EU residents face extra hurdle to vote in European elections

If you are an EU resident of Brighton and Hove, you have an extra hurdle to jump if you want to vote in the European elections on May 23rd. This is a separate election to the Brighton and Hove City Council elections which will be held next Thursday, 02 May.

Nearly fourteen thousand EU residents of Brighton & Hove work in our hospitals, teach in our schools, serve in our restaurants and pay their taxes. All EU residents must complete and return a form UC1 or you will be turned away at the polling booth.

Even if you think you have a vote as an EU resident because you have a polling card for the local elections on 02 May, you still have to return the UC1 form to be eligible to vote in European elections. The form will be sent to you by the council and you must return it by 5 pm on the 07 May.

Brighton and Hove Electoral Services are poised to send notification of this to all the EU residents next Wednesday. But this leaves you less than a week to get your registration form UC1 back to the council. Alternatively, you can download it from the Electoral Commission.

Sadly some Brexiteers have threatened, if elected, to disrupt the EU Parliament. All of us must do all we can to ensure that our chosen MEP’s have our best interests at heart, as well as those of our fellow Europeans.

UKIP won the most number of seats in the European Parliament during the last round of EU elections in 2014 but their popularity in the UK has subsequently declined.

You can check the government website to see what to do if you come from the EU and want to remain living in the UK.

EU residents are entitled to vote in local elections in the communities where they live automatically. Local elections will take place next Thursday 02 May across Brighton and Hove.

We need European elections

If you want to hear my voice, please allow me silence as Parliament goes into recess over the summer. Without participating in European elections in Britan, we run the risk that there will be no resolution by the end of the extension on Halloween, 31 October and we will have ended up out of Europe by accident.

I’d like to participate in European elections, stop Brexit by a people’s vote and hold a general election. I don’t want to leave it to MPs to confirm the deal the majority of MPs never wanted with Brussels.

I want a say in whether we should leave at all, given all the lies and betrayal of the Leave Campaign. And if we leave, I want a say in how we leave.

Peter Kyle is right to block no deal which I also thought and said (check Facebook) but we need to do more and he needs to have the courage to vote with his conscience. This is because these votes matter more than any other since 1975 when during the first referendum Britain voted to enter the EU. You can read Mr Kyle’s voting record about #Brexit and #EU integration here.

Peter Kyle
Peter Kyle and Ben Bradshaw on Brighton beach

A confirmatory vote is not the same as asking the people, given what you now know, would you like to leave the EU? If yes, how? Customs union, the single market with freedom of movement, ECJ jurisdiction, Ireland and Scotland, terrorism.

What do Brits want Britain to look like? Do we now agree that in fact, the Conservatives have no plan? Britain did participate in a referendum and it’s not customary to ask the public if they have changed their mind.

However, given the facts and lack of independent inquiries into the leave campaign itself, £350m for the NHS, electoral and expenses fraud, Arron Banks and Cambridge Analytica / Facebook, the public have questions that remain unanswered.

So all of this raises the question of when there is going to be another referendum – before or after MPs come up with a deal.

Let’s hope MPs spend the summer finding a solution to the Brexit impasse and not sunning themselves in France.

Silence please, watch this space.

Brexit is breaking up our union in Britain

Britain needs to commit to European elections which must take place between 23 and 26 May this year, 2019.

Britain has three choices:

  1. To leave without a deal with the EU before May 22 –this option has been ruled out for now
  2. To opt out of the European elections making Brexit inevitable  
  3. To participate in European elections and reconsider the Brexit deal

After committing to European elections, MPs then have two choices:

  • Call a general election because Labour and Conservative leadership is poor and inconsistent.
  • Have another referendum on membership of the EU, that is another people’s vote.

Leave Campaign consistently lied about the impact of Brexit and they still have no plan for life in Britain, post-Brexit.

Brexiteers want to leave the EU because they don’t like the regulation but they have no vision for a different Britain and the Conservatives have not yet found a solution to the current stalemate.

Leadership of the Conservative and Labour parties is poor and Brexit is a defining moment in the career not just of every politician in Westminster but more importantly of every citizen of the United Kingdom. Brexit is the defining moment of my generation.

Brexit has divided Britain and made us a laughing stock in Europe. French may well continue to block EU/UK negotiations. They have a track record in doing this. Think of the Iraq War and Tony Blair’s attempts to get a UN resolution.

The Brexit referendum was unnecessary and a mistake. It will leave us trading with America and other countries with poor health, food and climate change standards who are involved in human rights abuses not least to immigrants.

Analysis: Theresa May’s Twelve Red Lines

  1. Providing certainty and a vote in Parliament – immediate fail, we have not yet left the EU because there is no consensus in Westminster about how to do this and the votes have been indicative votes. Theresa May did not want to give Parliament decision-making powers but she now has to. Parliament is sovereign, not the executive, i.e. the government.
  2. Taking control of our own laws – Parliament is already sovereign in the UK and Mrs May does not want the European Court of Justice to have jurisdiction over British laws. As a member of the EU we have another Parliament of 27 member states to help manage trade, climate change, agriculture, fisheries and food and an EU court of human rights.
  3. Strengthening the union – the UK should remain united as four countries on one island and we should remain in the EU. There is no conflict or need to choose between the two but if forced, Scotland may leave the UK in order to remain in the EU. Scotland is very likely to call another independence referendum and to negotiate membership with the EU if the rest of the UK leaves it.

Protecting our strong and historic ties with Ireland and preventing a hard border – peace in Ireland is of paramount importance and so is power-sharing between unionists and republicans. This is fragile as evidenced by the suspension of Stormont’s Parliament in January 2017. Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Parliament, was suspended when Martin McGuiness resigned over the Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) authorised by then first minister Arlene Foster which cost Northern Ireland £480m. Elections followed and DUP unionists now hold 28 seats, a majority of one in Stormont, nationalists Sinn Fein hold 27 seats. Westminster agreed a budget in November last year but Stormont remains suspended and as yet, there is no official ‘direct rule.’

If Brexit goes through, this deadlock will become even more entrenched and Stormont may be dissolved altogether, returning Northern Ireland to direct rule by Westminster. DUP unionists may prefer to be ruled by Westminster than by Sinn Fein and they have a majority of one in Stormont.

4. Maintaining the common travel area with the Republic of Ireland means the UK will have a land border with the EU.

5. Controlled migration – immigration will continue but the hostile environment will get worse and we will simply attract less educated migrants who will contribute less to the UK economy. Mrs May has provided no information at all about what migration policy will become without the EU post Brexit. I suspect it will be draconian and inhumane.

6. Guaranteeing people who’ve moved (into the UK and to the EU) the right to remain in the country of their choice.

7. Protecting worker’s rights – the European Working Time Directive does this and a myriad of other EU statute and regulations including for contractors, temporary workers, etc.

8. Quit the EU single market membership – Mrs May does not want to adhere to the EU’s four freedoms including free movement of labour, goods, services and capital. If we remain in the EU, UK courts will continue to sit under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice. Mrs May does not want to make a financial contribution to the EU.

9. Quit full customs union membership – Mrs May does not want Britain to be part of the Common Commercial Policy nor to be bound by the Common External Tariff. Mrs May wants a customs agreement with the EU on her terms. Britain currently has to apply the same tariffs as the rest of the EU. If we don’t do this, we’ll need to set up time-consuming bilateral trade agreements like Canada and we’ll lose our competitive advantage, particularly in the City of London and our financial industries who may move to France or Germany. Securing new trade agreements with other countries outside the EU – economics will trump human rights and social justice.

