Monday, March 30, 2015

Saturday night to Sunday morning as the clocks go forward

Busy weekend: What a great turnout on Saturday at the Stop The Incinerator fundraiser in Beddington. I was invited to say a few words during the interval - whilst speaking I thought to myself there's a lot of people out there! The event finished quite late. On Sunday we were campaigning in South Norwood at 10am (9am in reality - clocks went forward)!

Stop The Incinerator fundraiser in Beddington Village Hall

South Norwood Action Team

Tags ,

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Selhurst by-election reaction

A few years ago we had some work done on our kitchen and dining room. A wall was knocked through, some bricklaying done and new kitchen fitted. I actually knocked up a video of the transformation!

After the work was completed there were some bags of rubbish and building materials, such as a bag and half of sand, that remained in our back garden. It remained in our garden for a while. Occasionally I thought I had better take the rubbish to Factory Lane Waste Transfer and Recycling Centre, but it was usually after a downpour and I figured I didn't want to carry the soaking bags of rubbish through the house. Such is the way the mind works, after a few weeks/months one forgets that its an unsightly pile of rubbish and instead it becomes almost a fixture of the garden. Anyway, I eventually removed it.

The important fact is that apart from our household, no one else had to view the rubbish on our property.

The Selhurst By-Election in a funny way reminded me how as residents of Selhurst, I had become oblivious to rubbish. Rubbish had become a fixture.

On the final Sunday before the election we had an Action Morning in the ward. A couple of our colleagues from Carshalton joined us. Here we are all just before we set out:

After the session our colleagues from across the borough boundary, who were leafleting in a different part of the ward, mentioned that there was a lot of rubbish about in Selhurst. This usually means flytip rubbish, but they qualified their observation by explaining it was on peoples properties. Rather defensively, I said it comes from living in a densely populated transient area, with high levels of rental accommodation.

The sheer fact is that I am used to the rubbish on the streets and in peoples front gardens, and almost more fixated with flytipped rubbish which I constantly report using the My Croydon App. However, for people living in Carshalton, Selhurst in comparison must seemed like a depressingly rubbish ridden area but my senses are more accustomed and accepting to it.

Since the election I am a whole lot more acutely aware of visible rubbish that is not on public highways. Behind fences seems to be common location. Therefore, not on a public highway, instead pushed through a gap in a fence on to someones land to remain in perpetuity, away from the highway thus removing it from the responsibility of the council contractors.

Here are a couple of examples that are destined to remain indefinitely [I have attempted to ensure the property cannot be identified].

I assume the occupiers of the above properties may well be short term tenants who probably feel it is not there responsibility to clean up the mess left by previous occupiers . Equally, It maybe the case like me with the rubbish in my garden, the present occupiers have become oblivious to the rubbish.

Something that one can also be oblivious about is elections in Selhurst. Over 80 per cent of the electorate did not vote.The fact of the matter is Labour have embarrassingly huge majorities in several wards in north Croydon. The winning candidate David Ward has a job for life. All he has to do is ensure the members of the Labour party who live in Selhurst are kept on side. Thereafter it's an easy ride knowing once selected, you will be elected.

Tracey did really well. She polled only 98 votes behind the Conservative candidate and finished unexpectedly ahead of UKIP [okay by one vote] and the Lib Dems. The declaration is here.


David Wood - LAB - 1517

Tirena Gunter - CON - 246

Tracey Hague - GREEN -148

Annette Reid - UKIP - 147

Geoff Morley - LIBDEM - 65 

Turnout 18.6 per cent

Tags ,

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The stall, then and now

 I do find myself getting quite nostalgic about Green Party activity, partly because as the General Election campaign moves into full swing mode, it's hard not compare with previous elections.

On Saturday (21st Feb) Esther Sutton, Peter Underwood and Bernice Golberg had set up the stall from 10am. I was rostered for an afternoon shift, and as usual the opportunity to joust with an anthropogenic global warming sceptic, meet the South African gentleman, who from memory has visited every stall we have done, and exchange email addresses with the Chair of the local mosque just goes to show the old ways of communicating are still effective in this new media age.

There was also plenty of interest in the No to Waddon Motorways campaign that Peter has taken a lead on.

When I arrived at the stall for my stint I noticed the stall was in front of HMV. In the recent past we've been positioned right in the centre of the pedestrian zone, but we've also pitched up on this spot before. I had a look through some old images on my old pc and found a picture which confirms this!

