The US elections (and their aftermath), covered as we do African elections

Always good to take a different points of view.

mohamed el dahshan. economist, writer, speaker, compulsive traveller.

Had to be done (actually surprised it hasn’t already):

Writing about the latest US elections like US media writes about African countries.


**COUNTRY CRISIS WATCH** [insert CNN “breaking news” type of jingle]

The US of A, a nation located in the center of the North American continent, is shaken by its latest electoral results, which threaten the weak racial equilibrium the nation has painstakingly built since the abolition of racial segregation, a mere half a century ago, thus heralding a fresh round of racial tensions and social instability.

Donald Trump, a local TV star and known megalomaniac who has repeatably admitted to sexual assault and is known for exotic hairdos and inexplicably poor vocabulary, has risen to unlikely prominence on the back of a populist wave, which saw him make unattainable promises to the large swathes of the population reeling from economic difficulties, blaming them on local minorities and foreign trade…

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The need for Progressive Alliances & Proportional Representation

I hate living in Tory land. We have a Tory government, Tory local councils in Richmond and Kingston and up until Zac Goldsmith’s disastrous mayoral campaign, a Tory mayor. At least we can thank Zac for that – we now have a Labour mayor. Of course, I’d prefer a Green one, but better a left of centre one, than right-wing, anti-EU, pro-austerity Zac Goldsmith.

And, of course, I’d prefer to have Green MP in Richmond Park. I would have liked that to be me, but despite increasing our vote by 6% in 2015, we are not the party with the infrastructure or the funds to take Zac down. And, that’s what elections under our First Past the Post system are all about – who has the biggest backers and who has the biggest army. The Conservatives spent twice as much on the 2010 general election than Labour, that’s £12million to £6million. In the Witney by-election the LibDems gathered over 1,000 supporters to pound the streets for their candidate.

Currently, the Green Party can’t match the other parties for spending prowess or people power, but should this stop us from getting our message to the voter. I don’t think so. In the General Election I used to tell voters at hustings and on the door step to look at and see how their views matched the parties. The Green Party would routinely come out on top. When I talk to people about what we stand for they get it, when I speak at hustings people get us. People get the Green Party, but they just don’t get to vote for us in a meaningful way. When they do, you can see the results – our Mayoral candidate was placed third and as a party we came third. But we can’t even hope to replicate that result here in Richmond Park. Why, because here, under First Past the Post, it ends up being a race between the two front runners.

It has been like this for 15 years or more, in the Richmond Park constituency Labour and Green voters are disenfranchised. When I was pushing a Labour candidate on Friday last week not put themselves forward, they said: “but we must give our members someone to vote for”. Why? The reality for many people here is a choice between putting a cross next to what the commentators call the “holding your nose while you vote for someone you don’t believe in’ option to stop what I call the “please no, never in a million years” proposition.

So, if we’d stood, what would have happened. Chances are our vote would have been squeezed as people chose the supposedly independent Zac Goldsmith or the LibDem Sarah Olney. What impact would that have, minimal you might think. Well no, for our activists it would have been disheartening after the work we’d put in. To voters it would make us look like a party going nowhere. And looking towards the 2018 local council elections where we have greater chance of success, a poor result now would have had wider ramifications on the alliances we’ve already been working on.

And, that’s the crux of this matter for Greens in Richmond and Kingston. This election is not just about Heathrow, Brexit and a Conservative-UKIP candidate masquerading as an independent, it’s about our chance of winning council seats in 2018. We have already been talking with local parties in Richmond borough about how to end Tory domination of our council, so not standing a candidate now – which also gives all voters in this constituency a clearer path to getting rid of Zac – is part of those negotiations. And, when we spoke to the LibDems in Kingston about our decision to stand down, they immediately recognised the sacrifice we’d be making and offered to set up talks about ‘smart targeting’ for Kingston wards in 2018.

We have to do this to improve representation for residents. Our democracy shouldn’t be a binary choice. No one party truly reflects an individual’s views, and when the only way to get your voice heard it to pick between ‘worst and less worse’ or ‘best and next best’ (depending on your viewpoint) then we have an electoral system that’s failing its people.

And it seems to me that this failure is partly responsible for the referendum outcome. People voted against the EU in protest, people voted OUT because their voices hadn’t been heard for years, people voted to leave because they thought it didn’t matter how you voted for, things stayed the same. Yet, now, because of our ‘winner takes all democracy’ just over 1.2million votes have determined we leave the EU. Brexit, if it actually happens, is as close to a revolution as you can get. Fixing our country needs equally radical steps, and by not standing a candidate in Richmond Park, we are taking the first one.

We the Greens don’t want to consigned to being a protest party trapped by our unequal electoral system, we want to be on the right side of history and change our country for the better, for ourselves and for generations to come. I call on other parties across the country to follow our example and create progressive alliances across the country so that the day after the next General Election we still don’t wake up in Tory Land.

Labour, LibDems and the Greens, need to realise that no one opposition can win the next General Election. We need to co-operate, now, because the country is in a dire state – climate change, refugees, NHS, Brexit, Heathrow – and we need to fix it, not leave a divided, broken country for the next generation.

Dear Hillary: How Very Dare You!

Really pleased to read this analysis as I’ve never understood the general dislike for Hilary.

