Congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn: an open letter to Tamworth Labour Party

Dear friends,

We would like to offer you our heartfelt congratulations on the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Jeremy is a conviction politician and a man of principle with whose views we have much in common. We look forward, now, to Labour returning to its roots as a social movement campaigning in the best interests of ordinary people.

It is with that in mind that we would like to suggest that, where we now have agreement, we explore ways of working together on the issues and campaigns affecting the people of Tamworth.

We think these should include:

  • opposition to the austerity measures which are fuelling the growth in food banks;
  • support for our hospitals in the face of ongoing cuts, ward closures and privatisation of services;
  • campaigning for high quality, affordable housing to meet very real local needs.

We would also add, especially given the voting records of local Tory MPs including Christopher Pincher:

  • the threat of ‘fracking’ in the County
  • the need to defend the legislation outlawing fox-hunting which was brought in by a previous Labour government.

So, whilst we will continue to maintain our independence, particularly at the ballot box, we do wish Jeremy all the very best and look forward to a fruitful collaboration with his colleagues locally.

Tamworth Green Party

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Anti-Austerity March: Greens Out in Force

The Anti-Austerity March that took place in London on Saturday 20th June (organised by The People’s Assembly) was hugely well attended.

The expected 65,000 protesters was more than achieved with an estimated 250,000 turnout.

The Green Party had fantastic representation with party leader Natalie Bennett and MP Caroline Lucas both in attendance.

A few members of Tamworth Greens also made the trip and have provided some photos of the day.

Further information on the day can be found via the the following links:

#FairEconomy

Fair Economy

The Green Party is an anti-austerity party.

The current economic model which favours company profits over the wellbeing of the citizens of the country (one of the richest in the world) is clearly not up to the job of delivering a fair society.

The Green Party would:

  • bring an end to austerity and restore the public sector, thus creating decent jobs;
  • fund this with a wealth tax aimed at the top 1% earners, a Robin Hood tax on banks and end tax loopholes;
  • increase the minimum wage to £10 an hour by 2020.

Join the #GreenSurge and say out loud #ImVotingGreen.

See these Green Party links:

Welcome to “Tamworth Against The Cuts”

We are pleased to find a new Facebook group has been set up, dedicated to fighting the government’s savage and immoral cuts:

http://www.facebook.com/Tamworthagainstthecuts

Green Party members in Tamworth will offer whatever support we can to this campaign.

Living wages or decent benefits – the hallmark of a civilised society

You may remember last year’s report in the Herald of the excellent and vital work of the Tamworth Food Bank in offering relief to some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our society.

http://www.thisistamworth.co.uk/year-Tamworth-s-Foodbank-fed-1-000-hungry-people/story-17041457-detail/story.html

The letter below, from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett on the subject appeared recently in the Guardian:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/feb/01/act-end-child-poverty-now

“The Conservatives are intent upon making Britain work for the privileged few at the cost of the rest of us.

The number of food banks has risen six-fold since 2010. Fast-rising rents, falling real wages and rising food prices have created the perfect storm for poverty.

The devastating benefit cuts, affecting those in work, seeking work and unfit for work, are pulling the rug further out from the needy.

Until there is a living wage for all, decent benefits to meet the real costs of living, an end to zero-hours contracts and casualised employment, sadly the need – the desperate, unavoidable need – for food banks is only going to increase.”

Natalie Bennett
Leader, Green Party of England and Wales

Shirkers and Strivers

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett writing in New Statesman:

Shirkers versus strivers – those have been the terms of this week’s biggest debate, over the Welfare Benefits Up-rating Bill.

Many important points have been made about the ridiculousness of the government’s various claims about the closed blinds or curtains of those who they identify as the “shirkers”, the unemployed – which will presumably include many of the employees of Jessops, who on the government’s account this week are strivers but will soon be “shirkers”. (Not to mention the fact that closed blinds in the morning might well indicate a night-shift worker…)

Many of the progressive side have, rightly, been rushing to say that people trapped in unemployment are not shirkers. It’s a term that, in the usual terms of the debate, rightly has a bad name.

But shirkers there are.

Group one of the shirkers are the employers who’ve shirked their responsibility to provide decently paid, secure, reliable jobs on which their staff can build a life, and that can be the foundation of the a secure, stable economy – which the future of their businesses must ultimately depend on. The CEOs and CFOs and their henchpeople have certainly shirked their responsibility to look beyond the next quarter’s profit-and-loss accounts, and their own annual bonuses.

