Sunday, 29 October 2017

Barry Sheerman on Brexit and Education

Every now and again someone will see me making a cup of instant coffee. I open the jar of granules and pour an unmeasured amount into the mug. " Why don't you use a teaspoon?" is often the question I'm asked. "I'm a politician and for me judgement is everything" is my usual 'smart arsed' reply.

Judgement was on my mind today as I watched Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman on The Sunday Politics. He said

"The truth is that when you look at who voted to Remain most of them were the better educated people in this country."

At one point the exasperated BBC Interviewer said "So thick people voted for Leave?"

Barry's defence was a bit feeble "I didn't say that".  No he didn't but he did!

The problem with referencing voters level of Education when looking at how people vote is that there is an implication that if you had your way that only people who had the right qualifications should be allowed to vote. Of course Barry Sheerman would rightly protest that this is not what he believes but then you would have to question his judgement at strongly making the link between education and the political choices voters make in the first place. There is an implied disrespect for those people with no or low qualifications. These are some of the people who may even have voted Labour and for him at the last General Election.

The facts are that there is a strong correlation between those people who voted Remain and educational attainment but so what? One of the many failures of the Remain Campaign was in not making its message accessible enough to convince a wide range of voters whatever OLevels/GCSE'/A Levels/Degrees they acheived. The Leave campaigns success was in making a difficult subject accessible to many different sorts of people. Admittedly it was misleading them but then their arguments were accessible nonetheless. Where is our £350 million/week extra for the NHS btw?

Education and Brexit featured in the Daily Mail this week as well. I was reading a copy in the Dentist and came across the headline "In their own telling words. How Academics push Remain propaganda".  My admittedly glib  tweet in response was " In other words why do people who know stuff oppose Brexit?". It also sinisterly asked students to 'shop' lecturers who may be 'guilty' of such 'crimes'. I guess the Mail would regard them as 'Enemies of the People'. Here we are seeing a strange education snobbery in reverse where the contempt for 'the Intellectual' and 'the Expert' is regarded as legitimate. For someone who favours moderate language in politics I find it hard not to make links between the Daily Mail and Fascism on frequent occasions.

So education snobbery was everywhere this week. If you were educated your views were suspect to the Daily Mail. If you were uneducated your views may be less valid than if you were educated to Barry Sheerman. Ultimately whether you are a politician or a voter the choices you make are all about judgement and weighing up the pros and the cons. The job of politicans is not to judge the voters but to give them the information that they need to make sound judgements themselves.

Here's Pink Floyd  - Another Brick In The Wall - "We don't need no education etc...."

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Kirklees prepares for Zombie Apocalypse or something like that.

This week a generator was installed in the new blockhouse adjacent to Civic Centre 3 in Huddersfield Town Centre.

The idea is to make the building reslient as an HQ during a time when we might have a major loss of electrical power. When unexpected events happen the Council together with the Emergency Services will stand ready to react and as the lights go out across Huddersfield the Civic Centre will stand as a shining beacon of hope. Council Officers will be stoically working to reestablish Western Civilization/'start again' while surrounded by confused citizens wanting answers and reassurance. We will then see what happens next after the meteor/nuclear strike on Heckmondwike or a catastrophic flood, or extraterrestrial invasion or zombie apocalypse.

Disasters and social collapse are mostly of the serious but often mundane, day to day nature like the 'boiled frog' of climate change. The slow but perceptible nature of the change leads the wilfully uniformed/misleading to question whether it is actiually happening at all, but if we don't act it surely will.

The new 'resilient' Civic Centre is all about preparing for the reaction to a crisis. To prevent climate change we need to make all buildings resilient through insulation/ energy efficiency measures and making best use of onsite renewable energy (usually solar). That's not just good for the homes that have such measures but for wider society that is less reliant on dirty and generally imported fuels such such as natural gas and uranium. It puts more money in peoples pockets who have less to fork out for energy bills. This would be a good aim of public policy in so many ways but also ensures that when disaster does strike that half a million people don't turn up at Civic Centre 3 to try to get their phones and electric toothbrushes recharged.

Here's 'Its The End of The World as we know it' by R.E.M.


