Category Archives: Politics

Opinion: “Islam is the guarantee of security in the world” (Caliph)

On a cold, wet July day I joined the international Ahmadiyya Community to discuss peace, justice and security while wading through mud in our wellies at East Worldham (previously Oaklands Farm.) The event was the Ahmadi Muslim’s annual convention known as the “Jalsa Salana.” Unsure what to expect, I set off on an adventure.

My first stop was lunch masterminded by Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and using three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat. Volunteers, 5000 of them, made this event great.

I witnessed a reunion of two old friends, Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Deputy Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez. “Mr Parvez runs the marriage bureau, he is our very own love professor”, Councillor Malhotra joked. This means he makes introductions and helps families to resolve disputes. But seriously, I was told, in South Asian culture, a marriage is between two families.

Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez

At 6pm I headed over to the Voice of Islam studio to take part in a fascinating live discussion about representations of Islam in the media and literature.

Sunday was a day of prayer and the mood was more sombre.

Delegates pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Community. They made a century-old pledge of peace and loyalty and formed a human chain.

Pledge of allegiance

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

As a Christian, I was struck by this message of peace and reconciliation. In our secular society the temptation for the media is to turn to religions for a negative comment. But these journalists are missing a trick.

Editors should not be afraid to publish good news stories about religions that promote peace and human rights.

In an age of global insecurity and terrorism, spiritual leaders may have the answer and the reach as they urge people to pray for peace and to respect one another.

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.

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

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

Ahmadi Muslims condemn violence and pledge to be “servants of humanity” at their Jalsa convention

Ahmadi Muslims poured into Oaklands Farm in Hampshire in their thousands for the biggest annual Muslim convention in Britain called the “Jalsa Salana” last weekend.

Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad reminded his community that peace, brotherhood and loyalty to one’s country are the essence of Islam. He explained that Muslims should respect people of other religions and none because God loves all nations equally and no nation or group is superior.

Delegates then pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph.

Ahmadi Muslims form a human chain and take a vow of peace, obedience and loyalty

During the weekend, delegates were reminded of the words of the Quran: “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qu’ran 5:32

Barrister and QC Karim Khan explained what this means in practice. He said: “The divisions (in society) are artificial, we are bound together by that uniting “love for all hatred for none” (the Ahmadi motto). This is not an abstract concept. A smile is charity. You don’t need to be rich to be kind.”

He said the Prophet of Islam taught us to be kind to humanity because we are like servants of humanity. “How does the community manifest its love for God?” he asked. “By showing compassion and kindness regardless of religion, class and colour. That is the unifying message.”

Behind the scenes, 5,000 volunteers worked to make sure the event ran smoothly including Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and they used three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat.

A special kitchen to make chapattis

Mayor of Waverley Simon Inchball attended the convention for the first time this year. He said the organisation was extraordinary and praised the Humanity First tent in particular. He said: “I had no idea that they were involved in so many areas (around the world.) “They want to put their hand to helping others. It has been a very inspirational visit.”

Councillor Marsie Skeete, who is the Mayor of Merton, came to the convention with her consort, Yeuton Crandon. She said: “It is very beautiful that we work closely with the Ahmadi Muslims. They are helping to fund, organise and publicise our peace walk on 17 September this year. At this convention, they preach a lot about peace.

“The togetherness that the Ahmadis bring into our lives is amazing. They don’t look at creed, colour, race or religion or anything. The highlight of my year is going to the peace symposium. I love the food but it is just the togetherness that is so special.”

Chris Thompson is the Community Sergeant in charge from Hampshire Police. He said it was a brilliant event that was exceptionally safe and well run.

Chris Thompson with a few of his team

Major Frankie Howell and Colour Seargant Phillip Eeren from the army came to experience the culture and to help people understand what the army has to offer. For example, during recent floods, Major Howell said the army were the first people on the scene and their vehicles are often deployed to help people in need. He said in the Welsh regiment they now have 22 Muslim soldiers.

Kaylie Smith from Basingstoke is a trainee RE teacher who came to the Jalsa with her son, Jackson. She said the convention was larger than she expected and she liked the open sense of community.

National President, Rafiq Hayat said: “Attending the convention strengthens our faith in God and our ties of kinship and fraternity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instils a strong sense of community, family and respect for wider society from a young age.

“Our children are raised with the understanding that ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is not just a motto, but a way of life and that is how we have successfully shunned all forms of extremism and will continue to do so. The call of the day is to be of service to our communities and as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we will exert every effort to be exemplary role models within society.”

Harry van Bommel was an MP in the Netherlands for nineteen years and spokesperson for foreign affairs. He said: “I am worried. We see a world moving in a different direction with violent extremism, governments acting in the wrong way, tension building up not reducing and enhancing this extremism.” However he welcomed the theme of this year’s convention which is peace and justice, saying it is exactly what is needed.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, including human rights, has been a member of the Ahmadiyya Community all his life. He said: “The flag of the community is side by side with the UK flag. It is part of your DNA to be responsible, there is no conflict between faith, community and devotion and dedication to the country. The UK is the best place to be a Christian etc. or a person of no faith. We need to protect that, protect other faiths.”

Ahmadi Muslims came to the convention from 100 countries

Guests came from many different faiths and countries including the Sikh Community, the All Faiths Network, Scientology and Mr Muhammad Sharif Odeh who is the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Israel and Palestine.

Jane Donnelly from Atheist Ireland said they had formed an alliance with the Ahamdiyya Community because they are all minorities in Ireland fighting for religious freedom. Jim Shannon MP from the Democratic Unionist Party commended the Ahmadi Muslims for giving a voice to the voiceless. Eamon O’Cuiv is an MP from the Fianna Fail Party in the Republic of Ireland. He said: “The commitment to peace is something I very much relate to and their (Ahmadi Muslims) openness to dialogue with all religions.” He said he liked the very strong friendships forged at the Jalsa.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long- awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad vigorously championed Islam’s true and essential teachings of peace and self-reformation.

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 or #jalsaUK.

Delegates gathered to pray for peace ahead of the Caliph’s keynote speech

Car crash survivor vows to beat pain to complete Brighton Color Run

A man who developed complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) after a car crash has vowed to beat his disability and complete the Brighton Color Run.

Martin Leppard will lead a team of people with the disabling syndrome – the Brighton CRPS Warriors – as they walk the five kilometres along Brighton seafront in September.

The Color Run – imported from America, complete with the American spelling – claims to be the original, largest and most unique event of its kind.

Thousands of “Color Runners” start the day in a special edition white t-shirt before getting covered from head to toe in a rainbow of colours at the four Color Zones and the new Foam Zone as they run five kilometres to celebrate health, happiness and friendship.

Fundraising for the run is already under way.

Warriors who battle disability suffering from the syndrome will not only walk along the Maeira Drive route to raise money but also to raise awareness of their condition.

Mr Leppard was left with greatly reduced mobility when he developed the syndrome after a car accident in January 2013.

He said: “In the space of two weeks, I went from running 10k a week to being unable to get from one end of my bungalow to the other.”

Despite his reduced mobility, Mr Leppard is determined to complete the 5k challenge in September.

He said: “It was something I wanted to do before my accident. I decided that it would be my personal challenge for 2017.

“I’m hoping to raise 50p per metre and I’ll get to the finish line if it kills me!”

