Monday, September 14, 2020

Extinction Rebellion protest against the incinerator.

 

I joined XR protesters at Beddington Park on Saturday 29th August to protest against the incinerator. The mood was positive, There is legal challenge proceeding on the UK's exclusion of incinerators from the carbon emissions target.

It was good catch up with old faces and new ones  at a very well attended event. Inside Croydon has done a piece on it.

There were a number of XR protests around this time. I got talking to one of the local XR campaigners who explained they have to keep representation at Sutton Police Station as many protesters in Central London are arrested and sent all over London, including Sutton, in any available police cells. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

LBC call I tweeted about



When listening to LBC last night I tweeted:
I needed to replay the segment on the LBC Catch Up feature on the App to confirm my tweet.

The subject was:

Why are young men of Asian origin almost twice as likely to receive fines for breaking lockdown rules as white men of the same age?

Sheridan from Dagenham rang to say that he found the presenter Ian Payne (pic) irritating for his failure to understand a different perspective. He compared raves in Manchester and parties in London, and also the beaches of Bournemouth to make his point.

Sheridan, a black male, pointed out the facts speak for themselves: [to paraphrase] If we are disproportionately stopped and searched in normal times, then we are more likely to be stopped for breaking lockdown rules.

I stress the word we because Payne then replied to Sheridan,

"Then its not your fault at all." 

An aghast, Sheridan then responded,

"What, what, do you claim responsibility for the actions of every white person?" 

"No I don't."

"Then why should I?" [repeated 3 times]

There are couple of other exchanges and then Sheridan summarised,

"I think the fact that you can treat every white person as an individual and you treat black people as we are all one homogenous, and we can all be branded with one brush, I think that speaks to your own bias, right there, to be honest."

I think Payne realised he may have displayed some unconscious bias during this call as he referred to  Sheridan a couple of times in a defensive way after he cut him off.

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Sunday, June 21, 2020

Peter Hickson

Peter Hickson

PETER HICKSON 11/11/35 to 4/6/20

Peter joined the Green party around 1986 while working as a postman at Sutton sorting office, and with his late wife Jose was an active and committed stalwart of the local Sutton party until shortly before his death.

Peter was a passionate advocate for justice and a thorn in the side of his local MP with his frequent handwritten letters. He worked tirelessly to promote and support both local causes and international campaigns and was never afraid of controversy. He attended numerous demonstrations in London for the Palestinian cause. He was an active memberof the local Amnesty International group, for whom he wrote many (again handwritten!) letters. In more recent years he focussed particularly on NHS privatisation and the KOSH campaign to keep the local St Helier Hospital. The front of his house was usually adorned with banners and displays of his current issues, so he really got his messages across to his neighbours!

Peter was also a very talented man with a variety of creative interests, turning his hand to vernacular architecture, pottery, painting and drawing - including a range of hard hitting posters and displays for our campaigns - and, maybe less successfully, the violin!  Just before he died, the local adult education college in Sutton put on an exhibition of a range of his work, as they felt it merited wider attention.

Peter’s house was like entering a library-cum-museum, a bit reminiscent of a William Morris house, whom he greatly admired: There were shelves and shelves of books on a huge variety of subjects, many of them really heavy political tomes - which scared off any lightweights around! (And let it be remembered that Peter couldn’t read until about the age of 10 when he was evacuated during the war.) Then there were his paintings and artifices all round the walls, his “barge painted” wooden kitchen cupboards, his doors with painted figures – the list goes on!

When Peter and Jose’s promising son, Shane, was tragically killed as a young man in a road accident near where he lived in St Andrews, Peter responded by raising money to plant trees in Scotland and made many lifelong friends and contacts with Shane’s friends there.

Peter’s death comes less than a year after he lost his wife Jose who had been poorly for some time. He was just beginning to pick up his life again, cycling regularly (he never drove a car) and doing his gym exercises in the local parks when the news of his cancer came through quite recently. We extend our very best wishes and warm support to his surviving daughter Angie as she comes to terms with her great loss. In saying goodbye to Peter, the local Green Party is saying goodbye to a man of great stature, whom some of us have been very privileged to know.


