Common Sense, Integrity and National Harmony

In My View… by Simon Parker of South East Cornwall Labour Party

A few days before the European elections, a Labour poster in the back window of my car was obscured by a large Union Jack sticker. I don’t know who stuck it there – or why. Had it been another party’s poster pasted over mine, I’d have considered it legitimate political rough and tumble. But this felt different – and troubling.

What was the sticker meant to imply? Was it saying the Labour Party is in some way un-British? Because if that was the intent, it’s way off beam. Labour, in office, works to implement policies to improve the lives of everyone in this country – and you can’t get more ‘British’ than that.

No one needs another history lesson about Labour’s creation of the welfare state and the National Health Service, but it’s also worth remembering the party’s more recent achievements. I’m no fan of Tony Blair and in particular his disastrous invasion of Iraq, but it should not be forgotten that during his premiership Labour brought in a huge raft of social justice legislation, including record spending on health and education, the minimum wage, tax credits for the working poor, increased police numbers, and support for renewable energy – not to mention sustained state funding for the good things in life like sport, the arts, open spaces and nature conservancy. Looking back, it was a golden age.

All of those principles – helping the less fortunate, valuing world-class healthcare and education, espousing tolerance, celebrating our national culture and character – are quintessentially ‘British’ values.

I suspect the person who stuck a Union Jack over my Labour poster may support a party that likes to fly the symbols of ‘Britishness’ while displaying none of the qualities. It is not ‘British’ to be intolerant, it is not ‘British’ to be isolationist, it is not ‘British’ to favour a powerful elite over working people, it is not ‘British’ to make others feel unwelcome, and it is not ‘British’ to suppress free speech with the crude gesture of a national flag sticker.

We saw the result of this shift away from traditional British values after the votes were counted at the weekend: the horrifying fact is that many in this country lent their support – albeit perhaps as a temporary gesture of frustration – to the far-right. Is that really who we, the British, have become?

Just for a moment, think back to the opening ceremony of the London Olympics in the summer of 2012. Remember the joy, the music, the innovation, the tolerance, the dynamism, the specialness, the industry, the inclusivity, the hope? We all felt proud to be British that day. Then ask yourself this: has that true spirit of ‘Britishness’ really been swept away by a fairytale party’s notion of something as abstract as ‘sovereignty’? And wouldn’t we all, in our heart of hearts, really rather return to a golden era, epitomised by the London Olympics, when a progressive, forward-looking country, at ease with itself, was the envy of the world?

That sense of a society at peace is what Labour is trying to achieve. Perhaps poorly expressed, certainly misrepresented by those with malevolent agendas, Labour’s message of common sense, integrity and national harmony needs more than ever to be heard if we are to regain our proper sense of ‘Britishness’.

First published in the Cornish Times, 31/05/19

Candidates Seeking CLP Nominations 2019

The following is a list of all those seeking nominations from CLPs to national positions on Labour’s Conference Arrangements Committee and National Constitutional Committee; along with the organisations, if any, who have endorsed them. SE Cornwall CLP members will be given the chance to vote for any of these people (up to two for the CAC and up to three for the NCC) at a meeting on 5th June. Click on the names to download their statements.

Conference Arrangements Committee

Seema Chandwani (endorsed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance)

Judi Billing (endorsed by Labour First)

Katie Curtis (endorsed by Labour First)

Billy Hayes (endorsed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance)

National Constitutional Committee

Emma Burnell (endorsed by Open Labour)

Joanne Harding (endorsed by Labour First)

Gary Heather (endorsed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance)

Jabrain Hussain (endorsed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance)

Steve Lapsley (endorsed by Open Labour)

Stephen Marks (endorsed by the Centre-Left Grassroots Alliance)

Kirat Singh (endorsed by Labour First)

Gillian Troughton (endorsed by Labour First)

Background Information

What are the committees? The Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC) makes decisions about the running of the party’s national conference. The National Constitutional Committee (NCC) makes decisions on disciplinary cases within the Party (for example where members have been suspended due to allegations of antisemitism, inappropriate political activity or bullying).

Why make CLP nominations? Nominations are used to determine who gets on the ballot with every candidate needing to get above a particular threshold. But beyond this, nominations are mainly symbolic as all these positions are elected via separate votes either of members in the case of the CAC or of conference delegates in the case of the NCC. However, nominations are a key way of signalling support for candidates and of increasing members’ understanding the structures and committees that make up our party. For the NCC, they also provide a guide for our conference delegates in how to vote, as the NCC members will be chosen by delegates at party conference. CAC members will be chosen by a one-member-one-vote ballot of all Labour Party members over the summer.

Procedure for nominations: Each CLP is allowed to nominate up to two people for the CAC and up to three for the NCC; and we will choose our nominees by paper ballot at the meeting on 5th June. Only members of SE Cornwall CLP may vote.

Not Just Climate Change…

In My View… by Patrick O’Sullivan, Energy and Environment Coordinator, SE Cornwall Labour

There never was such a year for blossom; at least not for some time. Everywhere blackthorn, wild cherry and now domestic fruit trees are making a wonderful show. And the warmest April for seventy years coincided with two weeks of Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in London, and the visit of Greta Thunberg, the sixteen-year-old Swede who began School Strikes for Climate. Are these indicators of climate change? Probably not! Short-term weather variations are not themselves signs of climate change, a process which operates on rather longer time scales.

