Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Co-operation and Cabinet

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Bristol's Labour Party could decide tonight not to accept places on the new Mayor's Cabinet or to advise the Mayor (see here) and impose a ban on all its members. I hope they dont [**see the series of updates below!]. Local govt co-operation between parties is eminently sensible – and it’s what people have voted for, so this should be recognised provided the new Cabinet is: committed to taking decisions openly and accountably; and its members are able, diplomatically, to speak their minds and not own every single Mayoral decision.

Each individual Councillor and Party needs to change mindset and both scrutinise, criticise and support as appropriate. Conscience first not party – that’s what they are supposed to be doing according to the code of conduct they sign up to in any case! This code includes ‘making decisions on merit’ and reaching ‘their own conclusions on the issues before them and act in accordance with those conclusions’.  Councillors have power through a vote on the council, through committee work and through lobbying the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Asst Mayors when in place. Hopefully some power will be properly and effectively devolved to local councillors and people in neighbourhoods soon too.

Labour were the party with councillors that got the most votes and in next May's local elections Labour are likely to make gains on the council - the Tory and Lib Dem vote has sunk and is unlikely to recover enough for them not to suffer councillor losses. I'm most in favour of people getting into the Cabinet on the basis of merit not party but having said that the Mayor should also take into account which parties the public are voting for.
[Update 22 November: According to The Post Bristol's Labour Party last night voted against taking up three Cabinet seats offered to them and so have have refused the opportunity to argue for their policies directly with the Mayor and others. Its still unclear to me whether they voted to ban all members from taking part.]

[Update 23 November: According to The Post Labour Councillors in Bristol have agreed to join the Mayor's Cabinet and have gone against the local party vote. Its a good sign that Labour Councillors have asserted themselves. Its Bristol's voters they have to be listening to and not just the local party and they seem to have done that. Which Councillors finally end up doing what is not yet finaliised though.]

[Update 26 November (!!!): According to Bristol 24-7 and ITV West and The Post Labour's South West regional organisation, probably with some central party influence, has prevented Bristol's Labour Councillors from joining the Mayor's Cabinet. This has caused Cllr Peter Hammond the Leader of Bristol's Labour Councillors to resign. It remains to be seen whether individuals choose to defy this intsruction.]

Monday, November 19, 2012

Temperate tax rise

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I heartily approve of most of the early decisions that have been made by newly sworn in Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson. The biggest of these is that council tax may have to rise by around 2% (as reported by BBC Points West here). This is moderate, sensible, reasonably progressive thinking - and it would mean that the impact of  imposed Coalition Govt cuts on vital local services would be a little less severe.

Freezing council tax as some other candidates committed themselves to would have meant even more severe impacts on public services. Committment to a freeze over a number of years also showed a lack of realism given the dire financial circumstances.

More information here and here and here.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Woman winner!

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Fantastic! A victory for independence, impartiality and ability to represent the whole community.

Newly elected Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Sue Mountstevens brings a perspective and approach to the role that we really need. Second time today I've voted for an election winner!

Congratulations and commiserations

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Many congratulations to George Ferguson and commiserations to the other candidates, especially to Marvin Rees. You have to work hard to become the first elected Mayor of Bristol - but the much harder work begins now. It's a new way to run Bristol with many uncertainties and it has to be made to work. I hope that people in all political parties will work well together and that George's cabinet has someone from each political party with councillors currently on the city council. I hope this is a victory for independent-minded thinking from political people inside and outside of parties. I hope that power is genuinely and effectively spread out into communities, with real opportunities to participate. I hope George's decent record on sustainable development becomes the norm for development in the city. I hope George takes full note of the very large number of votes given to parties (the Greens, Labour and the socialists) supporting the living wage and the fairness agenda and the good number of votes given to the only woman candidate, the Greens Daniella Radice (who was only one percentage point behind the Lib Dems). Feels good to have voted for someone who has won an election - after 30 yrs as a voter!

Very good, gracious speech from the new Mayor George Ferguson here and I agree particularly strongly when he said this,

"I want to use that mandate to go and ask the prime minister and the government in general for more powers for Bristol and for more resources. I think we deserve it.

"We have delivered what they wanted, now they have got to deliver what we want."

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Voters: vote voluminously!!!

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Worrying signs - from postal vote numbers and numbers going to polling stations so far - that the voter turnout in the Bristol Mayoral and Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner elections could be very low indeed. People have been predicting a low turnout from the start due to the time of the year, very poor information availability, general lack of awareness and interest and the dwindling enthusiasm for politics - but its looking even worse at the moment. So, voters in Bristol - get out and vote in volume and prove that the predictions are wrong!

For Mayor of Bristol: I'm voting for Green Daniella Radice first preference because she has far and away the best policies and would bring a perspective and approach to the role of Mayor that we really need. My second preference vote goes to Bristol 1st George Ferguson because the second round of counting will be a contest between him and Labour's Marvin Rees. George has: excellent experience; a wide range of great achievements in the city already; very good national standing, respect and connections; independent-mindedness and openness to involving people of all parties in his cabinet; demonstrated through his work over decades that he gets and enacts sustainable development.

For Police and Crime Commisioner: I'm voting for independent candidate Sue Mounstevens as my first preference because of her experience as: a member of the current police authority; as a Bristol magistrate for 15 years; and as vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. Her clear impartiality and ability to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate are very important indeed - as is the perspective and approach to the role she will bring. I wont be casting a second preference vote because all the other candidates are standing to represent political parties and I dont want a Commissioner who can be pressured by and who is answerable to a political party.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Men and Mayor

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Daniella Radice, the Green candidate  standing to become Mayor of Bristol, has produced the most comprehensive and detailed manifesto of policies of any of the candidates and has made a lot more sense than other candidates at the many hustings meetings held.  All the other candidates have been more vague, generalised, wishy-washy, incoherent and in some cases populist, where Daniella has offered real leadership. She is the only woman standing, which is a story in itself.

