Saturday, May 23, 2015

404 Why it's a bad number

This is the Mauna Loa data, the Keeling Curve, for the year to May 2015.  It's a bit noisy from week to week but concentrate on the smoothed average shown by the blue/white boundary. 
CO2 concentration peaked at about 404ppm this year, a rise of over 2ppm on this time last year, and will now drop back a little as the northern temperate forests come into leaf, start photosynthesising and sequester CO2.

The extraordinary thing is that despite everybody knowing that global warming could end civilisation we continue to burn fossil carbon so next May the concentration could reach over 406 ppm.

We've known since 1824, thanks to Joseph Fourier, that the atmosphere kept us warm, and since 1864, thanks to John Tyndall, that adding gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere would warm the planet further. In 1896 Svante Arrhenius calculated just how much warmer and by 1938 Guy Callendar had measured both the rise in CO2 concentration and the rise in temperature, added them together and gave us the correct answer.

Before humans started burning a lot of fossil carbon, CO2 concentration was around 280ppm.  By the time Charles Keeling started the Mauna Loa observations in 1958 it had already risen to around 315ppm.  James Hansen made the number 350 famous, the level we really should not be above if human civilisation is to have a sustainable future.  Yet here we are with a new record set and a discussion amongst climate scientists as to whether the rate on increase is increasing.  Doh!

Moral: We have to stop burning fossil carbon.  Now. And then we need to get the concentration back down below 350ppm by sequestering carbon.

Friday, May 08, 2015

So Much for the Tea Leaves

With poetry and prose appropriate to a failed election.

Let's start with some numbers  (hat-tip the BBC website) from Brighton Pavillion, Boston & Skegness, Gainsborough and Louth & Horncastle:

In a constituency where voters think there is a good chance that their vote will count towards a winning candidate, they will vote for the policies they agree with most, will vote for hope, will vote Green.  But where there is little chance of the Green Party winning, especially in a seat that is marginal between two other parties, people are reluctant to 'waste' their vote on a candidate with no hope of winning.

This means that if we had a properly proportional voting system, in which everybody's vote counted for something, then people would be more likely to vote for the party that best matched their preferred policies.  And all the indications are that for a great many people that means the Green Party.

As we have seen with the SNP in Scotland, when change comes, it can come very quickly.  The future is an uncertain place.

But there is anger and sadness about today; some have tried to describe those who would make the rich richer and poor poorer, who would promote the arms trade, who would build that genocidal weapon of mass destruction they call Trident, and who would deny the global warming that is likely to end human civilisation, perhaps even the extinction of the human race. I don't think we have simple words to describe such people. At such times we must call on the poets:

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish'd, and the stars 
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went--and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill'd into a selfish prayer for light:
And they did live by watchfires--and the thrones,
The palaces of crowned kings--the huts,
The habitations of all things which dwell,
Were burnt for beacons; cities were consumed,
And men were gathered round their blazing homes
To look once more into each other's face;
Happy were those who dwelt within the eye
Of the volcanos, and their mountain-torch:
A fearful hope was all the world contain'd;
Forests were set on fire--but hour by hour
They fell and faded--and the crackling trunks
Extinguish'd with a crash--and all was black.
The brows of men by the despairing light
Wore an unearthly aspect, as by fits
The flashes fell upon them; some lay down
And hid their eyes and wept; and some did rest
Their chins upon their clenched hands, and smiled;
And others hurried to and fro, and fed
Their funeral piles with fuel, and looked up
With mad disquietude on the dull sky,
The pall of a past world; and then again
With curses cast them down upon the dust,
And gnash'd their teeth and howl'd: the wild birds shriek'd,
And, terrified, did flutter on the ground,
And flap their useless wings; the wildest brutes
Came tame and tremulous; and vipers crawl'd
And twined themselves among the multitude,
Hissing, but stingless--they were slain for food.
And War, which for a moment was no more,
Did glut himself again;--a meal was bought
With blood, and each sate sullenly apart
Gorging himself in gloom: no love was left;
All earth was but one thought--and that was death,
Immediate and inglorious; and the pang
Of famine fed upon all entrails--men
Died, and their bones were tombless as their flesh;
The meagre by the meagre were devoured,
Even dogs assail'd their masters, all save one,
And he was faithful to a corse, and kept
The birds and beasts and famish'd men at bay,
Till hunger clung them, or the dropping dead
Lured their lank jaws; himself sought out no food,
But with a piteous and perpetual moan,
And a quick desolate cry, licking the hand
Which answered not with a caress--he died.
The crowd was famish'd by degrees; but two
Of an enormous city did survive,
And they were enemies: they met beside
The dying embers of an altar-place
Where had been heap'd a mass of holy things
For an unholy usage; they raked up,
And shivering scraped with their cold skeleton hands
The feeble ashes, and their feeble breath
Blew for a little life, and made a flame
Which was a mockery; then they lifted up
Their eyes as it grew lighter, and beheld
Each other's aspects--saw, and shriek'd, and died--
Even of their mutual hideousness they died,
Unknowing who he was upon whose brow
Famine had written Fiend. The world was void,
The populous and the powerful--was a lump,
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless--
A lump of death--a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean all stood still,
And nothing stirred within their silent depths;
Ships sailorless lay rotting on the sea,
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropp'd
They slept on the abyss without a surge--
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave,
The moon their mistress had expir'd before;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air,
And the clouds perish'd; Darkness had no need
Of aid from them--She was the Universe.
Lord Byron

Or perhaps this piece from Paul Kingsnorth's The Wake

Thanks to Maxim Griffin

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

An Elephant in the Polling Booth

In 1978, as the Ecology Party's representative on the wonderfully named Parliamentary Liaison Committee for Alternative Energy Strategies, I met Tony Benn, then the Energy Minister.  He dismissed us as a 'single issue party', dismissed our call for renewable energy and said that nuclear generated electricity would be too cheap to meter. He was wrong, on both counts, as he came to admit in latter days when his position became almost indistinguishable from that of the Green Party.