10. A deal for science and tech – continue to collaborate with our European partners on major science, research, and technology initiatives. From space exploration and clean energy to medical technologies, research should continue but the best brains may no longer choose to move to Britain.

11. Cooperation on fighting crime and terrorism – The EU has an international police force to fight terrorism across borders and share information. As a previous Home Secretary, Mrs May should take seriously the significant threat of terrorism in Ireland and from outside powers both within and beyond the EU.

12. A ‘phased’ agreement beyond 2019 – Mrs May is already in penalty time and there is no agreement about a way forward in Parliament.

My conclusion is that we need new leadership of the Conservatives and Labour and a general election. This may result in another People’s Vote if there is an independent inquiry first into the Leave Campaign’s policy-making, not simply their electoral fraud including expenses.

Hove Station Neighbourhood Plan Consultation is open

If you want to find out what housing and mixed-use developments are planned for your area, now is the time to find out about Moda. Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum are holding a consultation about their neighbourhood plan which lasts from last Saturday 23 March until Saturday 4 May.

It will be followed by a council consultation but this first consultation matters the most because it’s the one led by the residents of Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum who wrote the Neighbourhood Plan. The consultation was launched at the Have Your Say Day on 23 March at the Honeycroft Community Centre.

Hove Station Neighbourhood Plan sets out policy objectives in part one and aspirational principles in part two for the development area which includes the Hove Station Quarter. Moda has submitted a planning application to provide 265 high density units for the elderly on the Sackville Trading Estate and Coal Yard on the North West of Hove Station.

Moda’s proposals will meet the criteria of policy two which requires a mixed use development providing a minimum of 500 residential units and 6000 sqm employment floor space with small scale retail, public and community facilities as set out in Brighton and Hove’s draft City Plan. If the application goes through, Moda will offer three year tenancies to all tenants giving them more long-term stability. Aspirational policies include having a second footbridge from the Sackville area leading through the car park to Hove station.

Moda aims to build 650 homes instead of the 500 required by the policy with a minimum of 8% affordable rent properties at 75% market rent value. I think 75% market rent value is better than 80% but it’s still too high and there needs to be more affordable housing. However, this may not be commercially viable. Brighton and Hove Planning Committee will decide but an appeal will cause a delay that will increase costs including design costs and the cost of the land and result in multiple viability studies.

Moda is committed to working with the Forum to make sure some of their s.106 money for community infrastructure is spent on the Honeycroft and Vallance Community facilities on Sackville Rd which incorporate a nursery, health clinic, café and language school.

These centres could become a mixed use children’s and health centre with GPs like in other parts of the city if Brighton and Hove Council is prepared to invest a significant proportion of s.106 money to develop and improve the existing site. It’s very clear that the plot of land and buildings are in great need of redevelopment but in spite of this the community work continues apace in Honeycroft and Vallance which are already community hubs.

Linda Robinson who lives South of Hove Station sad:  “I want people who live here to live in Hove and not just go on holiday or to second homes. On street parking is worse than London. London is free both on holidays and weekends, Sundays. We’re not nimbies, we just want it done well. We all agree with the need for development. We just need to know how, the question is how. Everyone wants the development.”

You can read all about the policies and aspirations and make your views heard during the online consultation. Responses must be received by midnight on Saturday 04 May 2019. Hard copies are also available in Hove Town Halland Hove Public Libraryduring office hours. 

You can contact Forum members using the website and keep an eye on the events page to come along and meet the communications team or discuss the Neighbourhood Plan. If you would like to discuss anything about the proposals or come to a consultation workshop depending on numbers, email Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum hovestationforum@gmail.com.

Brexit is dividing Britain

I feel betrayed by the ‘bad boys of Brexit’ both within the Conservative Party and UKIP because they have no plan and never have had for leaving the European Union.

Since the referendum, the media has exposed how figures were plucked out of the air (£350m for the NHS) and the referendum result was probably rigged by Aaron Banks of the Leave Campaign and foreign powers, including Russia and America, exploiting Facebook.

The Leave Campaign has paid it’s fine from the electoral commission in the hope that the electoral commission will not ask any more questions. I sincerely hope the electoral commission or the government’s fraud watchdog and the Police ask a lot more questions because there are questions to be asked. Serious questions about rigging elections and expenses.

The problem with politics is that the ‘Winner takes it all.’ Brexit was and still is a power struggle between political parties and the Conservatives have the upper hand because they are in government. Labour is divided.

Let me put my cards on the table. I voted remain and would much prefer to pay my dues to the European Union and trade with European countries subject to the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights. I am Scottish, British and profoundly European.

Prime Minister David Cameron was the first at fault because he could not win around Brexiteers so he took what he thought was the easy way out and gave the British people a referendum. Tony Blair and Margaret Thatcher would not have done this until they had won the argument within their own party. Mr Cameron, I think, will now see a country not united with trading parties around the world but bitterly divided with far less influence within the EU. I do not think this is in Britain’s national interest.

Britain is a country to be proud of but we only have about 70 million people and we need trusted trade partners who abide by our food safety, animal welfare standards and above all our human rights record. We can find a solution to climate change but we can’t do it without Europe, we can’t make as many scientific advances, we’re an island with secure borders but we can’t operate in isolation.

America has very few food safety standards compared to Europe, President Trump does not support climate change and a good economy cannot hide the fracturing within American society symbolised by Mexico’s wall. America is a country of immigrants and they made the United States great.

Theresa May remains the only Conservative MP who was prepared and got enough votes to take up the poisoned chalice of Brexit. For that she should be remembered and applauded. Conservatives did not have confidence in the men who wanted the job. But a coronation, as Gordon Brown knows, is a dangerous phenomenon and may in itself be another poisoned chalice.

Brexit matters because it goes to the heart of our British political system. It is clear that Britain wants to be a sovereign nation and she already is. Britain voted leave in the eleventh referendum in the United Kingdom. Britain voted to enter the European Union in the first ever referendum in 1975.

However, both Mrs May and Mr Corbyn are being protectionist. There is a growing number of MPs calling for a free vote in Parliament and a taskforce of the best minds to find a solution. Parliament was not in favour of Brexit but the country was. Therein lies the dilemma facing British MPs across the political spectrum.

I think the electoral commission does not have enough teeth to deal with fraudulent electioneering which tarnished all the major parties. Their powers are limited and the fines are a drop in the ocean: £60,000 paid this week by the Leave Campaign.

I think the Police or Serious Fraud Office either do not have enough evidence, time or are being blocked by government and members of the establishment within their own ranks from investigating what really happened during the ‘Brexit referendum.’

Criminal investigations are necessary from time to time, as are independent inquiries conducted by the legal system. They are different from public inquiries where the government sets the terms of reference. British democracy is a series of checks and balances between the executive which is the government, Parliament that is divided and the courts which have been totally ignored.

While the terms of reference of a public inquiry will be dictated by the government, an independent inquiry conducted by the courts into vote leave’s election campaign was never carried out. Think of the Liverpool football disaster. Twenty years later, the families still do not know what happened. Grenfell Tower survivors want an inquest which is independent, not a public inquiry.

Cambridge Analytica was shut down. Facebook continues to be exploited but no-one wants to lose their friends. Mrs May is a woman who is being presented in the media as a dictator but who may actually be more of a private civil servant. She says it will be my deal or no deal because she could not negotiate any other deal with the EU.

