Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Using your vote in Crofton Park

Some Parties, mentioning no names, like having a bit of fun with bar charts. Often plonking a load of numbers in front of people that have very little to do with how their vote might count at the coming election.

The worst example I can think of recently was the Lewisham Lib Dem leaflet that insisted during the European elections that "Only the Lib Dems can win here" despite the fact that the elections are conducted under proportional representation. Of course when the result came out they had won one seat out of eight, just like the Greens - and the claim that only they could win was quietly forgotten. (In case you think I'm picking on the Lib Dems check out this recent Tory bar chart from Manchester that will make your mind boggle!)

So in the interests of full disclosure I thought I'd let people know how electors actually voted in Crofton Park, which is where it will count for the local elections. We don't have a Crofton Park break down for the most recent elections, the Europeans earlier this year, although if you're interested you can see how Lewisham as a whole voted here where you'll see that the Greens came second behind Labour with the Tories third and Lib Dems fourth.

This first graph is how people voted in Crofton Park ward at the election prior to that, the London Assembly elections of 2008 that saw Boris Johnson elected as Mayor, a sad day I'm sure all but 17.9% of us can agree.

Labour's really given up the ghost in the area so it's unlikely they'll be benefiting from Ken's electoral boost this time round at the council elections. That puts the Greens in a good position as the party with the second highest number of votes last time round and the Lib Dems look in pretty bad shape trailing in a very weak fourth place.

However, the election results that are most relevant for the locals is the local elections last time round, in 2006. Here we've averaged the vote of each of the three candidates of the four main parties, but if you want to check there's been no jiggery pokery you can read the full breakdown for yourselves here.

This result was a real surprise for us as we hadn't realised we had this much support in the area. Our top placed candidate Jeremy Hicks, who is now our election agent, would have needed just 137 more votes to have gained a council seat. Since then Crofton Park residents will know we've really stepped up our campaigning in the area and we're getting a great response on the doorstep.

Anyway, I hope these figures are useful and feel free to pull me up on them if you think I've played fast and loose with the facts. I certainly recommend that whenever you see a political leaflet with a bar chart on it pay careful attention to what poll they come from and whether they are in any way relevant to the election you are voting in.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Have a lovely eco-Christmas

Over the next few weeks it's going to be difficult to keep to those green resolutions about ethical purchases and living an environmentally conscious life. It certainly will for me when you have all the family pressures and tasty temptations all around.

My philosophy is to do what you can and not beat yourself up about the times you 'let the side down'. We're only human after all.

I thought it might be worth pointing out that the council is running a free Christmas tree recycling service where people can leave their trees at collection points around the borough from December 27 until the last week in January. More info on this and other council recycling issues here.

Like a good Green the other thing I thought I'd do is recycle this Lewisham press release, from 2006, on having a Green Christmas.

Everyone knows that turkeys can't fly very far, so you might be surprised to learn that your Christmas dinner may have travelled a staggering 30,000 miles before it gets to your table.

From European fowl and African vegetables to Australian wine and American cranberry sauce, the ingredients of the traditional yuletide meal can notch up enough air miles to circumnavigate the globe.

But if that is worrying for the growing number of us who want to do what we can to help prevent climate change, local Green Party councillors have been spreading the message that you can still have a fantastic Christmas without it costing the Earth.

Councillor Ute Michel said: "There is no need to turn into Scrooge in order to help save the planet at Christmas time. By shopping at farmers' markets and local shops, watching our waste and reining in our spending we can enjoy a very Merry Christmas without sacrificing our Happy New Year."

The Greens have been brainstorming and have come up with ideas to make your celebrations more carbon-neutral:

Christmas dinner

Think local, think fair trade, think organic. With all the money being spent at this time of year, it is a great opportunity to support your local community by buying from small shops and market. Buying local produce also cuts down on those all-important ‘food miles' - why buy Zimbabwean beans when great British produce is on our doorstep?

You can find out about your local food suppliers on the Soil Association website: www.soilassociation.org

Councillor Sue Luxton said: "By eating locally grown food we not only enjoy fresher, tastier food but we can spread Christmas cheer by supporting our local economies - and cutting out some of the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the aviation industry."


With UK households already owing more than £1 trillion, festive spending risks pushing thousands deeper into a spiral of debt - a terrible worry hanging over many people at Christmas, spoiling what should be a joyful time. Giving Secret Santa presents means no one goes without, and adds some fun and mystery to Christmas morning. Or why not give home-made or edible gifts instead of spending unnecessarily?

