Wednesday, 17 October 2018

The Blair Witch/ Goodgym Project

I was definitely lost. My headtorch lit up various parts of the woodland but I couldn't hear or see the headtorches of the others I had been with 15 minutes earlier. Then I saw the eyes gleaming back at me. The fact they were a foot off the floor and the faint silhouette made me think dog but definitely not a chihuahua. Then I saw another pair of gleaming eyes about the same height but this time with a shadowy person shaped figure. He called the dogs to him and I felt a bit more secure as he put their leads on. I thanked him continued along the woodland path and emerged from the woods at Manor Estate in my shorts, fluorescent coat with my bulging bin bag and litter picker in hand. I was somewhat relieved to know where I was and worked my way back down Kings Mill Lane to meet the others at the other entrance to the woods.

So what was I up to in the woods late at night? "Well Officer it's like this......." Actually I wasn't doing a reinactment of 'The Blair Witch Project' or anything untoward I was in fact doing good things with Goodgym Huddersfield. The Goodgym concept is you run with a group to a place where you do a good thing for around 45 minutes such as a clean up or cutting back vegetation and then run back again. So last night it was about 2km to Longley Woods to clean up bottles and crisp packets and prune back branches and twigs on the path and avoid treading in the unfortunate dead badger, then run back again. For me a good bit of exercise to supplement my parkruns but doing some practical hands on stuff at the same time.Have you a mission for the Goodgymers in your area? Get in touch

Here's the trailer for the Blair Witch Project which seriously freaked me out when I firsyt watched it

Monday, 8 October 2018

Statement on IPCC call for urgent action on Climate Change - A plan for local action on Climate Change

Today's report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should be a wake up call for the UK Government. It is quite clear that current action to reduce emissions is inadequate and that a 3 degree C global temperature rise or worse is on the cards with catastrophic effects for people in the UK and around the world.

We need a response from Government and we need it now. I am incredulous as a Local Councillor that Local Councils around the country have had no significant contact from UK Government asking for our help and assistance in achieving the Paris Climate goals. There are things we can do without direction from Government but a lot more could be achieved if there was a genuine partnership to encourage positive action on climate change quickly. Here are some key asks that Government could do tomorrow but preferably today.

  • establish a National Climate Taskforce including Ministry of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Ministry of Communities, Housing & Local Government and the Local Government Association to drive action on climate change at the local level, addressing barriers to action and making good practice examples the mainstream 
  • require Councils to produce  Climate Action Plans on how they can cut emissions quickly and what actions they could take with greater support from central Government.
  • get Councils to lead local Climate Action Partnerships to drive deeper action on carbon emission reductions. This would draw in support from business, the wider public sector, the voluntary sector and the wider community
  • give  a clear steer to local Councils that they are expected to insist on higher energy efficiency standards in new buildings up to (and preferably) the Passivhaus Standard.
  • Ask Councils to produce a plan (with a timetable) for a complete electrification of their vehicle fleets and to work with other large fleet operators on similar plans.
  • Revive the Home Energy Conservation Act powers of Local Government and ask for new plans to be established within a year for costed plans to improve the energy efficiency of homes in line with the emissions savings we need to achieve the Paris Climate goals within a ten year timeframe.
These are all initiatives that the UK Government and BEIS in particular could start work on or set in motion today. We clearly need more action than this to acheive the Paris Climate goals but this would be a significant start and I'm requesting a meeting with the BEIS Minister of State Claire Perry and the Local Government Association to see what progress we can make together to address the Climate Emergency we are facing.

Friday, 5 October 2018

Barcelona!


Blah! Blah! Blahcelona!
I've just been to a conference in Barcelona in my role as a Rapporteur on Climate Change with the EU Committee of the Regions and a fascinating few days it was. People had told me I'd like Barcelona for the architecture and general vibe and I wasn't disappointed. The Sagrida Familia (not Barcelona Cathedral!) probably the most individual and striking building I've ever seen. the Hospital Sant Pau constructed at the beginning of the 20th Century and just the general feel of the place.

Sagrida Familia

One of the things I wanted to get out of the trip was an understanding  of was views on Catalonian Independence. It's just over a year ago since Catalonia
voted to cede from Spain and become an independent nation within the European Union. Supporters of Independence point to the overwhelming majority in support of independence and those opposing it say that it is not valid because people opposing independence didn't vote saying the Poll was not valid under Spanish law. What is beyond dispute is that the response of the Spanish Government was heavy handed at best and brutal at worst. Spanish Police blocked and beat people trying to vote and Catalonian Politicians have been imprisoned and are effectively political prisoners. Very worrying within the EU but then we do have the Frack Free Three in the UK. I spoke to as many Catalonians about it as I could and it seems support for independence is still strong. Catalonian flags still fly from balconies. Many Catalonians and their buildings are sporting a yellow ribbon (not unlike the SNP logo) showing their support for those political prisoners.

There was a time when I worried about Nationalist movements being Right Wing and possibly Xenophobic. I think that was to a certain extent true but has become less so in recent times. Certainly the SNP and Plaid Cymru are generally on the progressive side of the political spectrum. The politics seems less about Nationalism as such and more about Independence and Self Determination. "Taking control" if you will!

