The following press release has gone to local and regional media, it is a¬†joint Press Release from:
Kris Wragg (Green Party), Leon Duveen (Liberal Democrat) and Sarah Downes (Conservative)
Bassetlaw Labour Party under investigation
It has come to our attention that Bassetlaw Labour Party have been distributing imitation Polling Cards to voters in certain wards in the area ahead of the voting tomorrow.¬† These cards contain detailed instructions on how to vote and are very similar in appearance to the official polling cards distributed by Bassetlaw District Council.¬† This appears to be in contravention of the Representation of the People Act 1983, Section 94 (1) 
We have reported this to the Neil Taylor, the Acting Returning Officer, and he has in turn passed it on to Nottinghamshire Police & to the Electoral Commission for investigation to decide what action should be taken.
Kris Wragg, the Green Party Candidate, said ‚ÄúHaving maintained a high level of professionalism throughout this campaign I find it disappointing the Labour Party have stooped to such levels to win the elections.‚ÄĚ
Leon Duveen, the Lib Dem Candidate, commented, ‚ÄúThis is appalling behaviour by the local Labour Party.¬† Throughout the campaign, they have been pushing at the boundaries of what is acceptable.‚ÄĚ
Sarah Downes, the Conservative Candidate, added ‚ÄúTo issue an official Labour election leaflet that is clearly marked as a ‚Äėpolling card‚Äô could be seen as misleading the voters of Bassetlaw. It is a shame that the Labour Party feels that this is a fair way to conduct their campaign.‚ÄĚ
We await the decision of the authorities with interest.
Yesterday I attended Retford Post 16 College for their Parliamentary Candidate hustings event. This was my first hustings event for the elections and the first time I have done public speaking to nearly 200 individuals.
I was quite nervous with my introductory speech but I soon picked up the pace and handled the questions reasonably well. With such short time to answer questions I thought it best to type up a short set of answers to the questions I can remember from the event. I’m sure I have missed a question or two, if any of the students want to remind me I’m happy to edit the post with answers to them.
I also had two harsh comments from current Labour MP John Mann which I’d like to address given I had no chance to reply in the debates.
John Mann – You’re going to make junk food more expensive
This comment was absolutely hilarious, John Mann was stating that the Green Party will upset a lot of the students because we want to tax unhealthy foods, that their McDonalds will be more expensive and other junk foods will too as we’ll tax sugar.
This did not go down well with anybody in the audience or the rest of the panel, the implication that all young people eat junk food just shows how out of touch John Mann is. What he neglected to mention, and I had no chance to comment on, is that the revenue from these additional taxes will go to subsidising up to 1/3 of the price of fresh fruit and veg.
There are a lot of people struggling with their food bills because often it is actually cheaper to eat unhealthily than it is to buy lots of wholesome food. This is what we want to change, we want parents to be able to feed their children well and ensure that it is always cheaper to feed nutritious meals than ready meals and take-aways. This will have a compounding effect as in the long run it will also save the NHS a lot of money with a healthier population and also help tackle the obesity problem we face in the UK.
John Mann – You’re going to make flights more expensive
It’s unfortunate that John Mann seems to think it is his and other peoples privilege to be able to fly everywhere fully subsidised by the Government, on the most polluting form of transport we have. Aviation fuel currently has no duty and no VAT,¬†whilst all other forms of transport, buses, trains, cars are all paying duty and tax on their fuels.
Right now I could buy a return trip from Edinburgh to London for ¬£36 flying with RyanAir, or I could get a train costing ¬£134 (assuming I travel this Monday and return Tuesday). This shows two of the issues we have in this country, firstly that flights can be so cheap due to lack of taxes on their fuels, secondly that our trains cost so darn much! This is why I fully support renationalising our railways and dropping the fares.
Should flights really become so expensive (which I very much doubt, it’s just scaremongering against the Greens) that more people have to holiday in the UK then I don’t consider that the worst thing in the world. The Government has been trying for a long time to get people to stay in the UK as it boosts our economy rather than taking money abroad. Personally I’ve spent my last few holidays in the UK and that’s not a bad thing at all as there are some fantastic places to visit throughout our country.