Still the Green Party is criticised as being a single issue Party, but now we hear another criticism, that we have been too quiet about the environment.  Rocks and hard places come to mind.

The overwhelming failure of the election campaign, and UK politics in general, is the almost complete absence of discussion about global warming and climate change.  So focussed are we on the minutiae of daily life, little things that only affect the present generation for the next few years, the NHS, education, pensions, transport, Scottish independence, austerity, migration, bankers' bonuses, energy costs, Trident replacement, tactical voting and what have you. None of these things, however excited we may get about them, represent an existential crisis for the very future of human civilisation.

Our society, led by all the powers that be, is heading for global warming of several degrees. 4 degrees, 6 degrees, more, who knows, but the certainty is that the trajectory we are currently on leads to a future which is not survivable. Let me repeat that: the trajectory we are currently on leads to a future which is not survivable.  And I've not heard any politician outside the Green Party say that. 

Which is why I'm voting Green. Nothing else really matters.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm'd;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm'd;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

So who to vote for on this seventh day of May?

The three constituencies covered by the East Lincolnshire GreenParty, Gainsborough, Louth & Horncastle, Boston & Skegness, are amongst the safest Tory seats in the land. so while one should never say never, it's a safe bet that the three Conservative MPs will be returned to Parliament.

If you are a Tory supporter, your choice lies between casting your vote for your candidate or staying at home safe in the knowledge that your vote will not make a difference since your candidate will win with a safe majority even without your help.

But what if you are not very rich and concerned only about maximising your personal wealth or you have not been tricked by the overwhelming billionaire-owned media into thinking that the neo-liberal economic agenda promoted by the Tories is actually good for most people? If you are a climate change denying racist opposed to all things foreign you may as well paint yourself purple and yellow, but for the great majority of nice, sensible folk there is a bit of a dilemma.

Remember, in these safe Tory seats, your vote won't make a difference to the outcome of the election.

The remaining purpose of your vote is to send a signal, a message, to whoever ends up in government. So, forget about traditional loyalties and habits, ignore personalities and slick rhetoric, media presentation and election spending power. Instead vote for what you believe in, vote for the party that has the policies that most closely match your own.

Here's a website that allows you to do that easily, objectively, in an unbiased way.

Vote for Policies.

You take a survey, answering a series of questions and the computer programme matches your answers to the policies of the various parties and tells you which party your answers suggest you should be voting for.  It's particularly useful for people who have not read through each party's manifesto, so that's most of us.
I'm pretty sure that, were he to have been alive today, William Shakespeare would have voted for the Green Party.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Looking at the tea leaves…

Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.  Niels Bohr may have said that.

Notwithstanding, here's mine:

Labour and Tory take about the same number of seats, both well short of a majority. Most Scottish seats go to SNP. LibDems have a few along with a handful of Greens, Plaid Cymru, UKIP and Northern Ireland parties.

Conservative will not be able to form a minority government because even with LibDem and UKIP support, a Queen's speech cannot be passed; Labour and SNP will oppose. Labour, however, can win a Queen's Speech with SNP support; SNP would not join the Tories in voting it down. Continued Labour government would be dependent upon SNP support and this will be provided as SNP and Tories won’t get together to stop Labour. Even on a matter such as Trident replacement, in which Labour would get Tory support, it would not be in SNP’s interest to bring down a Labour government.

So we will have a minority Labour government with SNP theoretically holding the balance of power, but unable to do anything apart from support Labour, even in the absence of an official deal.


Whatever, we do need a post May7th Agenda:

After a little party on Friday night, the real work begins for the Green Party:
  • to retain all the 'surge' members when their renewals come round,
  • ensuring the organisational strength for by-elections or,
  • a snap general election in case a minority government fails,
  • ensuring a Yes vote in an EU referendum in the unlikely event that we get a government that insists on one,
  • getting ready for big gains in the EU Election 2017,
  • grabbing local council seats in any local elections,
  • winning big time in 2020,
  • campaigning tirelessly for proportional representation,
  • challenging every wrong thing that whoever is in power does,
  • and most important of all campaigning on global warming to ensure a decent agreement in Paris this December and a future that allows politics to continue in a human society that hasn't gone extinct.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's Victoria Atkins got against the Eels?

Eels cropped up at the Mablethorpe general election hustings in a question about the Environment Agency.  Now the EA is an institution that some of my fellow citizens view with mistrust and cynicism and criticism is popular amongst a certain section of local opinion.  I live below sea level twice a day and owe a lot to the engineers of the EA who design, build and maintain the sea defences so I have a bit of a soft spot for them.

The Tory candidate, Victoria Atkins, may be of the opinion that having a go at the EA will win votes.  Donna Nook was mentioned by another candidate.  That's where the EA has done a realignment job, moving the sea defence inland, making it much more robust and increasing the area of salt-marsh.  The project not only improves our security against storm surges as sea level rises, it also complies with the EU Habitats Directive, which, simply put, insists that if work is done in one place that causes a loss of habitat, then an equivalent new habitat has to be created nearby.  The hard defences for Hull and the Humber Bank industries are squeezing the salt-marsh there, so the extra at Donna Nook redresses the balance.  It may be inconvenient for the anti-EU folk, but this cannot be seen as Brussels dictating the lives of the plucky Brit.  This was largely a UK Government initiative and it is Britain that has, if anything, imposed the Habitats Directive on the rest of Europe.  Anyway, I give the EA a score of 9/10 for the scheme, with its difficulties caused by those who have opposed it, adding delay and cost.