So now what else other than Freddie Mercury singing 'Barcelona'






Thursday, 20 September 2018

The 'Tomorrow' people

NO NOT THEM!
Today was interesting. I reacquainted myself with the Transition Network. You remember it don't you?

 "Totnes?".

 Yes that's it.

 "Rob Hopkins?" 

Yep we're on the same page. 

"Oh yes I've got a copy of the "Transition Town Handbook...somewhere. Whatever happened to them?" 

Well to be honest that was my thought and the answer seems to be that they became a global success and spawned lots of community based resilience activity all over the world being particularly successful in France, Belgium and Japan to name but a few but sadly they need to re-imagine themselves back in the UK I feel and it would be good if they could. 

In a nutshell the Transition Network is all about resilience. Resilience to a world less reliant on dwindling fossil fuels and where more goods and resources can be sourced sustainably locally. Where a thriving community becomes even more important and a vital part of the solution.

One of the reasons for the 'Rest of the World' success of the Transition Network is the smash hit film 'Tomorrow'.

 "What? You mean Tomorrow Never Dies with Pierce Brosnan as Bond?" 

No 'Tomorrow' a film about the Transition Movement. It's won stackloads of film awards and scores 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Its success is attributed to the fact that it spends the first 5 minutes on environmental doom and gloom 'get me out of this room' stuff and the rest of the movie on solutions, optimism and hope. Its been inspirational to people around the world and I'm ashamed to say that until today I'd never heard of it. I wonder if its on Netflix.

The reason I know all this is because today I was one of the speakers at the European Day of Sustainable Communities event in Brussels hosted by the EU Committee of the Regions and EESC which was full of people from around Europe who have been inspired by the resilience message of the Transition Movement. Their Umbrella body is ECOLISE or 'the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability'  It was great to be among like minded people to whom the ethos of 'Think Global Act Local' is intrinsic to their very being. They think small scale and value community, incremental change and recognise that as I put it today "That we don't just want to save the world but create a better world". It was a very positive event and full of articulate, bright and many young people. So when we were asked for a word to sum up our thoughts of the day I chose 'hope'.

I wonder what can be done to revitalise the fortunes of the Transition Network in the UK? It warrants serious thought. We have a group near us Holmfirth Transition Town which continues to do some excellent work but I get the feeling across the UK they are not as active as they were five or six years ago. Maybe one of the reasons is that they came out of  'The End of Oil' debate that seemed to place the crisis with the lack of fossil fuels as opposed to the fact that we'll burn them and ourselves to oblivion before we have to worry about them running out. This doesn't make the Transition Network any less relevant at all in fact the 'Hothouse Report' and ongoing extreme weather events mean that we must find ways of making the approach they take relevant to many more communities. 

My resolution from today? To watch the film 'Tomorrow' and if I like it to get many more people to watch it probably at Huddersfield Green Drinks at the Media Centre. Here's the trailer




Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Reaping the wild wind


I've always admired the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. They are one of the largest membership organisations in the country. Over the years they will have had plenty of pressure on them to oppose planning applications for wind turbine and wind farm developments but they have taken a pretty robust line saying from the start that, 

"Climate Change poses the single greatest threat to birds and other wildlife and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem"

Its a bold opening statement but they do follow through and only object to about 6% of wind applications and that was when the UK Government hadn't to all intents and purposes practically outlawed onshore wind farms and turbines. They are still strong defenders of avians and are not shy to say where there are inappropriate wind developments but not as many as misinformed Mail readers and retired Colonels would like I'm more than sure. They speak of the need for wind farms to be sited away from major migration routes and breeding/roosting areas and point to examples of poor sitings of wind farms but generally not in the UK.

So why this interest? Well tomorrow I'm speaking at an event in Brussels looking at the impact on biodiversity of renewable energy and how to minimise it. What I've been encouraged by through reading the literature is the desire from both perspectives to seek common ground and a real expectation that it can be found.

Kent Wildlife Trust have produced some good principles by which sustainable (as opposed to just renewable energy) can be measured. These 6 principles are good ones to assess any renewable energy development. They are to :-

  1. Commit to ensuring overall positive outcomes for wildlife from the outset, aiming for a ‘net biodiversity gain’.
  2. Avoid sites that are designated for nature conservation.
  3. Identify potential negative impacts on wildlife and avoid these impacts wherever possible.
  4. When all possible options have negative impacts, seek the least environmentally damaging option. 
  5. Recognise that there may be unknown impacts on wildlife that development needs to consider and mitigate, employing the ‘precautionary principle’.
  6. Achieve this by consulting experts and relevant stakeholders early on ecological aspects of sites and routes.
Now my role in this debate is to assess from a UK perspective how renewable energy developments interact and match EU Nature Legislation. To be fair the EU legislation is pretty good in this regard and has at its heart a desire to balance the needs of humanity with the natural world. The question I have is will that same balanced approach be one that we will realise with our current government? As they have made it practically impossible to install wind technology on our island I think balance is the last thing they are seeking. They don't seek to harness the wind but to simply bend in the wind to a vocal minority most likely from their own potential supporters. Far from 'taking back control' from the EU we will be passing it on to narrow perspectives with no appreciation of the real issues. A triumph for the ill informed opinions of the guy in the pub over anyone who actually knows what they're talking about.