Thanks to Gay McDonagh and Bob Steel for the words above. I was privileged to know him and remember being amazed by his library-cum-museum of a house. In the summer of 2009 I went to his house to pick up a new placard/poster display unit for our stall at the Thornton Heath Festival. Smartphones weren't so smart in 2009, but I did record some footage while there. See below:



He stood in local, London and general elections and was always campaigning, Here I've identified him at one of the Stop The Incinerator demos.


Peter and Jose


Rest in Peace Peter.
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Thursday, June 18, 2020

Was Winston Churchill a racist or war hero?



Ken Livingstone and David Mellor used to present a show on LBC. In this clip (which I saved from January 2016), Ken Livingstone talks about how, "five million Bangladeshis starved to death over 18 months" during World War II. Moreover, he adds the deaths resulted from a decision to export rice from what was then Bengal (India) towards the war effort.

My jaw dropped when I heard this. I wasn't expecting a discussion on the Salisbury nerve agent attack to cite something that happened in Bangladesh around seventy years ago.

Ken Livingstone says at the end of the clip that, "Great leaders protect themselves and they don't give a damn about the lives of others."

Upon hearing the jaw-dropping revelation back in January 2016, I thought I would ask my dad if he knew anything about this. He was born in what is now Bangladesh in 1935.

His recollection of 1942-43 is indeed one of great poverty and starvation. There was a shortage of  food in Rajshahi, a state in the north west. He remembers emaciated bodies lying on the street, close to death or dead The towns had more food than the villages. Everyone around him, literally everyone, was suffering, and owing to the lack of news, he assumed that everyone during the world war was suffering as they were. Until I told him, he was unaware that there was a reason why so many people were starving in Bangladesh.

I had to investigate further. I bought a book which I started reading called CHURCHILL'S SECRET WAR, The British Empire and the ravaging of India during World War II by Madhusree Mukerjee.

I had been meaning for sometime - well four years - to post about this. Over the last couple of weeks a greater awareness of Churchill's views and actions have come to light because someone daubed the plinth of his statue during a Black Lives Matter protest.


Mukerjee's book is well researched and I when I started reading it four years ago, I marked out paragraphs of note (including the very first paragraph of the book - below):

"No great portion of the world population was so effectively protected from the horrors and perils of the World War as were the peoples of Hindustan," Winston Churchill wrote in his 1950 history of the twentieth century's most lethal conflict. They were carried through the struggle on the shoulders of our small island. By Hindustan, or Land of the Hindus, Churchill meant India, which during the war was part of the British Empire.
Britain's wartime prime minister did not discuss in his six-volume account the 1943 famine in the Eastern province of Bengal, which killed 1.5 million people by the official estimate and 3 million by most others. One primary cause of the famine was the extent to which Churchill and his advisers chose to use the resources of India to wage war against Germany and Japan, causing scarcity and inflation within the colony.
Hitler did not comprehend the extent to which the Indian freedom movement, along with other developments of the twentieth century, had weakened imperial controls over the colony. The days of formal empires were numbered- and, ironically, the conflict he initiated would deal the fatal blow. To commandeer Indian manufactures and produce for the war, His Majesty's Government would have to deploy inflationary monetary policies in preference to straightforward confiscation of the colony's products or revenues.

Mukerjee states, a cyclone in 1942 had caused pressure on food stocks but this was nullified by a bumper harvest the following year. Those who want to brush Churchill's involvement under the carpet, usually use the cyclone argument as the reason for the famine.

In truth, a combination of factors resulted in the famine in 1943. Here are some I picked out from Mukerjee's book:

Firstly, prior to the war, India's much vaunted railway system had left the Indian government heavily in debt to the UK. The terms of the repayment for the railway would have been comparable to WONGA. This left India vulnerable to fluctuations.

Secondly, there was a scorched policy to stop Japanese progression from Burma. The Japanese would be denied food and transport if they invaded India. Military authorities had requisitioned all trucks and cars in southern and eastern Bengal, and boats and steamers, the principal method of moving the harvested rice crop from surplus regions to those with shortages, were destroyed.

