Forty-four days after David Cameron gained an unexpected majority on a dramatic general election night, opposition parties are still picking themselves up from the floor. But on the streets of Britain, tens of thousands of people took up their placards and filled the streets of London, Glasgow and elsewhere for the first major protest against the government’s plans for five more years of austerity.
Estimates of the size of the rally in central London on Saturday varied between 70,000 and more than 150,000; in Glasgow’s George Square several thousand gathered and there were smaller demonstrations reported in other cities, including Liverpool and Bristol.
“We’re here to say austerity isn’t working,” said Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, to great applause from the crowds in Parliament Square at the end of the march. “We’re here to say that it wasn’t people on Jobseekers’ Allowance that brought down the banks.
“It wasn’t nurses and teachers and firefighters who were recklessly gambling on international markets. And so we should stop the policies that are making them pay for a crisis that wasn’t there making.”
Marching under the banner End Austerity Now, protesters denounced public sector cuts, the treatment of the disabled and the vulnerable through welfare cuts, the privatisation of the NHS.
Teachers, nurses, lawyers and union groups marched under their own banners. Chants and songs demanded an end to Tory government, equality and more help for the poor. A sprinkling of celebrity faces – Russell Brand, Charlotte Church and actor Richard Coyle – were among the crowd.
The deputy first minister of Northern Ireland, Martin McGuinness, told the rally:
“It is David Cameron’s cabinet of millionaires – they are the people who are the real spongers. They are the people who are given free rein to live out their Thatcherite fantasies at the expense of ordinary, decent communities throughout these islands.”
Protesters set off from outside the Bank of England, and by the time the march reached Westminster – its final destination – a sea of banners, placards and flags stretched for more than a mile down Whitehall and past Trafalgar Square.
The Green Party General Election candidate for Darlington has launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover his costs.
Mike Cherrington, who has lived in the town for more than 20 years, hopes to raise £500 to cover the costs of his campaign.
Mr Cherrington said that because he has worked in social care and mental health services for the past 20 years, he has seen the negative impact of cuts to health and social care, and is strongly against the privatisation of the NHS.
He also aims to get young people involved and interested in politics, and hopes to provide support for small businesses in the town, as well as challenging inequality in Darlington so all residents have equal opportunities and are paid the living wage.
Having worked in Middlesbrough with victims of sexual abuse, Mr Cherrington believes victims of crime should be treated with dignity and respect and believes restorative justice should be used to help prevent reoffending.
“I am not a politician and have never been involved in politics before. I feel very passionately about standing and making a change for people,” he said.
“The Green Party is a positive alternative for the community and one that brings hope.”
The Green Party is set to field more than three times as many candidates in the North East as in 2010, in a further sign that the smaller parties could play a key role in the general election.
And the party has turned to an “crowdfunding” website where supporters, or anyone who want to help, are urged to contribute small sums of money to help pay the cost of deposits.
One candidate is even offering donors rewards such as a sketch or a personalised poem if they help to fund his campaign.
It follows the success of the Greens in winning support from one in 20 voters in the region in the European elections last year, placing them almost level with the Liberal Democrats.
The party had just ten candidates in the region in 2010.
But it expects to have candidates in 25 seats on May 7.
However, standing for election can be an expensive business – particularly for a party without funding from big businesses or trade unions.
To help raise the £500 deposit which every candidate needs, the Greens have turned to a website called crowdfunder.co.uk which allows anybody to contribute sums, typically of £5 or more, to a cause.
In return, donors will receive a reward which varies from candidate to candidate.
Michael Holt, who hopes to be the Green Party candidate for Hartlepool, is offering to draw a sketch for backers who donate £5, write a personalised poem for £10 or record a song, on the subject of the donor’s choosing, for £30.
Other candidates are offering more conventional rewards. Donors backing the campaign of prospective Tynemouth candidate Julia Erskine can receive a badge or a mug.
The fundraising has a serious purpose – to allow the Greens to take part in May’s General Election in a way that hasn’t happened before.
It comes amid speculation that the traditional three parties – Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – could lose ground to parties such as UKIP, the Greens and, in Scotland, the SNP.
One opinion poll published this week found that Labour had 27 per cent of the vote in the North of England while Conservatives were on 22 per cent, UKIP on 14 per cent, Greens on seven percent and Lib Dems on four per cent.