So here's 'Reap the wild wind' by Ultravox



Saturday, 11 August 2018

Last of the Sparkling Wine starring Michael 'Foggy' Gove


The 'Hothouse Earth' Report makes grim reading and questions whether we can 'safely park' global temperature rises at 2 degrees C and indicates that we may have set in train a series of carbon releasing events that will be difficult to stop and that we may end up with global temperatures around 4 to 5 degrees C higher than the pr- industrial era. This really is a nightmare scenario with a significant rise in sea levels, highly disrupted weather threatening food supplies and much more frequent extreme and violent weather events. It is a respected summation of current peer reviewed climate science and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A number of things have concerned me over the last few weeks. One is the cheery assertion by Conservative Government Minister Michael Gove that Climate Change and higher temperatures in the UK is a great opportunity for British Farmers to produce good quality sparkling wine. Now of course there may be some truth in this but it indicates a lack of perception of the grim reality of climate change. You could argue that what he said was taken out of context and that really he really does 'get it'. I'd like to believe that but you see the vote on the 3rd runway at Heathrow, the permission to commence Fracking at Preston New Road and the 4 new gas turbines at Drax that are on the cards and you can only conclude they don't believe and don't care about climate change. Sadly that goes for a lot of Labour politicians as well.

Michael Gove gave the impression when he was first elected that he had hugged plenty of huskies in the fashion of David Cameron when he was in his 'vote blue go green' phase. With his positive comments on neonicitinoids and their impact on the bee population I thought well this is a little bit different from before. Now it seems that this is yet another attempt to detoxify the Tory Party using 'green issues'. Actually it is difficult to work out which needs the most detoxification Gove or the Conservative Party. So yes maybe there will be a brief mini-sparkling Wine Age before the very worst impacts of Climate Change hit us but we desperately need to be acting NOW to reduce emissions for the sake of civilization and human sentience on this planet. Even if they had the time away from their headlong pursuit of Brexit I doubt it would make them act any more responsibly.

Thanks to Ros for the picture.

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The heat is on - Climate Change kills.


In my role as a local Councillor I got a call the other week from a local resident who said they had seen hundreds of dead fish in Newsome Mill Ponds in Huddersfield. I went out to investigate and there they were lying on the surface being watched over by a heron who looked like he had already had his fill of this unexpected bounty. The theories from local people came thick and fast. Poisoning and pollution were what people initially thought but following investigations it turned out it was none of these. The long hot dry spell had de-oxygenated the water and the fish had simply suffocated. The had been killed by the weather. 

In the past, as a Green, who wants to be taken seriously on climate change I've been reticent to link single weather events to climate change, but this is different. The phenomenon we are experiencing is a global one. We have had huge moorland fires on Saddleworth Moor, wildfires in Greece that have killed many, even wild fires within the Arctic Circle due to the heat and record temperatures in Japan. Comparisons with the summer of 76 are not really valid as that was very much a UK experience. This is global one and we know that extreme events such as these are going to become more common as climate change begins to have a greater impact.

Two events happened today of note. One was a new report titled 'Planning for Climate Change - a guide for Local Authorities' by the independent Local Government Information Unit. It referenced a report by the Royal Town Planning Institute from last year stating,

 "that a lack of integration of climate change into local plans was partly a result of a skills shortage related to budget cuts, and partly due to changes in national government policy that appear to de-prioritise climate change action."

Sadly this comes as no surprise. The actions of our Government appear to be those of Climate Change deniers not that of an enthusiastic signatory to the Paris Climate Agreement. The evidence is there for all to see not least of which being a huge drop in renewable energy and energy efficiency installations. 

The other event today was the Government decision to allow Fracking at Preston New Road in Lancashire against the wishes of the Lancashire County Council. Nationally the Government is pushing through permitted development rights for fracking exploration drilling overriding any local democratic objections. There is a sad lack of politicians in Westminster who 'get it' who understand that promoting these policies threatens us all.

Promoting action on climate change is so positive in terms of skilled jobs, putting money back into local economies, increasing energy security not to mention actually ensuring our survival and that of many other species that it beggars belief that any Government can turn its back on it. The disconnect between the impact of climate change on our weather and the decisions Governments and some opposition MPs make is truly worrying. These MPs must be made accountable and challenged for the stances they take. It has to be us and it has to be now. It is that urgent.

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Andrew Cooper for Green Party Deputy Leader - Official Video



So here it is and thanks to Susan Jones for putting it together. It was a lovely sunny day  in the Lickley Hills looking over Birmingham. Filming had its challenges. Drones buzzing and hovering nearby, a dog owner shouting for his mutt.Yours truly may have had one or two takes and the outtakes would probably be quite amusing if they ever see the light of day.

Feedback so far has been great so a good start. A few weeks to go now in the campaigning period and like in our Local |Elections it is a case of keeping your cool, focusing on your own messages and not get distracted by things that niggle or annoy you. 

