bristol have voted such that there is no one party in overall control, requiring a cooperative approach from councillors instead of the squabbling and posturing that we've got instead.

Squabbling and posturing has long been a feature of Bristol City Council's members so what's happened so far is no surprise - last year we had no group running the council for seven weeks!
It is, sadly, a key characteristic of current mainstream politics.

Unless voters switch to parties who favour a different, more cooperative approach and/or the electoral system is changed it looks like we are stuck with a politics that brings itself into disrepute. This is not the best way to get problems solved, which is for me what politics should be about.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

New measure of progress needed

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My petition on the Prime Minister's website
( quickly gained 34 of the 100 signatures needed to guarantee a reply when first posted there but signing has since slowed up. I've today sent a letter to the Bristol Evening Post based on the text below, to try to get more people to sign.

Back in 1968 Robert F Kennedy said this about the way we measure progress in our industrialised societies ie assessing the size of our economy (GNP, or GDP) :

"The Gross National Product includes air pollution and advertising for cigarettes and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and jails for the people who break them. GNP includes the destruction of the redwoods and the death of Lake Superior. It grows with the production of napalm, missiles and nuclear warheads.

And if GNP includes all this, there is much that it does not comprehend. It does not allow for the health of our families, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It is indifferent to the decency of our factories and the safety of our streets alike. It does not include the beauty of our poetry, the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. GNP measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country…"

Like Robert F Kennedy my view is that continued use of GDP/GNP (economic growth) as the major indicator of progress in our society is seriously flawed. Accounts which produce GDP/GNP do not subtract the costs of producing economic growth such as climate change and resource depletion. They are most unlike normal balance sheet accounts, which add income and subtract costs, in that they only add! Any greener government would use a much broader and more balanced indicator of progress or wellbeing, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare or similar, which more closely reflect the real quality of life.

If you agree with me then please sign my petition on the Prime Minister's website (, which states:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to replace GDP/GNP as the key indicator of progress in society with a measure, such as the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare, or similar, to help take us in a much greener direction.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Home Care - People before Profit

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The biggest issue for the forthcoming first meeting of the new-look Bristol City Council is Home Care. Its possible that unless the Lib Dems change their policy of further privatising Home care, begun originally by a Labour-run council, they could be prevented from forming a minority administration to run the city (if the Labour and Conservative groups vote together that is).

From the start I've felt very strongly that there is and should be no place for private profit in Home Care. It was a mistake some years back for society to separate off meeting basic physical, social and care needs from health care and my ideal would be to see social and health care needs being dealt with in a fully integrated way within the NHS, with all services free at the point of use. We are some way off this position in England of course, not least because of the policies of the current UK Labour Govt.

My position for Bristol is that the Lib Dems must look again at their policy, consulting fully with all Home Care users and workers as well as all other political parties on the council, with a view to abandoning privatisation. This is important not only because of the general case made by the labour movement but also because opposition/doubt goes much wider than this, as the voting pattern at the local elections showed very clearly. Labour gained seats and the highest % of the vote and very clearly stated their opposition to Home Care privatisation.

The new Lib-Dem group has a new leadership and key members, if they really are democrats they should change their policy.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Unfair and unrepresentative electoral system, especially to Bristol's Greens

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I've just had another look at Bristol's local election results from last week, which took place under our 'first past the post' voting system.

The Lib Dems obtained 27% of the vote but now have 44% of the councillors (31 of them).

Labour got 29% of the vote but have 36% of councillors (25 people).

The Conservatives gained 25% of the vote but have just 19% of councillors (13 individuals).

The Green Party gained 15% of the vote but have a mere 1.4% of councillors ( ie 1 Charlie Bolton).

The 'winner takes all' electoral system doesn't seem to be a fair one to me!! In Bristol this is especially true for the Greens, though other small parties and even the Conservatives lose out due to the system too.

With a strictly proportional voting system the council would look something like this (assuming an unlikely no change in voting habits and range of candidate choice of course): Labour 20 councillors; Lib Dems 19; Conservatives 18; Greens 11; others 2. Most alternative voting systems are not strictly proportional of course but this does give you some idea how different our local council could be but for our voting system.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Great Green result in Knowle local election (pretty good around Bristol too)

Many thanks to all those who voted for me yesterday in the Knowle local election. I obtained 465 votes, which is 15.6% of the total cast - the highest Green vote to date in this ward.

I wasn't far behind the Conservatives (17.4%) and Labour (21.6%), though Lib-Dem Chris Davies was a very clear winner with 45.4% of the vote. Congratulations to Chris Davies on his win.

The Green vote in Knowle is very much on the up now. Between 1995 and 2003 Greens achieved approx 4.5 to 5.5%, with the exception of 7.27% in 1999 (the last time I stood in Knowle). My fellow Green Graham Davey, who has often been the Knowle candidate, achieved a great 14.02% in 2006, tripling the % vote. I'm very glad to have added further to this with 15.6% and it is encouraging for future campaigning here.

I'm absolutely gutted and very upset that we extremely narrowly missed out on getting our second councillor elected in Southville however. I must admit to shedding tears, not something I've done about elections before, when I first heard the full result - Green candidate Tess Green lost by just 6 votes, despite her great efforts and those of her team. Labour lost in Southville in 2006 when my fellow Green, Charlie Bolton, become Bristol's first Green Councillor, winning by just 7 votes. What we did to them they have now done to us. Some might say this is poetic justice, though I think not given the nature of the campaign run against us by some.

On a positive note the number of votes cast for Greens in Southville went up and the % vote was almost the same as when we won in 2006. Across Bristol Greens came second in 4 wards (Ashley - only just over 100 votes from winning, Cabot, Southville - just six votes from winning, and Stockwood). Greens achieved over 20% of the vote in 5 wards, 15-20% in 6 wards and 10-15% in 3 wards. With an average vote of approx 15% where we put up candidates the achievement is very good, showing a strong upward trend in support.