Thursday 29 April 2010

Kilburn - Blame Privatisation

Peter Murry, Green Party candidate for Kilburn ward, looks ahead to Friday's Save Kilburn College meeting at the Kingsgate Community Centre, Kingsgate Road, NW6 (7pm).

As a Green Party candidate for Kilburn ward in the council elections and a former lecturer at the College of North West London’s old Kilburn site and retired member of the college’s UCU branch, I am obviously concerned about the closure of the new Kilburn building and its impact on students and staff. This will drastically reduce educational provision for adults in the Kilburn area, many of who are BME communities and women.

However, although I support the campaign against closure the present funding current management arrangements limit the power of any local council or MP to reverse the decision.

The root of the problem lies in earlier government policies of the quasi-privatisation of Further Education that took place in the 1990's. This took the control of Colleges out of the control of local government, which whatever its faults, had some democratic accountability. Now colleges with large budgets are controlled by governing bodies which are in effect self perpetuating quangos that often just rubber-stamp management decisions

Wednesday 28 April 2010

Debate Afghanistan and the War on Terror? Er, sorry..important engagement....whips won't allow...can't speak because we're elected...can't be bothered

With the UK bogged down in an increasingly unpopular war in Afghanistan, the mounting death toll of British soldiers, the realisation of the corrupt nature of the Afghan government, and the impact on many local people of the 'war on terror',  you would think that the politicians who support the war would stand up and defend their policies in front of the voters of Brent.

Far from it. Dawn Butler had pleaded another important  engagement weeks ago but there didn't appear to be any more important election activity anywhere else in Brent that evening. The Metro reports today that just as the hustings were about to begin she tweeted that she 'was sitting in a cafe in Kensal Green resting after door knocking'.

To make matters worse she had nominated local councillors Van Kalwala and Butt to speak on her behalf at the meeting but they withdrew at the last minute. In a message to organisers they said that the Labour Group whip had advised them that due to this being a national issue and the fact that they were local councillors they 'would not be best placed to speak on the topic.' They also said that as elected members they would not be able to speak in a personal capacity either.

The Conservative candidate for Brent Central, Sachin Rajput, had also said he could not make the meeting but would find a replacement. Despite frequent reminders he submitted no names and there was no Tory speaker.

My personal opinion is that this failure to debate with the public one of the most pressing issues of the day, involving national security, the deaths of British troops, not to mention the enormous economic cost, shows a complete contempt for the people of Brent.

Despite the Labour and Conservative absence the 80-90 people present, the local press and a Middle Eastern TV station, heard passionate and informed presentations from experts on Afghanistan, the 'war on terror', Palestine and Guantanomno.  Shahrar Ali, the Green Party candidate and Sarah Teather, Liberal Democrat candidate made considered and detailed responses to the questions from the experts and the audience. 

The main differences that emerged between the parties were on Afghanistan and Trident. The Green Party are for immediate withdrawal from Afghanistan accompanied by a regional peace process and for the scrapping of Trident. The Liberal Democrats are for a review of the Afghanistan commitment and were challenged that their desire to maintain stability though the use of troops would inevitably mean a long term presence. Sarah Teather wanted to retain options on the nuclear deterrent whilst being opposed to the renewal of Trident. On Palestine Shahrar Ali said the Green Party supported all of the PSC's pledges while Sarah Teather wanted to consult with legal experts on trade before commiting to a ban on settlement goods.

In her concluding remarks Sarah Teather said that the Brent Central contest would be a too close to call two horse race and if the audience largely agreed with her that was the way they should vote. She promised that she would be prepared to challenge the Lib Dem whips on issues of principle.

Shahrar Ali said that the Green Party was founded on firm principles of justice and equality. He challenged the the two horse race concept and said that voters should vote in terms of their beliefs and principles. He quoted the 9% plus local vote Greens received in the 2008 GLA elections and said that there was no better time than now than to cast a Green vote.

Monday 26 April 2010

The Spring Election in Brent

Springtime in Brent: trees in blossom, bird song and nest building....and fly-tipping

Campaigning has brought the practical importance of Green policies into focus, rather than the personality politics encouraged by the TV debates. Although there were signs of a Lib Dem bandwagon in the on the hoof comments of voters whenI leafleted outside Wembley Park stations, it became clear when they were pressed that their comments were light-hearted and with little substance.

