Friday, 11 April 2014

A Call to Action the case for an action for Democracy in the vicinity of Parliament square

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Reclaiming the Power

The decision of the Occupy in London General Assembly to organise a mass action, an event for democracy in the vicinity of Parliament, has the potential to ignite a movement for democratic change in this country. The practice of democracy has always played an important, if not a central, part in the Occupy movement. We will campaign for a genuine democratic government free from corporate Influence.

We would like to invite all the movements that have been resisting the cuts to get involved. This event could comprise a huge peoples assembly for democracy in Parliament Square and should include a statement of demands. This should be the outcome of a democratic forum and, it should be open to amendment, modification, or addition, inspired by the Chartists six points, it could include a list of straightforward demands such as

End the revolving door between big business and government
Remove the Remembrancer from Parliament
For the right of electors to recall their MP and all elected representatives by petition
Stop MPs and Lords voting on any bills in which they have a financial interest
Ban all commercial confidentiality clauses in government contracts
MPs and ministers to be paid no more than the national average wage

The problem with Parliament

How is it possible that a government can make major policy decisions, such as privatise the NHS, triple tuition fees, or introduce the Bedroom Tax without any mandate from the voters? None of these policies were put before the voting public by the governing parties. In the case of tuition fees, it was the clear breaking of a promise by the Liberals. How did they get away with it?

The answer must lie, in large part, in the nature of representative parliamentary democracy. The imposition of austerity in Britain has no mandate from the voters. But the democratic legitimacy of austerity is often overlooked by campaigners and commentators. Austerity is not the sole or even the main problem. The problem is a parliamentary democracy that has allowed the government to get away with the largest assault on our individual and collective well being since the Second World War. Parliament is the source of the government’s strength and legitimacy. It allowed the party leaders, Nick Clegg and David Cameron, to stitch up an austerity program which has no democratic mandate. One can argue that coalition governments are sometimes inevitable. But if that is the case, it is even more important that our MPs and Lords hold the government to account, acting as a democratic check on what the government does. Our MPs, irrespective of whether their party is in the governing coalition or not, should be there to defend us from the government; in is they have failed us.

The usual response from the defenders of the status quo is that an MP can always be voted out in a general election. But this state of affairs is highly unsatisfactory. It highlights one of the key problems with the representative system of parliamentary democracy. Some decisions Parliament makes are irreversible, such as voting for war. In the case of the NHS, the contracts signs with private companies are protected by clauses which would make the government liable for untold sums. This would it make prohibitively expensive for any government promising to reverse the privatisation. Added to that, the EU is supporting a secret trade deal with North America which would put such decisions in the hands of unaccountable arbitration panels, which could strike down any law made in a national parliament.

MPs are elected on the basis of the promises they (and their party) make to the voting public. But once these promises are broken there is little in the way of redress. Once elected, the party leader is free to ignore the promises he or she make to the voters. Why do the vast majority of MPs put loyalty to their party leaders ahead of the promises they make to their electors? Maybe because the decision to enter Parliament for most MPs is a career decision. Voting against the decisions of the party leader can be a very bad career move.

Not like us

MPs today are increasingly unlike the people they represent. This is particularly true for government ministers. They have more in common with each other than the people they represent. They are drawn from an increasingly narrow social spectrum. MPs are much more likely to have a relative who has served as a politician. They are more likely to be from better off backgrounds. Too many have limited experience of work outside the Westminster Village. The current cabinet (and shadow cabinet) fits this mould. Most of the cabinet were educated at public schools and the leaders of all three main parties, including Chancellor and Shadow Chancellor, went to Oxford. Most worked as ministerial aides, party researchers or as lobbyists. And they see themselves as different from the people they represent. While most people have seen their wages stagnate since the recession, MPs awarded themselves an 11% pay rise. Only ten MPs saw fit to oppose the increase.

Are we all in this together? Appears not, as far as many MPs are concerned. The expenses scandal revealed a sense of entitlement from our elected representatives that is completely divorced from the realities of their constituents struggling to pay the rent, the fuel bills or feed their families.

