Friday, 26 March 2010

Breaking news from Mumsnet!

Here's some breaking news from Islington Green Party...

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas today became the first leader of a national political party to give a commitment to save the Whittington A&E and maternity units.

In a live webchat on Mumsnet, the country’s most popular meeting point for parents on the internet, this afternoon (Friday 26 March), Dr Lucas committed:

-to halt with immediate effect the current process to close the Whittington A&E and maternity and ensure that all future plans are evidence-based, transparent, made publicly available and subject to extensive and meaningful public consultation
-not to close any A&E and maternity unit in North London until alternatives are firmly in place, have been sufficiently tested and proven by independent analysis not to have any averse effect on the treatment of patients

Sara Hall, expectant mother and local campaigner who is the author of the ‘Whittingtonmum’ blog, said:

"It is fantastic that Caroline Lucas has given us her commitment to halt the current proposals to close the 24-hour A&E and maternity services at the Whittington hospital. Local people are dismayed by the proposals: They are not based on evidence, not led by clinicians and not transparent. They must be stopped. I hope that Nick Clegg, Gordon Brown and David Cameron will follow the lead of Caroline Lucas and assure us, the residents of North London, that they will not allow our lives to be put at risk. We need their commitment to not close the Whittington A&E and maternity services should their party form the next government – our lives depend on it.”

Emma Dixon, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for Islington North added:

“Politicians from all four parties locally have been working really hard to save the Whittington. Now it’s time for the party leaders to make it clear where they stand. Voters will want to know before the election what their votes will mean for the Whittington.”

Monday, 22 March 2010


Click here to see the video wall

A few weeks ago I had the rather unnerving experience of recording a video interview for Winkball who are aiming to record video messages from all the 2010 general election candidates.

Winkball's slogan is 'communicate happiness' - perhaps rather a tall order when screening a lot of politicians telling us how wonderful they are! Anyway, my Labour and Lib Dem opposite numbers have now recorded their contributions so you can have a look and see what you think. We'll let you know if and when the Conservative candidate has a go!

A Million Voices for Public Services

I recently signed up to Unison's excellent campaign, A Million Voices for Public Services. Celebrities including Jo Brand and Ken Livingstone as well as hundreds of ordinary people are speaking up for local public services now - before it's too late.

There are real, credible alternatives to cuts and privatisation of public services - like a Robin Hood tax on banks and financial institutions, and measures to make our tax system fairer by ending tax avoidance by the very wealthy. Economists and the IMF are warning that large cuts now could push the economy back into recession. And Britain is one of only two G20 countries which is not planning a fiscal stimulus - investment in job creation to boost the economy - this year. In France for example, the government has set up a huge investment fund to stimulate the growth that can bring jobs. And we in the Green Party have set out our plan for creating a million jobs through investment in renewable energy, housing, public transport and social care.

We're already seeing threatened cuts to local health services at the Whittington. But cuts could hit people performing all kinds of other vital local public servies, from lollipop ladies to police community support officers, from school cooks to hospital porters. Please add your voice to Unison's campaign today!

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Cllr Donna Boffa - a tribute

The sad death of Cllr Donna Boffa on Friday, following a long illness, is one of those moments when we are reminded of the dedication of all those who take time out of their own busy lives to serve their community. It is a time to pay tribute to all those who work tirelessly for others, as Donna did.

We are about to start the election campaign which will decide who runs Islington for the next four years. Candidates from all parties will try to highlight their own party's achievements and claim credit for the things that are going right in Islington, while attempting not to recognise the contribution made by activists from other parties. But underneath the confrontational facade that is electoral politics in Britain, there will be over 200 individuals offering themselves to their community to spend four years as their representatives in the Council chamber.

Most of those individuals will not be elected, but many of them will continue to work for their communities - day in, day out - as Donna Boffa did for years before she became a councillor. As we begin this election campaign, let's take a moment to remember Donna and to celebrate the commitment that she made and hundreds of others continue to make to communities across Islington.

Highbury Green News, Safer Streets for Blackstock Road

We had a large team out yesterday delivering the new edition of Highbury Green News and we'll be out again today, so look out for it on your doormat.

Thanks to all the volunteers (some of whom are pictured, right) who helped.

Meanwhile, some of us were out collecting even more signatures on our petition to make sure that Blackstock Road, Highbury Park and Highbury Grove are included in the borough-wide 20-mile-an-hour zone.

The Council adopted Cllr Katie Dawson's plan to become the country's first 20-mile-an-hour borough earlier in the year, but they've excluded some roads including Blackstock Road, Highbury Park and Highbury Grove.