However, extended conversations while canvassing have underlined the key issues to do with equality, jobs, housing, education and accountability. Our policy to increase the minimum wage received strong support with people saying the present wage is just not enough to live on. One claimant, feeling depressed after making numerous job applications said our policy to allow claimants to work for more hours before benefits are cut would make a real difference to him.  He said it would ease people back into a work pattern and counter the low self-esteem caused by unemployment.

Employment and training opportunities are fundamental. Our commitment to a massive investment in the creation of green training and jobs, dwarves the promises made by the Lib Dems.  We recognise the revolution that will be needed to create a low carbon economy, providing socially useful jobs. The UK must again begin making things, rather than cashing in on what has been called casino capitalism, but the things made must actually improve people's lives.  For those already in work, but having to work long hours to the detriment of family life, our policy to move towards a 35 hour week will make a significant impact - and allow work to be shared out amongst a greater number of people.  

A period of recession always means that more people move into education and training to prepare for the upturn.  It is scandalous then that the College of North West London is closing its new Kilburn site and courses are under threat from funding cuts. The current management and funding system for further education is fundamentally flawed and we would return further education to the management of local authorities who are able to respond to the specific needs of local people.  As with academies there is a need to return education to local democratic control - we must reclaim our schools and colleges.

The extremes of riches and poverty in Brent North are very evident when leafleting. On one evening you can be squeezing through gas guzzlers parked on a paved over garden outside a 6 bedroomed house and on the next stepping over rubbish and climbing fire escapes to dilapidated flats over high road shops. Some of the pre-war blocks in Wembley, managed by private property companies, are in a very bad state of repair with rotting windows, damp walls and moth-eaten carpeting on communal staircases.

Our commitment to renewed direct investment in council and social housing, including refurbishment of empty properties, will begin to tackle the massive Brent housing waiting list.  Equally important will be taking enforcement action on private landlords who fail to keep their properties properly maintained. In addition we would make sure that affordable housing was built to a high specification rather than the tiny rooms provided in many current cost-cutting schemes.  I am particularly concerned that good quality and secure play facilities are provided in new developments.  Too often the promises made for improvements in infrastructure and community facilities by developers such as Quintain, responsible for Wembley 'City, ' are not fulfilled or are forgotten in the rush to develop. We would make sure that developers really deliver for the community.

Finally, we need to care much more for our communities. People all over the constituency are concerned about fly-tipping and the dumping of rubbish.  Some of this is clearly by individuals wanting to avoid the bulky collection charge but there is also dumping by cowboy builders and house clearers. The scene above is from St Davids Close on Chalkhill and Chalkhill also suffers from massive dumping of furniture and mattresses on the open ground near the Health Centre which has been ear-marked for a new public park and children's playspace. Residents on Birchen Grove pointed to a mountain of  dumped house clearance rubbish near the Welsh Harp carpark as merely the latest in a series of dumpings.  Greens would make clearining up the local environment and combating 'public squalour' a major priority.

Tuesday 20 April 2010

Unite Against the BNP in Brent

Brent residents will be dismayed to hear that the British National Party is standing a candidate in Fryent ward in the council election.

Brent and Harrow Unite Against Fascism have circulated a statement inviting candidates, residents, community groups and religious organisations to pledge their opposition to the BNP and all that it stands for. I have signed as the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Brent North. Fryent is one of the Brent North wards.


We are shocked to learn that the Nazi British National Party is standing a candidate in Fryent Ward for the Brent Council elections. Brent is a borough where people from across the world work side by side and live together as good neighbours. Their children grow up and go to school together. It is a united community.  We welcome and celebrate this unity. The British National Party wants to destroy it.

The BNP stands for racism, intolerance and hatred. Its ideas echo those of Hitler’s Nazis and Oswald Mosley’s Fascist Blackshirts. Leading members of the BNP are on record publicly denying that the Holocaust happened, celebrating Hitler’s birthday, saying that women should not complain about rape, and that there is “not a great deal of point” in keeping people with disabilities alive.