He was involved with Color Run before his accident as an event manager but reluctantly had to withdraw from the hands-on organisation afterwards.

His involvement with the run over many years has made him even more determined to complete it.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that causes severe pain which won’t go away.

It usually affects just one arm or leg and often follows an earlier injury to the limb. Most commonly it affects the hand and wrist, foot and ankle or knee, although sometimes the entire leg or arm can be affected.

The body’s reaction to the injury is much stronger than usual and may spread.

Anyone can be affected by CRPS, including children.

Mr Leppard will be accompanied by his friends and family who make up the Brighton CRPS Warriors and the team will be taking part on Saturday 23 September. To sponsor them, click here.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Hidden cost of Brexit and the impact on the NHS (radio interview)

EU nationals working in the NHS and other industries or for themselves have not been guaranteed the right to remain in the UK.

For those of you who don’t have time to listen to the podcast, here is  a rough idea of what I said about the central question:

I think Brexit is very dangerous because it feeds xenophobia. The government needs to measure, statistically, the income generated by migrants, specifically those from the EU, working in the NHS to understand the true value of their contribution. We need to reframe the debate. All the statistics I could find concentrate on how much EU nationals cost the NHS and if any of this money is recouped.

In making the case for freedom of movement, data urgently needs to be collected about how much money is generated for the NHS and the British economy by EU nationals. The fact that the government is importing GPs from Europe and beyond suggests that EU nationals are voting with their feet and leaving the UK. The governments needs to acknowledge this, apologise and take steps to prevent an even greater exodus of highly trained NHS staff that the government will then need to replace.

A lot of the debate about Brexit has focused on economic arguments. While these are important we saw last winter that the NHS is already stretched to breaking point in the winter and hardly coping. Clearly if 25,000 EU staff leave, the crisis will become acute and it will take time for new staff to be recruited. It is these arguments that people need to hear: that their access to hospital care and GPs may be limited which could be life-threatening. This is the reality that frontline NHS staff battle every day, staff shortages and increasing demand on services.

You can also read my blog about a gathering of EU nationals #onedaywithoutus here describing both their contribution and pain since the EU referendum. It explains in their own words, how EU nationals feel about Brexit and its impact. It is in the February archive of this blog.

The full drive time programme is available as a podcast here.

God Weeps

In my quieter moments in my safe place (home) or my mother’s magnificent garden, I can reflect on the evil and towering rage that consumes my mind – aggrieved, hurt and unable to connect with the divine. Perhaps this is how the relatives of the families, including children, lost in an unnecessary inferno at Grenfell Tower, feel. Bereft, beyond grief, blind, white rage that, if allowed to take root, will destroy them from the inside like a cancer.

And then added to the people, eighty known to the authorities, who lost their lives in Grenfell Tower, there is the multitude at silent prayer in Finsbury Park in the very early morning. ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD’ (Isaiah 55:8).

These are the words God speaks as he watches the Moslems praying by the side of the man mown down outside a mosque in London. God sits on his hands and weeps.

A man filled with hatred saw another man in difficulty and mounted the pavement in a cowardly copycat attack. This attack underlines the fact that terrorists are not Muslim, any more than they are Christian or atheists. Their mantra is to destroy and they know nothing of a God who invites us to wonder at the splendour of his universe which embodies his glory.

God speaks through the splendour of nature but also through the peaceful co-existence of many races living humble yet devout lives in Grenfell Tower and many other high-rise blocks across the land. People content to live in Britain silently accepting the drop in status, wages and class that migration from the developing world normally entails.

God’s glory shines a light into darkness and he chooses to spend his time with the poor and the oppressed, not with government or politicians. Perhaps we should do likewise. After all, we are his hands and feet.

And it’s the ordinary acts of kindness that touched the hearts of the bereaved, momentary solace in the abyss for many but also, I hope, the courage to carry on.

Secret NHS cost-cutting plans revealed and Brighton’s hospital trust could lose up to 436 EU staff because of Brexit

Brighton’s hospital trust is under threat according to the Health Service Journal. Senior NHS officials have been told by the Conservatives to cut spending by closing wards and services, extending waiting times and stopping some medical treatments.

A controversial “capped expenditure process” is being discussed privately between top officials from NHS England and NHS Improvement and health managers in 14 areas of the country with the highest levels of overspending.

Surrey and Sussex is one of the NHS areas accused of overspending and told to think the “unthinkable.”

According to the Health Service Journal (HSJ) on Monday 05 June: “The principle of the process, introduced this year, is to ‘cap’ NHS spending in the targeted areas so that they meet ‘control total’ budgets in 2017-18.”

“The programme comes amid the longest ever sustained squeeze on the NHS budget, and with lower spending growth in 2017-18 than last year. These areas (14 including Surrey and Sussex) report gaps between plans and targets running into hundreds of millions of pounds, but NHSE and NHSI have not made public the total national gap.”

For this reason, Surrey and Sussex’s Brighton hospital campus could face even more ward closures, operations’ caps, longer waiting times, reductions in medical treatments, downgrading services like maternity and A&E, selling land and stopping prescriptions because of budget cuts.

Brighton and Sussex Universities Hospital Trust was placed in special measures when it declared a financial deficit of £60 million last October and is expected to end the year with a deficit of £60 to £70 billion. On 25 April this year, 42 inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), the healthcare watchdog, returned to the trust for three days.

Earlier in April Marianne Griffiths took over running the trust along with a team from Western Sussex Hospitals. She was appointed because the challenges that she had overcome merging St Richard’s, in Chichester, with Worthing and Southlands to form Western and dealing with a £21 million deficit meant that she had relevant experience. Western Sussex Hospitals is one of only five acute hospital trusts to be rated outstanding by CQC.

Mrs Griffiths said that she had agreed a breathing space with regulators and one monthly monitoring meeting to assess progress.

If you sign up as a guest member to the Health Service Journal, you can read the full article here.

Added to their financial problems, the Lib Dems warn the NHS in Brighton could lose up to 436 staff from the EU because of Theresa May’s extreme version of Brexit including 61 doctors and 171 nurses.  Over half of all doctors and 42% of nurses from the EU are considering leaving because of Brexit, according to recent research published on Dispatches in March this year.

Channel Four reported that Conservative plans would create a £4.5m bill to re-hire local doctors and nurses and other support workers in the NHS from the EU after 2019. Theresa May plans to double the ‘immigration skills charge’ to £2000 per year for each doctor, nurse and health worker brought into the NHS or any other company from abroad by 2022.

Full figures on the number of EU nationals by local NHS trust and estimates of those considering leaving the UK because of Brexit can be found in the Channel 4 Survey for Dispatches in March this year.

Projected cost of £4.36 million to pay immigration skills charge for 5 years when 40% of EU nationals (436) may leave based on Channel 4 dispatches survey (13 March 2017)

In their manifesto, Lib Dems will immediately guarantee the rights of all EU nationals working in the NHS and social care and commit to add a penny on income tax for the basic, higher and additional rates of income tax. They want to raise enough money to protect the NHS. You can read about the Lib Dem plans for the NHS and social care workforce here.Liberal Democrats have called for an immediate guarantee that all EU nationals in the UK, including those working in the NHS and social care, can stay after Brexit.

Emily Tester, Lib Dem candidate for Brighton Kemptown said: “Hospitals in our city depend on doctors, nurses and other support staff from the EU. But many are now planning to leave because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit.