We need a free vote in Parliament, it may not be the first. If we don’t get that, there needs to be a general election which will mean participating in European elections meantime. Cabinet is in disarray. Parliament has not yet agreed a way forward.  The Attorney General is a member of the government.

I would like us to take part in European elections but if we do, our far right may try to take over and disrupt the European Parliament as they have done before.

Brexit has brought into sharp relief the inequalities and class system within English society which is less of a problem in Scotland or Wales. Ireland is also less classist and religion and politics are a toxic combination. Ireland is in great danger of imploding again if the backstop can’t be resolved.

If we don’t want our Policemen and women and soldiers dying on the streets of Ireland, we need to find a solution. There is a will to do this in Parliament if only Theresa May would listen. Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Rory Stewart who used to be a diplomat will help Theresa May. All she needs to do is ask them.

Peter Kyle wants a confirmatory public vote confirming what MPs decide but there will be the option to remain in the EU. Caroline Lucas and the Lib Dems want a people’s vote and they will fight for proportional representation so that Parliament really is sovereign in future. Lloyd Russell-Moyle may be among those who persuade Mr Corbyn to stand aside.

Hove MP criticises closing and replacing the Western Road Post Office

Hove’s Labour MP condemned the ‘sham consultation’ and the closing down of the Western Road Post Office during has a debate in Parliament this week about franchises.

Post Office bosses claimed that the number of customers using this post office had declined and said the branch was no longer “commercially sustainable”. After a public consultation over its viability, the Western Road Post Office was closed down in spite of public protests. Mr Kyle handed a petition with 5,400 names to the post office with community activists before the Western Road branch was closed in February 2016.

Western Road Post Office
Western Road Post Office

Only a year or two later, the Post Office has now installed a new branch in the Western Road newsagent, just feet away from the location of the closed crown post office.

This has raised questions over the sincerity of the public consultation as well as the Post Office’s stated reasons that the original crown office was “commercially unviable.”

Mr Kyle has taken a keen interest in post offices and other public services for many years. He chaired a public meeting about the Western Road Post Office closure back in the summer of 2015 and has followed all subsequent developments closely since then.

Speaking in a Westminster Hall debate about franchising last Thursday 10 January, Mr Kyle said: “I have absolutely no doubt that I was misled, that the community I represent was misled and—worst of all—that the customers who used and depended on that post office were misled and the staff who had given a career and indeed a lifetime in work to that western road post office branch were misled.

“The western road post office staff’s jobs disappeared and the jobs that have been created in their place have no pension liability and no guarantee that they would have the standards that people who work long-term in the Post Office can expect. And those workers were no longer part of the Post Office family.

“We have a Prime Minister who stood on the steps of Downing Street and said she was going to maintain those sorts of rights and tackle injustices.

“The Post Office is one of her companies; it is an organisation that she runs. However, she has allowed it to dwindle, to be stripped of assets and to be taken away from our high streets, and replaced with something that has less value, makes less of a contribution to our communities, and that offers less stability and value in the workplace to the people who work for it.”

Mr Kyle then called on the Business Minister responsible for postal affairs, Kelly Tolhurst MP, to intervene:

“I say to the Minister directly that I understand that she has said that it is not her job to meddle with the running of the Post Office.

“However, in times such as this, I and my community expect her to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in because if branches are being taken from our high streets, and MPs and our communities are being misled, we are their elected officials. She is speaking on behalf of the Government and we expect her to act.”

This article was first published on Brighton and Hove News website.

“It’s a matter of life and death: Communities united fighting for our public services” (Sussex Defend the NHS)

On a slightly drab but mild October morning, I set off early to go to the Level in Brighton and meet supporters from across Brighton and Hove at a rally to promote public services today, Saturday, 13 October. It was organised by Sussex Defend the NHS and Brighton and Hove Trades Council.

Before formal proceedings kicked off, I met Beverley Berstow who is standing as the Women’s Equality Party next year in Hanover in the local elections. Ms Berstow explained her party’s vision to me in this way: “We don’t really want to exist as a party but none of the other parties are doing anything for women’s rights. I don’t think they are taking them seriously.” She said many members of other parties including men as well as women came to the Women’s Equality Party because of disaffection with mainstream politics.

Women's Equality Party
Beverley Berstow with her colleagues.

Abi Pearce and Claire Campbell are teachers in Brighton and Hove. Ms Pearce said: “The funding crisis is having a huge impact on schools and has a big impact on teachers. Schools can’t retain or recruit teachers which impacts directly on children’s education.”

Ms Campbell wanted to talk about the detrimental effect underfunding was having on special educational needs. She said: “Schools cannot afford to employ 1:1 teachers and general classroom assistants. All the council services are being streamlined so referrals are taking longer, assessments are taking longer which is hugely frustrating for parents and teachers.”

Next, I met Glory and Michelle who are both British, Glory is a Latino Brit who has lived in Britain for many years. Michelle said: “I believe in a caring society where you are valued and not equated (judged by) your ability to pay for the NHS. Some years back, in healthcare representatives didn’t check how much money you had before giving you the healthcare. That is no longer true.”

Glory said: “I work in education and my son is a junior doctor. I think it’s disgraceful that essential services are being underfunded and sold off and our conditions of employment are getting worse.”

NHS
Michelle and Glory

Valerie Mainstone who works at the Brighton Unemployed Centre among other places across the city said we should challenge the government’s hostile environment wherever we can. She said: “I saw the valuable contribution made by the immigrants to the NHS ever since 1948, when African-Caribbean nurses first appeared in hospitals.

“My great-grandmother died for want of a sixpence before the NHS because no doctor would come unless you could pay.

“Our NHS was created to be publicly owned and free at the point of need for everyone – and that’s how it should stay.”

Maud from Migrant English Project and Brighton Migrant Solidarity took to the podium to talk about immigration and, in particular, unfair detention. She said the UK has the largest number of detainees in Europe, although the number of children in detention has dropped from 109 in 2009 to 42 this year. She criticised the government for putting structures in place that means people from outside Britain pay a healthcare tariff which is 50% higher than the tariff the government pays for British nationals.

Brighton migrant solidarity
Brighton Migrant Solidarity

Clara Astill is a member of the Unite union which was set up to help unemployed people, fight for a fully funded NHS, truly affordable housing and a decent welfare system. She said: “The latest campaign which we, with other groups, are involved with is the fight against Universal Credit. This benefit has impoverished, not only the unemployed, leading to people losing their homes and sometimes their families, but has begun to affect employed people, those paid so little they rely on state benefits to top up their income.”

Matthew Webb, a member of Brighton and Hove Trades Council which is a branch of the TUC, said: “The misfortune of sickness should not become a burden of poverty and indignity.” He said trade unions supported the victims of Grenfell and the Schools SOS as well as the NHS, migrants and young workers at Wetherspoons.

He said: “We support the NHS and the people who rely on it to get from one day to the next.” And he warned politicians locally and nationally: “Where we see injustice, we will organise.”

Brighton Council’s Unison leader said it was an ominous sign three days ago when Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a suicide prevention minister for the first time whose name is Jackie Doyle -Price. She said: “We could not make this up.” Mrs Beatty criticised the government for taking millions of pounds from public services and giving it to private companies but she told the rally to take heart because, “we are the many, you are few.”

Brighton's Green MP Caroline Lucas
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas

Green MP Caroline Lucas opened her speech by saying: “We’re here to protest against the way this government has wrecked our public services. A government that is dismantling the welfare state, flogging off public services, privatising services, attacking the rights of migrants, impoverishing our children. And we’re here to say, ‘Enough is Enough – the fightback is on!’

