Monday, 29 May 2017

The environment matters more than ever at this election, something only one party fully recognizes.

The 2017 general election campaign is now in its final stages and yet one of the most important issues has yet to make it into the foreground; the environment.

If no action is taken to preserve exiting environmental legislation after Brexit, let alone improve it, we could face some dire consequences. These include 200,000 premature deaths linked to air pollution and the loss of 18,300 hectares of green space by the next time the country goes to the polls in 2022.

Environmental charity Friends of the Earth scored all four main parties for their manifesto commitments on the environment.

The results, as published on their website, show the Liberal Democrats in second place with Labour also scoring highly in some areas, although they are criticized for their lack of a coherent policy on tackling waste.

The Conservatives, unsurprisingly, came fourth with just eleven points, Labour and the Lib Dems scored twenty seven and twenty eight respectively. They attract particular criticism for their support for fracking and the ‘undemocratic’ way central government has used its powers to over-rule local communities opposed to fracking by ‘rigging’ the planning system.

The Green Party manifesto came first with thirty points and was praised for containing ‘impressive and comprehensive’ policies to protect environmental legislation and tackle air pollution. This confirms their position as the only mainstream party to speak consistently about the need to treat environmental policy as a priority issue.

Friends of the Earth have also published their own election manifesto and have asked candidates from all parties who support their aims to endorse the following positions:

• Ensuring the UK keeps and improves on existing environmental legislation post Brexit
• That urgent action be taken to meet targets on climate change and renewable energy
• Ending illegal air pollution and phasing out diesel vehicles by 2025
• Banning pesticides that harm bees

As a Green Party member and parliamentary candidate I endorse the four policies put forward by Friends of the Earth. They are a more than achievable starting point in the long term turning around of the supertanker of human damage to the planet.

This isn’t a manifesto for tree hugging, back to the land, knit your own muesli utopian daydreaming, it is a call for practical common sense to take precedence over short term greed. We cannot go on as we are, pumping poison into the air, using ever more damaging methods to extract fossil fuels and clinging to the notion that being trapped inside a car is a ‘freedom’ worth defending without it ending in disaster, probably sooner rather than later.

We need to see protecting the environment not as an irksome responsibility to be carried out with long faces and wearing, hand woven of course, hair shirts. Instead it should be seen as a once in our existence opportunity to take a new and fairer direction for which our children and grandchildren will thank us.

I am happy to endorse the position taken by my own party, Friends of the Earth and any other group that operates ethically on climate change, air pollution, renewable energy and keeping the ban on hunting foxes. Not just at this election, but afterwards and until significant change has been achieved.

If we act now we could do something remarkable, this could be the point at which we stop fighting nature and start working with it, making in the process a fairer society and a more sustainable economy.

Adam Colclough is the Green Party candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central

Friday, 19 May 2017

Mental illness is the elephant in the room we all have to talk about if we are to be a healthy society.

Green Party candidate for the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency Adam Colclough today announced his support for the five -point plan for improving the nation’s mental health put forward by the Mental Health Foundation.

A survey commissioned by the charity found that only 13% of Britons feel themselves to have good mental health, a situation chief executive Jenny Edwards CBE described as ‘really concerning’.

During Mental Health week earlier this month the Mental Health Foundation put forward a plan encouraging individuals and government to value mental and physical health equally.

The plan contains five elements:
• The setting up a National Thriving Mental Health Programme to spread public understanding about how to develop good mental health
• A Royal Commission to develop good practice and identify problem areas
• An annual report to track progress and identify areas requiring attention
• Support for people to improve their mental health
• Fair funding for mental health research.

Mr. Colclough said: ‘Mental illness and the impact it has on the lives of people living with it and their families is the elephant in the room we all have to talk about if we are to be a healthy society.’

He added that as a volunteer for two local mental health charities that he had ‘seen at first hand the challenges people face accessing adequate services’.

Improving mental health services features prominently in the Green Party manifesto for the 2017 general election. In a message to members deputy party leader Amelia Womack said:
We live in a society, which feels custom built to wreck people’s mental health, and it’s a crisis caused by the savage policies of the Tory party – debt piled onto the young, people living only one pay cheque from homelessness, and hundreds of thousands of us forced into the indignity of using food banks.

Adding that the party would, ‘tackle the root causes of mental health by shaping a different society. We’ll create a caring and confident country which improves mental health, rather than harms it.’

Included in the manifesto are policies to introduce empathy lessons in schools, improve access to psychological therapies and to give mental health parity of esteem with physical health.

Adam Colclough said: ‘ As a long-time activist for better mental health services I am proud that the party I represent has taken the lead in this important issue, doing so is entirely in keeping with our mission to work for the common good.’

