Tactical voting vs genuine progressive alliance

Posted in Uncategorized on April 29, 2017 by Theo Simon

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Theo with other Unite members in 2013, lobbying the then LibDem MPs office in Frome to keep the Agricultural Workers Wages Board, which the LibDem/Tory coalition abolished.

Some people in Somerton & Frome are unclear about the difference between “tactical voting” and a ‘Progressive Alliance”.  This is how I see it.

Tactical voting means voting for something you don’t really like in order to prevent something you like even less. For 10 years in Somerton & Frome, trade unionists, greens, socialists and others swallowed their reservations and voted for the LibDem, just to keep the Conservative out.

After our LibDem MP joined a coalition with David Cameron’s Conservative government, we decided we’d had enough. The LibDems broke their pledge to young people and made them pay for further education. They broke their promise to defend the board which set farm workers wages, and abolished it. They pushed through EDF’s disasterous Hinkley C nuclear power station project in Somerset. And they allowed the government to follow “austerity” policies, making the least well-off pay the heaviest price for the rich people’s crisis.

There are still times and places in this country where tactical voting might make sense to someone as an option, if the vote difference was really finely balanced between a Tory and one other candidate. People who are most vulnerable to the damaging effects of a Hard Brexit are especially considering this. But I don’t think that’s the situation in Somerton & Frome, looking at the figures from 2015, and factoring in the support for Brexit in South Somerset.

Even if it was, there is no reason why other parties should go along with it. We join and fund parties that stand in elections to fight for principles and policies we think are right, and in our dysfunctional democracy, that is the best chance we get to have our voices heard and build support for them. All the non-Tory candidates in this election will be arguing against a wreckless, non-inclusive Brexit deal.

In Somerton & Frome, people have joined our party and given their money and time to making it stronger because that is what they are committed to and believe in. The same is true of the Labour Party here I am sure. However, because we want to prevent an even stronger Conservative government from attacking our environment and employment rights, and because we want to make sure that a tyrannical Teresa May can’t drag us into the misery of a hard Brexit, my Green Party has pushed for co-operation between non-Tory parties (the so-called “progressive” parties) around the country to make all our votes count, either through forming an alliance, electoral pacts, or other trade-offs.

In Somerton & Frome we think that would mean agreeing a unity candidate between the parties, before the nominations close on May 11th, so that there was a straight choice between supporting Teresa May’s candidate or not supporting her or him on the ballot paper. But any agreement between parties has to be a two-way thing, because any party foregoing votes would be sacrificing the hard work of its members and the opportunity that an election gives them to put their views to the people.

It’s one thing to decide to vote tactically yourself – your vote is the one tiny bit of power you have been given to make a difference, and it is your sovereign choice how you cast it. People died to win you that right.

But it is quite another thing to expect other parties to sacrifice their most cherished principles and hard work to support your view. Tactical voting for a candidate you don’t really support is not “progressive” – it is a desperate act. Demanding that candidates don’t promote their views because you are feeling desperate is not the same as building a real alliance. Telling people they should hold their nose and vote for what they don’t believe in is disempowering and ultimately corrupts our democracy even more.

We are tired of being told that the future of the very planet that supports our lives or the pain of the low-paid and of the vulnerable needs to take second place to the machinations of privileged people for “tactical” reasons. The arctic ice-cap is melting, and people are going hungry in one of the richest countries on the planet. We are not going to play ball anymore, because we can see that the game has been rigged, and if we politely muffle our voices any longer then everyone, including even the rich and privileged, will be the loser.

 

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A Unity Candidate for Somerton & Frome

Posted in Uncategorized on April 26, 2017 by Theo Simon

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It will be very difficult indeed for any parliamentary candidate to unseat the Conservative MP for Somerton & Frome on June 8th, unless the 3 “progressive” parties can all agree one candidate and unite their efforts. That choice shouldn’t just be about numbers but about the current position of the parties and their candidates on the ground.

Teresa May’s attempted power-grab on June 8th aims at strengthening the parliamentary majority of a reckless, self-serving and reactionary Conservative government for the next 5 years, to the detriment of our communities, our island and our planet.