“We must guarantee their rights to stay here immediately to prevent a damaging exodus of these skilled and hard-working people. Our NHS, and the care we all rely on, would suffer without them.”

 

Lib Dem Parliamentary Candidate for Kemptown Emily Tester

 

Labour will raise £30 billion for the NHS nationally by increasing income tax for the highest 5% of taxpayers earning £80,000 or more per year. (Media presenters have expressed concern about likely tax evasion by high earners and questions whether Labour will manage to raise £30 billion.)

Like the Lib Dems, the Green Party will introduce an “NHS Tax”, earmarked to increase direct funding of the NHS as part of general income and other taxation.

Conservatives have only committed to a ‘real terms’ increase of only £8 billion in their manifesto in the next Parliament until 2022 which was the minimum expenditure recommended by the King’s Fund at the last 2015 election. (See page 66 of the Conservative manifesto.)

Brighton Labour supporters turn out in force in support of the many not the few

A long queue of Labour supporters assembled yesterday to hear Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, live-streamed from Birmingham with Brighton Parliamentary candidates centre stage at the Synergy Centre at 6pm yesterday.

First speaker to take the to the podium was Brighton Pavilion candidate, Solomon Curtis, who said people have empowered politics and argued that it was the Labour Party who would form a strong and stable government with less austerity, more teachers, more nurses and a future for young people.

He said: “Come home, come back to Labour. It has always been the people in the Labour Party that make it great… If you want to live next to a black person, vote Labour.” Mr Curtis said he was feeling the spirit of 1945 and rallied the crowds with the words: “Brighton, solidarity!”

Brighton Pavilion Candidate Solomon Curtis

Brighton Kemptown candidate, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, took to the stage next and predicted a Labour victory in Kemptown. He said Labour must save the NHS in Brighton which is in special measures. He said healthcare must be free at the point of delivery and private companies should be kicked out.

He criticised cuts to school budgets which affected special needs children and a predominantly female workforce. Mr Russell-Moyle said 10% of Brighton and Hove’s population are on a housing waiting list and this city has the second highest homeless population in Britain. Labour has promised they will build one million council houses for Britain.

He said there was a simple choice: a Britain spiralling into despair or a Britain with an economy that grows not just for the very rich, but for everyone. He urged supporters to spend today and tomorrow (polling day) with their Labour family.

First-time voter Farah Alice Black spoke and explained that she became interested in politics after her youth centre came under threat of closure.

She said: “We will not let Theresa May be the Mrs Thatcher of my generation.”

She said she would be voting for Jeremy Corbyn and encouraged supporters to take heart that they have, in Mr Corbyn, a politician for the people even if the TV and media hate him.

Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner said in response to recent terror attacks: “We are united in solidarity, love, love for life and nowhere expresses that better than Brighton. Brighton knows about solidarity, coming together of people of all genders, races, colours, religions, gay, transsexual and straight people.” He criticised Mrs May for pitting the young against the old and for promoting tax giveaways for the richest.

Mr Corbyn urged voters to vote Labour because the party will fight for an NHS free at the point of use which is a fundamental human right, address unrequited ambition in young people by empowering them and reduce the great gap between rich and poor.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn live from Birmingham

Music was provided by Brighton’s DJ Enzo Siffredi, long-time Labour supporter and singer-songwriter Robb Johnson and folk singer Sam Lee at the Brighton event last night.

A retired head teacher from Comart in Whitehawk is now the founder of the “teach a friend to read” campaign. She said: “Like all my friends and anybody I am close to, like anyone who cares about society and future of the planet, we’re all passionate about Jeremy Corbyn and his team.

“He is gaining power to make the world a better place. If the Tories win the election, it doesn’t matter because young people will just take over, having all the brainpower, IT and heart at their disposal. Either way, now is our time and our moment. The good guys are going to win.”

Jess Reilly wanted to show solidarity with Labour and planned to put a bet on Mr Corbyn winning, she was not a Labour Party member until Mr Corbyn became leader.

While the rally was mainly Labour Party members, some people were voting tactically.

Bethan Hudson, aged 23, supports the progressive alliance. She is training as a counsellor and working full-time. She said Mr Corbyn had a very different outlook and his approach with a costed manifesto compared well to the Conservative one which, she said, just supported the wealthy.

She said: “Prime Minister Theresa May going back on the dementia tax and social care shows how her government is not strong or stable.”

David Hudson who is a videographer said he would be voting for the Green Party because he lived in Brighton Pavilion. He said: “That is not to say I don’t wholeheartedly support Jeremy, I support the Labour Party and specific politicians. The Greens have fantastic policies, if there is a hung parliament, the Green Party have much in line with Labour and their manifesto.”

Bethan and David Hudson, Jess Reilly and Sophie White

Sophie White from Hove said she will vote for Labour’s Peter Kyle. She said, in Hove, Labour have the best chance of being re-elected. She said: “I like the Green Party and their values but I also support Labour so they have got my vote.”

If you are a voter who does not feel represented in your constituency, you can vote tactically against Brexit here to support Gina Miller’s cross-party campaign.

Alternatively, you can swap your vote  with a voter in a different constituency where your party is stronger and more likely to win so that your vote makes more of a difference.

You must arrange swapping your vote before 10pm today and use social media to verify your identity. You need to confirm that you are a real person and give the person you swap with an idea of your political preferences and convictions. Effectively, you should then be able to help two parties you like win, rather than just one which may be a minority party where you live.

However, be warned, you can’t necessarily choose the constituency of the person you swap with at this election, only the party. The tool may become more sophisticated in future elections.

Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade Barry Gardiner

Teachers send out an SOS to save schools across Brighton and Hove

Save Our Schools (SOS) Brighton and Hove organised a school assembly rally in the sunshine at the Level yesterday and Brighton MP Caroline Lucas was the first to take to the podium.

She applauded the work of hard-working teachers across Brighton and Hove, thanking them for their hard work, dedication and courage.

However, Mrs Lucas criticised the Conservative government for a real-terms fall in pupil funding because of a projected increase in pupil numbers.

She said: “In real-terms, there is still a three percent per pupil funding cut between now and 2021-22 when you allow for the expected increase in pupil numbers. The schools budget needs to increase, not be cut.

And it needs to increase by between six to seven billion pounds according to the Association of School and College Leaders.”

Caroline Lucas at Save Our Schools rally

Save our Schools estimate a cut of £487 or £193,425 per school in Brighton and Hove by the next election in 2022 if cuts continue at the present rate. For secondary schools the national figures is much higher: £378,298 suggesting that cuts to secondary schools are offset by smaller cuts to primary schools.

Mrs Lucas also criticised Conservative plans to scrap free lunches and replace them with (cheaper) free breakfasts which she said, is to give with one hand and take with the other. She said the Conservative manifesto reads like Oliver Twist.

Defending Conservative education policy, Prime Minister Theresa May said the dedicated schools grant: “is at its highest on record at more than £40 billion in 2016 to 2017 and is set to rise to £42 billion in 2019 to 2020, with increasing pupil numbers.”

 

According to Sandra McNally, Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Surrey, Conservative figures are misleading. This is because the “per pupil figure” was frozen between 2010 and 2011 and again between 2015 and 2016.

She argues that an increase in the core funding for schools is not the same as an increase in the amount per pupil. A freeze in cash terms is likely to result in a reduction in real-terms of 6.5% between 2010 and 2020. This reduction has not happened yet and school funding has doubled in the last 20 years.

If you want to check the figures, you can search for your child’s school on the school cuts website here.

Chair of Governors Marisol Smith said that the cut to funding at Moulsecoomb Primary means 40% of their children can’t go away for five days towards the end of Year 6 because the school can’t subsidise the children anymore.

It also means the school has had to make their counsellor redundant, leaving vulnerable children to join the waiting list for CAMHS while their mental health deteriorates.

Mrs Smith explained that extending free school meals means there is now no easy way to check eligibility for the pupil premium. She said: “We now have an administrative nightmare. A large proportion of our pupils are from deprived areas. Extending free school meals has had a perverse effect on our budgets. We used to have an easy way of checking eligibility.”

She said it was often a challenge to get parents to apply for free school meals but when they did, that provided the evidence for the pupil premium.

Solomon Curtis, Labour Candidate for Brighton Pavilion, said: “We have to seriously make sure we have the right policies: 37.5% of the population is under 30 years old but only 2% of MPs are. No wonder we’ve seen cuts, no-one in Parliament is standing up for us.”

Labour Candidate for Kemptown Lloyd Russell-Moyle said: “I will not sit down, I’ll not wait a second to attack this government. They have cut school funding because this government hates education for all, they only care about education for the richest.

Do not be intimidated by people who tell you we can’t afford to fund education. Keep on with the struggle because failure cannot be an option.”

Solomon Curtis with Councillor Tracey Hill

Lib Dem Candidate Emily Tester who was sitting exams yesterday at LSE said: “Lib Dems would reverse the £3 billion funding cuts and protect per-pupil funding in real-terms. In addition, we’d lift a £4 billion investment to lift the pay freeze on teacher’s salaries, give more free school meals and triple the early years’ pupil premium to £1000 for a fairer start in life.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Hummingbirds encourage Brighton to stand together in the face of terrorism

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas spoke words of comfort at a rally to remember those injured by the Manchester terror attack. In the face of carnage, she described her shock, desperate sadness, anger and heartache and paid tribute to all who had helped those wounded and dying.

Hummingbird, a community of refugee campaigners, organised a rally at St Bartholomew’s House last Wednesday 24 May to remember the 144 people who were killed or injured in Monday’s terrorist attack.

Mrs Lucas said: “Tonight we too are defiant and we are strong.

“In honour of all those who have lost their lives at the hand of terrorists, we will not give in to fear. We will live our lives. We will meet our friends for the evening at Brighton Festival, walk on the beach, check in on our neighbours and play with our children.

“And perhaps most importantly of all, we will not point fingers of blame nor will we retreat behind our differences.

“Thank you to Hummingbird for bringing us together this evening.

“We may struggle to find the words for how we feel right now but we have found one another.

“And thank you all for being the very best of humankind with your love, your light and with your hope.”

Caroline Lucas addresses rally

Immam Usman from Brighton’s Al Madina Mosque in Bedford Place quoted Persian Poet Saadi saying that human beings come from the same source and are one family who share each other’s pain. In response to the targeted attack, he quoted a blood donor from Manchester who said:

“They want to turn us against our neighbours and it’ll never happen. Not here.”

Like many, Mr Usman said: “I hope and believe that people here in Brighton and Hove would react in the same way, knowing as Jo Cox famously said, that we have more in common than that which divides us.

“We need to stand together and fight the things that might divide us: poverty, isolation, scapegoating.”

Mr Usman encouraged people to follow in the footsteps of Mancunian Poet Tony Walsh and “choose love.”

#WeStandTogether rally

Labour Councillor Emma Daniels who is lead member for communities and equalities at Brighton & Hove Council said: “Our resolve must be to show defiant love in the face of hate. To refuse to stop loving, to stop dancing, to stop laughing.

“To love defiantly means also to be watchful and help people who may be targeted in the wake of this attack too. People who are Muslim are no more responsible for this attack than I am for the murder of Jo Cox.

“You cannot make sense of a senseless act of murder but we can fight back with love and remember Jo Cox’s words which murder could not silence: ‘We have more in common than that which divides us.’

“I am inspired by the simple yet beautifully radical act of our staff this morning in playing ‘the Stone Roses’ in our library.

“Turn your music up people and love defiantly.”

Elaine Ortiz from Hummingbird and Alex Davidson from the Trade Union Council also spoke.

Alexander Davidson, Manchester TUC

Monday’s attack took place on the anniversary of the death of soldier Lee Rigby who was hacked to death on a London street four years ago.

After the rally, Brighton and Hove’s Christian community held two reflective vigils at St Luke’s Church on Old Shoreham Road and Hove Methodist Church on Portland Road.

Snapshot of electoral alliances in Brighton and Hove and across Sussex in marginal seats

Parliamentary candidates had until yesterday to withdraw from their selection to become MPs if they forged electoral alliances.

Here is the line-up of candidates and those who have stood aside across Sussex in 08 June’s general election.

In Brighton Kemptown, Conservative incumbent Simon Kirby is standing for re-election with a majority of 690 votes. Green Party Candidate Davy Jones stood aside in support of Labour’s candidate, Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle (East Brighton.) UKIP has stood aside in Brighton Kemptown to boost Mr Kirby’s chances of retaining his seat. Lib Dems have not and are fielding Emily Tester as their candidate.

In Brighton Pavilion, Lib Dem’s Paul Chandler stood aside because he did not want to split the vote and feared a Conservative gain. Mrs Lucas has a comfortable majority of 7,967 votes. Lib Dems may have had more impact if they had stood aside in Brighton Kemptown because it is marginal. However, Caroline Lucas is arguably the strongest candidate in Brighton and Hove, if not across Sussex, so Lib Dem members decided to support her.

In Hove Labour’s Peter Kyle is defending his seat with a majority of 1,236 votes primarily against the Conservative Party. Mr Kyle enjoyed a swing of +9.3 to win 42% of the vote compared with +3.2% and 40% share for the Conservatives.  Hove is slightly less marginal than other Sussex parliamentary seats.

In Eastbourne, Conservative Caroline Ansell beat Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd by 733 votes. UKIP are not fielding a candidate. Instead they are asking their voters to support Ms Ansell.

UKIP are standing aside in Lewes in support of Maria Caulfield because of the threat posed by Lib Dem Kelly Marie-Blundell who is standing in place of Norman Baker. Mr Baker lost his seat at the last election to Ms Caulfield who was elected with a majority of 1,083.

Green and Labour candidates have formed an alliance to defeat Conservative Amber Rudd who was the sitting MP and is Prime Minister Theresa May’s Home Secretary until the election was called. The Green Party is not fielding a candidate. Mrs Rudd has a majority of 4,796 votes so it is unlikely that the progressive alliance will work there. But Mrs Rudd is a key player in the conservative government and therefore a target seat for opposition parties.

Worthing East and Shoreham is basically a safe Conservative seat held by Tim Loughton with 50% share of the vote but a full slate of candidates are standing against him. Most famous among Mr Loughton’s opponents is Sophie Cook, Latest TV presenter.

Parliamentary candidates have 18 days to battle for election and win the argument on the doorsteps.

As for the technicalities, polls will open at 7am on Thursday 08 June and close at 10pm.

