Standing for election: you can do it too!

Barnsley Green Party member Kate Raynor, talks of her experience standing as a local candidate in last year’s elections.

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I have lived in Penistone East for around 5 and a half years, having moved to Silkstone from Barnsley town centre. I stood in the local elections for Penistone East in May 2015 which was my first involvement with local politics. I’ve always lived in Barnsley and have a great affection for the area.

I work for a local company, volunteer for a charity which provides meals for the homeless, and help run the youth club at the village church. Silkstone has become our home and as a family we really enjoy village life and getting involved in the things that go on here.

When I first decided to stand in the local elections I had only been a Green party member for a matter of weeks. I hadn’t even attended a local meeting yet. I had joined on a bit of a whim but the values and ideology of the party struck a chord with me.

I had initially felt quite happy to pay my membership fee and assume someone else would take responsibility for the rest. A request was sent out looking for paper candidates to stand in as many areas as possible.

I’ve been so disillusioned with politics in recent years but feel strongly that democracy and women’s suffrage are really valuable. I knew that others, like me, would want to vote but may not feel represented in the options on their ballot paper. As no one else came forward to represent my ward, I decided to sign up, to allow myself to vote for a party I agreed with as much as anything else.

It was the first year that Barnsley had stood any candidates, in local or national elections. So the experience was new and daunting for all of us. As well as a number of local candidates, we had a national candidate who stood for Barnsley Central. He had political experience and it was quite motivating to hear him speak about Green Party politics.

I chose not to do any campaigning for myself. I work, have two children and several other commitments. I didn’t feel ready to actually BE a councillor yet. Efforts were also concentrated on the national candidate and I was quite happy to help with that and allow my nomination to slip quietly by.

The main hurdle, and the only real effort, was the paperwork. After a frantic night of form filling in the nominating officer’s living room, with some great support from regional officers who checked over everything to make sure we got it right, we did it!

It felt a little surreal, but quite exciting, to see my name on the ballot paper. Quite a few people I hadn’t expected to be green supporters were fairly enthusiastic when they told me they’d voted for me. It prompted some interesting discussions with people I would never normally discuss politics with.

I found it really encouraging that there was an interest and affinity towards Green Party opinion, especially because all the current councillors in my ward and most historically, are Conservative.

When the results came in that we had got 14% of the vote we were gobsmacked! The candidate we stood in nationals got a similar number of votes throughout the whole constituency and on the back of some fantastic public speaking and a lot of leafleting.

I can’t take any credit at all. Of course some people knew me locally, but there had been no publicity or press release to say who I was or what I would do as a councillor. I can only imagine it was a general appetite for change which led to 949 people to vote for me under the Green Party banner.

I think it’s really important that people have the chance to vote for someone they actually want. Instead of it being a case of choosing the best of a bad bunch. I don’t think the local party had anticipated Penistone East being of interest, but now, on the back of that result, it will be our target ward for the 2016 elections with Dale Turner standing this time.

We plan to put some work in, to talk to the residents, understand what their issues are and how we might be able to help. And hopefully build a bit more of a presence in the area; maybe even gain a Green councillor so we can really make more of a difference.

If anyone is considering standing I’d urge you to. You don’t need to do any campaigning or publicity. Although I’d been warned that I may be contacted by press or public, I only received a single email to ask my view on a traffic concern. The chances of being elected are slim, but you could be giving a voice to hundreds of people who want to say; we want something different. We don’t want politics as usual.

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Barnsley Green Party: Supporting Junior Doctors

Barnsley Green Party member Dominic Wood, on support for today’s Junior Doctor’s strike.

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It was a clear, bright sky that smiled over our Junior Doctor friends at Barnsley District & General Hospital this morning…

Safety is their paramount concern. The dispute is about contracts. BMA (British Medical Association) IRA representative Maria Butterfield was quoted as saying, “We have been asked not to bring banners. This is about the doctors and there message, which is clear and simple.”

Under the new contracts being offered, Student Doctors would have the EU legislative legal protection removed that currently prohibits the working of more than 48 hours a week. The reason for this legal prohibition is the well known and documented fact that tired doctors can kill patients. Unwittingly. Accidentally. Through being pushed to work longer hours than their mental and physical capacities can sustain.

That is why, said a Junior Doctor training in anaesthetics, we are striking in Barnsley today and on the 26th. We care about patients. We came into this profession because we want to help people and patient safety is paramount. Tired doctors can’t work to the best of their ability, much as they would like to do so.

Think about Patient Safety please, Mr. Cameron!

Standing up to racism in Barnsley

Barnsley Green Party member Callum Moss on how Barnsley people proudly stand up against racism.