Photo taken on 22nd May 2004

Photo taken on 21st February 2015

Tags ,

Friday, February 06, 2015

Vote Hague for Selhurst

Tracey Hague 4 Selhurst

At a packed local meeting on Monday just gone, Tracey was selected as Green Party candidate. The press release below will go up on the web site.

Press release immediate
Vote Hague For Selhurst
Croydon Green Party has selected its co-leader, Tracey Hague, as their candidate for the Selhurst by election.  
Croydon born and bred, Tracey Hague’s career went from a Dance degree via working in the family hotel to becoming a qualified and experienced project manager in the energy sector. As mother of 2 young children she knows the pressures parents face.  An experienced campaigner on environmental and animal rights issues, she has championed health issues - including 3 years on the Scrutiny sub-committee for health, housing and social care.  
Commenting on her selection, Tracey said, “Croydon Council is made up entirely of Labour and Conservative councillors. It needs an alternative, desperately. We have watched with amazement how Labour councillors campaigned against an incinerator in opposition and now in power sanction it; state they have no intention of closing Purley swimming pool if elected in 2014 and now in power threaten to close it; and call for a moratorium on new developments in London Road in ward hustings and now in power carry on developing. Voters must be wondering what the difference is between Labour and Conservative. We need some other colours in the Town Hall so residents are listened to.”
She continued, “The recent surge in membership nationally is being felt locally, up from 76 to 236 within a year (1). Our national polling has shot up as well. The public like the fact that the Green Party wants politics to work for people and not for big business.”
(     1)  – 236 members on 3rd February

Tags ,

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

How the #greensurge is being experienced locally

Back in the twilight of our blink and you’ve missed it English Summer, there were some extraordinary bumps in Green Party membership which were unprecedented. I remember speaking to former London Coordinator Noel Lynch in October about the causation. He explained that three key factors within the UK had triggered this change. The first was the European Election results. Winning a third MEP was in the grand scheme of things quite a minor achievement. However, the Lib Dems had only won two MEPs. The second was the Scottish Referendum which opened up the political spectrum. The Scottish Green Party campaigned for a 'Yes' vote and experienced a massive boost in membership. Finally, not being included in the TV debates was the start of a wave which just hasn’t stopped. In recent weeks Call me Dave Cameron has helped boost our exposure further, resulting in a big jump in memberships and in the opinion polls.
There has been widespread coverage of the so called ‘green surge’.  Recent opinion polls have seen the Green Party at 10 per cent, with one Ashcroft poll showing the party at 11 per cent. Additionally, the party’s  membership has jumped from 15,000 to 50000 in England & Wales in space of a year, overtaking Liberal Democrat and UKIP memberships in the process.  This national phenomenon is also being felt locally. A year ago the party had 76 members in Croydon. It now has have 227, rising by the day. 


Later in the aforementioned press release I make the comment that among 18-24 year olds, the party is polling 22 per cent. STOP PRESS – we are now at 29 per cent!

To say that the situation is fluid is an understatement! To give readers a flavour, here are reasons why four new members have joined:

Kathryn Turner

"I work in environmental science and have always been passionate about ecological sustainability. I just thought that now's the time to get active locally. I am particularly interested in local recycling. Yes the levels of recycling are good in our borough but there are ways to improve the efficiency."

Stefan Szczelkun

"I never thought I would end up joining a political party but I've finally done it in my in my 67th year on this planet! For a while I’ve realised that the Green Party represents the most well thought out policies in the UK. You can say I am broadly a left wing voter but Labour is now weak on left leaning policies. The Green party is the only party that is anti -austerity. I’ve even helped out the local party in the past but never joined. When I noticed on Facebook the numbers of members were going up, I thought it was about time I took the plunge."

Natalie Milsom

"I am excited to be part of the Green Party. We can see all around the system isn't working. Thankfully, the Green Party offers real solutions to the problems we face, especially when it comes to the environment and inequality. We have to come to the stage where we have to say enough is enough. I usually vote Labour but feel they do not represent ordinary people anymore. The Green Party is more aligned to what I believe in."

