Tag Archives: Caroline Lucas

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.)

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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.”

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.’

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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.”

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.

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.

“Government is redefining the very idea of what a university is” – Tom Hickey

Mr Hickey who teaches critical theory, culture and politics at the University of Brighton criticised the white paper currently before Parliament. He said it aims to: “significantly transform and partially dissolve universities by opening them up to private sector companies.”

Mr Hickey was speaking to staff from the Universities of Brighton and Sussex who gathered at the Old Ship Hotel on Wednesday 25 June for the first of a two day strike.

Until 27 May 2016 029

He argues that this would result in a two-tier education system where students from rich universities can choose their university but poorer students would end up with cheaper, “bucket shop degrees from universities at the very bottom of the system.”

Mr Hickey condemned the “disaggregation and destruction of national common education available to everyone.” He will publish an alternative white paper next week.

Law Lecturer Tom Frost from the University of Sussex did a quick key word search of the white paper and found the words “competition” and “markets” mentioned 50 times each while “lecturer” and “academic freedom” were only mentioned once each.

Members of UCU, the University and College Union were striking about changes to their terms and conditions including a pay rise of 1.1% compared with 6.1% pay rise awarded to vice chancellors.

Some university staff are on zero hours contracts which Mr Frost says is unacceptable given the £1.8 billion of reserves. The union is campaigning for secure, permanent jobs and an end to casual employment. Research by UCU estimates that 48.7% of staff across the UK higher education sector are employed on some form of casual contract.

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A university spokesperson said: “The University of Brighton is bound by national agreements and cannot negotiate or settle pay claims outside of this arrangement. The unions locally and the University of Brighton agreed to be part of national pay negotiations.

Pay bargaining for UK universities is conducted by the UCEA nationally and has to take into account the financial circumstances of each of the 150 universities.”

However, protestors are also campaigning to close the 12.6% pay gap between men and women by 2020 which is the 50 year anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

Lizzie Seal who lectures in sociology and criminology at the University of Sussex said under a quarter of professors in universities are women. This led her to conclude: “Either men are better than women or women are facing structural discrimination.”

A spokesperson from the University of Sussex said: “The University of Sussex strongly supports and is committed to equal pay for its staff.

“Two equal pay reviews in 2007 and 2011 established that the University is compliant with the Equality Act 2010 (formerly the Equal Pay Act 1970) and there was no systematic pattern of pay gaps in favour of one gender.  The University has committed to a further review in 2016 which will also be externally run.”

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Brighton MP Caroline Lucas said in support of the strike: “Students and higher education are under attack on too many fronts and the need to stand up and take action on education remains as strong as ever: not least because this month’s White Paper establishes that the Tories’ drive to commercialise and marketise education is as strong as ever…

“That is, the White Paper approaches education as an opportunity for profit. And education should not be about profit any more than it should be treated as a game – as you all know it’s about much more than that. It’s about a future for students and jobs and innovation, of course but within a solid future for the UK’s skills base and for the quality of citizenship.

“Education is about world-class teaching and research that can keep such a status only if staff and students are given the much-needed “academic freedom” that’s needed as a bedrock, rather than ultimatums around maximizing profit.

“And, of course, there’s a more practical aspect if there’s to be a real future for higher education, and that’s the need for fair pay, and for employers to take meaningful action to end casualization and the gender pay gap.

“This is badly needed so that university staff can afford to continue their excellent work, and so that students can realistically consider roles in higher education and academia as a future career.

So, for a viable future and for a fairer today, I’ll continue to stand alongside you.”

Natalia Cecire, University of Sussex lecturer in English and American Studies said staff need to communicate clearly with students. “Our labour conditions are their future labour conditions.”

Brighton and Hove Buses did not stop at the Universities on Wednesday morning in solidarity with academics on strike.

Students studying moving image and photography are holding a show from Saturday 4 June to Sunday 12 June at the University of Brighton site on Edward Street.

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

Cyclists arrive soaked to the skin but exhilarated in their fight to save the planet

Soaking cyclists, wet but exhilarated, huddled into the Brighthelm Centre after braving the elements on their first leg of a four-day journey to Paris. Together they will cycle 25,000 miles.

Cyclists of all ages and from all corners of the country met in London – they came from Bristol, Cambridge and Scotland – and rode through snow and at night all week to reach Brighton yesterday (Sunday 6 December).

Duncan Blinkhorn, who chairs Brighton’s Climate Action Network and Time to Cycle and who is colloquially known as “Mr Bike Train” said: “It was a tough ride, the longest of all the days (from London to Brighton). The wind was against us all the way. It was drizzling or raining and quite a test for a lot of people.”

Brighton activists, Duncan Blinkhorn, Rebecca Webb and Andy Newsham
Brighton activists, Duncan Blinkhorn, Rebecca Webb and Andy Newsham

The team will have flags and a sound system as well as a slide show of images projecting photographic messages on to buildings when they arrive in Paris.

Rebecca Webb said: “It’s great, that feeling of doing something together. Everyone is smiling. When somebody’s tyre went flat or when a horse stopped, everyone stopped.”

Mr Blinkhorn said: “As a collective, there is a power and resilience. On your own, you would be very miserable because of the weather.”

He said that environmentalists have been engaged in this struggle and campaign for climate change for 20 years.

Cyclists arriving at the Brighthelm

The cyclists were greeted by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

She said: “It is wonderful to feel the energy and excitement in the room. It is sheeting down with rain and the cyclists are taking inspiration from each other.

“We need to wake up and shift to a zero-carbon world. Whatever you do, you think it is not enough. Small differences make a difference. Be empowered to have a conversation.

“Instal solar panels, eat less meat, recognise the need for public transport. There is value in all of those options.

“Do what you can. Don’t do nothing. You can’t do everything.

“I feel overawed by the task at hand and it can be easy to be disempowered.”

When asked about the talks under way at the Climate Change Summit in Paris, Caroline Lucas said: “There is no binding agreement to keep the temperature below at least two degrees, no commitment on finance and no compensation to poorer countries.

“But we are nearer at this summit in Paris than before during the climate change talks in Copenhagen.”

The Reverend Alex Mabbs, minister of the Brighthelm Centre with a specific responsibility for climate change, welcomed everyone including a team of cyclists from Edinburgh and said that a couple had cycled all the way to Paris from Vietnam.

He said: “Who needs a third runway at Heathrow when we have a bike? We choose co-operation and peace. There is a depth of community here that we didn’t know was possible.

We bring a little bit of tomorrow, today, with every turn of the wheel.”

Close up of cyclists arriving at the Brighthelm

First published in Brighton and Hove News on Monday 7 December, read the full article here.