Friday, 30 April 2010

To Let in Manzil Way

Following my earlier blog post "Not to Let in Manzil Way" about the 20 empty apartments in the Manzil Way Health Centre (built under PFI) - they've just appeared on the private market. (See

This despite a planning condition fought for by Green councillors that the apartments should be affordable for the use of medical staff and other key workers. (See planning condition 7 at :

The cynicism of the developer is astounding - it's an insult to the citizens of Oxford that its planning decisions should be treated with such disdain.

It's thanks to outgoing Green councillor Craig Simmons that this has been picked up. I sincerely hope that any future planning applications from the developer in question are refused on principle.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Jobsworths and meaningless growth

What's not coming out in political debate - because far too much attention is being given to the pasty pastel parties and the 'past-times parties' (UKIP and BNP) - is that we are heading for disaster because of a toxic addiction to a version of 'economic growth' that doesn't understand what 'the economy' actually is, and doesn't understand the difference between 'good growth' and 'bad growth'. I mean, cancer's a growth.

They all think that 'the economy' is about money and jobs. No, the economy is about the distribution and sharing of resources to maintain and enhance quality of life for all.

Money can help that happen, but the worship of the golden calf, which The System has forcibly recruited most people into, has now brought the inevitable curse. Except for its high priests, that is.

A 'job' is work that you do when you help some employing organisation fulfil its own objectives. Some jobs are economically valuable (in the true sense) and rewarding. But many people hate their jobs and don't care tuppence about their employer's objectives which often entail producing pointless products and services, or (in Gordon Brown's constituency) weaponry, or (in the dangerous Disneyworld of finance) making money out of borrowed money out of borrowed money. Many live for the precious time they can grab with their families and doing the things they really love. Which often involve hard work!

Many people - I'm thinking of carers - are doing immensely valuable work which could actually be life-enhancing for them as well as the loved-ones they care for, if they weren't isolated and punished by The System because they don't have jobs. And in the 'leaders debate' the pastel parties agreed that they're scared of this issue - quite rightly, because their model of money-economy and jobs doesn't know how to handle it without immense and wasteful complexity.

The Green Party, on the other hand, with its Citizens' Income proposals inextricably linked with a whole lot of stuff about health care, transport and access, exchange of goods and services independently of the money system and so on have a handle on it because we're not blinded by The System and its insatiable appetite for meaningless 'growth'.

It's the difference between managerialism and practical vision.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Dream Oxford

On Sunday, at a hustings, candidates were invited to imagine their dream Oxford in 20 years' time. I struggle to imagine what a New Labour city might look like, and in a Tory city I can imagine you might want to pull Magdalen Bridge down and let the worlds of north and east Oxford drift apart. But a green Oxford . . that's easy!

How about (in no particular order):

> a quiet city without the roar of petrol and diesel engines

> . . . or the smell and air pollution

> a brilliant place to cycle, walk and get around by wheelchair/buggy. Reclaim the streets for kids. Maybe a tram system east-west and north-south.

> with no one in substandard accommodation, being ripped off by unscrupulous landlords or intimidated by neighbours

> thriving and varied grassroots cultural life of dance, music, poetry, theatre

> no commuters because everyone's able to find gainful employment and the shops and services they need within walking distance. Big local farmers' markets.

> no great disparities of wealth, with rich and poor moving in different worlds and never meeting

> perhaps our own Oxford currency so we can raise two fingers to the fairyland of the money system . . most people banking with the Oxford or Blackbird Leys Credit Unions

> open and transparent city and county government that puts genuine energy into building relationships with people, not imposing "consultations" on them; where at the click of a button people can see what their councillors are proposing and supporting (rather than being fed versions manipulated for party political ends)

> much stronger and better-attended Area Parliaments with a buzz about them, keeping the big players (including the City and County Councils themselves) in check

> the universities taking much more responsibility for their impact on East Oxford

> more rather than less green space, with the colleges granting better access to local residents (e.g. a cycle route into Oxford that doesn't have to go via the Plain/Magdalen Bridge . . .

> no corruption and bullying in local politics

> hydro power generation at Osney, Iffley, Wolvercote; attractive wind turbines to north, south, east and west rather than great ugly pylons striding across the view from Cumnor Hill

> a thriving hub of creative green technological innovation in small workshops and offices across the city (not dumped in green belt periphery)

> no one caught in the benefit trap - a Citizen's Income encouraging everyone to contribute to building a better city

> world-class palliative and end-of-life care for all who need it.

> the hospital wings and health centres, privatised under PFI, brought back into public ownership.

> a City of Sanctuary - a city that 'thinks global, acts local'

> so-called 'faith schools' teased away from the control of religious institutions (and private corporations) so that every school can be a 'school of faith and hope', and every parent, whether religious or not, can trust that their attempts to impart lasting values to their children won't be undermined by the school.