The North East has not traditionally been the most fertile ground for the Greens, who have one MP, representing Brighton Pavilion.
Brighton and Hove Council is also the only council controlled by the Greens, as a minority administration. London, the south east and south west each have one Green MEP.
But the party believes it could pick up support in the North East and is campaigning on a series of local issues across the region. In Northumberland they are opposing hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and they are also working with residents concerned about planned open cast mining at Druridge Bay.
Greens in Newcastle and Gateshead are campaigning to protect the green belt. Greens have also opposed the closure of the Jarrow NHS walk-in centre in South Tyneside.
Shirley Ford, North East organiser for the Greens and the party’s organiser in South Shields, said:
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election. The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.”
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning.
“And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits. We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.”
What they stand for:
In line with the other parties, the Green Party has not yet published its General Election manifesto. The party says that its manifesto published last year for the European Elections provides a good guide to what it believes.
- Opposing austerity and instead creating jobs by investing in a low carbon economy
- Scrapping the welfare cap
- A new tax on bankers bonuses
- Stopping the “privatisation” of the National Health Service
- Bringing schools such as academies and free schools back under local authority control
- Bringing rail franchises back into public ownership
Scrapping the high speed rail line known as HS2
> The Green surge in the North East is interesting because formerly UKIP were claiming to be the alternative vote in the region for disillusioned Labour voters.
I suspect that the Greens are now becoming the alternative to UKIP being the alternative (if that makes sense). Certainly you’d like to hope that any ex-Labour or Lib Dems with principles would vote Green rather than UKIP and its pathetic policies.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 14 Feb 2015
The Green Party is aiming to field candidates in all 18 South Tyneside Council wards being contested at May’s local elections.
The plan coincides with a recent doubling of party membership in the borough.
The party is also putting up candidates in both borough Parliamentary seats for the first time – Shirley Ford in South Shields and David Herbert in Jarrow.
The news comes at a time when the party’s profile nationally is rising, courtesy of a surprise endorsement from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Mr Cameron has refused to take part in any television debate until broadcasters agree that the Greens be included too.
“As a democratically elected leader, I have no reason to doubt his motives for doing that, but whatever his motives, his intervention does mean that people across the country are taking a look at us,” said Mrs Ford.
“Something like 300,000 people have signed an online petition supporting our involvement in the debates.”
Later this week, the borough’s Green Party branch is to meet to select candidates to fight for council seats in May, and a public meeting is also being lined up.
Mrs Ford said: “There has been a surge in membership.
“It has more than doubled in the last couple of months, from about 20 to 42, the last time I looked.
“There’s probably a mixture of reasons why that has happened, including the publicity in the national media and the fact that we have been very visible since the Westoe by-election in September last year through our beach cleans, park cleans, the stall we had in King Street, South Shields, and our support for the Gazette’s campaign to cut business rates.”
Green activists were also out in force at The Nook in South Shields on Saturday asking the public to sign a petition opposing Harton Technology College’s plans to become an academy.
Mrs Ford said: “There is definitely a different vibe towards the party now.
“At the last general election in 2010, we stood in a handful of borough wards, but I can’t see a reason why we can’t have candidates for all 18 wards in May.
“That’s our aim anyway. All the members who have signed up in recent weeks will be able to stand. We don’t have any rules that forbid that.
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75 per cent of constituencies, and we are determined to exceed that in the North East.
“We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the general election.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 19 Jan 2015
The Green Party is set to triple its number of candidates standing for Parliament in the North East this General Election.
In 2010, the party fielded seven candidates but this May it will field 25 as support for its campaign grows in the region.
So far, the party has put forward 14 candidates and members are in the process of selecting a further 11.
Broadcasters have so far refused to include a spokesman in the upcoming TV debates ahead of voters going to the polls in May despite the fact the Green Party has seen membership rise by 120% to 40,879.
The Lib Dems’ membership stands at a reported 44,576, while Ukip says it has 42,500 members.
The party will be fielding seven candidates in County Durham constituencies, 10 in Tyne and Wear, five in Teesside and three in Northumberland.
Prime Minister David Cameron has declared he will not take part in a TV debate unless the Green Party is also invited.
