Chilcot Report: Natalie Bennett and Shahrar Ali Respond

Reacting to the publication of the Chilcot Report, Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said:

The Green Party believes the report’s final confirmation that the Iraq war was ‘not a last resort’ and that the British government decided to invade before all the peaceful options had been exhausted is a verdict that must produce action. We must not just say ‘never again’ but act to make that fact.


That the judgements about the severity of threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were presented with a certainty that was not justified is simply inexcusable. Never again must the executive be able to lead us to war based on massaged information.


And never again should MPs be told how to vote on such a critical matter. The Government should, immediately, announce that all future military interventions will have unwhipped votes in the House of Commons. We must never again see MPs being cajoled into voting along party lines when their conscience tells them otherwise. No MP should answer when asked why they voted for war ‘I was told to.’


Those MPs must be given genuinely independent legal advice about the legality of the action. They must know it is their responsibility to act legally, and that they could face sanction if they don’t live up to it.

Speaking from Westminster, Shahrar Ali, Green Party Deputy Leader, said:

The Green Party is resolutely committed to finding non-violent solutions to conflict situations and unequivocally opposed the war in 2003.


The headline points of this mammoth report are chilling, yet unsurprising to all those who have been calling for Blair to be investigated at the International Criminal Court. Whether on grounds of Blair’s intent to bypass the UN, diplomacy not having been exhausted, or critical papers being denied to the Foreign Office, I support those renewed calls for a criminal investigation.


HS2 – it still doesn’t add up!

STOP HS2 logo

HS2, the high-speed rail-line set to plough its way through parts of Tamworth, is a major concern of ours and one of our three campaigning priorities in the forthcoming County elections.

The Green Party is the only national party which wholly opposes this unnecessary and expensive folly.

We will be petitioning on this issue in Tamworth Town Centre this Saturday (6th April) from 9.30am. Come along and have a chat – you will see us near ‘Middle Entry’

The letter below is from Eddie Jones, Green Party candidate for Perrycrofts and was recently published in the Tamworth Herald.

HS2 – it doesn’t add up

“I FIND it hard to believe that the government and main opposition party are still trying to justify spending billions of pounds on high speed rail.

When I attended the HS2 roadshow at the Guild Hall in Lichfield, a representative from HS2 explained that it was necessary for the following reason:

The number of people using the rail network had increased steadily over the last 20 years as people had become more affluent.

On the assumption that this trend would continue over the next 20 years, the current rail network would not be able to cope and would require major improvements.

If we are doing major improvements, we may as well build a new high speed line.

We are now being told by government that due to the banking industry crisis and austerity measures that we should not expect to become wealthier in the foreseeable future.

That being the case, why is HS2 going ahead?

In any case, I still do not understand how reducing travel time from London to Birmingham by a few minutes is vital to the future of the British economy or justifies spending billions of pounds.”

Eddie Jones, Tamworth and District Green Party.

Standing up for marriage equality

THE GREEN Party has welcomed yesterday’s vote to legalise gay marriage as a “historic moment”.

The vote in the House of Commons passed by 400 to 175 votes, with the latter including 136 Conservative MPs – almost half of the party.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party, said: “Yesterday’s vote in the House of Commons for gay marriage marks a historic moment in the progress of equality in Britain. With the large Commons majority of 225, the elected representatives have spoken, and the House of Lords has no grounds for resistance.”

Britain has joined other progressive states, including Sweden, Denmark, Canada and Belgium, in giving gay couples an equal right to marry as that enjoyed by heterosexual couples.

“Our Green MP Caroline Lucas was also leading in yesterday’s debate, making the point that now there’s a further equality issue be tackled. MPs have acknowledged that civil partnerships don’t meet all couples’ needs – now they need to go a step further, and acknowledge that marriage doesn’t meet the needs of all heterosexual couples.”

“There can be no logical grounds for denying heterosexual couples the option of civil partnership as created under the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 – a simple, legal step that can resolve issues around child custody, inheritance, pension rights and a whole host of other issues.

“There’s a further important issue to be addressed – an issue of education and understanding. There is no such thing as “common law marriage” in Britain, yet it’s a phrase that you’ll hear bandied about regularly, and a false belief in its existence has had severe financial and emotional consequences for many .

“There’s also a recognised problem around inheritance when an unformalised partnership ends with the death of an intestate partner – a lot of work has been done around this issue; now’s the time for action

“We live in a world of many different family arrangements – what we need to do is to give couples a range of legal tools (and full understanding of them) so that they can have security and certainty about the shape of their family life, and real choices about how to construct it.

We took an important step forward yesterday – now we need to complete the work.

“Only the Green Party Opposes HS2”

Tamworth Greens reaffirm their opposition to the governments HS2 folly.

We are pleased to publish this press release from our friend Councillor Tom Harris, Stafford and Stone Green Party.

Tom Harris
Cllr Tom Harris

“Only the Green Party Opposes HS2.

With the Treasury set to commit £32bn of public money to the controversial HS2 railway line, the Green Party in Stafford and Stone has restated its opposition, adding it is now the only party not to support the plans.”

Cllr Tom Harris (Stafford Forebridge) told us “We see three main, clear and strong reasons why we want to see the current proposals thrown out”.

“Firstly, the economic case for HS2 is far from convincing. HS2 is likely to be unaffordable for most people, even though everyone’s taxes will pay for it to be built.