One of the quickest routes to a peerage is to become a donor to one of the main political parties. The going rate seems to be about £1.4 million. And many peers are former MPs who have served their time in the House of Commons. The furious response from many conservative MPs at the planned cap on the number of peers, which Cameron soon dropped, would indicate that the Lords is seen as a reward for putting the interests of the party leader above anything else.

People power versus the lobby

The privatisation of the NHS went through despite an enormous campaign of letter writing, petitioning and demonstrations, from individuals, trades unions, national campaigning groups, and local hospital campaigns. This mass campaign had public opinion on its side. But this effort was more than matched by the lobbying power of the health insurance industry and management consultants who stood to gain from privatisation. The vastly greater lobbying resources of corporations can make government MPs immune to the democratic pressure of such mass campaigns.

Added to this is the direct and indirect financial interests of Lords and MPs who stood to gain from NHS privatisation. One hundred and forty five Lords and seventy MPs have declared recent or present financialconnections to companies or individuals involved in healthcare. The fact that they must declare these interests does not make it any more acceptable. Privatisation is also beneficial to the later career prospects of politicians. Those who were involved in steering complex privatisation legislation can look forward to careers as non executive directors in the industries they have privatised, or as consultants to the merchant banks who invest in such industries. Alternatively, they can trade on their political contacts and join a private hedge fund, such as the Carlyle Group, its business model is based on “access capitalism”.

The recent lobbying and transparency act will further reduce our ability to hold MPs to account at election time; and it will do nothing to curtail the influence big business has on Parliament and government.

The tendency for Parliament to ignore mass movements is not unique to the current Coalition. On 15th February 2003 it is estimated two million people demonstrated in London against Tony Blair’s plan to invade Iraq. Parliament chose to ignore the largest demonstration in British history and support Blair’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq. How many of those MPs would have voted for the invasion if they knew they could be subject to an immediate recall by their electors organised through such a mass movement?

In a victory for the mass grassroots campaign against airport expansion, the incoming Coalition government promised not to support new runways in the south east. This was in contrast to the outgoing Labour government. The campaigners against a third runway at Heathrow might have thought they had finally killed of the third runway. But not long after the election, the PR and lobbying machine of the air travel industry moved into action trying to swing the debate in favour of airport expansion. It did not take long for the government to execute the quickest U-turn possible with an “independent” commission on airport expansion, its brief was skewed in favour of expansion. It remains to be seen what choice the voter opposed to expansion will have if all the main parties end up supporting this supposedly independent commission. It remains to be seen how successful big business will be in bypassing democracy. It is a strategy based on the war of attrition, it hopes to gradually wear down campaigners.

Lobbying beyond lobbying

Very often big business does not even need to bother with lobbying. Lord Browne, is a government advisor to the Cabinet Office on business matters. He is also chairman of Cuadrilla, one of the main companies involved in Fracking in the UK. Some of the advisors at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are drafting key government policies on the electricity “capacity market” are seconded from companies running gas fired power stations. Or we have examples like Lord Blencathra, who is offering “consultancy services” to the Cayman Islands government, presumably to preserve its status as a tax haven.

Britain’s most powerful rotten borough

One of the achievements of the Occupy movement in London was to shine a spotlight on the highly undemocratic influence the City of London has on the UK Parliament and government. The City of London Corporation is the UK’s last remaining rotten borough; its lobbying power is institutionalised in the office of the Remembrancer. He is present in both the House of Commons and the Lords. With a budget of £3.5 million and and staff of six lawyers, his role is to ensure that no legislation threatens the privileges of the City. From this position he has direct access to all government ministers and officials involved in shaping any legislation which interests the City.

In 2008 City’s banks threatened to shut down the UK banking system if the government did not bail them out. This crisis presented the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown with the greatest opportunity to reform the City, but he blinked first and, in a panic, he shouldered UK tax payers with £500 billion of liabilities. The bailout was hailed as a great example of Browne’s leadership. He did this without any approval from Parliament. But he could have nationalised the failing banks without compensation and limited the guarantees on deposits. During the banking crisis, there was no talk of austerity from the elites who benefited from this enormous transfer of wealth from the rich to poor. But once the banking system was safely bailed out the demand for austerity from the same elites became deafening.

