Friday, 15 July 2016

DECC decked!

There is a perverse logic to the abolition of the Department of Energy and Climate Change. Since 2010 when David Cameron famously declared, in the DECC building, that his would be the 'Greenest Government Ever' there has been a constant reduction in financial support  for measures to address climate change. We have had catastrophic reductions in Feed In Tariff rates for renewable technologies and for energy efficiency through cuts to the Energy Company Obligation. The Zero Carbon Homes standard due to be introduced this year for new homes was dropped by George Osborne. Planning rules for onshore wind turbines have been made so restrictive that they are as good as a ban. One of the few drivers that remained for investment in renewables was the UK being a signatory to the EU Renewable Energy Directive which required us to produce 15% of our total energy from renewable sources by 2020. Even though many of our EU partners had higher targets that they were exceeding the UK was shamefully set to fail to reach our 15% renewables target. Then Brexit happened and the threat of the UK being fined by the EU for failing to achieve a target we had voluntarily signed up to began to diminish. With a lack of commitment to energy efficiency and renewables in the UK Govt it is becoming increasingly difficult to see how we will be able to achieve our carbon reduction commitments made in Paris last December. With the significance of DECC being diminished as a direct result of Government policy the abolition of the department is consistent with the Conservatives ambivalence to action to address carbon emissions. To all intents and purposes the Conservatives are Climate Change Deniers in all but name.

We know that Government will say that addressing climate change has been 'mainstreamed' into an important Government Department but it has in fact being sidelined with no Cabinet minister acting as 'champion' following a decline in financial and policy support over the last 6 years. The irony is that one of the Ministers who managed that decline, Amber Rudd has been promoted to Home Secretary which as we know is only a short step to Number 10. Who would have thought the 'Aristocracy Advisor' on the film 'Four Weddings and a Funeral' could have come so far.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

My 7 Priorities as Deputy Leader

Supporting Local Parties to win elections

Winning elections at all levels of Government is important to convey our ideas and to put them into practice. We need to value the people who work on the ground to make our Target to Win Strategy a reality. We also need to celebrate good practice and electoral success much more in the Party to build a culture of contesting elections professionally and to' demonstrate that we can win to a wider proportion of the electorate. Andrew has organised successful election campaigns in Kirklees for over 20 years. As a Target to Win Pioneer he will be a strong and informed advocate for those needing support for their election campaigns.

Giving a voice to the Regions

Some good progress has been made through the appointment of Regional Campaigns Coordinators to help build the capacity and capability of the Green Party at the local and Regional level. The Party needs a perspective in the Leadership Team that can speak with experience and authority from outside London and the South East. As a Councillor From Yorkshire with 17 years experience as a Local Cllr, Andrew is ideally placed to fulfil that role.

Involving members

An active political party needs to be able to respond quickly to changing events. We should also ensure we involve our Party bodies and members in strategic decisions as much as possible. The Green Party needs to avoid situations where our position on key issues are made by pronouncement. One very practical issue Andrew would pursue if elected as Deputy Leader is to initiate a consultation with local parties on 'Progressive Alliances' asking for views and opinions to feedback to relevant Party bodies so your views are taken into account.

Widening our reach.

The Green Party's support is often perceived as being white and middle class. There are some good examples around the UK where that stereotype is challenged due to dedicated work by local Parties but we need to do more. Andrew is already working closely with groups like Muslim Engagement and Development MEND to challenge Islamaphobia and the Governments ill conceived 'Prevent Strategy'. As someone who has been elected to an ethnically diverse area of Huddersfield Andrew has strong links to community organisations representing BME communities at the local and national level. We also need to show how we are relevant to the many communities who are suffering most from our deteriorating services. We need to demonstrate that Green policies provide workable solutions addressing the need for secure affordable housing, worthwhile rewarding employment and ensuring the people with the greatest needs have good support and good services.

The benefits of a Councillor as our Deputy Leader

The Leadership of the Green Party is likely to have a strong Parliamentary focus. As Deputy Leader and an experienced Local Councillor Andrew would provide knowledge of the impact of Government policy on the ground. Andrew will provide practical input based on the real life experience of implementing policy at the local level. Elected politicians bring an additional degree of credibility to our Leadership Team whether they are an MP or a Councillor.