Friday, 29 June 2018

Brockholes to Budapest by train

Brockholes
Huddersfield
I'm no stranger to international train travel in my role as a member of the EU Committee of the Regions. Usually its Brockholes to Brussels for Committee and Plenary meetings. I've also travelled to the South of France by train a couple of times and to Bonn in Germany for the United Nations COP23 Climate Summit. This particular meeting was looking at different approaches to tackling plastics recycling and local community energy schemes among other things so particularly interesting and a lot to learn there from others.


Leeds
Wherever I can the train is my default position not just for environmental reasons but also as it is much easier to work on the move on trains. I used to get seduced by the speed and technology of planes but the inconvenience and unpredictability of air travel has been a significant reason for me to fall out of love with jet travel as well of course the significant climate change impacts.


Eurostar in 'That London'
Travelling to Budapest by train has been my furthest adventure so far. From Brockholes 'International' to Budapest is around 1300 miles. I used the very helpful website 'The Man in Seat 61' to plan my journey. Setting off from Brockholes at 6.38am to Huddersfield on
Paris
the most elderly train on my trip courtesy of Northern Rail. From there Huddersfield to Leeds, 10 minutes late but I factored in some UK slippage. Leeds to London on the newly nationalised LNER which I reckon must stand for 'Lovely Nationalised Electric Railway'. Across the road
Munich
from my Kings Cross to St Pancras station and the Eurostar then onto the train to Paris Gare du Nord station. A 10 minute walk by a tree lined Boulevard to Gare Du L'Est Station then onto the ICE train to Munich arriving around 9.30pm. I then had an hour or so at Munich station which was well provisioned with food outlets for my evening meal. At 11pm it was the Sleeper service to Budapest and a couchettee where hopefully my snoring wasn't too disruptive for other passengers.    

Budapest
The point for me was that I had the time to get to my  meeting this way on this occasion and doing the green thing was also an enjoyable experience and prefereable to the tedious processing and frequent delays you can experience at airports. Of course this is my view as an individual traveller but it is Government's job to make the positive experiences of international rail travel easier for more people. Instead it chose to back a climate wrecking 3rd runway at Heathrow and with the support of a majority of Labour MPs and very sadly the abstentions of SNP MPs. 

As Greens we need to promote and highlight alternatives as much as we can but not from a 'holier than thou approach' but by showing what can be done, showing how it could be made easier for more people and showing what barriers we need to overcome to make making the right choices easier and cheaper for more people.

Here's 'Pop Music' by M from 1979 which is only relevant because it mentions London, Paris and Munich but also New York but I didn't go there!



Friday, 22 June 2018

Humanity 'on the slab'

In Brussels today I saw a 10 foot tall slab of multi coloured concrete erected in a Park between the European Parliament and the Committee of the Regions. There is a small plaque nearby explaining that it is cut from the Berlin Wall and was sent to Brussels in 2014 to commemorate the wall's  demise following the end of the Cold War.

As I stood there and looked it up and down I pondered its significance. My immediate thought was how reminiscent it was of the black slab in the film '2001 - A Space Odyssey'  That rectangular slab (or Monolith) was created by a benevolent alien intelligence that had been subtly but significantly influencing the progress of humanity towards the advanced technological species that we are today.

This slab however was not created by anything benevolent at all. It was part of a wall designed to divide people, to provide a physical barrier between 2 different political ideologies. The significance of this particular part of the walls relocation to Brussels was to show by its very presence that the wall did not exist any more in its previous location. Its purpose had been lost, that people divided were now united. So why relocate it to Brussels? As Europe's Capital, Brussels represents the blurring of national boundaries and a recognition that people beyond nation states can have common purpose, that walls and boundaries had less relevance than they once had.

Of course that positive vision has taken a bit of a battering in recent years. We have seen the subject of walls and barriers between nations rise as people seek to move from areas of war and poverty to countries where they see the opportunity for safety, opportunity and a living. Their actions are completely understandable. Politics has failed them, often in the most dramatic of fashions, and they are on the move. The reactions from the countries that they are moving towards has been mixed. Some have acted with humanity showing the best of what we can be. They have welcomed people often from cultures different to their own and  have understood that many have skills, abilities and knowledge that can add to their own and give some positive benefits to society. Then there are those who have been less welcoming. Donald Trump's recent actions on the Mexican border have shown him to be a 'borderline Fascist' in more than one sense and I am not one of those politicians who call someone a 'Fascist' at the drop of the hat. He has  truly 'earned' that title. In Hungary the barbaric move to make helping migrants illegal has also shown that some Governments are quite prepared to make common humanity a crime. Being a Good Samaritan has become a risky business in Hungary.

So what are we to make of the multicoloured slab in a Park in Brussels? First of all it is important to note that it remains. It may be silent, it may be inert, its purpose may not be immediately apparent but whatever turmoils happen in the political world it will stay there in the park.  As walls rise it will remain as a reminder of a more hopeful time when barriers between people were removed. The influence it has will not be of a super advanced technological basis such as the black slab in 2001 but more of a more subtle nature. It will  make people ask questions, it will demonstrate that there was widespread hope for the future once and that common humanity and a sense of a bond across national boundaries was a view held by many millions. Any piece of concrete that can make people ask questions is a one important piece of concrete.