We can offer excuses for some employers – the small retail businesses struggling to compete against the multinational giants who’ve been enjoying tax-dodging and monopolist benefits on a huge scale, the small wholesalers, farmers and manufacturers who’ve seen their profit margins squeezed by the same giant customers.

But there are no excuses for the profitable multinational giants, which have privileged the position of their shareholders and top managers at the expense of their staff – and their own long-term future, for ultimately they need customers who can afford their products, and staff on a minimum wage well below the level of a living wage, on part-time contracts and short shifts to maximise company convenience, and on the obscenity of zero-hours contract can’t do that. It’s the old Henry Ford story – he knew he needed to pay his production workers enough to buy their own Model Ts.

And there’s a second group of shirkers: the leaders of successive governments. The former Labour government has to bear a large share of the blame – how could it be after 13 years of their regime that the minimum wage was significantly, in the South East hugely, below a living wage, that people working in a full time job needed significant benefits – housing benefit and family tax credits – simply to survive?

Of course, the blame lies with more than just the single figure of an inadequate minimum wage. Labour did nothing against job insecurity, short-hours shifts and zero-hours contracts – indeed cut further the already Thatcher-slashed ability of the unions to fight for better conditions.

And it swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the neoliberal line about Britain being able to abandon food growing and manufacturing – importing essentials from developing nations, plundering their water and soils, exploiting their grossly underpaid workers – while relying on the “genius” of bankers and the luxury industries servicing them and their friends as a foundation for the British economy, a foundation that it turns out was built on shifting sands of fraud, incompetence and incomprehension of risk.

Further, it ignored the fact that in the low-carbon world we need to be moving towards fast supply chains must be shortened – the distance from field to plate for food cut to a minimum (for reasons of cost as well as carbon emissions), that most goods need to be made much closer to where they are needed.

What a shirking of responsibility that was.

But beyond the blame, we can look to the positive green economic shoots, the small signs of the future, the small businesses, cooperatives, social enterprises and community groups – the true strivers, who against all of the odds, against the efforts of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition to intensify the neo-Thatcherite policies in Blair-Brownism, are trying to start to rebuild a sustainable British economy.

Whether it is the Transition groups up and down the country, promoting food growing, jam-making, baking and encouraging crafts, innovative small co-operatives like Who Made My Pants? or The People’s Supermarket who are building a new model of business, or groups setting up new community-owned generation schemes, there are strivers who are now trying, from the grassroots, working to build the new British economy.

And then there’s the countless other individual strivers – the parents struggling to give their children a decent life with inadequate funds, going without meals themselves so their children eat properly; the carers who for the measly sum of £58.45 labour huge hours, with inadequate chances for relief, for their loved ones; the unemployed who battle on for employment, completing courses, putting in applications, even in the face of multiple knockbacks and government insults.

So maybe we can rescue the terms shirkers and strivers. Let’s highlight the real shirkers – most of whom fit in the Occupy classification of the 1% – and celebrate the many strivers, the 99%. With those ratios, the future of Britain can only be bright.

Green – in 2013

New Year message from Green Party leader Natalie Bennett

31 December 2012

The Roman God of the new year, Janus, had two faces looking opposite ways – he had to look back to the past and on in to the future.  Any new year’s message surely has to do the same – so in looking forward to hopes and fears for 2013, we really have to start with 2012.

What will history remember? The Olympics, perhaps; the Greek debt crisis, maybe, although 2012 may not be the label that sits against it; the death of Lonesome George, the world’s last Pinta Island tortoise.

But what history may record for 2012 is that it was the year in which the economic  ideas that have been regarded as gospel, scarcely challengeable in mainstream discussion and embedded at the heart of government, academia and business for decades, were declared failed, their capital zero. It was certainly the year in which the voices against this clearly failed model, from Occupy and UKUncut to the Transition Town movement, became even stronger and more certain.

As the British economy bumped along on a wobbly foundation of low-pay, insecure work; as the instability of the banks continued to pose a huge, unbridled threat; as the public came to recognise that multinational companies were scooping up the meagre spoils of the economy and shipping them off into tax havens; as G4S clearly demonstrated the failure of the outsourcing model – built on the basis that the state carries the risks and the contractors could fail with impunity; it became clear that we need a radical change in direction.

On the global scale, as the Arctic sea ice shrank to astonishing lows, as the bounty of nature continued to shrink visibly before our eyes and food prices soared in response, as industrial farming methods continued to deplete our soils and pollute our oceans, it became even clearer that rapid change had to be made to our ways of life.

Instead of believing that we could run Britain on the basis of casino finance and outsourced services, shipping or flying in everyday essentials, leaving millions uncertain where next week’s rent or next month’s mortgage payment was coming from, it became clear that we must rebuild a proper, balanced low-carbon economy.