If you're not the craft or baking kind, check out local flea markets and vintage clothing shops - you'll be giving something beautiful and unique, and recycling without even realising it!

The Christmas tree

Save money and save resources - why not use a tree with roots? You could watch it continue to grow all year round. You can find out more about container-grown trees at www.christmastree.org.uk. Each year, 6 million trees end up in landfill sites. So if you do go for a regular tree, check out the council's tree recycling service - there should be a drop-off place close to your home.

Cards and wrapping paper

Each year, 200,000 trees are cut down to supply the UK's 1.7 billion Christmas cards, and enough wrapping paper is used to wrap the island of Guernsey. So don't forget to recycle yours! Or, as your grandparents probably used to tell you, reusing is even less wasteful - why not help your children to show off their creative sides by turning those old cards into decorations for next year?

Learn more here: www.woodland-trust.org.uk/cards/.

Christmas waste

When you go shopping, cut down on yet more waste by taking your own shopping bags with you - and avoiding presents with lots of unnecessary packaging. All those vegetables that go into the roast don't need to come in plastic packaging - buy loose! And when your clueless auntie gives you that present you know you'll never use, don't throw it away - join your local Freecycle group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lewishamfreecycle/) and give it away to someone who will appreciate it. You never know what you yourself might get for free when you become a member - and it all helps to avoid adding to our bulging landfill sites.

Going abroad for Christmas?

Consider taking the train to destinations within Europe - it's far less polluting than air travel, the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases. And if you know where to look - www.seat61.com is a great place to start - it can be cheaper and quicker than you think. With no check-in, baggage reclaim, stale cabin air or cramped seating, avoiding the airport is really a Christmas present to yourself, and the amazing views from your train window are the best way to get know the continent on your doorstep.

Any other hints or tips on having a fun festive season without too many black marks on your eco-copy book are more than appreciated!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Variety is the spice of life

It is a common complaint about Crofton Park that while the area has many good points there is a sad lack of variety in our local shops.

We could use some more community facilities, places to go where the focus is not simply on the alcohol and more diverse, locally owned businesses. It’s important for our community that we are able to shop local for our essential needs, and that we have a good range of facilities, all within walking distance of home. Local shops provide vital social glue that chain stores or town centres cannot offer.

Following a campaign, by Greens and local residents, Crofton Park is soon to benefit from a town centre manager who can support existing small businesses and encourage new ones.

Many residents tell us that they really value the independent places in the area that help give this community its unique character.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Troops out of Afghanistan: Lewisham Vigil

Earlier today I attended the candlelit vigil called by Lewisham CND and Stop the War Coalition. From five until seven we held a peaceful protest against the occupation of Afghanistan, holding up a large banner for the rush hour traffic and a number of rainbow coloured flags proclaiming 'peace'.

This was called in response to the one hundredth British soldier to be killed in the conflict, although we can only guess at the number of Afghans and others that have died too, combatants and non-combatants alike.

When Barrack Obama was elected President in the USA it was impossible not to feel an incredible elation at the end of the Bush years of bomb first, ask questions later. He may have ushered in a saner foreign policy, which is very welcome, but the bar was set very low after all.

However, Obama may have inherited an utter mess that sees many lives lost every day but that does not mean that he has to continue Bush's Afghan adventure.

Just as Gerald Ford took the troops out of Vietnam Obama can bring home his coalition that is currently engaged in killing Afghans in their own country and propping up a misogynistic and corrupt regime. There are no easy solutions to this terrible situation, but it doesn't mean we have to keep making matters worse.

More photos at Lewisham Stop the War Coalition.

Monday, 7 December 2009

On the doorstep

With Christmas coming up we're preparing to take a couple of weeks off door knocking for the festive season. In a way it's a shame because talking to people on the doorstep is such an important part of community politics.

If it was up to me I'd be coming round when everyone's in their paper hats and lounging in front of tele too stuffed to move. However, I've been told that's bad form so you're safe.

Everyone is so used to political parties lecturing us on what we should think that when people come round and ask what your opinion is we can be a bit taken aback. Whether it's the war, the state of the railways or when our bin's collected we're so used to our opinion not counting that we begin to believe that we really don't count.

It's why I joined the Greens because they have a different attitude towards people, community and democracy. It's also why taking the time and the effort to speak to people about their concerns is so much more important than delivering leaflet after leaflet trying to impress on people how important you think you are.

Some of the Crofton Park team wrapped up warm against this week's weather
(left to right; Darren Flint, Anne Scott, