Archive for February, 2010

A letter from the developers of the proposed medical lab, the UKCMRI, behind the British Library contains a list of four exhibitions (presumably similar to that on the Coopers Lane estate just before Christmas).

These are at:

* St Pancras Library, Argyle Street (in the council complex on the Euston Road near King’s Cross station), Monday, March 8, 2-5pm

* Surma Centre, 1 Robert St (in Regent’s Park), Wednesday March 10, 2.30-5pm.

* Somers Town Community Centre, 150 Ossulston Street, Saturday March 13, 9am-1pm

* St Pancras Community Association, 30 Camden Street, Wednesday March 17, 2.30-5pm.

It is good that the consortium is providing more information opportunities, but a pity that only one of these sessions is outside working hours, and then on a Saturday morning, when many will be recovering from the week or have other commitments.

If you want to write to the consortium to suggest an evening session, or anything else, they can be reached through info@ukcmri.ac.uk or 0800 028 6731.

More on the UKCRMI development. (You’ll also find some excellent discussion arising from the development control forum on Michael Edward’s blog.


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The weather was threatening, and TfL had closed practically every transport route it could think of, so it was great to see an excellent turnout for the Save the Whittington Hospital A&E march today.

It was led out by the Camden New Journal (which with the Ham & High did a huge job in promoting the march) and Unison campaigners on an open-top bus (which later served as a stage for speeches).

Estimates for numbers I’ve heard ranged from 3,000-4,000, and practically every organisation you can think of, from pensioners groups to many unions, was there. And also all of the political parties, although you really do wonder how Labour felt able to show its face, given surely all that would have been needed to give us all a free Saturday would be a phone call from Labour Health Secretary Andy Burnham to the North London PCTs. (And I did notice an awful lot of their leaflets, far more than those of others’, dropped on the road.)

It was something of a party reunion, as we marched as a Green Party block, catching up with old friends and new from Islington and Haringey Greens.

Whittington march

The next meeting of the Defend Whittington Hospital campaign is on March 22, 7pm, at the Whittington Community Centre.

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Had a fascinating time last night speaking at the Progressive Women event in Parliament House.

It was made particularly interesting by the fact that I got to go first – not a usual state of affairs for the Green Party in such circumstances – the chair announcing as she started speaking that she was going by the entirely fair random alphabetic order of speakers’ names.

It set up an interesting dynamic, since I got to present our very progressive policies on minimum wage (more than 2/3 of recipients are female) at 60% of net national average earnings, or now £8.10/hour, on a citizen’s pension of £170 (which would immediately lift recipients, a high proportion of them female, out of poverty) and our new parental leave policy giving each child the chance to have 24 months of parental attention (and strongly encouraging paternity as well as maternity leave).

It is more in sorrow than anger that I add no one else on the panel could match, with their party’s policies, any of these.

But potentially the most immediately fruitful point of the evening came when a Fawcett Society representative asked about rape crisis centre funding and I was able to raise with the Tory representative, Mary Macleod, the failure of the Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, to live up to his manifesto pledge on funding London rape crisis centres.

She said that she was unaware of the issue, and would raise it with Boris. I know lots of other people already have, but let’s hope that this “insider” push might make a difference!

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Siân Berry, the Green Party Candidate for London Mayor in 2008, and the author of Mend it!, 50 ways to Greener Travel and 50 Ways to be a Greener Shopper, and Prashant Vaze, author of The Economical Environmentalist and chief economist for Consumer Focus, are speaking at a HiCan event on Wednesday March 10, at 8pm.

The topic is the importance of the Five Rs: Refuse, Reduce, Re-Use, Repair, Recycle and other changes we can make to our diets, travel and homes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The meeting is at Channing School, The Bank, Highgate Hill, N6 5HF at 8pm. All welcome.

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Spent this evening at a powerful meeting forming the Central London Right to Work group. There was broad representation from trade unions in the borough, including Unison, FBU, PCS, Unite, and UCL Lecturers’ Union, and several people who had attended the recent Manchester Right to Work conference.

Issues covered included the ongoing PCSU strike at the National Gallery, the actions resisting redundancies and cutbacks at UCL and King’s College, resistance to the threatened cutbacks at Whittington Hospital (A&E and maternity services) to the proposed UKCRMI in Somers Town, and more. The feeling was a powerful push back against the cuts agenda is building.

The Right to Work group, as that name  suggests, will be aiming to work on not just the obvious employment and unemployment issues, but also housing, privatisation, marketisation – all of the inter-related hyper economic liberalism that still seems to be ploughing through on the ground, despite its clear and absolute moral and intellectual bankruptcy.

I was reminded of that amazing persistence in the face of abject failure when I came home to read that Gordon Brown wants to “develop ‘brands’ of schools that parents can trust”. So do you want to send your children to the Coca-Cola school or Fanta one? Or do you just want a good local school that’s democratically accountable to elected local government?

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I’m very pleased that the first day of the Green Party conference in Finchley today adopted a new policy supporting the availability of civil partnership and marriage to all couples, regardless of sexual orientation.

Much of the focus is bound to be on the provision for gay marriage, but I’m also pleased about the other side of this – the provision for civil partnership to be available to heterosexual couples.

Marriage is something that many women (and men) have objections to: they feel that they don’t want to be involved in an institution that historically has been so implicated in the oppression of women. Yet I know a significant number of women who have reluctantly married for practical reasons – relating to the status of their partner with regard to their children, to inheritance tax, to pension rights… the list goes on.

A civil partnership deals with these issues, without being a “marriage”. There are two possible structures here, and sexuality shouldn’t be the discriminating factor in who can access each.

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