Whitehall centralisation = corporate power grab

The shift in the balance of power in favour of big business is also present at the local level. In the Government’s drive to expand the fracking industry, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles has made it much more difficult for local communities to object to fracking applications in their area. The Education Secretary, Michael Gove can remove elected school governors and hand over control of schools to business. And this power grab from big business is manifest all over the planning system. Whether it’s the local pub being turned into a supermarket or the proliferation of betting shops on our high street. There is little local communities can do to resist these developments through the democratic process. In addition, Parliament has recently granted the health secretary the power to close hospitals without any community consultation.

Commercial confidentiality

In the case where local communities are resisting developer land grabs, or privatisation, they are often hamstrung by the commercial confidentiality clauses our elected representatives are allowed to sign with big business. This has become a major issue for campaigners resisting corporated led “regeneration” plans like the Heygate Estate. A similar problems surrounds the Private-Public Partnership deals in the public sector.

Passive, atomised and misinformed – is how they want us

Given the state of our democracy it should not be surprising that increasing numbers of people are so disenchanted with our system of democracy that they are no longer bothering to vote as Russell Brand has pointed out. Our media and political system has conspired to create a parliamentary democracy which represents an increasingly narrow spectrum of opinion. Those of us who question the need for austerity are effectively disenfranchised when the main parties all accept this narrative.

Why the government has (and it must be stressed – thus far) been able to get away with it is another question. Passive, atomised and misinformed is not the state we are in but the way the government would like us to be. Our ability to resist has been reduced as a result of a transfer of power that has taken place over the past thirty years. This transfer of power has occurred at all levels of government and in all spheres of our life. Our power to resist both individually and collectively has been reduced.

The public have been badly mis-informed. The BBC described NHS privatisation as a “bill to give power to GPs”. The government and the media have tried hard to play one section of society suffering from austerity against another; demonising families on benefits, or whipping up a wave of hysteria about Bulgarian or Romanian immigrants. Nobody elected Daily Mail editor, Paul Dacre, yet people like him have power over us. The consequences of a hostile media campaign targeting any minority group can threaten someone’s physical security.

Local democracy has been emasculated as more power has been centralised in Whitehall. The recent cuts in Legal Aid disempower us because they take away our ability to protect our rights through the courts and to fight miscarriages of justice. Would the Birmingham Six have been able to establish their innocence without Legal Aid? Would we have been able to uncover the extent of police spying or corporate collusion if climate activists had not been able to defend themselves with Legal Aid?

The best way for working people to defend their conditions of employment is through a trade union. But legislation introduced since the 80s has reduced the power of trade unions to defend their members. Added to that is the huge defeats inflicted on the unions in the 80s weighs down a like a collective nightmare on the trade union movement.

And the democracy of the street, that is, our ability to protest has been whittled down as successive laws restricting public assembly have been introduced. The police have become better at containing protest through tactics such as kettling. The main objective of the police is not to “facilitate” protest but to defeat protest through a strategy of demoralisation and fear. This was clearly evident with the student protests of late 2010.

The current laws on protest makes the kind of protest witnessed recently at the Maidan in Kiev illegal if repeated in Parliament Square. How can it be that in the Ukraine the right to protest is better protected than at the “Mother of Parliaments”?

In conclusion

Our political system is increasingly unable to deal with the consequences of a social crisis it helped to create. We are facing record homelessness, while many more struggle to keep a roof over their heads, record numbers are relying on food banks to feed their families and records numbers are facing fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight time faster than wages. Since it is probably safe to assume that nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed. It appears that the majority are not able to use the democratic process to improve, let alone protect, the basic necessities of life. Our sense of powerlessness mirrors in an opposite way the increasing power big business has over our lives. It is time we took mass action to stop this.

