Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Real Deficit

Can you imagine David Cameron in your local Argos? Flicking through the laminated pages, until he’s found the best deal on a new kettle. Getting agitated by the non-responsive stock checker as he tries to accurately punch the code in. Then negotiating the tiny pencils with his saveloy fingers. He might become quite distressed by the whole process, but I could relate to him more.

Which is why politicians do such stunts; it’s a good photo opportunity to get amongst ‘the public’, to show that you’re connected and just one of the blokes. Look at me: down the pub; smoking a fag; going for a jog; eating a bacon sandwich; standing in my kitchen, riding a bike or [readers, feel free to add your own cliché gestures here].

We know it’s all PR, but do we know how much professional politicians are actually bothered about the rest of us? And how it feels at the sharp end of the austerity cuts these last four years? I would venture to say not a huge amount. The rest of us humans just seem to get in the way of the politicians’ love affair with the free market and keeping the economy ticking over. Bunch of inconveniences we are! If only we’d stop moaning on and just suffer in silence.

However, I would also venture to say this isn’t because they’re evil or malicious, or whatever label is easy to affix. It is because they lack, or have lost, the capacity to empathise. Empathy is the art of stepping into someone else’s shoes, assimilating their feelings, then reassessing your own point-of-view. It’s easy to make brutal decisions about other people’s lives if you’re so detached as to see them as ‘other’. When running a country comes down to reducing people to numbers it’s not the budget deficit, but the empathy deficit, we should worry about.

The empathy deficit is more than just hyperbole. The great divide that runs through British society is the inequality between rich and poor. In 2011 research by Scientific America showed that the richer you are the less empathetic you are likely to be. Perhaps not a problem? Surely the wealthiest form only a minor percentage of our society... Well it just so happens that such a wealthy elite makes up our government. In 2013 the combined wealth of the cabinet was £70 million, with powerful figures such as Cameron, Osborne, Hunt and Hammond owning £4m, £4.6m, £4.8m and £8.2m respectively. Unfortunately the shadow cabinet - with seven millionaires - aren’t much better. To quote Krznaric in his book Empathy – A Handbook for Revolution: “There is nothing like wealth to make you insensitive to human deprivation and suffering!”

Of course I have a biased perspective, but allow me to point out that I don’t know anyone who has joined the Green Party in search of power and riches! We’re regular people (mostly) getting on with our lives and I believe we have a much stronger capability to empathise with those around us, because we are those members of ‘the public’ which professional politicians play out their pantomime with. Yes, we are in a political party and this is because, if we feel something is rotten, we feel strongly convicted to speak out against it. This isn’t a special privilege; it’s what I want everyone to feel they are also able to do. Most people grossly underestimate their power to do good and, if there’s one thing I want to achieve from this election campaign, it’s for us all to wake up and reclaim our lives!

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Greens join Stand Up to Racism Demonstration: Austerity Project to Blame for Rise in Social Friction

Marking UN Anti- Racism Day on Saturday 21st March, members of Waltham Forest and Redbridge Green Party joined the demonstration Stand Up to Racism (1) in Central London. The demonstration ended with a rally in Trafalgar Square where Green Party leader Natalie Bennett was among the speakers.

Ms Bennett said: “At a time when racist, Islamophobic and anti-Semitic attacks are on the increase in the UK, it is heartening that people are prepared to stand up and be counted in the fight against racism. Events like this should make us proud of who we are and what we stand for. We must, and shall, be vigilant against racism. Protecting people’s rights should be at the centre of our national identity.”

Sadly, there has been a rise in racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism across Europe as immigrants are often scapegoated in times of economic hardship. In this country we have seen the rise of hard right parties like UKIP who seek to blame immigrants for problems they did not cause.

By scapegoating the poorest people in society for the problems created by the richest, the government has been able to impose austerity, and immigrants have been the principal target.. The Green Party is committed to equality, diversity and inclusion and opposes hate-based behaviour, whether directed at people because of their faith, nationality, race, sexual orientation - or just hatred of 'the other' (2).

“We need to send out a clear message that we will not tolerate racism and the hard right by voting for progressive parties like the Green Party in the forthcoming general election,” said Leyton & Wanstead Green parliamentary candidate Ashley Gunstock. “Too often immigrants and the most vulnerable are being made to suffer for the failure of an unjust economic system,” he added.