Thursday, 18 May 2017

This election has to be about the people who have been forgotten.

“What else have I got?”

It is a sunny Saturday afternoon and I’m in Stoke town centre canvassing outside a cafe that offers coffee in chipped mugs and chips with everything when the young man approaches me.

He’s in his twenties with the tired look of someone older who has been beaten down by life. His sister sits a little way off on some benches used by street drinkers; they are both holding cans of Polish lager.

The young man describes his day to me; he gets up, walks to the shop to buy a can for a pound then sits on the bench.

“Then I go to bed, get up and do the whole thing again”, he says.

He tells me that he has worked, but none of the jobs have ever lasted or been something he wanted to do. Asked what sort of work he would like to do he says, “What can I do?”

The inference is that in his experience every avenue leads to a dead end, so at some stage he stopped trying.

He tells me that he voted for Ukip in the February by-election, but probably won't vote at all this time.

He has about him the watchful bravado of someone who has grown up on the blind side of society. Like so many of his generation, he feels that for him the door marked opportunity has warped tight shut.

Once these were the people the Labour Party used to speak for, it's hard to imagine them even being on the radar of the three slickly metropolitan careerists holding the city's seats today, though they take their votes for granted.

To the Tories they represent a problem, an undisciplined rump to be harried by benefits sanctions and accused of not trying hard enough.

In person, despite the can he holds whilst talking to me, the young man is far from the threatening stereotype presented in the tabloids. Both he and his sister talk about how they play the guitar, asked if he's ever thought about trying to get gigs around local pubs he says no. Confidence and a sense of agency is one of the many things missing from his life.

This election has to be about how we change the lives of the people who have been forgotten. The old neo-liberal scramble for endless growth isn't working; too many people are being left behind.

We need a new approach to welfare, using a universal basic income to free people from poverty and allow them to fulfill their potential. To share wealth and opportunity fairly across the country, instead of concentrating it in a few favored locations. A shift of power away from the centre to give individuals and communities a real say in deciding their future.

What direction the country takes after June 8th, whether we have a hard Brexit benefiting the few, or a fairer future based on lifting everyone up together will answer the question the young man asked me.

“What if I’m still doing this in ten years’ time?”
Adam Colclough is the Green Party candidate for Stoke-on-Trent Central

Friday, 5 May 2017

Take action to improve mental health services in North Staffordshire.

Mental illness is something 1 in four people in the UK will experience over the course of a single year, yet it is a subject that is seldom spoken about.

The most common conditions people report struggling with are generalized anxiety disorder, post- traumatic stress disorder, depression and obsessive compulsive disorder.

Although the number of people living with mental health issues has not changed dramatically in recent years problems like unemployment, debt and family breakdown can make it harder for people to cope.

Currently 1 in 8 adults with a mental health condition are receiving treatment, accessing services can be a difficult, confusing and stressful experience in its own right.

North Staffordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has, through its Patient’s Congress set up a citizen’s jury to look into access to adult mental health services in the area it serves.

The jury will produce a written report in the autumn and this will be used to improve local services. As part of their evidence gathering they have produced an online survey, a link to which is included below.

By setting up this initiative the CCG has taken a huge step towards bringing mental health out of the shadow of irrational stigma and provided an opportunity for service users, carers and family members to have a meaningful say on service delivery.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Greens launch policy to give voters the final say on Brexit plans.

Today at the Space art studio in Hackney Green Party leader Caroline Lucas and Bristol parliamentary candidate and MEP Molly Scott Cato launch
ed a policy calling for a second referendum on Britain’s exit from the EU.

The Green Party would hold a second referendum on any Brexit deal agreed with the EU. Voters would have the option of sticking with the current arrangement or accepting the deal as offered.

Speaking to an audience of party activists Caroline Lucas said that “Whoever wins this election has a mandate to negotiate on behalf of the British people – but that does not mean that they have a right to impose a final deal. Instead we demand a ratification referendum which gives people the option to remain in the EU if they wish, or to vote to back the Government’s deal.

She added “A democracy worthy of the name must mean people having a real say over the major decisions that affect their lives. That’s why the Green Party has consistently said that the referendum should be the start, not the end, of the democratic process. And it’s why today we are announcing our intention to push for remaining in the EU to be an option in a ratification referendum.”

Molly Scott Cato, Green candidate for Bristol West and the party’s spokesperson in the European Parliament said “Take back control was the strap line which persuaded many to vote Leave in the referendum last year. It's now clear what that meant. A power grab by the Tory right so they can make a bonfire of regulations which protect our rights and environment. A ratification referendum must give back control. People must be given an opportunity to vote for the future on offer at the end of the article 50 process, or decide whether actually we are better off remaining a full member of the EU.”