This was one of the first questions and something I mentioned in my introductory speech. I was pulled up by John Mann that us promising to scrap tuition fees was not funded. Unfortunately it seems that John Mann was not listening to me during my introduction where I clearly stated that the funding for this will come from some of the money we will get from increasing corporation tax from 20 to 30% for large businesses. Large businesses, defined currently as those making more than ¬£300,000 profit per year, are the ones that benefit most from graduates skills. Thus is is only just that they help foot the bill for University tuition.
I also touched on the fact that many MP’s have said that tuition fees of ¬£9000 aren’t a huge issue because if they are not paid off within 30 years then the debt is simply wiped off. But what none of them seem to want to discuss is how that is wiped off, its not magic and the money has to come from somewhere, they are effectively just pushing the problem to future generations. This is why I believe our policy to scrap them is more just, and why I see no problem in ensuring that highly profitable businesses contribute to the country, whilst maintaining the competitive advantage of small business with a lower corporation tax of 20% for them.
As I stated in the hustings, I am fully opposed to the renewal of the Trident nuclear weapons system. I believe that there is no circumstance in which having nuclear weapons actually helps us as a country, if nuclear weapons are a threat we need to ensure proper funding in defensive missiles and early detection systems. We do not need or want the ability to destroy whole swathes of any country, the thermal radiation radius of your average nuclear weapon is around 50 miles, that is not a weapon I could endorse as it will kill indiscriminately.
Nuclear weapons are no good in the fight against terrorism, as mentioned a blast radius of 50 miles is hardly pin point accurate and used against small military factions!
I believe the UK should be at the forefront of nuclear disarmament. We¬†signed the Treaty of Non-Proliferation, so by renewing our nuclear weapons we are technically in violation of this promise to other nations. Although I’m sure Government officials will argue that as long as we replace current weapons for new ones it’s totally fine and not really a problem.
I care deeply for our NHS, before putting my name forward as a candidate I was involved in the 38 Degrees ‘Save our NHS’ petition, I was out on the streets of Worksop handing out flyers and getting people to sign the petition.
I want to see many changes with the NHS, the first ensuring that we fund it properly and not keep making deep cuts, we’ve pledged an extra ¬£12bn in 2015 and increasing the NHS budget 1.2% per year through to 2020 to account for our ageing population. These pledges are in line with what the NHS has said it needs and is above and beyond what any of the other parties have committed to.
I also want to see a reversal of the privatisation that has occurred over the last two parliaments. Labour increased NHS privatisation from 2.9 to 4.4% in their last term, NHS privatisation is now at 5.9% so in the last 9 years it has doubled in percentage terms!
I also stand by our commitment of¬†putting patient care as the priority above all other aspirations, arbitrary targets serve no purpose other than to reduce staff time and patient care. We would foster whole-heartedly the growth, development and training of all staff, including their involvement in improving the systems in which they work.
In terms of improving the number of doctors and nurses we need to provide better funding for bursaries, ensuring that it’s more affordable to do these courses. By scrapping tuition fees this would alleviate a lot of the debt burden and ensuring adequate funding for living costs would be vital. Also we need to ensure that the doctors and nurses we train do not take all this funding and support from their first few years in the NHS and then move to the private sector. I would fully support a financial tax on private health companies that poach¬†publicly / NHS trained staff in their¬†first few years, this is apparently becoming quite common.
I believe our long term vision of a basic income, or citizens income, is something that would greatly support those of a creative nature. It would ensure that if someone wanted to take some time out to try their hand at writing a book,¬†writing music or¬†painting a masterpiece that they have the flexibility to do this and hopefully achieve their creative dreams without the worries of being able to feed themselves doing it. People can contribute to the nation, and the world, in many ways that at first may not seem profitable, but that time out to create a work of art in whatever form could lead to a whole new career for someone, a profitable business and eventually contributing back to society. This is something that should not be ignored.