Working with others to address Climate Change

Developing workable plans and policies to address climate change should be a top priority for the Green Party. As Deputy Leader Andrew would forge stronger relations with NGOs and businesses that share our objectives to build our credibility and provide a robust challenge to Government and other Parliamentary parties on practical action to achieve the Paris Climate targets and beyond. Andrew has worked for over 20 years in the energy efficiency and renewable energy sector and has strong connections with key organisations.

'Progressive Alliances'

The idea of a Progressive Alliances is on the Green Party's agenda as a Strategy being considered in the run up to the next General Election, whether that is in 2020 or possibly much sooner. To be successful a Progressive Alliance will need to have a popular programme that can draw support across a large proportion of the population. It will need to have more broadly based policies than being simply about achieving Electoral Reform. If it is to have wide appeal we will need to demonstrate that Green policies can provide jobs, tackle climate change address poverty and provide secure and affordable homes. Acheiving policies which reflect Green Party values will need to be a key part of any deal. Andrew is a skilled and experienced negotiator who has delivered Green policies on the ground on a Council that has been hung for 17 years.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Referendum 2? 'Deep Thought' required.

Something flashed into my head this morning. The result of the EU Referendum is like that scene in The HitchhikersGuide to the Galaxy where a supercomputer called 'Deep Thought' is built to answer the ultimate question of life the universe and everything. It takes many years to process the answer and of course the answer is, rather frustratingly, 42. To the perplexed masses the egghead programmers explain that they have provided the answer but not how it is achieved, that would require asking another question. So it is with the referendum. We have an answer but not the how we achieve it. In effect we've only had half the question answered hence the rationale for a second referendum.

What is done cannot be undone. The referendum has been held, the question asked and an answer given. We can discuss the many shortcomings of the Leave (and Remain) campaigns and the negative and often misleading approach they both took but to run the whole thing in the same way to hope for a different result would not bring our country together, it might tear it further apart. We need a different approach.

It has become apparent following the result that neither the Leave nor Remain campaigns had any plan for implementing Brexit. Without this Brexit plan people did not appreciate the implications of their vote. So though Brexit may have been agreed in principle, by 52%, the 'in practice' has not been agreed. In effect the UK has only being asked half the Brexit question. The second question (once we appreciate what the Brexit deal actually is) could be,

"The principle of leaving the EU was agreed on 23/6/16. Do you believe it should be implemented?"

YES.      NO

So yes there should be a 2nd Referendum but with a different question. If the answer is YES then we press ahead with Brexit. If the answer is NO then the outcome of the original 23/6/16 is set aside and we remain members of the EU

With economic chaos breaking out all around us, hate crime rising and people's jobs under threat now it is difficult to take the advice in friendly letters on the cover of The Hichhikers Guide to the Galaxy - "Don't Panic" Let's not panic but we desperately need Political Leadership right now.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

Andrew Cooper – Another Europe is Possible Speech - Newcastle 2/6/16


 I’m Andrew Cooper. I’ve been a Green Party Councillor in Kirklees, in West Yorkshire for the last 17 years.. One of my more recent roles is as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions. This little known body informs the EU about the impact of its policies at a local level. I was appointed to the politically balanced 24 member UK delegation last year as the nominee of the Independent Group of Cllrs on the Local Government Association. As such I represent Independent, Green and UKIP Cllrs. I guess that makes me Nigel Farage’s Spokesperson in Europe on Local Government. Fortunately I don’t think he knows this.

The Referendum Campaign has been eventful. The bit I found most amusing was when the Vote Leave Campaign Bus visited Harrogate and parked illegally. They were duly ticketed by the local Council. Vote Leave rejected the ticket saying that as they were part of the Referendum Campaign and therefore were exempt. Now my brother is the Conservative Leader of Harrogate Borough Council and he tweeted the following “Let's see if they pay like everyone else has to. It's day one and counting #votepayup”- so the Brexitters don’t just have a problem with EU Laws but seemingly some UK ones as well!

In the last European Parliament Elections the Green Party took a 3 yeses approach to the EU.

Yes to Reform

Yes to Remaining

Yes to a Referendum

Yes Yes Yes! The last time I heard 3 yeses in the same sentence was in the film ‘When Harry met Sally’  Somehow our 3 yeses never reached the same level of enthusiasm.

Yes to Reform because we know that the EU is by no means a perfect institution, the undue influence of big business over decision making, there’s TTIP that puts the interests of big business before democracy,  there was the heavy handed authoritarian austerity driven approach that was taken by the EU with the Greek Government.  These are just 3 examples that we could spend an entire conference talking about.