If you are not registered to vote, you will need to register with the electoral roll online by tomorrow, Monday 22 May, to be able to vote in the general election. You can register to vote online here. Please note you can still not cast your vote online.

In England, Scotland and Wales, the deadline to apply t o vote by post at the UK general election on Thursday 8 June is 5pm this Tuesday 23 May.

If you would like to nominate a named person to vote on your behalf, you can vote by proxy here.

Brexit opponents make music and mayhem in Hove’s George Street party

Music and mayhem will be the rhythm of the day in a street party at George Street between 12:30 and 2:30pm today. Peter Cook is using music as a vehicle for social change and urges people of all political parties and none to oppose Brexit.

You can join the Brighton and Hove for Europe Facebook group here.

Mr Cook’s street party is being held in the name of democracy, he said: “Democracy relies on a vibrant opposition and that the voice of the people be heard.

“These things have been sadly lacking on all sides in recent years, having handed our futures over to media giants. It’s time to restore the balance for the good of all and our children. Whatever your views on politics, come and have a beer and a chat with us.”

He is part of a movement to stop Brexit called “No 10 Downing Street Vigil” where he spends most of his time when not touring the UK. He has been featured on BBC’s Sunday Politics show and the One Show as well as in most national newspapers.

Mr Cook founded Human Dynamics that gives masterclasses in creativity and innovation and he has written a book. He also runs the Academy of Rock which was largely a tribute band until he found his voice since the EU referendum.

He said he has climbed out of the gutter in Medway (his words not mine) to forge a career in industry, academia and as a self-employed businessman. He won a prize from Richard Branson after his 45 year-old mother and 67 year-old father claimed his birth was a virgin birth. Actually, his parents had more in common with Sarah and Abraham.

Come to the street party in George Street if it tickles your fancy. After all Brexit is not going away.

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

Brighton’s progressive alliance offers hope for Labour

Hundreds of Brighton residents gathered to discuss building a progressive alliance to help Labour. Greens and Liberal Democrats said it is the only way to get a fairer electoral system in future.

Sussex Progressives have been campaigning for electoral reform for two years and the meeting at St George’s Church, Kemp Town on Thursday 19 May was the latest, in an uphill struggle for a fairer voting system.

Brighton Kemp Town is one of several conservative-held marginal seats across Sussex. Simon Kirby was re-elected MP with a majority of only 690 votes last year, while in Eastbourne Conservative Caroline Ansell beat Lib Dem Stephen Lloyd by 733 votes.

Green Party Candidate Davy Jones has already stood aside in Brighton Kemp Town in support of Labour’s candidate, Councillor Lloyd Russell-Moyle (East Brighton.) Lib Dem Paul Chandler has stood aside in Brighton Pavilion as a mark of respect for Green Candidate’s Caroline Lucas who has been the MP since 2010. Women’s Equality Party did not field a candidate.

Mr Russell-Moyle explained that Labour Party rules do not currently allow candidates to stand aside. But he conceded that in a few parts of Britain, one could make the case for Labour candidates to withdraw. Brighton Pavilion elected Caroline Lucas as their only Green MP in 2010 and it’s in the Isle of Wight or Bristol where the Green Party think they are most likely to elect their second MP.

Candidates discuss a progressive alliance

In Hove, Labour MP Peter Kyle, has categorically ruled out an alliance with the Green Party and decided to defend his majority of 1236 single-handedly, to give voters maximum choice out of respect for them, he said.

Making his pitch to become Brighton Kemp Town’s next MP, Mr Russell-Moyle said: “It is often a mantra of the Tories that only they can produce a strong stable government and only first part the post can achieve this.

Citing Germany as a country with a stable government and a strong economy, he said: “I believe our current electoral system is not fair or fit for purpose and I support a new kind of politics where single seat constituencies remain but no vote is wasted and all votes are represented.”

Co-convenor of Sussex Progressives Georgia Amson-Bradshaw explained why the current electoral system is unfair and undemocratic. She said: “Our dysfunctional, binary, first past the post system gave us the referendum vote. It meant that the Greens have one seat for one million votes.

“It means that in the recent local elections Lib Dem vote share went up, while their seats went down.

“It is the reason that in Scotland, Labour had 25% of the vote in 2015 and only one seat.”

Ms Amson-Bradshaw criticised the culture of “political tribalism” in the United Kingdom which she said undermines the common cause of progressive people because archaic, rigid party rules prevent candidates standing aside.

She said she is often tempted to despair: “But here in Brighton, I see glimmers of light. I see people on this panel with me, in the audience, who come to our meetings, people who have that courage, that generosity and that foresight.

“Make no mistake, this, here, is the beginning of something big. Here, in Brighton, and in certain other places around the UK, people are rejecting that status quo and are finding a new way.”

Ms Amson-Bradshaw campaigning for electoral reform with Lib Dem Paul Chandler

Green Party’s Davy Jones, who stood aside in Brighton Kemp Town to help Labour, criticised the national response from Labour and the Liberal Democrats and acknowledged some voters’ frustration when “their party” was not represented.

In his defence, he said: “It’s not the decisions of parties to stand down that restricts choice – it is our antiquated first past the post system. So if we want to change the voting system to a fair one, we have to vote out as many Tory MPs as possible.”

Conservatives were elected to govern the UK with just 37% of the vote. He said: “First past the post is a disaster for the left and centre because our votes are split while those of the right unite behind the Tories.

“With imminent boundary changes likely to give the Tories even more seats, “fair votes” is not just an issue for “sore losers.” It’s a basic issue for democracy and for ending one-party (Tory) rule.

“If we want a system that allows us to campaign against each other safely – without letting the Tories in – we need some form of proportional representation. And Labour needs to back it.”

Brighton and Hove Lib Dems pledge a penny on income tax to pay for the NHS

Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats have announced they would plug funding gaps for the NHS and social care by putting a penny on income tax, in their first major manifesto commitment of the election campaign. People go to the polls on Thursday 08 June.

A penny on income tax would raise an additional £31.5 million with £20m for the NHS and £11.5m for social care each year.

This is the party’s flagship spending commitment and its first major policy announcement for the election. The Liberal Democrats manifesto will also set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services.

At least 70% of Brits would happily pay an extra penny in every pound if that money was guaranteed to go to the NHS, according to an ITV poll last October. http://www.itv.com/news/2016-10-17/at-least-70-of-brits-would-pay-extra-1p-tax-in-the-pound-if-it-went-to-nhs-poll-finds/

Hove Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Carrie Hynds said: “Right now in our city we are seeing patients lying on trolleys in hospital corridors, urgent operations being cancelled and the elderly being denied the care they need.

“The Liberal Democrats are prepared to be honest with people and say that to secure the future of the NHS we will all need to chip in a little more.

“A penny in the pound would allow us to invest in improving local NHS services and supporting our mental health services that are in crisis.

“This conservative government has left our health and care services chronically underfunded – and while the crisis gets worse they just don’t seem to care.

“We cannot continue asking the system to deliver more and more, without giving it the resources to do so.”

Speaking about the national picture, Lib Dem Health Spokesperson and former health minister Norman Lamb said:

“The NHS was once the envy of the world and this pledge is the first step in restoring it to where it should be.

“A penny in the pound to save the NHS is money well spent in our view.