We would push for an increase in government arts funding by ¬£500 million a year to restore the cuts made since 2010 and reinstate proper levels of¬†funding for local authorities, helping to keep local museums, theatres, libraries and art galleries open.
We would give local authorities powers to encourage local live performance in the arts by moving funding from the regional to the local level and modifying regulations so that small-scale live performance in pubs and similar venues is not stifled.
The question asked was about how we would improve the cost of transport for students and improve local bus routes.
Improving public transport is a key issue for the Green Party, as I mentioned during hustings we would like to see free local public transport for young people and students in the same way as we currently have for the elderly. This would greatly benefit students who live rurally as a big proportion of their costs can be transport to college / 6th form. In addition to reintroducing EMA I believe that young students would greatly benefit under the Green Party.
In terms of improving local transport we would support the re-regulation of bus services to provide a better, more reliable service. Also integrate different transport options and provide seamless door‚Äďto-door journeys, so that buses and trains are properly scheduled to meet up¬†as they are in many European countries. We will make sure that rural areas are not neglected when transport budgets and planning for our cities and towns¬†are under¬†discussion.
Rural transport in many parts of¬†Germany, Austria and Switzerland is of a very high quality and the quality is based on careful planning, coordination and investment¬†and recognition that, although a car will be needed for a proportion of journeys, it is not the default option.
There is tons of abuse on Twitter and Facebook at the moment about one of the Green Party policies on our website regarding copyright. I can’t spend all day on Facebook / Twitter so¬†firstly, if you want to know what we plan to do in the next 5 years, read the manifesto.
Our full policies detailed on our website need further clarification:
- The Green Party of England and Wales policies are created by the membership at conference. There are some 328 pages online of these. Some are very recently amended, some have not been reviewed for quite some time.
- The review process involves members putting changes forward at conference twice a year – there will always be more things to change than time to debate them, so not everything makes it through.
- This means that some policies are ripe for review. I’ll still take that, backing a party with with I feel at least a 90% policy match, NO party whip, and the opportunity as a member to address the things with which I disagree.
- Green Party membership has quadrupled in the last year, and a lot of the newer folk are creatives. This means fresh perspective and experience not necessarily present when some of the less-recently-reviewed policies were drawn up.
- There is a policy on copyright etc. I think it’s very much ripe for review, but am not unduly worried at present about this because:
- The Manifesto (page 61) has a more nuanced and better-worded take on digital rights etc which demonstrates (to me at least) both the positive intent behind it, and that I am not alone in wanting this set of policies to be updated.
- Let’s face it, the EU made bad laws just 6 or so years ago which are now impacting micro-businesses in ways apparently unforeseen (Vatmoss). The online world moves fast. Drawing up fresh policy that addresses digital and other rights in a fast-moving world? That’ll be a challenge. Maybe I’ll have a chance to help with that.
- So please take a breath, read page 61 of the manifesto, and decide whether this is really a deal breaker for you or a reason to engage and contribute your energy into improving the policy. Because in the meantime Austerity, the wealth gap, TTIP, fracking, privatisation of the NHS and climate change are for me the ‘big ticket’ issues, and I think we have time to work out things like this.
My personal view on copyright
Firstly I’m not sure when the policy in question was voted in but having spoke to many members none of them agree with the 14 year rule and many would support voting to amend this policy.
The current state of copyright and patents does need addressing as there are so many holes it is utterly nuts. I work as a Software Developer and the ability to patent vague ideas is extremely stifling to the way we work, take for example Apple’s patent on ‘swipe to unlock’, utterly bonkers!
Currently for an author the copyright is life + 70 years, whilst 14 years is certainly too short I do think that life + 70 years is a little excessive. I do not know what the correct answer is, I believe that there should actually be a consultation with authors, artists, musicians etc to ensure that copyright laws both protect creative people whilst not stifling creativity.
Today I received the following question on twitter:
What would be the consequences of leaving the EU? What do you think is good about the EU? Conversely, what do you dislike?
