Don’t slide to the right, cha cha real smooth

Warning: article has nothing to do with novelty hip-hop from the late 90s.

The number of think-pieces floating around saying that Labour (and other liberal or left-leaning parties) should get tough on immigration is getting a bit silly. They all seem to be missing something important.

Despite their intricate policy differences, Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru and the SNP all share a common attachment to liberal values. They don’t see immigration as the main threat to British society, which it isn’t, and they don’t want to abandon their principles in pursuit of socially conservative voters, which is commendable.

The latest polls suggest that these 5 parties combined are sitting on about 45% of the popular vote. Now I’m not daft, I know that’s not a “winning” score, but it’s a massive chunk of the population who clearly have liberal values. To abandon this solid voter-base in the hopes of scooping up a few floating voters would show incredible strategic ineptitude.

Trying to out-UKIP UKIP or out-Tory the Tories is never going to work. Why would significant numbers of UKIP and Tory voters defect to UKIP-lite or Tory-lite when they can have the real deal? And, in the process, you stand to lose liberal voters for whom anti-immigration rhetoric is a red-line issue.

There is a decent chunk of the population who have no fixed ideology and can be persuaded to vote for pretty much any party as long as they are offered genuine solutions to their problems. There is still a massive chunk of the population who do not vote at all. If there is a path to electoral victory, to turning 45% in the opinion polls into more than 50% in a general election, it surely lies with the non-voters and the great undecided. We need to find messages, and maybe even activities, that engage and inspire those voters – and keep our principles in tact at the same time.

So please, if you’re a journalist with an article in your drafts titled “the left must get tough on immigration”, have a good think about the consequences and maybe just move it quietly to the recycle bin.

Time for Kingswood to speak up for foxes

For a long time now I’ve been trying to discover the position of Kingswood MP, Chris Skidmore, on fox hunting. Several pro- and anti-hunt websites identify him on their list of pro-hunt MPs but I did not have much luck finding a concrete position until now. Finally, Chris has confirmed that if there is a free vote in Parliament on the Hunting Act he will vote to repeal it and, by extension, bring back fox hunting.

This position is extremely disappointing, although not entirely surprising, and flies in the face of public opinion on the issue. The Attitudes to Hunting 2016 poll released by Ipsos Mori revealed that 84% of the public support a ban on fox hunting. This attitude has been consistent since the Hunting Act was introduced and in fact support for the ban seems to be ever increasing. Research by YouGov in 2015 found that every single region in the UK, including the Avon and Somerset area, supports the ban.

Mr. Skidmore’s response to my question appears below:

Chris Skidmore Part 1 Chris Skidmore Part 2

Chris attempts several times throughout the response to frame his views as more compassionate, more scientific, and more popular than they really are. Anyone who has witnessed a fox hunt or a legal “trail” hunt understands that this practice has nothing whatsoever to do with compassionate wildlife management. It is, after all, still legal to manage foxes using other methods. I don’t personally approve of killing foxes at all, I am more in favour of tighter security measures at farms to prevent contact with livestock in the first place, but nonetheless it is clear that farmers are perfectly able to protect their land from foxes in other ways.

Chris also cites a variety of complexities and contradictions in the act which make it hard to properly understand and enforce. He blames this on “political wrangling”, which is code for “lobbying by hunting groups”. To claim that the act is not fit for purpose, while simultaneously siding with those who are to blame for weakening the act in the first place, strikes me as a desperate hand-wringing exercise to justify his own position. I agree that the act is not entirely fit for purpose, but it should be strengthened and made clearer, not thrown out entirely.

Hunting mammals with dogs is not a necessary component of effective wildlife management or farm maintenance, but rather an outdated and barbaric sport only enjoyed by a “privileged” few. I urge Chris to rethink his position on fox hunting and side with the vast majority of compassionate voters in Kingswood and the UK in general who want the Hunting Act to remain in place. If you agree, please write to Chris using WriteToThem or contact him on Facebook and Twitter. Please remember to be polite and considerate in your correspondence with your MP. It devalues our cause to behave in a way that could be considered rude or threatening.

No, the EU didn’t just lose in Hungary

Here in the UK the pro-Brexit press are going absolutely wild over the result of Hungary’s referendum on EU plans for migrant quotas. This is nothing more than opportunistic blustering to suit their own anti-EU narrative. Yes, over 90% of people who voted have rejected the EU’s plans for migrant quotas, but the turnout for the referendum was only around 43%. The turnout is important, and here’s why…
Continue reading “No, the EU didn’t just lose in Hungary”

Green Party Conference

The Great HallThree days, numerous workshops and, of course, all important plenary sessions. Green Party conference came to a close yesterday after an exciting weekend. During a turbulent year in politics the Green Party stands as one of the few voices of reason, and our latest conference has helped to solidify our message.

New leadership

As you may have already heard, Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas are the Green Party’s new co-leaders and Amelia Womack retains her place as deputy leader. The three made powerful and inspiring acceptance speeches which commit us to tackling inequality and exploring every avenue we can to form part of a progressive government in 2020 and beyond. They tackled some tough questions and gave us a few laughs in the leaders’ QA session right at the end of conference. I’m confident the team can lead the party to further increases in membership and elected representation across the country in the next 2 years!

New policies and practices

This was a hugely productive conference which reinforced our position as the most progressive movement in British politics. Conference voted to officially oppose the Conservatives’ Trades Union Act 2016 as well as amending our own trade union policy to allow unions access to the work place. An emergency motion also called on the party and its elected representatives to do more to tackle exploitative new industries with business models like Uber and Deliveroo which often see workers being paid less than the minimum wage.

We also strengthened our commitment to gender equality and ending discrimination against marginalised groups. Conference passed a new policy to officially recognise the gender identities of transgender and non-binary individuals. We also voted to end discrimination against people in same-sex partnerships who wish to donate blood, and instead support a system of case-by-case risk assessments.

Conference has also voted to change the way in which Green Party policy is created to make the process more democratic wherever possible. All in all this conference puts us in an even stronger position as a party of social and economic equality.

What does this mean for South Gloucestershire?

While motions passed at conference affect the party at a national level, it’s clear that their effects have a lasting local impact. Local party spokespeople are now in a position to combat the destructive business practices of “gig-economy” companies arising in the South West. We’re also better placed to provide support to marginalised groups, and let them know that the Green Party’s elected representatives will always stand up for their rights.


Conference Entrance Day One Jonathan Bartley and Caroline Lucas Leadership Team The Great Hall Stop The Cull Natalie Bennett Outgoing Speech Leaders' QA Leaders' QA - Caroline Lucas Leaders' QA - Jonathan Bartley Conference Entrance Last Day