For those of you who are desperate to understand what '2001 - A Space Odyssey' is all about but can't be bothered to read the original Arthur C Clark's short story 'The Sentinel' here is an explanation of what went on in in the film. Some folks found it a bit cryptic understandably




Thursday, 21 June 2018

Councillor Andrew Cooper's Speech to European Parliament's ENVI Committee 21st June 2018


·       
Thank you Chair ,  
Members of the ENVI committee, Let me first thank you for giving me the opportunity to present the Committee of the Regions opinion.
We welcome the ENVI draft motion for resolution on COP 24 as well as the adopted report on the role of EU regions and cities in implementing the Paris Agreement as they highlight the key role of local and regional authorities in the fight against climate change

·        Local and regional authorities are responsible for the implementation of 70% of climate change reduction measures and up to 90% of climate change adaptation measures. When national governments struggle to deliver, cities and regions take the lead.

·   Since the adoption of the Paris Agreement, we have seen a rising status for local and regional governments. This was evident last year in Bonn with the launch of the Talanoa Dialogue and the Bonn Fiji commitment of Local and Regional leaders' from around the world.  It's now time this form of multilevel governance is acknowledged and the role of LRAs formalised in global climate governance.

·  Nationally Determined Contributions fall short in reaching Paris Agreement goals, of limiting global temperature increases to well below 2 degrees, let alone 1,5 degrees.  In order to bridge the emissions gap, we need a system of locally and regionally determined contributions (LDCs) that would complement "Nationally Determined Contributions.

·        A wealth of action to mitigate climate change happens at the local level and we know that action that is not measured is not acknowledged nor encouraged or valued. Yet, these local actions can be the most important actions of all. Making the difference between success and failure. That's why we call for the transparency framework to include, in national inventory reports a dedicated section on mitigation actions undertaken at subnational levels of government as a way to help track the progress towards achieving NDCs.

·   The Talanoa dialogue is of great importance for local and regional authorities as it allows them to make their ambitions, positions and intentions heard. It is also of vital importance to the UNFCCC and national Governments as the feedback we provide from the coalface of action on climate change will help them shape future policy initiatives. A dialogue is not a monologue. We need genuine 2 way communications. Yes we need to be heard but we also need to be responded to as well. We need to integrate the outcomes of the Talanoa Dialogue into the COP negotiating text. And it must also continue beyond COP24.

Members,
Cooperation and inclusivity are part of the solution to address climate challenges. It is essential that the EU and its Member States engage directly with democratically elected regions and other non-party stakeholders, civil society and the private sector. And it is crucial that we speak with a strong single voice at COP24.  As elected members at the closest level to the citizens we are ready to partner with you and contribute to make the world a better place.

 As a UK member of the Committee of the Regions I am clear that Brexit or (I still hope) no Brexit we should continue to work together to achieve the carbon reductions we need and to be frank this may help the UK Government to not slip further behind in our actions. If the UK is in a League of its own it will have no meaningful way of comparing its progress. Together with you we have a much better chance.

Thank you for your attention  

Friday, 18 May 2018

More reflections on the 2018 Kirklees Elections

The headline news was that Labour has taken control of Kirklees Council as well as Plymouth. In reality Labour has pretty much had control anyway in any meaningful sense due to a politically divided opposition. Some times we have used our votes to influence Labour but generally the Cabinet System gives them a disproportional amount of power over the day to day running of the Council. This is of course compounded by the electoral system which means that Labour with 43% of the votes gets 100% of the power.

So what about the notable individual contests. We know Labour had higher ambitions than their achievements which of course is not a bad thing. Certain currently high ranking Labour Councillors had said they were going to win Newsome but of course that didn't happen. More surprising to me was Almondbury. You really got the impression from social media that Labour had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at Almondbury. Shadow Ministerial visits, lots of activists flooding the place, a personable candidate. I mean with a slogan like 'Peace for Almondbury' how can you not win? They didn't and I guess all credit to the Lib Dems for holding on. I remember bumping into a now former Lib Dem Councillor who expressed what I thought was undue confidence about Almondbury, clearly he was right. So my former Kirkburton Parish Council colleague Alison Munro is the new Councillor for Almondbury. She must have worked and walked her socks off, so much respect to her in what must have been a fairly tough contest.

We heard rumours about Crosland Moor and Netherton Ward and the challenge from Mike Forster of TUSC and 'Hands off HRI' but the challenge from him fell short and he came 3rd. A consistent, dedicated campaign from a Party willing to put 2 to 3 years of quality work into the ward could take it off Labour I would have thought, as things stand given their level of visibility in the ward. But a short term campaign is not the way these sort of things happen.

A word or two about Kirkburton and Denby Dale. The Conservatives got re-elected to both with less than 50% of the vote. In Kirkburton Greens are the main challengers and in Denby Dale it is Labour. We had at one time sought an arrangement with Labour on this but culturally &/constitutionally this does not seem possible for Labour so no 'Progressive Alliance' here. Not entirely sure I like the idea anyway. Commiserations to our Kirkburton  Candidate,  Derek Hardcastle who was unsuccessful on this occasion.