It's strange how folk distrust the EA.  On the 6th December 2013 there was a tidal surge that caused some flooding in Boston, but at Saltfleet the brand new wall held fast with the water almost two feet short of the top.  A year earlier there was no end of opposition from the locals claiming the EA had got it wrong and the planned wall wasn't wanted.  Fortunately, that local opinion was not heeded, the wall was built, property and perhaps lives were protected.

Which brings us onto the eels.  Here's a snippet from the Sustainable Eel Group:

"Eel numbers have declined for many reasons in the last decade, including because they have struggled to bypass man-made barriers to reach important upstream habitats. Efforts are now underway to correct this, and rivers in Lincolnshire will be central to European efforts to help eel populations. Other initiatives on the Lymn include the construction of eel passes by the Environment Agency to help eels on their crucial migration up and down the river, and other conservation projects led by the Lincolnshire Rivers Trust."

But tragically, it appears that Victoria Atkins is not so keen on the Environment Agency spending the hard-earned money of hard-working families on eels. Which, frankly, is sad.  And it's why she's a Tory and not a Green.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

TEQs or What are Your Views on the Environment?

At the election hustings organised by Radio Lincolnshire yesterday in Horncastle Market square, the parliamentary candidates were asked about the environment.  Romy Rayner, for the Green Party, took the question in her stride of course, and the Liberal said "No Fracking", but it was the Conservative candidate, Victoria Atkins, barrister, daughter of  former Tory minister Sir Robert Atkins, who gave the note-worthy reply.

Lincolnshire, she told us, had some beautiful scenery and she didn't want it spoiled by wind turbines.

And that was about it, that was our possibly future MP's policy on something as big as The Environment.

And to-day is Earth Day.

So let's just think about a few of the things Victoria Atkins didn't mention.  It's not all doom and gloom; there's the pair of peregrine falcons that have taken up residence on the spire of St. James's Church in Louth and have laid two eggs. Well, that might spell doom and gloom for some of the local pigeons but we should take a holistic view of the ecosystem and not get too sentimental about nature being red in tooth and claw.  2015 marks the 500th anniversary the completion of the spire.  Sadly, it has seen the best of its days and will not survive a further 500 years.  Louth stands only a few metres above present sea level and the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets are no longer stable.  There's still doubt over just how quickly the ice can melt but as sure as peregrine eggs is eggs, the Greater North Sea will rise over the Lincolnshire Marsh to leave the higher ground of Louth as a seaside town on the banks of the Lud Estuary.  The church is on the lower ground.

Louth's survival, even as a seaside town, is actually in doubt as that presupposes that human civilisation will survive long enough to see the sea rise up that far.  A metre or two is on the cards for this century, the lifetime of Victoria's son, Monty.  That's enough to wipe out half of Bangladesh and much of the the most fertile and densely populated parts of Vietnam, south-east China, Thailand, Pakistan, Egypt and many other places.  A lot of people will be on the move. If they are still alive.

And here's the rub.  The now inevitable rise of sea level will be preceded by a rise in global average temperatures not seen since long before humankind walked the planet.  Our business-as-usual policies of Victoria's Tory Party and similar governments around the world lead inexorably to climate change in which the global agricultural system will collapse.  Billions will die before ever the sea washes over their graveyards.

Victoria wants economic growth and the nice views of Lincolnshire not interrupted by wind turbines.  I want for Victoria's Monty and my own granddaughter to have lives that will not be nasty, brutish and short.

So what shall we do?  On May the 7th vote Green, if in Louth & Horncastle vote Romy Rayner, but beyond that, the urgent task is to stop burning fossil carbon. We all can play our pert there. Divest from the fossil carbon complex and press the government to adopt a carbon capping mechanism to force change.

Which brings me to the real point of this blog, to announce the publication of the latest paper on Tradable Energy Quotas.  This is the mechanism, the instrument, that actually has the potential to change everything.  And Victoria Atkins probably knows nothing about it.  Get a step ahead:

Reconciling scientific reality with realpolitik: moving beyond carbon pricing to TEQs – an integrated, economywide emissions cap

Shaun Chamberlin Fleming Policy Centre
Larch Maxey Plymouth University, Network of Wellbeing
Victoria Hurth Plymouth University

Abstract This article considers why price-based frameworks may be inherently unsuitable for delivering unprecedented global emissions reductions while retaining the necessary public and political support, and argues that it is time to instead draw on quantitybased mechanisms such as TEQs (Tradable Energy Quotas).
TEQs is a climate policy framework combining a hard cap on emissions with the use of market mechanisms to distribute quotas beneath that cap.
The significant international research into TEQs is summarised, including a 2008 UK government feasibility study, which concluded that the scheme was “ahead of its time”. TEQs would cover all sectors within a national economy, including households, and findings suggest it could act as a catalyst for the socio-technical transitions required to maximise wellbeing under a tightening cap, while generating national common purpose towards innovative energy demand reductions.
Finally, there are reflections on the role that the carbon management community can play in further developing TEQs and reducing the rift between what climate science calls for and what politics is delivering. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 4 A result.

Followers of the story so far in Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 may be interested in this e-mail I received today:
Dear Mr Vernon,
Thank you for your e-mail regarding the placement of election posters within the Highway.
I have spoken to the representatives of the Party concerned at length and they have from our initial discussions relocated or removed Signs erected within the Highway to other locations. There are a couple which have been brought to our attention which are on the boundary which we will not be pursuing as the evidence of the boundary is not distinct and identifiable – the agreement of the adjacent landowner I understand has been given in these cases. To precisely identify the boundary would take a lot of officer time and reference to archive documents and then require a legal view before we could then take action (or not).
I apologise for not responding to your message sooner but can assure you that this matter was actioned promptly.
Best regards
Andy Ratcliffe
Area Highway Manager

I suppose we might wait for Victoria Atkins, barrister and probably MP from May 7th, to apologise for breaking the law and for not being honest with the local paper the Louth Leader, but I do not recommend holding one's breath until she does.  In this safe Tory seat of Louth and Horncastle matters such as law-breaking and dishonesty will be quietly disregarded when returning a new Conservative MP to replace the retiring Sir Peter Tapsell.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 3

I forwarded my information, as set out in Part 1 and Part 2, about Louth & Horncastle's Tory candidate Victoria Atkins's election posters that she had sited at various locations on trunk roads in this Lincolnshire constiuency, to various arms of the press: The Guardian, Huffington Press, The Mirror, The Grimsby Telegraph, The Louth Target and the Louth Leader.

