Saturday, January 17, 2015

Welcome, new Green Party Members


 Having been a Green Party member for about 36 years, I am awed by the recent surge in membership. We now have more than 45,000 members, overtaking not just UKIP but also the LibDems.

So, if you have just paid your £5-10 sub to the Green Party - Welcome.

Now what?

You may want to contact your local party for starters. First, a gentle word of warning - if you want a vibrant, far ranging discussion of the political issues of the day, you will not find it at a regular business meeting, which will be about arrangements for the coming General Election campaign. If you love committee meetings, then fine. If you don't, but are prepared to come and help with leafletting, canvassing and rallies, then just tell the local party so. Ask about Green Drinks social gatherings.

You probably want to find out what you have signed up to. There is a brief statement of our Core Values here, and for a longer statement, our Philosophical Basis is here.

Our full policy web pages are here. They contain an awful lot of detailed resolutions voted on and amended by Conference going back to our inception as the People Party (later renamed the Ecology Party) in 1973.

The main question that the party has to answer is,

"OK, you are strong on ecology, but how about your economic policies?"

One of the main themes of this blog addresses this question. I have 75 posts on economics, 94 on green economics, and 44 on the 2008 financial crisis.

Also, on my website I have a few essays on green economics, in particular an introductory Overview of Green Economics. This last needs updating, and I will try to do so in the next few days, and also will try to show how the necessity of ecological sustainability is interwoven with the need for equality and democracy.

Also in need of even more updating is the old classic Green Policies in a Nutshell 

The essence of green economics is that it is founded on ecology, in other words, the existence on the planet of a healthy, happy human population stands at the beginning of our thinking. Finance and money exist to serve that human life, not the other way round.

Therefore green economics  completely stands conventional economics on its head.  In this sense, green politics is revolutionary, but our revolution concerns thought and understanding, not hatred and violence.

So, welcome to all Green Party members. We hope we all have a long and happy life struggling for the Common Good - a better world for all living and sentient beings - even, I must add, for our political opponents and the functionaries who aim to exclude us from the TV debates.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Response to Ofcom's consultation on the classification of political parties.

There is a widespread notion going about that Ofcom has decided that the Green Party is classified as a minor party, and that Ukip is a major party. This would have a negative impact on the Green Party's exposure for the General Election on May 7th.

In fact, although Ofcom is minded towards that judgment, the question is still out to consultation, up to February 5th. Their review of the present situation is here, and there is an online form to respond here. They prefer an online form, although they will receive letters and emails. 

Clearly, Green Party members, Green voters, sympathisers and indeed anyone with any sense of justice will want to reply. Here are my comments, which you can use to stimulate your responses on the online form.

Additional comments:

The Communications Act says that Ofcom's principal duty is to further the interests of citizens and of consumers, where appropriate by promoting competition.

Although this refers primarily between broadcasters, the principle extends to promoting fair competition between political parties. There is a case for saying that competition between Ukip and the Green Party has not been fair, neither in print and broadcast media, nor in broadcast media, with a pronounced bias in favour of Ukip. Ofcom has a duty to rebalance this situation.

Question 1: Please provide your views on:
a) the evidence of current support laid out in Annex 2, and
b) whether there is any other relevant evidence which you consider Ofcom should take into account for the purposes of the 2015 review of the list of major parties:

The evidence of current support for the Green Party laid out in 2.17 is flawed by omission of any reference to the Green Party's success in electing an MP Brighton Pavilion in 2010 for the first time in a General Election.

In contrast to this omission, Ofcom refers to Ukip's success in 2 by-elections, where sitting MPs who changed alleigance were re-elected. A sitting MP has a clear advantage in being re-elected.

Ofcom should take account of membership numbers of political parties. At a time when membership of mainstream parties is waning, both the Green Party and Ukip are growing, and at the time of writing, the membership numbers of the Green Party are overtaking, or about to overtake, the numbers of UKIP.

Membership is a significant indicator of support, given that there is a financial outlay involved in joining a party.

Ofcom must take into account that opinion poll support for the Green Party has on some occasions exceeded that of the LibDems.

Ofcom has noted that the Green Party is often hidden under "Other" in opinion polls. This is itself a cause of negative bias against registering the true level of support for the Greens.

Finally, the Green Party should be seen as the equal and opposite ideological counterbalance to Ukip. Both are surging at the expense of the traditional parties, and in most respects they are antithetically opposed, on urope, Immigration, the desirability for greater equality, and above all, environmental concern and climate change. Ukip denies climate science, while the Green Party's energy policies are founded on climate science. Ukip's theory that CO2 will not seriously affect the Earth's climate is easily refutable. For Ofcom substantially to exclude the Green Party from the electoral debate 2015 would be totally unconscionable.

Question 2: Do you agree with our assessment in relation to each of:
a) The existing major parties,
b) Traditional Unionist Voice in Northern Ireland,
c) The Green Party (including the Scottish Green Party), and
d) UKIP?
Please provide reasons for your views.:

I disagree with your assessment of the Green Party for the reasons given above.