Holme Valley North Ward, where I live, proved to be an interesting contest. The Labour Candidate was definitely putting the effort in and was door knocking earlier in the year than is common among many. I was disappointed to get a letter from her with an endorsement from the Independent Councillor Edgar Holroyd Doveton who said he was supporting the 'person' not the 'label'. The only problem was that he didn't reveal that the person was his partner. When I pointed this out on Facebook. I got a bit of abuse from Labour folks who equated what I was saying with 'anti Corbyn smears'  and the other bizarre comment was about a person 'not having to be defined by who their partner was'. Sure but not revealing the relationship and trying to appear objective when you simply couldn't be was obviously a mistake.

Labour won, and the Lib Dems lost both Colne Valley and Golcar Wards, which is where Labour got their Council majority. It was very close in both and the Lib Dems will be kicking themselves over what they could have done. I guess these will continue to be hotly contested Wards.

From a wider Green Party perspective I was pleased to see us achieve 8% of the vote in Greenhead and Holme Valley South Wards with no campaigning. This does make you wonder what would happen if we actually were able to put in a decent effort there. Worth thinking about.

Of course in many of the wards in Kirklees the toughest part is getting selected usually by the Labour Party and there are unfortunately no real contests in those wards. Labour had a leaflet go out in  North Kirklees wards which had an unfortunate reference to the 'Tories shitting on us' due to a bit of cut and paste from a website so I understand. Happy to agree generally with the sentiment but it just shows how unprofessional Labour can be and still get away with it. 'No one person should be blamed' for this error apparently according to the Labour Agent who was responsible for producing the leaflets. Now who was that?






Green Mayors Aplenty!

Cllr Magid Magid Lord Mayor of Sheffield

With the new Municipal Year starting it's a time for ringing the changes in our local Councils. New Leaders perhaps, new people on Cabinets and or Committees and also the role of the Civic (as opposed to elected) Mayors. Now most Greens I know never went into politics thinking of wearing the chains of office, the bling, the robes, the ceremony, the function after function hectic schedule for a whole year but most people regard it as a valuable and unique experience giving an insight into the vast amount of work carried out by volunteers in the community. Then of course there is the fundraising for the Mayors Charity.

Our very own Cllr Julie Stewart-Turner was an enthusiastic and memorable first Green Mayor of Kirklees. Where Julie and others trail blazed we now have a clutch of Green Party people taking up the Civic role this year. This reflects the growing presence and longevity of Greens in Local Government. Headlining most, and virally on social media, is Sheffield's Cllr Magid Magid, a young muslim from Somalia who came here as a refugee and most importantly is a really nice guy. It's been a turbulent and punishing few years for Sheffield Greens but this month they have notched up 1 hold with Alison Teal and 2 new  Green Councillors making a new high of 6 Greens on Sheffield City Council. I've already had a request
Magid with Sheffield Green Cllrs
from a Huddersfield School wanting Magid to speak which would probably upset a whole load of protocols about Mayors being on each others patch. So I'm guessing its not on really.

Also in Yorkshire we have our own long standing Councillor Dilys Cluer who is Deputy Mayor of Scarborough who I've worked closely with recently in Scarborough election campaigns. I doubt she thought much about civic office in her years of campaigning but next year she will no doubt step up to the top job.

In the rest of the country, outside 'Gods Own' , there are quite a number of others. Cllr Cleo Lake will be the Lord Mayor of Bristol. Cllr Susan Murray will be the Mayor of Lewes. Cllr Alex Phillips Deputy Mayor of Brighton City Council. Cllr Martin Schmeirer in Norwich. Elfreide Brambly-Crawshaw, Mayor of Beccles, In Oxford Cllr Craig Simmons is taking on the role of High Sheriff. Ron Gaffney will be Mayor of Knowsley and Cllr Linda Baxter of Stowmarket.

One light hearted theory I heard today for why we have this conjunction of Green Mayors was that the other parties are trying to tie up all our Councillors in ceremonial duties to keep us off the streets. That's not going to happen. If anything they'll be out and about seeing even more people. Good luck to them all. Enjoy your years and enjoy the adventure.


Friday, 11 May 2018

Green Councillor calls for prosecution over Newsome plastics fire


Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper has called for a prosecution over a toxic fire on the former Newsome Bowling Green

"I received several phone and text messages from residents around 9.30 on Saturday 14th April morning regarding a fire and acrid black smoke from the site of the Bowling Green at the rear of the former Newsome Working Mens Club where building works are being carried out. When I arrived I saw a huge bonfire with white plastic material and an awful smell. I and a local resident took close up pictures and video from a number of locations around the site. One of the workmen approached us and asked us to stop filming as there was a 3 year old child on the site. He then pointed towards the Bowling Club where Stuart Smith was standing holding a young child. This appeared to be a bizarre attempt to stop us gathering evidence of the fire. I pointed out that this was no place for a young child or anybody with all these toxic fumes. I have approached Kirklees Environmental Services and asked them to pursue a prosecution. It is straightforwardly against the law to burn this toxic material in this way and I have had a number of people living nearby tell me they have felt ill following the fire. Mr Smith needs at some point to be accoutable for his actions. He should not be above the law."