It’s important to discuss the fact that only one of the fifteen candidates for Mayor is a woman because: just 22% of MPs in the House of Commons and 20% of members of the House of Lords are women and women aren't in many positions of power and influence across society; 3 million women in the UK suffer rape, domestic violence, trafficking, forced marriage or other violence; 90% of local authorities do not have a rape crisis centre; of 109 High Court judges only 15 are women; women’s average net income per week in 2010 was £180 compared to £231 for men; 20% of people believe it is sometimes acceptable for a man to hit or slap his girlfriend; 36% believe a woman is partly responsible for being raped if she is drunk; 83% of experts cited in news stories are men; 19% is the proportion of women in news stories portrayed as victims, compared to 10% for men...Clearly our decision making would be better if women were present in positions of power and influence on a par with men.
We need to address the issue of disempowerment and the facts clearly illustrate why. Without strong and positive action it could take forever to achieve fair and balanced representation. We don’t get the best range of candidates for positions of power now because we have a system that on the whole continues to favour men and disempower women. We are wasting half the talent we have. The social system and within it the economic and political system is discriminatory, not always in the legal sense but certainly in the sense of culture/traditions. The right to fair and equal treatment that I'm arguing for is a human right that putting into action would benefit every person.

In broad terms I am saying that if there was no sex discrimination there would be many more women candidates for Mayor of Bristol. Some question this, saying there is no discrimination in the mayoral process itself: doubtless the rules would be illegal if they were directly discriminatory so no surprise there!! But the mayoral election does not take place in total isolation from the social, economic and political context – and we can’t yet say that there is nothing in our social system at all that deters and discourages women from coming forward as candidates (see list and link below). For instance: the costs involved in applying to become Bristol Mayor are a deterrent to many who might otherwise consider standing – however the high cost will discriminate more against women than men because women’s average income and other wealth levels are lower. Discriminatory social, economic and political context deters and discourages women. Some admit that discrimination exists but stick to the unsustainable, implausible position that it has no effect at all on women coming forward to stand in elections such as for Mayor!
In 2008 an Inter-Parliamentary Union reported said that these factors deter women from entering politics to at least a fair degree: Domestic responsibilities; Prevailing cultural attitudes regarding the roles of women in society; Lack of support from family; Lack of confidence; Lack of finances; Lack of support of political parties; Lack of experience in "representative functions": public speaking, constituency relations; Lack of support from the electorate; Lack of support from men; Lack of support from other women; Politics seen as "dirty" or corrupt; Lack of education. See

Take nursing and primary school teaching as examples in addition to being a Mayor. Stereotyping of male/female roles due to sexism results in men and women tending to be deterred and discouraged from coming forward for certain jobs, for example women for Mayor of Bristol - and elected and other positions of power generally - and men for nursing and primary school teaching. It’s not uncommon to find some arguing that not all jobs are equally appealing because of 'natural tendencies' ie women aren't coming forward to be Mayor because they are not 'naturally' suited to it – ‘men and women are different, in most ways’  as someone said to me recently. Different yes but different in most ways no – and of course there are differences between people of the same sex! Men and women have a huge amount in common - they are equally capable for example of being Mayor, though some suggest otherwise. Sexists argue that we have one woman candidate in fifteen for Mayor of Bristol because men and women 'want different things' and therefore women don’t want to be Mayor and its all down to inherent reasons with no effect from sex discrimination in our society at all. What a load of utter nonsense.
The sexists are assuming that what men and women do is what they want; is where their talents and abilities are; that they have no latent, suppressed capacity for anything else; that this wont/cant and does not need to change...and that its only what men and women inherently 'are' that affects what they do ie there is zero effect from the society, the economy and the political system that men and women live in.

My favoured party – the Greens - do not knowingly or deliberately (and certainly not blatantly) discriminate against women in its processes but  it does exist in a social, economic and political context which does discriminate and this does have effects. It is working continually to do better, has a women leader, Natalie Bennett...its ex-leader and its first MP, Caroline Lucas, is a woman...the Greens fielded a good number of women candidates at the last general election (a higher % than other parties I think) compared to the 20% of MPs that are women  but the Greens must do better as other political parties and society in general must!! 100% of Green MPs and 50% of Bristol’s Green Councillors are women by the way :) but the party can only choose from those who come forward not from its whole membership.  Even in the Greens fewer women come forward because the social context deters and discourages them. There is no inherent reason why they would not come forward.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bell's backing

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Former BBC war reporter and independent MP for Tatton 1997-2001, Martin Bell - the first independent MP for 50 years and now a UNICEF Ambassador - has backed George Ferguson's campaign to be the first elected Mayor of Bristol.
Martin said of George and his campaign: “I don’t rush around the country supporting everyone running as an independent, but every now and then I come out of hiding when I feel there is a candidate really worthy of support.
“I have experienced how political parties work in Government, and the sheer power of the whips, and the extent with which they persuade people to go along with the party rhetoric.

“I knew there must be a better way to run our politics than this.

“When I heard that Bristol had decided it wanted a mayor and discovered that George Ferguson was running as an independent, I thought he was the perfect candidate.

“I am not denigrating any of the other candidates but here is a man who will simply represent the people, not just a political party.

“I hope he gets elected as mayor on Friday - I believe he will.”

