On Saturday, shortly after arriving at the CND Peace and Craft Fair in Shipley I fell into a discussion with a young Labour Party member who appeared incensed that the Green Party were standing anywhere, and who eventually said rather aggressively that if the Tories won the election it would all be the fault of the Greens.
His core argument appeared to be that the reality was that Labour was the stronger party with more members, and MP’s. He somewhat derisively pointed to us having only one MP, and seemed to think it irrelevant that the MP represented 1.1 million people who voted in 2015 and over half a million of voters in 2017.
If the Tories win this election it will be because of an electoral system that regards the votes of 70% of those voting as irrelevant.
If we had had proportional representation since 1945 there would have been no Conservative governments in that period – the popular vote is left of centre.
The Labour Party would rather have the Conservatives in power some of the time than give up the chance of having its little episodes of complete power.
The refusal of the Labour Party to introduce PR for UK elections is responsible for Thatcherism, the neo-Liberalism of Cameron, the Brexit referendum. Labour did, under devolution, allow PR in the elections to the devolved governments, and the effectiveness and value of that has been seen in elections where the proportions of those elected reflect the proportions voting for the different parties.
If the Tories win this election it will be the fault of the Labour Party and no-one else. They could have changed the system and they did not.

We have another election, and it will go the way of earlier elections in one significant way – the result will not reflect the wishes of the people.

Those who want to leave the European Union fear that their vote may be divided between the Conservative Party and the policy-lite Brexit party; those who want to stay in fret that the remain vote will be divided between Labour and Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru and the Greens – it is assumed that the SNP will sweep the board in Scotland, that Northern Ireland will split on sectarian lines – part of the legacy of 1921 – and that Sinn Fein will not take the seats that would boost remain.

And yet the parties will not drop their antagonism for a ‘greater good’, each wedded to a ‘majority’ under First Past the Post. The Liberal Democrats will say that they will do it, but once in power who knows – no-one experienced in British politics would trust a Lib Dem.

And so the result will not reflect the wishes of the people. A government with a ‘majority’ will form, but it will only reflect a ‘minority’ of those voting, and it will claim a ‘mandate from the people’, to do or to undo whatever it wants.

And so we go into an election.

Some people will regard it as just a vote on leaving the EU, or remaining in the EU. Yet the issue of most concern to electors is the climate, most say this will guide their choice. If it did the Green Party would be sweeping to power, but it won’t, because there will be promises from the other parties that will be forgotten, or not be affordable, or just too unpopular to allow re-election. And we will wander blindly along, until it is too late, and we will say, ‘Ah well, it is too late, it was nice while it lasted’, or more likely build walls that trap the poor in poor countries (the rich will have their visas), hoping that things will stay OK on our side of the wall, looking over our shoulders at the people building a wall behind us ‘just in case’.

I do not want to sound despairing, things might change – but is there time to change the people, or must we reap what we have sown.

 

There is no argument but that the inept negotiation around ‘Brexit’ has shifted the perception towards an even greater perception of buffoonery in English political life than the original decision itself.

In their book ‘Yorkshire Cottage’ (1942)  Pontefract and Hartley describe a visit to Norway in 1938. Not the Arthur Norway who had published ‘Highways and By ways in Yorkshire’ in 1899. A pre-oil wealth Norway of farmers and fishers.

Chamberlain had just been to Munich and the Norwegians perception was that the English were not taking the matter seriously enough, On page 47:

“It was a shock to our pride to discover personally how much Munich had lowered our national prestige. England decadent, England blind, were constantly recurring themes. the people liked the English, but almost against their will admired the German efficiency .. England had refused to see what was coming, and she would fall to the status of a secondary nation; in fact had already fallen”

Chamberlain waved a piece of paper, May a ream – either way it is waving good by to a little more of the anyway pretentious political status of the nation.

 

Just before the second world war Ella Pontefract and Marie Hartley bought a tumbledown cottage in the village of Askrigg and began to recover it. With the intervention of the wat it took years. As writer and artist publishing popular books on Yorkshire they wrote it up in ‘Yorkshire Cottage’ (J M Dent & Son, 1942).

On page 66 they talk about connecting to electricity:

“Electricity was introduced here about forty years ago .. It was made in a corn mill whose water wheel supplied the power.. it is now a mire ambitious undertaking, with a plant further up the gill, it still draws its power from the beck and a waterfall”

And lower down the page

“There is .. a satisfactory feeling about the way in which the natural elements of the countryside have been used to ease the life of the people .. the power of water .. is utilized for the good of the community”

Again we have an advertisement for local, small scale energy production for rural communities.

In her 1913 short story ‘Beewise’ Gilman anticipates her novel ‘Herland’ published two years later, in imagining a community in which women are at the centre of life and government. Men are allowed, but are not absent as in ‘Herland’.

The short stories are concerned with the fulfilment of the lives of women (and men) that is limited by the expectations and activities of the family and expected attitudes, and the importance of seizing the moment.

In some of this she anticipates Betty Friedan.

My interest in the tale however was heightened by her description of the energy supply of the community:

“The first cash outlay .. was to build a reservoir .. which furnished .. a steady stream of power. The powerhouse in the canyon was supplemented by wind-mills on the heights and a tide-mill on the beach, and among them they furnished light heat and power – clean economical electric energy. Later they set up a solar engine which furnished additional force”

(‘The Yellow Wallpaper and Selected Writings’ Virago (2009) p.192)

It is not that the sources of energy are identified and brought together to generate clean energy, and maintain clean air, (and the importance of clean air runs through the stories) but that they are seen as the appropriate energy source for locally generated community energy. It is the island of Samso anticipated.