“We’re here because we’re angry. Angry that this government continues to break up and marketise our NHS.

“Angry that Brexit will make this even worse – putting off EU workers who no longer feel welcome here. Freedom of movement is a precious gift – the right to work and study and live and love in 27 other countries – we should be defending it, not trashing it.

“Angry that health workers have to rely on handouts and foodbanks. And that’s why our message is loud and clear – invest in public services and Stop the Cuts.

“The Prime Minister had the gall to stand up at her party conference and to expect our gratitude for declaring that austerity is over. The truth is that austerity was never needed. It had nothing to do with the financial crisis and everything to do with an ideological obsession with shrinking the state.

“And the damage that has been done to our hospitals and schools is immense.

“They’re at breaking point:

  • Ambulances backed up outside A&E departments.
  • One of my 84 constituents left alone on her bathroom floor for over four hours waiting for an ambulance.
  • And when it comes to our schools, per pupil funding slashed.

“It’s wrong that head teachers are forced to sack teaching assistants, to end support to pupils with mental health problems, that parents are having to organise jumble sales for basics like books.

“So as well as saying Defend our NHS, we are absolutely here to say, Save Our Schools as well…

Public services rally

“So what can we hope for from his replacement (Jeremy Hunt’s) at the Department for Health, Matt Hancock? Well, don’t hold your breath.

“This is the Health Minister who has received £32,000 in donations from the Institute of Economic Affairs – an organisation which describes the NHS as one of the most, “over-valued, inefficient systems in the world.

“A Health Minister who’s been actively endorsing the GP at Hand app operated by the private company Babylon, and requiring patients to deregister from their existing practice before they can sign up.

“With a tally of 10 GP practices having closed in our city in the last few years alone… (he should) start investing properly in our national health service.

“Friends, we know things could and should be different. And we know that by coming together we can make them different.

“We are the sixth richest country in the world, and we are working for a country with

  • No patients waiting hours on a trolley in A&E.
  • No patients suffering in pain, as operations are repeatedly cancelled.
  • No more running down and dismantling our NHS.
  • No more slashing funds for our schools and our welfare state.

“I’m proud to be standing up in Parliament to fight for our public services. I’m proud that the Green Party has championed the NHS Reinstatement Bill from the very beginning.

“And I’m proud that all of us together are saying – loudly and clearly – No to the government’s ‘Slash, Trash and Privatise Agenda’ – and Yes to keeping our schools and our NHS public. Always. Thank you.”

An edited version of this article was published in Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton and Hove Green Party

Prevent suicide by working together says Brighton charity

When asked how to prevent suicide, Roz said: “Sometimes it’s very hard to know how to carry on. But if you talk to someone, you may just manage to turn a corner.”

World Suicide Prevention Day is an annual event on Monday 10 September led by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) and the World Health Organisation. The emphasis this year is on the role that communities and individuals can play in helping to prevent deaths by suicide in their communities and the theme is ‘Working Together to prevent suicide.’

Roz

Grassroots Chief Executive Stella Comber said: “Many people fear talking about suicide in case they get it wrong or even put the idea in a person’s head. Talking about suicide needn’t be confronting, it can be gentle and reassuring but more importantly it could help save a life. Our Real talk workshops are designed for everyone, they use clear and simple language to help reach out and support a person who might be struggling.

“It’s important that we understand how common these thoughts are, so that we start to break down the stigma and the fear of talking. We need to get right away from the belief that somehow talking makes it worse. Talking about suicide is OK. Yes, it takes courage but its courage that we all have

Most deaths by suicide in Brighton and Hove and across the UK take place in the community not in mental health settings. So it’s down to us to start that conversation. That’s why we want more people to get involved, it’s essential that we pass on the skills and confidence needed to save lives. By working together, supporting each other we really can make a difference”.

suicide
Changemaker Tiff said: “I am open to talking about suicide because the thought of losing someone I love is catastrophic. If I can talk about suicide, you can.”

Brighton & Hove City Council’s Public Health team support the work of Grassroots Suicide Prevention, a Brighton-based charity, through their public health programme. Grassroots will be marking World Suicide Prevention Day with a range of awareness raising activities across the city. These include a number of public stalls, a photography exhibition at Brighton Station, and delivering a Real Talk workshop with the simple aim to get people talking about suicide in an open, safe and honest way.

Grassroots invite members of the public to come and find out more about how they can get involved and mark suicide prevention day on Monday (10 September:)

  • An evening ‘Real Talk’ workshop in Brighton followed by a screening of a short film about Grassroots’ volunteer Change Makers – 6.30-8pm at 68 Middle St. Brighton, BN1 1AL Click here to book your place.
  • An information stall at Jubilee Library to support starting conversations about suicide prevention work in the city, and encouraging engagement through a variety of means, such as, downloading the appattending training and taking the ‘Tell Me’ pledge. You can read more about the stay alive app here. It gives local contact details for concerned residents and a gallery to put photos that give you a reason to stay alive.
  • An information stall at Brighton Station with a similar focus to the library stall
  • A photography exhibition at Brighton Station, running September 9th – 18th, using the long wall along the wooden walkway at the back entrance. Following the theme of ‘Working Together’ this will include portraits of local people who care about suicide in the community and are taking action to prevent it.

Grassroots Suicide Prevention was established in 2006, to use education and innovation to help make communities safer from suicide. They provide mental health and suicide prevention training courses and expertise to large and small organisations both locally and nationally.

Grassroots is not a crisis service, it trains people to talk about suicide and seek help. If you’re feeling like you want to die, it’s important to tell someone. Help and support is available right now if you need it. You don’t have to struggle with difficult feelings alone. You can call the Samaritans at any time, day or night, Tel: 116123 or email jo@samaritans.org.

Further resources are available here.

An edited version of this article was first published by Brighton and Hove News.

Ahmadi Muslims gather in Hampshire to pray for peace

More than 38,500 Ahmadi Muslims from 115 countries poured into Oaklands Farm near Alton in Hampshire. They gathered to hear their leader’s message about true Islam, to recommit themselves to working for the good of humanity and to promote peace, tolerance and unity at home and abroad. This message is best captured by the motto of the Ahmadiyya Community which is: “Love for all, hatred for none.”

Paul Scully who is MP for Sutton and Cheam has a lot of Ahmadi Muslims in his constituency. He has known them since he was a councillor. He said: “The motto does just run through everything they do.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Paul Scully MP for Sutton and Cheam

Mr Scully remembered that after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the Ahmadis threw open their Mosque in spite of the cartoons of the Prophet. They were among the first at the vigil in Trafalgar Square after the Westminster terror attack. He said: “It is practising what they preach, especially now in these febrile times. Anti-semitism, Islamaphobia, regional conflicts. Despite being a community that is persecuted, they still reach out to achieve their motto which is peace around the world… All they want is the ability to worship freely with respect.”

Ahmadi Muslims believe in the Messiah and accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th century spiritual reformer from India, as the Messiah awaited by all major religions. Other Muslims disagree.

Ahmadiyya
Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth

Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth. He said: “There is no contradiction between being Muslim and being British. There is no religious freedom in Pakistan, the UK is more Islamic than Pakistan because the foundations of society are more in line with true Islam. Islam teaches tolerance, respect for others and serving humanity. No Ahmadi has ever been radicalised anywhere in the world.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Bernadette Khan, Mayor of Croydon and Mr Khan

Councillor Bernadette Khan is the Mayor of Croydon. She has worked with Ahmadi women as a social worker and has friends in the community. Mrs Khan said: “I think we (human beings) create the barriers in any town, village or setting (workplace etc.) Croydon is very diverse, it’s also very rich, and it benefits from the diversity, all of our communities benefit. For us diversity is a way of life.”