Nationally and locally, the Greens have given the lead in calling for opposition parties to maximise the impact of anti-Tory votes by clearing the field to fight the election behind one progressive or “unity” candidate in their constituency. We do this because if inequality, austerity, xenophobia and environmental destruction continue unchallenged, everybody’s future will be in equal jeopardy.

2015 election result in Somerton and Frome
Warburton, Conservative Party.                 31960.     53%
David Rendel. Liberal Democrats               11692      19%
Alan Dimmick. UK Independence Party.     6439.     11%
Theo Simon. Green Party.                               5434.       9%
David Oakensen. Labour Party.                    4419.       7%
(Ian Paul Angell. Independent.  1%)

In Somerton & Frome, where the non-Tory, non-UKIP vote was split between LibDems, Labour and the Green Party, the question everyone is asking is can we do it, and which candidate should we unite behind? If we can achieve a unity candidate here, with agreement of the 3 parties, the ripples will travel well beyond Somerton & Frome.

Some party activists may say that there are organisational or time reasons why they couldn’t go along with finding a common candidate to unseat Conservative MP David Warburton. But if that’s the only way we could feasibly replace him, then, before the nominations deadline on May 11th, we should keep trying to find creative ways around those obstacles, for the common good of the constituency. The situation is far too serious not to try and have a serious plan..

We need to face the reality that none of our parties can win in Somerton & Frome on their own, not even the LibDems who lost their parliamentary seat 2 years ago to the Conservatives. In my opinion, socially-networked “tactical voting” plans will not be enough, because too many voters, particularly Labour supporters, will be resistant to voting LibDem for historical reasons. And although it’s possible that Labour could take a bigger share this time, they could not realistically expect to win, unless there was no LibDem or Green in the field. Whatever other party advantages we may gain, none of the progressive candidates can win the election except as the only candidate fighting. Equally, no party which stands down alone will gain any benefit.

It won’t surprise anybody that I think the best unity candidate would be me Theo Simon, the current Green Party candidate. That’s because those Labour and LibDem voters who would not feel comfortable with eachother,  could find plenty they liked about voting for me.  So also could disillusioned Tory remain-voters and some anti-establishment Ukippers. I am the only candidate who has already established an identity in the public eye here, and I would have the enthusiastic, active and growing organisation of the local Green Parties and their allies already behind me.

However, my own pitch aside, if any unity candidate out of the current 3 was actually agreed between Labour, LibDems, and my own party, I would support them. It may or may not mean we actually unseat David Warburton. But what I hope for at the very least is that we all wake up on June 9th having strengthened our unity as the democratic opposition in Somerton & Frome, and having shown the electorate and the world at large that there are people in politics here who are ready for rational thinking and co-operation to advance the common good.

The last gasp for Hinkley C?

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2016 by Theo Simon

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This could be the week that EDF’s new nuclear ambition in Britain collapses, and with it, the climate-killing policies of our government. And this could be the week that YOU help make this happen!

On Tuesday Feb 16 in France, EDF’s board will meet and try to make their postponed ‘final decision’ about whether to go any further with the ill-fated Hinkley C new nuclear plant. The Board of the state-owned company is split, with union reps warning that the Somerset project could bankrupt EDF, who already face massive financial difficulties.

The repeatedly delayed decision is now on a knife-edge – bad news for the Tories, but brilliant news for renewables and everyone who wants a safe, clean, affordable and democratic power supply.

So the people who work on the campaign against Hinkley C want you to help us tip the balance, by joining a protest at an EDF premises on Monday 15th Feb, or doing one of your own; By emailing French representatives and executives; By spreading information far and wide.

If EDF pull the plug on their Hinkley C pipe-dream on Tuesday, the Sizewell B plans will follow, and the energy strategy of the Tories will be in tatters. Hitachi, chosen to build another new nuclear plant at Wylfa, will think again. Osborne will be finished, and all the Tories will have left is a dash for gas and fracking, (which looks to be meeting unbeatable resistance anyway).