It was our forebears, the Levellers who first raised the demand for universal suffrage, the Chartist and the Suffragettes fought to extend the franchise by reducing the property qualification and giving women the vote. Little could they imagine the extent to which corporate power has subverted the vote for which they fought so bravely and sacrificed so much. Any movement campaigning for genuine democracy should draw inspiration from them and learn from their experience.

We want to bring alive a movement that is able to take action over the institutions that have power over us. The late Tony Benn had five questions of power. We need to demand answers from them

1. What power do you have?
2. Where did you get it from?
3. To whom are you accountable?
4. In whose interest do you exercise it?
5. How can we get rid of you?

Of these the fifth is most important. The late Tony Benn noted that those with power do not like democracy and that is why every generation must struggle to win and keep it.

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Heads-up for the next Health Service demonstration - central London, 27 April 2014 (time and start-point to be confirmed)

Heads-up for the next Health Service demonstration - central London, 27 April 2014 (time and start-point to be confirmed)

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Breaking the Frame: a gathering on the politics of technology. 2nd-5th May at Unstone Grange in the countryside near Sheffield.

Book your place now for Breaking the Frame: a gathering on the politics of technology. 2nd-5th May at Unstone Grange in the countryside near Sheffield. Food by veggies, workshops, action planning, walks, organic garden tours, activities, music, spoken word etc. Spread the word! what can we do. Sustainable solutions for travellers and tourists


As more regions and countries develop their tourism industry, it produces significant impacts on natural resources, consumption patterns, pollution and social systems. The need for sustainable/responsible planning and management is imperative for the industry to survive as a whole.



  • Over 1 billion people travelled internationally in 2012 and this is expected to reach 1.5 billion by 2020
  • The average international tourist receipt is over US$700 per person
  • Travel and tourism represents approximately 10% of total global Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (if it include tourism related business (eg catering, cleaning)
  • The global travel and tourism industry creates approximately 10% of the world's employment (direct & indirect)
  • At least 25 million people spread over 52 countries are displaced by violence, persecution and/or disasters - tourism receipts in every country are affected by this.


  • Although the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas recycles its water - it still uses 12 million litres of water per year in a water scarce region
  • Buying local could achieve a 4-5% reduction in GHG emissions due to large sources of C02 and non C02 emissions during the production of food
  • The average Canadian household used 326 liters of water per day....a village of 700 in a developing country uses an average of 500 litres of water per month AND a luxury hotel room guest uses 1800 litres of water per person per night...
  • The average person in the UK uses approximately 150 litres of water per day - 3 times that of a local village in Asia
  • A species of animal or plant life disappears at a rate of one every three minutes
  • 70% of marine mammals are threatened
  • The Western world (with 17% of the worlds' population) currently consumes 52% of total global energy.
  • 1 acre of trees absorbes 2. 6tonnes of CO2 per year
  • 58% of the worlds coral reefs are at risk. 2010 was the warmest year on record
  • Seawater is expected to rise 70 cm in the next 10 years
  • By 2050 climate change could have directly led to the extinction of 30% of species, the death of 90% of coral reefs and the loss of half the Amazon rainforest.
  • Since 1970 a third of the natural world has been destroyed by human activity
  • Half the world's population lives in urban areas and this figure is expected to increase. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 76% of the population live in urban areas
  • 10% of the worlds coral reefs are in the Caribbean - most under threat
  • By 2036, there will be 1200 million cars on earth - double the amount today
  • A European uses 14x more energy than someone living in India
  • For every 1 degree rise in temperature above 34 degrees Celsius, yields of rice, maize and wheat in tropical areas could drop by 10%
  • Every day we dump 90 million tons of carbon pollution into our atmosphere
  • Although 70% of the earth's surface is water, only 3% is potable
    Sources: FOC, 2002, WTO, 2000 & 2002, UNWTO, 2011,, 2004, UN, 2003, Gov't of Canada, 2005, Tourism Concern, 2011, Science Msusuem, 2006, Reefs at Risk, WRI,2011)Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, 2011)


Sustainable tourism is about re-focusing and adapting. A balance must be found between limits and usage so that continuous changing, monitoring and planning ensure that tourism can be managed. This requires thinking long-term (10, 20+ years) and realising that change is often cumulative, gradual and irreversible. Economic, social and environmental aspects of sustainable development must include the interests of all stakeholders including indigenous people, local communities, visitors, industry and government.


