Sunday 21 June 2009


I'll be fighting the Wembley Central By-Election for the Greens and hope to show that we have a range of practical, appealing policies that offer people something different from the other parties.

I would seek to champion and strengthen the Council's recently agreed Climate Change Strategy and translate it into practical measures such as the Council ensuring that all new developments are energy and water efficient and incorporate the technology to produce their own power; implementing a programme of free insulation on a street by street basis as is being carried out in Kirklees; offering loans for people wishing to install their own solar water heating and electricity; ensuring that all council buildings take energy saving measures; and holding a borough wide Climate Change and Education Conference to encourage schools to educate children about climate change, engage them in projects for home and school, and to ensure that school management implement energy and water saving strategies.

I would press for changes in the Council's consultation system so that people are fully involved in how their area develops and feel that they are really being listened to. Often decisions seem to have be made in advance and those who have taken part in consultations feel their views have been ignored and their participation was a waste of time. I have supported residents angry about the potential impact of the Wembley Masterplan on their environment and have steadfastly opposed the Wembley ARK Academy because we have had no say in the Council handing over tax-payer funded education to a financial speculator and because the particular site will mean the loss of playing fields and increase traffic congestion. I support the campaign for a new community secondary school in the south of Brent to serve local people. I would seek to ensure that all major developments, such as the Civic Centre are consulted about at the proposal stage: "Should we have one?", rather than later: "What kind of roof should it have?"

The Council is blithely going forward with regeneration plans involving increased retail, hotel and office space with high rise blocks totally unsuitable for the area, at a time when those sectors are stagnating. Rather than building expensive yuppy flats such as those at Wembley City, I want the Council to build affordable family homes to tackle the long housing waiting list. I would also expect the Council to use its powers to force private landlords to maintain and improve their often sub-standard houses and flats. Every family deserves a decent home.

Regeneration should incorporate measures to bring green industries into the area which would provide jobs and improve the quality of life for all. Many people in Wembley have to work at several low paid jobs to make ends meet and living expenses are much higher in London that elsewhere. I would campaign for the council to adopt the London Living Wage, at present £7.45 per hour (as Lewisham has done), for its employees and encourage local employers to do the same. Families would also be helped by the introduction of Free School Meals for all pupils. This would put an end to the stigma of claiming free meals. It would remove all the difficult forms and bureaucracy associated with making the claim, which often means people who are entitled to the benefit don't apply, and will ensure that every child gets a healthy, decent meal every day. There are pilot projects doing this in other parts of the country and Brent with its high levels of unemployment should put itself forward to be included. I would also press for the adoption of policies friendly to small businesses and locally-owned shops - rather than encourage the domination of the high street by even more supermarkets. This may involve the Council in following the examples elsewhere and making loans available to small businesses.

The Green Party is the only party to oppose City Academies in principle and I will continue to do so. Academies are run by private sponsors with tax-payers money and aren't accountable through governing bodies (the sponsor has a built in majority) or through elected councillors. Where academies have been set up I will seek to get them reintegrated into the local authority system as soon as possible. At a wider level Greens seek the ending of the system of SATs and League Tables which force schools to 'teach to the test' rather than educate pupils. Having seen the stress this causes for pupils, parents and teachers I will support those heads and teachers who decide to boycott the Key Stage 2 SATs next year. I want to see teachers and pupils enjoy teaching and learning again, rather than enduring it.

The Conservative-Lib Dem coalition is falling apart and the administration is lack-lustre. A Green councillor would inject energy and enthusiasm at a time when it is needed and prepare the ground for a positive Green performance at next year's local elections.

Polling day will be Thursday July 23rd.

Monday 8 June 2009


The Green Party came a good 4th in the Euro election in Brent out-polling UKIP and with four times the vote of the BNP.

The big surprise in the election was the large vote achieved by Jan Jananayagam (Independent) who campaigned on a human rights platform and is UK spokesperson for 'Tamils Against Genocide'. She had an energetic young team who were very active in the borough.

Public anger over expenses was clearly apparent from the comments on some of the ballot forms which accused all politicans of being crooks and a number of ballot forms that said NO to all candidates or stated 'None of the above'.

The Greens ran an effective campaign and the strength in some localities suggests that with hard work we could achieve our first Green councillors in the local election next year.

Provisional results, taken down by hand at the count are:

Labour 15,583
Conservative 11,940
Lib Dem 11,370
Greens 5,007
Jan Jananayagam (Tamil Supporting Independent) 4,867
UKIP 3,240
Christian Alliance 1,974
BNP 1,250
Rejected votes 621
Turnout: 32.1%

Conservative 20,793
Labour 12,135
Jan Jananayagam 6,856
Lib Dem 6,054
UKIP 5,837
Green 4,181
BNP 1,835
Christian Alliance 1,558
Rejected votes 516
Turnout: 38.49%

Saturday 6 June 2009


The Government Office for London has refused to 'call in' the plans for the Wembley ARK Academy. 'Call in' happens if the Secretary of State considers the application raises issues of more than local importance and therefore requires her intervention.

