Yet another ‘storm of the century’…

History seems to be repeating itself. New Orleans is being emptied to try to escape Hurricance Gustav. New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin ordered the city emptied this morning in the face of what he called “the storm of the century.”
It really is very simply, people. Vote Green, or the planet gets it… If we don’t radically change direction, and soon — if we don’t take the massive measures required to preserve for ourselves a stable liveable climate — then there really will be a new ‘storm of the century’ every couple of years… : Katrina, Gustav… The list will simply go on and on…

Green Party Conference – Eastern Region steps up

News release from Eastern Region Green Party
Green Party Conference, September 5th – 8th London
–  Norwich City Councillor expected to be elected as first ever Green Party Deputy Leader
–  Greens gear up for more election wins in 2009 and first seats in Parliament
The Green Party meets in London for its 4 day Autumn Conference on Friday September 5th. For full details visit 
The 2008 conference will be an historic occasion for the party. Following the debate and referendum carried out earlier this year, the Greens decided to go ahead with the election of a Leader and Deputy Leader.
The contest for Leader is between Dr. Caroline Lucas, Green MEP for South East England since 1999, and TV actor Ashley Gunstock.
The sole Deputy Leadership candidate is Councillor Adrian Ramsay, Leader of the Opposition on Norwich City Council, where the Greens have 13 seats – the largest Green Group of Councillors in the UK. Adrian was one of the youngest councillors ever elected to a principal authority and is the Green Party Parliamentary Candidate in Norwich South, trying to unseat former Home Secretary Charles Clarke. At both the 2007 and 2008 local elections, the aggregated party votes across the constituency put the Greens in first place. 
Major conference themes are the expectation of the Greens winning their first Westminster seats at the next General Election and a Green New Deal to help families out of the economic crunch into a more sustainable, secure future.
Cllr. Adrian Ramsay said:
“There is a real determination in the party to take a big step forward over the next couple of years and in particular to elect the first Green MPs at the next General Election. I am excited about playing a central role in this, particularly as the Norwich South constituency is one of the best prospects in the country for a breakthrough into Westminster. The Green Party is already in first place across the Norwich South constituency on local election vote share – we need to repeat this at the General Election to defeat Charles Clarke”.
“At a time of rising fuel prices and increases in the cost of living, Green policies have a lot to offer the British public. We support a free insulation scheme to help tackle fuel poverty, large-scale investment in clean renewable energy and the development of cheap, reliable public transport. We need action to create a more localised economy to secure more local jobs but also to help reduce the distances that goods are transported. This will reduce carbon emissions and also mean that our food and other essential goods are less dependent on fossil fuels, the prices of which are rising fast. It is important that we reduce packaging on goods for the same reasons – it is time that the Government introduced taxes on packaging.”
The results for Leader and Deputy Leader will be announced at 8pm on the Friday. If elected, Adrian Ramsay will deliver his acceptance speech at 10am on the Monday.
Also at conference alongside many other Greens from Eastern Region will be Cllr. Dr. Rupert Read, Lead Candidate for the European Elections in Eastern Region.
Cllr. Rupert Read said:
“It’s a tremendously exciting conference, because of the big change that is coming this year, with the Green Party getting itself a Leader for the first time. It’s wonderful for East Anglia that Adrian Ramsay, my fellow Councillor from Norwich, is going to hopefully become the inaugural Deputy Leader of the Party. It reflects very well on Green achievements in this part of the country.”
“I am hoping to win the support of conference for some important policy changes this year. For example, I am proposing a motion to reduce society’s reliance on the major banks for providing the country with money. The fiascos of the last year show clearly that a different basis is needed for banking and finance. It should be the Government, not private banks like Northern Rock, that takes the lead on the control of money.”
“I’m also proposing a change in policy that would commit the Green Party to backing a longer British Summer Time period, leading to us all being able to enjoy more of our waking hours while the Sun is up… I really hope that that will happen; it wouldn’t be before time!”

Green Party Inaugral Leadership Contest Approaches Climax

In just over a week from now (5th September), an historic Green Party Conference will begin in London: the Conference at which the election of our first-ever leader will take place.