“But simply providing more money on its own is not enough and that’s why this is just the first step in our plan to protect health and care services in the long-term.”

Look out for the Liberal Democrats manifesto which will set out a ‘five-point recovery plan’ for NHS and social care services.

Paul Chandler said income tax will include a 1% rise on the basic, higher, and additional dividend rates of income tax in the next financial year.

When asked about the £70 million deficit in the budget of Royal Sussex County Hospital, Mr Chandler said: “Yes, the local NHS trust is in deficit – like many other trusts and so our additional money (estimated to be £4 billion) is intended to be on top of any measures that need to be taken to reduce current deficits.

“I suspect those deficits will be written off in due course by using contingency funds. The money that we are raising via a penny increase in the basic rate of income tax (about £4 billion) will be a committed and ring-fenced amount that will be added to the NHS base budget for every year.

“This contrasts with recent Labour budget increases on those earning over £80,000 which the party estimates will raise less than £2 billion a year (and which Labour has committed to spending several times over!)

“Additional funding for Brighton and Hove is calculated by assuming an even spread of the extra revenue across all the NHS trusts in England.”

Mr Chandler stood aside for the Greens in Brighton Pavilion earlier this month and stood in Kemptown in 2015.

Greens, Liberal Democrats and ex Labour PM Tony Blair all oppose Brexit

Reflecting on Brexit, Caroline Lucas said: “This General Election changes everything and the choices we all make matter like never before.” 

On Tuesday 2 May the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats agreed to fight for Britain to remain part of the single market. Both parties want freedom of movement to become part of the Brexit deal.

For the Liberal Democrats, this means that Britain should be an open, tolerant United Kingdom where the rights of EU citizens are guaranteed and British citizens can live, work, study and travel freely in Europe.

Green Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas, said she adds protection of the environment to Britain remaining a member of the single market and for continued freedom of movement.

Mrs Lucas joins Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats, in announcing a new pledge to give voters a referendum to ratify Brexit that will include the option to remain in the European Union.

A Labour Voice

Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair agrees with Mrs Lucas and Mr Farron. According to the Guardian he said that while the final exit deal had yet to be agreed, the perils of a hard Brexit were clear: “The single market put us in the Champions League of trading agreements. A free-trade agreement is like League One. We are relegating ourselves.” Brighton and Hove Albion supporters know what that feels like and they know the triumph of victory.

In an interview with Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer on Sunday 30 April, Mr Blair said: “If we really do Brexit and we do Brexit with withdrawal from the single market, you can forget her ideas (PM Theresa May) of a more cuddly capitalism. A low-tax, light regulation, offshore hub economy, that is where you will end up. This is the right-wing fantasy. It’s driven by the right of the Tory party and the cabal that runs the right-wing media in this country…”

“It’s certainly true we don’t have a God-given right to carry on as a competing party of government. But there’s no reason why Labour can’t become the repository of that new coalition of progressive forces that is available to us in today’s society and which is basically the same progressive coalition that brought us to power in 1997.”

A Liberal Democrat Voice

Liberal Democrat Caroline Hynds, Hove Parliamentary Candidate, is also fighting hard against Brexit. She said: “The Liberal Democrat position is clear and consistent. We have long been calling for a referendum on the terms of Brexit and believe the people should have the final say on the deal.

“Our party believes in an open, tolerant and united future with the UK staying in the single market, guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to stay in the UK, and protecting our rights to live, travel, study and work in Europe.

“Caroline Lucas’ stance on this issue – fighting against hard, divisive Brexit, making the positive case for Europe and giving the people the final say – is an area in which we have much common ground, reflected in Lib Dem PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) Paul Chandler standing down in Brighton Pavilion.

“I’d like to see more from Labour on this as they are, after all, the official party of opposition, but Peter Kyle’s hands are tied by the policies of Jeremy Corbyn.”

A Green Voice

Mrs Lucas, arguing for public ratification of Brexit said: “This General Election potentially changes everything.  We are at a crossroads – and the choices we make in the coming weeks will have huge consequences for the kind of country we’re going to be in the future.

“And the biggest choice we face is clearly about Brexit.

“Though my party fought hard for Britain to stay in the EU, and I voted against an unconditional triggering of Article 50, we accept, of course, that the referendum was an instruction to the Government to begin Brexit negotiations.

“We do not accept, however, that the decision should be irreversible. The referendum should be the start, not the end, of the democratic process.

“And it’s therefore right that people should have the right to a say on the final deal in a ratification referendum – with the option to remain in the EU if they so choose.

Caroline Lucas, Brighton Pavilion MP

“There are those who will say that this is contrary to the ‘will of the people’.

“But the claim that the referendum produced an irreversible verdict is a sham.

“At a General Election, voters obviously have the right to revisit the choice of government that they made at a previous election.

“It would be ludicrous to suggest people couldn’t change their minds about which way to vote, as facts change, and experience becomes clearer.

“And in the same way, it gives them the right to revisit a referendum result, as long as the parties are clear about the options on the table.

“Whoever forms a Government after June 8 will have a mandate to negotiate with the EU on our behalf.

“But we live in a democracy and it would be deeply undemocratic to impose the terms of any deal on Britain’s citizens, on our communities, young people, and businesses. So let’s give people honest choices.

“Let’s be clear that there is a wealth of difference between a soft Brexit, with membership of the Single Market, and an extreme Brexit – the one our Prime Minister is hell bent on pursuing, where we’re out of the single market, out of the Customs Union, ending free movement, and with our key social and environmental protections at risk.

“The day following the EU referendum the Green Party called for the British people to have a further say on the details of any Brexit deal.

“We stand by that position and today we pledge to voters to go further.

“Our election manifesto will not only include a ratification referendum, it will also explicitly make the option to remain in the EU part of such a ratification referendum.

“Greens proudly and passionately campaigned to remain in the EU. And, unlike some, we’ve not changed our deeply held belief that we are better off in the EU…

“And while we’ve all learned to treat polls with extreme caution, it might just turn out to be significant that last week’s Yougov poll showed, for the first time, a majority of British people now oppose Brexit.

“And maybe that’s because the costs of Brexit are becoming clearer.

Lib Dem EU street stall in George Street, Hove

“Inflation is already rising as imported goods rise in price.  Real wages are stagnating, investment is on hold.  All these indicators will be worse by 2020 when the election was meant to take place.

“The referendum outcome last June was never supposed to be the final word. It was the beginning of a conversation.

“And this General Election is a chance to reflect on what we have learned since then….

“That Brexit is being used by the Tories to drive through an ideological agenda that champions deregulation and privatisation on an unprecedented scale. That people were lied to.

“That there is no £350 million each week for the NHS.

“That the PM has no intention of seeking to enable us to remain members of the Single Market.

“That immigration is unlikely to be controlled because, as David Davis has himself acknowledged, it’s necessary for our economy

“And indeed it’s become clearer than ever that immigration is not to blame for the lack of social housing, GP appointments or local jobs – government spending cuts are.

“What’s also become clear is that the official opposition has been no serious opposition at all. The Labour Party haven’t only given the Tories a blank cheque for a hard Brexit. They’ve given them a lift to the bank and helped them cash it in.

“If Labour had made the case for staying in the Single Market, they could have made common cause with other opposition parties, and together we could have had a chance to avoid this most extreme of Brexits.

“That was a tragically missed opportunity.