The end of Hinkley C will open the way for a massive (and cheaper) renewables roll-out in the southwest and beyond, 100s of thousands of real climate jobs, the freeing up of grid capacity currently reserved for new nuclear – and a few less nuclear hazards on the horizon of our rapidly changing world.

So before the Tuesday meeting, we need to show the decision-makers in France that the project is unpopular and will be resisted in the UK, and remind the French people, via their media, that THEY will also have to pay for EDF’s folly, if the French state decides to bail out EDF’s doomed Hinkley C adventure any longer.

The only people who still pretend to believe in Hinkley C are a handful of cronies around George Osborne, some Somerset councillors whose reputations are at stake, and part of the EDF executive. Seeing the delays and spiralling costs of their other 2 projects in Finland and France, public confidence in EDF’s reactors has ebbed away. The technology itself is now obsolete, before it has even been completed.

The bottom line is that despite massive subsidies and price-fixing by the UK govt, despite a promise last year of 30% investment from China’s nuclear weapon manufacturers, and despite our planning officials and industry regulators breaking every rule in the book to open the way for EDF, the company STILL can’t raise enough cash to realistically commit to beginning construction.

It would be a shame to waste this opportunity to put the old radioactive white elephant out of its misery. Look for updates and posts at one of the following – they will be announcing a protest event in the southwest for Monday 15th Feb, and hopefully posting some email addresses if they can locate them. Or else, just find your local EDF shop or offices, and pull together some people for your own event, take pictures, with placards in French as well as English, share and tell the media.

It’s just one day, but what you do on Monday 15th Feb could change our future for the better. Gotta be worth a shot!

Look for updates about demo and email addresses on these Facebook sites:

Stop Hinkley Facebook

Osborne’s NRG Folly

South West Against Nuclear (SWAN) Facebook

Support the Trident Two!

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2015 by Theo Simon

Trident protestors on trial in Plymouth, Tuesday 8th September Continue reading

Michael Eavis backs Trident protest neighbour Theo

Posted in Uncategorized on May 15, 2015 by Theo Simon
Farmer Michael Eavis with neighbour Theo Simon in front of Gastonbury Festival's Pyramid Stage.
Farmer Michael Eavis with neighbour Theo Simon in front of Gastonbury Festival’s Pyramid Stage.

“I’m backing my neighbours stand against Trident” 

Michael Eavis lends his support to Theo Simon in his case at the weapons trial in Plymouth on the 19th of May.

Theo was arrested in July 2014 after joining a blockade of the Trident nuclear weapons dock at Devonport in Plymouth. He has been charged with interrupting “lawful work” on the missile system, but intends to challenge the lawfulness of any work on nuclear weapons at his trial in Plymouth on May 19th.

Award-winning farmer Michael Eavis has been a lifelong opponent of nuclear weapons, and Glastonbury Festival has showcased the anti-nuclear cause since its beginning, regularly donating to CND.

“Over forty years ago we were young parents worried stiff about the possibility of an imminent nuclear war. We joined forces with the Anti-Vietnam War crowd to form the C.N.D movement and built huge numbers of supporters.”
“I know a lot of people thought we were nutters from the loony left. But the Vietnam war, and all of the wars since have been proven to have been horribly futile. Is it just a possibility that as we were right then, couldn’t we be right now?”
“Trident missiles are going to cost us zillions to upgrade, and clearly the usefulness of Trident in preventing war has been completely flawed. We’ve had more wars since the nuclear deterrent than ever in our history.”

Theo plays in the local band ‘Seize the Day’ who perform regularly on Green Field stages at the Festival. After they discussed the case, Michael wanted to support Theo’s stand by offering to help with his costs, should he lose his case in the court next week.

My case against Trident in Plymouth, 19/5/15

Posted in Uncategorized on May 14, 2015 by Theo Simon

My case against Trident in Plymouth, 19/5/15

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In July last year, I was arrested for blocking the gate of Devonport Docks, where the Trident nuclear weapons fleet is serviced. This was part of my long-running commitment to raise awareness about the proposed Trident renewal and to challenge it’s legality through peaceful protest. There is due to be a one or two day trial with me and my co-defendant Nikki Clarke at Plymouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday May 19th.