First to rush to print was the Leader.  But, oh dear, they didn't bother with the information I had supplied but just did a little white-wash job with a quote from someone uninformed at the Lincoln County Council Press Office and, would you believe it, Victoria Atkins herself.  Here's what they wrote:

This newspaper received a number of complaints after election signs for parliamentary candidate Victoria Atkins were placed on land at the side of a number of roads throughout the Louth and Horncastle constituency.

But a spokesman for Lincolnshire County Council has confirmed that they have received no complaints of any kind regarding this matter to date and no action will be taken.
Conservative parliamentary candidate, Victoria Atkins said: “I have been made aware of two incidents, both of which people have been vandalising the posters and discarding them onto the road.
“There was also another incident where an enthusiastic supporter had put an election poster up onto a grass verge by the roadside, but as soon as we were made aware of this, it was taken straight down. This was simply an honest mistake.”
At least there can be no doubt that Victoria Atkins knows about the issue now. And let me remind you of the issue. All candidates or their election agents were sent a document from the East Lindsey Electoral Services reminding candidates of their legal obligations and included a document produced by Lincolnshire County Council reminding candidates that

and reminding them of the law and the risk of prosecution and a fine.

But the Leader article says nothing of this.  No mention whatsoever of the blatant disregard of the criminal law.  If Victoria Atkins had just been ignorant of the law (no excuse) when the posters were originally placed, then she is all too aware now.  But all that has happened is the removal of a poster put by the roadside by 'an enthusiastic supporter'.  The other posters are still there (apart from at least two that the wind ripped from their cable ties on Saturday) standing, illegally, on the verge of trunk roads within the highway's boundaries, testament to the contempt in which the local Conservative Association holds the law.

When I started writing Part 1 of this series, I was happy to give Victoria Atkins the benefit of the doubt, assuming that the posters were put up by a group of enthusiastic supporters who were ignorant of the law.  But we now know that she is endorsing their placement.  There was the possibility that she hadn't bothered reading the candidates instructions and, despite being a barrister, was ignorant of the law in this area.  But today she has been alerted to the problem and still denies to the press any hint that she may be guilty of breaking criminal law.

I am of course, still willing to give the Louth Leader the benefit of the doubt, and assume that the article represents merely a piece of poor journalism, and not a deliberate attempt to paint the Conservatives in a good light rather than expose criminal actions.  I have, of course, set the record straight with the reporter.  She replied:
"I am more than happy to go back to the press office in the morning with your blog posts and explain that you have spoken to the police as well and who specifically you have spoken to and when. I will again ask for confirmation if this matter is intended to be looked into any further by Lincolnshire County Council."

More, perhaps, in Part 4.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law? Part 2

A couple of days ago I posed the question as to whether the Tory Parliamentary candidate for Louth and Horncastle could have broken the law.  I like to give folk the benefit of the doubt so assumed that some over-zealous Tory party activist had taken it upon himself to put up some election posters around the roads of Lincolnshire, not realising that there were some rather important laws involved and that he was liable to be prosecuted for a criminal offence.  Victoria herself, being a barrister and upstanding member of the community would have known better and never endorsed such action had she known.

Oh, how naive I am.

One of the Tory activists, who describes himself on facebook as Deputy Chairman Political at Conservative Party, posted a number of photos of the election posters being erected on the verges of Lincolnshire trunk roads.

Now remember that The Highways Act 1980 Section 132 reads:

132 Unauthorised marks on highways. 

(1)A person who, without either the consent of the highway authority for the highway in question or an authorisation given by or under an enactment or a reasonable excuse, paints or otherwise inscribes or affixes any picture, letter, sign or other mark upon the surface of a highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in a highway is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine not exceeding £100 or, in the case of a second or subsequent conviction under this subsection, to a fine not exceeding £200. 

(2)The highway authority for a highway may, without prejudice to their powers apart from this subsection and whether or not proceedings in respect of the matter have been taken in pursuance of subsection (1) above, remove any picture, letter, sign or other mark which has, without either the consent of the authority or an authorisation given by or under an enactment, been painted or otherwise inscribed or affixed upon the surface of the highway or upon any tree, structure or works on or in the highway.

And also remember that the advice issued by Lincolnshire County Council to all Parliamentary candidates or their agent read thus:


Here's one of the pictures, which I reproduce here as the public interest is involved:

I think it is reasonable to conclude that Victoria does know about the posters and as a Parliamentary candidate, never mind being a barrister, it is reasonable to suggest that she should be aware of the laws relating to the placement of election posters on trunk roads, especially as they have been so clearly indicated in the guidance sent to candidates or their agents.

Ok, so what?

Well, putting aside for one moment the technicality of breaking the criminal law, there is a rather good reason for being cautious about putting things on roadsides.  At about lunchtime on Saturday I had a phone call from someone on the A153 saying she had seen one of the posters blown away and land on the carriageway.  Fortunately it was flat on the ground when a motorcyclist hit it and rode over it without accident.  It takes little imagination to realise that a tragic outcome was all too possible, but thankfully Victoria is not facing a manslaughter charge.