Monday, 23 October 2017

Locally Determined Contributions - the view of the UK Government

With Jenny Jones at Croftlands, Newsome in 2014
I asked my friend Jenny Jones (or Baroness Jones of Moulsecomb) if she would ask the following Parliamentary Question to the Government so I could test the waters on my Locally Determined Contributions proposal to get Local  and Regional Governments around the world to contribute emission reductions towards the Paris Climate goals.

This was the question:-

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they will support the proposal by the EU Committee of the Regions to establish locally determined contributions and regionally determined contributions to the greenhouse gas emissions targets set by the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The response was very interesting

UK greenhouse gas emission targets under the EU framework and our domestic Climate Change Act cover the whole of the UK. Devolved Administrations and Local Authorities also already have their own emissions targets and ambitions, and with wider actors in the UK, have an important role to play in contributing to UK emissions reductions.

The reason the response  was interesting was because it just wasn't true. Local Councils don't have emission targets unfortunately and many are too busy dealing with the day to day job of delivering basic services with massive funding cuts to have higher ambitions on climate change. So as it wasn't true I thought it warranted another question.

 To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Prior of Brampton on 15 February (HL5165), what are the greenhouse gas emissions targets, broken down by local authority; and what assessment they have made of progress against each of those targets over the last seven years.

and the response

Local Authorities are not mandated to have greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets. However, many cities and places have set their own targets following the Paris Agreement. Over 30 places are members of international agreements such as the Covenant of Mayors and, within the UK, over 70 places have now signed up to UK100 with a political commitment to use 100% clean energy by 2050.
"Over 30 places" well there are 418 Principal Councils in the UK so  it is hardly a comprehensive list of Local Authorities that are signed up to the Covenant of Mayors and clearly the second answer from Lord Brampton contradicts his first answer. The UK 100 mentioned has a worthy aspiration but I doubt that many councils have any detailed plans about how they will actually acheive this. I'm guessing they will be hoping national strategies deliver this for them. My conclusion is that there is still a strong case for adopting Locally Determined Contributions in the UK and the Government would lose nothing by recognising that too. In fact it may help them acheive their Nationally Determined Contributions towards the Paris Climate Agreement.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Major 'own goal' by North Yorkshire Police at Kirby Misperton Fracking site

Kirby Misperton the Fracking Frontline

Today marked the first 'Green Friday' trip to Kirby Misperton where the Green Party & the wider Green Movement are being mobilised to support the Prrotectors at the Habton Rd Fracking site. 

There was a major own goal by North Yorkshire Police by not allowing the request for a slow walk by protestors in front of one of the lorry convoys today on their way into the site. By not allowing people their right to peacefully protest North Yorks Police unequivocally put themselves on the side of Third Energy and against the right for people to legally demonstrate their opposition. Instead people were effectively 'kettled' and risked arrest if they moved outside the police cordon. Police on the ground appeared to be ready to facilitate the request but were overruled by their remote commanders demonstrating their poor leadership. Not their finest hour but sadly not their worst either at KM. They have effectively 'upped the temperature' by taking a draconian approach that overtly favours the Fracking company. 

'Tea Lady' Jackie Brookes on the left with frien
Of course the temperature is already high with several arrests following 'lock ons' and towers constructed outside the entrance to the site with protestors atop. The arrest of the 79 year old 'Tea lady' Jackie Brookes has gained worldwide coverage and done nothing to help North Yorkshire Police's reputation for having a heavy handed approach to dealing with objectors to Third Energy's plans. Today's request for a 'slow walk' protest in front of the lorry convoy with police consent offered them a chance to repair their reputation. It was sadly ignored. All that will occur as a result is a renewed resolve by those opposing the Government's plans.

The cost of policing at the Fracking site at Preston New Road in Lancashire has been estimated at £450'000/month. With the heavy and excessive police presence we saw today then we would expect a similar figure for Kirby Misperton. There are enough reasons to oppose Fracking in its own right, but now we have the waste of   millions of pounds of police resources protecting corporate interests that threaten our environment and our communities as well.