Thirdly, what harvested rice crop that existed in Bengal had to be sent to other parts of the empire, namely Ceylon, Arabia and South Africa, all of which were better supplied with grain India. There was also a requirement to feed the troops in India. Ninety five percent of the total wheat requested by India to avert a disaster was not delivered. Mukerjee points out that only one quarter of the wheat promised to Bengal by the Government of India actually arrived and most of that remained in Calcutta for the priority classes. Interestingly, Mukerjee points out that the Indian government chose not to explain why it was unable to supply the wheat and instead insisted the province had more than enough rice. This may explain why my dad said, it was assumed during the war everyone was suffering in this way, with little focus on why? My dad's account here is fascinating. He does remember relatives, including his uncles, finding work as Food Inspectors at the time. These inspectors were responsible for the limited stocks - which were stored in 'go downs' - and distribution.

Fourthly, an offer of aid in the form of wheat from Canada was refused. India Office files which should have had information on this during the 1944 famine commission which was conducted in secret were missing.

So, was he a war hero and a racist?

Could it be that if Churchill had a lower opinion - to put it mildly - of Indians, he would have little compunction in taking decisions that caused the deaths of possibly a million people. He famously once said, "I hate Indians. They are beastly people with a beastly religion." I would argue he was probably a war hero and a racist.

One final area to clear up is the number of deaths. Mukerjee's final chapter states:

The population of Bengal in January 1943 was 61.8 million. The mortality rate that year was 6.5 per cent which gives a total of 4 million deaths in 1943. From this figure must be subtracted 2.5 million baseline deaths. That gives 1.5 million for the famine toll in 1943. Doubling this figure, because death registrations were roughly symmetric around December 1943, provides a famine total of around 3 million......... One thing is clear, the figure of 3 million does not include all fatalities from shortages of food because deaths from malnutrition were occurring even in so-called normal tears. If for comparison we were to use the death rate of 2.1 per cent that was the norm for India (rather than Bengal) in 1942, the famine toll would be 5.4 million.


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Thursday, May 28, 2020

Dominic Cummings

Picture from: https://twitter.com/WillBlackWriter/status/1264260846487822337/photo/1


I sent the email below to my MP. I received a reply - copied and pasted below.
Dear Mr Blunt

As yet I don't believe you have called for Mr Cummings resignation. 

It is arguably ACCEPTABLE to defend a colleague. This and the power of patronage ensures the Prime Minister will get his way

However, defending someone flouting the guidance is potentially going to have a detrimental impact on the governments message. People will just say guidance can be ignored if your "instinct" tells you to do so. This will cost lives.

Please call for his resignation. Even the Daily Mail is calling for Mr Cummings to be sacked.

Yours sincerely 

S Khan 



Dear Shasha

Thank you for your recent email regarding the Prime Minister’s adviser, Mr Dominic Cummings. I have now received over 500 email enquiries on the matter in addition to a large number of calls and posts on my social media accounts. I am reading all the correspondence, but it is not possible for me to reply in a timely way individually to each communication as I would normally do. Instead, I have tried below to respond to the points made and to provide you with a full understanding of my view on this issue as your Member of Parliament, having reflected on the points of view and questions put to me in all the correspondence.

The pandemic and the strategy to manage its threat means we are all living through a new experience. This explosion of correspondence, unprecedented in my 23 years in Parliament, over one long weekend on the actions of a non-elected adviser, which are open to interpretation both sympathetic and condemnatory, itself indicates we are in times strange to all of us. My reaction has been to reflect on the factors that have led to this situation and your decision to take the trouble to communicate your view to me.

There are real pressures created by the measures required to control this virus, as well as the tragic outcomes for many of those directly infected and their families. The harm this virus is doing is outside this generation of humanity’s experience. All of us have had to endure at least massive change and inconvenience, most of us disruption to family and professional life, and the frustrations from the restrictions become more onerous to bear each succeeding day. The correspondence has reinforced this for me in reading about a mother restricting herself to only see her 9 month old baby twice in this period, families’ extreme anxiety about isolated elderly relatives managing their frailties and the probable terminal risk this virus poses to them. Then there is the anxiety about the future that, as this virus retreats, the world will then need to face and work through the societal and economic consequences it leaves behind.

