Natalie Bennett starts time in House of Lords as she means to go on

Natalie Bennett
Creative Commons: Global Justice Now

This week, Natalie Bennett formally joined Jenny Jones in the House of Lords. In doing so, became the Greens’ second sitting peer.

And she didn’t wait long before setting to work on becoming the kind of peer we’d expect from a Green. In her maiden speech, she explained that she was bringing with her “an unfamiliar kind of politics”. She went on to state that the Greens seek “to overturn the entire status quo” and “radically transform our society, our economy, our environment, our politics”.

But she didn’t stop there. Moments after making her maiden speech, Bennett went on to lodge a bill that would have the House of Lords abolished and replaced with an elected second chamber:

Alex Phillips confesses desire to become Green Party co-leader with Magid Magid

Green Party MEPs Magid Magid and Alex Phillips
Image credit: YouTube screengrab

In an exclusive interview for Bright Green, Green MEP Alex Phillips revealed she would be interested in standing to be co-leader of the Green Party of England and Wales alongside Magid Magid. When asked about whether she would be interested, she replied:

I would be. I love Magid, even though he’s a bloody nightmare to work with sometimes! I do love him! But I don’t think that’s where he wants to be unfortunately.

Phillips went onto reveal that Magid had been approached by others for the role. She said:

Now, I mean, he has been approached by other people to stand before as co-leader, and he turned it down. I don’t think he knew those people as well as he knows me now. So, you know, I think if anyone’s got a chance, I have with him. But he’s a difficult one to turn, Magid is, because he knows his own mind.

Elsewhere in the interview, Phillips recounted her experience of the period when the Greens ran Brighton & Hove council. Reflecting on the infamous bin strike which caused a rift in the local party, she said:

I think the bin strike – look, it was a really difficult issue, because it was about equal pay.

Essentially, you don’t fuck with people’s bins! Like, that’s the number one thing that you do not do!

And if that entails, you know, having to make savings elsewhere… or going into reserves, to bring money forward in order to balance the books, then that’s what you should do. Like, we should have gone into reserves as far as I’m concerned.”

Greens join massive People’s Vote march as Brexit chaos continues

This weekend, the government once again failed to drive through its Brexit plans. An amendment to the government’s Brexit deal, penned by ex-Tory Oliver Letwin has furthered delayed the process and made an extension to the Brexit deadline likely.

While MPs debated the deal in parliament, hundreds of thousands of people marched through London to demand a referendum on any Brexit deal. Among those on the march were a number of prominent Greens.

Speaking at the march, Green Party of England and Wales Deputy Leader Amelia Womack said that Boris Johnson had “no mandate for a crash out Brexit”:

After the announcement of the passing of the Letwin amendment, Green MP Caroline Lucas spoke to demonstrators to explain how the battle against Brexit must also be a battle for a new economic system:

And Young Greens co-chair Rosie Rawle – speaking at the Left Block at the beginning of the march – said the protest was indicative of “millions of young people getting politicised, organised and mobilised”:

Immediately following the passing of the Letwin amendment, Scottish Green Party co-leader Patrick Harvie joined those demanding a fresh referendum. Harvie said:

Boris Johnson has once again been defeated by democracy. His attempt to foist his rotten deal upon us, just like his attempt to unlawfully bypass parliament, has been rebuffed. The law now calls for the Prime Minister to seek a Brexit extension. As soon as that extension is secured, and the disaster capitalist fantasy of No Deal is averted, we should swiftly give the public the chance finally to stop Brexit, and kick this illegitimate Prime Minister out of office.

Jonathan Bartley and Ellie Chowns arrested at Extinction Rebellion protests

Image credit: Tristan Quevilly

With Extinction Rebellion having engaged in a wave of mass civil disobedience in London this week, the number of protesters arrested entered the thousands. Among those arrested this week were Green Party of England and Wales co-leader Jonathan Bartley and Green MEP Ellie Chowns.

