Tuesday, May 18, 2021

7 pictures that tell the story of the 6th of May election.

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PICTURE 4


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PICTURE 6

Firstly, the result: As there was a by election at the same time, there were two council seats up for grabs in the Reigate and Banstead Council ward of Horley East and Salfords. 334 votes from getting elected. Its the closest I've ever been to actually being elected.

In the Surrey county division of Horley East, the result was:

Jordan Woonton Beech (elected) Conservative 2,034
Tom Turner Labour 820
Shasha Khan Green Party 716
Electorate 10,490
Number of issued ballot papers 3,612

PICTURE 5 

I really had a fantastic time knocking on doors and getting to know Horley and Salfords. The area covers the full width of the political spectrum, including a nationalistic vote. One of the Horley Conservative candidates was proudly wearing a full Union Jack outfit on his leaflet. At the Count, the same candidate - who duly got elected - and his cohorts, were wearing rosettes with the traditional Conservative logo altered to reflect their fondness for the nation, although maybe not one nation. 

In 2019, UKIP stood in this seat. This time around there was no UKIP candidate. What seems to have happened here, and all across the country, is the UKIP vote has diffused into the Conservative column. 

PICTURE 7 

I must thank everyone that helped in the effort. It was an amazing campaign. Special thanks to local members Victoria, David, Joe and Will. Amazingly, one of our members lives right by the Salfords Village Hall polling station! Is it possible to take a photo with a Green Party poster and a Polling Station sign in the same shot?!

PICTURE 1

I met some wonderful people who were desperate for a Green councillor to get elected, including Penelope who went as far as promoting me on Facebook in a big way and putting a poster up. 

Given Horley's proximity to Gatwick airport, I met several people who worked in the airline industry. One furloughed long haul pilot said he was voting Green and pointed out that when he was piloting his jumbo, he would look to conserve fuel as much as possible. Fair play to him! 

PICTURE 4

The Green wave that was seen across the country was also experienced in East Surrey. All the target candidates won or kept their seats. Huge congratulations to them all.  Full details here.

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The county elections and the borough elections were on the same day this year. My borough ward overlapped the county target division of Earlswood and Reigate South, specifically in an an estate known as the Copsleighs. 

Hence, I was particularly pleased when the Copsleigh residents, who voted at Salfords Village Hall polling station, were rewarded with a new Green county councillor, the excellent Catherine Baart. 

On the eve of the election, I spotted a rainbow right over the village hall. It delivered a pot of gold!

PICTURE 2

We mustn't forget we were still in the middle of global pandemic. Voters turned up to to polling stations with masks on, and candidates sat outside polling stations with masks on too! Its the sign of the times.



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Monday, April 19, 2021

Just have a think!



with David Borlace

Aside from the planned and successful Action Days, I've been meeting up with local Horley members to deliver leaflets. Last weekend I met up with David Borlace. He has a very interesting day job which he explained while we were pounding the streets around Smallfield Road.

David had worked in retail for the last 20 years. Then about four years ago he had life-changing experience: He read a book called A Farewell to Ice by Peter Wadhams. In the book, Wadhams reports on the melting Arctic sea ice and the catastrophic consequences of this continued occurrence.

The book inspired David to start producing some occasional videos and publishing them on You Tube. Then when the pandemic hit last year, David was furloughed. The setback actually allowed David to devote more time to his channel, entitled Just have a think.  



 

The videos have become very popular. He has now got nearly 750,000 subscribers from all over the world, and thousands paying subscribers through Patreon. This has meant he is in a position to quit his day job and focus on his skill and passion. 

I'm grateful for David to come help out in the campaign.



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Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Local party meeting 2nd March.

Local party meeting


Living on the border of Surrey, it is tricky to attend our local East Surrey Green Party meetings but Zoom meetings are a different!

Last night I attended the latest meeting, run via zoom, and found out the latest information about the local elections coming up in Surrey and Regiate and Banstead.

I had wondered whether local authority nomination papers, to stand for council, would be altered given we are in the middle of a pandemic. Usually ten signatures are required, last night I found out this had been reduced to just two.  

The councillors in the group informed the meeting about local issues. It was fascinating to hear the latest news.

