Tuesday, 17 March 2015

He didn't even say goodbye! - Mehboob retires from Kirklees Council

 My sparring partner for many years on Kirklees Council ex Labour Leader Mehboob Khan yesterday resigned from Kirklees Council.  I'm pretty sure that he didn't give local Labour Party members much more, if any, notice than the Huddersfield Examiner and the Council got. With only a few weeks to go before close of nominations this allows the Labour Party and the other Parties little time to find an additional candidate. In theory it should be straightforward for Labour to get another name for the ballot paper in Greenhead. There was a selection for the Greenhead seat with 2 candidates and one came out on top and the sitting Councillor was deselected. So the 'easy' answer would be to make both of them Labour Candidates for the Local Election in Greenhead Ward. That may yet happen but the fractious effect and outcome of the previous selection contest would have to be set on one side and that may just be too difficult. There is the other complication that the deselected Labour Candidate is now selected for the more problematic Ward of Almondbury. You can't help thinking how much less complicated things would have been for Labour if Mehboob had just stood down months ago before the selection contest. A lot of Labour angst may have been avoided. Still not my problem!

At last weeks Full Council meeting, the last before the Local Elections, tributes were given to those members who were standing down. At that time Mehboob's name was not on the list so no tributes! He still had a year left to run on his term of office and had already spent a year being a Kirklees Councillor when mainly being based in London. You get the distinct impression that Mehboob's departure was as much of a surprise to the current Labour Leader as it was to the rest of us. 

There's a lot that has been said about Mehboob and his sometimes complex dealings and there's a lot more I and others could say. Recognising that both Teflon and Luck are finite materials has meant Mehboob has been able to choose the manner of his own departure, a luxury not many politicians have.

Here's a dramatised version of Labour Leader David Sheard responding to Mehboob's hasty departure!

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Green Party Spring Conference 2015 - Liverpool - Media Mayhem!

Green Party Spring Conference in Liverpool was huge. Well over a thousand delegates and around 400 journalists had booked for the event. Though some of them seem to have written the stories before the event e.g. The Daily Telegraph.

I was with Natalie Bennett as she approached the Conference to register with about a dozen TV cameras in her face as she attempted to get in the building with journos firing off the expected questions that were designed to intimidate. It really was media mayhem and it was a relief to enter the registration hall to spontaneous applause for Natalie as she went to get her delegate badge.

It was good to see that the new Green MEP for the South West Molly Scott Cato was on top form dealing with Andrew Neill on the Sunday Politics

My media interview was on a little later with BBC News 24 with my Energy Spokesperson hat on. "Why does the Green Party want to ban all cars?" Asked the Interviewer. "We don't!" It transpired that in the programme there was an amendment to Green Party policy with a misleading title hence the question. Seemed to bat that one off OK! The best and most definitive answer I gave to a question at Conference was from a delegate who asked me "Do you know where I can find Andrew Cooper?"

The principal speeches were all good in different ways. Natalie's Leaders speech delivered the key messages we needed to get across very well. Caroline Lucas was passionate and engaging the audience as she always does. The Deputy Leaders definitely delivered. Amelia Womack  was on form but the real and unexpected revelation for me was Shahrar Ali our Male Deputy Leader who gave a cracking speech on climate change full of humour and anger. Just good really.

Spirits seemed pretty high at the Conference and some of the fringe meetings seemed about as well attended as some of our Conferences have been in past years.

Lots more to say but lots to do at the moment!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Committee of the Regions - ENVE Commission Report

EU Commissioner Wella  was  dead centre in my field of view for the Cttee of Regions meeting
Today was my first meeting as Co-ordinator of the European Alliance on the European Committee of the Regions. I was finding my feet and working my way round the procedures. What matters in the Committee of the Regions are 'Opinions'. These are not your 'common or garden' opinions spouted by some guy in the pub or by a foaming mouthed Tory in a Council meeting. These are the representative opinions of the EU body representing Local and Regional Government and therefore have some significance. I'm still finding my feet but have a few ideas about 'opinions' I may want to pursue later.

As our Groups Coordinator I  have however been able to support other members opinions. The one I supported today was that of Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Rhodri Glyn Thomas on Ocean Energy where he is looking to develop a common approach to wind and tidal power across the EU. One that benefits local authorities and the communities they serve. Happy to support that. This is developing technology and policy area that needs careful development and thought. So exactly the area that the Committee of the Regions needs to be working on.

Star guest at today's meeting was EU Commissioner Wella who is working on the EU Energy Union and broader Environment policies. I asked about waste policy and pressed him on what he meant by 'ambitious' targets to reduce and recycle waste. The suspicion is that he is trying to actually dampen ambition and perhaps take more account of business interests than environmental ones. The other issue I raised with him was what action could be taken by the EU to tackle the UK and our abysmal record on renewable energy. Shamefully we look set to fail to achieve our diminished target. The EU average target is 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020. The UK target is just 15% but even that is looking unattainable. They can slap a dirty great fine on the UK but the alternative in the mean time is to seek support from the EU under the 'infringements tool'. I know absolutely nothing about this at present but I think I'll make it my business to find out more about it.