Public opinion appears to be that Trenton Oldfield, the protester who disrupted last year’s boat race, is a bit of a dick. I’m not that bothered – the race is a fix anyway, the same two teams get into the final every year.
In the very week that his British wife is expecting their first child Oldfield has been told that, after ten years, his presence is no longer welcome in this country. Theresa May’s decision to seek to have him transported to Australia for his crimes (on top of the two months he’s already served inside) goes against all natural justice but, more importantly, seeks to split up his family to make some cheap political point.
The collateral damage of May’s callous punishment is his British wife and soon to be born child, a child whose right to a father she seems unwilling to consider.
The terrible truth though is that Oldfield’s family are not alone. For many British born people it is harder to settle with their spouse and children in this country than it is almost anywhere else in the world.
It is even easier for EU citizens to settle here with non-EU spouses than it is for a UK citizen to be reunited with their own children if they were born outside the EU.
Imagine only being able to see your mother on Skype.
Imagine being separated from your own children because they were born abroad by a non-EU citizen.
Imagine having an elderly relative who desperately needs your support, but being unable to look after them because they come from outside the EU, or being separated in your old age from your only remaining family members because of where you were born.
That’s hundreds of broken hearts before we even consider the cases of refugees and asylum seekers where we split 200 children from their detained or deported parents.
None of this is because they have committed a crime (even a fairly trivial one, as in Oldfield’s case), but purely because they had the audacity to fall in love with someone with the wrong colour passport. The toxic debate around immigration bears little relationship to the reality.
If you are wealthy life is, naturally, easier. If you seek to be reunited with your family you need to demonstrate, among other things, that you are earning at least £22,400 with a further £2,400 for each additional child – a burden even harder to meet if you live in a poorer part of the country or belong to a group of people who earn less than the average… like women.
If you cannot meet the financial and other tests then your family will be one more victim of this government’s desperation to drive down the immigration figures in any way they can think of. You don’t have to disturb the rich at play to have your family torn apart.
British citizens might feel it is their natural right to have their children live with them, no matter where they were born, but this is not always the case.
The first anniversary of the government’s decision to change the family immigration rules (Tuesday 9 July 2013) please help keep up the pressure.
Fears over the drinking culture reached a head this year when some impromptu fisticuffs hit the headlines, but it has been an ongoing issue for years with late-night voting merging into a boozy macho culture among some MPs and their staff.
Speaker John Bercow is the latest would-be moderniser who, according to reports this week, seems to have hit a brick wall in his attempts to cut costs and clean up the culture a little.
However Bercow’s moves still reflect the feelings of entitlement rife among MPs as his proposals have amounted to little more than ‘at receptions and events where alcohol was served, glasses would be topped up less frequently’ and for staff, but not MPs, to be banned from drinking in working hours.
The argument for subsidised, on-site, bars and restaurants is that MPs may be called upon to vote in the middle of the night or hang around for the Commons bell to signal a vote and so can’t leave the premises. This doesn’t seem to be an argument for conducting Parliamentary business half cut, nor does it explain why these premises have to be subsidised.
I would not suggest that we make them eat Burger King as visitors to some of our hospitals are encouraged to do; some decent canteen facilities and pleasant places to loiter is all that’s really necessary.
However, the real answer to modernising Parliamentary culture is to go beyond questioning the need for subsidised boozers and tackle the bizarre conduct of business.
Waiting around for bells to ring, MPs “talking out” motions, queuing to vote “aye” or “nay” without being able to register abstentions and a host of Byzantine rules make Westminster an insiders club, and an inefficient one at that.
Caroline Lucas MP made a serious contribution to reforming Parliament with her 2010 paper (pdf) which called for, among other things, electronic voting, holding over votes to a specific voting period each day, a systematic modernisation of Parliamentary language, and an end to night shifts that make family life extremely difficult for MPs, which is seen as particularly hard on women MPs.
The examples of the London Assembly, Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament show that serious decision-making does not have to be conducted in such an ossified environment. While I’m aware that many members of these institutions make substantial contributions to the profits of the drinks industry in their free time, the creation of a more professional environment means the weird culture of Westminster is all but entirely absent during business hours.
It’s simply not necessary for voting to be conducted into the night, and unhelpful to have rules that the general public often find it difficult to understand, let alone engage with. Drinking on the job is simply one aspect of an institution that has not kept up with the times leaving it far from fit for purpose.
This morning the Green Party announced that Australian-born journalist Natalie Bennett was elected to lead the party. In a hotly fought contest Bennett polled 42% of the first preference votes and was elected after second and third preferences were redistributed.
As her campaign manager I’m really proud that the party has chosen Natalie to lead them and that decision signals both an increasing willingness to professionalise the party while maintaining its distinct, radical politics.
Though-out the campaign we had three clear themes. And we stuck to them from start to finish.
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Caroline Lucas MP, has announced that she will not stand for re-election as Green Party leader in September in order to make way for new leadership voices.
In the announcement says that “I will also be able to dedicate even more of my work to the political frontline, putting the Green case for change in Parliament and in all circles of national political debate.”