There is no room for racism, hatred and division in our multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious community. We call on all the voters in Fryent Ward to use their votes on Thursday May 6th, but NOT  for the Nazi BNP

If you would like to sign the statement e-mail:

Monday 19 April 2010

Dinosaur Battles Toxic Chimney

Yesterday, Brent, Barnet & Enfield and Camden Friends of the Earth local groups flew an inflatable flying dinosaur, the "Brentcrossasaurus", and released balloons at Clitterhouse Playing fields in Cricklewood.  An attempt was also made to fly a kite to the height of the 140metre incinerator chimney proposed for the Brent Cross Cricklewood development.  The groups were warning of UFD: not unidentified flying dinosaurs, but Unidentified Flying Discharges.

The stunt was part of an event organised by Barnet Green party, supported by members of the Brent Cross Coalition, of which local Friends of the Earth groups are members.

Jim Roland, Friends of the Earth member and Golders Green resident said, "Waste gasification, like conventional incineration, emits toxic nanoparticles we can't see.  Just as volcanic ash damages jet engines unlike normal fire ash, so the nanoparticles that the gasifier will emit are far more toxic than regular car exhaust soot and tyre dust.  Nanoparticles from municipal waste gasification can transmit heavy metals and other toxins into delicate organs like the brain, as with conventional incineration.

"Municipal waste gasification is actually a dinosaur technology: it's still turning the products of oil extraction into global warming gases and pollution, it requires that recyclable material such as plastic is burnt to help provide a heat source, and it leaves large quantities of toxic ash."

Lia Colacicco, Brent Friends of the Earth member, Brent Cross Coalition Co-ordinator, and Mapesbury resident said, “If anyone has seen any of our five balloons released, then they will also receive emissions from the proposed chimney.  We would love to know where the chimney products are blowing to! 

“I used to think that it would be a good idea to get heat from vapourising rubbish. But after hearing the evidence from a world leading environmental chemist, Professor Paul Connett, I was shocked. Apparently the nanoparticles produced are so small they can’t be regulated, and can travel for miles.  Rather than getting stuck in your lungs they pass through into your blood then brain. The scientific evidence is so clear.  He told us that it would be stupid to site a gasifier near any community”

 “We think that district heating and power stations are a good thing, but this is incineration in disguise; the developer is misleading people.  It is not the gasifier that provides heating to local homes- it’s the combined heat and power station.  It is perfectly feasible to run that with natural gas or other safe fuels not produced by incineration techniques, which as the professor states are not proven for domestic waste.  In fact plants in Karlsruhe and Woollongong were unsafe and had to be closed.”

If anyone finds a Brent Cross balloon please email

Eco Hustings: Will the Environment Get Your Vote?

War, Peace and the Middle East - Question Time

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Cyber Greens in the Lead

The Green Party yesterday launched a brilliant new website which not only shows the Green's Party Political Broadcast (see panel) but enables users to create a personalised version to e-mail to their friends. All you have to do is tick the policy areas of most interest and the site does the rest for you.

The site also features a 'Policy Matchmaker' test where you can see how close your views are to the Green Party's policies.

An independent site, which does something similar, lists policies 'blind', not attributing them to a specific party. After users have completed the survey they are told which party the policy belongs to. 92,000 people have completed the survey at Vote for Policies so far and today the results stand at Greens 28%, Lib Dems 18%, Labour 17%, Conservatives 16%, UKIP 11% and BNP 10% (figures rounded).

Saturday 10 April 2010

Let Battle Commence!

Click image to enlarge

Brent Greens are battling for council seats in the Town Hall as well as battling to save it for community use if the proposed Civic Centre goes ahead.

Increasing support for the Green's refreshingingly open and independent approach is reflected in their ability to compete for ALL seats in the Brent council elections this year with a wide field of candidates representing all walks of life in the borough. This means that every Brent voter will be able to vote Green in both the local and parliamentary election.