All Green Party members and supporters want a Party that works well, a Party that punches above its weight, a Party that will deliver the successes and the desperately-needed policy-changes nationally that Greens are already achieving all over the country, locally.
A key part of this extension to the national stage is happening now by the very act of our holding our first-ever election for a leader (the election is by postal ballot, and will formally end at Conference). But this, and our growing professionalism across the piste, is not enough. We need a leader who is engaging, inspiring and who can captivate the hearts and souls of the electorate. We need a leader who ouzes warmth and passion, someone who can reach people from all backgrounds in society. We need a leader who can lead us to the national stage with confidence and conviction, with dedication and determination.
Total Politics has been covering the contest, with Daily Politico interviews with Caroline Lucas and Ashley Gunstock, for leader. I’m voting for Caroline Lucas, simply because I believe that she is nothing less than all these things which my party needs. In fact, I believe she is the best politician in Britain today – the most inspirational, the most intelligent, the most passionate, the most on-the-mark – and never mind just in the Green Party.

With Lucas at the helm, our momentum should snowball: and with excellent timing, because the next two years are the biggest opportunity the Greens have had for twenty years. If we get a strong result in the European elections next year (traditionally the election in which we do best, because it is by proportional representation voting), then this will only build. Such clear momentum will give us the platform we need in order to get into the Westminster Parliament for the first time, in the likely 2010 general election.
With Lucas as leader, we have in prospect the chance of converting the strong support that we have enjoyed in local and Euro elections into a Westminster win. A leadership team of Caroline Lucas and Adrian Ramsay (my close friend and colleague on Norwich City Council, who is standing unopposed for the Deputy Leader spot) will, I believe, change the face of British politics forever, by seeing the Green Party’s Parliamentary representation mushroom, in Brussels, and at last come to be, in Westminster.

It is a time for greenwashers like David Cameron and wannabes like Nick Clegg to watch out. I believe that Caroline Lucas will win this election, and that pretty soon it will become evident that she, unlike them, is the real deal: in short, that the most talented opposition politician that there is, waiting to take on Brown, is a Green.

Councillor Read vows to fight for the people of North Walsham against selfish big business


[[press release]]


Norwich Green Party councilor and lead candidate for MEP Rupert Read attended a meeting at North Walsham Community Centre last night, 26 August 2008.  The meeting took place to hear both sides of the raging debate between waste transfer company HFS and local residents of North Walsham and Spa Common.


HFS have applied for planning permission to carry 74,999,999 tons of waste to and from their Spa Common waste transfer station, and have purchased several large tankers for this purpose, including 44 ton HGVs, the largest permitted on British roads.


Local residents object to the serious danger these large vehicles pose to cyclists and pedestrians in the town generally, but particularly on the little country lanes leading to the HFS facility, and down Manor Road, on parts of which the lorries literally take up the whole road.  When two trucks meet down that road, one has to reverse all the way back.  Wing mirrors have been knocked off the vehicles about once a week as the road is so narrow in places, and even when two cars meet, they have to stop and maneuver to the sides of the road so they can pass. Residents wondered aloud whether such little lanes were really appropriate places for 44 ton HGVs…


Rupert Read addressed the gathering of 180 people saying it seemed clear that a lot of them were determined to do everything in their power to stop “this monstrous plan” from going ahead.  When he asked them “Am I right?”, he received a resounding cry of “Yes!” from the hall.  He then announced that the Norfolk Green Party are with them all the way in this struggle, and sat down to loud applause.


When another Green Party activist in the crowd asked co-owner of HFS Alastair Wait if he believed he had increased or decreased the quality of life of residents in the area, Wait had to admit that he was decreasing it.  This earned Wait the retort (from said activist) that he was therefore obviously interested in his own profits over the well being of the local community and Wait’s morality was questioned.


Rupert Read will today be placing a formal planning objection to HFS’s application. He said: “Norfolk Green Party will stand shoulder to shoulder with the local residents to fight this plan on the grounds that the location and road infrastructure is grossly unfit for purpose, and poses a real danger to the general public. If this application were to go ahead, and if there were then a serious accident involving one of these mega-lorries and a child, I don’t believe that any resident, Councillor or indeed business-man could really ever forgive themselves.”

Exposed: City’s Secret Bail Hostels

(From Norwich Evening News 24)

At least four bail hostels run by a private company are operating in secret locations across the city – with families living nearby unaware of their existence.

The hostels – which are normal homes in residential areas – are used to house people awaiting trial in the city or released early from prison and wearing electronic tags and under curfew.

Although only prisoners classed at a low risk of offending and who are deemed safe are placed at these addresses, families living yards from the properties have not been informed of their existence or consulted about them.

The Evening News investigated the issue after we reported that at least one hostel was being run in the city earlier this year.

Our findings have revealed there are at least four in the Norwich area, including three in the Norwich City Council area and one in Old Catton, part of Broadland. A suggestion that there was a fifth hostel could not be confirmed.

We are aware of their exact locations but are not publishing them for safety reasons.