But if an institution needs reforming I’d start with one where a Government can get elected by 24% of the electorate yet wield 100% of the power. I’d start with one where an unelected House of Lords wields power with the support of religious clerics – just like they do in Iran. I’d start with the UK Government. At least in the EU MEPs are elected by a form of Proportional Representation, those who aren’t elected in the European Commission need the support of the democratically elected European Parliament to be appointed.  So personally (and this isn’t Green Party policy) I’d like a referendum on whether Yorkshire should remain part of the UK or in fact become part of Scotland because I don’t know about you but I feel more affinity with Scotland than with a Government led by Etonian Toffs.

Yes to Remaining

Because fundamentally I believe that people forget that the binding together of our nations is more than simply an economic union but one that demonstrates the old Churchillian  truism that “Jaw Jaw is better than War War”. If we break those bonds of cooperation and friendship where that unravelling will end doesn’t bear thinking about.

Yes to remaining because we live in a globalised world with the impacts of big issues such as climate change, tax avoidance and crime not stopping at political boundaries. They require action by nations across borders.

Renewable Energy is a classic example. The UK has an EU target of achieving 13% of our total energy from Renewable Sources by 2020. Other nations are already exceeding their much higher targets, while we in the UK slip behind. This is due to a lack of UK Govt support for renewable energy. In the EU only Malta and Luxembourg are producing less of their energy from Renewable sources than the UK. The point of the EU target is that it makes the UK accountable, it compares us with others, and unfortunately it shames us and if there’s one thing this lousy Government needs it is shaming.

When the Paris agreement on Climate Change was signed the agreed EU Carbon reduction targets came as an amalgamation of different countries contributions. I regarded this as a huge positive but the negative fly in the ointment was again our own Government NOT the EU. At no point did they ask for the input of local Councils or Devolved Administrations on how to reach this target, nor for our assistance or ideas on how targets might be achieved. It’s almost as though we were irrelevant. UK Government was behaving remotely as if we didn’t exist in pretty much the same way that the Brexiteers regard the European Union treating the UK and its interests.

 If another Europe is to be possible I would want it to be one where achieving EU targets is more strongly linked to action on the ground. So where the EU has a target for improving energy efficiency I want that to relate directly to warmer, healthier homes and working together to end the misery of fuel poverty. This would be an example of a Europe that is relevant to be peoples everyday lives. A Europe that has a common sense of purpose for Social and Environmental Good. This is why I believe a better Europe is not only possible but would be hugely popular.

We also said ‘Yes to A Referendum’ and that is the big uncertainty. There are those who say we shouldn’t have done it. Why are our nations being used to try to solve an internal dispute in the Conservative Party? Thats not going to work!
Of course there are risks. With the EU Referendum we do not know the outcome, peoples votes may be influenced by negative feelings or cherry picked facts but we will have our shot at getting our message across with a positive vision of a sustainable and progressive Europe. In my experience what wins votes is passion, belief and shoe leather. So between now and June 23rd let us use all these to get the result we need.

It is possible. Another Europe is possible!

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Speech by Cllr Andrew Cooper, Green Party Leader on the Leadership of Kirklees Council

I’d like to start by paying tribute to the last Council Leader David Sheard. You knew exactly what you were getting with David. No double dealing, just straightforward and honest. Sure sometimes he’d get things wrong, he would do things I didn’t agree with, but you could trust him and trust can be a rare and precious commodity especially in the world of politics. I wish him a speedy recovery.

Now to today and we are offered a new Leader of the Council and as a hung Council it needs to be someone who can secure the trust, support or acquiescence of at least one other Political Group on this Council. I have to say to you today that Councillor Pandor will not have that support from Councillors in the Green Party and Independent Group. Trust is vital in the role of a Leader. Trust in their ability and trust in what they say. We understand that the Labour Group were told by their new Leader some days ago that our support for his administration had been secured. It had not. If a Leader cannot tell the truth to their own political colleagues, no matter how unpalatable that might be, then how can he be trusted with the Leadership of this Council?

This bid to lead Kirklees Council is not built on principles, policies or a programme. It is a bid constructed of personal ambition, fuelled by promises and secured by patronage. It cannot stand. It cannot be supported.