Question 3: Do you agree with the proposed amendment to Rule 9 of the PPRB Rules Procedures outlined in paragraph 3.7 above? Please provide reasons for your views.:
I do not agree with the amendment, on the grounds that my confidence in Ofcom's judgments is no longer firm.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Charlie Hebdo: Call for a widespread Fatwa Against Terrorism

We must hope that the Charlie Hebdo murders will be some kind of watershed in relations between Islam and the West, that good will come out of the tragedy.

But how can change come about?

The Muslim Council of Britain  has said of the Paris shootings "nothing is more immoral, offensive and insulting against our beloved Prophet than such a callous act of murder...however offended we may be, [by the cartoons]  the ultimate denigration of our faith comes from these murderers who have unjustifiably taken life".

Other commentators have denied that these terrorists, people who kill non-combatants for political ends, can be true Muslims. This is a subtle device that tries to draw a dividing line between the general Muslim community and terrorists, but it is inevitable that the connection will be made by simpler minds. Sadly, we can expect anti-Muslim hate crimes to increase, taking the spiral of violence up to the next level.

The Muslim community needs to take action to make the dividing line between Islam and terrorism more definite.

What action? It is commonplace for mullahs and Muslim scholars to condemn murder, but this is clearly ineffective. There is one thing that the Muslim community can do.

They can issue fatwas against terrorist activity.

This is not a new idea. In 1999, the Muslim Religious Council of  North America issued a Fatwa against Terrorism.  In 2011 a book titled Fatwa on Terrorism was published. So we have precedents, but these were limited: we need to ask each mullah and mosque to issue their own fatwa until the knowledge is universal and ingrained.

A fatwa is a kind of legal opinion made by a Muslim scholar. It is binding only as far as followers of the scholar who issues it are concerned - the Muslim faith is non hierarchical, and there is no central authority - so many fatwas are necessary, one for each mosque or group.

A fatwa has to have these characteristics:

  1. It must be derived from the Q'ran and revered commentary
  2. It must come from an authority figure
  3. It should not be opportunistic or due to political subservience
  4. It must be adequate to the needs of contemporary society 
It is certain that the needs of contemporary society would be met if the majority of muftis issued a fatwa against Muslims killing civilians in the name of Islam.  We can leave it to the scholars to derive (1) above, and to state who is an authority figure. Item (3) means that it would be a mistake for Government to order the muftis to issue the fatwa; but on the other hand, it is open for bloggers,  journalists and commentators to ask muftis if they have issued the fatwa against terrorism.

 Islam puts behavior in five categories:

  1. Obligatory
  2. Commendable
  3. Permissible
  4. Despised
  5. Not Permitted
It would be reasonable for the fatwa to put terrorist activity into category 5.

The effect of this fatwa, if it becomes general, is somewhat to isolate terrorists from the Islamic community. Clearly, it is not going to put an end to home-grown terrorism at a stroke. That is going to take years and many changes; but this proposal does take us a step towards that state.

In a way, it excommunicates young people who take the terror road. This will matter to some, and it will give them pause for thought. Others will not care; not all terrorists are pious, many are criminals who happen to be captured by an absolutist ideology. But it may matter to their family and friends, who may try to put a brake on the would-be terrorist's career.

The fatwa will be a useful way to identify mosques and mullahs that may be of concern. If they reject the fatwa, or argue against it, their activities may deserve increased surveillance.

This proposal will probably be criticised as an example of Islamophobia and even fascism by some on the far left. This is because "thinking" in some political activists consists of looking at what the opposition says, and saying the opposite. If the Right says "Blame Muslims", the Left says "Muslims are Innocent". Everything is divided into these absolute, mutually exclusive categories, and practical, systematic political thought is blocked. The present proposal is not blaming all Muslims for all that is wrong. There are many factors that feed in to the culture of terrorism: Western hegemony, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the situation in Israel and Palestine, unemployment, inequality, everyday discrimination and many other factors; but these are not to be taken as excuses for the Muslim community sit back, blame everyone else and take no action of its own.

This proposal is suggesting a way for the Muslim community to distance itself from accusations of condoning terrorism - an outcome that would benefit the whole of society, Muslim, Christian, or secular.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Solistice Ballad

Sun disc pale and white
At the low point of the year.
Day gives way to night
and the wet branch drips    a tear _

that holds a falling world
compressing all we see
into a tiny liquid globe
hung on a silent tree.

While Roman steel is hurting
and their armies make us bow,
From Mary’s belly bursting out
a child infused with power.

We listen for a while
to universal love;
he conjures up a spell
to change the eagle   to a dove.

But   the dove   grew talons
and his song became a scream:
a Church bore down upon us
where the Roman boot had been.

So we traded Church for Market
and the donkey for a Ford
but there’s nowhere we could park it
and the children soon got bored

and the banks that gave possessions
are calling in their loans;
their smiles hide their aggression:
they want everything we own.

But the sun will rise beyond this death
And next year we shall find 
Another  way to shield the Earth
From the Roman soldiers’ mind.

© Richard Lawson 

December 2006