Just look at the disasterous Dutch ‘Frya’ high speed line, which opened only two years ago and is now losing £320,000 a day, with passengers shunning its premium fares and trains running up to 85 per cent empty.

Bold claims made about bringing growth simply fail to stand up to scrutiny – Birmingham, which has seen a 60 per cent rise in rail passengers over the last ten years, has seen only a 0.2% growth in employment, for example.

Why not spend a fraction of the money by fitting carriages with fast wireless internet so that people can make better use of their journey time?

Secondly, in an extraordinary waste of scarce resources, the proposed trains would burn 50% more energy per mile than the Eurostar.

And finally, the environmental and human impact of the current route would be devastating along its entire length, seeing beautiful countryside carved up and thousands of families’ lives ruined. I have heard from residents in Hopton whose homes are directly on the proposed line and they are at their wits end.

The government simply should not be proposing this madness.

The Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour Parties all support HS2, so I am delighted that the Green Party is taking a clear line against the plans.”

Cllr Harris went on to detail how the Green Party would like to see money invested elsewhere in transport infrastructure.

“Our first priority is getting people about conveniently and affordably with local public transport schemes, as well as working on ways to improve air quality and reduce CO2 and particulate emissions, such as safe routes to school.

We think public transport should be re-regulated, with councils ensuring sensible levels of provision and a truly integrated system. HS2 will divert cash from local schemes for years and years.”

For further information contact Cllr Tom Harris on 07966 488690 or

The Dutch experience –

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.

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

“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

Three ‘yeses’ on Europe

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said today that the Green Party stood for “Three Yeses – yes to a referendum, yes to major EU reform and yes to staying in a reformed Europe”.

Natalie urged people to consider the first “Yes” in a different context to David Cameron’s promise of a referendum – only if the Conservatives win a majority in the 2015 election – which has more to do with political game-playing and trying to hold together a deeply divided party that is failing in government.

The Green leader said: “The Green Party believes in democracy and self-determination. On important issues like this, voters should be given the opportunity to express a clear view.”

On a reformed EU, the Green Party believes that decisions should be made at the lowest possible appropriate level, closest to the lives of the people it affects. It supports democratic decision-making – not the imposition of dictats from above, such as the austerity that has been forced on the people of many states in south Europe.

Natalie added: “‘Yes to the EU’ does not mean we are content with the union continuing to operate as it has in the past. There is a huge democratic deficit in its functioning, a serious bias towards the interests of neoliberalism and ‘the market’, and central institutions have been overbuilt. But to achieve those reforms we need to work with fellow EU members, not try to dictate high handedly to them, as David Cameron has done.”

On ‘yes to staying in a reformed Europe’, the Green Party believes Great Britain should not abandon the European Union, but instead work from inside to make it into a fair and democratic union rather than just a vehicle for international trade.

The European Union is well placed to enact policies on crucial issues such as human and workers’ rights, climate change and international crime. It is through EU regulation that our renewable energy targets have been set and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been created.

European action on air pollution, meanwhile, is forcing the British government to take the issue seriously, and the EU is leading the way on a financial transactions tax while Britain, in the grip of the City, resists.

Natalie concluded: “We need to continue to work with our European partners to build strong, locally democratic communities that decide their own way within the framework of minimum standards on workers’ and consumer rights, the environment, and on human rights – and which work together to build a more peaceful and sustainable world.”

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.”

Greens oppose attack on Gaza

THE GREEN Party condemns in the strongest possible terms the latest attack by Israel on the Gaza Strip.

The country yesterday launched more than 160 missiles into Gaza, claiming to have hit ‘156 targets’ in the territory. Its attack killed 13 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, an 11-month old boy and two infants, and injured 130 more.

Green Party International Co-ordinator Dr Derek Wall said: ‘The Green Party deplores Israel’s attack on Gaza.  There can be no peace in the Middle East without justice for the people of Gaza.  The attack which has killed many civilians, announced on twitter and widely seen as part of an election campaign is both cynical and sordid.  The Green Party calls for an end to violent incursions in Gaza.’

Israel has sought to justify the attack by arguing it was responding to rocket attacks on its citizens from Gaza by Hamas. The state says ‘more than 200’ rockets were fired, one of which killed three people, and wounded a four-year-old boy and two babies.

While The Green Party accepts that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is too complex to be regarded as ‘black and white’ it also notes that Israeli commentators and peace campaigners are despairing of their own leaders’ seeming unwillingness to engage in a meaningful peace process – the only way the senseless killing of civilians in Israel and Palestine can be brought to an end.

We also believe that in common with previous Israeli military acts, this latest attack – the most intense since 2009 – is out of proportion both to the activities Israel argues led to its response, and to the ongoing disputes between Israel and dispossessed Palestinians.

Dr Wall continued: ‘The conflict will only end when Israel is prepared to discuss a plan for peace with Palestinians. Violence only leads to more violence.  The killing power of Israel puts their state at a huge military advantage however without justice, the future of both Palestinians and Israelis is bleak.’

The Green Party notes with sadness reports that mere hours before he was killed in the latest missile attacks, Hamas military commander Ahmed Al-Jabari had received the draft of a permanent truce between Hamas and Israel.

And we hope other political parties, and people across the world will join us in our condemnation of the attacks, and call for meaningful, lasting peace in one of the world’s most violently, and tragically, disputed regions.

Dr Wall said: ‘We challenge other UK political parties to condemn Israel’s violence and to support an inclusive process for peace and justice. Green Party members support the ongoing protests against Israel’s military attack.’