Given that there are four primary schools, two secondary schools and two important shopping areas on this stretch of road - not to mention the hundreds of people who live here - we're getting great support for our campaign to bring the benefits of safer of streets to this part of the borough.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Gordon's Mothers Day Promises

On mothers' day, Gordon Brown went online with Netmums to make a series of 'promises'.

The first was that maternity services 'should definitely remain a priority'. But the reality is that health cuts of £4 billion this year, with the Treasury looking for a further £10 billion cuts thereafter, are already leading to the closure of maternity units across London. Just last week the general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives warned that these closures, driven by financial considerations, would lead to 'large and impersonal' birth 'factories'. And here in Islington, the Whittington hospital's maternity unit is threatened with closure despite having been rated one of the safest places in Britain to give birth.

Brown's second promise of a right to a home birth for anyone who wants one is similarly unachievable: home births can only happen with the support of a nearby hospital from which midwives can travel with potentially life-saving equipment for mother and baby, including oxygen. (I should know - I had two babies at home with the help of Whittington midwives!)

If Gordon Brown is serious about gaining mothers' votes, he should start by guaranteeing the future of vital local health services. NHS officials have recently confirmed at a meeting of Islington Council's North Area Committee that Ministers could save the Whittington now if they chose. Enough warm words - it's time for action!

Graph Fix!

Graph abuse. We've seen it before and no doubt we'll see it again, but when the Lib Dem leaflet pictured right popped through letterboxes in Highbury East this week even we seasoned local election campaigners gulped a bit. According to the leaflet it's a 'two-horse race' between the Lib Dems and Labour in my ward.

I'm a mathematician by training and maybe for that reason I am a bit sensitive about this sort of thing. Squashing or expanding the odd column (as the Lib Dems have done here and elsewhere) is bad enough - but missing one party off altogether reaches a new low.

Here's the true vote in Highbury East last time.

As far as we're concerned, Highbury East is a four-horse race, which any of the parties could win if they gain the electorate's confidence. I for one don't believe that graph abuse is the way to do it.

PS if you have access to a scanner, please do add any election leaflets that come through your door to the collection of The Straight Choice, the live election leaflet monitoring project. One aim of that project is to try to keep these leaflets honest!

Monday, 15 March 2010

London Council Candidates launch today

Green Council candidates gathered this morning for photographs and interviews with a BBC local news team on the Millennium Bridge. After lining up along the bridge for a tracking shot, I had the chance to meet Jenny Jones, Green London Assembly member who has done so much for road safety in London.

Councillor Katie Dawson spoke about Green achievements in Islington, in particular the soon to be implemented 20 mph speed limits on every residential road not currently covered by a 20 mph zone. Interestingly even the Evening Standard is beginning to understand the benefits of slower moving traffic.

In a Standard article today, Amsterdam is promoted as "the cycling capital of the world" and Dutch experts say "Boris must do more to stop cyclists being killed". Any roads in Amsterdam without segregated cycle lanes have an 18 mph speed limit. Let's hope Boris works it out soon; he just has to take the Islington approach and extend 20 mph limits across the capital to make London safer and more civilised for pedestrians and cyclists.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Don't $ell the $obell

I must admit it's taken me a while to get round to blogging about our day with Cllr Adrian Ramsay, the Green Party deputy leader and one of our hopes for gaining an MP at the General Election (in Norwich South). He came down last Friday to see what we'd been up to here in Islington after hearing Caroline Lucas's praise for Cllr Katie Dawson in her speech to conference.

One of the places we took Adrian to visit was the Sobell Centre. Our Don't $ell the $obell campaign is fighting to keep the whole Sobell site in public ownership for sport and recreational use, against the wishes of both Labour and Lib Dem councillors. The Sobell is also where some of the programme of free sport for Islington's teenagers - another initiative by Cllr Katie in last year's budget - happens.

After the Sobell, it was off for a delicious lunch - soup and cheese toasties at Good for Food on the Blackstock Road.

Huge thanks to Adrian for coming down - and we all enjoyed listening to him on The World at One a few days later talking about the high-speed rail link!

Photo L to R: Caroline Russell (Green Party team, Highbury West), Lee Warsame (Sobell User Rep), Cllr Adrian Ramsay (Green Party Deputy Leader), Barry Hill (Sobell User Rep), Cllr Katie Dawson.

Friday, 12 March 2010

A minute for mothers

Just back from the House of Commons where Councillor Katie and I had a lovely time drinking tea in the Members' Dining Room and listening to the amazing Annie Lennox speak in support of Save the Children's A Minute for Mothers campaign. We each laid a white rose outside the Houses of Parliament to symbolise the lives lost each day by mothers during pregnancy and childbirth.

After the speeches I managed to shake Annie Lennox by the hand and thank her for her public support for the Green Party. She told me she always votes Green because it's what she believes in.