Housing crisis recquire a bold action homelessness up 62% in 2 years

Housing crisis requires bold action

Are you a victim of high rents? If you live in London then most probably because the housing market is out of control. Everyone knows that now, and an unprecedented amount of coverage on the housing crisis means we no longer need to tell each other that we have a housing crisis on our hands in this country. The time is now to act on this. Fortunately, an opposition to the housing crisis is beginning to emerge.

Last night saw another packed out talk in the House of Commons as part of the People’s Parliament discussion series, organised by Labour MP John McDonnell, to liven up and provide political depth to the debate in the run up to the next general election. Last night’s discussion was on ‘the housing and homelessness crisis’, where it was immediately obvious that people have become bored of warning people about the housing crisis and are moving on to demanding answers.

The statistics are utterly staggering. Over 1.7 million households are currently waiting for social housingwhich to be honest just isn’t going to arrive. More than 2 million people find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with their paymentsAverage rents in London are £1,417 a month, meaning people are spending a totally disproportionate amount of their income on securing a roof over their head. Even today we have heard thatLondon house prices have risen 18% in a year. To exemplify how bad things have got, according to Anna Minton, author of Ground Control, apparently someone recently was even asked to pay rent to sleep in a fridge.

Yes, we must build more homes if the UK’s population continues to increase as expected but building more homes is not the solution. Boris Johnson and our other UK local authority leaders were accused last month by housing campaigners of ‘selling off our city to the highest bidder’ – in reference to their support of the MIPIM conference in Cannes, France.

What the problem boils down to, as spelt out by Danny Dorling in his new book All That is Solid is that no one should be able to make a profit out of housing. Housing is not like gold, or oil or anything else one might wish to invest in. Housing is a basic need for everyone to be able to have a roof over their head. Therefore, letting the market dictate are housing is not the right way to go.

In the last few months an organisation called the Radical Housing Networkhas emerged which is made up of groups fighting for housing justice across London who are attempting to harness all this housing anger.

At the People’s Parliament a number of solutions were put forward. For a start we need rent controls and we then need a land value tax which would require ‘property owners to pay an annual levy based on the market value of the plot of earth beneath their home.’

We should listen to the Empty Homes Campaign by doing everything that is possible to bring empty properties back into use, of which there are still around 1 million across the UK. Bringing empty properties back into use also includes repealing the criminalisation of squatting as it’s become evidently clear that squatters do more good than harm.

The bedroom tax must be repealed and we should reverse the trend of selling off all our housing stock by investing in first class council housing instead. Housing experts are now calling for such measures up and down the country.

Over the weekend, we heard that housing policy could be the issue that decides the next general election and if true all political parties must get to grips with the crisis because currently none of them are proposing anything anywhere near bold enough.

At the sharp end homelessness has risen by 62 per cent in the last 2 years in London which can be directly attributed to government policies. Because housing involves us all, it’s the issue which defines this era. We have an opportunity now because housing is rising up the political agenda.

These discussions will continue at agathering later this month where experts such as Danny Dorling and others will be speaking.

Joseph Blake is a freelance journalist and campaigner

Saturday, 29 March 2014

Private companies are helping to decide the future of the NHS. It’s come to light that a lobbying outfit working for big drug companies was paid by NHS England to write an important report. It’s claimed that this report could help shape £12bn (!) of NHS spending over the next five years. [1]

38 Degrees Logo

Private companies are helping to decide the future of the NHS.

It’s come to light that a lobbying outfit working for big drug companies was paid by NHS England to write an important report. It’s claimed that this report could help shape £12bn (!) of NHS spending over the next five years. [1]

The NHS is owned by all of us. But NHS England - the body that runs the NHS here - doesn’t have to publish conflicts of interest like this, or details of the lobbyists they meet with. We may never have even found out this was going on.