The government’s position is that I was breaking the law, by disrupting “lawful work” on the HMS Vengeance submarine. My position is that it is the government who are breaking an international treaty by upgrading Britain’s nuclear arsenal, and that work on maintaining a nuclear weapons systems is itself unlawful.

At my trial three expert witnesses will testify on international humanitarian law, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the threat that holding nuclear weapons poses to our security and safety in the southwest. Because it is an indiscriminate “Weapon of Mass destruction”, the Trident warheads could never be fired without committing a crime against humanity, as set out by the International Court of Justice.

This makes it all the more outrageous that the other major English political parties are prepared to commit between 75 and 100 billion of public money to the renewal of Trident missiles, while there is allegedly not enough money to pay our nurses a fair wage, upgrade our flood defences or keep our public services running.

I am proud of the stand I have taken over Trident – the planned expenditure is a public scandal and the open flouting of our commitment to international law makes the world a more dangerous place for our children. I have every hope of proving my case in court, but if the District Judge still finds against me, the penalty will be a fine of up to £2,500.

My neighbour Michael Eavis, award winning farmer and Glastonbury Festival host, has very kindly offered to pay any fine arising from my case, as he strongly agrees with me that Britain’s Trident WMD should be scrapped, and the money should be spent instead on maintaining and upgrading the essential public services we all need.

EDF’s other Nuclear projects – years overdue and billions over budget.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 21, 2014 by Theo Simon

Flamanville EPR: the four curses of a controversial site
Nov 19 2014 Le Monde (Translation)

– By Audrey Garric and Jean-Michel Bezat

http://www.lemonde.fr/economie/article/2014/11/19/epr-de-flamanville-les-quatre-maledictions-d-un-chantier-controverse_4526032_3234.html

The sky darkens even further above the Flamanville 3 site (Manche). After the announcement by EDF on Nov 18, of a new delay, its commencement is now expected in 2017, ten years after the start of work in 2007. And the bill – already overbudget – should slip higher. “The re-estimation of costs is ongoing. The costings will be announced in the coming months, “said EDF on Wednesday, November 19th.This delay, associated with many upsets at the site and the problems of equipment supplied by Areva, has pushed the cost of the project initially set at €3.3 billion to over €9 billion. These overruns will inevitably have an impact on electricity costs to consumers.

The case of Flamanville is similar to the Finnish Olkiluoto site also led by Areva, which is also accused of delays (nine years) and cost overruns that have nearly tripled since 2005.

The European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) is the showcase of the French nuclear industry, designed by Areva and Germany’s Siemens in the 1990s, and is expected to include significant improvements in terms of safety. When melting, the heart of the reactor – which occurred at the Fukushima plant in Japan in March 2011 – the highly radioactive magma could theoretically be trapped in a “corium spreading containment” . In addition, the EPR has four independent cooling circuits. And the cooling ponds for spent fuel should be protected by a containment. In the end, according to EDF, the risk of proliferation of radioactive materials would be virtually nil as external aggressions (earthquake, flood or fall of a jumbo jet). EDF also states that the Areva EPR will consume about 15% less fuel for the same output power, and produce 10% less long-lived radioactive waste. The reactor, with a capacity of 1650 megawatts (MW) against 1450 for the most powerful now), was designed to withstand internal and external accidents, says EDF and Areva.

However the EPR is becoming one of the most maligned nuclear technologies, and the most expensive one.

1. A calendar constantly postponed

The work was initiated in 2007 after the green light by the French government of Jean-Pierre Raffarin in 2004. EDF at the time had planned five years’ work and connection to the grid in 2012. Then, quickly, the deadline was extended to 2014. In 2011, this was extended to 2016. Since then, new problems on the site, and recent heavy equipment problems, such as the lid and elements of the steel vessel in which fission occurs, caused an EDF, “a shift in the planning of the site “with starting the reactors in 2017. EDF says this time the delays are due to Areva, not Bouygues and its subcontractors providing the civil engineering.