Annie's message to us when we told her that Greens were on track to elect our first MP this year in Brighton? "Go Girls!!"

Photo by Richard Stonehouse, Stonehouse Photographic

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Excellent Climate Change web advert

The really great LabourStart is running a video of the year and has a great video on climate change that shows the global impact of this problem.

To see the video (and other entrants) click here

And I'm not saying what I voted for...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Belonging to a Tribe

So, I'm looking out of my window and I can see the lights of the Emirates stadium shine brightly in the distance and I begin to think about a posting Caroline Lucas put up on her blog at the weekend.

Caroline asks what it would take for voters to switch after a lifetime of support for a party.

Coming from a family of Arsenal supporters, the idea of switching to Spurs is not worth thinking about, but what if Arsenal decided to become a rugby team? Could I say that I supported them as my football team?

Under Labour, the gap between rich and poor has grown, bankers are still able to reward themselves with huge bonuses and the NHS is being privatised through the backdoor. This isn't the fairness that the party originally stood for and I thought it was about time I voted for one that did.

I decided to make a switch and to vote for a party that really believes in fairness.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Save The Secret Garden Press

Just done a round up of all the local press coverage so far for Transition Highbury who are interested in helping our campaign to Save the Secret Garden. Thought it would be useful to provide links to to everything in one post. letter to Tribune re application withdrawn 26 Feb 2010 Tribune coverage botanist Mark Spencer 26 Feb 2010 Islington Gazette coverage 10th Dec 1009 Letter to Islington Tribune 6th November 2009 Islington Tribune coverage 23rd October 2009

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Save the Secret Garden!

We've been campaigning for a while now to save this precious gem, a hidden area of rare grassland in the heart of Highbury at the NCH/Action for Children site on Highbury Park. The garden, which has never been built on, lies between Lucerne Rd, Legard Rd and Avenell Mansions and has been subject to a planning application which would build 149 housing units at the site, destroying the grassland forever.

Recently we had the good news that the planning application is being withdrawn. Action for Children are now considering what changes to make before resubmitting it.

This week I'll be writing to Dame Clare Tickell, Action for Children's Chief Executive, inviting her to rework the proposals so as to preserve the grassland at the site in its entirety, for example as a nature reserve.

Action for Children have said they want to leave a legacy for Highbury. That legacy is staring them in the face!

Monday, 1 March 2010

Green Party Leader backs Whittington Campaign!

Green Party Spring conference this year was held in North London - at the Arts Depot in Finchley. Green Party leader Caroline Lucas (pictured here with our Islington North PPC Emma Dixon, right) took time out from the conference schedule to pledge her support to the campaign to save the Whittington Hospital A&E and Maternity Unit.
Now we're just waiting for Gordon Brown and David Cameron to do the same!

Whittington March press coverage

The Islington Gazette has this picture of Katie Dawson, Highbury's Green Councillor, on the Defend the Whittington A&E march with Camden Green Councillor Maya de Souza in the background.

The Camden New Journal has a round up from people who were on Saturday's march to save the Whittington A&E - including our very own Emma Dixon.

And this week's Gazette carried Emma's letter making it clear that the planned closure is a direct result of Labour government policy.

Whittington March on Saturday

My children were up early on Saturday morning making banners. I was supposed to be preparing my speech for the rally but I ended up on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor painting a black cat on my daughter's banner (James pictured here putting the finishing touches with a needle & thread). Then off to Highbury Corner in the rain..

It was lovely to see so many different people on the march - people from local churches & mosques; from community groups like the Highgate Society; and lots of local residents of all ages from 0 to 104. The Routemaster and the lovely jazz band gave the march a bit of a carnival atmosphere.

There's been a hospital at the Whittington since 1473. It's been part of the NHS since the NHS was born in 1948. Two-thirds of its patients are admitted through A&E, so without it the hospital would be decimated. Wards would stand empty and it might well be the first step to total closure.

The proposal to close the maternity unit is equally worrying. It's been rated one of the safest places in Britain to have your baby. On a personal note, wonderful Whittington midwives helped deliver our two sons!

It's great that all political parties locally are behind the coalition to defend the Whtitington( but we do need to be clear that this proposal is the responsibility of the Government, which is implementing the report of Lord Darzi (a Labour minister) advocating centralisation of health services. Just last week the FT reported that the Health budget has been slashed by £4 billion. Let's take this fight to Government!

Your Highbury Green Team

The Green Party team for the local elections on 6th May consists of Cllr Katie Dawson and local campaigners Jon Nott and Caroline Russell in Highbury West ward. In Highbury East ward your Green candidates are Emma Dixon, James Humphreys and Andrew Myer.