The Kirby Misperton site is expected to commence Fracking within days and is the frontline in the battle against corporate greed, climate change and threats to our fundamental liberties. People of goodwill need to act and get themselves up to Kirby Misperton as soon as possible and as often as possible.
With Carolyn Popple, one of the Core Group of No Fracking Way walkers from March this year
Outside the entrance to the Fracking site

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

First look at the new Mount Pleasant Primary School at Lockwood

Pupils from Mount Pleasant School in Lockwood will be moving into their new School  on the Thursday after half term. It has been built adjacent to the old school which will be demolished over the coming year. The old school  was a 'mish mash' of Victorian buildings with 70's and 80s extensions. The roof leaked badly and frequently despite several patching up attempts. I've seen the new school grow in my role as one of the School Governors. Today myself and Cllr Julie Stewart Turner got a good look round and it is impressive and will be a much improved teaching environment for a school which is performing well.
The new Mount Pleasant Primary School
The School Hall with Headteacher Naeem Nazir on the right
All classrooms equipped with smart boards

Artists impression

New School  on the left old School on the right

New classroom looking out on the old school

Friday, 13 October 2017

Speech to the EU Committee of the Regions on Locally Determined Contributions to address Climate Change

After a lengthy process my Opinion to the EU Committee of the Regions on the EU Environmental Implementation Review was dealt with in a few minutes. The clause on establishing Locally and Regionally Determined Contributions to tackle Climate Change was opposed by a minority of groups but people within both those groups worked on my behalf to argue for them for which I am very  grateful. The votes on 3 amendments to the report ( 2 of which sought to remove LDCs/RDCs) were defeated. Now LDCs/RDCs will be a key message of the EU Committee of the Regions as we work towards the COP23 Climate Summit in Bonn in November. Onwards.

Lockwood footpath cleared of vegetation

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Councillors Julie Stewart Turner and Karen Allison's visit to Newsome Junior School

Councillors Julie Stewart-Turner and Karen Allison visited Newsome Junior School to answer questions from pupils today as part of Local Democracy Week.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

EU Committee of the Regions backs Local Targets on Climate Change

The EU Committee of the Regions, (the body that represents the views of Local and Regional Government in the European Union) today backed an innovative new way of giving Local and Regional Government the ability to contribute directly towards the Paris Climate Goals that were agreed 2 years ago.

The Carbon Savings agreed as part of the COP23 Paris Climate Agreement were made up of Nationally Determined Contributions where national Governments decided what level of carbon savings they could commit to. It has become clear that the emission reductions agreed are not sufficient to limit the rise in global temperatures rise to 1.5 to 2 degrees risking runaway climate change on a global scale.

The proposal by Green Party Councillor Andrew Cooper is to establish Locally Determined Contributions which will enable Councils and Regional bodies around the world the ability to produce their own carbon reduction plans to contribute directly into the Paris Climate goals. This could help bridge the gap between the carbon savings so far identified and those that we need to limit climate change to survivable.

Councillor Cooper said,

“I am really pleased that the EU Committee of the Regions has got behind this proposal today. We can now take this forward to the COP23 Climate Change Summit in November and see if we can get it accepted as a global proposal empowering Local and Regional Governments around the world to take action on climate change.

 As a UK member of the EU Committee of the Regions if we can get Locally Determined Contributions adopted as a global concept then it will be applicable to the UK, Brexit or no Brexit

Another benefit of this proposal is that it enables Individual States in the USA the ability to act on climate change despite the Trump Presidency’s decision not to ratify the Paris Climate Agreement. 

The EU Committee of the Regions will use its contacts with the US Conference of Mayors to ensure local action works for global benefit happens regardless of the opinions of the US National Government”.

Briefing Note on Locally Determined Contributions

Monday, 9 October 2017

PRESS RELEASE Eagle eyed Parish Councillors save Kirklees Library Service £12,000

Kirkburton Parish Councillors Steve Beresford and Robert Barraclough have saved Kirklees Library Services £12,000 by spotting on omission on Kirkburton Library’s finances.

 Parish Councillor Steve Beresford noticed that Kirklees had not claimed Rural Rate Relief on Kirkburton Library for the last 2 years and asked fellow Parish Councillor Robert Barraclough to take it up with Kirklees. Robert raised the issue with Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper and the error was quickly rectified and the money claimed back by Kirklees officers.