2. Costs multiplied by three

In 2005, the price of Flamanville 3 was originally estimated at €3.3 billion, as at Olkiluoto. In 2008, a year after the start of construction, the bill rose to over €4 billion: EDF said this was due to the need to take account of changes in the price of concrete and steel. During 2009 costs increased from €4 to €6.5 billion and in December 2012, EDF announced a further increase by €2 billion to €8.5 billion.

Do we stop here? Nothing is less certain, since “one year’s delay can cost €700 to 800 million euros ” according to a nuclear expert, partly because the cost of labour. During the most active periods, more than 3,600 workers, technicians and engineers daily enter the Normandy site, one of the largest worksites in Europe.

In 2012 the Court of Auditors (https://www.ccomptes.fr/Publications/Publications/Les-couts-de-la-filiere-electro-nucleaire) and in 2014 the French parliamentary commission of inquiry into the cost of nuclear power, headed by MP François Brottes (Parti Socialiste, Isère) stressed “a number of uncertainties” in the industry of the atom and expressed “concern” about the evolution of the costs of the industry in France (http://www3.reuters.fr/graphiques/Rapport_nucl%C3%A9aire.pdf)

3. Many manufacturing defects

Since the construction start of the EPR in December 2007, the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN), which monitors the site twice a month, has raised hundreds of construction faults during inspection debriefings. The most recent were cracks in three areas of the concrete in reactor containment, which took three months to be repaired as indicated by EDF in June 2014, partially confirming a report in Le Canard Enchaîné which spoke of “holes 42 centimeters in size.” (http://www.lemoniteur.fr/137-energie/article/actualite/24662425-reacteur-epr-de-flamanville-nouvelles-malfacons-du-beton)

In 2013, the reactor dome was damaged by falling gear; in 2011 and 2012, the ASN pointed repeatedly to “defects” and “anomalies” in concreting, reinforcing and welding which could “prejudice the final quality of the structures.” There was talk of holes in concrete and honeycombs (areas lacking cement). The concrete reactor structure has even been suspended three times, the last for a year in 2012. The plan submitted for EDF was then deemed “satisfactory” by the ASN.

4. The problem of outsourcing

In 2011, ASN denounced “a lack of skills, a lack of training in safety culture” and ” gaps in EDF’s monitoring of subcontractors.” The shipyard employs up to 3,600 people, including 2,850 employees of EDF subcontracting companies. 19% of these subcontract employees are employed by foreign companies, of which more than 80% are Portuguese (about 600 people). The Flamanville EPR has also been the subject of preliminary investigations and trials after the accidental deaths of two workers in January and June 2011, and offences – work hidden and under-reporting of accidents – identified by ASN. http://www.lefigaro.fr/societes/2011/06/24/04015-20110624ARTFIG00348-accidents-sur-le-site-de-l-epr-bouygues-est-mis-en-cause.php

Last April, the French Criminal Court sentenced Cherbourg Bouygues Public Works, responsible for coordinating the security of civil engineering on site, to a fine of €75,000 and a crane operator to three months in prison for the accidental death of a 37 year old worker, in January 2011, who had fallen 15 meters: the bridge on which he was working had been hit by the crane.

As part of “hidden work”, the companies Bouygues and Atlanco Elco are now accused of illegally employing 460 Romanian and Polish workers. The trial has been postponed to March 2015, in order to find the Atlanco company in the interim. The search for this international company, which has not responded to the court summons, will now go through ” international agreements”, that is to say, French, Irish and Cypriot Ministries of Justice – the Atlanco seat being located in one of these countries.

by Audrey Garric. Journalist in the service of World Watch Planet
http://www.lemonde.fr/journaliste/audrey-garric/
Follow this reporter on Twitter https://twitter.com/audreygarric

and by Jean-Michel Bezat http://www.lemonde.fr/journaliste/jean-michel-bezat/