29 September 2007

Lewisham Gateway...4th October

I'll be spending this weekend re-reading the Committee Report for the Lewisham Gateway application that is due to be considered by the Strategic Planning Committee on 4th October 2007.

The application was due to be considered early September but was literally pulled an hour and a half before the meeting due to unresolved 'issues' with the Environment Agency - this was to do with the modelling of the flood risks etc. These have now been resolved, new conditions added to the application which should be considered on 4th as planned.

However there has been a last minute challenge made directly to the planning department for a further public meeting on the application. The call has come from a number of local groups including the Ladywell Society, Greenwich & Lewisham Friends of the Earth and QWAG (Quaggy Waterways Action Group). These groups explain that since the postponement of the application a significant number of new objections have been made and that a public meeting will be the best way to address these.

How do I stand on the 'Gateway' as planned - quite honestly I cannot say. It is a legal requirement that I consider the application with an open mind on the basis of the evidence put before me - that is the presentation by the developers, the objectors on the evening and the advice of Lewisham's officers on what are the relevant planning issues that should be considered.

I'll report back in a few days...assuming the meeting goes ahead.

Strike...it's official

I learnt there is a London-wide postal strike this morning when I found the gates at Brockley delivery office locked and a man handing out leaflets - rather incongruously the post box there had a delicate pink feather boa wrapped around it - but when I went back later to get a picture it had fallen to the floor (for those interested in the feather boa and whether it has any significance it can just be seen at he bottom right of the picture).

What is the strike about? The members of the Communications Workers Union are quite rightly defending their pensions, opposing privitisation of the post office, pay & conditions. Issues (particularly the privitisation of the Post Office) that are well worth defending as they affect us all in the long run. So why did I initally feel angry about this particular strike...of course it's because I've been inconvenienced (but 'Gary' one of the managers at Brockley apologises for that, and customer services at Royal Mail apologise too, so that's OK). What about the others who weren't aware a strike was planned...is that OK too?

However following the trail I try to find out if the action is 'official' as I knew nothing about it whatsoever. If I had known I'd have been down yesterday to pick up my parcel.Yet the only two people who seem to know that this action is 'official' are the CWU representative at Brockley & his manager 'Gary'. Hmmm...a breakdown in communications for the CWU & Royal Mail alike...as I write there's no mention on the websites and more importantly the Royal Mail customer services helpline didn't seem to know about it. The BBC's update on the Royal Mail dispute yesterday makes no mention of this the link is here . I put the complete lack of communication to the CWU Rep at Brockley this morning and he described it as all being 'political'...well he would...but perhaps he has a point.

Gordon Brown is expected to make a decision this week about a General Election. The generally accepted theory goes "Brown's got a good poll rating, and the Tories have made no progress whatsoever. Delaying an election could help the Tories get their act together. Brown needs his own mandate. By calling for an election now he can include the European Treaty and avoid the need for a referendum. The Party is ready for an election. He must go now" or variations on those themes. However I've not really seen any analysis of how the major postal strikes planned for October will play in any General Election campaign...have Labour distanced themselves sufficiently from the unions to ensure that the pesonal annoyance I have experienced and the accompanying media coverage of the strike itself doesn't translate into a loss of votes; what impact could there be on the vote itself with widespread postal voting and the freepost leaflets etc. Conversely the successful resolution of the postal dispute in the next few days could further enhance Brown's personal standing and poll ratings...so perhaps the CWU man at Brockley is right - it is all 'political'.

Of course these problems don't really concern me - I don't need a freepost leaflet or anything else whatsoever to help me in choosing how to vote...I'm voting for Darren Johnson whenever the General Election comes.

25 September 2007

Green Leadership

I've been a member of the Party for 15 years and over that time the 'Leadership' issue has been a regular discussion point at our Conferences and elsewhere. Put simply the issue is whether the Party should have a Leader and Deputy leader (or co-leaders) or whether we should reject the very idea of 'Leadership'.

As a political party which places both environmental sustainability and a fair society at the very heart of its policies why does 'Leadership' keep cropping up? Why doesn't the party at large accept that what unites those on either side of the 'Leadership'
debate - our general political aims - and leave this issue for another day? There are a number of good reasons - but to my mind the following two are the most important ones:

(1) A clear majority of the membership believe that we should have a proper 'Leader' or 'Leaders' but the requirement for a 2/3rds majority at our Conference for such change have thwarted the efforts of those fighting for change. Until the majority feel the issue is settled they will feel there is a strong democratic case for change. The Party has settled for a member-wide referendum as a way of answering the question for some time to come.

(2) There is a desparate message about the impacts of man-made climate change that needs to be got out...those on either side of the 'divide' hold different views.

Whilst I am quite clear why I'll be voting 'YES' (see the Green Yes website for more information) I find two of the arguments commonly advocated by the 'NO's very disappointing.

One of these goes like this 'power corrupts' and that 'people will inevitably exploit the position for their own ends'. I think this is very sad - it is a very conservative position too - seeing humans as essentially 'bad' and only a few generations from being wild and uncivilised. It is cyncial and panders to those in society that think that all politicians are generally selfish people in it for themselves! Hardly a ringing endorsement for electing more Greens... The solution to the this problem put by the 'No' side is to reject the very idea of a leader and to shackle whoever dares to take a 'Leadership' position so as to make them impotent. We wouldn't sanction the tethering of animals in a Zoo why do we allow it in our politics? Our leading members need to be trusted and be given the freedom to develop fully into truly great
ambassadors for the Party.

The 'No' side regularly make reference to 'tradition' (again a rather conservative argument which is worrying in its own right) yet this has no basis in fact. Clive Lord, one of the Party's founder members, reminded us that back in the 1970s the absence of a leader was just that they were waiting for the right person to emerge...it was never a major philosophical principle. I don't think anyone could doubt that the Party now has a good range of people to choose from. The experience of other ('less Green'?) Parties around the world shows that perhaps 'traditions' are quite are solid
as they are claimed. Yet if a radical party can't break out of 'traditions' that what hope is there for others.

There's more, but I'd like to end on a positive note - Vote YES!

After a bit of a break...

You don't update for a few days...that stretches to a week or two and then it's almost embarassing to think about it...

Just for the record here are some of the issues/groups/events I can remember over the last few months:

Clare Road Tenants & Residents Association/Introduction of the PFI
Brockley Safer Neighbourhood Team
Healthy Brockley
Hillyfields Summer Fayre
Brockley Max Festival
Lewisham People's Day
Anti-social/criminal behaviour in Brockley
The Green's response to the Local Development Framework (more on this later)
Elected chair of Planning 'A'
Lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) & Refugee/Asylum Seeker issues in Lewisham - as lead member for the Stronger Safer Communities Select Committee on these areas
Studying the background papers for the Lewisham Gateway
Brockley Art Commission with the Brockley Cross Action Group
Green Party Conference in Liverpool - as a member of the Standing Orders Committee that means a far old bit of work before the Conference preparing papers etc
Holidays - Norway & the Green Man Festival in Wales (muddy)
The budget (where I left off last time...) & Lewisham's financial outlook for the next five years
And of course the day job...