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Barnsley has a history of helping people in need, in World War II we welcomed around 20,000 Polish refugees who were displaced by war and destruction to their homes, towns and communities. They worked with our grandfathers in the mines and the glassworks that are the pride of Barnsley, and they have integrated with our communities to this day. The community spirit of Barnsley to help people at home and beyond is one of the best attributes of our town.

So when Barnsley gained support to become a sanctuary for refugees from Syria and around the world in war torn countries, the Barnsley Green Party welcomed this. This however galvanised the anti-immigration groups around Barnsley such as the EDL, the South Yorkshire Casuals and political parties past and present such as the BNP and UKIP.

This prompted the South Yorkshire Casuals (SYC) to hold a demonstration in Barnsley, on the 12th December 2015. It also inspired a group of people to form a grassroots movement to put a positive light on asylum and immigration, happening naturally as a response to the dominance online of the anti-immigration movement.

A page was created on Facebook called ‘I’m from Barnsley and I’m not a racist’, which quickly gained support from local people, political parties, trade union groups, regional groups and the media. Local newspapers and online news sites contacted the page for information on what this movement was doing, showing their support for helping Syrian refugees both in Calais and the families that have come to Barnsley.

The movement started helping coordinate efforts against the SYC demonstration and got to work on putting a positive light on contributions from immigration and asylum seekers. We posted articles based on news from around the world, to highlight the plightful journey Syrian refugees make to find safety and nurture the humanitarian response as to why we need to help refugees.

The Green Party advocate within the movement, for immigration to be a humane process. Something that members have been learning from organisations such as South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (known as SYMAAG) and United Against Fascism (also known as UAF). We also learned about the rise in a market for asylum seekers between private firms who run detention centres, such as G4S and Serco. As they get government funding for running these detention centres and keeping asylum seekers in them for as long as possible, to maximize funding from government. With this information being shared between members, the advocation for a humane immigration process only grows stronger as members find out more information on how our asylum system works and highlights that they are seen as a tradable commodity.

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Eventually after a few meetings and some planning, it all came ahead on the 12th of December when the SYC held their demonstration, so did the Antifa movement in Barnsley. It was a miserable rainy day but they managed to match the attendance of the SYC demo, and get support from Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis, who had questions of his own about the motives behind the SYC.

When it came to engagement with the public, the group to pride in being peaceful and friendly to the public, while the SYC marched around the town centre chanting and swearing in public spaces where families were out Christmas shopping.

After the demonstrations the SYC suddenly died down, and more recently, the British National Party (BNP) have lost their recognition as a political party. The anti-immigration online presence is diminishing, while the Antifa movement keeps growing stronger and stronger in support.

Officer claims Met police improperly destroyed files on Green party peer

This story by Rob Jones originally appeared in The Guardian.

Whistleblower David Williams alleges his unit got rid of records to prevent Jenny Jones from discovering extent of its monitoring of her political activities

Green party peer Jenny Jones. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

Green party peer Jenny Jones. Photograph: Carl Court/AFP/Getty Images

A police officer working for a secretive Scotland Yard intelligence unit that monitors thousands of political campaigners has alleged that police improperly destroyed files they had compiled on a Green party peer in a “highly irregular” cover-up.

Whistleblower Sgt David Williams said the unit got rid of the records to prevent Jenny Jones from discovering the extent of the police’s monitoring of her political activities. Lady Jones is also deputy chair of the committee that supervises the Metropolitan police.

In a personal letter to Jones, which Williams said he had written as a last resort, the officer said: “I didn’t become a police officer to monitor politicians or political parties, nor to pay casual disregard to policy and procedure.”

He said he believed that the police had failed to investigate his allegation properly.
“This letter to you may not be in my best interests but not sending it would be unconscionable for me. I fear it may initiate a series of escalating actions against me designed to discredit me or lead to my suspension from duty or my dismissal,” Williams added.

The Met said the records on Jones were destroyed as a part of a legitimate programme to improve its record-keeping. The force added that it did not happen “inappropriately”.

In the four-page letter, Williams also described his concerns about a series of other incidents that he alleged appeared to show a pattern of misconduct within the unit.

He alleged that this misconduct included the abrupt removal of an officer who had complained about racism, drunken behaviour, faking time records and apparent fraud.

The Met dismissed these claims as either false, lacking in detail or because it said Williams had never raised them with his colleagues. The Met also disputed his claim that he had been victimised for speaking out.

Williams has worked for five years in the Met’s clandestine “domestic extremism” unit, which monitors protesters. The Met maintains that the unit is only concerned with keeping track of campaigners who commit crime to promote their political cause.