In a letter to Brent Council, Andrew Melville, Director of Housing and Planning for the Government Office for London states that having considered issues felt to be relevant to the proposal and issues raised by Brent Council and other representations, 'it has been concluded that the Secretary of State's intervention would not be justified' and that the application should be decided by the London Borough of Brent.

The decision follows that of the London Mayor to refer the decision back to Brent. There are still other avenues open to campaigners who remain convinced that Wembley Park playing fields are the wrong place for a school as well as those of us like the Brent Green Party who in addition oppose academies in principle as a form of privatisation and a loss of local participation in our children's education. Brent Green Party want to see a locally democratically accountable community secondary school in South Brent where the need is highest and where it will provide a valuable community resource.

Friday 5 June 2009


There are feasible forms of both one state and two state solutions to the Palestine issue, Moshé Machover told the Brent Palestine Solidarity Campaign at its May 28th meeting. The problem was that neither would be equitable. The feasible one state solution would at best be an apartheid state and the two state solution would leave Palestine as a number of powerless enclaves like North American Indian reservations.

He said that the apartheid metaphor was misleading in respect of the power relationship between settlers and the indigenous population as the South African and Israel situations were different types of colonial conflict. In the former the settlers exploited both the physical resources of the country and the labour power of the indigenous population. The 1:7 ratio of settler to population meant that eventual the numerical relationship was unsustainable and the settlers grabbed what could be argued was a generous deal. In the Israel case the idea of a 'Jewish' state needed a Jewish majority population so the indigenous population were excluded by design through ethnic cleansing in order to form a new nation.

Moshé argued that in most similar cases (North America, Australia) the local population had been pulverised. However Palestinians were part of a wider region and linked with it through language and a rich cultural and historical heritage. This is now reinforced by the outreach of modern media such as Al Jazeera across the region. As a result the Zionist ethnic cleansing project had been only partially successful. There was a crucial difference also in the importance of the two countries to the United States. Africa has a low priority in the US but the Middle East is a high priority because of its oil reserves and because it forms a bridge between Europe, Africa and Asia. If oil has reached its peak it will be even more important as a scarcer resource as there are no immediate replacements for oil in the offing and it will increase in value as supplies decline.. The US relies on local regional governments to keep the lid on popular discontent with terrorism being a convenient enemy, useful for propaganda and to justify the denial of rights.
Given this scenario it becomes clear that an equitable solution will only come about through a regional process which would involve the development of popular social movements in Arab countries. The labour unrest in Egypt demonstrated the potential of these movements. An equitable solution could not come about through Islamicist regimes which had their own conflicts with each other and did not take account of the multi-religious nature of the region. The region was potentially rich economically and culturally and the Israel-Palestine conflict served as a block on its development.

A fuller over-view of the ideas on which Moshé based his talk can be found here:

Wednesday 3 June 2009


I have been busy with leafleting and campaigning for the Greens in the Euro elections for the last few weeks and am cautiously optimistic about the chances of increasing our representation in the European Parliament. The reason for the caution lies in the public reaction to the expenses issue which has produced in some people a loathing of all politicians and rejection of politics in general. Many people have told me that they will not vote at all, in protest against what is going on and the drip-drip of revelations in the newspapers.

As I said at the Barry Gardiner meeting (below) this is bad for democracy and we cannot afford to throw away our hard worn democratic rights, however limited we believe they are, in a fit of pique. In earlier times in this country and recent and currently in many others (remember the lone protester in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square?) people have died to gain democratic rights and a voice in their own lives. Not voting will be cutting off our nose to spite our face and open the way for the BNP and UKIP. Rather than constituting an overnight slap round the face for the greedy it will affect our lives for many years to come. It is imperative that everyone gets out and votes for positive change.

Thankfully, in the last few days I have seen evidence that people are recognising this. Talking to voters in Kilburn High Road, Wembley High Road and Willesden Green it is clear that many are giving serious consideration to voting Green and are identifying with policies such as opposing health services being opened up to free market competition, creating thousands of new jobs in green services and industries, making homes and schools energy efficient and closing down tax havens. More Green MEPs in the UK will increase our clout both at home and in Europe. Parents picking up leaflets outside schools have been particularly positive with only a 1 in 10 refusal rate.
One of the most heartening exchanges was at an elders' care home in Kingsbury where the initial reaction from the white residents was to shoo us away, saying they were fed up with all politicians, but once conversation opened up began they were adamant about the need to keep out the BNP and scathing about their policies. Curiously there has been very little evidence of the main three parties on the streets with independent candidate supporters more in evidence. A number of voters said that we were the only party that seemed to be out actively seeking votes and delivering material through their doors.