One of the issues that came up was a proposal for Reigate and Banstead Council to enter into a joint venture to build a business park in Horley. The Council has loaned £11m to a company that it wholly owns to purchase the land for the business park, which happens to be on a flood plain. Greens naturally oppose this. More details here: Keep Horley Green


Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Rob Steel by Gay McDonagh

ROB (or BOB) STEEL, 31/01/55 – 11/08/20


Although this is an obituary for Rob, it is written for local Green Party members and from the standpoint of Rob’s place in the party. To a certain extent it therefore reads like a history of the party and its constituent members over the years. However, I hope that readers feel that this approach adds to Rob’s story with the Green Party and helps us appreciate some of the contexts in which Rob spent so much time and energy.


In 1979, Rob, as a young local Geography teacher in his mid-twenties, joined a handful of local visionaries to found the Sutton Ecology Party, as the Green Party was called at the time. As ever, the party comprised a small number of dedicated and radical individuals who had a wide and lasting influence in the local community. Amongst the number was a Quaker man in his 70s called Richard Allen whom Rob greatly admired for his clarity of thinking and dynamism. Rob himself threw himself into his new-found political party immediately and stood for election for both the borough council and for parliament as soon as the opportunities arose. As a result of the local Ecology Party campaigning for the 1983 General Election, there was an upsurge in membership in the area and I was present at a stimulating follow-up meeting of about 30 people in the upstairs room at the Sun pub, Carshalton, where we met Rob and many others who were to become ardent members of this still minor political party. For me it was the start of many years of working closely with Rob and the others, acting as their local election agent as well as being involved in much other general party activity.


Rob was already a key figure in the party in the early 80s. He had endless energy to put his increasing understanding of environmental politics into action in the fledgling political party. One lasting amusing memory in the early days was the regular waste newspaper collection which the local group carried out every 2 weeks around a set of a few streets in Wallington. It involved a leaflet drop a couple of days prior to the collection, two people to drive up to Dulwich to pick up the “Eco Van”, about the size of an old Post Office van, and whoever was available to go round on foot picking up the piles of papers left on doorsteps for us and chucking them in the van. A brave volunteer would get up at 6 the next morning to drive this ramshackle van to a recycling site in Croydon and hopefully receive about £30 for it after it had been weighed. They would then have to drive the van back to its home in Dulwich. As this was before the days of any paper recycling by the council, this was quite a revolutionary action on our part – fulfilling our environmental concerns, as well as bringing us some well-needed cash for our funds. Rob always worked flat out at this, but his enthusiasm persuaded many of us to join in the mad venture! Some of the stalwarts at this time were Graham Garner, James Deane (not an American actor!), George Dow and Nick Greaves, whose mammoth ancient photocopier churned out endless members newsletters, along with the ones that would inevitably catch fire in the process! (Remember all those envelopes and stamps too?)


The Council Elections rolled by over the years, with the local Liberal Democrats gaining an ever stronger hold on the local council and claiming to be the greenest London council (they had now started their own newspaper recycling!). This was welcomed by some local environmentalists and members of Friends of the Earth, including those working for the fledgling Centre for Environmental Initiatives, set up by Vera Elliott and later to be called Ecolocal, but Rob kept the Ecology Party members well informed, so that we consistently challenged the Lib Dem environmental claims. He delighted in quoting the considerable number of examples of anti-environment and contradictory actions and policies by various Lib Dem authorities, as well as on the part of the almost permanent Lib Dem MP in Carshalton and Wallington, Tom Brake. However, even Rob struggled to convince some of our members, like Phil Mouncey!


Among the party members by this time were the charismatic Silvia Scaffardi (co-founder of NCCL, now Liberty), Peter and Josie Hickson, Karin Andrews and Sue Riddlestone, Director of the new local organisation, Bioregional. At one of the local meetings we had a persuasive speaker from the Vegan Society, which prompted at least Jim Duffy to switch to a vegan lifestyle, now so common with environmentalists. Neil Hornsby brought his civil servant expertise and successfully persuaded London Transport to adopt his idea of “jogging tickets” for commuters under another name. Heather Jarrett and her partner Bruce gave stalwart service locally, and by now some of Rob’s ex-students from Wallington Boys School were joining the cause, as did Simon Dixon, proof that Rob had been spreading his views in the classroom!


And all the while, Thatcher and her successors would come back into power at every General Election and there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst our little party (as well as amongst many others of course!) and Rob would sift through the details of the Green Party results here and all around the country, declaring that there was no hope for this country and we should all go round to his house and have lots of ale!