Spurious spin

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The recent survey of mayoral voting intentions showed Conservative Geoff Gollop in 3rd place not second and a very, very large number of undecided people. The Tories now have just 14 councillors across Bristol compared to 32 Lib Dem, 22 Labour and 2 Green. The Tory led Coalition Government is hardly popular at the moment...and yet it is said (here by Kerry McCarthy MP) that there is a real threat from the Tories!! The facts have shown right from the start of this campaign that in an all-Bristol election the Tories cannot win or get close to winning and that's one reason why the bookies have never rated them as having a realistic chance. Labour have an electoral interest in talking down the chances of Bristol 1sts George Ferguson the person who IS a real threat to them because of the breadth of his appeal and thus his ability to pick up lots of second preference votes in the second round of counting. Tribalism from Labour may well get them lots of first preference votes but restricts their ability to attract the second preferences needed.

Monday, November 12, 2012

City Candidates

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We need a Mayor who meets tests of competence, credibility and coherence. Labour's Marvin Rees does not currently meet these tests: he's not sufficiently experienced or qualified; and keeps putting out firm committments that he clearly has not got proper coherent plans or costings for - this story about the Comonwealth Games being a case in point. There are plenty of other examples. He's been pulled away from being a more open and candid candidate by the tribal nature of Bristol's party politics and if he becomes Mayor his term will be clouded by it. It's likely to be Rees (Lab) vs Ferguson (Bristol 1st) in the second round of counting and Ferguson is far and away the most competent, credible, coherent, experienced and qualified person.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama's oratory

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Loved Obama's re-election speech and am really pleased that he won (and very relieved that Mitt Romney didn't!). My favourite part is this, from about nineteen minutes in, as he is coming towards the end...

'...I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you're willing to work hard, it doesn't matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn't matter whether you're black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you're willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states...' 

Tony for tribalism?

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Now that we are to have a Mayor I agree with actor Tony Robinson’s description of who/what is required, with its emphasis on personality, vision, skills, focus and understanding. He said,

‘...It needs one person with personality and vision to be able to push through the kind of things we have seen fall by the wayside time and time intensely complex job to be the elected mayor which needs someone with a high level of skills...they will be hacking through the jungle with a machete rather than walking a well-worn path – that means they will need an enormous amount of focus and understanding ...’ (more here)
Where he is completely wrong is in thinking that a tribal party political person - such as his favoured candidate Labour’s Marvin Rees or for that matter the Conservative or Lib Dem candidate - is suitable to do the job. So, “Baldrick, you wouldn't see a subtle plan if it painted itself purple and danced naked on top of a harpsichord, singing "Subtle plans are here again!" (Blackadder, '88)

For me what Tony says is a great arguement for open, inclusive, more independent-minded candidates for Mayor, such as the Greens Daniella Radice (currently running ahead of the Lib Dems in fourth place on first preferences and first place on second preferences, see here) and Bristol1st George Ferguson (currently in second place on first preferences but who can win by gathering sufficient second preferences).

Reality vs Rogers

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Bristol Lib Dem mayoral election spin (some might say lying) says 'Dr Jon Rogers is quickly emerging as the only serious challenger to Labour' in their latest leaflet, rather deceptively presented in a newspaper style entitled 'City News: Community News for Bristolians'. The spin goes on, saying 'Dr Rogers odds to be Mayor have rocketed reaching a high of 3/1 and second favourite to Labour'. It says that the Conservatives are out of the race and refers to a 'Jon Rogers surge..' describing how many Conservative voters are turning to the Lib Dems. It says the independent vote is split and many voters may turn away from Bristol 1st's  George Ferguson.

The reality is completely opposite to the spin, as the latest survey of voter intentions shows. Jon Rogers is still saying (here'any of the next 4 candidates could still overtake him [Rees] on a combination of first and second preferences' but the Lib Dem is not even in third place let alone second place on first preference votes! There are many undecided but even so this report says 'Labour's Marvin Rees...clear favourite, with 21 per cent. But this is nowhere near the 50 per cent required to prevent the election race going to a second round.The second and third favourites on first choice votes were George Ferguson (Bristol 1st) with nine per cent and Geoff Gollop (Conservative) with seven per cent'. The Greens Daniella Radice is in joint fourth and may be set to beat the Lib Dems in the way that Green Jenny Jones did in the last London mayoral elections.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Negligent Nadine

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Following MP Nadine Dorries shining example, boosting the reputation of MPs and the political system: Dear Open University [my employer] I’ll be taking up to a month off work and so won’t be doing my lecturing and research supervision role for a while. You will continue to pay me as usual [I wish!] even though I won’t be doing the work I'm paid for and will be earning extra money during my month off. Cheers!

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Misleading mulling

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We have an erroneous way of thinking about land and using figures relating to it. This erroneous thinking is used to 'justify' unsustainable building over green spaces, the green belt, parks and playing fields, allotments, farmland...In Bristol, despite the fact that our eco footprint is several times the land area available, Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories on the council all orginally backed a policy of flogging off our green spaces. This was despite widespread public opposition across the whole city. The Lib Dem council adminstration are still incentivising flogging local green spaces now and several Mayoral candidates have plans that will cut city green spaces and green belt land. We need a Mayor who will listen to public opinion, genuinely involve people in decision making and not bow down to any party political line.

On the Daily Politics a while back Claire Fox from the Institute of Ideas (who you'd think should know better) attempted to justify the liberalisation of planning laws by saying that only 10% of land in England is developed. A New Statesman leader said this back in March this year:  

‘Only 10 per cent of England (and 6 per cent of Britain) is developed... The UK is 60 million acres in size, of which 41 million are designated "agricultural" land, 15 million are "natural wast­age" (forests, rivers, mountains and so on) and owned by institutions such as the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Defence, and four million are the "urban plot", the densely congested land on which most of the 62 million people of these islands live...’