Anthony Williams is the Chairman of East Hampshire district. He has lived in Hampshire for 42 years, been a parish councillor for 21 years and is the longest serving councillor in the district at the moment but he had not visited the Muslim convention called the “Jalsa Salana” until he became chairman.

It feels as if the Jalsa is one of Hampshire’s best kept secrets, now in its 13th year. Entry to the convention is open, you don’t need to be an Ahmadi Muslim nor wait for an invitation to attend. You do need to register your details and let the organisers know you are on site.

Williams
Anthony Williams, Chairman of E Hampshire District

Mr Williams said: “Everyone is welcome, there’s no trouble. It’s so well organised, more than 35,000 people, it’s delightful to be able to see it from the inside. I wish more people knew about the Ahmadis. It’s not well known, we hear about the controversy but you don’t hear the good news. It’s an uphill struggle because the media like drama.”

Councillor Mike Parsons, Mayor of Guilford, said he was impressed by the amount of charitable work the Ahmadiyya Community do including finding water in Africa. He said there is a widespread lack of understanding of Islam. Mr Parsons said: “It was a no brainer to come along. The Ahmadis are kind hearted. They volunteer from such a young age and take a pride in it. People realise how humble you should be. The work is absolutely amazing and delegates remembered my name.”

Ahmadi Muslim Councillor and former Mayor of Runnymede, Iftikhar Chaudhri was the first non-Christian mayor ever in that area. He talked about his motivation: “My father said change hearts and minds and work for communities that make the world better.”

He worked hard to organise 5000 Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi people in a walk for peace which raised £1 million for charity including St Peter’s hospital.

Councillor
Councillor Iftikhar Chaudhri, former Mayor of Runnymede with Mayor of Rushmore, Steve Masteron

Explaining his approach to his work, he said: “I never thought I was better than anyone else as mayor. I raised money for the Red Cross. Islam is everything I do and it only teaches good and respect for others. There is a major problem with the portrayal (of Islam) in the media. We have no other Muslim councillors. People that opposed me, later shook my hand. Whatever we do should be good for society.”

Leader of Runnymede Councillor Nick Prescott said the Ahmadi Muslims raised more money for charity than all the others put together. When there was a flood in the area, the Ahmadis provided food and distributed sand bags alongside a group of Hindus.

Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton, said: “It’s absolutely enthralling. This is my first visit, it will not be my last.”

Mayor
Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton with Atif Malik

Nasser Ahmad Khan, an Ahmadi Muslim convention delegate volunteers with Humanity First, the community’s disaster relief programme. He believes that the UK is one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries would not allow it.”

MP for Kingston and Surbiton Ed Davey said: “I have had many Ahmadi Muslim friends over many years. I am privileged to work and campaign with them. They represent the best of British society.”

As a visitor to the Jalsa Salana for the second time, I was struck by how much Ahmadi Muslims contribute to the economy and yet how humbly they serve as volunteers. It takes a team of 7,000 people to organise, and staff the convention but I was told firmly that no one is indispensable. And volunteering is not confined to the Jalsa. Their disaster relief charity, Humanity First, is also run by volunteers who give up annual leave and pay their own air fares to travel and help communities in need around the globe. Ahmadi Muslims know what it means to serve humanity, not just their own people, and they are always on the lookout for ways to contribute positively to society.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK, #jalsaUK or #jalsaconnect.

Extracts from this article were published by the Alton Herald.

Education sets Ahmadi Muslims apart

For Ahmadi Muslims serving humanity means being an active citizen in society and honouring the government in their host country. I was invited to find out more at their annual convention, “the Jalsa Salana” in Hampshire, which welcomed more than 38,500 people from 115 countries.

Ahmadi Muslims
Press team at the Jalsa Salana 2018

Many of the people I met are British born: second or third generation and very grateful for the freedom of religion and freedom of speech which Britain affords, given their experience as a persecuted minority at home.

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Community, had to leave Pakistan and move his headquarters to London in the 1980s because theological differences set him at odds with the majority of Muslims in Pakistan.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

But in Britain the Ahmadi Muslims have prospered through hard work and respect for the country they now call home. Many are investment bankers, traders, property developers, IT consultants, even Nobel Prize winners, leaders in their field, because education is of paramount importance to them. If the government analysed the economic contribution of the Ahmadiyya community I think they would be amazed.

Nasser Ahmad Khan volunteers with Humanity First which is the Ahmadis’ disaster relief charity. He believes that the UK is still one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries wouldn’t allow it.”

education
Nasser Khan with his son

He agreed that the secret to the Ahmadis’ success is education. He said: “Our religion compels us to further our knowledge for the benefit of humanity. The Prophet Mohammed himself said every piece of knowledge is the lost property of a Muslim.”

Abdus Salam is perhaps one of the best examples of an Ahmadi Muslim serving humanity. I met his son, Ahmad Salam and grandson Osama Abdus Salam. They told me their father/grandfather was a physicist who studied in Cambridge where he became a fellow of St John’s College and he was appointed as the first professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London. He won the Nobel Prize for physics by proving that the weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces were actually one. He also worked extensively in hisnative Pakistan as chief scientific adviser to the President from 1961 until 1974.

Abdus Salam
Ahmad Salam, son of the late Abdus Salam

Mr Salam was appointed to head up science and technology at the United Nations and he was tasked with setting up an incubator to bring together the best brains in the world. As a result, an institute (ICTP) opened in Italy in 1964 which has trained 300,000 scientists from around the world including Vietnam, Brazil and Rwanda. It was founded on the conviction that without science and technology countries can’t grow and prosper economically.

serving humanity

Others volunteer with Humanity First which is a charity set up by the Ahmadiyya Community originally to provide disaster relief. However, its purpose has evolved and it now also focuses on longer term sustainable projects. It’s registered and active in 52 countries promoting healthcare, education, vocational training, water and safeguarding orphans. It builds and runs secular schools in disadvantaged areas where literacy is low and provides equal access irrespective of gender or social standing. The charity provides an opportunity for Ahmadi Muslims to use their skills and knowledge to serve humanity.

Brighton celebrates refugee week by creating a culture of welcome and safety

For twenty years Brighton and Hove has celebrated refugee week with events highlighting refugees’ contributions, resilience and creativity. It starts next Saturday 16 June.

However, Sanctuary on Sea’s own Crossing Borders Festival of music by refugees and asylum seekers has been running for several centuries. Sanctuary on Sea is a member of City of Sanctuary, a grassroots movement of local people and about 100 organisations across the UK who are committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

People are invited to celebrate Refugee Week’s 20th anniversary by doing one of 20 Simple Acts, which are simple actions everyone can do to stand with refugees and bring people together in their communities. One of these is to define the word ‘refuge.’

After New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina back in in 2005, there was lots of talk about whether people who lost their homes should be called ‘refugees’.

Some thought that the word should only be used for people escaping war in ‘foreign’ countries. Others argued that by describing hurricane victims as refugees we would become more understanding of people facing hardship.

When Refugee Week launched Simple Acts in 2009, they invited people to create their own definitions of refuge. Organisers hoped that by thinking about what refuge means to each of us, they might help form a fresh perspective on the word ‘refugee.’