Kristian Gregory

“I always knew the Greens shared my values more closely than Labour but I thought Labour had a better chance of winning and were a good compromise. However, when I realised Labour policy was almost identical to that of the Conservatives I knew I had to stop compromising and join the Green Party"


Tags ,

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bring The Railways Back Into Public Ownership

Grace Onions and me outside East Croydon Station on 5th January

On the morning the increased rail fares kicked in, local Greens leafleted outside* a couple of railway stations in the borough to promote our, 'Bring The Railways Back Into Public Ownership' campaign. This was part of a national campaign. There is distinction between public ownership and re-nationalised. I personally, don't won't to see the railways go back to the old days of a state owned model and would like to see users and employees of Southern railways, for example, also being the owners - much like a cooperative - where the profits are reinvested back in to the service not into shareholders pockets or even state owned companies of our European neighbours (as they are now).

*I got in to a spot of bother when I was leafleting right beside the florist in front of East Croydon station. Two security officials approached me and asked me if I had a license. I apologised and leafleted outside the Visitor Centre.

The full press release is here. I picked up the leaflets from Tom Chance the day before and he got some coverage here.

From Croydon Guardian

Green Candidate for Croydon South, Peter Underwood was quoted in the above article and Inside Croydon covered it here.

When launching her Private Members Bill to bring the railways into public hands, Caroline Lucas, Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion, said:
"At the moment our train network is run on a profit-making model that’s great for shareholders but terrible for passengers.  We have to put up with overcrowded trains, unreliable services, and some of the highest fares in Europe. Since privatisation, the cost of train travel has risen by 23% in real terms, and the drain on the public purse has more than doubled.
“The irony is that some of the biggest profiters are the state-owned rail companies of our European neighbours. Taxpayers’ money that should be reinvested into services is ending up in the hands of overseas shareholders. By taking back individual franchises when they expire, the Government could save over £1 billion a year every year.
“It’s time to end this rip-off and bring our railways back into public ownership.”
Caroline has also been gathering signatures at Brighton station for a formal 

Tags ,

Monday, December 22, 2014

Letter to Croydon South MP

My Christmas message to my MP, Sir Richard Ottaway (Conservative, Croydon South) sent the old fashioned way, in the post last week.
Dear Sir Richard,

This year I really don’t feel like Christmas. I can’t bear the thought of being part if it. But I am socially obliged have grin and bear it, even to pretend I enjoy it, counting the minutes for this hypocritical feast to be over. The reason is that friends have emailed me two recent documents:
1) Feeding Britain: A strategy for zero hunger in England,
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The report of the All-Party. Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom
2) An Evidence Review for the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom. Compiled and written by Andrew Forsey, Secretary to the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the United Kingdom.
Document 2) is a summary of the evidence from which the conclusions and recommendations of document 1) are drawn. The findings in these reports are horrifying. The UK is still one of the richest countries on Earth and yet thousands of people, through no fault of their own and a great many in work, have to undergo the regular humiliation of asking for emergency food in charitable food banks. The reports make absolutely clear that in general the cause is poverty and living conditions caused by poverty. On page 8 of “Feeding Britain” is the statement:
“Let us therefore begin by stating the blindingly obvious. An individual is in danger of going hungry when they do not have enough money to buy enough food as their body requires. There are people in this very position right now in this country.”
When people who are already poor are suddenly deprived of regular income, e.g. though unemployment or other reasons why they have to rely on the benefits system, they have no reserves and they immediately experience acute hardship. The rock-solid evidence collected for these reports shows that delays in benefits processing some by design, some though incompetence and inefficiency, compounded by a capricious and arbitrarily administered sanctions system, are a major contributor to the large scale increase of hunger in this country.
I know that I have been very lucky. Every day of my life (and I am now 65) I have known where my next meal is coming from. But I was not born in this country and reading some of the evidence collected for these reports, I am reminded of what my parents lived though in 1944 – 45 in the Nazi occupied Netherlands: families reduced to having nothing, without heat, light and food in their home; people scavenging through refuse to try to find some thing edible, and so on. About 4.5 million people were affected
But this is the UK in 2014, a rich country, and now literally the same things are now happening here to many people. A number of submissions to the reports outlined how people had become so hungry that they resort, though sheer desperation, to stealing essential goods or scavenging through bins and skips behind food outlets, including parents and children. Others stated that families cannot cook the food they collect from a food bank when they get home because they have no cash to put in the pay as you go utility meters. The number of officially recorded medical primary and secondary diagnoses of malnutrition in England has risen from 3,161 in 2008 -2009 to 5,499 last year.
On page 17 the Report’s summary of evidence states “ (The) data would indicate that the number of people in this country who are at risk of going hungry may be in the region of four million.” I.e. hunger is beginning to affect people here on a similar scale as the early stages of the 1944-45 Dutch famine. The difference is of course that here the hungry are a minority, dispersed amongst the well-fed majority.
How could this possibly have come about? This country has easily enough food and other resources to enable everybody to have an adequate minimum standard of nutrition and generally adequate living conditions. We know from the thousands of volunteers who donate their time to run food banks and the millions of people who make donations to them that the British people are generally caring and compassionate by nature and didn’t want this to happen.
I also know that you and your government have been in power for almost five years and decided to let this situation develop without doing anything about it and callously and irresponsibly refused to collect the data and to compile the statistic on hunger in this country, so that this had to be done through private initiatives. You have adopted policies, as the reports make abundantly clear, which made the situation worse, and for ideological reasons even refused European Union aid to help the hungry.
In the spring of 1945 my country was not so fussy when very low flying RAF bombers– who couldn’t be sure that they would not be shot at - dropped British emergency food aid and saved many thousands of lives. We were just grateful and still are to this day. When I was young I have seen perfectly normal, sane and balanced men and women break down and burst into tears when they had cause to relive memories of those events. This is one of the things hunger can do to people.
There is no objective reason why anybody should go hungry in this country. I really don’t get it. Why do you hate the poor, the vulnerable, those who are badly paid in insecure jobs, those exploited by landlords so that they don’t have enough to live on, those unreasonably persecuted by sanctions and inadequate and delayed benefit payments, the unemployed, those who genuinely cannot work, and all their children? What have they ever done to you? Please explain it to me. Why do you hate these people so much?