In terms of whether to build on green land or not crude land area is not really the way to consider this issue. Look at these figures: average biologically productive area per person globally was approx 1.8 global hectares (gha) per capita in 2006. Average ecological footprint in the UK is 5.45 global hectares per capita (gha) (see This means that not only have we used up all the available biologically productive land in the UK we are actually drawing greatly on large amounts of land from abroad as well as allowing carbon levels to build up in the atmosphere because there is insufficient productive land and water to absorb it fast enough. Our 5.45 gha/person ecological footprint is three times greater than the average productive land per person available worldwide.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Efficiency elide

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Debates on UK energy policy focus almost exclusively on energy generation/production and often neglect even to mention energy saving and energy efficiency. It’s always going to be cheaper to save energy and be efficient than it is to generate it - not only does it cut household bills and increase the profitability of businesses by reducing their outgoings, it also cuts pollution rapidly, is a very good job creator, can increase comfort, cut noise levels, and can sometimes be done using materials normally thrown away...So whilst we are so wasteful of energy why consider building large numbers of new power stations of any kind? Why is our primary focus not on creating a lower energy, energy thrifty culture? Basic, already existing technologies can be used but the challenge is to combine these with thrifty attitudes and behaviours.

The energy generation debate at present often zooms in on nuclear and wind. Nuclear power is low carbon emission in operation but we’ve had it since the 1950s and it has done nothing to stop climate change. The UK currently has nuclear 16 reactors in operation at 9 different sites - and it’s had more in the past. We've come to rely on fossil fuels and population has increased as has our level and intensity of consumption but expanding nuclear power for decades - and expanding power generation by all methods - has been part of unsustainable plans for industrial and economic expansion. This attitude still prevails. Until we change from unsustainable economic expansion to properly and fully applying sustainable development - including an energy policy with energy saving and efficiency as its primary focus - then we won’t tackle economic, social and environmental problems such as climate change.
The scale at which we waste energy is vast, so the scope for energy saving is huge. For example the Energy Saving Trust said that UK households waste £1.3 billion by just leaving TVs and other electronic devices switched on...  . In hard economic times and with energy prices rising you'd think people would be more careful with their consumption but apparently they aren't, so we’ve made little progress towards a energy thrifty culture. Research in 2006 found the UK was top of the European energy waster league.

Part of the problems is the fact that my local paper can’t even write a balanced and correct piece about nuclear power, let alone cover energy issues in the round as it should do. People are often ill-informed as a result.  Here's my case against nuclear power: .Here's  a  post arguing for energy efficiency, combined heat and power and decentralised energy:  Some thoughts on local renewable energy developments here:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Nuclear news

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The Post says 'Japan's largest industrial electronics maker has signed a £700 million deal to buy the UK's nuclear project Horizon, which will build new reactors at Wylfa, Angelsey, and Oldbury, South Gloucestershire...' (here). They should say is planning to build, subject to conditions being right and obtaining the various proper permissions.

Saying 'will build' is distinctly premature and it's bad journalism (again) from The Post not to give further details eg Hitachi has: not worked out exactly how much it would cost to build six new nuclear power plants in the UK; a government-guaranteed "strike price", or minimum price for nuclear generated power, has not yet been hammered out; it is not clear when the plants would be completed, nor who would operate them; the boiling water nuclear reactor system that Hitachi is keen to install has yet to be granted UK safety approval...

There are many ways to build energy security - most of which would generate more jobs and more efficiently and more quickly and without increasing the legacy of nuclear waste to future generations.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Rees: remodeller?

1 comment:

'I stand for change' says the leaflet just received from Marvin Rees. But the prescription is the same old stuff. Its party political, present day 'Labour' Party material. Being photographed next to Dawn Primarolo in another leaflet hardly suggests change either because Dawn has for decades been a key player in government - national and local - that has been a part of bringing our society its current social, economic and environmental problems.

The Rees/Labour prescription is often vague and populist, like that of many of the mayoral candidates (the Greens aside).  In the typical style of Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative Parties the prescription has policies that contradict each other eg Marvin Rees promises to 'make Bristol greener' but also promises to build 4000 homes without saying where they would be built or detailing how and favours a large development on green belt land (the proposed BCFC stadium) with its associated large supermarket developments.

When referring to a greener Bristol Marvin Rees talks about the stereotypical issues, like recycling, waste, ‘sustainable energy’. Typically his ‘environmentalism’ is a mere add-on. No joined up thinking. If he really got sustainable development he would successfully integrate his social and economic policies with his environmental ones and not end up having some policies that could make us more sustainable counteracted by many that make us less sustainable.   

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Candid Commissioner

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Given that the Electoral Commission has said: “The swearing of an oath will be an important symbol of impartiality, emphasising both the significance of this new role in local communities and that PCCs are there to serve the people, not a political party or any one section of their electorate.” can there be anyone to vote for as Police Commissioner for Avon and Somerset than a suitable independent?

Sue Mountstevens (pictured) looks like she will be the only independent standing in November's Police and Crime Commissioner election (a situation not helped one bit by the high cost - the deposit alone being £5000). She is well qualified to do the job: member of the current police authority; Bristol magistrate for 15 years; vice-chairwoman of the Independent Monitoring Board at Bristol prison. For me she says all the right things on her website too: . Her Twitter site is here:

Who should I cast my second preference vote for though?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Bust bigotry

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Its right to call for an end to topless women appearing on page 3 (see report here). Its not simply an exposed pair of breasts that's the issue as some seem to think however. Exposed breasts in some contexts other than as seen in certain daily newspapers, magazines are not an issue.

The thing is that women are being portrayed as mere sex objects much more often and in a much more narrow and ignorant way than men are. The evidence is common experience.

Would it make sense to approach it the other way and ensure that both men and women are equally seen only in a narrow, ignorant, sex object way?? Or should we instead try to ensure that all people are seen in a more rounded, fair and complete way?

Please sign Lucy Holmes petition on this issue here, and join over 47,000 other people (figure correct 17 Oct 2012 but growing fast!).