“Music of the Dispossessed,” is a concert that kicks off Refugee Week, at 7:30 pm in St Mary’s Church, Kemptown on Saturday 16 June. It will feature works by Arnold Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky.  Schoenberg was labelled as a degenerate by the Nazis and fled to America. Tchaikovsky spent much of his life travelling abroad, terrified of being exposed as a homosexual in his native Russia.

On 24 June hundreds of people from Brighton & Hove’s communities are expected to join a “Refugees Welcome” parade and come together for a free day of music, art and fun at the Dome and Museum called ‘Together.’ (This is not to be mistaken with the event in East Brighton and Hangleton and Knoll last month that celebrated random acts of neighbourliness.)

refugee week
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas

‘Together,’ is a free day of art, music and theatre workshops, activities, film-showings, board games, table tennis and spoken word, which will be held at the Brighton Dome and Museum between 11am and 4pm. The day will start with a glittering parade through central Brighton led by the Hummingbird Project, with the support of Same Sky. To join the parade, meet outside the Jubilee Library at 9.30am.

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas will join the parade and speak at the “Together” event. She said: “The message of Refugee Week is more important today than ever. This is the reverse of the hostile environment and shows the Britain we aspire to be. The events taking place in Brighton and Hove this week once again demonstrate that here we have a long tradition of welcoming people to our city and celebrating the contribution they make.”

Between Saturday 16 June and Sunday 24 June, Sanctuary on Sea, the Sussex Syrian Community, the Hummingbird Refugee Project, EuroMernet, Refugee Radio, the Social Engaged Arts Salon and others will be presenting exhibitions, discussions and performances across the city.

Siriol Hugh-Jones, the Festival’s curator, said: “In setting up the festival I wanted to remind audiences that many of the composers they love to listen to were themselves displaced at one time or another, but we don’t think of them as refugees, we think of them as great composers.”

Other concerts at St Mary’s Church include “Travels of Song” at 7.30pm on 17 June and “Calcutta” at 7.30pm on 21 June. The first of these will feature recent songs written by detainees at Yarl’s Wood, the infamous immigration detention centre and early music by Catholic composers exiled under Elizabeth I.  “Calcutta”, the second concert, explores the cultural melting pot in 18th century Calcutta through story, song and puppetry.

Monika-Akila Richards, co-organiser of Refugee Week, said: “We are celebrating Refugee Week with a fantastic range of events and we’d love families and communities to join us. Everyone is particularly welcome to come to ‘Together,’ our free, flagship event in the Dome and Brighton Museum on 24th June. It’s an opportunity to come and enjoy being together and make Brighton and Hove proud.”

Hove MP calls for fuss-free travel for Pride and greater investment in Southern Rail with the Conservatives

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade has written to Charles Horton who is the chief executive of Govia Thameslink to make sure the rail company puts on enough fully manned trains for Pride. Brighton and Hove’s Pride festival is probably the most important date every year in Brighton’s calendar, bringing millions of pounds into the city over the weekend and in the surrounding weeks.

Peter Kyle wrote: “Efficient, reliable and comfortable travel will be key to ensuring an enjoyable weekend. I have no doubt that you and your team fully understand this and are committed to getting the transport arrangements right over the Pride weekend, but I wanted to add my voice and emphasise how important this is for the organisers, for our city, and for the thousands of people taking part in Pride.

Please do keep me updated as the weekend approaches, and do let me know if there are any issues. I will of course offer whatever support I can to ensure that Brighton and Hove Pride 2018 is the joyful celebration we all want it to be, and if there’s anything I can do to help ensure there is fuss-free travel please don’t hesitate to contact my office.”

Pride
Peter Kyle with Ben Bradshaw MP

Mr Kyle’s voice is an important one because he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Southern Rail with Conservative Sir Nicolas Soames MP. Mr Kyle and Mr Soames wrote last month to Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive of the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), emphasising the need for greater investment in the South East rail network. Plans for the future funding of the network are currently under consideration by ORR.

Mr Kyle and Mr Soames’s joint, cross-party letter stated: “Despite its importance, the service provided on the South East route is not currently able to meet passengers’ expectations, due in large part to the years of under-investment that the route has suffered.

“For many years, the South East has received disproportionately low levels of investment compared with other regions, and in Control Period 5, the route was allocated just 15% of national railway funding, despite carrying almost 30% of all passengers.

“Unsurprisingly, performance has suffered severely, and passenger satisfaction is very low. As MPs for the South East, we see the misery this causes to thousands of our constituents on a daily basis, and we are troubled by the damage done to the local economy.

“To address this historic imbalance, and in order to deliver the modern and reliable service passengers expect and deserve, we hope you will agree that sustained investment is the only solution.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton MP to stand down as co-leader of the Green Party

Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, has announced that she will stand down as co-leader of the Green Party. Mrs Lucas, who has co-led the party for the last two years, says she is showing the ‘power of letting go’. The Green Party currently has a record number of councillors – and has overtaken UKIP to become the fourth party of England and Wales.

Mrs Lucas led the Green Party through the General Election last May. She took part in successful televised leaders’ debates which many commentators said she won. Along with her co-leader Jonathan Bartley, she then went on to spearhead the Greens’ local election campaign this year – seeing the party win seats across the country and breaking through onto an additional 6 local councils.

Under the current co-leadership of the Green Party, Mrs Lucas has pioneered a number of bold policies, and continued to offer an alternative to the establishment parties. Mrs Lucas and Mr Bartley have championed a shorter working week, trials of a Basic Income and reform of Britain’s outdated and ineffective drugs laws. She’s also cemented her position as a leading constructive critic of the Government’s environmental programme – which she says is little more than a ‘green veneer.’

co-leader
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas

Nominations for the Green Party leadership open this Friday 01 June – and the election will run over the summer. The new leadership team will be announced in September.

Mrs Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “I’m really proud of the party’s progress under our co-leadership. We have more councillors in more communities than ever before, we’ve put forward our boldest ever policies and we’ve challenged and weakened this callous Tory government. We’ve also started an internal party review that is already paying dividends – and will make the party more inclusive in its makeup and an even more successful electoral force.

“I won’t be seeking nominations to be a candidate in this year’s leadership election when the process starts on Friday – but instead will be focusing even more on work in Parliament and in Brighton. I believe that Jonathan and I have shown the power of working together, and that it’s now time for me to show the power of letting go.”

Hove MP supports stronger workplace protections for the terminally ill

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, has signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter this week, to support and protect any of his employees who become terminally ill.

The Dying to Work campaign was set up by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The campaign is calling for a change in the law to prevent the same thing happening to other working people.

Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “Workers should be able to expect support at an incredibly distressing time, and I am proud to have signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter to protect my employees. I will also be encouraging businesses in Hove and Portslade to follow suit and sign up to the TUC’s voluntary charter.

“In addition, I will be pushing for the Government to take action to ensure that every individual with a terminal illness receives the protection and support they deserve.”

terminally ill

Since its launch in April 2016, the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ Voluntary Charter now protects over half a million employees in companies such as Santander, Co-Op, Rolls Royce, Weetabix, Royal Mail and E.On. A number of public sector bodies including NHS trusts, police authorities and many local authorities have also signed up alongside trade unions and charities.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Serious illness is tough enough without having to put up with extra hassle at work. Everyone can surely agree that terminally-ill workers deserve protection.

“That’s why unions, MPs, employers and charities are coming together to ensure that workers get the support and protections they need when times are toughest.”

