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.”