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

People paramount

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Bristol 1st indicates that the people of Bristol are paramount rather than any single political party. The logo marks out what mayoral candidate George Ferguson stands for: representing all Bristol's people and involving them in decisions - and involving in his cabinet, as a matter of principle, people purely on the basis of expertise and not party allegiance. I'm strongly in favour of this pluralist and inclusive approach.

See: stories here and here and Bristol 1st website here

Member's means

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Many MPs have second jobs eg North East Somerset MP Jacob Rees-Mogg received around £132,000 in the year to August from his company Somerset Capital Management. The Conservative MP works 35 hours a month in return for the cash...(story here). As a matter of principle shouldn't we expect MPs to work full time for their constituency? Mr Rees-Mogg for example has time and energy that he could direct into working for voters in his constituency that he is directing elsewhere. Surely there are enough problems and issues to work on in his constituency, the SW region, the country, the EU and the world to keep this (and other) representatives busy for a lifetime! Docking some pay from MPs with second jobs is perhaps missing the point - they should not have these jobs whilst being an MP to begin with, so make it a rule that they cant.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wealthy = wrong????

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Its pretty 'rich' that George Ferguson has 'been criticised by some Labour backers on social website Twitter over his personal wealth for allegedly being motivated by money.' (see story and online comments here). Isn't Ed Miliband quite a wealthy person? And others in the Labour Party? And aren't many donors to Labour very wealthy?

Its not inherently wrong to be wealthy!! Its how you've come by/made your wealth/money perhaps...and what you do with it when you've got it. George has used his wealth to good effect it seems to me (see image of the Tobacco Factory - and he could obviously make a lot more money if he did not have the restrictions that inevitably and rightly come with becoming Mayor of Bristol!

George is wealthy. George has been a Liberal supporter in the past. George is not always 100% PC with his language...These are all very weak and feeble 'criticisms' indeed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

'Successful' shooting??

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Joined in a debate on the cruelty, or not, of culling badgers  by shooting and whether supermarkets should label milk from farms involved in culling  here:

BCFCfinker - @Melindola
Quote from RSPCA link provided below from pdant:

"In order to free-shoot a badger in a quick, humane way, there are two 'lethal' points which would need to be successfully hit."

Seems pretty clear to me. The RSPCA appear to acknowledge that shooting can be humane (or if you want to split hairs, not cruel).


Surely the crucial part of this RSPCA quote is the phrase 'successfully hit' ? Even with people shooting well they are highly unlikely to be 100% 'successful'. Where they are not 'successful' then the chance of inccurately shot badgers being in pain and suffering increases. This means that shooting cannot be free of cruelty.

The RSPCA briefing says there are 'severe welfare concerns'. It refers to 'untested culling methods' (shooting) and the 'untested delivery method' (farmers). It describes the: 'high risk' of wounding; the 'small margin of error' and the anatomical and behavioural features of badgers that make cruelty free shooting highly unlikely.

What would be wrong by having a system where customers can know fully what they are buying by labelling milk as from a farm involving badger culling or not involving badger culling?

Friday, October 12, 2012

Halfbaked Hopkins

1 comment:
In the ongoing online discussions on this Post story about the mayoral election Lib Dem Councillor for Knowle, Gary Hopkins chips in this spin,

by gary_hopkins ...Polling shows
1 Non voters and genuinely undecided in a clear lead.
2 Mr Rees in a narrow first preference vote in front of Jon Rogers.
3 The Tories nowhere with their voters either giving Jon First or second preference to keep out Labour.
The other overwhelming stat that comes back is that, liked or not ,George Ferguson is known to that tiny % of the chattering politically active classes but 95% + are completely unaware of him...

My reply: What polling is this? Who is it conducted by? Please give actual figures and the source(s) - otherwise what you say is not backed by facts we can check out. Its quite a common practice for Lib Dems to state a so called 'fact' or a quote in the 'Focus'  newsletters without giving the source for it. Lib Dem materials very often skew figures via very dodgy bar charts and illustrations. If its deliberate its unethical if its not its very poor and sloppy thinking and communication.

By choosing to have a dig at George Ferguson the Lib Dems, a) show they have something to be concerned about and, b) reinforce Ferguson's credentials as a candidate independent from party politics.

[Update 14 Oct: Cllr Hopkins has been challanged three times to produce figures and sources but has not done so - in fact he's made things worse through more party politics and attempted point scoring. No surprise there then.]

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

People, power, parties

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Interesting to note that all the main contenders for Mayor of Bristol have committed themselves to 'more people power' (here). I really do hope such a thing actually comes about. What I'd say to the three bigger parties, however, is: why have we had no significant and effective empowerment of people in Bristol if it's really what you stand for? Consultations are often a sham, voters are disillusioned and opportunities for genuine, empowered participation are poor. I have little faith that the big parties really want to empower people - if they did they would empower people to be able to remove them from office between elections through a recall/petitioning mechanism. Political parties want power for political parties in my experience.

The better, more specific ideas on participation and empowering people are with the Green's Daniella Radice (here) and with George Ferguson (here).

Inequality disempowers people, so its also interesting that this issue came up in the online discussion/comments on this story. Lib Dem candidate Jon Rogers raised the matter. Here's a copy of my response: @CllrJonRogers - The gini coefficient which is a measure of overall income inequality in the United Kingdom is now higher than at any previous time in the last thirty years. See . The Coalition the Lib Dems are in will be cutting billions more from public spending, including spending on welfare for the poorest, in the coming years. See . You, as a Lib Dem Bristol City Council Cabinet member have made well over £20 million cuts in council spending per year, including to services for the vulnerable.... See . Can you explain how all this helps to create a more fair and equal society?