In the UK, these Covid-19 factors are being laid upon the character of our recent politics. A culture of growing polarisation and intolerance for the other’s point of view and, certainly it appears to me, an alarming unwillingness to properly understand why others might have a different perspective, but instead too often to put the most malicious interpretation on others’ motives.

Ironically this great national collective effort to combat this virus’ threat to us all was emerging as an opportunity to bring us together as we all made our contribution in different ways and this would help bear down on this wider polarisation in our politics. The tragedy of the Cummings affair is that like a virus itself, it demonstrates that this polarisation, intolerance and lack of generosity of spirit remains deep in the British body of politics.

That this polarisation has infected the consideration of the merits of the actions of an ill Cummings family could hardly be clearer. In the critical public commentary there has been scant consideration by most, if not all, of the merits of the human judgments of parents trying to serve their family best, consistent with protecting the rest of us, which is the object of the policy on which he helped advise at the most senior level. We have even had a dozen or so bishops threatening to withdraw collaboration with the Government on this pandemic based on this issue alone without having heard the detailed context of Dominic Cummings decisions for his family. In this context one can understand why we saw the unprecedented business of an official giving a full explanation of his personal conduct and submitting to questions on it in the garden of No 10.

My views on the merits changed listening to Mr Cummings during Monday’s press conference. Once I understood that the opportunity to self-isolate as a family unit, within close distance of immediate relatives on an isolated farm, who were perfectly placed to pick up their child caring responsibilities if the virus overtook them, the uninterrupted car journey, even if long, makes complete sense. Of course, this would be a situation available to strikingly few people, but his actions were wholly consistent with the interests of his family and critically the rest of us as well. The family’s 260 miles journey, in a car, was less dangerous to the public than travelling any distance on public transport. He was fortunate enough to have the ideal situation of an empty house, with both sister and parent in adjacent houses ready to provide for his family should they be needed. It was also reasonable for him to collect the other two members of his household from hospital, again in a car without coming into contact with the public. I also accept the reasons for a test drive before driving back the 260 miles, 15 days after his first symptoms which is in line with self-isolation guidance. We can send up the eyesight test issue in isolation but checking whether one would have the strength and endurance to make that long return car journey whilst in recovery from Covid-19, struck me as appropriate and responsible.

The context of his decisions and consideration of their merits also needed to exclude the rumour and innuendo surrounding them. For example, the speculation about a further outing on 19th April based on allegations by two unidentified witnesses, has been strongly denied by Mr Cummings and a formal statement from No 10 confirming this. Reports of the Durham police’s conversation with Mr Cummings’ father were also proven inaccurate when the Constabulary withdrew the suggestion that they gave him ‘specific advice’ about the correct actions to be taken during the coronavirus outbreak to remain in accordance with lockdown guidelines, implying the Police believed they had been broken.

These are the reasons I believe it would be wrong to fire Mr Cummings on the merits of this episode. I understand and personally applaud the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by his man at this time. I was struck by hearing the recent words of the new Labour leader about his duty of care to officials of the Labour Party, to whom he guaranteed due process under his leadership. These are standards that place truth over image and perception. Our default position should be to support them. It is a brave thing to do in my profession as the whole truth and nothing but the truth can very rarely carry the day in a 24 hour news cycle. The difficult experience politicians in a democracy must manage is that a conclusion based on a balance of arguments is then betrayed by truths that support a competing interpretation. It then depends on how you balance up the arguments and factors to bring you to your own conclusion. I much regret in today’s politics it is often seen as some kind of gaffe to accept your opponent’s conclusion might have any merit at all. I would like this intolerance to reduce and for Covid-19 to help widen understanding and for us to look for the best in each other, not least whilst so many people are demonstrating their good values in the actions to defeat this virus.

On the Cummings affair it’s also brave to stand by an unpopular figure as you start with people’s perceptions already tilted against you. I accept perceptions also play a role. It is claimed by a few of my colleagues and in effect by some of my correspondents, that in this emergency, perception trumps truth, because it is perception that will dictate public behaviour and thus how this looks, even if grossly distorted by the lens of a media seeking to sustain a different narrative should be the decisive factor. Depressingly that is often the conventional political response. Dispose of the difficulty even if unfair. Indeed, that is the normal fate of serving politicians but Mr Cummings is not a politician and the Prime Minister has chosen to take the higher and more difficult path of discharging his duty to truth and due process to his Chief Advisor. I believe that decision deserves my support, even though that will not satisfy many of my correspondents.