After Chowns was arrested, a Green Party spokesperson issued the following statement:

The imminent threat of the climate crisis and the UK government’s continued lack of meaningful action means Extinction Rebellion have legitimate cause to protest. The disruption from these protests, frustrating as it is for ordinary Londoners, is nothing compared to the enormous disruption that unchecked climate change will bring.

Limiting freedom of expression and peaceful protest – as in the case of the arrest of Ellie Chowns – is an erosion of the quality of our democracy.

Following Bartley’s arrest two days later, a spokesperson said:

Climate chaos will end ecosystems and collapse our society. We have just 10 years to reduce our C02 emissions to safer levels and climate protesters are drawing attention to that. We all have a right to peaceful protest and we will continue to act to protect that right and draw attention to instances where democracy is threatened.

Jenny Jones lays out alternative Queen’s Speech

Baroness Jenny Jones
Image credit: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung, Creative Commons

This week saw the opening of a new session of parliament and with it a Queen’s Speech laying out the government’s legislative agenda. The event, ordinarily a key moment in the political calendar, was largely symbolic this time round. Many of the proposals are unlikely to see the light of day as the government lacks a working majority.

Meanwhile, Green peer Jenny Jones set out an alternative Queen’s Speech. It covered what a Green legislative agenda would look like.

Writing for Left Foot Forward, Jones explained the key policy areas Greens would prioritise – a Green New Deal, rebuilding democracy, and the strengthening of human rights. She wrote:

The Green New Deal will include an ambitious energy efficiency programme to bring down the running costs of every household and business in the country while reducing the total amount of energy that we must produce as a nation. Support would be given to democratise our energy supply, so that individuals, schools and communities can club together to develop their own sources of renewable energy.

On democratic reform, Jones explained that Greens would introduce a Citizens Committee on both climate justice, and on a new constitution for Britain. And on human rights, she argued for decent air quality to be enshrined in human rights law, and for the strengthening of rights for activists.

New round of General Election candidates selected

With the UK’s political crisis rumbling on, we continue to teeter on the precipice of a snap General Election. In light of this, local Green Parties are continuing to select their Prospective Parliamentary Candidates. This week saw yet another flurry of Greens selected.

Rosemary Sexton has been selected to fight the Solihull constituency for the Green Party. Sexton is part of a 14 strong group of Green councillors on Solihull council, where the party is the main opposition. Despite the Greens having long held many seats on the council, the party’s local election success hasn’t translated into General Elections. The Greens have never polled above 3% in the constituency.

Still in the Midlands, but heading East, three Northamptonshire constituencies saw Greens selected this week. Jamie Wildman was selected for Kettering. Marion Turner-Hawes was selected for Wellingborough. And James Crowder was selected for Corby. The Greens have never received more than 5% of the vote in any of these seats.

The Green Party also announced its General Election candidates for the two constituencies falling within the London Borough of Tower Hamlets. Shahrar Ali – the Green Party’s former deputy leader – has been selected to fight Bethnal Green and Bow. Meanwhile, Neil Jameson will contest Poplar and Limehouse. In 2015, the Greens polled well in Bethnal Green and Bow, picking up 9.3% of the vote.

Greens won’t stand candidate in Hastings and Rye

While many local parties are selecting candidates for a snap General Election, one local party this week agreed it won’t be standing a candidate at all. Hastings and Rye will have no Green candidate on the ballot paper.

Speaking to the Hastings Observer, Hastings Green Party spokesperson Andrea Needham explained the decision:

In the Green Party – unlike in other political parties – decisions are made by the membership. In this instance, members voted not to stand a general election candidate.

We have made no deals or alliances with any other party, and will not be endorsing any other party or candidate.

The party will instead be focusing on its campaign for the 2020 Hastings Borough Council elections.

The decision, while controversial, will be welcomed by many. Hastings and Rye is one of the country’s most marginal constituencies. Former Tory Home Secretary Amber Rudd clung onto the seat by fewer than 400 votes in the 2017 General Election. Since, Labour have been running a substantial campaign to unseat her.