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Massive mudslinger

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Believe me I'm no fan of elites but this is a non-story, saying, One of Bristol's leading musicians has claimed mayoral candidate George Ferguson's membership of Bristol's elite Society of Merchant Venturers is a conflict of interests. Massive Attack's lead singer Robert Del Naja... (here). There is no substance to it at all. Its all pure supposition and mere accusation, in this instance by just one 'famous' person throwing mud. So a candidate(Ferguson, pictured) belongs to a society (Merchant Venturers) and even if he resigned from the society he would still have friends in it. So what? There must be many, many candidates who are members of various organisations and who would retain friends if/when they left in the event of getting elected. Now, it really would be a story if there was any evidence of undue and unjustifiable influence or unethical practices - but there is no such thing! Or can someone provide evidence....?

Come to think of it aren't members of political parties members of a selective society, with a lot of friends etc etc...

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Austerity applesauce

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Any new Mayor of Bristol will have very hard budget choices forced on them it seems, given that, 'One of the first jobs facing Bristol's incoming elected mayor will be to cut an extra £25 million from the city councils budget. The authority has revealed it faces making deeper cuts than first anticipated as funding from central government is reduced.' (see here). However, that should not stop whoever the Mayor is from giving voice to the growing numbers of people who see the complete folly of cuts and austerity economics.

Govt borrowing is up AND we've had savage cuts. In fact Govt borrowing is up in part BECAUSE we've had savage cuts. Cuts are depressing economic activity. Austerity policies, pronouncements, plans and actions have reduced confidence, reduced spending, reduced investment, increased costs to govt, reduced govt income...and have been a big help (!) in causing and then lengthening the recession we are still in (thanks to Dave, George, Nick, Vince and co). I support the case against austerity and cuts and for a Keynsian stimulus for our economy to get out of recession and going in a sustainable direction.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Party politics

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The national spotlight fell on Bristol's Labour mayoral candidate as he took to the stage in Manchester....(more here). But Marvin Rees's case lacks substance. He's either not able to or did not think of making the economic case for a living wage in this article for instance, to add to the moral/ethical one. It seems to me that he talks about the need for a plan for Bristol but then all he comes up with is warm words and attempted populist generalities. I want to see joined up thinking from him.
Taking 'pot shots' at his rivals too often could backfire for him. Labour in Bristol is already a very tribal sort of outfit, too high on pure party politics. Some of his rivals will attract votes by appealing for people not to back pure party politics so maybe he'd be better off sticking more to making a positive, policy-based case.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Eco-Mayor? Open Mayor?

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Labour candidate for Mayor Marvin Rees does not have good green credentials. Labour in Bristol and nationally have had very little to say on the sustainable development that greens want. Several of Marvin's statements indicate a lack of regard for sustainability, for instance: "freeing up public owned land to build homes" (here), which could mean going back to flogging off our cities parks and green spaces; and favouring the existing plans for the expansion of Bristol Airport, saying "Going forward, I am in support of developing the airport." (here) . He wont be getting my second preference vote as a result of this - and because he is not open enough to working with people in other political parties and in no party.  We need a Mayor who understands economic, social and environmental sustainability challenges and who wants to include people in his cabinet on the basis of expertise not political colour.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Marvin's muddlement

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Labour's mayoral candidate Marvin Rees says, "I want Bristol be a city of aspiration with a vision for the position it wants to hold in the world and a plan for how to get there."(here) but he then gives few specifcs let alone a plan for the city. Committing to: an arena; football stadiums; a living wage; fight for money for and powers over transport; general support for the voluntary sector and zero food waste is bits and pieces populism not a coherent plan to enact a vision. The article is mostly Marvin’s muddlement.....

George's generalities

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Independent mayoral candidate George Ferguson has today laid out his seven-point vision of a safer, caring and healthy Bristol...Getting Bristol moving and working are first on the candidate’s list, followed by “a healthy and caring City”; “a democratic Bristol”; “making Bristol great”; “vibrant Bristol” and “a safer Bristol”...his “magnificent seven”...(see here).

George Ferguson has been very clear he does not want a Bristol that is: immobile; unemployed; unhealthy; uncaring; undemocratic; not great; lifeless; and unsafe. He's not committed himself to anything in his seven points that anyone would oppose!

That he needs to put flesh on these very, very bare bones is an understatement. He has strongly and consistently opposed petty party politics and seems open to involving people of all parties and none - and these are amongst his key strengths - but he's not really committed to anything very specific apart from building an arena, opposing bus rapid transit, revoking Sunday parking charges (to which I am opposed) and applying for world heritage status for the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Its not a specific plan for Bristol is it.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Predictable unpredictable?

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If the result of the Bristol mayoral election is really 'completely unpredictable' (as this Post story says) how come the bookies can come up with betting odds? Or is it that we know from past voting patterns and current polls and political developments that the most likely outcome is a Labour or liberal-minded independent candidate winning? In other words Marvin Rees vs George Ferguson because both are broadly progressive and not being blamed for current problems. Surely we can count out Tories and Lib Dems because of the ongoing recession and the cuts/austerity program. The Tories dont have the votes needed across the whole city in any case and the Lib Dems are taking the brunt of the criticism of the coalition govt (thus they are at 10% or so in the polls). Hard to predict the final result between two particular candidates: yes. Completely unpredictable: no. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wellbeing wishes

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Followed the link from this Post report to the Bristol Manisfesto site and contributed my 'three wishes' (below) to the 'Three Wishes Campaign'. The site says 'The Campaign’s aim is to collect Three Wishes for Prosperity to make Bristol a better place to live. The wishes collected will then create a manifesto document which will be freely shared with each candidate [for elected Mayor of Bristol] and the city as a whole. The manifesto document will then be a benchmark to empower the Mayor to make Bristol an even better place to live, not just for the first term but for years to come.' I hope something of practical use comes of this campaign but its not a good start to talk in terms of wishes. 
* The Mayor should aim to build stronger, more self-reliant local communities, meeting needs both now and on into the future and enacting both local and global fairness and equality and aiming for the goals health, wellbeing and quality of life.