This is something that definitely needs more than 140 characters to answer, so a short blog post is in order.
What would be the consequences of leaving the EU?
Being frank, I’m not sure anybody can categorically state what would happen to the UK if it left the EU. Most statistics I have seen¬†imply that without our current trade agreements it would lose us between 1 and 3% of our GDP with higher import costs and potentially worse exports.
How this actually effects the country though is anybodies guess. Personally I think that leaving the EU would fill many people with hope only to quickly find it makes bugger all differences to the problems they were laying on us being members of the EU.
Leaving the EU will not magically fix this countries growing inequality, it’s not going to magically build more social homes, bring down rent prices or make food cheaper (it will probably make our food more expensive!).
What do you think is good about the EU?
A big portion of the funding for the Manton pit wood redevelopment came from EU funding, also they fund many scientific projects of which I have been involved in several whilst working for Simcyp.
A club of countries working together to tackle shared problems that cross borders can be a fantastic force, working towards the common good.¬†The EU has helped introduce many beneficial things such as:
- European human rights convention (even though some people / parties want to abolish this!?!)
- Freedom to travel, live and work across the EU (now with limits of mobile phone costs, little things help when calling family abroad!)
- Labour protection – including a law limiting the amount of hours workers can be expected to put in on a weekly basis
- Taking action on climate change and emissions levels, including banning leaded petrol
- Safer cars due to rules on passenger and pedestrian safety
Much EU action has been progressive safeguarding basic rights, peace and security achieved through mutual understanding,¬†environmental protection, the spread of culture and ideas, and regulation of the financial system.
I think if we stay in the EU and have hard working MEP’s, doing their job properly, we can make the EU better place overall and for everyone in the UK.
Conversely, what do you dislike?
I think we are in a danger of handing over too much power to large corporations and lobbyists and that’s why myself and the Green Party wish to remain in the EU but seek reforms.
At the Green Party we prioritise local self-reliance rather than the EU‚Äôs unsustainable economics of free trade and growth. We would not adopt¬†the Euro, which cannot work properly without much deeper political integration, and this would be contrary to our policy¬†of subsidiarity.
I believe that the different levels of Government, local, parliament, EU have different roles to play and decisions should be made at the lowest rung of the ladder they can be. I believe the EU has a part to play in the democracy of our country, but we need to concentrate on reform and ensuring that the deal we have is of benefit to the UK and the planet. The decisions made in Europe should be for the greater good of the whole EU and not benefiting of any one country and certainly not big businesses!
I got asked on twitter ‘What’s your view on Retford not having a direct rail link to Nottingham?’
Given this was on twitter, obviously my reply was quite brief but I said that nationalising the railways would help a great deal and that it’s certainly feasible to have a rail link via Worksop or Newark on existing lines. I got a bit of flack for this from the Conservative candidate Sarah Downes as apparently that’s not a HOW. So I thought I’d clarify further…
Renationalising the Railways
In our 2015 manifesto the Green Party clearly state our ambition to bring the railways back into public hands:
The Green Party is committed to bringing rail services into public ownership and control. The current fragmented structure does¬†not put the passenger and the total journey experience at the centre of planning and has created a costly, wasteful, uncoordinated¬†outcome. Recent experience in running the East Coast Main Line within the public sector has shown that both quality and receipts to¬†the Treasury go up when a rail service is run in this way, whereas experience on the West Coast Main Line in the private sector shows¬†that the franchise system is costly, wasteful and not fit for purpose.
Green MP Caroline Lucas published a Private Members‚Äô Bill to do¬†just this, a policy supported by 66% of the British public. The privatised railways cost over ¬£1 billion a year in interest payments, debt write-offs, railway fragmentation and bonuses paid to railway bosses (up to 166% of annual salaries), amongst other things.
The reason I responded to Sam Ellis on twitter with renationalising would help is because the current system is very broken, different sections of rail line and different routes get sold off as franchises to companies. If a new route wants to be created then it’s a very lengthy process, and this is certainly not going to happen unless that route would be reasonably profitable.