A Survation poll of over a thousand people found in March last year that 79% of respondents support a ‘protected period’ for terminally ill workers where they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition. Only 3% opposed the ‘protected period.’

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees in the UK cannot be dismissed because of their age, disability, race and pregnancy & maternity etc. These are known as ‘protected characteristics’ and the TUC proposes adding terminal illness to the list to prevent discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The TUC Dying to Work Voluntary Charter states:

  1. We recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.
  2. Terminally ill workers will be secure in the knowledge that we will support them following their diagnosis and we recognise that safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic in itself.
  3. We will provide our employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.
  4. We support the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind.

You can read more about the campaign and how to sign your employer up here.

Brighton MP calls for People’s Poll to reverse ‘calamitous Brexit’

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas is backing a second referendum as only a “people’s poll” will stop the government “marching us towards a national calamity” that is a hard Brexit.

The Greens’ joint leaders, Mrs Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, plan to spell out their message to colleagues today (Saturday 3 March) at the party’s spring conference in Bournemouth.

Mrs Lucas intends to accuse the government of “playing politics with peace in Northern Ireland” and she will urge Prime Minister Theresa May not to “sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of an extreme Brexit”.

She is expected to tell the conference: “We win when we stand up for what we believe in – from the smallest issues in a local ward to the biggest issue of the day – Brexit.

Mrs Lucas will say: “Conference, we win when we stand up for what we believe in – from the smallest issues in a local ward, to the biggest issue of the day – Brexit. Let’s not forget that the EU was originally a peace project, forged in the wake of the destruction and devastation of the Second World War. Rising from the rubble left by bombs and armies. The principle that nations who share resources will value peace above war. And the cause of peace is at stake again today.

“The way this Government is playing politics with peace in Northern Ireland is reckless and indefensible. So our message to Theresa May is very clear: Sacrificing the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of an extreme Brexit is nothing short of criminal, and it must not be allowed to happen.”

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas MP

In his leader’s speech, co-leader Jonathan Bartley will criticise Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn for pursuing a Brexit that will “hit poorest communities hardest,” and call on Labour to stand with Greens for a people’s poll on the final deal.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May made a key speech about Brexit at Mansion House. She said: “Reciprocal commitments to ensure fair and open competition, an independent arbitration mechanism, an ongoing dialogue, data protection arrangements and maintaining the links between our people.”

Mrs May said she wanted no tariffs and only one set of regulatory checks for goods (between Europe and the UK.) She repeated an earlier commitment to leave the customs union while avoiding a hard border in Ireland. She wants to limit barriers to movement of labour but to mirror free movement without signing up to it.

In response to Theresa May’s speech on Brexit today, Jonathan Bartley will say: “The Green Party will not give up on staying close to Europe. We are proud to be campaigning for people’s poll on the final deal that explicitly includes an option to remain part of the European Union. Because as we march towards the national calamity of Brexit, we know there is an alternative.

“But, far from acting like an official opposition, Labour risks being complicit in an unfolding disaster, and one felt first and foremost in those very communities it seeks to represent. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are committed to a Brexit that will hit poorest communities hardest.

“And that’s why today I want to make a direct plea to the Labour frontbench. Show some leadership, put the national interest above your party interest, stand up for free movement, stand up for young people. And stand with all of us campaigning for a people’s poll on the final deal.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News yesterday ahead of the Green Party spring conference.

Almost a hundred Hove residents gathered to hear about a masterplan

A masterplan is to be drawn up for an area near Hove Station after a £70,000 grant was awarded to Brighton and Hove City Council.

The money will be used to create a masterplan and try to turn it into reality on land labelled the Conway Street Industrial Area.

Approximately 70 people turned out to hear about and share ideas for the masterplan – and to learn more about a masterplan for the surrounding area – to include hundreds of new homes as well business units.

They crowded into the Honeycroft centre, in Sackville Road, Hove, today (Saturday 17 February) where information boards were on display with visuals and commentary.

The masterplan aims to ensure that the regeneration is coordinated, not piecemeal. This will mean improving connectivity around the station and actively considering the design of public spaces, community facilities, community hubs, conservation and transport. It will form part of Neighbourhood Plan Part One which is a statutory document subject to inspection by a planning inspector and a referendum.

 

Look out for the Hove Station Area Improvement Group which is a subgroup of the Forum that will be meeting in March. If you want to get involved, email Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum for details.

Several residents raised the issue of school places. Liz Hobden, Head of city planning at Brighton Council, announced that they are introducing a community infrastructure levy (CIL) which will be a tariff for strategic infrastructure such as schools and roads. She explained the new tax will sit alongside developer contributions (section 106) but it will not be tied to a particular development. The Forum will be able to access a percentage of this money for local projects.

Alan Gillam raised concerns about the impact of development on local businesses, some of whom have been forced to close. Ms Hobden acknowledged the need to protect industrial spaces but she said the area is changing and there will be a displacement effect on businesses and people who work there.

masterplan

Another Hove resident, Amanda said: “It’s a really good exhibition but a real shame that there isn’t more affordable housing. It’s a real missed opportunity. It looks like it will be high end housing and gentrification.”

Others expressed concern about the density of housing but Carrie Hynds, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hove, thought the industrial area on Conway St west of the station was an ideal place for high rise housing. She said the new homes must be affordable to local people, if they are unaffordable, they will make the housing crisis worse.

Ms Hobden said the council was trying to bring rents down in line with the local housing allowance which is 70% of market rates. Councillor Jackie O’Quinn said the government needs to stop the right to buy of council housing and reduce the discounts.

This article was also published by Brighton and Hove News.

PM Theresa May and UKIP threaten our democracy (radio interview)

Voice of Islam found a blog I wrote in 2014 about Nigel Farage: foe not friend and invited me to do a live radio interview. I believe that Mr Farage has appealed to prejudice and xenophobia and is responsible, with David Cameron, for Brexit. Mr Cameron couldn’t get his own house in order and Mr Farage said: “Take back control of our borders” which means retreat from the multiculturalism that makes Britain great and become Little England. It means less regulation, US monopolies dominating our markets, the British government having no legal defence i.e. TTIP, trading with nations regardless of their human rights record and less environmental protection.

I would far rather befriend Angela Merkel than Donald Trump. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Theresa May does not agree.

If you don’t have time to listen to the full interview, here are a few extracts of what I said:

First about Nigel Farage

The media in some way is complicit in painting a rosy picture of Nigel Farage as a self-made man prepared to stand up for Britain. He is provocative but smooth which makes for good television.

Part of the appeal of Mr Farage and Donald Trump is that they speak their mind and do not spin their message to what they think electors want to hear. However, they divide, exploit and can stir up prejudice and resentment, against immigrants, for example (cue the poster.) Mr Farage used to work buying and selling commodities in the city. He pretends to be “everyman,” which is disingenuous, and he likes a pint. He may like a pint but he is not everyman.

There is a lie at the heart of Farage’s politics, he says he is sticking up for ordinary people against the establishment. Would he do so if he really was living on the breadline? Very little attention is paid to the fact he is a wealthy self-made man pitching for popularity.

Political parties need to attack Mr Farage on his policies. (Mr Trump spared no punches when debating with Hillary Clinton in the US election.) For a long time, UKIP has been regarded as an eccentric side-kick. After the European elections in 2014, they were taken more seriously by the media but their policies have not been debated with the rigour of the other parties. UKIP’s appeal is insidious, appealing to the heart not the head. It should be tested by the heart, with cool logic and a forensic eye. One Parliamentary Candidate who failed 7 times to become an MP, should not get so much media attention.