When the results are announced on Sunday I look forward to seeing Green gains but I will also be desperate for evidence that people have not given up on democracy.


Boris Johnson, the London mayor, has decided not to stop Brent's plans for a city academy on the Wembley Park playing fields site. The decision means that Brent Council can make its own decision to go ahead. However, there is still the possibility of further delays through intervention by the Government Office for London or legal action.

Martin Francis, Brent Green Party spokesperson for children, families and schools and the party's General election candidate for the Brent North said:

"The Green Party continues to oppose the concept of academies as they are run by private concerns with a built in majority on the governing body and there therefore not democratically accountable, although funded by taxpayers. We believe in locally accountable, community schools which are open to all. Brent Green Party also oppose the building of a school on the site of the Wembley playing fields because of the loss of local amenities, concerns about the structural viability of the site, the proximity to Preston Manor High School, its distance from the area of need in the south of the borough and its generation of traffic. We support the building of a community secondary school in the south of the borough which would serve local residents and become a local resource for education, recreation and the arts and a beacon of hope and pride for the area.

We are disappointed by Boris Johnson's decision but remain determined to stop the Wembley ARK Academy and will explore the next steps with our fellow campaigners."

There's no connection of course, but on election day hedge fund speculator Arpad Busson, head of ARK is hosting a £10,000 a head charity dinner for 900 guests at the old Eurostar Terminus at Waterloo. The keynote speaker at this 'glittering' event? Boris Johnson, London Mayor.

Monday 1 June 2009


Shahrar Ali, Brent Green Party spokesperson for Environment and Planning has called attention to a mountain of rubbish deposited behind pubs, shops and restaurants on Neasden Shopping Precinct which provides an ideal habitat for rats. He said, "Whilst out campaigning in Neasden this Sunday, the Green Party came across the most appalling mountain of waste. Refuse bags, ma tresses and whole beds were literally piled up above head height against a wall in the alley behind Neasden shopping parade. There was a clear whiff of rotting matter and it simply looked like this mountain had been piling up for weeks."

Shahrar continued, "We have reported this discovery and sent photographs to both Brent's streetcare division and environmental health department for immediate action. It is dispiriting to find that whilst the local shopping parade has seen a revival, with new grocers, a post office and revamped library centre, such neglect is apparent just round the corner."

Shahrar said, "We have spoken to traders who have acknowledged the dumping stretches back for weeks. Brent Green Party will be monitoring the situation and looking at how the Council's collection policy may be contributing to the problem. However, the police may also need to be on the alert if environmental crimes are being committed."


Barry Gardiner's local meeting to explain his parliamentary expenses last night veered from high drama to low farce and at times threatened to descend into chaos. Gardiner began by saying that most people would have found the current process invasive if they had to go through it, complained that all MPs were being lumped together as dishonest and that his own statements to the press had been only partially reported. He said that he believed reform was necessary and that he wanted to discuss the form this would take with constituents.

However written questions concentrated on the detail of his expenses including why he purchased his bed linen from Harrods rather than Debenham's or Marks and Spencer. The answer was, of course, that he had got it in the famous Harrods sale, so it was a bargain!

More serious questions centred on his second home and travel expenses culminating in a big shouting match about whether in 1997 he had promised to live in his Brent North constituency. Gardiner said that he had promised to live in the 'area' and not in the constituency. He claimed that his residence in Chorley Wood, was in the 'area'. At this point Cllr Paul Lorber, Liberal Democrat leader of Brent Council, who had positioned himself in the front row, jumped up and roaring above protests from the audience, said that he had been at the meeting in question and had heard Gardiner say specifically that he would live in Brent. Gardiner in turn cited the Wembley Observer's apology for carrying Lorber's original claim on the matter. When challenged that he lived in Chorley Wood because he had no no confidence in Brent schools for his children, Gardiner said that he had wanted his children educated outside Brent because he wanted to protect them from the undue pressure of being known in school as the children of the local MP.

Most of the audience seemed to be local activists and councillors from the various parties, rather than ordinary local constituents. When challenged Gardiner, controlling a tremor is his voice, said that he thought he had been a good constituency MP, declared he would not resign and that he would stand again.

In my contribution I pointed our that politicians from all parties were facing similar meetings and voiced concern that in my canvassing I had found disgust and loathing of all politicans and politics. Many people have decided not to vote at all and this withdrawal from democracy is a serious threat and opened the way for extreme right-wing parties. Barry Gardiner responded by saying that he shared this concern and wanted to engage with his constituents about the reforms necessary to rebuild confidence in democracy.

Interestingly, imperfect as it was, the meeting in a rough and ready way did show democracy and accountability in action. Public meetings used to be a regular part of our political process but over the last 30 years or so have been phased out in favour of all-ticket rallies for the party faithful. Perhaps it is a time to return to the rough and tumble and authenticity of open public meetings.