If enough of us kick up a stink, we could force NHS England to come clean about who’s deciding the future of our NHS. Let’s show them that the taxpayers who fund them expect honesty about who’s advising them, especially when these people might profit from the decisions.

Will you add your name to the petition to demand transparency over who’s deciding the future of our NHS?

Private companies getting involved in NHS decision-making is exactly what we all feared would happen when the government passed the Health and Social Care Act. As well as providing local services, private companies are now being ushered in at the top of the NHS.

There’s no reason why NHS England can’t publish potential conflicts of interest or meetings with lobbying firms. Government departments regularly do this. [2]

NHS England is less than a year old. They’re not used to being on the receiving end of a big people-powered petition. Thousands and thousands of names on a petition, delivered to their offices, could embarrass them into coming clean about who’s influencing them.

Can you sign the petition and demand that NHS England register any links to big business?

38 Degrees members have voted time and time again to ensure that protecting our NHS is at the core of what we do. [3] It’s moments like this where we can come together and take action. Let’s fight to protect our NHS from the vultures that are circling it. The first step is to find out they are.

[1] The Independent - Revealed: Big Pharma's hidden links to NHS policy, with senior MPs saying medical industry uses ‘wealth to influence government’:
[2] Who’s lobbying? - Government departments’ registers of meetings:
[3] 38 Degrees blog post: Poll results: March 22nd 2014:

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Good article on use of empty space by artists and musicians- the height of Suspenses at the old Polytechnic squat Kentish town

Good to see there's a lot of uprising and creative squat / active energy in the manor.
Where our rainbow centres adventure began back in the early nineties.
Same message as back in the day we should  use some of the one and a half million empty buildings for homes community projects art and to live and create.

The Suspenses  crew carry on this long tradition seeded from the 491 gallery crew of leytonstone who ran one of the most succesfull squatted arts and music venues in East London for over 10 years.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

New-online-currency-could provide-sovereignty-first-nations

       By Maike Eikelmann
APTN National News
A new form of virtual currency that a Native American tribe is reportedly going to use instead of the Greenback could also provide a form of sovereignty to First Nations in Canada if they decided to go the same route according to a university professor.
The money is called MazaCoin, a variation of a bitcoin, and the Oglala Lakota Nation in the United States is reportedly considering adopting it as its official currency.
The same could be done in Canada according to a Wilfrid Laurier University professor in Waterloo, Ont.
“From an Indigenous perspective, it could be a powerful tool for exercising Indigenous sovereignty while generating a new type of economic development,” said Dr. Christopher Alcantara, an associate professor and expert in the field of Indigenous-settler relations and politics. “Any time you can free yourself from the oversight of the Canadian or the American state will usually lead to more liberty on the reserve.”

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Friern Barnet library, saved by locals direct action and the squatters occupy support team.80th birthday celebration sun 23rd march 2-5 pm all welcome

Hope you can come to the 80th birthday celebration for Friern Barnet library. This Sunday 23rd March. 2-5pm.
All welcome - please ask our other Occupy friends and supporters.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Friday, 14 March 2014

Height of Suspenses-a feast 4 ur senses.A Party fri 21st march network it

Height of Suspenses-a feast 4 ur senses.A Party,a Story about life's pretenses.Shown in a Fashion&location unique.An action-packed evening of fun that u seek.U who want more than just boredom&drink will get Bands&Performers that get u2 think.A Show that's halfConcert,halfDrama, halfParty,&@least 1more half 4d fashionably arty!21/03@187Kentish TownRd n1 8tp/£5/door:8pm/show:9pm/djs after1am/spaces limited-come early!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

BBC News - Fracking 'could harm wildlife'

BBC News - Fracking 'could harm wildlife':
Pink footed geese
 "Fracking has the potential to devastate wildlife habitats across the UK, says research commissioned by leading wildlife and countryside groups. The report Are We Fit to Frack? was launched by six organisations including the National Trust and the RSPB. It was reviewed by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology and is supported by a cross party group of MPs."

'via Blog this'