In the early 1990s we had a young television journalist by the name of John Cornford join us. His experience and skills with the media of the time were a great boost to the local party, as exemplified by our campaign against a British Rail tree cutting extravaganza in Carshalton in 1992. John and Rob led some of the party to trespass peacefully onto the railway line from a garden in Denmark Road and most importantly got the London television news reporters to film the event and interview John and Rob for us to proudly watch at home that night!


By the turn of the millennium the Sutton Party was reaching out to Croydon Green Party members who had no active party, and we attracted a small but powerful core of members, including Bernice Golberg, Shasha Khan and Martyn Post (the latter of mass leafletting fame!), who went on to get the Croydon Party properly established. While there were a lot of separate issues for the Croydon and Sutton Parties, we were soon collaborating again, because our councils, together with Merton and Kingston, had announced in 2008 that they were forming a waste partnership. “No, they weren’t going to build an incinerator; they were going to consider various options, one of which may be a pyrolysis waste processor”, we were told. The rest of the story is more or less history, as the saying goes. Rob managed to play an active part in the anti-incinerator campaign, in spite of taking on some long term supply teaching posts in various parts of the country. He worked with Dr Stan Prokop, who first informed us of the issue, with his own ex-student Peter Alfrey who had specialist knowledge of birds and the ecology of the Beddington Farmlands and with several others of our own highly motivated party members. Rob, as ever, threw himself into writing well researched and detailed submissions for the Green Party against the council planning application.


While Rob often gave solid and comprehensive presentations at many election hustings alongside his opponents, his forte definitely lay with his writing. First there was his letter-writing on behalf of the party, whether to local newspapers (of which there were up to 3 at one point!) or national. For many years this involved writing very quickly and then of course getting the letter into an envelope to post it in time to catch the appropriate editorial deadline. He had a bulging file of cuttings of letters which had been printed in various papers. Then there was his leaflet-writing for the numerous election campaigns run by the local party. Hardly had an election been called than Rob had composed a first draft for a leaflet and usually the first discussion of his drafts would involve asking him to “tone it down a bit”! But he usually managed a great balance between getting serious information across and appealing to “the masses” in the Sutton wards and constituencies. Then, after the party had carefully calculated what our funds (and leafletters) would enable us to produce, Rob would wave opposition leaflets at us and insist that we needed to put out another leaflet to put the voters right on this or that issue and he would “lob in some dosh” for it. So just when we thought we had done all our leafletting, he was lining up the next lot of boxes!


When Rob got married and moved to his new home in Wiltshire about 6 years ago, it was a dramatic change for the local Green Party. He had been so central to its functioning for almost 40 years! By keeping on his lovely quirky Tower Cottage in Carshalton and lured back by his longstanding connections to The Hope real ale pub, as well as with the aid of IT and electronic communication, Rob managed to keep up to a certain extent with the activities of the local party. Any good organisation tries not to get into a situation where any of their members become indispensable, and both Sutton and Croydon parties are continually moving forward with new blood, but that is not to deny the absolutely vital part Rob played in the party for all those years and the huge gap he now leaves. Whether we knew Rob since his early days in the party or just met him more recently on a brief visit back to the area, or some time in between, our parties collectively mourn the sad, sad loss of such a dynamic and influential party member. May we all learn something from and be inspired by his enormous contribution to the party.


Our heartfelt condolences go to Rob’s wife, Jacqui.


By Gay McDonagh, Sutton Green Party member, September 2020


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Sunday, November 22, 2020

Bob Steel - RIP




Carshalton Environmental Fair 2012

Bob Steel and me

It seems that every other post seems to be a memorial to a local member passing. And so, it is with great sadness I do this again and write about the death of Bob Steel. 

Bob, also known as Rob, was the former Chair of Sutton and Croydon Green Green Party.

He died in mid-August at his home in Wiltshire. Local members last month planned to meet for a socially distanced walk on 22nd November (today) to remember him. 

However, owing to the new lockdown, this has not been possible. It seems appropriate to write about him today. Gay McDonagh, second from right [see pic], has written a beautiful Green Party-centric obituary about Bob which I'll post later.