Ross Greer calls for emergency funds in North East Syria

Ross Greer
Image credit: YouTube screengrab

Responding to Turkey’s devastating invasion of North East Syria, Green MSP this week called on the Scottish Government to utilise its Humanitarian Emergency Fund to support the Kurdish Red Crescent. In a letter to the Scottish minister for international development, Greer wrote:

With the current ceasefire not yet being honoured by Turkish proxy forces and reports in today’s Times and Foreign Policy magazine of alleged chemical weapon use by those same proxies, I know you will agree that the situation is urgent. Support from the Scottish Government for those delivering emergency relief on the ground will not only save lives, it will send a strong signal to other countries across the world to similarly support humanitarian assistance to the region.

Commenting on Turkey’s invasion, Greer added:

The situation facing our Kurdish friends is dire. They have been betrayed by the US and face a Turkish onslaught which is continuing despite promises of a ceasefire. It’s clear that Turkey is attempting to ethnically cleanse the region, a move disgracefully backed by Donald Trump yesterday.

Jonathan Bartley slams new environmental protections legislation

Jonathan Bartley
Image credit: Creative Commons: Jwslubbock

Any illusions that the government has good intentions on the environment were shattered this week. It’s proposed legislation for post-Brexit environmental protections had at least one major hole. It removed the ability for the government to be fined over environmental performance.

Green Party of England and Wales co-leader blasted the proposed legislation. Speaking to the Independent he said:

As we have seen again and again this government is not serious about its environmental commitments, and now it looks as if the body that is supposed to hold the government to account won’t even have power to fine it.

Brexit will mean relinquishing the environmental protections ingrained in EU membership, and this bogus watchdog will have little in the way of bark, let alone any bite, to deal with it.

Magid Magid lays out vision for democratic reform

Magid Magid on Newsnight
Image credit: BBC screengrab

Green MEP Magid Magid this week laid out his ideas of how the UK’s creaking democracy can be strengthened. Writing in the Big Issue, Magid described a three-point plan for deepening and improving democracy.

Magid’s first point centred around youth engagement and empowerment. He called for votes at 16 and education reform to embed democracy and citizenship in the curriculum.

Secondly, Magid called for the abolition of the first past the post voting system and its replacement with a system of proportional representation. Along with this, he argued for other ways to improve how representative our politics is, calling for more working class and BME people in elected office.

And finally, he called for a deepening of democratic principles beyond the ballot box. As part of this, he suggested the introduction of both citizens assemblies and participatory budgeting.

Three councillors defect to the Green Party in Uttlesford

The ranks of Green councillors grew a little this week. Three councillors in the Essex area of Uttlesford defected to the Green Party. All three had previously been part of the Residents for Uttlesford party who have ran the council since May. The councillors all previously held portfolios in the ruling administration.

In an open letter, the three councillors said:

The current climate and ecological emergency is of such importance to us all, particularly in Uttlesford. We believe it is right to focus our time strongly on this issue and we can do this better through a closer alignment with the global green movement and a national Green Party.

Clare Bailey praises role of integrated education in peacebuilding

Clare Bailey
Image credit: Creative Commons: Northern Ireland Assembly

The Integrated Education Fund in the north of Ireland was recently unsuccessfully nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And with increased attention on the programme of integrated education, Green Party in Northern Ireland leader Clare Bailey heaped praise on the sector.

Bailey, who was in the first cohort of students at Lagan College, the first integrated school in the north of Ireland said:

My first day at Lagan College as an 11 year old was marked by protests and armed police guards. Today, the situation has shifted – the peace process is ongoing and there are 62 grant aided integrated schools across Northern Ireland.

However, only seven percent of Northern Ireland’s children attend integrated schools at present. This is despite academic research showing that integrated education reduces prejudice, increases children’s understanding of diversity and nurtures and improves community relations.

The opposition to integrated education remains. It is more subtle than protestors outside a school but the lobby for segregation remains strong and is well motivated to maintain the status quo.

Conflict transformation is an ongoing process and it must be said that we are taking backward steps at present. However, the contribution to peace building of the integrated education sector is huge and should not be forgotten now our story is being heard.