This is an extremely positive development despite the fact that Caroline Lucas is clearly the most capable, extra-ordinary green politician.
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There’s been much gnashing of teeth over the government’s proposal to cap tax relief on charitable giving at £50,000 (or a quarter of your income).
Charities are concerned that the changes will discourage the rich from donating if it’s no longer in their interests and The Telegraph reports today the government has accepted the changes in the rules will impact on charitable giving.
Most of us donate money without taking any tax benefit and no rich person will be prevented from donating to charity, only prevented from taking that money out of tax revenue in order to do so. Even with those caveats, charitable giving is in desperate need of reform.
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At a special meeting on Monday night London Green Party made the decision to recommend a second preference vote for Ken Livingstone for Mayor, after their own candidate, Jenny Jones.
Livingstone attended the meeting and was grilled by London Greens on topics as diverse as domestic violence, the financial system, and the record of Labour councils as well as more traditional environmental topics like air pollution, walking and cycling and incineration.
Although many at the meeting were skeptical when Ken claimed that the election of Ed Miliband proved that New Labour was dead they also appreciated that his environmental record was head and shoulders above that of Boris Johnson.
The Greens formally backed a second preference vote for Livingstone after debating whether associating with Labour would cost them votes by associating with a “toxic brand”.
A number of members pointed out that their experience of Labour was not a happy one and they had no wish for the decision to be misrepresented, as it has sometimes been in 2008, as an endorsement for Labour as a whole.
Others thought the priority had to be to get Johnson out and that Livingstone was the only candidate placed to do that.
After a robust but friendly debate members voted by a ratio of just over two to one to back a second preference for Labour’s candidate.
“If Transport for London’s roads were a factory it would have been closed down with this number of deaths and accidents.” So said Hampstead resident Tom Kearney at a Road Safety hearing last week.
We were treated to the spectacle of otherwise straightlaced councillors laying into the powers that be.
Some even suggested TfL executives should be charged with corporate manslaughter for their alleged negligence.
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One criticism of the Occupy London Stock Exchange movement has been either the lack of concrete demands or their incoherence. While that’s not necessarily fair it is certainly true that only one point in the initial statement was policy.
To get the ball rolling I thought I’d make a few suggestions, based on things we already know, that may not abolish capitalism but would at least re-establish a little social democracy.
I’m sure collectively we can come up with something stronger.
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The Green Party autumn conference declared its absolute opposition to the Coalition’s immigration policy this weekend. It called for the immigration cap to be scrapped and for a “real review” of this country’s border controls that “take[s] into account the full benefits of immigration”.
The Party opposes the cap on the basis that it is socially divisive. It rejects the argument, put forward by many supporting the cap, that immigration harms the economy, saying rather that it has many positive effects.
The Green Party is for liberalising our current immigration controls to help ensure that individuals are not left vulnerable to exploitation and ill-treatment by virtue of their immigration status.
I said to Camden journalist and blogger Richard Osley:
diversity is something to be celebrated rather than be constantly treated as a problem. The current muddle headed Coalition policy does not even have the backing of employers and will certainly be used to restrict the rights of those who did not happen to be born in this country. To those who argue that migrants can be used to undercut wages and divide and rule I say that the answer to exploitation is not to regulate the exploited but to regulate the exploiters.
Jean Lambert, London’s Green MEP, said
The immigration cap is a dishonest policy which sees migrants treated as the cause of problems they have had no part in. There are serious issues around housing, casualisation at work , and the need for improved public services but we cannot address these by blaming immigration.
The Coalition have not defined the problem that they are using such a blunt tool to solve and that’s why the Green Party is calling for a real review that takes into account the full benefits of immigration rather than simply treating migrants as a problem to be managed.”
The motion reads;
“The Green Party reaffirms its commitment to a liberal immigration policy. Everyone is equal no matter what the colour of their passport.
The Coalition’s policy of introducing an immigration cap restricts people’s rights based purely on their nationality, harms the economy and is not conducive to a free and happy society.
The Green Party is in favour of a real review of border controls that takes in the full benefits of immigration and stops treating those who are not native to the UK as a problem.”
This weekend’s Green party conference reaffirmed our manifesto commitment to “protect basic public services, which are the foundation of an equitable society”.
The motion reads:
The Green Party of England and Wales is opposed to cuts in essential local government services.
Conference calls on GPEX [the national executive], within existing resources, to offer support (e.g. policy and external communications support) to Green Party councillors and other publicly elected Green Party representatives not to vote for such cuts, support them in refusing to do so.
GPEW deplores the Coalition Government’s huge reductions in government grant to each local authority but recognises that each local authority has a legal duty to set a balanced budget.
Green councillors will be supported in putting forward imaginative alternatives that will protect jobs and services.
Such alternatives could include the following:
- cutting senior pay for top council executives
- reducing the millions spent on expensive private sector consultants
- cutting down on glossy PR and council spin
- reducing council fuel bills by making schools, libraries and other buildings more energy efficient
- introducing workplace parking levies
Such a stand will facilitate the effective participation of such representatives and members in the local campaigns against cuts which are required, and will provide a lead for other councillors, trade unionists and community activists.
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