Kirklees Council is on the edge of a precipice, our budgets are declining and the longer we leave the administration in this chaos, the harder it will be for any administration to fix. We have a Draft Local Plan that, if delayed, could leave our communities at the mercy of developers.  Labour Members as the largest group on this Council have a special responsibility to recognise the reality of this crisis, to heal your internal wounds quickly, hard though I know that is, and to come back with an answer that unites not just your own Party but that of the Council as a whole. If you don’t then it is not just this Council as a body that you will be letting down but all the communities of Kirklees.  

I say directly to Labour Members and particularly to those who may have supported Cllr Pandor that he cannot lead this Council. Your loyalty to your Leader has been demonstrated by you putting him forward today as your Groups nominee to lead our Council. If he does not succeed in that, then that reality has changed, all bets are off. The Labour Party will need to come up with a new solution and quickly. We will help you where we can to secure a stable administration. It is the responsibility of every Kirklees Councillor of whatever Party today to help achieve that.

This is no 'Game of Thrones'. This is 'Game Over'.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Greens main challengers to Labour in Huddersfield Parliamentary Constituency

The Kirklees May Elections are over , the votes for each of the wards in the Parliamentary Constituencies have been aggregated and in Huddersfield the Green Party got second place across the 5 wards that make up the Constituency. Labour is on 45% of the vote. Greens on 18.8%, Conservatives on 18.5%, Lib Dems on 11.1% and  UKIP on 5.5%. Of course these are Local Elections not a General Election and the Newsome result for the Green Party at 52% was the 2nd highest winning result of any Party in the Huddersfield Constituency. We beat the Lib Dems into 4th place in Ashbrow and Greenhead with it has to be said very little in terms of campaigning by the Green Party at all outside the Newsome Ward.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Kirklees Elections 2016 - Newsome Ward Report

Green Party Candidates and Councillors outside the Kirklees Election Count

The Result

Andrew Cooper - Green Party - 2414 (52%)
Nadeem Iqbal  - Labour - 1822 (39%)
Conservative -312 (7%)
Lib Dem -113 (2%)

Green Party majority - 606

The election of 2016 in Newsome was an interesting one. The Green Party entered the election period with a robust record of tackling local issues of concern to the various communities that make up the Newsome Ward. So we had a good story to tell on the doorstep about the value of voting for the Green Party. In our literature we were able to say substantial things about local concerns from an informed and involved perspective.

We were fortunate to have a committed team of activists who canvassed and leafletted throughout the campaign and put in many hours of work. We had planned the campaign months in advance and knew what we were going to do. There were only small variations to what we usually do and in retrospect there are things we could have done that might have upped our chances

The Labour Candidate was certainly enthusiastic. We soon got reports from people about their encounters with him on the doorstep " Vote for me I'm going to win" and " the Greens are going to lose this time" seemed to be his principal messages. The first Labour leaflet had pictures of the Labour Candidate with all sorts of local folks we knew. Nadeem with people at a coffee morning and Nadeem with people outside his family's shop holding 'Hands off HRI' posters. Quite a number of them were rather nonplussed and some needlessly apologetic to us when they found themselves appearing in his election literature as his assumed supporters. We could have made something of this in the election campaign but decided that the local grapevine would be effective enough without us pushing it. It was.

Every now and again I'd knock at a door with a Labour poster in the window and say "I respect the fact you're voting Labour but is there anything we should be doing that we aren't doing?" It transpired that the Labour Candidates persistence might have got a poster in the window but that didn't necessarily mean they were voting for him.  He got out a lot and saw a lot of people but what he said when he got there didn't help him much with most folks.

He also knocked at the doors of our supporters and started telling them that "Andrew Cooper has given up in this election because he's going to lose". I found this particularly annoying and when I tackled him in the street about it he said, "You have given up! I can see the frustration in your eyes". What I said to him after that isn't worth repeating!

Then there was the graph on his leaflet that showed him in the lead entitled 'Polling Report'. It transpires this was derived from Labour's own canvassing. As most of their canvassing was done by Nadeem, who seemed to start out believing he'd won, perhaps their canvass returns may have been seem through rose tinted spectacles

So we come to the count and obviously we're interested to see the outcome given the Labour Candidates boundless confidence. Election protocol/rules/law prevent me from divulging too much about the count but it would appear that we did very well in most parts of the Newsome Ward. The majority was 606 with a 52% share of the vote was about the same as last time I stood in 2012 and nearly twice as big a majority than we got last year (though it was a General Election year). As the last votes were counted I was going to go to Nadeem and say "I can see the frustration in your eyes" but just decided to shake hands and call it a night.

Labour's graph
The actual result