October 2012
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Day October 15, 2012

Teresa May expects all UK citizens in Spain to pass intermediate Spanish test

Well, if she were Home Secretary in Madrid and applied the same principles as she wants to apply to immigrants in the U.K., then logically she must expect emigrants from these shores to follow the same logic overseas, in the costas in Spain.

If not, why not?

She wants to restrict EU migration to “stem the flow of Eastern European migrants to the UK”.
What about middle class “Expats” from the UK settling in France or of all classes in Spain?
Have these Tough On Immigration politicians ever insisted that their own voters should learn foreign languages and their culture, when they live abroad?

We are talking big numbers here. Emigration is the great taboo subject.

Source: migrantrights.org

….”from October 2013, all people applying to settle in the UK will need to pass an intermediate level English language test and pass the ‘life in the UK’ test.
Currently, applicants can either take the Life in the UK Test or take combined English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) and citizenship classes – the system is geared towards accommodating different skills in language ability. This means that the change will impact in particular those without strong English reading and writing skills.

How does “English jobs for English workers” sound? Good, Bad or Ugly?

At the Labour Party conference, Chris Bryant, Shadow Immigration Minister said:

“…. I think there are three industries, the hospitality industry, the construction industry and agriculture who have done remarkably little to make sure there are British people able to come in [and work in] those industries.

“Why is it that you go to a hotel in France and you’re welcomed by a French person, that’s delightful.

“You’ve actually got to invest in skills and training and make sure you’ve got the balance and work force that is going to take on those jobs.”

OK. Between 1997 to 2010, didn’t Labour invest in skills and training, then? I thought they did.
If not, why not?
If it did, why do British businesses employ foreign workers?
And what does Chris Bryant mean regarding British businesses need to do more? How?
How will he ensure that restaurants and hotels employ more people from Britain, to match his vision of France? Quotas? If it’s left to market forces, how long would it take to up-skill people? Then, isn’t this a long term project being sold as a short term fix?

I worry that if you add this to Ed Miliband’s speech in the summer when he was “sorry” about immigration, come election time, in front of a hostile media, it will be all too easy to be all too tough on immigration.

If the Tories are trying to take a sledgehammer to the EU’s freedom of movement by people, where will Labour be by the time they are courting votes in the South-east of England?
And where in all this is Blue Labour?

John Cruddas, once the darling of the Left, made me uncomfortable as I watched his interview a few weeks ago. Everything seemed to be up in the air, to be looked at.

The suspicion was that this is all a prelude to a return to Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British Workers”.
Today, a deal on a referendum to decide Scotland’s independence was signed.
If the Scots did decide to leave, then would that slogan have to be changed to “English Jobs for English Workers”?

Now, how nasty does that sound?

What’s the future of Green Politics?

On Saturday, I went to an all-day conference run by the GreenHouse Think Tank on the Future of Green Politics.
The title interested me. This is exactly the type of dialogue we need to be involved in, both within and beyond the Party.
It didn’t start off too well.
I was shocked by the main presentation in the morning by Roger Scrutton of ‘Green Philosophy’ fame. Apparently, he jetted in from Princeton for this event. I wish he hadn’t.
In front of a panel, including Caroline Lucas MP, he went on to make an extraordinary pitch for retreating from the clutches of the Left which, according to him, had captured the Greens. Instead, we should be looking at ‘Conservatism’ through a new lens, especially Localism.
He then went to paint an idealised picture of 19th century Conservatism, and reeled off names such as Adam Smith.

Frankly, it was drivel. But it was Dangerous Drivel.
Thank God, Caroline Lucas stood up to say that the agenda is altogether different: that Redistribution of power, wealth and income is the key.

Roger S has taken the first 10 letters of conservation and conservatives and linked the two.
Sorry but the 19th century to me signifies imperialism abroad, the ransacking of resources and people in what today we call the Global South and at home the horrifying conditions of factory work for millions, living in slums.
Late 20th century and current Conservatives are about Big Business, the rule of the City of London and quasi-imperial war in Asia and North Africa.

Thanks also go to many in the audience who stood up and disagreed with the thesis. Forcefully.

Surprisingly, there was a workshop on how the Green Movement could work with Trade Unions (run by Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party) and another on Eco-Socialism (run by Adam Ramsey).