I hope this long reply has at least managed to explain why I have come to this conclusion and even if you strongly disagree, that you might respect the conclusion just as I understand why you have felt so motivated by the experience of this one small family trying to manage its situation as best as they can within the context of the Covid-19 emergency that you have raised it with me.

Yours sincerely,





  
  

Crispin Blunt MP
Member of Parliament for Reigate  




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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Isle of Wight experience

The outcome of the December 12th General Election is one that fills me with fear. Boris Johnson is between 8 and 12 percentage points ahead and on course for a majority. The one probable silver lining is Greens get their second MP.

Leading the race for that honour is Vix Lowthian on the Isle of Wight.
The Green Party stall in Ryde

Earlier this month we combined a weekend away with some campaigning. Vix is benefiting from the Lib Dems standing down - as part of the Rebel (Remain) Alliance.

When we met she spoke of her frustration that the Labour candidate had not stood down either. Labour members need to think about 5 more years of Boris Johnson. They can't win in Isle of Wight but they can help the Greens.


The European Elections show that there is a strong independent mindset among islanders. Let's hope that IOW goes Green.





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Wednesday, July 24, 2019

BJ is PM today

BJ is PM today.
If the EU doesn't re-open the Withdrawal Agreement and he fails to suspend parliament to leave without a "deal" (both of which I believe will happen) then Boris has to push the most radical right wing and populist policies possible to keep Brexit voters content in advance of the next General Election. His appointments indicate this. That way he'll nick some of those Brexit Party votes to stay in power.
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Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Green Wave all across the country

  1. A couple of weeks back, I was lucky enough to be standing for election when the wave rushed through the country. A record number of councillors were elected locally and nationally. Greens jumped from 178 to a dizzying 362 councillors. Regrettably, it was bad luck that this alliterative alignment of circumstances - namely Brexit bollocks and climate catastrophe - didn't occur when I was a target candidate in Croydon and Sutton!

  2. The ward on Regiate and Banstead council I was standing in polled the following:

  1. Chipstead, Kingswood and Woodmansterne
Tim Archer Conservative 1422
Simon Parnell Conservative 1277
Maria Neame Conservative 1207
Shasha Khan Green Party 642
Eileen Hannah Liberal Democrat 545
Gerry Heaver UKIP 367
Ian Thirlwell Labour 357


Alongside Green Councillor Jonathan Essex. Photo taken just outside the Count. At the time we were hopeful that all six target councillors were elected.


  1. My old campaign aide, Martyn Post, sent a succinct and precise explanation of the Green Wave in a Whats App message:

  • Dissatisfaction with the two main parties (Brexit shambles)
  • Remainers turning out, with left leaning remainers choosing Green over Labour
  • Good local camapigns with activists who joined during the green surge and stayed
  • Extinction Rebellion 's recent highlighting of climate change and need for action

I saw a tweet by London activist Benali Hamdache (copied and pasted below). His explanation covers five areas:


  1. 5) We selected community champions So many of our candidates have been active locally for years. They’ve built networks. They’re well liked. They’re invested in where they live.
  2. 4) Finally a spotlight XR & the People’s Vote have finally given the Greens air time. We’ve been able to capitalise on key issues that we’re authentic and trusted on. Fair coverage during the Euros should do the same
  3. 3) it wasn’t all Brexit Lots of wards Greens have won in are deprived or neglected. Greens have worked hard to connect with communities that felt poorly served by elected figures. For lots of areas they’ve never had regular ward campaigns. Greens were there as local champions
  4. 2) The time was right Brexit has shook loose party loyalty in a way never seen before. Remainers and Leavers we’re absolutely sick to death of the main two parties. Greens used the time to actually engage with local communities and win voters over
  5. 1) The professionalisation of the Party is here. Finally we have the membership, the experience and the funds to put together serious campaigns. Our field staff team are excellent and deserve a lot of plaudits today

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Standing up for what matters