Adding that “Our message is simple. For a final say, and for a chance to vote to stay in the EU, vote Green.”

At last year’s referendum Stoke-on-Trent voted by a huge majority to leave the EU, local party activist Adam Colclough said “ we respect the wish to leave the EU expressed by people at the ballot box last year, however since then the facts that have emerged about what a ‘hard Brexit’ could entail have caused many people to think again.’

He added that “Under the terms the government seem to want Brexit could damage our economy and public services could be seriously damaged, this policy gives all concerned an opportunity to reflect on what is a serious decision and, maybe, to change their minds.”

Concluding her speech Caroline Lucas said “There are some who say that this is a re-run of the referendum, but that simply isn’t the case. Instead this is giving people an informed say over our shared future. If the Government is so convinced that they’ll get a decent deal then there’s no reason that they wouldn’t trust people to have a final say.

1. Event details:
Time: 10.30am
Date: Tuesday 2 May 2017
Place: The Space Studios, 129-131 Mare Street, London, E8 3RH

For more information contact: / 0203 691 9401

Monday, 1 May 2017

Let the parties they usually silence show the sulking big two what a real debate sounds like.

If she won’t then neither will he, turn up for the televised debates ahead of the general election that is. Both Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn have decided to sit out one of the big set-pieces of the campaign.

The decision is disappointing, but not all that surprising, all politicians project the myth that they aren’t like the others, even though by experience, background and inclination they almost always are. This pair though seem to have internalized what was only ever intended to be a bit of sales talk.

Mrs. May truly believes herself to be a ‘doorstep campaigner’ and is even rumored to have been less than pleased when her team gave her only a few minutes to interact with the public during a trip to Scotland this week.

In these terrorism haunted days the security logistics of managing an interaction between the prime minister and random members of the public are complex to say the least, sufficiently so for it to be kept to a minimum. Anyway striking up spontaneous conversation with people on whom she hasn’t been briefed is hardly Mrs. May’s strong point, you could be forgiven for thinking that were she to have a chat with the Downing Street milkman it would involve an agenda and minutes taken by her private secretary.

Jeremy Corbyn thinks the fact that he can draw a crowd despite neither looking nor sounding like a professional politician means he can bypass a media that for the most part don’t like him much. That the crowd in question is largely composed of uber-trots from Momentum should give him pause for thought; no movement of consequence ever sustained itself by preaching to the converted and hoping that their cheering drowns out the muttering of the doubts even the truest of true believers secretly entertain.

Politics is and always has been more about performance than many of the participants like to admit. The most brilliant ideas go ignored if they are conveyed in the dull monotone of a ‘speak your weight’ machine that has given up on life.

Although they have only been a feature of our political life since 2010 the televised debates have become one of the figures a political performer must pull off if he or she is to succeed. The first time round they made Nick Clegg, unlikely though that now seems, into the most popular politician since Churchill, in 2015 they made a star out of Nicola Sturgeon.

By refusing to take part May and Corbyn aren’t being bravely individualistic; they’re perpetuating an institutional arrogance that sets voters teeth on edge. In the latter case a significant opportunity is being allowed go unclaimed.

It is easy to see why Mrs. May might not relish a televised debate, the campaign so far has shown her to have two rhetorical settings, a Thatcher style crossness and a scary habit of repeating soundbites as if she thinks doing so will hypnotize her audience. Strong and stable, you are getting very sleepy.

Jeremy Corbyn though has everything to gain from taking part in the debates, his performances at the dispatch box have improved mightily now over the past year or so. He also has the advantage of believing what he says, however muddled and with integrity being so rare a commodity in politics that is something to which the viewing public may well be inclined to warm.

They’re not going to do it though, the lady isn’t for turning and so the gentleman fells obliged to miss an open goal. Where do we go from here?

The obvious answer is for the debates to go ahead with the leaders of the, so called, ‘smaller’ parties taking centre stage. At first the fact that none of the participants is in with a shout of claiming the top prize might seem to be a turn off, in fact it is an advantage.

For a start Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas are both formidable debaters who seldom get the media coverage they deserve, when he can keep off the subject of sin Tim Farron can hit a few sweet shot too. More importantly without the keys to Downing Street dangling before their eyes the leaders taking part might (gasp) actually unburden themselves of a few honest opinions.

As for the Tory and Labour prima-donnas sulking on the sidelines the sight of the public responding to an honest, mature debate where people say what they mean rather than recite slogans engaging the public might just persuade them to change their minds and take part.