Editors’ Notes

1) 2)


For further information contact:

Diana Korchien Press Officer Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party

M: 07747 014 235 T: (0)20 8539 8547

53 Scarborough Road London E11 4AL

Diana Korchien Press Officer, Waltham Forest & Redbridge Green Party

Tel: 020 8539 8547 Mob: 07747 014 235

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Cutting words

Budget Day thoughts from Sarah-Jane Childs, our Leyton & Wanstead Constituency Campaign Manager

One of the beauties of the English language is its malleability; you may bend it to your will as you see fit. And then let’s not also forget its variety; it is often claimed to have one of the richest vocabularies amongst today’s global modern languages. So for a professional politician our language could present itself as a tool of great opportunity to really explain and illuminate all their policies; to reveal the hidden mechanics of ruling our nation; to create a truly informed electorate where everyone actually wants to vote because they are so engaged and proud of our political system.

Now I’m not so naive of politics to think that manipulation of English language would only be used for the power of good, but some days some spin leaves you spinning. A recent example would be Grant Shapps and his second job saga, where he now defends himself by saying he “over firmly denied” his former additional occupation. Most of us would surely translate this phrase back into simplified English as “lying”. But to steal the spotlight from Grant, a true artist of doublespeak approaches, no less than the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

George Osborne won’t be saying the word “cuts” much this budget day, unless it’s one of the many shiny baubles such as “tax cuts” (although even then, I bet he opts for “tax breaks” or “relief” for you poor “hard-working people”) which he will produce to lure the undecided toward the polling station come May. Instead, there will be a lot of “realignment, efficiency savings, redesign, reorganise, de-designate, rationalise...” But look through this smokescreen and one very clear word emerges: CUTS. And a hell of a lot more cuts too, as he intends to stick with his plans seemingly based on his grossly distorted version of reality. Not my own personal economic analysis there mind, but that of the Office for Budget Responsibility who, to describe the future cuts, chose a very descriptive adjective from our language which I hope grips your imagination and screams in both ears how big these cuts will be. The word? COLOSSAL.

Friday, 6 March 2015

Boris’s Bollocks

Letter London Evening Standard

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Dear Mr Neicho

So it appears that Mayor Boris Johnson’s dismissive “bollocks” response to last year’s claims by top experts that Oxford Circus, the country’s famous shopping street, harboured some of the worst pollution on the planet was correct. There are some in Britain’s other 49 pollution hotspots which are even worse - and they are all in London, the capital which Mr Johnson presides over! (London pollution: 50 worst spots in UK for air filth are ALL in the capital – Evening Standard, 05 March 2015)

It appears that Boris Bikes alone are not the answer. So might I suggest - as one who cycles through East London to work - that improving access for cyclists; not scrapping the congestion charge and giving commuters a break from extortionate fare rises would allow us all to breathe a little more fresh air. Now that would be the bollocks!

Yours sincerely

Ashley Gunstock

Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Leyton & Wanstead

Greasy Palms Lining trouser pockets

Letter to The Wanstead & Woodford Guardian and The Ilford Recorder

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Dear Sirs

I write with regard to the Redbridge Local Plan 2015-2030.

Am I alone in thinking that the entire consultation is seriously flawed?

In my view the whole exercise smacks of lazy and ill thought out housing provision planning. We have simply been offered four alternative sites, in four different areas of Redbridge, which in itself is highly divisive. On what grounds (if you’ll excuse the pun) were they chosen?

In the first place it appears that no audit has been carried out, to ascertain how many brownfield and windfall sites there are and in what locations these may be throughout the borough. Secondly it seems that no thought has been given to the infrastructure that will be needed in order to cater for the influx of extra residents that will be coming to Redbridge. Has anyone in the council considered the Health, Education and Transport provision required or, indeed, what leisure facilities will be available – especially as it looks as though yet more Green Belt will be giving way to bricks & mortar? Thirdly, even though the Mayor has set a target of 50% for new housing developments, it has been established that only 12.5% of the proposed homes will be affordable.

Furthermore, how much will Redbridge be paid by the developers of the borough’s prime Green Belt land? This will naturally have to be de-classified and, therefore, sold off for millions of pounds less than its actual worth. Taking all things into consideration, if I were a cynic, I would beg the question: Whose greasy palms are being crossed and trouser pockets lined, with the silver & gold from the public purse?

Yours sincerely

Ashley Gunstock

Green Party Prospective Candidate for Leyton & Wanstead