My summary: I think it was worthwhile raising the subject, a recognition that we need some fundamental rethinking perhaps or at least take stock.
This was reinforced by the make up of the 100+ audience (no mean feat on a Saturday at £10 entrance fee): Mainly middle aged, some being present at the birth of the People Party nearly four decades ago, and white.
There were some young people, though no way near enough.

I didn’t hear the word Nationalism mentioned. Nor Religion. I heard something about Corporate Social Responsibility and how apparently there was no space left of Labour.
To be fair, this was challenged as someone retorted that SNP was left of Labour in Scotland and Bradford West gave an inkling of what is possible in England.
A remark, which might not have quite sunk in, judging by the reaction, was that politics was likely to change very quickly, very suddenly, echoing what is occuring in mainland Europe.
Some of the tame strategies suggested of cherry-picking ideas & allies from both New Labour and the Tories look decidedly out of date and plainly wrong, and surely against the Green Party Philosophy about the anti-capitalism and social and environmental justice.
I much prefer the strategy of Lucas and Bennett of seeking a space where the millions of ex-Labour voters might want to visit. Towards the Left.

Rupert Read said ” we could believe in eco-socialism but don’t necessarily want to call ourselves eco-socialists”. That’s a valid tactical point about messaging.
The point is however to decide after 40 years and dashed hopes, that perhaps now the Zeitgeist reflects an era of Low Growth or Negative growth, rising unemployment, a Lost Generation of Young People, Austerity, Nationalism,fight over the Welfare State and the nature of the EU.

Is it more about talking about the whole Green political philosophy rather than moving to the Right, disguised as neither Left, nor Right, but Forward?

I am going to read some more of the Reports that have come out of the Think Tank. The fact they put together such an event as on Saturday deserves praise. The day was stimulating. The issues raised were crucial. The choice of workshops subjects showed a willingness to be inclusive.

May the dialogue continue.

Nationalism threatens the European status quo

I am not saying that it’s a bad thing.
What I am concerned about is the position or non-position among the more progressive and green parts of the spectrum in England.
Many activists might be unaware that the European Greens work together with the European Free Alliance, a group of Nationalist parties, including Plaid & SNP to EA in the Basque country and beyond.

Yesterday, Belgium via its Antwerp election took a giant step to a split.
On Sunday, 21st October, the Basques go to polls where it looks like the nationalists will win two thirds of the vote.
Catalonia has a referendum on independence on November 25th.

But I have yet to witness any debate within the Green movement on what happens if Europe splinters into new states. Wallonia anyone? Catalunya?
The EU can forget about basking in the halo of a Nobel Prize (!). The position of Brussels would need to be resolved if Belgium split.

2014 looks to be a pivotal year..

a) Scottish referendum on Independence
b) 200th anniversary of Catalan subjugation into a Spanish state & elections
c) Belgian general elections
d) European elections

Europe is changing before our very eyes. We had better recognise this and adapt or state our position.
The fight against austerity is very much linked to rising nationalism. The English question may not be being asked right now, but it will. Much sooner than we think.
What I am very afraid of is that we leave those questions to be asked by the right wing who then go on to frame a debate which focuses on exclusivity, a barely-veiled racism and an immoral economic system which unites all three mainstream Unionist parties.

Farid Erkizia Bakht

AFP reports the Belgian bombshell election this way:
Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever scored a breakthrough election win Sunday and immediately urged Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo to radically re-shape the federal state.

Hailing a “historic” victory for himself in Antwerp with big gains right across Dutch-speaking Flanders in local polls, De Wever said Di Rupo and his coalition partners should “assume your responsibility.”

With results from Antwerp almost all in, De Wever’s New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) bagged 37.7 percent and Socialist incumbent mayor Patrick Janssens 28.6 percent, and the win was underpinned by scores of 20-30 percent across the territory of six million people.

With backers readying for a party in City Hall, De Wever demanded negotiations “to enable both Flanders and Wallonia to look after their own affairs.”

In the run-up to tense 2014 general elections, he wants to turn Belgium into a “confederation,” effectively seeking fiscal independence for the Dutch-speaking north and French-speaking south although sharing areas like defence.

Only this, De Wever said, would allow Belgium as a whole to “find a path of solidarity,” which could also affect the future of Brussels, the largely Francophone EU, Belgian and Flemish capital.