How does renationalising help?¬†When the railways are in public hands there is no fighting between different companies on who will run the routes, also local transport routes could be run as long as the costs break even not just when they make a tidy profit. That’s not to say that even in public hands that a direct route from Retford to Nottingham would be feasible, there would still need to be demand enough for the route to make economic sense, but at least the threshold for the yes decision would be much lower.
Retford to Nottingham direct
I know many people in Worksop and Retford that live in these towns because they are nice places to live and are good hubs to the major cities / towns in the area such as Sheffield, Nottingham, Doncaster and Lincoln. Not everyone wants to live in the city and we should ensure that public transport is accommodating in that it supports those whose careers lend to jobs in cities rather than locally.
Driving from Retford to Nottingham by car takes around 1 hour, excluding bad traffic. Unfortunately on the train it takes anywhere from 1:30 – 1:50 depending on the time of day as the connections tend to leave you waiting around for 30+ minutes at a station.
The most direct routes using existing rail lines would be via Worksop or Newark, both of these lines would be feasible although they are currently under different franchises. As you can see in the image (if you expand) going via Worksop you cover both Northern and East Midlands trains.
Northern rail’s franchise is actually up already, its currently up for tender, East Midlands is due to end¬†at the end of this year so now would in fact be a perfect opportunity to renationalise these two franchises and help facilitate better links between these towns / cities.
In terms of making it happen, you would need to gather support so that the rail networks know that such a demand exists, the best method would be to try and get as many people to sign a letter or petition showing support for the rail link, ideally from those that currently do this commute via train or by car. Also garnering support from your local councillors would aid greatly if they can show that it would benefit to have this better link, Stuart Bower will be standing for the Green Party in East Retford East and would definitely support this as he commutes via train a lot.
Today I received an email from a constituent asking, amongst other things, my opinion on the proposals for an incinerator in Worksop.¬†Back in February I responded to an email from a member of ‘Worksop against Incineration’, their facebook page is here.
In this email I stated I was most certainly against the plans for an incinerator on Shireoaks Road, and in fact am against the use of incinerators period. Given this question has come up a few times now I thought I would publish my stance on the issue.
My stance on incinerators
As someone who cares about the environment and as someone with an allotment I do my best to recycle as much as I possibly can, and I think there is much room for improvement for the council encouraging recycling.
For instance you still cannot put glass in the recycling bins, so lots of people just put them in the regular bins rather than collecting them up and taking them to their supermarket / recycling centre. I think this issue of what can and cannot be recycled needs investigating both locally and nationally, the rules change from area to area and really it boils down to who contracts are made with and what profits are at stake.
Also I think more could be done to recycle green waste and food waste, there is no reason why we can’t encourage more people to either do their own composting or have a separate bin for those who would rather the council do the composting if they don’t have the space / want to do it on their own land. Personally at home we have a hot bin which allows us to compost almost anything organic based including meat, at our allotment obviously we compost anything that’s not edible in big heaps.
I would love to do a big promotion in Bassetlaw to try and get more people composting and supporting people to have a small veg patch, it’s one of the best ways to recycle organic waste. The council already subsidise compost bins through¬†www.getcomposting.com¬†but this should really be pushed out more to households as I’ve never been told about this and it’s probably something that doesn’t pop up in conversation that often.
I also believe more time and money should be put into promoting freecycling which I am big supporter of as there are so many things that go to the tip (recycling centre) that someone could make use of. This happens to some extent on sites such as GumTree, but in bigger areas such as Sheffield where I used to live there are active communities trying to recycle old items that still work or that someone might be able to repair. We need to get out of the mentality that when something breaks we throw it away and buy a new one, lots of people want the UK ‘back like it was’, well go back a few decades and your parents / grandparents repaired things before thinking of replacing.
As for incinerators, energy from incinerators produce vast amounts of CO2 gas, the principal cause of climate change, and should be avoided. They are also an inefficient way to generate electricity and burning domestic waste will result in burning lots of recyclable materials.
