Siân Berry slams Liberal Democrats for their part in austerity

Sian Berry

Image credit: Rosie Rawle

This weekend the Green Party of England and Wales held its Spring conference in Scarborough. One of the event’s keynote speeches came from party co-leader Siân Berry.

Berry used her speech to explain why the Greens are unique. And she pulled no punches when describing what the Liberal Democrats stand for. Berry said:

Everywhere we go we hear one thing repeated. People are sick and tired of business-as-usual politics. They’re sick of half-measures, of backroom deals. Of politicians who say one thing and do another. The old politics is not working, and all the old parties are responsible.

They have all given ground to the right, on freedom of movement, on Europe, on public spending. Labour and Conservatives yes, but let’s not forget that while the Lib Dems paint themselves as the defenders of liberal, internationalist values, they were all too happy to sign up to the austerity programme that has cost an estimated 130,000 lives.

Magid Magid dubs Tory leadership contest “Britain’s next top bigot”

Magid Magid on Newsnight

Image credit: BBC screengrab

The Tories are in the process of selecting a new leader to replace Theresa May. With ten candidates in the race, Tory MPs will soon decide which two will go to a membership vote.

Speaking on BBC Newsnight on Friday night, newly elected Green MEP Magid Magid summed up the election in his trademark style. He branded the election “Britain’s next top bigot”. He said:

I think honestly what the worrying thing is having someone like Boris Johnson who could potentially be the prime minister of this country with all his views… whether that be calling people “piccaninnies” … is this the sort of person we want to literally be the author of our future? And I genuinely don’t think it is.

And continued:

Especially, even like, other contenders that are part of what do you call the leadership, like – honestly, you might as well call the Tory leadership contest Britain’s next top bigot.

Caroline Lucas hits out at Tory hypocrisy over drug use

Caroline Lucas

Image credit: Creative Commons: GPEW

Magid wasn’t the only one commenting on the Tory leadership candidates this week. Green MP Caroline Lucas also jumped into the debate.

Her focus was on the gift that keeps on giving – the Tory leadership candidate drug use ‘scandal’. Various contenders have confessed their former drug habits, with everything from the old school (opium pipes) to the bizarre (cannabis lassis) and the obvious (rich men snorting cocaine).

Lucas pointed out the hypocrisy of the candidates who have supported harsh anti-drug legislation, saying:

I couldn’t care less about what a politician did in private 20 years ago. What I can’t stand is the rank hypocrisy of potential prime ministers ‘owning up’ to drug use while backing policies that threaten those using drugs now with prison, and allows criminal gangs to profit.

Alex Phillips sets out radical agenda for the UK’s Green MEPs

Alex Phillips

Image credit: YouTube screengrab

Newly elected Green MEP Alex Phillips has set out a vision for her role in the European parliament. In an article in Green World, Phillips argued that the UK’s Green group of MEPs will prioritise stopping Brexit, defending free movement, supporting workers’ rights and implementing a pan-European Green New Deal. Phillips wrote:

We’ll fight to bolster free movement – a gift that opens a world of opportunities for EU citizens to live, love, work and study in 27 other EU countries, and that is too often taken for granted. And we’ll support the rights of migrants and refugees, because that’s at the very heart of Green politics.

And she continued:

In the South East of England, one of the wealthiest regions in one of the world’s richest countries, it should be unthinkable for working families go hungry because they can’t make ends meet. I’ll be using my position in the European Parliament to campaign for a real living wage for everyone in my constituency and across the rest of the UK.

And finally – given that we’re in the midst of a monumental climate emergency – I will immediately seek to sit down with MEP colleagues from across the continent to bring about a European Green New Deal. This would boost local economies, secure well-paid jobs for every community and build the infrastructure we desperately need to face up to our planet’s climate challenge.

Mark Ruskell calls on Nicola Sturgeon to back 20mph speed limit bill

Green MSP Mark Ruskell has continued his campaign to introduce a 20mph speed limit in Scotland. This week, he wrote to Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon asking her to back his bill for a default 20mph speed limit. The bill will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.

In the letter, Ruskell wrote:

[unless] this bill is passed it will continue to be a postcode lottery for children when it comes to safer streets.

I believe that all children across the country should be given this basic protection and I note that this is increasingly the direction of travel elsewhere.

Indeed, just last month, the first minister of Wales committed to introducing a 20mph default while London is already rolling out the lower limit. It would be deeply disappointing to see Scotland lagging behind on such a vital public safety issue.

Green vote share up in Peterborough by-election

On Thursday May 6, voters in Peterborough went to the polls to elect a new MP in a by-election. Labour won the seat, defeating the insurgent Brexit Party, in what is a major setback for Farage’s new outfit.

The Greens also contested the seat. Their candidate, Joseph Wells picked up more than 1,000 votes, increasing the party’s vote share by one percentage point. The Green Party came fifth in the by-election.

John Finnie calls for local, publicly owned buses in Scotland

The Scottish Greens have continued their calls for better public transport in Scotland. This week, their focus was on buses.

The party has criticised Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation of buses, and her ban on councils from establishing new municipal bus companies. It also called for the Scottish Government to allow councils to bring buses into public ownership.

Green MSP John Finnie said:

Through my Better Buses campaign I’ve collected testimony from bus users across the country, and it’s clear that there are huge variations in services. Introducing publicly run services will allow the public to hold local politicians to account for the state of local services in a way they cannot currently do.

Allowing publicly run bus services won’t magically make everything better overnight, of course. However, given the way many private operators cherry pick routes, arbitrarily raise fares and cut services with little notice it is only right that public services are at the very least an option for communities.

Amelia Womack calls for political reform in conference speech

Amelia Womack

Image credit: Creative Commons: Krystyna Haywood

Green Party of England and Wales deputy leader Amelia Womack has called for widespread political reform this week. In her keynote speech at the party’s spring conference, Womack hit out at the first past the post voting system. She also claimed that parliament’s attempts to handle Brexit show that Britain’s politics is broken. She said:

Our archaic democracy needs to be revived with a truly proportional system where every vote and every voter matters.

A system where MPs can sit in the party which truly reflects their values and beliefs in a mature parliament with collaboration at its heart.

For three years that system has tried to handle Brexit… and it has failed embarrassingly.

Andy Wightman under fire after attending meeting with ‘transphobic’ speakers

Green MSP Andy Wightman has been in hot water this week. He faced criticism after attending an event at Edinburgh University addressed by speakers accused of transphobia – including Julie Bindel.

The event was mired in controversy, with every member of the Edinburgh University LGBT+ network committee resigning after criticising the event and allegedly being asked to stay quiet by the university.

Wightman later made a twitter apology for those aggrieved by his attendance at the event. In a statement he said “I fully support Scottish Green Party policy to reform the Gender Recognition Act in line with international best practice. I support trans rights and equality”:

In a now deleted tweet following further backlash to his statement, Wightman wrote “If everyone could just fuck off, please, that would be grand.”

Chris Jarvis

About Chris Jarvis

Chris is a writer and campaigner. He has been active in the student movement for almost a decade - working for two years as an elected Sabbatical Officer at the Union of UEA Students, and for two and a half years at student activist network People & Planet. A Green Party member since 2010, Chris has served on the Executive Committee of both the Young Greens and the Green Party of England and Wales. In 2014, Chris co-founded the progressive online publication The Norwich Radical, and in 2018 joined the writing team of The Canary. Chris is currently a Press and Communications Officer at We Own It.