Archive for the ‘Public meetings’ Category

by Natalie Bennett

Defending traffic wardens, speaking up for them, is not always going to be a popular cause, but I’m proud that’s what Camden Green Party has been doing lately, including through letters to the local papers. Yesterday I was pleased to be able to speak at a Unison rally for them at the Town Hall marking the fact that they are now in the middle of a second strike for decent wages.

They’re currently receiving £8.09/hour for a 42.5-hour week – not even the London Living Wage – and certainly not enough for a tough, physical, stressful job in the midst of high-cost central London.

Inevitably, their role has been outsourced (by a Labour council some years ago), and they are employed by NSL (formerly part of NCP), a corporate giant that Unison reports is taking a fee of about £6 for each hour of work from the attendants (remember they’re getting just £8 for the same hour – although their compatriots in Waltham Forest are already getting £10/hour – what the Camden workers are demanding).

The long-term solution is clearly to bring these roles back “in-house” at the council – parking attendants are enforcing our democratically agreed rules for the good of all of us and should be subject to proper democratic oversight – but the contract has three years to run, and until that point, Camden council should be doing everything possible to get their contractor to pay a decent wage.

Here’s a video of what I said yesterday.

More videos from the rally can be found here.


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By Natalie Bennett

Yesterday, as every year on August 6, Tavistock Square became a solemn place, a sad place, but also a place of resolution, as London CND held its annual Hiroshima Day commemoration.

The resolve was to continue to fight against these hideous weapons, particularly against Britain’s nuclear weapons.

The high turnout, certainly the biggest I have seen, perhaps in part reflected the fact that the is a feeling that austerity, with all of its social horrors, might at least hold out new hopes of UK disarmament.

When even very traditionalist defence experts are calling for Britain to abandon nuclear weapons, if only on cost grounds, the political ground is certainly shifting.

There were two participants who held more memories than most people present.

The veteran peace campaigner Hetty Bower, aged 106, pictured in the crowd right, said: “We have got to grow up and stop killing each other.”

MP Tony Benn said nuclear weapons are no use, we can’t afford them, and they not really independent of US. “We must get rid of them.”


Green MEP Jean Lambert,  pictured right, highlighted the almost casual acceptance of India’s nuclear weapons (with real politic proponents saying “we need a bulwark against China), contrasting it with the view of Pakistan.

She said that existing weapons states need to break the stalemate on non-proliferation. It was time we put down bombs and worked for peace, she said.

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With a focus on the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan, no bombing of Iran, and the British public’s strong opposition to Trident nuclear missiles…

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by Natalie Bennett

There was much excitement in a packed Kentish Town Community Centre on Saturday when the completed building project was officially opened.

The line-up of buggies outside looked like it was competing for a Guiness World Record, and inside many of their usual occupants were hard at play in the walled garden as their parents listened to the speeches inside the spacious, airy main hall.

Tribute were paid particularly to the staff who had stayed through the temporary move to Greenwood Place and back, and Cathy Crawford, the Chair of Centre, pointed out particularly to the politicians present (including Camden’s mayor, Abdul Quadir, whose chain proved a great attraction with the younger set, and local MP Frank Dobson) how the centre had listened to its users in designing its new shape, and how successful that listening had been in its growth in recent years.
Upstairs was a fine selection of artwork, including Kim Cunningham’s Portrait of a (London) village, a telling series of portraits of local people, and Jason Shenai’s hyper-real photos of local shops.

Pleasingly, the centre is committed to using china plates and proper cutlery, not disposables, and to that end has acquired two dishwashers, one from that excellent recycling source eBay, so that they can manage the flow. They were doing an admirable job keeping up with demand on Saturday – as a fine selection of finger food was whoofed down at great speed.

Anyone looking to get involved might want to look to the gardening club, meeting on the 1st Saturday of the month from 10-12. A fine board display discussed possibilities – from a haybale permaculture version to raised beds for wheelchair gardeners.

Part of the crowd at the opening.

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Natalie Bennett, London Assembly candidate

I was delighted to be asked to represent Green Party mayoral candidate Jenny Jones at the Migrant’ Rights Network London hustings last week.

I’m constantly horrified to see just what a concerted attack is being made on the key rights of migrants and prospective migrants to the UK. This hustings brought together many of the groups trying to deal with that.

This is very much a London issue. London has the greatest number of migrants (2.4 million foreign-born people from a population of 7.8 million in 2010) of any UK region.

The most disturbing issue of all, because it affects extremely vulnerable people, is the changes to the rules on migrant domestic workers. From this month, those brought in by one employer are unable to change jobs without losing their visa – this, as a representative of Justice 4 Domestic Workers (which works with the Unite Union) said at the meeting, is a licence for “slavery”.

But also deeply worrying are the government’s planned changes to settlement rights for non-EU migrant workers. The plan is that they’ll have to earn more than £35,000 a year to win the right to settle. That means, on the government’s own figures, that 48% of migrant nurses, 37% of primary school teachers and 35% of IT/software professionals would be excluded. The plan is that removals of people who fail to meet the thresehold will begin in 2016.