In fact, part of the reason for the less then ideal recycling rate in Brighton, where we have a big Green Party council, is down to the fact one of the previous Labour led councils signed a 25 year agreement with¬†Veolia that they are now stuck with and are being blamed for even though it was the Labour councils fault for signing such a lengthy contract.
Anyway, as a candidate for Worksop South and the Bassetlaw Parliamentary seat, I would stand strongly against any plans for an incinerator in Bassetlaw. I would also push VERY strongly for better education when it comes to recycling, and a thorough investigation into how we can improve our recycling rates.
On Thursday¬†I handed in my nomination papers and deposit at the Worksop town hall. I have now been officially accepted as a parliamentary candidate for Bassetlaw, I will also be standing as local councillor for Worksop South.
Below I detail my top three¬†points for key areas in Bassetlaw:
- Replace the minimum wage with a living wage of ¬£8.10 per hour, rising to ¬£10 per hour by 2020.¬†This will help¬†many hard working people in Bassetlaw.
- Work towards a 35-hour working week.¬† More jobs, fairer pay, more free time.
- Improve the competitive position of small firms, maintaining corporation tax for small firms at 20%, while raising that for larger firms to 30%.
- Scrap the Bedroom Tax and build around 1000 new social homes as part of the Green Party pledge to build 500,000 new social homes by 2020. Also make a harder push with¬†the efforts to reduce the number of empty properties.
- Establish a register of private landlords to regulate the quality of rented housing and control excessive rents. We would¬†give tenants the right to demand landlords improve energy efficiency in low rated homes.
- We will encourage¬†converting and renovating old buildings to be used as homes by dropping the VAT from 20% to 0% to match what is paid for constructing new buildings.
- Increase the NHS budget to reverse cuts, invest in mental health and provide free dentistry and prescriptions. England needs parity with the rest of the UK!
- Merge health and social care under local control and provide free social care for older people. This¬†will include carers¬†being paid the living wage not zero hours contracts in 15 minute chunks.
- We would end the privatisation of our NHS. We would ensure that services remain free at the point of need, are fully funded by taxation and profit has no motive.
- Ban fracking, which is affecting our constituents in Misson.¬†The Green Party is the only party in England that is fully behind a ban on fracking and voting Green is the only way you can ensure that this problem will be challenged again in Parliament.
- We will ensure that all schools, hospitals and other public buildings have solar panels by 2020. Reducing the running costs of our public services and bringing us closer to energy independence.
- In addition to public services I will look to push for a similar scheme to that in Kirklees where the council funded solar panels for social housing. Saving tenants money, providing income for the council and creating new local jobs, a sensible long term investment.
- Scrap University tuition fees and restore the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16 and 17 year olds. Lets have UK parity!
- Increase funding for apprenticeships by 30% and provide an apprenticeship to all qualified people aged 16-25.
- Ensure all heads and teachers have Qualified Teacher Status, whilst reaching average class size of 20 by 2020.
- Improve services, and reduce fares by renationalising the railways. Helping all those that travel between Worksop and Retford, or to places¬†such as Sheffield, Doncaster and Nottingham.
- More funding for cycle lanes and ensure cyclists and pedestrians get fair and safe share of road space. This is a huge issue for many commuting to work or taking their children to school.
- Reduce accidents and fuel use by introducing 20mph speed limits in residential areas.
Crime and Justice
- Abolish Police and Crime Commissioners and return policing to local democratic control, with an increase in local police stations and/or officers.
- Have low risk offenders work to repair damage done by crime, rather than being locked away with more serious criminals.¬†This gives victims a voice and helps offenders to see the effects of what they have done, it would also save around ¬£5bn a year nationally.
- Restrict police random stop and search powers, which damage public confidence in the police and infringes on civil liberties.
EU and Immigration
- We will support an EU referendum in 2017 because people deserve¬†the choice. We believe our EU deal needs reform but¬†we’d like to stay in if it benefits us.