Today, councillors in the area affected and people living near to the hostels hit out at the fact that they were not consulted.

Rupert Read, Green Party member for Wensum ward, where one of the hostels is based, said: “It is unacceptable that our council is being bypassed and not consulted over the location of this new bail hostels in the local area by a private company.

“It’s imperative that councils are involved from day one in helping to decide where to locate any proposed bail hostel.

“ClearSprings is contractually obliged to consult before locating its hostels. I cannot believe that they haven’t even consulted me and my fellow Wensum ward local councillors on this.

“I am outraged by their casual disregard of the rules and of the safety of my constituents.”

The hostels are run by ClearSprings, an Essex-based company charged with managing hundreds of bail hostels nationally.

The firm came under fire earlier this year when it emerged it had failed to inform MPs and council chiefs that it was operating bail hostels in their area.

The Evening News understands that upon finding out about the hostels, both Norwich City and Broadland councils have carried out investigations to determine whether the firm was breaching regulations by operating the homes as commercial enterprises without planning consent. These were dropped as technically no change of use had taken place.

Norfolk Constabulary has also confirmed it has been called out to deal with suspected crimes which have taken place at the Old Catton hostel.

In a recent case at Norwich Magistrates Court one tenant was cleared of an assault at the hostel on grounds of self-defence after a fight broke out at a barbecue there.

The Evening News was able to gain access to the Old Catton hostel. A former tenant there told how drug use and heavy drinking was the norm among the other occupants who stayed there during his time there.

People living near the hostel in Old Catton said they were not consulted before it was set up in January.

One mother, who didn’t want to be named, living yards from the premises said she had seen an increase in police activity since it was established.

She said: “We should have been told about the hostel. I am concerned about it because I have small children. We have seen a lot more police activity since they moved there, including in the last week or so. It makes me uneasy.”

But a woman living next door to the hostel said she had been informed before the premises was taken over by ClearSprings and said she had had no problems with the tenants, who had also helped her with chores such as mowing the lawn.

Another woman, who didn’t want to be identified but who has lived on the street for 30 years, added: “We should have been told. It could lead to more crime or anything on the estate.”

The Local Government Association, representing 400 councils nationally, recently accused ClearSprings of a “shocking lack of consultation”, with families living just yards from the hostels not informed about their use and councils given little or no say about where they are sited or how many are set up in their area.

Hazel Harding, chair of the LGA’s safer communities board, said: “Some councillors are understandably furious that they have not been adequately consulted on what is happening in their area.

“It’s pure folly to dump this kind of accommodation in the middle of a residential street without properly asking for the council’s views.

“The failure to consult genuinely with councils gives the unfortunate impression that they are established under a veil of secrecy. This doesn’t help the people on bail or on early release who come up against resentment from local people who have been unnecessarily alarmed.”

Broadland Council leader Simon Woodbridge said ClearSprings had contacted the council’s housing and benefits teams last year to ensure payments of the benefits were made to the company.

He said the hostels did not contravene planning rules and performed an important role in offender management.

He added: “We have got to make sure we don’t allow offenders or ex-offenders to carry on offending. We need to break that cycle and one way to help do that is to recognise accommodation is an integral part of that if it is in a managed environment. As far as I am concerned these are perfectly safe and well controlled.”

Norwich City Council spokeswoman Amy Lyall added: “We’re aware of three premises operated by ClearSprings in the city.

“The city council is not planning any enforcement action on these premises. One has previously been investigated, and there was not found to be a problem so the case was closed. If any issues do arise, we will take appropriate action.”

A spokesman for South Norfolk Council said the authority was not aware of any ClearSprings bail hostels operating in its area.

A spokeswoman for Norfolk Constabulary said the police had been called to the Old Catton hostel in the past but declined to say what actions were taken or specify any crimes believed to have taken place there.

She added: “If anyone reports crimes there we would investigate them. We take any reports of criminal activity seriously and are aware there have been problems there before.

“It is privately run, we have spoken to the company when we had reports and worked with them, but do not have any role dealing with their running as it is a probation issue.”

ClearSprings referred all media enquiries to the Ministry of Justice.

An MOJ spokeswoman said: “ClearSprings has a contractual obligation to consult the police, enforcement agencies and local authorities to inform the area in which that property will be opened.

“People in this accommodation are mostly on bail, that means they haven’t been convicted of any crime and haven’t been remanded in custody in court as they are not deemed to be a threat to the public.

“When people are released on bail they mostly go to their homes and their neighbours are not consulted then. All these are doing is providing rental accommodation for people if they haven’t got anywhere to stay.