The police have been informed and they have, in turn, passed the matter to the Highways Agency.  Here's their message to me:

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

I have this morning informed Highways and the local planning dept who would be the prosecuting agent in these circumstances. The safety of all road users within Lincolnshire is of our primary concern. It is usual in the run up to a general election to have a police liaison officer who is able to offer advice and guidance to political candidates in such matters as this, and today I have informed Supt Taylor who is responsible for neighbourhood policing for this area.

Kind Regards

Insp Michelle Mcilroy

Friday, April 10, 2015

BBC Excludes Green, Promotes UKIP (Again).

New ~ Monday morning:
Yo. I've just had a phone call to say that Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, has changed his mind and invited Victoria Percival to the hustings in Boston after previously excluding the Green Party. He says that some of the many messages received were well reasoned. Thanks to all who helped win this little battle. And thanks to Charlie for listening to the voice of reason and having the good grace to change his mind.

Older ~ the day before yesterday: On May the 1st in Boston, Lincolnshire, there will be election hustings, organised by the BBC Radio Lincolnshire.

Here is an e-mail I have received from Charlie Partridge, Managing Editor of the station when I asked him to confirm reports that the Green Party is to be excluded.

Hi Biff,
Thanks for your email. It is indeed the case that our Boston Debate on Friday 1st May is going to be between the 4 main parties: Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem, and UKIP.
Our decision is based on previous electoral performance and evidence of support locally. Although the Greens will not be invited to take part in the debate itself, we will be contacting you in order to arrange an interview with you in the 3 hour election programme that the debate is part of.
I should point out that the Boston Debate is one of seven that BBC Radio Lincolnshire is promoting, and that the Greens will be included elsewhere.
I hope this makes our position clear.

Charlie Partridge
Editor, BBC Radio Lincolnshire

The event is jointly organised by the local newspaper, The Standard in which they announce the event, quoting the BBC thus:
Charlie Partridge, managing editor of BBC Radio Lincolnshire, commented: “I’m delighted we are able to link up with the Boston Standard and Skegness Standard to present this special debate.
“This is the most important election in a generation and the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally.
“It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues.
“We hope this debate - just a week before the election - will help achieve this.”

And the reason why "the Boston and Skegness seat is not only being watched closely here in Lincolnshire but also nationally"?  It is, of course, because the media have made much of the issue of immigration and in Boston's case of people of east European origin.
I wrote about the matter a couple of weeks ago here.  
The Green Party's candidate, Victoria Percival, is the one candidate who has a positive message of welcome and support for our friends from eastern Europe, who is not calling for tighter immigration controls, who is not scapegoating the immigrant and who sees failure in service provision in her constituency as a failure of the current government and not something to be blamed on foreigners.
BBC manager Charlie Partidge says "It is crucial that we make it clearer for voters to understand and evaluate the differing policies of the parties and where the candidates stand on local issues."  But he is doing the exact opposite, only including those candidates who present one face of this local issue and silencing the voice of the one candidate who is working for the common good.

Has Victoria Atkins Broken the Law?

What a preposterous notion!  That Victoria Atkins, daughter of Sir Robert Atkins, a barrister, and Parliamentary Candidate for Louth and Horncastle, would break the law is hard to believe.  I expect she would be mortified to learn that her name is associated with an illegal act.  However, is appears that somebody who supports her campaign has blundered, and anyone driving far in parts of Lincolnshire today can hardly fail to notice.

Large boards carrying a photo of Victoria and encouragement to the electors of the Louth and Horncastle constituency to vote for her, have been placed on the grass verges of trunk roads.

Victoria or her Election Agent will have received in the election pack from East Lindsey Acting Returning Officer, Stuart Davy, a note from Lincolnshire County Council regarding Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980, providing detailed information about the conditions that the display of posters within the highway for the purposes of elections are subject to.

Excuse the shouting capitalisation, please, but this is how Richard Wills, Director for Development set out to emphasise his message:


The document continues:

"In addition, attention is drawn to the following:-
1. Contravention of the terms of the above consent may lead to prosecution under Section 132 of the Highways Act 1980 and to a fine."

Of course it may well be perfectly legal to display posters on private land, the other side of the fence along the highways, and one may display election posters on non-trunk roads but only within 200 metres but not less than 25 metres from the entrance to a polling station and then only from 48 hours before the election day.

The Louth and Horncastle Conservative Association appears to have flouted the law in both their placement and the timing of election posters.

If you see any of the posters still remaining on the highway I suggest you report the matter to Stuart Davy, Acting Returning Officer on 01507 613430 or   or the police.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

What’s Climate Change got to do with Lincolnshire?

Involved in the general election campaign, working to get more Green Party candidates elected to Parliament and local government in Lincolnshire, I was asked "What's climate change got to do with Lincolnshire?".

I've given a written answer:

First, let’s just deal with the basic science, the stuff about which there is absolutely no controversy within the scientific community.  The physics was determined in the 19th century.  Add ‘greenhouse’ gases such as carbon dioxide and methane to the atmosphere and the global average temperature will rise. It’s as certain as gravity causing apples to fall to the ground.  More effort has been put into studying the climate than any other field of science and there are now no working climate scientists who dispute the basic understanding.  For sure there is still plenty that is uncertain; just how quickly a given amount of extra greenhouse gas will cause the temperature to rise by how much and just what that will mean for the climate in any particular place is not known quite exactly.  But then it’s also hard to be sure which way a falling apple will bounce and whether it lands on a daisy or a dandelion.

Global warming is real and most of it is caused by human action.  No question.