But police have been criticised for keeping files on protesters who, like Jones, have no criminal record, and recording trivial information, for example the sale of political literature and merchandise by an activist at the Glastonbury music festival.

Two years ago Jones used the Data Protection Act to obtain records showing how the police had kept a log of her political movements between 2001 and 2012. During the entire period she had been a member of the official committee scrutinising the Metropolitan police as a London councillor, and in 2012 she stood to be the capital’s mayor.

The records she obtained consisted of 17 reports recording, for example, how she had spoken at public meetings about issues such as police violence and public spending cuts.

For some time afterwards, she complained to the Met and demanded to know who had authorised the monitoring, the justification for doing so, and whether it continued.

In June 2014 Jones had an official meeting with the unit as she continued to press for answers. According to Jones, officers from the unit said they were unable to say whether the file on her remained on the domestic extremism database.

In his letter to her, Williams described how that month he “saw three officers engaged in physically destroying a number of police records by shredding. I believe all of these records related to you. There were in excess of 30 reports.

“One of these officers then began to electronically delete a number of police records from a police database. Again, I believe these records related to you.”

But the officer could not delete the records, according to Williams, as two other officers were also trying to delete them at the same time.

Williams said that, also in a “highly irregular manner”, the records were deleted immediately without being retained on the unit’s back-up database. “This process would thwart any freedom of information request within a 28-day period from the initial deletion,” Williams wrote.

“Understandably the behaviour of these five officers caused me great concern as I believed this was a cover-up to ensure you could not get any access to police records relating to you through a freedom of information request.”

Williams said he reported his concern to the Met’s directorate of professional standards (DPS), the internal department responsible for investigating misconduct. Eight months later, the DPS told him it had been unable to find any evidence to corroborate his allegation and was going to close the matter.

But Williams said he persuaded the DPS to initiate a second investigation. According to the whistleblower, he detailed all his concerns about misconduct in the unit, but only his allegation about the destruction of Jones’s records appeared to have been investigated – a claim disputed by the Met.

He said senior officers held a meeting with one of the officers alleged to have been involved in destroying Jones’s records to discuss the issue. “This seemed highly irregular and seems to be similar to tipping off a suspect for a crime,” Williams wrote.

He said that in July last year he was told by the DPS that the second investigation had found that the destruction of the peer’s records had happened.

However, according to Williams, the DPS sent a report to Bernard Hogan-Howe, the Met commissioner, concluding that there had been no wrongdoing, although there had been “an issue of poor communication”. Another of Williams’s colleagues had reported the same incident, he added.

Williams told Jones that as he still had “serious reservations” about all his concerns, he had decided to write to her as he had exhausted all the Met’s internal procedures for raising alleged wrongdoing.

The Met said there was no evidence that there “had been any inappropriate destruction of documents” or that records had been destroyed in order to prevent them being released under freedom of information rules.

It added: “In fact the lead detective in the case, who spoke to all potential witnesses as part of their investigation, found that the unit was responding positively to demands to improve its document retention procedures by destroying information that it had no need to retain and that therefore should not be retained.”

Jones paid tribute to Williams, who she said “has tried to point out apparent wrongdoing within the intelligence unit where he works and is now facing dire personal consequences as a result.” She said it was worrying that the police could destroy files to “hide what they were keeping on me”.

Molly Scott Cato MEP: Banking’s central structural flaw has not been adequately addressed

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REACTING to the news that the Financial Conduct Authority is to shelve its investigation in to the culture, behaviour and pay of staff in banking (1), Molly Scott Cato MEP, the Green Party’s finance spokesperson, said:

“Following the banking collapse of 2008 we were told that both the structure and the culture of banking were at fault. The central structural flaw, the fact that the public was required to guarantee the casino economy, has not been adequately addressed. Instead of the essential separation of retail from commercial banking only a much weaker ring-fence is proposed but yet to be implemented.

“With the removal of FCA boss Martin Wheatley earlier this year we now see that the Financial Conduct Authority is to drop its investigation of banking culture, which was so widely blamed for the banking collapse. So neither structure nor culture is to be radically changed following the worst financial crisis in the history of capitalism.

“In an economy where money is created in the private sector based on debt, a banking licence represents an extraordinary power granted to a small number of corporations by the state. Strict regulation of their activities, particularly when their risks are guaranteed by the public, is therefore essential. An insistence on the need to reform both the structure and the culture of banking is nothing to do with ‘banker bashing’ but rather a necessary defence of the public interest against the destructive behaviour of the greedy few.”

1) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-35204010