“Defendants who pose a threat to the public continue to be held in custody. Anyone accused of sexual offences, arson or deemed a threat to staff or other residents are not housed in these properties.

“More than half of those in this accommodation are on bail and others are on home detention curfews and assessed as low risk on entry and monitored in their stay and liable to recall to prison if they break their terms.”

And she said they were not truly bail hostels, which require supervision, but “approved premises” for those released on bail who are not deemed to pose a risk.

A visit to North Walsham, this evening

I will be speaking this evening at a public meeting at North Walsham Community Centre at 7.30pm (along with Norman Lamb MP and others). The reason for the meeting is that a company is proposing to store industrial waste there, at an old sewage plant. The proposal raises huge worries: about HGV traffic through entirely-unsuitable country lanes, and about the risk of an explosion (as happened at Bacton).
 Frankly, this kind of thing is precisely one of the raisons d’etre of the Green Party. To help small communities struggling against big companies which are in effect threatening those communities with an environmental nightmare…
 Wish me and the plucky local residents good luck this evening!

Georgia and Iraq: the price of hypocrisy

This letter of mine has been published in several places:
Dear Editor;
We should oppose war and call for a full peaceful settlement of the Georgia crisis. But at the same time it is pitiful to hear architects and avid backers of the illegal and disasterous war on Iraq (such as George Bush and David Milliband) hypocritically giving Russia stern lectures about respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.
Such double standards are of course not new. Just as Saddam was initially backed by the West, so Putin could never have risen to the heights of power – and tyranny – that he now has without the strong backing of Bush, Blair et al. Our governments have pretended for the last 15 years that Russia is a democracy — while the opposition, independent businesses and the questioning parts of the media were disempowered and in some cases, murdered. Our governments have looked the other way while Russia brutalised and devastated Chechnya.
What Russia is now doing in Georgia is unacceptable. But it is not surprising. And our leaders have lost any moral authority to stand up to it due to their past actions.
Truly, we need a new world order. The leaders who wage war to get their way, whether in The White House, Kremlin – or Downing Street,  need to be thrown out, and a fresh start made: as the world succeeded in accomplishing in 1945 and after, with the United Nations. Will we, the peoples of the world, allow new American-British and Russian empires to exist and grow; or will we say ‘No!’, and insist instead on peace and real democracy as the watchwords of our time?  
Cllr. Rupert Read, prospective Green Party MEP for Eastern Region.


I’ve taken this release straight off Caroline Lucas’s new website. There could not be a more important or contemporary topic:

As the economy hits the buffers, Green leadership candidate Caroline Lucas called for the party to back a ‘Green New Deal’, to tackle the credit crunch, soaring oil prices and the costs of climate change.

Caroline Lucas said:

“These overlapping events threaten to develop into a perfect storm, of a severity which hasn’t been seen since the Great Depression, with potentially devastating consequences.

“As one of the people who helped launch the ‘Green New Deal’, I’ll be asking the party to back the aim of implementing a ‘Green New Deal’ at the top of our policy-agenda for the Party.

“The ‘triple crunch’ of financial meltdown, climate change and ‘peak oil’ has its origins firmly rooted in the current model of globalisation.   Financial deregulation has facilitated the creation of almost limitless credit. 

“With this credit boom has come irresponsible patterns of lending, creating inflated bubbles in assets such as property, and powering environmentally unsustainable economic growth and consumption. 

“Only the Green Party has the policies to respond to this unprecedented situation. A Green New Deal is the key to solving the deeply-worrying crisis we face; there is no business-as-usual solution.

“If elected as leader of the Green Party, I would want to make the case directly against the policies of Brown, Cameron and Clegg and for a Green New Deal: for a structural transformation of the regulation of national and international financial systems, and for a sustained programme to invest in and deploy energy conservation and renewable energies, coupled with effective demand management.

“We can beat – and turn back – the rising price of heating your home, the cost of living and the threat to our livelihoods.

“I believe that over the next two years the Green Party can change the political agenda and­ –­ through growing our representation in the Westminster and Brussels Parliaments ­­– can start to affect policy radically and rapidly.”

Dr. Lucas was one of the 9 members of the ‘Green New Deal group’ that has designed the ‘Green New Deal’ plan.

Other members include Larry Elliott, Economics Editor of the Guardian, Tony Juniper, former Director of Friends of the Earth, Jeremy Leggett, founder and Chairman of Solarcentury and SolarAid, & Ann Pettifor, former head of the Jubilee 2000 debt relief campaign.