We will be campaigning on these main action points:
  •  Real consultation and accountability.
  •  No cuts in local services or jobs.
  • Work to combat climate change through home insulation.
  • Support for local shops and small businesses.
  • Affordable and sustainable housing fit for 21st century.
  • A good local school and safe play facilities for every child.
  • Safeguard the future of the Town Hall for community use.
The Green's positive approach contrasted with the news that Bertha Joseph, erstwhile Labour and Conservative councillor, embroiled in controversy, is now standing as an Independent in Kensal Green and that a lone BNP candidate is standing in Fryent.

Meanwhile Bob Blackman, standing as a parliamentary Conservative candidate in Harrow East, has thrown the Tory campaign into disarray by announcing that he will not be standing for Brent council  and will  resign as leader of Brent Conservatives after the local elections.

Apart from a couple of  other independent candidates the local election is now a contest between four political parties: Green, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and Labour.  Brent Green Party are determined to make the most of this opportunity to transform Brent Council.  Please get in touch to help us with our campaign.

Harrow Students Debate the Big Issues

I had a great time last week at a Question Time style hustings at Harrow College.  I was pitched against Bob Blackman, Conservative (who will resign as Conservative leader of Brent Council AFTER the election); Tony McNulty, Labour; Fred Leplatt, Respect; and Nahid Boethe (Lib Dem). There was a lively audience of 80-100 mainly first-time voters who questioned us on the economy, capitalism and climate change, Afghanistan, BNP, tuition fees and black and asian political leadership. 

Students were asked about their voting intentions before and after the debate. The results were encouraging. Voting intention before the debate in brackets:

Conservative 18% (20%)
Labour 23% (25%)
Liberal Democrat 9% (7%)
Green 23% (9%)
Respect 11%
Other 5% (9%)
Not voting – 7% (18%)
Don’t Know – 3.5% (9%)

The most important issues for the students, listed in order of priority, were: Education, HE Fees, Afghanistan and the Economy.

Harrow Observer report - Click on image to enlarge

Friday 9 April 2010

Greens are the REAL alternative

"....But the bigger political picture, in the wake of the greatest economic crisis since the 1930s, won't get a look in. That's partly because over some of the crucial controversies, the public is on one side of the argument and the political class on the other.

"That's the case with the war in Afghanistan, the cossetting of bankers, privatisation of public services and tax privileges for the weathy, for instance. The main parties in England support them, so most voters will have no choice."

So said Seumas Milne, writing in yesterday's Guardian summing up the cosy consensus amongst the three main parties.  The Green Party does hold sharply different positions on these issues and if you are lucky enough to live in Brent you can vote for them:
  • AFGHANISTAN - We are for withdrawal of our troops and a regional peace process
  • BANKERS - We want reform of the finance sector, separation of retail and investment banking and a 'Robin Hood' tax on international  financial transactions
  • PRIVATISATION -We are opposed to the privatisation and deregulation of services and would end PFI schemes 
  • TAXES ON THE WEALTHY - We would increase taxes on the wealthy, close loopholes and have a special permanent tax on bankers' bonuses

Wednesday 7 April 2010

Why You Should Vote Green on May 6th - Caroline Lucas

Give up one minute of your time to hear Caroline Lucas on why you should vote Green.


An enterprising site has been set up which lists the policies of six political parties in 10 areas.  You choose the most important policy areas for you personally, and then vote for the policy you prefer.  This is done blind - you are not told which policy belongs to which party.

At the end you are told which party your choices favoured.

Simple?  Have a go by clicking this link  VOTEFORPOLICIES

Friday 2 April 2010

Boris turns Brent Cross protests into a joke

Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, demonstrated his cosy relationship with developers and contempt for democracy when he spoke at the London Planning Awards 2010. He dismissed the widespread opposition to the environmentally disastrous Brent Cross Cricklewood Regeneration with a flippant 'Never Mind'.

The fact that the Mayor gave the opposition such contemptuous and cursory consideration must reinforce the pressure on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to call in the application for a Public Inquiry.

Darren Johnson, Green Party AM said,

This sound clip reveals that beneath the Mayor's chuckling veneer lurks a cavalier disregard for the views of Londoners and a reckless abandonment of any pretence of reaching an informed and balanced view of major development applications and their environmental impact. A public inquiry is essential.