Robert Barraclough said “Credit to Steve Beresford. As a former Kirklees Senior Finance officer he has the background and the knowledge to spot these sort of errors. The rural rate relief is vital to ensure we have a strong business case for retaining Kirkburton Library as a viable and valued local facility. We now need to get on with ensuring its future is secured for our local communities”

Kirklees Councillor Andrew Cooper said, “I’m glad this issue has now been rectified and I am told systems are now in place to ensure this issue doesn’t arise again. These mistakes will happen with large Government cuts to Kirklees budgets and experienced staff disappearing on an almost daily basis. I’m glad that there are Parish Councillors like Steve and Robert doing positive thing like this to keep money in rural areas in difficult financial times.”

Public Use Piano for Huddersfield Railway Station

Really pleased my idea to get a public use piano for Huddersfield Railway Station has become a reality.

The piano has been donated by Chas Ball who chairs the Board of Marsden Jazz Festival and was the Green Party Candidate for Colne Valley in the 2015 General Election. It was a conversation with him and the Huddersfield Station Manager Andrew Croughan of Transpennine that made this happen.

I've seen pianos for use by commuters being played at Sheffield, Leeds and London St Pancras Stations and I was impressed by how they gave a showcase for local talent and entertained people on thier way to and from work. Huddersfield is a musical town with the Contemporary Music Festival, the Mrs Sunderland Music Competition and a plethora of music groups from a thriving Youth Music culture to well established groups such as Huddersfield Choral Society. Having a piano in one of the busiest railway stations in Yorkshire will provide entertainment  to thousands of travellers and be a new element to the musical culture of our Town.

Talking to the Station staff it really adds something to their day. They see a commuter walk towards the piano and wonder what tune might appear. One morning during the busy commute to work someone sat down and played the theme to 'The Walking Dead'. I guess there was some irony there.

I'm now thinking about other places in Huddersfield we might have public use pianos. Any ideas?

Huddersfield Station Piano being played to help launch Marsden Jazz Festival

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Return to Kirby Misperton

Feeling a bit nostalgic today as I headed back to Kirby Misperton for the first time since beginning the 120 mile No Fracking Way trek there in March. Going along the same roads we walked when we began the walk and when I was quietly wondering what I'd let myself in for.

Today was a positive day. Green Party Co-Leader Jonathan Bartley was doing a visit to the Fracking site to lend his support the dedicated band of anti fracking Protectors (not just Protestors). What was very apparent was the excessive police presence on site. They lined up outside the gated entrance to the Fracking site and we lined up alongside them for a photocall with Jonathan. On a whim I suggested a Mexican Wave and said once the wave had got to the end of the protectors then the Police might want to join in once it reached them. We tried it a couple of times but they weren't playing and stubbonly stood there with their arms folded. "Boo! You're no fun!" To be fair I guess they were just trying to be 'professional' but they could have lightened up a bit.

Despite the lack of Mexican Wave participation today was not a day when relations between the Police and protestors were at a particularly low point. We've seen some real lows at the Preston New Road fracking site near Blackpool and also with the first arrests at Kirby Misperton. Some of the policing has been videoed and has been, lets say, 'heavy handed' and definitely out of proportion to, what have been predominantly peaceful protests. This Policing has to be expensive and is being bankrolled by central government in these times of limited public funding. I asked one of the Police what he would be doing if he wasn't here today and he told me he would be dealing with day to day issues such as domestic violence, attending burgalry scenes etc.

The Scottish Government  successfully voted to ban Fracking today further demonstrating that the United Kingdom is far from united on yet another issue. This further fuels my, admittedly unrealistic, fantasy of Yorkshire becoming annexed to an Independent Scotland free of dominance by largely southern based, public school educated Tories. We are having to fight our London based Government here while the Scottish people are supported in their opposition to Fracking by their Government. Just doesn't feel right.

There is real opposition to Fracking from people across the political spectrum. The Conservative Government is out of touch even with its own electoral base on this issue. A large number of the people there today were retired and some had definitely not been active campaigners before. Fracking is producing a new form of useful productive energy, but it is not what was intended. It is people power and it will grow.