“Meanwhile their unconditional support for triggering Article 50 meant that the opportunity to secure some key safeguards was squandered

“Why would the Government listen to calls for an immediate guarantee for EU nationals living in the UK, or for a meaningful parliamentary vote, if the opposition had already made clear its intention to support Article 50 in any and all circumstances?

“The General Election makes a different bigger future possible and it’s crucial that voters are not lied to again.

“Brexit is not inevitable. The triggering of Article 50 is not irreversible. And we still believe we are better off as members of the EU. Greens see the bigger picture and what we stand up for matters.

“Not based on political expediency but based on principle and evidence.

“The Conservatives could have sought to unite the country by bringing leavers and remainers together.

“Instead they chose to sow more discord and division – they cannot be trusted…

“Our pledge is about standing up for young people too. For the generations that have most to lose if we cut ourselves loose from the EU.

“Greens want young people to have big opportunities and a big future. And that means the right to study, travel, work, live and love across the EU.

“A Green vote on June 8 is a chance to stay part of the EU because young people matter. A Green vote on June 8 is a chance to stay part of the EU because a resilient, diverse economy matters.

“And it’s a vote for the certainty that we will stick to our principles and use the negotiation period triggered by article 50 to fight for a deal that puts social and environmental justice first.

If the Government is so convinced that they’ll get a decent deal then there’s no reason that they wouldn’t trust people to have a final say.

“If the Government believes its own rhetoric about the will of the people they’ll respect that electorates are free to change their minds.

“This General Election changes everything and the choices we all make matter like never before.”

While Conservative MP, Simon Kirby, voted to trigger article 50 in February which gave the Prime Minister legal authority to leave the EU, Labour’s Hove MP Peter Kyle and Mrs Lucas voted against it.

Brighton MP named environmental hero

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas was named Britain’s top environmental hero by the Environmental Funders Network to mark Earth Day yesterday (Saturday 22 April.)

The Green MP beat the veteran BBC broadcaster and naturalist Sir David Attenborough and fellow television presenter Chris Packham, a regular on Springwatch.

She also came in ahead of the investigative environmental journalist George Monbiot and celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

The accolade was announced by the Environmental Funders Network which is made up of leading environmental charities.

They praised the way that Ms Lucas had brought environmental issues into mainstream politics.

She said: “Thank you to the leaders of the UK environmental movement for recognising my work in trying to keep the environment at the top of the political agenda.

“Politics underpin every aspect of environmental protection but the threats are mounting under a government so committed to extracting fossil fuels from the ground at every turn, cutting investment in carbon-friendly energy production and now intent on tearing up the environmental protections we’ve fought to achieve in Europe, as it embarks on its hard and reckless Brexit.

“I’m flattered to be recognised like this by so many environmental leaders.”

The Environmental Funders Network asked 92 representatives from the sector who had done the most to advance the environmental agenda over the past three years.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Green Party invites politicians to build a progressive alliance on the left in Brighton and Hove and beyond

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas is calling on Labour and the Liberal Democrats to co-operate with the Green Party in key seats to defeat the Conservatives.

Ms Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, co-leaders of the Greens, have written to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Tim Farron, the Lib Dem leader, setting out their case.

They wrote: “Greens have a powerful and compelling vision for building a better, bolder Britain and, like you, will be using the election to set out our policies and ask for voters’ support.

“However, we also continue to believe there is a role for some form of co-operation in a handful of seats to create the best possible chance of beating the Tories and, crucially, of thereby delivering a fairer voting system.”

Ms Lucas said: “Britain is at a crossroads and this election will dictate the very future of our country.

“The Green Party will be standing on a unique policy platform – opposing the Tories’ Brexit and putting forward big ideas for a fairer economy and the protection of our environment.

“Our call for a meeting between party leaders isn’t about the Greens standing aside – it’s about giving people in this country the best possible chance of defeating the Conservatives and bringing in a truly democratic voting system.

“For the sake of our NHS, our welfare state and our environment we need progressive party leaders to ditch partisan politics just for a moment and think about how we can best stop the Tories from wrecking our country for generations to come.”

In response Simon Kirby, the Conservative MP for Brighton Kemptown, said: “The Green Party can do what they like but it’s a real privilege to stand for Parliament and I welcome as much choice for local people as possible.”

Peter Kyle, the Labour MP for Hove, said: “I do not believe that there is a public appetite for a progressive alliance.

“I desperately want to oust this Tory government, which has time and again put the interests of the Conservative Party above the interests of our country, and I believe that the Labour Party is the only Party that can achieve this.

“The Labour Party is the single greatest vehicle for social change that this country has ever seen and I am proud to stand on a Labour ticket once again.”

At a Sussex Progressives meeting in Brighton last week Mr Bartley spoke about electoral reform. Other speakers included Klina Jordan, from the Make Votes Matter campaign group, the Labour MP Stephen Kinnock and the Lib Dem MP Tom Brake.

Mr Bartley said that Britain was looking down the barrel of decades of Tory rule. He said that he was frightened for his community which led him to the conclusion that when you have common ground, you work together.

He said: “It is the desperation of decades of Conservative rule that is bringing people together.”

Mr Kinnock said politicians need to win the argument around the principle of proportional representation first. He said multi-member constituencies are very difficult but the closer a new system of PR is to Scottish and Welsh systems, the better it will be.

He criticised the current first past the post electoral system and asked why 100 (marginal) seats are the battleground for 650 seats in Parliament. He said: “Why is their vote more important than my vote?” He represents a Welsh constituency which has been Labour since the 1920s and is frustrated by the number of safe Labour and Conservative seats.

Mr Brake said politicians and pressure groups have to ensure all parties have proportional representation as a clear manifesto commitment ahead of the next general election on Thursday 08 June.

Last year the Greens stood aside in the Richmond Park by-election to try to minimise any split in the vote against Zac Goldsmith.

The Conservative MP resigned over the decision to give permission for a new runway at Heathrow, prompting a by-election in which he ran as an independent.

He was beaten by the Lib Dem Sarah Olney by just under 2,000 votes. At the previous election more than 3,500 people voted Green.

Since the conservative government were elected on 7 May 2015, there have been 11 by-elections and most MPs retained their seats. However, in Copeland Conservative Trudy Harrison overturned a Labour majority in a seat which has been Labour, in spite of boundary changes, since 1935.

A slightly shorter article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton craft brewer opens Bierhaus in Edward Street

A Brighton craft brewer has opened its own free house after taking over the site of a closed pub owned by Enterprise Inns.

Landlord Rhys Davies threw open the doors of Brighton Bierhaus last Tuesday (06 April) which prides itself on a rare selection of alcohol and a great buzz.

Brighton Bierhaus is on the corner of Edward St and George Street in Kemptown.

Brighton Bierhaus

 

 

 

 

 

Rhys said: “We are opening our very own, extraordinary tap!”

He hopes that the new developments on Circus Street and deeper into East Brighton will guarantee business for years to come.

However, the pub is proudly independent and embedded in the community of Brighton and Hove.

Rhys said: “We are all local people, there are not that many free houses or independent pubs left in Brighton. So we’re really happy to bring one struggling pub back for the community to enjoy.”

As well as their own brews, Brighton Bierhaus pours their favourite beers from across Europe and the United States. You can read a list of the beers on offer here.