> Only, one susposes, because he suspects the Greens will draw in any Labour supporters who still harbour socialist principles. Labour don’t seem at all keen to allow them airtime, so they probably think so too.
Well tough – Labour has lost support of people like myself since they became pale blue under Blair, and Milliband just compounds the problem – not because he looks a bit weird alledgedly but because he really has nothing new to offer – more austerity ? Gee, thanks Ed – enjoy your MPs 10% pay rise.
No doubt if the Greens did become a major party they would over time become just as corrupt and dysfunctional as the other main parties, especially if career politicians of no obvious convictions saw them as a way into power. But in the meantime, where else do those of us who would rather cut off our hands before we voted UKIP register our protest vote ? And they do at least have some policies that generate a little ray of hope that some party may have ideas that look beyond years more of austerity.
The North East regional party coordinator, Shirley Ford, who is standing for the Greens in South Shields, said to have so many candidates is a sign of confidence amongst the party ranks –
“The party has pledged to stand in at least 75% of constituencies and we are determined to exceed that in the North East. We really want to give everyone the chance to vote Green in the General Election.
“The way our membership and supporter numbers are rocketing, we are optimistic that we will be able to do that.
“With local parties right across the region blossoming, we are confident we can raise all the deposits and funds for campaigning. And one key way we are doing this is by crowdfunding, with some local parties having already fully funded their candidates’ deposits.
“We rely on the commitment and dedication of our members and supporters to raise the money we need.
“We are receiving requests all the time via email, Twitter, Facebook and when we’re out campaigning, for us to stand candidates.
“People want to be able to vote for a party that has the policies to tackle the economic, social and environmental crises we face.
“More and more people are recognising that the Greens stand for making real bold change for the common good.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 15 Jan 2015
The Green Party has announced its intention to contest the general election in the Berwick constituency.
The Greens plan to put forward a candidate to stand in May after the forming of local branch of the national party.
A statement read:
“The Green Party are delighted to announce the formation of a local branch of the national party, to represent the interests of the Berwick-upon-Tweed constituency and to give voters in north Northumberland a wider range of choice than ever before at the forthcoming general election.”
The party has not had been on a general election ballot paper for the Berwick constituency since 1987 when Nigel David Pamphilion received 379 votes.
A group of people from the north Northumberland area met in Alnwick before Christmas and agreed to form a local branch of the national party, with the urgent aim to ensure that there is a locally-based Green Party candidate on the ballot paper in May.
The party’s next meeting is in Berwick on Saturday.
Source – Berwick Advertiser, 05 Jan 2015
The Green Party, Plaid Cymru and SNP have announced their intention to unite against the austerity agenda followed by Westminster’s main political parties.
Callous and vicious austerity measures have impacted heavily upon benefit claimants, low-income families and disabled people.
Policies such as the hated ‘bedroom tax’ and other welfare reforms have led to substantial and significant falls in income for some of Britain’s poorest citizens.
The Tories, Labour and Liberal Democrats have all reiterated their pledges to continue spending cuts, of various levels and guises, if they win a majority in the 2015 general election.
Party leaders from the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party say they will “unite whenever possible to battle the Westminster parties’ obsession with austerity”.
Speaking during a meeting at Westminster, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said:
“I am delighted to have the chance to catch up with two other female leaders of anti-austerity parties in the UK. Together, we represent, with the Scottish Green Party, a new way of doing politics, a move away from the business-as-usual model of the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems that no longer represents public opinion.
“We are the voice of real change – a voice that must be represented in the leader debates next year.
“The ‘Green surge’ that has seen membership in England and Wales more than double, and Scottish Green Party membership nearly quadruple in 2014 is a sign of the shifting political landscape.
“Collectively the Green parties will be standing in more than 75% of seats in the UK, reflecting the advance of our political philosophy that rejects austerity and believes that everyone should have access to the resources for a decent quality of life, with certainty, without fear, while we all live collectively within the limits of our one planet.
“And in thinking about future financial stability, we have to focus on the reason for our current difficulties, the near-collapse of our fraud-ridden, reckless, over-large financial sector.