It’s become clear that we need to bring food production back to Britain – to restore the ring of market gardens that until recent surrounded our towns and cities, encourage allotments and city vegetable patches and fruit trees, to ensure that our green belt is protected, not buried under car-dependent sprawling suburbs. This was the year in which local food growing clearly became an essential to help feed the poorest in Britain.

It’s become clear that we need resource-efficient local manufacturing, making the essentials of food, clothing, shelter that we need close to where they’re needed. Small positive steps are being made. Over the year I saw small enterprises starting to build this new model of business, from Who Made Your Pants in Southampton, to Furniture Divas in Oxford. But the barriers are many, and need to be slashed down.

And it’s clear that we need to reshape our energy use and energy production. First, we clearly need  to get truly serious about energy conservation (including providing warm comfortable homes for everyone, built to the standards much of the rest of Europe takes for granted). Second, we need to move towards a decentralised, community-owned, flexible and resilient energy production system – on- and off-shore wind, solar, small hydro, anaerobic digestion, waste biofuel, tidal. Third, we need to provide a decent, affordable public transport system – and look at ways we can reshape our economy to eliminate long, miserable, pointless commutes.

All of these changes need to be built on a very different business model – not giant multinational companies emptying out our high streets, importing low-quality, non-durable goods made in dreadful sweatshops, wasting vast amounts of our limited resources. Instead we need strong localised economies, built around small businesses and cooperatives, with decently paid staff offered jobs on which they can build a life.

If I had a magic wand, I would wave it and say, let’s deliver that by the end of 2013. Of course I don’t, and the changes will take more than a year, more than a decade. But my wish for 2013 is that we can identify it as the year in which Britain made serious strides towards a new economic model, a new direction.

Let’s start with a crackdown on multinational companies – make them abandon the use of tax havens and pay fair taxes (as their small business competitors must) and ensure that they pay all of their staff a living wage and offer stable conditions – ending zero-hours contracts and anti-social, exploitative shift patterns. And go on with a serious legislative effort to end the risks of the banks again costing us hundreds of billions – separate the high street banks from their gambling “investment” cousins, install a financial transactions tax, work to promote local banks and credit unions, and insure an effective green investment bank can provide the funds we need for essential work.

Let’s move on to an Energy Bill that puts conservation at the heart of energy policy, that encourages small-scale renewables under community ownership. Add in the renationalisation of the railways as a start towards a sensible, integrated transport strategy, while abandoning the costly, inefficient HS2 plan.

Then let’s act on the NHS – protect our cost-effective, efficient, fair system – keep it publicly owned and publicly run where it is now, and bring back in house as soon as possible the outsourcing to inappropriate profit-driven multinationals. After that, start spreading out to public services. Having made the minimum wage a living wage, and ensure decent conditions for workers, any “efficiency, cost-effective” claims for outsourcing across the public sector will disappear.  As contracts expire, workers can be brought back in house – democratic accountability restored and money put into essential services now cut back.

Then we can deal with poverty – starting with pensioners. People who’ve contributed all of their lives shouldn’t be living in poverty. Let’s bring in a basic £170/week pension that would immediately lift all pensioners out of poverty. And a minimum wage being a living wage would help many workers, while the abolition of the dreadful Atos “fitness to work” scheme – GPs understand the health of their patients and their needs best would take great stress off the ill and the disabled.

Then housing – there’s 300,000 empty private sector homes to be brought back into use, and 37,000 council homes; we’d need a decent regional development policy to help with that. Much simpler – let’s give the growing army of private tenants greater security of tenure, enforce decent housing standards on their landlords, and encourage a new generation of housing co-ops in which people can work through their own housing needs.

Then some quick and sensible measures – abolish Trident nuclear weapons, immediately bring home British troops from Afghanistan – make us leaders in peace, and save some significant cash along the way.

There’s much more I’d like to add in – the abolition of university tuition fees, the restoration of an EMA-type system,  but that’s enough to be going along with for one year.

Of course, there’s no sign of this Coalition government heading in any of these directions, of understanding that the convictions to which they continue to cling are now mere intellectual driftwood, heading fast towards a smashing reef.

But Janus was the god of beginnings and transitions, and we can turn to that image as January begins and hope for change, plan for change, campaign for change. That’s what increasing numbers of British people have been doing over 2012, and more will join them in 2013. I look forward to working with the many, the 99%, who are increasingly prepared to take on the 1% and their representatives.