The sources are not themselves unexpected. I went to school by train through the deserted station at ‘Tide Mills’ where in the late 19th and early 20th century the incoming tide was trapped in a large reservoir and released through the water wheels, not being used to turn a turbine. When I got to school there were textbooks appearing with pictures of La Rance tidal power station, opened in northern France in 1961, but I have not found evidence for its use in generating electricity before this – although there is certain to be discussion of theory earlier than this.

The first application of the wind to energy generation was in 1891 in Denmark, and the first American factory producing wind turbines opened in the USA in 1927. It was technological novelty at the time.

Armstrong had built his hydro-electric station at Cragside in 1878. The first HEP plant had been constructed in the USA in 1881, and by 1889 there were 200 in operation. A novel power source but better known that the others.

While the first photovoltaic solar array had been unveiled in 1884 in New York, because of a fear of imminent ‘peak coal’, the technology was not taken up widely.

Altogether a prescient imagining, and one that is coming to reality for small communities such as those on the island of Samso in Denmark, but which could be a model for community energy in other rural areas – North Yorkshire perhaps; and within urban areas – a challenge to all energy giants..

I have not seen reference to the nineteenth century Rochdale radical John Bright in the debate on Scottish independence.

In January 1843 after taking the Anti-Corn Law League message to Scotland he said:

“the intelligence of the people in Scotland is superior to the intelligence of the people in England .. if they were separate from England they might have a government wholly popular and intelligent, to a degree which I believe does not exist in any other country on the face of the earth .. However, I believe they will be disposed to press us on, and make us become more and more intelligent; and we may receive benefit from our contact with them, even though, for some ages to come, our connexion with them may be productive of evil to themselves”

This quoted on pp.84-85 of the 1913 The Life of John Bright’ by G M Trevelyan

The Conservative Party is in complete disarray; the Labour Party, while strengthening, still has deep divisions; the Liberal Democrat rump, the SNP and Plaid have talented individual members. Sinn Fein if they took their seats could offer a new perspective, Jim Shannon at least from the DUP you would not expect to be comfortable supporting the Tories.

The time has perhaps come for a government of national unity, drawing on the principled, the progressive, the most free thinking across the political parties.

A government that should be headed by the most respected of current parliamentarians – Caroline Lucas. Perhaps an imaginative, convention busting, exercise of the Royal Prerogative is needed to stop our slide into decline and deprivation.

While searching for Early Day Motions signed by Alex Sobel, the MP for Leeds North-West I found that Jim Shannon had joined with Labour in supporting each of those I looked at. Looking at EDM 505 on Yemen, which Sobel had not signed, the name of Jim Shannon was there again.

One has to ask, is he comfortable supporting this Tory government? His entry on Wikipedia does not help.

Nelson Rockefeller, a Republican, stood three times to be presidential candidate and served as Vice President under Gerald Ford

In ‘Unity, Freedom and Peace’ he wrote:

“The President must possess a wide range of abilities: to lead, to persuade, to inspire trust, to attract men of talent, to unite. These abilities must reflect a wide range of characteristics: courage, vision, integrity, intelligence, sense of responsibility, sense of history, sense of humour, warmth, openness, personality, tenacity, energy, determination, drive, perspicacity, idealism, thirst for information, penchant for fact, presence of conscience, comprehension of people and enjoyment of life..”

Just noting.

From the Leeds PSC Newsletter:

Israel demolishes Palestinian schools days before reopening

Three educational facilities for Palestinian children in the West Bank, have been demolished or damaged by Israeli authorities in less than two weeks, just when children were meant to return to school from summer holidays.  The facilities demolished include the only kindergarten for the Jabal Al Baba Bedouin community, which was destroyed in the early hours of 21st August, and a primary school in Jubbet Al Dhib that was demolished on the night of 22nd August. The Israeli authorities also dismantled and confiscated solar panels—the only source of power—at primary school in Abu Nuwar. The school was also attacked twice last year when parts of it were demolished and equipment confiscated. Third grade students there take their classes in the local barbershop as the community has been prevented from building basic education facilities.

Norwegian Refugee Council Policy Manager Itay Epshtain, who visited Jubbet Al Dhib this morning, said: “It was heart breaking to see children and their teachers turning up for their first day of school under the blazing sun, with no classrooms or anywhere to seek shelter in, while in the immediate vicinity the work to expand illegal settlements goes on uninterrupted.”

The latest spate of school demolitions and confiscations in the West Bank forms part of a wider attack on education in Palestine. Right now, some 55 schools in the West Bank are threatened with demolition and “stop-work” orders by Israeli authorities. Many of these schools are donor-funded, including by EU member states. Israel denies the majority of Palestinian planning permit requests in Area C, thereby leaving Palestinians with no option but to reconstruct and develop without permits, while Israeli settlements -established in violation of international law – continue to expand.  In the first three months of this year there were 24 cases of direct attacks against schools, including incidents where tear gas canisters and sound bombs were fired at students on their way to or from school. Last year, four communities’ educational facilities were demolished or confiscated and 256 education-related violations were documented in the West Bank, affecting over 29,000 students.  Read more on the Norwegian Refugee Council website