“Green MP Caroline Lucas is an outstanding MP as shown by the numerous awards she has received including the prestigious MP of the year for her work with disadvantaged communities. Electing more Greens next year will help to bring about a peaceful revolution in British politics, towards a government that works for the common good, not just for the few.”
First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said:
“There is no end in sight to the Westminster cuts that are already hitting Scotland hard – the Autumn Statement earlier this month set out another £15bn of cuts that are coming our way. Not only will these cuts continue to hit hard-working families, women and the vulnerable hardest – they will also put growth and competitiveness at risk.
“But despite the deeply damaging impacts of failed austerity, the Tories and Labour have made crystal clear their determination to carry on regardless.
“And after four years propping up the Tories, the Lib Dems have no credibility. It is time for a new approach to UK politics – and for our parties to use our influence to bring about progressive change at Westminster.
“Following the referendum in Scotland, the political landscape has changed utterly. The SNP is now the third biggest political party in the UK in terms of membership.
“Last month we sent this message to the BBC, ITV, Sky and Channel 4 – to exclude the SNP, the Greens and Plaid Cymru from general election TV debates would be to wilfully ignore this new political landscape. Put simply, it is just not on.
“Electing a strong group of SNP MPs will ensure that Scotland’s voice is heard at Westminster. Along with Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, we will work to do everything possible to tackle inequality and bring about sustainable economic growth.”
Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood said:
“Plaid Cymru and the SNP provide an alternative to Westminster’s promise of austerity and cuts to public services. As the only parties, together with the Greens, to reject the cuts consensus, it is unjustifiable and undemocratic to exclude our three parties from proposed leaders’ debates during the forthcoming UK elections. I reiterate my calls for Plaid Cymru’s inclusion in those debates in order to ensure the people can exercise their right to question and scrutinise all major parties.
“The people of Wales face a real choice at the election. All three Westminster parties are committed to slash and burn economics. That means cuts for the sake of cuts rather than balancing the books by investment and spreading opportunities. It is likely that there will be another hung parliament after the election. In that scenario, Plaid Cymru could hold the balance of power alongside our colleagues in the SNP. Should that happen, Plaid Cymru will seek a rebalancing of power and wealth in the UK: transferring powers away from London to Wales so more of our fate is in our own hands; spreading investment away from the booming City of London to areas in most need of investment.
“If the people of Wales return a strong contingent of Plaid Cymru MPs in May, then Wales will be best placed to secure an outcome to improve the prospects of our people and communities.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 15 Dec 2014
It’s green for go in South Tyneside ahead of next year’s general election after the borough’s first Parliamentary candidate threw her hat into the ring.
The Green Party has announced that primary school support worker Shirley Ford is to fight for the South Shields constituency next May.
The 50-year-old, of South Shields, says her campaign will centre on public concerns over the state of the town centre and the need for a decent living wage.
The mother of one will also highlight her party’s opposition to the potential extraction of coal to convert into gas along a large stretch of the region’s coastline.
Mrs Ford has experience as a candidate, having previously stood for her home town set at the 2010 general election.
“We have had an upsurge in new members since the Scottish devolution vote.
“People want to hear different voices, different ideas, and it’s not all about Ukip. People want positive choices that don’t just play on people’s fears.
“One of the main issues we picked up during the recent Westoe by-election was public concern over our high street, which is dying, and over the council’s grand, shiny regeneration plan to attract big names to the town.
“We have seen what has happened with these big businesses in the past. They just up and leave if they are not making the profits they require.
“We’d like to see much more support for local small businesses who are loyal and stay in the town.
“Protection for people in the workplace is also on our agenda, and we will be pushing the council and its contractors to bring in a decent living wage sooner than they have promised.”
Mrs Ford is also unhappy at the cabinet system adopted by South Tyneside Council.
“It means the leader of the council and a half a dozen others make all the major decisions, and the backbenchers have no power at all. We want to bring back proper committees.”
Mrs Ford has been the Keep Metro Public campaign’s South Tyneside co-ordinator, opposing privatisation of the Tyne and Wear Metro system.
She has also volunteered in Kenya for a safe drinking water project and has worked for many years on human rights and anti-poverty campaigns.
The Green Party also plans to fight the Jarrow constituency, with a candidate to be announced soon.
Source – Shields Gazette, 28 Oct 2014