Yours sincerely,

Tom Voƻte

Tags ,

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

A night out with the stars

A good while back a got a call from a Croydon Guardian reporter saying that I had been nominated for the Croydon Guardian Croydon Champions Community Champion award. The reporter told me that a friend had nominated me, primarily for my efforts in trying to stop the incinerator. The reporter basically asked me to sell myself, not something I find easy to do.

The sales pitch appeared in the Croydon Guardian a couple of weeks later. Then about a month ago, I was advised by email I was one of the three finalists for the Community Champion award. This came as a surprise because the stop the incinerator campaign can be quite political at times. However, I think my other bits of community campaigning added weight to my nomination. I was sent two tickets to the ceremony at the Hilton Hotel.

The awards are now in their 13th year which gives an indication of how they have become a major annual event. I went along with my dad. When I got there I recognised one or two faces including Robert Gibson from Save Upper Norwood Library. He was there as a nominee for Team Of The Year. Robbie and I had an opportunity to have a good catch up on our respective campaigns after the ceremony.

The winner of the Community Champion award was one of the first to be announced. The format was that the guest who opened the envelope,in our case Nick Hitchens, Assistant Editor of the Croydon Guardian, announced the Highly Commended award and then the winner. Nick announced Fred Wallis first as Highly Commended. Mr Wallis was influential in stopping Purley Swimming Pool from closure. Therefore, the winner was either Fatima Koroma or yours truly. When an audio was played of each of the nominees, I immediately felt that Fatima should win. She founded Croydon Foodbank and works there everyday.

Three finalists for Community Champion on screen (my dad in the foreground)

My heart started beating fast as the announcement was about to be made for the winner. To my relief Fatima won! Everyone on my table turned to offer me commiserations. It was all a bit surreal, it felt like being at the OSCARS!! I didn't feel unlucky at all. I was honoured and humbled to be on the shortlist. Fatima is a deserved winner and I genuinely would have felt embarrassed if I had won. We exchanged messages via twitter afterwards.

The night progressed with one amazing trio of unsung heroes after another vying for their respective award. A wheelchair bound man sitting on the same table as me won the Sporting Champion award. Ten years ago this bus driver was left paralysed after being brutally assaulted on his bus at West Croydon. He has rebuilt his life, and become national disabled champion and then world disabled champion at lawn bowls! He was in tears when he won. I felt my eyes start to fill with tears on his and other stories of bravery.

At the end of the night we were presented with a commemorative booklet with all the results. My dad spotted my face on the inside back cover among all the other Commended. 

To quote Nick Hitchens, who wrote an introduction on the inside cover of the booklet:

Greatness should not be measured in the number of boutique shops in the High Street or flashy skyscrapers punctuating the skyline, bus also by the character of the people who live here.

Well done Croydon Guardian! A full list of winners is here
Tags ,