Author: <span class="vcard">tomchance</span>

The Government raised the national minimum wage today to £5.80 per hour, a welcome 7p extra for Britain’s working poor. But here in London, and in many other expensive parts of the country, it’s still far too low. The London Living Wage, calculated by GLA Economics to meet basic living costs, currently stands at £7.60 per hour, almost £2 an hour more! Just imagine earning 23% less than the amount you’d need just to get by. Or imagine working an extra 12 hours per week to make ends meet. Working poverty accounts for almost half of all child poverty in this city, and one fifth of all London workers – almost 400,000 people – earn less than the Living Wage. That goes up to 47% for part time workers. Until everyone – especially public bodies and the Government itself – pays the Living Wage or above, we’re failing people and…

Weekends that begin with 8.29am trains back to London for Green Party meetings are never going to end with a relaxed glow! Still, in amongst it all I came across two real surprises. First was Bounce’s breathtaking Insane in the Brain show at the Peacock Theatre. If you get the chance to see this, go! I can’t pretend I understand most contemporary dance, I’m not really partial to ballet and I’ve never liked dancing myself either. But this Hip Hop interpretation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest was witty, very cool and it kept my my tired brain’s attention throughout! Here’s a sample clip: After a welcome lie in, Rachel and I met up with Kathryn on Sunday afternoon for a stroll in the surprisingly wild Sydenham Hill Wood. A little nature spotting (we just about identified oak, hornbeam, sycamore, hawthorne, beech and silver birch trees) was rounded off…

Moving to the centre isn’t usually my cup of political tea, but in a peace process it seems pretty fundamental. Of course, when you have two fairly fundamentalist sides opposing each other, this is pretty unlikely! Reading Ken Livingstone’s interview with de-facto Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal (pictured), I couldn’t but hope that there are private moves to soften their attitude. Meshal’s reconstruction of past events, and his narrative of European colonialism and racism, is enlightening and instructive. But he has to move past this, past his anger at dispossession, and past Hamas’ refusal to admit Israel’s right to exist. It’s all very well playing the underdog, saying that Israel needs to make 10 groundbreaking moves to the centre before he makes even one. But it won’t exactly broker peace, or do much to help the Palestinian people! It reminds me of an excellent South African apartheid episode of the Radio…

As long as the Democrats talked within Republican frames like “tax relief”, they always lost the argument. So why are Labour taking on Tory economic narratives during their party season? They’re handing the election to Cameron on a plate. The first narrative is that we need to cut public expenditure to save the deficit and curb the national debt. Except that our national debt is much lower than most developed economies, and is projected to stay that way. Our deficit is large, but Cameron’s criticism of any fiscal stimulus would only have landed us in a bigger hole with more unemployment and smaller tax receipts; perhaps even a depression. The second is that the public sector is an unproductive drag on the economy, and should be the focus of cuts. Except that the public sector injects stable spending power into the economy; provides the infrastructure and services that business can’t…

Last night’s Growing Southwark meeting was graced by British-Armenian designer Vahakn Matossian, who explained his Fruit City project and his beautiful picking tools. When I first got involved with OpenStreetMap I started to make my own private map of apple trees and blackberry brambles in public places. I spent one or two summers eating about four fruit crumbles a week! I love his map, and although it might lead to some sources drying up due to demand, that will hopefully just lend weight to public calls for more fruit trees and bushes to be deliberately planted in our streets and parks. I’ve started to enquire about the chances of getting some fruit trees in small parks like Warwick Gardens and Holly Grove in The Lane part of Peckham/Bellenden/Camberwell. Jenny Jones has been doing the same in her ward – South Camberwell. Maybe Vahakn will get the production line going for…

I took some time out of my brief in-between-jobs holiday to speak to some students from Alleyn’s School in East Dulwich. The Geography Society invited me to talk about climate change and the Green Party. What do you say in 25 minutes to young people who are  amongst the highest consumers in Southwark, but also potentially dedicated citizens who can do a lot to tackle the problem? I think my talk got a bit confused, but perhaps that’s OK because I really wanted to help them understand just how complicated the whole topic is. Beware the doomsayers who claim there’s nothing we can do, but also beware optimists who offer the solution in the form of ten easy steps! On reflection, these would be my two main messages to young people. First, recognise that climate change fundamentally changes the way we think about politics and our personal lives. Just as…

Hove town hallA couple of days in Hove at the Green Party Autumn ticked all the usual boxes, though this year jokes about beards were given a fun edge by Sue‘s buzzword bingo game. Thankfully a lot of the unfortunate posturing around Green Party Executive (GPEX) elections died down as it became clear that most members couldn’t be bothered with it, leaving space for some good policy debates.

Science and technology finally got its day, with two fringe events giving the nerd core a chance to work out how we can avoid this kind of (quite valid) coverage. I’ve high hopes that we can begin to overhaul some fairly ancient and shaky policy, not least because we got such strong and wide agreement that policy should be – golly – based on scientific evidence, as should decisions about NHS treatments. But never mind that “on the back foot” stuff, I’m most excited about the possibility of putting out some really strong messages around science and technology that should resonate strongly with scientists, technologists and the general public.

Sustainable Communities Act coverWhen we got together to discuss the Act at the Peckham Settlement back in April, I got quite excited. I’d lobbied for this back in the day, and now a previously dispirate bunch of activists from around the Borough were discussing its implementation with Southwark Council, supported by the Active Citizens Hub. What happened in the next few months showed just how low the Council’s opinion of its electorate is, but also offers a chance for activists to set the agenda over the next year.

With the autumn conference weeks away, some of the candidates have started to make noises to get voted onto the Green Party Executive (GPEx). As a soon-to-be-ex member of GPEx I thought I’d share some thoughts on criticisms that candidates are making in their bid to replace standing members. Read on, they’re quite long!

If Jason and Rupert replace Tracy I really hope they continue her very strong work on building up that “glossy” stuff they don’t seem to like. The election broadcast video won us amazing plaudits from the media; mailing lists, twitter and blogs were flooded with positive comments from friends and onlookers. It’s easy to say “we will focus on everything” but much harder to square that with a very limited budget.

People & Planet, WDM and Platform have just launched an audacious campaign against the Treasury, seeking a judicial review to transform RBS from the UK’s largest “dirty development” investor into the foremost green finance institution. Check out the Financial Times story for the lowdown (it made the front page!) and lobby your MP to sign the Early Day Motion supporting this move. AS Jonathan Porritt said at today’s SDC Breakthroughs event, the Treasury has held the UK back for too long. It is years behind the public, and even business, on climate change. Using our 70% public share in RBS is exactly the kind of initiative that could unlock the green new deal, using the skills and experience of RBS staff to finance investment in low carbon industry and infrastructure. I’m very proud of P&P! After contacting your MP and pestering the Treasury, support People & Planet to help them…