Second, let’s deal with confusion of language; why people sometimes say ‘global warming’ and sometimes ‘climate change’.  They are often muddled and used without careful thought.  Global warming refers to the increase in temperature of the whole of planet Earth.  It’s easiest to measure with thermometers in the air at the surface of planet but this method has limitations.  About 90% of all global warming takes place in the deep oceans.  The average rise in temperature of the atmosphere only accounts for about 3% of the extra heat retained by our greenhouse gasses.  Climate change refers to what happens at a particular location as a result of global warming.  Some places get drier, some wetter and with more water vapour in the atmosphere as a whole, rainfall patterns change, with sudden downpours producing floods while shifts in winds cause some areas to experience long droughts.  With global warming causing average temperatures to rise, some areas will experience a greater than average warming of their local climate, while other places will warm more slowly, or even experience a cooler climate, at least for a while.

The climate of the British Isles is dominated by the Atlantic Ocean, temperate with extreme events being rare.  It is likely that we will not experience such a rapid shift in climate as many parts of the world.  Places with continental climates or subject to monsoons or in the Arctic or the tropics, are likely to experience faster change. Nevertheless, even small changes in average temperature can have significant impacts on farming and wildlife. Changing distributions of insects and birds have already been noticed in Lincolnshire and species of fish once confined to southern waters are appearing off the Lincolnshire coast.

The most immediate threat is the increased probability of extreme events. Global warming makes weather events that have happened only rarely, happen more often.  So we should expect more periods of very dry weather and more periods of stormy weather.  Both droughts and floods will be more common in Lincolnshire in a warmer world.  A more long-term threat is the possibility that the ocean currents in the Atlantic will slow down.  This is far from being certain but there is some evidence emerging that such change is underway.  A reduced influence of Atlantic currents would make our climate more continental, with cooler winters and warmer summers.

The practical consequences for living and working in Lincolnshire involve slow, gradual but relentless adjustments.  Farming patterns will change to cope with the occasional but severe droughts, making investment in water conservation and supply imperative.  Flood defences and maintenance of the drainage system will also need prioritising.  The design of new buildings should take into account the likelihood of extended heat waves as well as being insulated to avoid energy costs for heating.  Our population needs to be prepared to cope with heat stress.

Lincolnshire will undoubtedly be affected by rising sea level. As the ocean waters warm they expand and this has been contributing a couple of millimetres to the sea level each year.  Melting glaciers, particularly the Greenland and West Antarctic Ice Sheets, are now contributing to more sea level rise than thermal expansion of the water.  Estimates of future sea level rise are uncertain but as evidence is gathered the indications are that it will be greater and faster than previously thought.  The Environment Agency, in planning future sea defence work, assumes a rise of about one metre by the end of the 21st century.  That’s within the lifetime of today’s small children.  There is more possibility that this is an underestimate than an overestimate. It is more likely that things turn out worse than expected as we are only just beginning to appreciate the way in which melting is occurring under the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets.

It costs money and effort but a one metre sea level rise can be coped with fairly easily; we only have to look to the Dutch to see how it’s done.  A continuous programme of improving the sea defences with higher walls and banks in some parts, managed retreat in others, will be a feature of Lincolnshire’s coast for the rest of the century.  But sea level rise will not stop in the year 2100.  It now seems likely that the great ice sheets are in an irreversible decline and no matter what we do in the future all of the ice will eventually melt.  Opinions differ as to how many centuries or even millennia it will take, but eventually much of Lincolnshire will be lost to the sea under a sixty metre rise. At 83m the Boston stump would have its top 20m above the waves.  With its 90 metre spire and standing on ground 20 metres above today’s sea level, St. James church in Louth fares better, but of course the church will be destroyed as soon as the waves crash at the base.  The spire celebrates it 500th anniversary this year but it won’t make it to 1000.

The biggest effects of global warming will be felt, indeed are already being felt, far from Lincolnshire.  We see the devastating effects of floods around the world with increasing frequency and new records are being set for tropical storms. The ongoing drought in the south-west of the USA has had a devastating effect on California’s fruit production.  The cost of almonds and marzipan has shot up in our shops.  It is now widely accepted that one of the key triggers for the civil war in Syria was the worst drought in the ‘Fertile Crescent’ since agriculture was invented in the Neolithic, driving a million farmers from their land to the cities in search of help.  They found none so turned to religion and guns.  The political instability across many parts of sub-Saharan Africa can also be related to the spread of deserts.

But we’ve seen nothing yet.  Many of the world’s greatest cities and much of the world’s best agricultural land lies within a couple of metres of sea level.  The squeeze is already well under way in Bangladesh and several of the small island states of the Pacific and Indian Oceans.  Many millions, perhaps billions, of people will become climate refugees through the coming decades.  Lincolnshire is part of the global economy and cannot remain detached from global financial and political change, rises in food prices and pressure from migration.

The issue of global warming and the consequent climate changes have to be tackled at all levels from international agreements between governments, through planning and spending policies of local government, to the individual actions that each one of us make.  We are all responsible; we all have both a duty and an opportunity to act.  The first priority has to be mitigation, doing what we can to reduce the harm.  That means stopping burning fossil carbon fuels, coal, oil and gas, as soon as we possibly can.  Secondly we must learn to adapt, changing our homes, our lifestyles, our work and our farming so that we can enjoy a zero-carbon future.  We must embrace the new energy technologies of wind and sun.  Almost all of the fossil carbon that has already been discovered needs to be left in the ground.  To explore for more is folly.

And we must be mindful of the debt we owe to many other part of the world. Britain started the coal-based industrial revolution and our historical contribution to global warming has been second to none, yet the first to suffer and those who suffer the most are often among the poorest in the world and in no way to blame for the unravelling tragedy.

The tragedy of British politics is that it is largely concerned with the next election. With the scramble for power over the next few years, the long term future is given little attention, and the interests of generations not yet born have no voice. The Conservative Party has shifted from a promise before the last General Election to be the ‘greenest government ever’ to ‘cut the green crap’.  The LibDems have made ineffectual efforts to counter the climate-deniers in the Treasury and DEfRA.  Labour, once responsible for the 2008 Climate Change Act, has done little to promote global warming as a significant issue in the political debate.  None of these parties has given the greatest threat to our future, to the world’s civilisation’s future, the attention required. UKIP is in complete, and absurd, denial.