- Expand training of UK residents in the NHS so that we have less need to take health workers from developing countries.
- Assist integration by making free English lessons available to all new immigrants.
I have ranted about¬†neonicotinoids’s and their destruction of bee populations many times and now there is another report showing that the EU was right in banning them.
It was only a few days ago that I signed the petition about¬†Bayer, Syngenta and BASF that are sueing the EU for the ban. When it comes to the destruction of species then it should be about proving without a shadow of doubt that there is no problem, not continuing on with business as usual until we find out the hard way that the scientists were right.
Anyway, going back to the article on the Guardian¬†they point out that the original report that the UK’s DEFRA used as it’s basis for potentially overruling the EU’s ban was in fact misinterpreted. To put this into perspective, this paper was not published in any peer reviewed journal and in fact the conclusion of the paper was in contradiction to the actual results that they obtained.
In a direct quote from the Guardian article:
The lead author on the Fera report left the agency just months after its publication to work for Syngenta ‚Äď a major producer of neonicotinoids. This lead¬†to suggestions that the government was too close to the pesticide industry.
The former environment secretary, Owen Paterson, relied heavily on the research to make his case against the EU moratorium on neonicotinoids. The ban was introduced in 2013, despite the UK lobbying, and eventually voting, against it.¬†The legislation will be reviewed in December.
So what we have is a Government department that is relying on data that has not been peer reviewed to make it’s decisions, not only that but they obviously did not read the paper like the EU did as they just skipped to the conclusion without checking it actually matched the data. Not only this but it would appear that the lead author was evidently in the pocket of a major company who he was employed by not longer after publishing the report.
To me this just smells of the same kind of corruption we see time and again from our politicians and those we are supposed to trust to make decisions on behalf of the country. Not quite sure how these people think we will improve agriculture in the UK if we have no more bees??
Last night I attended a meeting by the Open Rights Group¬†discussing digital rights and mass surveillance. The turnout was pretty reasonable and Jim Killock gave a great presentation of the dangers of mass¬†surveillance and how the escalation of powers given to GCHQ and other organisations is not helping solve the problems to the level they intend. Also, whilst they are working to ‘protect’ the country they are repeatedly bending and breaking rules / laws and invading the privacy of it’s citizens.
Many attendees were in agreement that the mantra of ‘if you have nothing to hide you have nothing to worry about’ was a falsehood that is being repeatedly used to make people accept these blatant infringements into our rights. In fact there are many circumstances where you having nothing to hide but do not want others to know information. A good example that came up by a member of the audience was that in World War 2 the Nazi’s managed to exterminate a relatively large proportion of the Jews because¬†the Dutch authorities had required citizens to register their religion. This seemingly harmless collection of data on it’s citizens¬†so that church taxes could be distributed among the various religious organizations ended up costing the lives of thousands of individuals.
At the meeting I met several interesting people including Andy Halsall from The Pirate Party¬†who will be contesting the Sheffield Central seat in the upcoming 2015 General Election. Andy came across as a really interesting guy, and whilst he will be contesting a major seat for the Green Party I still wish him well as his stance on digital rights, civil liberties and social equality seem closely tied to my own and those of the Green Party.
I also had a very good discussion with Deborah Adshead, Senior Lecturer from Sheffield Hallam University, about various things including politics and a lack of awareness from younger students about their online presence and maintaining their privacy.
I actively encourage people to learn more about the Open Rights Group¬†as they have a lot of useful information that people should know.
Today I built the raised beds for our poly tunnel, these were made of scaffolding boards and bolted together with M10 x 120mm coach screws from UK Fixings in Sheffield. The coach screws required 7mm pilot holes to ensure that they did not split the scaffold boards, after that they were pretty easy to put together.
On the left¬†hand side we have beds spanning the full length of approx 6m, in the centre and right they span about 4m in length and we plan to build a small potting station in the right¬†hand corner where we can start off some of our plants and possibly grow a few herbs.
Now the next job is to fill all the beds with manure and soil, and then get planting a ton of vegetables!