The Wine too is on tap, and is delivered in key kegs, which Rhys said has revolutionised the way the beer industry works but are now proving a hit in the wine world. One keg contains 40 bottles of wine.

He explained: “All the money saved on packaging and transport is invested in the quality of the wine. It’s sourced by O.W. Loeb of London, so we get really good wine cheaper because you don’t have to buy it in bottles.”

Brighton Bier is a craft brewery supplying beer to wholesalers across the UK and as far afield as Singapore, Japan, France and Italy.

Publican Rhys Davies with team

Brighton Bier was founded in 2012 by head brewer Gary Sillence where he brewed the Kemptown Brewery beer at the Hand in Hand, Upper St. James’s street, and on the spare capacity ‘cuckoo’ brewed Brighton Bier.

In 2014 Brighton Bier merged with local wholesale business ‘withsoul’ owned by Stephen Whitehurst and Ollie Fisher. At the start of 2015 the new brewery was built at their base on the Belltower Industrial Estate on Roedean Road. It takes seven to twelve days to brew the beer, on their 2500L capacity brew house.

Previously Brighton Bierhaus was a tied pub called the Jury’s Out and owned by Enterprise Inns. CopseMill Properties had the foresight to buy the freehold because they wanted the venue to remain a pub and a community hub. Brighton Bierhaus is the only listed building on Edward Street where there were once 27 pubs and ‘beer houses’ and has been a pub since it was established as the Thurlow Arms in 1824.

An edited version of this article was published by Brighton and Hove News and can be read here.

Christians against Poverty, a Hove charity, helps people climb out of debt

A Hove church celebrated the work of Christians Against Poverty, a charity aimed at tackling poverty by providing debt relief on (Sunday 2 April).

Christians Against Poverty (CAP) is an ecumenical charity dedicated to tackling the root causes of poverty across the UK. They have a vision of a fairer society with a narrower gap between rich and poor.

Holland Road Baptist Church in Hove, celebrated the work of CAP Brighton and Hove today which is national “church action on poverty” day.

Christians Against Poverty helps 21,500 every year with debt by untangling the complex web of poverty, unemployment, debt and addiction which traps many people in Brighton and Hove and across the country.

While one in four people in wider society have a mental health problem, half of CAP’s clients say that mental ill-health has contributed to their hardship and 38 per cent have considered committing suicide as a way out.

Carol Topping with CAP Manager Sue Stone

Carol Topping and her husband got into trouble when her husband’s business failed and they started relying on benefits. They claimed council tax, housing benefit and income support without telling the council about their empty (uninhabitable) second home. The council classifies any property as an asset but because it was not rented out and was not providing them with any income, Mr and Mrs Topping did not realise that they needed to declare it.

Mrs Topping, who now goes to Holland Road Baptist Church, said: “Two and a half years ago suddenly we had a debt of £68,000 plonked on us and were told to go to court. The debt is paid off now. My husband sold the property but it was hard. We had a barrister in the end and CAP was there.

“Christians Against Poverty were brilliant. It was just having someone there who didn’t judge you. It’s just so nice for people to look at you and see you as you.”

The Crown Prosecution Service referred the couple to the county court because the debt was such a large sum of money. Both the judge and barrister agreed that Mr and Mrs Topping had not intended to defraud the benefits system so the couple were awarded a six-month suspended sentence which will be spent in two years if they do not offend again.

If you would like to donate to CAP Brighton and Hove, you can do so here.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

“Love of your country is part of your faith” Muslim cleric tells followers

Wednesday marked the end of a tumultuous week in London when Parliament was attacked by a lone terrorist, women stood together on Westminster Bridge to remember the victims and a young Muslim woman was vilified in the press.

Meanwhile, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, hosted the 14th National Peace Symposium last Saturday 25 March and the fifth Khalifa (Caliph), His Holiness, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad delivered the keynote address.

Fifth Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad

More than 1000 people, from 30 countries, including over 600 non-Ahmadi guests and dignitaries of many faiths were invited to the Baitul Futuh Mosque in South London. This year’s theme was global conflict and the need for justice.

Caliph Masroor Ahmad began by condemning last week’s terrorist attack in London as a “barbaric atrocity” and described all forms of extremism and terrorism as a complete violation of Islamic teachings. He reminded delegates of the sanctity of life enshrined in the Quran: ‘To kill a person, is to kill all of humanity but to save a single human being, is to save all humanity.’ (Quran 5:32) No matter what terrorists may claim, under no circumstances are indiscriminate attacks or killings ever justified.”

When speaking to the press, the Caliph was very clear about extremism: “Love of your country is part of your faith. That is what I believe. You give services so that you can be a good asset to the country. Integration does not mean you force a lady to remove the hijab or force people to drink alcohol, that is not integration. Be an asset to the country. Be law-abiding, never break the law.”

Press conference

He urged Muslims to understand and follow the Quran, and said: “The first jihad is to reform yourself and then to love and respect one another. Follow the system within your community. You have to follow the law of the land. Try to be a peaceful citizen of the country where you live.”

Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadi community explained this further: “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.”

If an Ahmadi member breaks the law, the Caliph said, he or she will be ex-communicated.

Ahmadiyya Peace Symposium 2017

But he told delegates research suggested that some Muslim youths had been radicalised because they felt their religious beliefs had been mocked and ridiculed in the Western world.

He said: “In no way does this justify or excuse them and they remain culpable and responsible for their actions. Yet common sense dictates that we should not pour petrol on an open flame. Rather, we should seek mutual understanding, respect the beliefs of others and try to find common ground.”

However, disenfranchised young people are not the only people at fault: “Regrettably, we often hear politicians and leaders making needlessly inflammatory statements that are beholden not to the truth, but to their own political interests.”

He cited the arms trade as a clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. According to the Caliph, this is often because of vested interests of politicians, businesspeople and the media. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. A survivor of Hiroshima, Ms. Setsuko Thurlow was awarded the Ahmadiyya Muslim Prize for the Advancement of Peace because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.

Ms. Setsuko Thurlow received the peace prize

An ardent campaigner for peace and reconciliation, the Caliph 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.  

“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.”

Ignore a lone terrorist in Westminster or let the extremists win

Prime Minister Theresa May is right to say we must ignore the terrorists and continue everyday life as normal. If we overreact, the extremists will have won. However, ignoring them also means resolutely avoiding the temptation to introduce more draconian anti-terror legislation.

Yesterday’s attacker may well have had Parliament as his end destination but he killed and injured 43 people from ten different countries. It was an indiscriminate act of senseless brutality on multicultural Britain. Mrs May was right to say it was an attack on free people everywhere.

She will be keen, even under pressure, to be seen to be doing something. But if the Prime Minister wants to be the protector of our freedom and democracy as well as law and order, she must be careful.

Policies that single people out from certain nations could foster islamophobia and embed prejudice. For example, blindly following the United States and banning electronic devices on some flights earlier this week sends out a message that passengers from these countries are dangerous.

Aligning herself too closely with US President Donald Trump could be political suicide for Mrs May.

Instead she should look to the many role models in Europe, not least German Chancellor Angela Merkel. After all Mrs May campaigned to remain in the European Union. It is ironic that she has been tasked with the poisoned chalice of Brexit.

Leaving the EU will make it more difficult to counter terrorism without robust new agreements.

We live in a liberal democracy, not a surveillance society, and this is what we must protect.