The photo in the post was taken at the Carshalton Environmental Fair. I've got my first child in a baby carrier. Bob once said to me that having children marks the end of activism. He was right! Since 2012, I haven't been as active!! 

Bob had a number of convictions, STEELISMS, if you will, that were founded on life experiences and knowledge. I will try and remember some of them here because they were all pretty accurate.

When I joined the Green Party in 2002, there was no active Croydon party. Instead it was conjoined to the Sutton Green Party. I think the first voice I heard when joining the Green Party was Bob Steel's landline answerphone message. The greeting listed organisations he was Chair/Organiser. From memory, these were the regional CAMRA group, a walking group, as well as the local Green Party. He had his finger in many inter-connected pies.

He had written books on real ale pubs and pub walks. This was before real ale had become the essential hipster refreshment. He knew his real ale. It was through his influence I ventured from Heineken to Hophead. I remember mentioning to Bob I had bought a few cans of Tangle Foot - my gateway ale. He wasn't impressed and pointed out that it would be good for the slugs. Whatever knowledge deficiencies I possessed on beers was easily surpassed by the subject of gardening.  His comment just went over my head!

On one occasion, we went for lunch in Brighton during Green Party conference. I remember wandering the streets with Bob for while in order for him to find the ideal pub. He pretty much knew every CAMRA pub in the country. I think it might have been my first Green Party conference. It was new and exciting for me, but for Bob it was almost the polar opposite. I remember him trying to get across to me what Green Party conferences were like in the 80s. Imagine enlightened people from all over the country coming together to discuss a new ideology. "Green Party conferences are just not the same [STEELISM]". 

Bob was a fast walker - which is useful if you like pub walks. In 2004 I won the selection process to become the GLA candidate for Croydon and Sutton. I remember him encouraging me to put my name forward when I asked him for his thoughts about standing. He came over from Carshalton to leaflet in my campaigns in Croydon on a number of occasions, usually cycling over or borrowing Gay's car. On one particular morning it was freezing cold but the sun was out. It was just about bearable for me. I assumed everyone preferred hot weather, but not Bob. He was in his element. He was not a big fan of warm weather. "The best weather is cold and sunny [STEELISM]."

When not talking about Green Party stuff, we could easily be sidetracked by football, especially non-league football. He was a well known Carshalton Athletic fan. From about 2006 onwards I had started watching Croydon Athletic so there was some crossover. He loved Carshalton Athletic. He loved the rivalry with Sutton United who he referred to as the Scummers. Croydon were always at least one division below Carshalton but then for one season, Croydon benefitted from a "Sugar Daddy" [STEELISM] - a wealthy benefactor - and The Rams caught up with The Robins, which meant for once, and for only once, we were at the same match. By then Carshalton had invested in an artificial pitch, something Bob was dead set against - not a surprise given he was a purist when it came to football. I've spotted that The Robins are aware of his passing.



Bob was an excellent chess player as well. I play too. Sadly, the opportunity to play each other was limited again to one occasion. For my 40th birthday I hosted a chess tournament for my friends. Weird I know. A couple of genuine chess players couldn't make it, including Bob, so I organised another tournament a few months later. Bob thrashed us all.


I think Bob played one of the top boards at Southampton University when he was a student. He once mentioned winning a crucial match with a pretty combination of moves that resulted in his university team winning the Southampton League. I remember observing to him that chess players tended to vote Green. It was an idea that had not escaped him, "Chess players are like Green voters, they think things through. [STEELISM]"


By the time I had joined the Green Party, Bob had already done many years of hard service, including targeting Carshalton Central ward. In my early years, I was bright eyed and bushy tailed. I believed it was possible for Greens to win council seats under the first past the post system in Croydon and Sutton, and couldn't understand why Bob - the Chair - didn't feel as enthusiastic as I did. It was only after doing my years of hard service do I appreciate one of Bob's other STEELISMs, "Slow down Shasha, you're in this for the long haul." Greens can get elected under the first past the post but one has to bust a gut to do it, but then many bust a gut and don't make it. Through hindsight it may be better to play for the long haul.

Sadly, Bob's haul has been cut short. He has touched the lives of many people, including me. He was always there whenever I needed advice, be it on the wording of a letter, a press release, or even electoral strategy. A man of great intellect has left us, may he rest in peace.

Bob is survived by his wife and stepdaughter.

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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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Standing up for what matters