Monday, 7 May 2018

Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Campaign reflections


I enjoyed the Newsome Campaign. There was lots of exercise delivering leaflets, we spoke to thousands of people and we had a great Candidate in our sitting Councillor Karen Allison who was defending her seat for the first time after a packed 4 year term. From an Agents point of view Karen was a dream candidate. Very active in the local community, well known and a definite 'mucker in' with lots of community activity. We had a great team of people helping us. There was the 'formal' canvassing and delivery teams but a much wider team of people from right across the communities in Newsome Ward who help us informally. There were lots of opportunities to visit cafe's and pubs following canvassing/leafleting which was pleasant and helped offset any potential benefits of hours of exercise.  So my thanks to Newsome Nosh, Scar Cafe, Cafe 8, Global Diversity, The Star at Lockwood, The Grove at Springwood and Bar Maroc (Huddersfield's Premier Moroccan Theme Pub) in the Town Centre. If you've not been to any of these places please do. We liked them.They are all generally locally owned and managed and so all the better for that.


Polling Day Fitbit report
Elections are pretty much a 'full on' experience. Lots of leaflets to write, produce and deliver, thousands of doors to knock on and people to speak to, posters and stake boards to get to your supporters, poster boards for lamp posts to put up and handling all the additional casework your activity generates. Of course none of this activity happens in isolation, there are other people in other Parties doing pretty much the same things to a greater and lesser degree. Some of those people are going about their activities in a positive fashion and some others are prepared to use any means to try to beat you and have malevolent intent. We've had a bit of the latter in this election in the Newsome Ward The wilful misrepresentation of our budget amendment in the Labour leaflet was particularly disappointing but had little impact. One person contacted us about it. We explained in detail why it was woefully inaccurate and he said he would vote accordingly.

Another tactic Labour used was to put out a last minute 'attack' leaflet the day before the election entitled 'Greens waste your money'. This leaflet referred to a project to carry out wildflower planting on Whitehead Lane and said the money would be better spent on services for vulnerable/poor children. It also commented on the fact that children in poverty in the Newsome Ward were having to be supported by voluntary organisations to pay for meals outside school term times. Our Candidate Karen was very aware of this having spent many hours helping out with the Worth Unlimited project in Lowerhouses which we guess they were referring to. This valuable work has been succesfully supported by a range of sponsors such as the Town Foundation and philanthropic local companies. You could argue that it shouldn't have to be, but it is. The wildflower project itself was much more than Labour described in their leaflet. There are links to a project helping people with mental health difficulties. The money itself could not be spent on services as it was 'one off' funding. There was also an ongoing benefit as the land itself, on a roadside verge would no longer have to be on a grass cutting programme and so would reduce ongoing revenue costs for the Council. The point of putting out an inaccurate knocking leaflet the day before the election is that it cannot easily be responded to. They knew what they were doing.
Some of the Newsome Green Campaign Team

A particular annoyance this time was the
'trolling' of myself and Karen by a particularly obnoxious Labour Canvasser on Twitter. His general theme was that we were rubbish Councillors because there was lots of flytipping in the Newsome Ward and yes there is and yes we report it and we get involved with and organise large scale community clean ups to try to deal with it. He could equally have gone across the ward boundary into Crosland Moor and taken pictures of flytipping there and come to the conclusion that the Councillors there were rubbish as well. The only problem would be that they would be Labour Councillors and that wouldn't fit his rather twisted narrative. We were also supposedly 'in it for ourselves' and they were 'doing the Greens job for them' (I have screen grabs) I've got to say that if I was motivated by money I wouldn't have joined the Green Party and I wouldn't be involved in local politics. This guy doesn't know me, has never spoken to me and all he has his own beliefs and prejudices to 'inform' him.

We got reports from several people about their encounters with Labour Canvassers on the doorstep who were 'bad mouthing' us on a regular basis. All the potholes were the Greens fault as we were spending money on wild flowers not the roads (see earlier point) they also seemed pretty nonplussed on local issues on the doorstep themselves when asked about them. The problem they had was that many people had quite a positive experience with us and yes there are always going to be some people who are not our 'fans' as in any Ward in Kirklees but people across the communities of Newsome Ward generally thought we are doing a good job. Hence the result I guess.

We weren't short of social media opportunities to comment on the Labour Campaign in Newsome but generally resisted the temptation. A Labour Councillor's tweet about their Candidate litter picking in Rawthorpe - no comment from us. Even when the ink fell from Labour Candidate's posters in the rain did we say 'Labour Campaign fades' or 'Running for office'  no we didn't.

There was quite a roll call of Labour Councillors (at least 7) who got involved to a greater or lesser degree in the Labour Campaign in Newsome including Councillor Mus Khan (Dalton) who seems to have been the 'brains' behind their operation, and of course Barry Sheerman MP and his team. Now they are perfectly at liberty to do so in a democracy like ours and yes we were flattered by the attention but if I was in the Labour Party I would have thought twice about putting my name to a campaign like this.

