People die and this government sits on its hands

The Mayor of London issued a high pollution alert on Tuesday evening, but not the government, not the NHS, nor Public Health England, nor the Met Office and I didn’t notice anything on the BBC. Sadiq Khan has broken the silence which DEFRA managed to maintain for over a decade when Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson were Mayors. He has quite rightly decided that the public’s health comes first and efforts should be made to warn them when we have a bad pollution episode. Unfortunately, the Met Office, the NHS and the BBC outside of London, all wait for DEFRA to act before telling the public and that is why the system of alerts has failed so badly.

The government have deliberately played down the health impacts of air pollution for twenty years, because they want to do the minimum they can get away with. If they regularly issued press releases telling people to avoid exercise, or busy roads, or even not to drive in pollution hotspots, then the public would want to know when the problem was going to be fixed. The solutions are well known and have been put in place in cities around the world: cleaner vehicles, used less.

The EU have taken the lead in the drive for cleaner vehicles and while they did a good job with regulating diesel lorries and larger vehicles, they had a light touch approach to the car manufacturers. That approach failed miserably. Many car makers put profit before people and cheated on the tests. The differences between performance in the test and the reality on the roads can be measured in human lives cut short.

Meanwhile, Labour, Conservative and coalition governments have all failed to reduce traffic. In fact, they have acted to encourage traffic growth with new roads and cuts to public transport. The cost of driving has declined while the cost of fares has risen. Measures like pay as you go driving have been promoted by the experts, but rejected by politicians running scared of the motoring lobby. A few years go the Greens on the London Assembly even commissioned a report on how it would work in London and we shared that with Transport for London.

I’m glad that Sadiq Khan is now putting this forward as part of a London strategy to reduce traffic by 3m journeys. Such policies need our support if we are to end the public health scandal of air pollution

Four reasons to vote Green

Climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity and it has been largely being ignored or sidelined by the bigger political parties. Yet last year was the hottest on record and those records are being beaten at an increasing rate. Huge cracks are emerging in the polar ice at the same time as Trump has tried to sink the Paris climate change deal. Labour has refused to oppose Heathrow expansion, which is the single most damaging policy/project for climate change and air pollution.

A Green vote sends a message that action on climate change is vital and puts pressure on all parties to take it seriously.

Image result for climate change ice

We need to address inequality, reduce the queues for food banks, and stop the NHS from collapsing, but both Labour and the Conservatives would waste billions of taxpayer pounds on Trident. Labour would also condemn the next generation to decades of paying huge energy bills for a new set of outdated and redundant nukes.

A Green vote sends a message that our money needs to be invested in renewable energy, emerging green industries and future technologies, not 1950s reboots.

We mustn’t reward Labour tribalism. We Greens have done our generous best in standing down in 30 constituencies where there is a close contest, but Labour doesn’t even support PR, a fairer voting system. Labour has even expelled activists who supported a progressive alliance attempt to unseat Jeremy Hunt by swinging behind a doctor standing as an NHS candidate. I admire the local Green parties who have made the sacrifice, but Corbyn’s Labour Party have failed to respond and engage.

A Green vote is a reminder that fair votes are an essential part of rebuilding our democracy.

Just like Caroline Lucas, I welcome the fact that so many of the Green Party ideas from our 2015 manifesto have become Labour Party policy under Corbyn. I spent 16 years on the London Assembly encouraging Ken Livingstone and even Boris Johnson, to ‘steal’ the Green Party’s ideas and put them into practice. The Living Wage Unit, Same Sex Partnerships, hire bikes and a lengthy list of other green proposals were implemented as we changed the world via proxy. That only happened because of the large numbers of Londoners who regularly voted Green.

A Green vote carries huge influence even when we aren’t in power.

We need more green voices in Parliament to ensure that positive changes happen. We need Green votes across the country to keep up the pressure on the main parties to take climate change, fair votes and social equality seriously.

A Green vote is for a healthier, happier, fairer and safer society

Labour manifesto: still lots of reasons to vote Green

Just like Caroline Lucas, I welcome the fact that so many of the Green Party ideas from our 2015 manifesto have become Labour Party policy under Corbyn. I spent 16 years on the London Assembly encouraging Ken Livingstone and even Boris Johnson, to ‘steal’ the Green Party’s ideas and put them into practice. The Living Wage Unit, Same Sex Partnerships, hire bikes and a lengthy list of other green proposals were implemented as we changed the world via proxy. That only happened because of the large numbers of Londoners who regularly voted green.