An Alternative Autumn Statement 2012: Greens reject coalition’s self-defeating economic programme

The Green Party is calling for positive economic policies instead of the Coalition’s dogmatic, self-perpetuating and failed “cut at all costs” approach.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said: “We reject this government’s self-defeating and contradictory approach of trying to cut its way to growth while providing tax giveaways to large corporations, including environmentally and socially destructive fossil fuel companies.

And we reject its inhuman and inhumane pressure on the poorest in society – households with members in work and those without – with non-pensioner benefits restricted to real-term decreases (below inflation, 1% increases) for the next three years. That’s £3.7bn being squeezed from people whose lives are often already insecure and desperate.

One certainty George Osborne has ensured is that the foodbank “industry” is going to become a permanent feature in Coalition Britain, the world’s seventh-wealthiest economy.”

“Britain needs to invest in environmentally-positive, jobs-creating policies, rather than using the UK’s historically unremarkable debt to GDP ratio to justify slashing state expenditure and further tax cuts for the wealthiest”, Ms Bennett said.

“A Green government would immediately invest the £4bn windfall from the 4G phone spectrum auction and the £35 billion quantitative easing surplus to create jobs in low-carbon infrastructure and in sectors such as renewable energy, energy-efficiency, low-carbon finance and manufacturing and in our contracting construction sector. The Green New Deal group has called for green quantitative easing to fund solar PV, insulation and other efficiency schemes that could create 140,000 jobs.

“Despite Osborne’s best efforts to hold them back, green industries are already providing essential goods and services that we need – from insulation to clean power from wind turbines – having contributed over 9% of UK GDP in 2011 – yet they retain enormous job creation potential.”

The Green Party would  ‘reboot’ the tax system to ensure that wealthy individuals and multinational companies pay their fair share, levelling the playing field for small businesses that are currently paying their taxes and struggling to compete against the tax-avoiding business giants.

Ms Bennett said: “Our reformed tax system would replace council tax and business rates with a land value tax, a wealth tax to recover some of the gains from those who benefited from the boom years and have surfed unscathed through the bust. Furthermore, we would end tax relief on private pensions, putting the savings into a Citizens’ Pension that would immediately lift all pensioners out of poverty.

There’d be a financial transaction tax to discourage casino-style financial trading, moves to force transparency in the books of multinational corporations and a genuine, effective crackdown on tax avoidance.

And it is difficult to have faith in the Chancellor’s announcement of new infrastructure projects, as his government announced a similar scheme in 2010, which has actually delivered a decrease in spending on construction. The government has also delivered just £750m of a £5bn expenditure it promised for public works at last year’s Autumn Statement.”

Ms Bennett added: “In recreating the failed PFI schemes of the last Labour government, this government is repeating its predecessor’s mistakes and announcing headline projects that are unlikely to be delivered. According to the Office for National Statistics, we already have future PFI liabilities of £144bn. Renegotiations that have saved £2.5bn are small beer in comparison.”

“A Green government would provide genuine government investment in the new schools and transport infrastructure that we need. What we don’t need is spending on new roads, an action shown to simply move congestion from one place to another.”

For a future that works in all our interests…

Tamworth Greens will be joining the TUC demonstration “For a Future the Works” on 20th October.

Image

The message we want to put across is simple. The current economic crisis gives us a golden opportunity to start to build a new society based on justice, fairness and sustainability, operating not in the interests of the bankers, who brought us to the brink of ruin, but in the interests of ordinary people.

Government should institute a crash programme of investment in green and sustainable jobs. It should renovate the whole of Britain’s housing stock, to bring it up to the best standards of energy efficiency, and start to build millions more high quality social housing.

Hundreds of thousands of young and unemployed people should be trained, equipped with the necessary skills to carry this out.

Furthermore, there should be a massive expansion of cheap, high quality public transport and a rapid shift away from fossil fuels towards renewable forms of energy production.

Workers in polluting, wasteful or socially less desirable industries should be re-trained and re-skilled- putting their expertise at the service of a cleaner, fairer, low-carbon society.

We need to do it and we should do it now.

We will be travelling to London by train- drop us a line if you would like to arrange to meet up with us.

Another date for your diary…

The Tories are coming back to Birmingham for their 2012 conference, and the TUC have called a demonstration.

untitled1In 2010, 7,000 people came here for the Tory conference and last years Liberal Democrat conference saw a banner drop and demonstration.

With austerity continuing to fail, this year’s conference should see a huge demo against the economic policies of the larger of the two coalition partners, calling for an alternative economic strategy.

11am assemble in the High Street, Birmingham for March at 11.30am, then Rally in St Marks Open Space.