Only the Green Party has consistently argued that global warming and climate change are the most important issues for politics.  Only the Green Party takes seriously our long-term obligation and responsibility.  The voiceless future generations must be given voice, not sacrificed for our present convenience. And it is in our own interests.  We cannot be truly happy, to live satisfying lives, while we know that our grandchildren’s lives will be nasty, brutish and short, because we have been too selfish, to party on while the future goes hang. 

It is time to act for the common good.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Victoria Atkins Lied

It's a serious allegation, so please allow me to present the case.  Last night at a hustings in the Lincolnshire village of Ludford, the parliamentary candidates for the Louth and Horncastle constituency faced questions from the public. The candidates present were:
  • Romy Rayner, Green Party
  • Peter Hill, Monster Raving Looney Party
  • Matthew Brown, Labour
  • Victoria Atkins, Conservative
  • Colin Mair, UKIP
The candidates were asked whether they were in favour of Trident renewal and whether they would be prepared to 'press the button'. The questions were asked by two small children, the son and daughter of the Green Party candidate for Boston and Skegness, Victoria Percival. The ensuing discussion included consideration of the threats facing the UK and, in particular, the Russian threat. Victoria Atkins, the Tory candidate, seemed particularly keen to emphasise the need for Trident in the light of what she alleged were recent Russian military aircraft incursions into UK airspace.

I pointed out that the Russian planes had kept to international space and had not entered UK sovereign airspace.  Victoria rounded on me, telling me that the fact was the Russians had entered our airspace and that it was important that everyone knew the facts and stuck to the facts.  She seemed to emphasise the word 'facts' with such enthusiasm that I did, for a few seconds, doubt my own recollection of the news stories.  The discussion moved on with a UKIP supporter in the audience pointing out that RAF planes had in the past 'strayed' into Russian sovereign airspace.  Victoria doubted this but the man responded by saying that he, personally, had been close to the border in eastern Europe and witnessed such incidents.

Now I would be happy to let a little straying off the truth in an off the cuff remark to pass by un-remarked in most instances.  But in this case, the vehemence with which Victoria Atkins contradicted my statement and the way she used my alleged false testimony as an example of why the facts are crucial, has led me to investigate further.

I've looked up recent press reports.  Now it maybe the case that Victoria is privy to information not released to the media, but which she feels can be shared with the good citizens of Ludford.  So we must keep an open mind before calling her a liar.  However, it's either her, her party's leader or the Wall Street Journal that is lying.
 “At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into U.K. sovereign airspace,” Prime Minister David Cameron said. 

Here are my press cuttings:

The RAF has intercepted Russian military aircraft as they neared UK airspace for the second time this week, the Ministry of Defence has said. Guardian

Two UK Royal Air Force jets intercepted a pair of Russian aircraft flying near British airspace this week, the British Defence Ministry said Thursday CNN

Britain deployed fighter jets to escort two Russian bombers away from the Cornish coast, the second time in three weeks the U.K. has warned off Kremlin warplanes near its airspace. “At no time did the Russian military aircraft cross into U.K. sovereign airspace,” Prime Minister David Cameron said. WSJ

Two Russian bombers last week skirted British airspace off the coast of Cornwall, where they were intercepted and escorted by the two RAF Typhoon fighters. Daily Mail

Russian military planes flying near UK airspace caused "disruption to civil aviation" on Wednesday, the Foreign Office has said.  BBC News 

The RAF has intercepted Russian military aircraft as they neared UK airspace for the second time this week, the UK ministry of defence has said. Irish Times 

One plane was diverted and another delayed to avoid two Russian bombers that flew through Irish-controlled airspace without warning in February, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said on Tuesday. The disruption is believed to have occurred during the same February 18 incident in which British RAF Typhoon fighters were scrambled to escort two Russian bear bombers identified flying close to British airspace….However, the IAA sad there had been "no safety impact to civilian traffic in Irish controlled airspace". The aircraft did not enter Irish sovereign airspace, but flew in Irish controlled airspace within 25 nautical miles (46.3 km) of the Irish coast between 1500 GMT and 1900 GMT, according to the authority. Daily Telegraph 

The question the child asked, "Would you press the button?" was avoided by all except Romy Rayner, whose clear position was for renouncing nuclear weapons.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Some Questions about Migration

The local newspaper rang up to say they were doing a piece about migration into Boston and Skegness and could I forward some questions to our Green Party candidate, who is currently at the Spring Conference in Liverpool, and could they have the answers by tomorrow morning, please.

So I thought I'd jot down a few notes.  Here are the questions:

1.What is your response to the figures [from the Oxford Migration Observatory]? Do they paint an accurate picture of migration in Boston and Skegness?
2.How big an election issue is migration in Boston and Skegness? Could it decide the outcome for the area?
3.What are your party’s policies on migration, and how could they apply to this new picture of migration to Boston and Skegness?
4.What actions would you call for to deal with a growing migrant population in Boston and Skegness, if any? 
5.What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?

Last question first:

5. What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?

Stop flagging migration up as a big issue by writing newspaper articles about it! But hey, we support a free press and the press’s right to write what they like, so on with the rest of the questions.

1. What is your response to the figures? Do they paint an accurate picture of migration in Boston and Skegness?

Let us accept that the Oxford Migration Observatory has produced data as accurate as is available, but the ‘picture’ is only seen when the numbers are set in the context of the wider Uk.  From the 2011 census figures the proportion of people not born in the UK was about 15% for Boston and less than 4% for East Lindsey.  Now compare that with a few other towns in the east Midlands: Peterborough 20%, Nottingham 20% Cambridge 29%, Leicester 34%, and if we go to the wealthiest parts of the nation we find these figures: Kensington and Chelsea 52%, Westminster 53%.  So we see that Boston and Skegness do not have an unusually large proportion of non-UK born residents.