* The Mayor should strive for ever better energy efficiency and seek to exchange the use of finite resources for renewable ones at the highest possible practical level.

* The Mayor should take an ecological, evidence-based, reasoned, systems-thinking approach, based on respecting our environment because it's a part of us and we are a part of it.
See here for the views of 50 people on what the Bristol Mayor's main focus should be. I like Mike Birkins comments, not surprisingly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Speed support

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More people have had their say on proposals for the introduction of 20mph speed limits across Bristol. So far about half of people who have shared their views...which would see the reduced speed limits in place in central Bristol within a year – were in favour of proposals as they stand, while another 20 to 25 per cent have been said to agree to the scheme in principle but wanted to find out more. Here's a copy of my online comment on this story, which attracted a number of 'its a fix' type views which in turn generated this response from Tiny_Steve and from me:

Tiny_Steve - "It's obvious that the Council must have manipulated the figures and the people speaking to the Post were hired stooges. As everyone knows, these comment pages are the only true barometer of the opinions of right-thinking Bristolians. Especially those who have nothing to do all day but sit looking at the Post's website."

Well said Tiny_Steve. And it could not possibly be the case that 20mph limits are a reasonably sensible move that therefore has a lot of public support could it. After all the findings of this current exercise aren't at all in line with the British Social Attitudes Survey run for the Department of Transport which found ' "the majority (71 per cent) of respondents were in favour or strongly in favour of speed limits of 20 mph in residential streets"...only 15% were against', or the University of the West of England's review which found ' "there are substantial majorities disapproving of breaking the speed limit, supporting reductions in speed limits including local limits of 20mph"...on residential streets, 76% of people are in favour of having speed limits of 20mph'. And there are no further examples of public opinion eg in York, Oxord and Islington supporting 20mph limits here -

And its obvious that a candidate stongly opposing 20mph limits will become the first elected Mayor of Bristol and stop this kick in the teeth for't it??

Monday, September 24, 2012


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It turns out that Tory candidate for elected Mayor of Bristol Geoff Gollop is in favour of expanding Bristol Airport (The Post inaccurately reported his views, see correction here). However, he's only in favour, he says, if it is '...controlled, is sustainable and is done in an environmentally-friendly way.' Come back to reality Mr Gollop because there is currently no such thing as sustainable, environmentally-friendly airport expansion, nor is there likely to be for some time to come.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Plane good sense?

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Leading candidates in the race to become Bristol's first elected mayor have spoken out against the proposed £150 million expansion of the city's airport. Three of the four main candidates publicly announced at a debate in the city yesterday that they were opposed to the plans, which aim to ensure the Lulsgate site can cater for up to 10 million passengers per year...(more here on the expansion of Bristol airport and also business and housing issues).

Labour's Marvin Rees, the only candidate of the four present (Independent George Ferguson plus Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative candidates) to come out in favour of expanding Bristol airport as currently planned said, "What we need to do is have a coherent plan that looks 40 to 50 years in the future." 
But what fuel will the planes run on in 30, 40, 50 years given that the current fossil fuel source is finite and also subject to price instability and hikes in price? And what will be the state of our climate if we continue high carbon emitting activities such as mass scale flying?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pound publicity

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Great to see good publicity for the Bristol Pound and thus publicity for many local businesses (here and here). Good to see the local currency issue brought into the Mayoral election with George Ferguson saying he would be happy take his pay - if he wins - in Bristol Pounds (here). The purpose of the Bristol pound as a local currency are pretty well explored and explained in this Post article. The Bristol Pound is a good idea. Given the chaos that has ensued from creating fewer currencies within the EU, doing the opposite and creating more currencies seems good sense to me.

The advantages of the Bristol Pound are that: it enables people to support the local economy and local businesses to support each other; it helps to build the local economy by creating a protective area defined by the currency; local businesses that accept the Bristol Pound are distinguished from any big operations that do not; supportive linkages between local people and local businesses are strengthened; the ideas of buying locally first, taking personal responsibility for the health and wellbeing of the community are promoted; stress is laid on local economic vibrancy and thriving, a broader and greener emphasis than just growth.

Anyone who simply does not like the idea of supporting local businesses that take the local currency doesn't have to use the Bristol Pound. Personally I object to the money I spend in Bristol not circlulating here and doing more work here, so I support thr Bristol Pound.

Fair fares

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The Post reports that, 'A Mayoral candidate has promised to introduce £1 and £1.50 bus fares in Bristol if he is allowed to take control of the city's bus services. Liberal Democrat Jon Rogers, a cabinet councillor who used to be in charge of the city's transport department, wants to see a "Transport Bristol" authority set up to run them – in the same way as London.'. If this is a good idea now then why was implementation not started a few years back??? Jon Rogers and his Lib Dems have been and are running the city! Yes to lower bus fares and yes to a transport authority for Bristol but yes also to judging politicians by actions and outcomes and not just words.  

Monday, September 17, 2012

Growth equivalent to good??

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Interesting story and online debate in this Post report in which a  '...cabinet councillor has answered critics who believe the city council is deliberately trying to slow down Bristol's growth and prosperity.'

The truth is that growth is not equivalent to prosperity, though this report suggests they are. Prosperity is a broader idea, encompassing general flourishing, thriving, general wellbeing, happiness and health as well as the economy.

Neither is growth equivalent to success. You have to rein in growth in the genuine pursuit of prosperity.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Super seagulls?

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Seagulls are not the biggest threat to Bristol's heritage, though this Post report says they are. Just compare the scale of total seagull impacts with total human impacts for instance! There are problems caused by droppings, noise and so on but the Post headline and story are an exaggeration. The Post could have made a much better attempt to produce and publish a piece which explores all sides of the issue - after all if we are to solve gull related problems its going to be on the basis of everyone being better informed. This BBC report gives a good explanation of why there are so many seagulls in cities and sets the context for cities and birds pretty well - .