That means the UK is in effect introducing a German-style guestworker scheme – the deal is that you can come here for a few years, probably some of your most productive, healthy years when we can work you very hard – then we’ll ship you out again and replace you with a fresh batch. No sense of building a career or a life, just a slog. What that would do for morale and productivity doesn’t bear thinking about – not to mention the human cost of disrupted lives.

Then, if you think that is bad, there’s also the question of family visas. The government plans to demand the family member who’ll be supporting the incomer have a minimum income of £25,700 (£50k if you have two children – which will exclude most people in “normal” jobs). The probationary visa will also extend from two to five years. Now – although you wouldn’t think it if you read the Daily Mail or the Telegraph – family visa entrants, as do most other migrants, have their visas stamped “no recourse to public funds” – but their sponsor simply has to show that they have the funds to support them.

A gentleman in the audience from Migration Watch tried to claim that actions to reduce immigration such as these weren’t an attack on migrants already here. I and, it was clear from the response, the audience strongly disagreed. The fact is if the two parties of government, and all too often the Labour party too, are saying, or signalling, “we have to reduce migration because migrants are taking our houses/jobs/school places”, then that badly effects migrants already here (and for the record that includes me – I moved to the UK in 1999, having been born in Australia and previously spent five years in Bangkok).

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11am-1pm, Saturday 10th March
Starting from the People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lamb’s Conduit Street, Bloomsbury, WC1N 3LP

To mark Fairtrade Fortnight (27th Feb–11th Mar) there will be a Walk for Fairtrade through the borough of Camden on Saturday 10th March.

The theme of Fairtrade Fortnight is ‘Take a step for Fairtrade’. It can be a simple step, like swapping your tea or coffee at home to Fairtrade, or a bigger step, like hosting your own Fairtrade chocolate tasting party!

There’ll be a yummy Fairtrade Breakfast from 10am at The People’s Supermarket. Then the walk sets off at 11am, arriving at Thorntons Budgens in Belsize Park for a celebratory photo around 1pm.

Organisers ask if you let them know you’re planning to come along: camdenfairtrade@googlemail.com / 07815 771 939

There’s also a Debate:’ Does Fairtrade Really Work’ at 7pm, People’s Supermarket, 72-78 Lambs Conduit St, February 29.

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by Natalie Bennett

Chilled fingers but warm atmosphere this morning at the excellent demonstration against Nadine Dorries’s Sex Education (Required Content) Bill, which called for abstinence-only sex education for girls – but not boys.

My general thoughts on this are elsewhere, but I’ve been reflecting since on the words of Kate Smurthwaite of Abortion Rights (interviewed here), that we had to recognise that while Dorries is frequently an apparent figure of fun, both so fanatical and extreme, and so inept, as to not to seem a serious threat, the fact is that she’s useful cover for rather more controlled but equally dangerous and disturbing figures behind her who want to achieve much the same goals, of regarding women as the sexual gatekeepers, whose only appropriate position in bed is lying still on their back thinking of England – in strictly heterosexual, married beds of course.

It’s worth noting that 67 MPS – sixty seven – back the bill on its first reading, which allowed it to get to this stage. The debate can be found <a href = "http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201011/cmhansrd/cm110504/debtext/110504-0001.htm#11050491000001">here (and well done to Labour’s Chris Bryant for speaking up in it!)

This is the roll of dishonour, the 67 MPS who voted for the Bill: Peter Aldous, Louise Bagshawe, Harriet Baldwin, Harriett Bebb, Karen Bradley, Julian Brazier, Fiona Bruce, Dan Byles, Alun Cairns, Ronnie Campbell (Lab), William Cash, Christopher Chope, Damian Collins, Tracey Crouch, Philip Davies, Nick de Bois, Nadine Dorries, George Eustice Charlie Elphicke, George Evans, Jonathan Fuller, Roger Gale, James Gray, Matthew Hancock, Matthew Heaton-Harris, John Hemming (Lib Dem), Dmian Hinds, Philip Hollobone, Bernard Jenkin, Gareth Johnson, Marcus Jones, Kwasi Kwarteng, Andrea Leadsom, Jeffrey Lefroy, Peter Lilley, Jonathan Lord, Anne Main, Michael McCann (Lab), Jason McCartney, William McCrea (DU), Anne McIntosh, Stephen McPartland, Stephen Metcalfe, James Morris, Stephen Mosley, David Nuttall, Matthew Offord, Ian Paisley (DU), Neil Parish, Priti Patel, Mark Pawsey, Stephen Phillips, John Redwood, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Andrew Rosindell, Lee Scott, Jim Shannon (DU), Henry Smith, John Stevenson, Bob Stewart, Andrew Turner, Robin Walker, Robert Walter, Mike Weatherley, Craig Whittaker, Gavin Williamson,
Tellers: Brian Binley and Thérèse Coffey.

They’re all Conservatives, unless otherwise marked, and I think a large majority of the new 2010 intake. They bear watching – and should you happen to have the misfortune to live in one of their seats, I’d suggest using your local paper or blog to highlight their vote.

Also worth keeping an eye on the controversial Christian charity Care.

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