Of course some of the characters involved in the Labour Newsome Campaign are big fans/disciples of Jeremy Corbyn and given some of his predecessors you can understand why. With any Messiah though you can't pick and choose which 'Commandments' you do and don't follow. One of his earliest lessons to the faithful was to "treat people with respect" and to "Cut out the personal abuse, cut out the cyber-bullying and especially the misogynistic abuse online and let's get on with bringing real values back into politics". I've been around in the political world for some time and I am more than happy to take on these sort of people but I don't see why my colleagues like Councillor Karen Allison should have to. So some of our team were not particularly looking forward to encountering these Labour activists at the count. I decided not to engage with them at all which seemed the most sensible thing to do (and not like me at all!) 

Now I'm not daft enough to think that the actions of these particular Labour members represent the Labour Party as a whole. There are Councillors and activists in the Labour Party who I respect and who would not behave as poorly as these people did. I like to think that the Labour Candidate has just been poorly advised about what is an acceptable way to behave by certain individuals and that perhaps she might have learned from the experience. The decisions made in  Labour's Newsome campaign were made by individuals and the campaign they ran reflects their own 'values'.  Principally that 'If you're not with us you're against us' or more specifically if you're not in the Labour Party you must be wrong or have suspect motivations.

Despite all this I did enjoy the campaign. We did a lot of things differently and better than we have done before, we built on our already strong links in the community and we were better organised and we involved more people. So onward, and finally here's the sense of satisfaction you get when you decide to block a social media troll.

Friday, 27 April 2018

A Local Election Message from Karen Allison


A Local Election Message from Karen Allison

Newsome Ward - Thursday May 3rd

Dear Neighbour,

Thank you to everyone I have met during this election campaign for the warm reception I & the Green Party Team have received. It is great to know we have so much local support.

Whether it is standing up against sky high rises in burial fees or standing up to those people who seek to profit from the destruction of community assets such as Newsome Bowling Green, it is Green Party Councillors who stand up for and by local people.

I have lived in Newsome for over 20 years & I work with a wide range of groups in the Community such as Worth Unlimited in Lowerhouses, Newsome Ward Community Forum, Newsome Scouts & I am also a School Governor at Hillside Primary School. In my role as a local Councillor I have taken up hundreds of individual concerns on behalf of local people.

Kirklees is a hung Council with no Party having an overall majority. This means Green Councillors can use our influence on Kirklees more effectively on behalf of local people. If Labour get a majority on the Council then local people will have less leverage over decision makers on issues such as development on our local green field sites.

Other parties may claim to ‘work all the year round’ but only the Green Party Team locally really does, with our regular newsletters, advice surgeries & New Year’s Day Bus Services.

Please use your vote to re-elect me to Kirklees Council on Thursday May 3rd.

Yours sincerely






Karen Allison


P.S. – It is the votes of local people that ensure we can work effectively on your behalf. Please use your vital vote to help us keep working as a strong team for our area.


promoted by Andrew Cooper on behalf of Karen Allison of 76 Brockholes Lane, Holmfirth HD9 7EB

Thursday, 12 April 2018

We’re backing Karen Allison! - Kirklees Elections 2018 - Newsome Ward


A message from Caroline Lucas Green Party Leader


I urge the people of Newsome Ward to vote again for Karen Allison as one of your local Councillors. Karen is a strong advocate for the local community. Her hard work and dedication as a local Councillor for the past 4 years and as a community activist for over 20 years mean she’s invaluable as a champion for local people, and her voice on the council really makes a difference.
Caroline Lucas MP – Green Party Leader


I’ve known Karen for over 20 years & was so pleased when she was elected in my place 4 years ago. The last 4 years have shown Karen take to the role ‘like a duck to water’. She has got stuck in with local activities and taken up 100s of local concerns. She really deserves your vote on May 3rd.
Graham Simpson of Taylor Hill
  

Karen is not the sort of Councillor who just sits around in meetings. She has put a pinny on & got stuck in helping with our lunch clubs in Lowerhouseses regularly. We need active people like Karen who do positive things for the community representing us on the Council.  
Wendy Marsden of Lowerhouses

  
The Green Party are the only people who really get involved in local issues. We know we can rely on them and they don’t just appear at election times 

Karen Hobson of Primrose Hill





Karen has adapted to the role of Councillor extremely well, and
taken her responsibilities very seriously over the past 4 years.  Karen has a deep affection for the Newsome Ward, having lived here for over 20 years. She has a great passion for all the communities she represents.  Karen has a good balance of intelligence and creativity, which means she gets good results for people who ask her for help.  She is a pleasure to work with, and I hope the people of Newsome Ward will support her to continue her great work.  - Councillor Julie Stewart-Turner


Karen is really active in the Newsome Ward and has helped lots of
people in the local community with all sorts of problems. She is really approachable and committed as a local Councillor. She is involved in loads of local groups and we can always rely on her to support and get involved in local events. We need to see her re-elected on May 3rd
Danni Jones of Newsome