Social Justice For All

HillaryLet me be as candid and transparent as possible: I was a very strong supporter of Bernie Sanders, and until the past four weeks, held out great hope that he would become our next President. Over the course of the past month, I have had to do a great deal of reflecting and ask myself where does this seemingly irrational antipathy for Hillary Clinton come from? Why have I participated in it? After doing some research and looking hard at systemic misogyny, I have had to confront myself with the truth that I bought into a narrative about Hillary Clinton that has been produced, packaged, and perpetuated by mostly the GOP with the help of many democrats and independents.

This narrative is a 30-year-old vilification of a woman who is bright, independent, wealthy, and powerful — a woman who asks for what she wants and needs. How very dare you…

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A fight for the soul of the UK

Is today the day we throw off the shackles of our imperial past and yearning for the yesteryear of our so-called glorious colonies? Will we finally turn our back on 20th century-style politics that blames the immigrant, the Jew, the Muslim, the black, the Asian, the OTHER for our problems?

I truly hope so. I want today to be the day we forge a new future, where the UK is a willing and enthusiastic member of the group of European nations who have come together to make the world better. It is impossible to isolationist. It is possible to be inclusionist. As Jo Cox said: “whilst we celebrate our diversity, the thing that surprises me time and time again as I travel around the constituency is we are far more united and have far more in common than that which divides us”.

Change ‘constituency’ for ‘Europe’ or the ‘World’ and the same is true. People want peace. They need security. We want to provide shelter and food for our families and loved ones. It’s that simple.

And the best way to provide that is when we work together. Humans are social animals that need to come together in groups to achieve the best solutions for everyone. When we put our individual needs over and above anyone else’s – whether as people or nations – that’s when we come unstuck. Fighting for the common good, not each other, will achieve a country and a world that helps everyone. We should embrace our role in Europe and the EU, not reject it.

Poverty is the problem, not the EU 

It’s not often I really put fingers to the typepad to record my thoughts. All too many times they stay in my head swirling around without being given order and coherence by the discipline of writing them out. Why? Fear of ridicule and criticism. Awareness that my ideas do not have the cogency that other greater brains offer. Worry that my writing abilities are not sufficiently honed.

Others, it seems are less concerned and consequently have greater purchase on the national conscience than I. One such person is Nigel Farage, who has no qualms about writing autobiographical tomes and holding forth on his least favourite subject – the EU. As leader of a right-wing party with few elected representatives, I would have expected him to be ignored as an extremist and hypocrite. He’s an MEP who wants to take the UK out of the EU. He’s funded by the very organisation he loathes. It seems an extreme way to get a job in the House of Commons – bring down the institution that pays you. Instead he’s given air time, reams of print and pages and pages of web stories. Why? 

This loner with-off-the-wall views should have been laughed out of court and sent back to the Brussels to do his job properly, ie represent the best interests of the UK. This megalomaniac is just what the Union of European nations was designed to ensure can never hold sway again. This egotist is exactly what democracy is meant to quell. And yet, the right-wing of the Tory party, the dispossessed of England and the racists have given his chummy rhetoric credence and substance, so here we are – being forced into a referendum which most sensible people realise they do not have enough knowledge about to make an informed decision.

What I have really found hard to put into words is why I want to say in the EU. In some ways, it’s as simple as: we’re part of the European continent, island or no, so we should be part of the EU. In others, it’s more of a philosophical concept about being part of the group and being involved with those we live next to. In an Guardian article, Rupert Bache, an ex-pat (not immigrant!) in France for 27 years, put it perfectly: “I’ve always thought neighbouring countries working together positively was just … sensible. Neighbouring countries not working together is what killed the men – former pupils – whose names were all along the corridor at school.”

There are plenty of problems in the UK, but immigration and our relationship with the EU are not the cause of them. Inequality and poor life chances are just two of the fundamental problems facing this country, and they will NOT be improved by leaving the EU and stopping immigration. They will only be changed when UK governments tackle them through bringing up deprived areas, improving education for all, progressive taxes on big business and the top 1%, a mass homebuilding programme, and investment in infrastructure in areas with poor connectivity. 

Sadly, since the turn of the century, successive governments have been unable or uwilling to take on these challenges so the poorest of our country have been left behind, and in many cases made poorer, as the rise of food banks show. When people despair they look for someone and something to blame. Immigrants – as ever was – are the easiest target and the EU its partner in crime. In this they have been aided by a press that seemingly revels in stirring up discontent and finger-pointing, and led by a mean-spirited, ego-maniac with a fine line in oratory.

I hope against hope that on Friday 24th June we will wake up to still being part of the EU and the community of our neighbours. When that happens, I trust Nigel Farage will do the honourable thing – and move to Germany with his wife and leave us all alone.

Taking Action on Air Pollution

Very similar to my own views. I thought the Plan was very thin overall.

Kingston Cycling Campaign

By Jon Fray for the Kingston Cycling Campaign

At the beginning of January the Kingston Cycling Campaign (KCC) responded to Kingston Council’s ten page draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), pointing out a number of concerns and omissions. The Plan correctly identified that most of the air pollution is caused by road traffic and acknowledged that domestic and industrial boilers and other sources also contribute to high levels of oxides of nitrogen and particulates. Maps in the Plan show that those pollutants were concentrated on busy roads, especially along the route of the A3 and the Kingston Town Centre, which won’t be a surprise to anyone.

Bike Parking - CopyRoad space reallocation: 10 bikes can be parked in the space taken by one kerbside car

We found the Plan to be lacking in ambition in that it did not seem to address the issues of high levels of traffic but settled for actions such…

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