JJ and Ken at City hall

A Corbyn led Labour government would start to address inequality, reduce the queues for food banks and stop the NHS from collapsing, but it would still be wasting billions of taxpayer pounds on Trident. Labour would also condemn the next generation to decades of paying huge energy bills for a new set of outdated and redundant nukes.

Climate change is given a mention towards the back of the manifesto and we would get a new Clean Air Act. However, there is no stated opposition to Heathrow expansion which is the single most environmentally damaging project in the country. I have no doubt that most of Labour’s current MPs (outside of London) would back Heathrow expansion in a free vote and that is what Corbyn has promised them.

Another good reason to vote Green is that I don’t want to reward Labour tribalism. We Greens have done our generous best in standing down in 30 constituencies where there is a close contest, but Labour doesn’t even support PR. Labour has even expelled activists who supported a progressive alliance attempt to unseat Jeremy Hunt by swinging behind a doctor standing as an NHS candidate. I admire the local Green parties who have made the sacrifice, but Corbyn’s Labour Party have failed to respond and engage.

If the polls are right and we end up with a Conservative landslide, then it will be even more essential that we have clear Green Party voices in Parliament to help protect existing environment regulations from Theresa May’s Great Repeal Bill. We need more Green Party MPs like Caroline Lucas to push a positive agenda on renewable energy, civil liberties and reducing pollution. There’s no substitute for real Greens.

When the NHS catches a computer bug are security services to blame?

There is no doubt that the delays and disruption caused by the NHS computer virus could have been avoided. The government could have used a fraction of the multi-billion security budget to enable hospital trusts to update ageing software. However, instead of being focused on designing out crime as they promised to do, western security services are doing the opposite. The US government and our own, are pressuring companies like Microsoft and others to create ‘backdoors’ which open up our privacy and security to attack if they are leaked.
Image result for nsa surveillance uk
The people who created the virus are clearly to blame for the current attack on the NHS, but their work is based upon the exploitation of a flaw (they call it an ‘exploit’) in the Microsoft XP Operating system. As the head of Microsoft legal has pointed out “The WannaCrypt exploits used in the attack were drawn from the exploits stolen from the National Security Agency, or NSA, in the United States.” Those exploits were developed by the NSA as part of their ‘offensive’ capability in the fight against terrorism and rogue states. The NSA discovered the flaw in XP and then created a set of viruses that they could deploy against people they didn’t like. When those exploits leaked out earlier in the year, this virus attack became inevitable.
I am almost computer illiterate, but my work relies upon laptops and phones to be effective. The same goes for millions of businesses and organisations. I want them to be as secure as possible, which is why we shouldn’t vote for governments who want to deliberately create security flaws in that technology that they can exploit for the purposes of snooping on us. Our security services should make it a priority to design out crime, rather than finding ways of potentially designing it in.
The blog from President of Microsoft and head of legal is here

New report shows need for driving bans

I was involved in taking evidence and drawing up the recommendations in the new report from the Parliamentary cycling group. Many of the stories I heard were of injustice, as the rules of the road are either unenforced by overstretched police or sidestepped through the use of legal loopholes.

For example, does anyone seriously think that the number of driving bans has fallen by 62% over the last 10 years because the quality of our driving has improved? The rules on claiming ‘hardship’ to avoid a driving ban haven’t changed, but the inclination of Magistrates to let people off has. When the ‘exception’ becomes the norm, then the law has to be changed to close the loophole and ensure that dangerous drivers are taken off the road and restricted to using buses/taxis.

The Guardian has a good summary of the report here

 

Finance is key to local energy independence

The creation of local energy companies could be the best way for Mayors and local authorities to reduce costs for residents and clean up energy supplies. The six metro areas across the U.K. electing a mayor for the first time, don’t have to wait for the Government to create nationally applicable policies, they can act now to create strong policies of their own.     

My new report shows the abundant opportunities for action, from small solar panel installations on schools to utility-scale wind and solar farms.  Some local governments have already proposed ideas like these, although have not yet started the projects.  To make implementation of these policies more realistic, mayors and councils should map out energy action plans to ensure that their budgets can sustain the plans.

Residents should put pressure on their local leaders to utilise resources in the region and clean up the energy sector.  Local leaders should similarly pressure the Government to ensure inadequate funding to carry out the implementation of ambitious energy plans.  There must be cooperation at all levels of governing in order to have a healthier energy marketplace.

Metro Mayors Energy Report LR