And as the new Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services IPBES report indicates, the problem is not just climate change, but global mass extinction of species, some of whom, for example bees and hoverflies, are key pollinators of precisely those blossoms we are currently enjoying. And I sometimes wonder just how much of this extinction is due to the lack of joined-up thinking I observe operating locally at precisely this time of year.

Most springs, an extensive bloom of what we used to call Lady’s Smocks or Cuckoo Flowers (when there were cuckoos!) flourishes along the verges and roundabouts in Plymouth Road, Liskeard, especially alongside Morrison’s and Argos. Yet in each of the last three years, someone has mowed these areas flat, just as those flowers were in full bloom, or about to set seed. And just last week it happened again! Why? Disappearance of such species from farmland means that nowadays, road margins and roundabouts are some of the most important habitats for wild flowers and their pollinators, and surely should be managed as such. But to me, many mowing policies now in operation, despite various local councils’ formal commitments to biodiversity, seem designed to achieve the opposite, serving only to favour vigourous, deep-rooted species such as docks and dandelions.

When I mention this and other episodes of casual destruction of wild flowers in full bloom, or their habitats, to local councillors, I discover that questions of who is responsible for such policies are often complex. But if we are to manage local habitats so that key species are not extinguished by default, we surely need to rationalise administrative systems so that areas of responsibility are clear, with the emphasis on empowering local communities. Fortunately, Labour’s current National Policy Consultation includes proposals on Local Economic Development which include a commission whose aim is increasing the power of communities to shape development of their local areas with just such issues in mind.

Meanwhile, is there anything we ourselves can do? In the case of mature lawns, we can keep mowers or strimmers off them until at least mid-June, so that any spring flowers present have the chance to bloom, and also set seed. Or why not sow these areas, or any new lawns, with wild flower seeds, and manage them as ‘bee and blossom’ gardens? Plenty of organisations will supply us. And we can try to resist those urges to ‘tidy up’ unkempt bits of garden or allotment. Tidiness is, in many ways, the enemy of wild nature!

First published in The Cornish Times, 17/05/19

Lostwithiel Music Fundraiser Great Success!

A very big “Thank You ” to everyone who helped to make the Lostwithiel Labour May Fundraiser such a fantastic success. It was really encouraging to get such a good turn out and to see so many members from other branches and our neighbouring constituencies. Many pasties were eaten, drinks drunk, delicious home-made cakes kept appearing, the raffle kept growing, and a packed Social Club danced the night away or applauded from the sidelines.

Lots of you supported the event in many different ways, baking cakes, donating raffle prizes and helping run the event, so thank you very much.

A huge thank you to Tony Taylor, and to The Gumbo Flyers for creating such a fantastic atmosphere with their wonderful music. Special thanks to Tony and Oscar who waived their fee for playing, and to the other Gumbos who supported us by played for a reduced fee. They gained quite a few new fans!

Thanks also to Lostwithiel Social Club for making us so welcome.

A Massive and Necessary Wake-up Call

In My View… by Simon Parker of South East Cornwall Labour Party

The contrast in response to the biggest threat facing humanity could not have been more stark. On the one hand The Cornish Times reported the thoughtful and informed views of Jemma Knowles and Ele Waters, two members of Extinction Rebellion who travelled from their homes in South East Cornwall to London for a 10-day campaign of direct action to highlight the effects of climate change. On the other was our local MP, who dismissed the concerns of climate change activists with this statement: ‘It would be better if they channelled their effort into litter picks and other things to make a positive impact.’

I don’t know if Mrs Murray was being deliberately obtuse or whether she simply doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation, but her comments were yet another example of her party’s inability to do what it was elected to do and paid to do: listen to the issues that concern constituents and act in their best interests.

Most people locally will have been impressed by those from across Cornwall who gave up days off, or took holiday leave, to make their point on behalf of the rest of us by creating a peaceful public nuisance in the capital – and in some cases being arrested as a result. Anyone who’s been arrested during a peaceful protest will know it’s not to be taken lightly and that being placed in a cell can be a frightening experience. So three cheers to those who stood up and were counted on behalf of us all.

What’s the point, you might ask, of these acts of nonviolent direct action? After all, politicians have been ignoring the threat of impending climate change for decades. Mrs Murray herself put it like this: ‘This is something the government is taking very seriously.’ Really? Does that include savage Tory cuts to renewable energy providers which the Environmental Audit Committee told MPs will threaten the UK’s climate change targets for the next decade? I’m not sure how that constitutes taking the issue ‘very seriously’. Or is it just another example of this failed government and its MPs ignoring the views of the majority by putting their fingers in their ears and saying: ‘La-la-la.’

Fortunately, the issues raised by climate change campaigners are being listened to by the general public. But our tiny personal actions and changes in behaviour are not enough on their own to make any significant difference to whether global temperatures rise, carbon emissions leap, or turtles are strangled by waste plastic.

We need governments to act and to act now – and the Labour Party’s commitment to forcing a vote in Parliament this week to declare a national environmental and climate change emergency is both timely and vital.

Jeremy Corbyn described the wave of protests orchestrated by Extinction Rebellion as ‘a massive and necessary wake-up call’ that demanded ‘rapid and dramatic action, which only concerted government action and a green industrial revolution can deliver’. He said that if Parliament backed the move and became the first national legislature to declare a climate emergency it would ‘trigger a wave of action from governments around the world’ – which certainly sounds a lot more like ‘taking it very seriously’ than a litter pick!

First published in the Cornish Times, 03/05/19