At the moment, the EU are investigating whether UKIP misspent £400,000 of taxpayers in the EU to fund its electioneering in addition to the Conservative accounting fraud. The European Parliament has separately reported that funding meant for EU business was being diverted into funding UKIP in the UK and the UK referendum campaign. The Independent ran this article yesterday. Mr Farage said in their defence: “Every single eurosceptic party and group is wilfully being victimised by a system that really reminds me of the Soviet inquisitors.” I reported UKIP expenses under investigation in my 2014 blog. Their expenditure should be transparent and without the EU, we wouldn’t even know.

About Nigel Farage and Donald Trump

“And now he stands next to the president-elect of the United States, a man who got the job apparently because he wasn’t part of the establishment, because he wasn’t a politician, because he promised to break the system rather than play it.”

(Rebecca Nicholson, Guardian, 13.11.16)

This goes to the heart of my mistrust of Nigel Farage. Like Donald Trump his appeal is that he presents as anti-establishment. Mr Farage does not have a road map or he would have been elected by now, he has failed 7 times to become a Westminster MP but has hinted he may stand again… or he may be better received in America. It is interesting that Mr Farage stood down as leader after the EU referendum victory and it has become clear that the “Brexiteers” have no plan. They all jumped ship leaving Theresa May, a “remainer,” to take up the poisoned chalice of negotiating withdrawal from the EU. Shame on them, they would rather bully her than lead.

Number of living wage employers in Brighton reaches 350

Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce and the Living Wage Campaign are celebrating signing up 350 local businesses and organisations to pay employees a living wage.

At the moment, the Living Wage is £8.45 everywhere except London. The new rate will be announced on Monday (6 November.)

Five years ago Brighton Chamber started the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign to encourage local businesses to pay employees the living wage which is slightly higher than the minimum wage.

The campaign aims to make the living wage the norm in the city, with social enterprises, charities and public sector organisations joining the campaign as well as businesses.

Apprentices and interns are exempt. The rate is calculated annually by the Centre for Research in Policy funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to be the amount you need to have a decent life.

The mandatory minimum wage, now called the National Living Wage, is set by the government. This is currently £7.50 for people aged over 25. It is paid at a slightly lower rate for young people.

In October 2011 Councillor Bill Randall headed up a Brighton and Hove Living Wage Commission.

Brighton Chamber then agreed to lead the campaign, initially for two years in April 2012. It is still going strong.

Sarah Springford, director of Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are delighted to have reached 350 employers who have all signed up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign. It shows what a unique business community we have here.”

This week the campaign has signed up the digital start-up SomeoneWho.

SomeoneWho co-founder Andrew Saffron said that he joined “simply because it’s the right thing to do”. He said: “You have to treat people as you would wish to be treated. That’s all there is to it.”

SomeoneWho staff (Photograph taken by Simon Dack)

Asked about morale and employee well-being, he said it was important to recognise that we’re all human beings.

He said: “We have good days. We have bad days. The best we can do as employers is to create an environment in which your team can have as many good days as possible and to show understanding and support them when they’re having a bad day.”

Juliet Tzabar, chief executive of the digital agency Plug-in Media, will be speaking at Brighton Chamber’s pop-up breakfast next Thursday (9 November) about her work and why she has chosen to be a living wage employer.

Her experience ranges from directing television dramas to producing interactive content. Under her leadership, the company has won four BAFTAs.

Tickets for the breakfast are already sold out but it should be possible to follow proceedings on Facebook and Twitter and support the campaign.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Faith leaders including the Ahmadi Caliph pave the way for peace (radio interview)

I am the first speaker on a live drive time programme considering the impact of faith leader Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Evening Standard has identified him as the most inspirational faith leader in London in 2017 after the Queen and I try to explain why.

The Caliph had a very strong message for terrorists and any other extremists that love of your country is part of your faith. He said integration was about being an asset to your country, it was not about the hijab or alcohol.

Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadiyya community explained to me what the Caliph meant. He said: “The jihad is misinterpreted by mullahs and extremists. The jihad is a fight within yourself. It is a fight to be good human beings. Give up your time to do something good. Not everyone is prepared to do that.”

At the Jalsa Salana which is the community’s annual convention, the Caliph told delegates that Islam is the guarantee of security in the world. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

At the annual Peace Symposium last March the Caliph said the arms trade was a very clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. Last year the peace prize was given to  Ms. Setsuko Thurlow because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.

He gave a solemn warning: “Always remember that if we seek to pursue our own interests at all costs, the rights of others will be usurped and this can only lead to conflict, wars and misery. We must all reflect and understand the precipice upon which we stand.”

But he concluded: “My message to the world is to look at tomorrow, and not just today.  Let us leave behind a legacy of hope and opportunity for our children, rather than burdening them with the horrific consequences of our sins.”

The Ahmadi motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”

This extract was broadcast live on Voice of Islam radio channel on Monday 23 October and you can listen to the full podcast below.

Family pantomime returns to Brighton this Christmas

Singer and actor David Essex is the virtual star of a family pantomime playing in Brighton over Christmas this year.

The 1970s pop star will appear on an LED video wall as Baron Hardup in Cinderella at the Hilton Brighton Metropole from Friday 22 December to Wednesday 27 December.

And he will be joined by a string of West End performers including Joseph Peters and Alasdair Buchan.

The cast also includes a number of Brighton personalities. They include David Hill as one of the ugly sisters, Lou Nash and Alex Baker from Juice 107.2 and Dean Kilford from Latest TV and BBC Sussex playing Buttons. Keris Lea will play the Fairy Godmother.

David Hill with Keris Lea, the Fairy Godmother

Cinderella is the brainchild of Mr Hill who “fell into” pantomime in 2001 while sharing a flat with the comedian and novelist Julian Clary.

He said that his travel business was in difficulty after the 9/11 terror attack because people were afraid to fly.

Mr Clary suggested that he audition and Mr Hill found a second career as a pantomime dame.

A countywide search for Cinders was mounted a month ago resulting in 300 applicants.

The show’s writer and co-producer Tim Newman said: “Hannah Bailey, who will be playing Cinderella, offers us everything we were hoping for in this part and I know that every young girl in the audience will fall in love with her.

“I’m not sure what Hannah is more excited about, playing Cinders or having David Essex as her father in the show!”

Cinderella is being produced by Brighton Premiere which is a collaboration of event company E3 and the Brighton Academy of Performing Arts.

The show will be directed by Mr Newman and Stuart Dawes from the academy.

Mr Newman said: “It is so important to have children in mind. Like Pixar, the pantomime should be enjoyable for kids and parents.”

Ticket holders will enjoy free entry to a Christmas Fayre with food, dodgems, face painting, charity stalls and a chance to meet Santa.

Each performance will raise money for the three biggest children’s charities in Sussex – the Chailey Heritage Foundation, Chestnut Tree House and Rockinghorse.

Juice 107.2 is the pantomime’s headline sponsor. Others include Sussex Life, Visit Brighton, Hilton Brighton Metropole, Oliver and Graimes, Donatello, City Cabs, Glencairn Consulting, E3, Brighton Academy and McKenzie Associates.

Cinderella will run twice daily from Friday 22 December until Wednesday 27 December with no shows on Christmas Day.

Tickets cost from £10 (restricted view) to £22.50 (premiere) and are available online at brightonfamilypanto.com.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News on 19 October.