Where do I stop . . . . ?

I could go on . .

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Politicians Not Welcome Here

'Politicians not welcome here' is the BBC strapline for its 'The Politics Show' broadcast from Oxford tomorrow, Sunday. It's an apt title from the Biased Broadcasting Company : the Green Party is not welcome on the programme. UKIP has been invited, but not the Greens, despite the Green Party polling 6 points ahead of all other rivals in the city's Euro election and setting the City Council agenda with its seven city councillors.

And UKIP!? After the offensive performance of Nigel Farage (the politician who the BBC does welcome) in the European Parliament where he treated President van Rompuy to a tirade of personally offensive remarks. It made me ashamed to be British, and yet this is the party that trades on that very sentiment.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Green Party manifesto

People have some funny ideas about what the Green Party stands for. Find out by reading the manifesto :

Monday, 12 April 2010

Beware the Grey/Green New Deal

It's a curious thing : Green policies on Economy, Education, Defence, Taxation, Transport, Energy, Animal Rights etc (see are immediately recognisable and distinctive. But the other parties are so keen to claim the climate change vote that to hear them speak you'd think they were there first.

In all the hot air, don't be fooled! Whereas, for the main parties, the carbon agenda has been bolted on to the side of the manifesto (inevitable, since their political philosophies evolved between 100 and 300 years ago - and are now fossilised) the Green manifesto arose out of concern for humanity's relationship with its environment. Our short climate change policy document contains 23 links to other Green policy areas, it's so thoroughly stitched-in.

The other parties are still saddled with an addiction to a debased model of economic growth that has lost touch with the reality of people's lives. They have turned us from citizens into consumers until (we're told) we've got to shop to save the nation. (Was Napoleon right to call us a 'nation of shopkeepers'?)

What this means is that all the talk of 'green jobs' means little more to the grey parties than shopping for green technology - a fad that will quickly be ditched if it doesn't make massive profits for investment bankers. Indeed, we recently had a Conservative Party glossy brochure round that seemed to think green energy meant helping customers find the cheapest energy supplier! For the Greens it's a far more fundamental shift than that. The difference is, we mean it.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

'Wealth' versus 'Money'

Listening to the heated arguments about increasing National Insurance contributions (as New Labour, the "party of the middle class", are proposing), I'm struck by a number of assumptions that noone from the three largest parties are challenging :

1) that the public sector is grossly inefficient, whereas the private sector isn't. I struggle a bit to understand how companies that pay the salaries to their board members that they do could possibly be 'efficient'.

2) that investment in the NHS, schools and policing wouldn't create (or protect) jobs, whereas holding back on National Insurance increase would. I'd have thought that if creating jobs was the objective, hospitals and schools in particular create proportionately far more jobs per pound of investment. Many private sector companies are falling over themselves to outsource their employment to the developing world. You can export manufacturing and finance jobs, but you can't export nursing and teaching jobs.

Oxfordshire County Council, Oxford University, the hospitals/PCT and Brookes University account for 58,500 jobs in Oxfordshire, by far the biggest provider of employment. Remember - that's direct employees : you can easily double the figure if you include all the subcontractors and indirect jobs created.

3) that the only people who create wealth are people in the private sector who make things. (Well, who used to. Increasingly, they make their profits by selling things made elsewhere, or by selling financial services. Are we to become a 'nation of shopkeepers'?) The assumption seems to be that doctors, nurses, teachers, cleaners, social workers etc etc don't create wealth. But wealth is not money. Wealth is a roof over your head, warmth in winter, food on the table, healthcare, being surrounded by people who care for you, security and having an opportunity to contribute. It's also about having a healthy relationship with the planet. A lot of profit making enterprise actually undermines true wealth.

4) And besides, don't hospitals and schools pay National Insurance employer's contributions, too?

For me, the fact that these assumptions - which are fundamental in Green thinking - are not being challenged is further proof that the main parties have lost the plot.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Andrew Smith suggests: "Vote Labour! . . . I don't!"

The Labour Party have just put out a striking campaign newssheet around East Oxford. It's striking for the absence of red ink and the presence of green. The banner headline is Andrew Smith's (sitting New Labour MP)'Green New Deal', complete with requisite photo of MP on bicycle.

It explains how Andrew has voted against Heathrow's third runway, for carbon emissions targets, against Trident etc. All good stuff.

But it also points out that on many of these occasions he voted against his party whips. In other words : "Vote Labour! I don't!"

Or is it that he was given special permission to vote against the whips, knowing that the Green Party are a serious threat to the Labour vote in Oxford East?

Either way, the message is : if you're actually concerned about green issues, vote Green. What actually works is voting Green, because every Green vote drives the changes, whoever actually ends up getting elected. If it's the Green agenda you support it's only a Labour or Lib Dem vote that's wasted.