Those who may be tempted to advocate shooting gulls need to know that all species of gull are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985.

According to the RSPB, 'This makes it illegal to intentionally or, in Scotland, recklessly injure or kill any gull or damage or destroy an active nest or its contents. In Scotland, it is also illegal to prevent birds from accessing their nest, and in Northern Ireland, it is illegal to disturb any nesting bird. In addition, the Mediterranean gull is protected under Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, making it illegal to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds at or close to their nest in Britain or to disturb their dependent young.

However, the law recognises that in certain circumstances control measures may be necessary. Simple nuisance or minor damage to property are not legally sanctioned reasons to kill gulls. The UK administrations can issue licences, permitting nests to be destroyed or even birds to be killed if there is no non-lethal solution, and if it is done to prevent serious damage to agriculture, the spread of disease, to preserve public health and safety and air safety, or to conserve other wild birds...'

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Culling controversy

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I've chipped in to the online debate on badger culling proposals (see here and here or view the many Post stories that have recently appeared listed here) and copy my contributions in this post: Interesting exchange between vets on bovine TB here It includes this statement from vet Andrew Wilson: "...16 member states of the European Union are recognised as officially free of bovine TB, along with Scotland and a number of regions of Italy. As far as I can find out, not one of these countries or regions had to control TB in wildlife in order to obtain its officially free status...."

Killing badgers is both wrong and unlikely to to be effective in fighting TB.Vaccination is a realistic alternative to culling according to this site . Follow up on the many references given there if you want to know more. It says this for instance, " An injectable badger vaccine was scheduled to be trialled in England throughout 2010, but the coalition scaled back plans in June of that year. Out of the six planned trials only one survived in Stroud, Gloucestershire, where badgers are being trapped and injected with the BCG vaccine over a period of five years (76).

This reduction in funding to alternatives is especially short-sighted as, in November 2010, Defra research showed the outcome of some trials that showed that vaccinating wild badgers over four years resulted in a 74 per cent reduction in the proportion testing positive to the antibody blood test for bTB (72). As natural prevalence of bTB is just 15 per cent then widespread vaccination could be of significant benefit. Especially as there is an annual turnover of badgers of around 30 per cent (badgers have a life span of 3-5 years). Theoretically, the number of infected badgers would decrease each year and new infections would be rare (101).

Additionally, laboratory studies with captive badgers demonstrated that the vaccination of badgers by injection with BCG significantly reduced the progression, severity and excretion of Mycobacterium bovis infection. This seems to strongly support the claim that vaccination alone could reduce bTB infection in badgers by a significant amount (in the same time period of 4-5 years that has been suggested for 'culling'). It would not lead to perturbation and would also be cheaper than the Government's current plans (see The Cost).

As it stands, despite the findings, this Defra study concludes that vaccination should take place alongside badger 'culling', which appears to go starkly against the results of these trials which show that non-lethal approaches will be enough to protect badgers from the disease...”

Tackling transport

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Seven of the candidates to become Bristol's elected mayor have raised doubts over the controversial bendy bus scheme. Three of the candidates at a hustings meeting in Broadmead last night even said they did not support the £50 million route into the city centre from the Long Ashton park and ride site at all (full story and online comments here). Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), especially BRT2 and bendy bus use is highly flawed, badly designed, not cost-effective, and will impact on the city, the environment, and local people negatively. Bendy bus technology has potential problems with: insufficient effective motive power; slower speed and acceleration due to the extra weight; overheating leading to stalling, or even a fire if diesel fuelled; in crowded areas with narrow streets and tight turns the accident rate may exceed than conventional buses. Bendy buses are supposed to be highly fuel efficient but this must be dependent on the city and the system they are running on and so in practice I have doubts that they will be more efficient in operation than double deckers here in Bristol. Good to see the stance in clear opposition to BRT taken by several mayoral candidates. George Ferguson has given me more reasons to give him my second preference vote, with Daniella Radice getting my first preference vote.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Political possibilities

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My response to the view, expressed in an online debate here, that there will only ever be two political parties (ie either Labour or Tory) running the country: Given the huge and interwoven economic, social and environmental problems the country and the world has, new political thinking is now more needed than ever. New political movements, like the Green Movement, do come along and new parties do get into government at a range of levels. Liberals have a share in govt now and they currently run Bristol City Council and other councils - and Liberals have been in govt in the past, albeit a long time ago.The labour movement developed over the last 100 yrs, so there is no reason why other movements and parties cant do the same or better. 

The Green Party addresses the real world where other parties wish 'for exponential economic growth and endless population growth on a finite planet with dwindling resources' (see online comments here). Greens are making political progress - they have their first MP in Caroline Lucas in addition to Green members of the Scottish Parliament, they are now runnning the council in Brighton and Hove, have two MEPs (Jean Lambert in London and Keith Taylor in the South East), and have two councillors in Bristol (Gus Hoyt in Ashley and Tess Green in Southville) in addition to hundreds more on other councils around the country

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Conference coverage

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Some local press coverage of the Green Party Conference taking place in Bristol this weekend, here and here in The Post. Also coverage here on Bristol 24-7 and a variety of BBC stories listed here (including new leader Natalie Bennett's conference speech on iPlayer). Interesting video clips here on You Tube. There's substance to Green Mayoral candidate Daniella Radice's newly launched manifesto, which is more than can be said for some other mayoral candidates and indeed more than can be said for some online commenters  Green principles and policies and Daniella Radice's manifesto deserve genuine and widespread debate. People need to get past traditional allegiances, preconceived ideas and prejudices and look at all the evidence that strongly supports green social, economic and environmental policies.