2. How big an election issue is migration in Boston and Skegness? Could it decide the outcome for the area?

Not a very big issue and no, it will not decide the outcome of the election. Boston and Skegness has always been a safe Conservative seat with the Tory candidate gaining 49% of the vote at the last general election.  Labour gained 21% the Liberal Democrats 15% and the other 15% being split between two far-right parties.  In the 2015 election we expect the anti-EU and anti-immigration vote to be split again between the two far-right candidates, one from UKIP and the other a former UKIP candidate.  That vote will be further split by a candidate from the British National Party and an ex-Conservative party member who failed to be selected and is now standing as a Lincolnshire Independent on an aggressively anti-immigration ticket.

The Green Party, which did not contest the 2010 election, expects to gain votes from disaffected LibDems, Labour and Conservative voters but is unlikely to have any impact on the 15% of the voters who support one of the smaller right wing parties.

3. What are your party’s policies on migration, and how could they apply to this new picture of migration to Boston and Skegness?

Green Party policy is set out at length here

It is important to understand the Background and Principles involved.  Unlike the other parties, the Green Party has a long-term vision and looks to the interests of the youngest children who hope to see in the 22nd century and develop a sustainable world order beyond that.  But we also have to deal with the practicalities of the short term.

MG100 The Green Party's long-term global vision is of an international economic order where the relationship between regions is non-exploitative, each region is as self-reliant and economically self- sufficient as practicable and the quality of life (social, political, environmental, cultural and economic) is such that there is less urge to migrate. Logically, in order to move away from the current level of immigration controls, we must create a fairer world.

MG101 The existing economic order and colonialism have both been major causes of migration through direct and indirect violence, disruption of traditional economies, the use of migrants as cheap labour, uneven patterns of development and global division of labour.

MG102 We are aware that, in the 21st century, there is likely to be mass migration of people escaping from the consequences of global warming, environmental degradation, resource shortage and population increase.

MG103 The Green Party recognises the contributions made by many migrants to their recipient area or community. We value the cultural diversity and intercultural awareness resulting from both temporary residence and migration.

MG200 The Green Party's highest priority is the creation of a just and ecological world order in which environmental devastation is minimised and needs can be met without recourse to migration.

MG201 We believe that the world's people have an individual and collective responsibility to ensure ecological sustainability, human rights and social justice. Within this, they have the right to self determination.

MG202 International action and a willingness to share resources will be required to meet the needs of environmental migrants.

MG203 Richer regions and communities do not have the right to use migration controls to protect their privileges from others in the long term.

MG204 Communities and regions should have the right to restrict inward migration when one or more of the following conditions are satisfied:

a)The ecology of the recipient area would be significantly adversely affected by in-comers to the detriment of the wider community (eg. National Parks, Antarctica);

b)The recipient area is owned or controlled by indigenous peoples (eg Australian aboriginal people) whose traditional lifestyle would be adversely affected by in-comers;

c)The prospective migrants have, on average, equal or greater economic power than the residents of the recipient area and they or their families were not forced to leave the area in the recent past.

MG205 Migration policies should not discriminate directly on grounds of race, colour, religion, political belief, disability, sex or sexual orientation. Preference should not be given to those with resources or desirable skills.

MG206 The Green Party is opposed to forced migration and forced repatriation.

MG207 Regions or communities must have the right to reject specific individuals on grounds of public safety.

MG208 The interests of both prospective migrants and the recipient area or community must be recognised and, hence, the appropriate resolution of a particular situation (unless covered above) must depend on negotiation between the parties affected.

We support the free movement of people within the EU and acknowledge the positive contribution that East Europeans are making to the economy of Lincolnshire and to the enrichment of our culture.  Boston has a long tradition of trade with the Baltic going back many centuries and it is our relationship with other lands that has been central to the town’s history, remembered in the 14th century Baltic oak roof timbers of the Guildhall and the emigration of the Separatists, or Pilgrim fathers in 1607.  Migration is not all one way and in modern times many Lincolnshire folk have found employment or retirement overseas.

It is with great concern that we view the desperate migration of people from war-torn or drought-stricken parts of North Africa and the Middle East across the Mediterranean to seek sanctuary in Italy.  As global warming proceeds throughout the coming century we must be prepared to come to the aid of the displaced environmental migrants.  It is not actions of the Pacific Small Island States that cause sea level rise but our shared humanity calls us to act positively when whole nations sink beneath the waves.

4. What actions would you call for to deal with a growing migrant population in Boston and Skegness, if any?

As population grows national and local government has an obligation to see that the infrastructure of public services, health and welfare, education, transport, housing and so on, are provided to meet changing demand.  It is always thus, with increased expenditure being matched by revenues from the increased economic activity.  Some folk may shout ‘They’ are taking ‘our’ jobs!  But this is to misunderstand the economy.  There is not a fixed number of jobs; rather, new jobs are created out of new economic activity.  It is well documented that our recently arrived migrants make a positive contribution to the UK’s wealth. When we have migrants for whom adjustment to a new culture is a challenge, then translation and advice services are needed to make the new-comers feel welcome and allow them to quickly and constructively assimilate into their new home.

5. What do you believe needs to happen next to make sure migration isn’t again a major issue for Boston and Skegness in the next election?

Returning to this question again, migration just isn’t a major issue for the next election, though a small minority make much noise to try and make it so.  The main issue is whether we continue with the Tories’ neo-liberal economic agenda of austerity, a shift of spending from the public to the private sector, a shrinking of the state, a transfer of wealth from the great majority into the hands of a select few and a denial of the urgency of addressing global warming.  Or are we ready for a real change, for hope and security, for the common good?