Arrests, defections and delivering change – UK Green news round up week 8
Molly Scott Cato arrested in Belgium
Demonstrating the Green commitment to non-violent direct action as a means of driving political change, Molly Scott Cato was arrested in Belgium this week. Scott Cato – the Green Party MEP for the South West of England – was taking part in an anti-nuclear protest at the time of her arrest.
The protest saw Scott Cato break into a Belgian airbase and blockade a runway. The airbase was stockpiling American B61 nuclear weapons.
Speaking in advance of the protest, she said:
Our action is intended to challenge EU countries to remove US nuclear weapons from European soil. Each B61 bomb is 23 times more powerful than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. These apocalyptic weapons should find no home in Europe.
We demand that Europe’s nuclear nations immediately sign up to the landmark global Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and begin the process of decommissioning their nuclear arsenals.
Two other MEPs – Michèle Rivasi from France, and Tilly Metz from Luxembourg – were also arrested.
Greens respond to the formation of the Independent Group of MPs
The major political story this week was the formation of the Independent Group of MPs. As expected, prominent Greens had strong views on the actions of the defectors from both Labour and the Tories.
Green MP Caroline Lucas wrote in the Metro that the Independent Group’s failure to call for electoral reform in light of their claim that politics is broken as “baffling”.
She was joined in her criticism by Green Party of England and Wales Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley. He wrote in the Huffington Post that the MPs represented “vapid centrism” and that they had “pinned their colours to the mast of yet another form of the old-school politics the British people are so sick of.”
And former Green Party of England and Wales leader Natalie Bennett was highly critical of their “centrism” too:
I’m sorry about that. My objection to centrism is it means leaving things much as they are: privatisation, massive inequality & tax-dodging, planet-trashing transport, energy & agriculture, exam-factory schools, public transport slashed, mental health crisis
— Natalie Bennett (@natalieben) February 18, 2019
The impact of the defections on British politics is yet to be seen. But it’s clear from this week that Greens are united in their agreement that the Independent Group is no answer to the problems we face.
Scottish Greens win coffee cup levy to fight single use plastics
The Scottish Green Party have once again won concessions from the SNP in their budget negotiations. This week, they convinced the SNP to adopt a coffee cup levy in Scotland as part of the fight against single use plastics.
Speaking about the measure in advance of its adoption, Green MSP Mark Ruskell said:
The UK Government failed to introduce its much-hyped coffee cup tax, so Scotland has a chance to lead the way and show we are serious about tackling the scourge of plastic pollution. Being a leader on this issue is not only the right thing to do but it will create opportunities for innovative Scottish businesses to develop sustainable alternatives.
Plastic pollution has become an environmental emergency in Scotland and around the world. It threatens wildlife, litters our beaches and cities, contributes to climate change and places enormous costs on local councils.
We have already seen great success with the 5p levy on single-use carrier bags reducing their use by 80 per cent in the first year. Bold action on other plastics is clearly required.
Sian Berry holds Sadiq Khan to account over house building
Green Party co-leader Sian Berry has joined the chorus of criticism directed towards Sadiq Khan’s record on housing. Berry – who is also the Green candidate for London Mayor in 2020 – told the Evening Standard:
It’s all so slow. By now you would expect to be seeing a step change at every quarter. But he’s not even going to do the same as last year at this rate. He’s had three years. We’re now in that part of the mayoralty where we start to judge him and the numbers are nowhere near good enough.
Bristol Greens push for urgent climate action after ‘climate emergency’ declaration
The Green councillor group in Bristol is pushing for extra action on climate change. They’ve tabled a budget amendment which seeks to make the council carbon neutral by 2030.
Their budget amendment comes in the wake of Bristol, along with many other councils passing motions declaring a ‘climate emergency’. Eleanor Combley, a councillor in Bristol told Bright Green:
Councillors from all parties supported our call to declare a climate emergency and set the ambitious target of a Carbon Neutral Bristol by 2030. Saying the words is one thing, but the proposals in this amendment will help us start putting that commitment into action, so I hope that councillors from all parties will put money where their mouth is and support it.
Amelia Womack to stand in forthcoming Newport West by-election
After the sad death of long standing Labour MP Paul Flynn on February 17, a by-election is expected to be called soon in his Newport West constituency. Many tributes have subsequently been made to Flynn from across political divides. Flynn was 84 when he died.
The Green Party of England and Wales’ Deputy Leader Amelia Womack had been selected as the Green candidate for Newport West in the event of a snap General Election. She will also stand in the forthcoming by-election.
Speaking to Bright Green, Womack said:
The passing of Paul Flynn is a loss to Newport and the people he so passionately represented. Paul inspired me about how to do politics differently, and I am proud to stand in a constituency that has such a strong legacy of representation of the people.
The Newport West by-election is a real opportunity for the Green Party. Not only will it be held at a time that two party politics is crumbling, but if article 50 isn’t extended this may be the first by-election after Brexit and with the possibility of new parties standing.
Once the election is called there will be an amazing opportunity for Greens across the country to get involved and show the difference a Green can make.
Isle of Wight Green Party respond to island building plans
Elsewhere in the country, the Isle of Wight Green Party have been arguing for more sustainable housing. This week, they responded to plans from Isle of Wight Council to build 10,000 homes.
Speaking to the Isle of Wight County Press, Vix Lowthion – the Green Party candidate in 2015 and 2017 said:
Whilst it has been widely reported that 10,000 homes are proposed, there are many other aspects of the strategy which could provide positive opportunities for our Island — and it is important that we comment on these too.
The current document does not go far enough in terms of sustainably built housing and employment opportunities. Proposing only eight miles of cycle paths is woeful when we need to reduce our carbon emissions to net zero in the next 12 years.
Our planning strategy must serve the needs of Islanders and the planet — and be much more ambitious when it comes to protecting our Island for generations to come.
Jonathan Bartley joins Young Greens phone banking day
As previously reported by Bright Green, the Young Greens of England Wales have developed an ambitious elections plan. To deliver this, the Young Greens organised a mass phone bank on Sunday 24 February. And they were joined at the event by Jonathan Bartley, who spoke to volunteers from across the country – from Sheffield to Carmarthenshire and from Colchester to Oxford.
Bartley stressed the importance of the work Young Greens are doing for the elections, describing it as a “model” for the rest of the party.
Young Greens were calling Green members across England and encouraging them to attend action days to campaign for the May local elections. A total of 20 action days are planned.
Liberal Democrat councillor defects to the Green Party
While elections are the traditional method for getting Greens on councils, sometimes it comes through defections from other parties. This week, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Kingston – Sharron Sumner – defected to the Greens.
She was welcomed to the Green Party by Sian Berry who tweeted:
So pleased to welcome @SharronSumner1 to @TheGreenParty. She has been a hardworking and effective independent and will be a fantastic addition to the London Green team of councillors! https://t.co/aC8Qc4lIzX
— Sian Berry (@sianberry) February 22, 2019
Sumner joins the growing team of Green councillors across London which includes both part co-leaders Sian Berry and Jonathan Bartley.
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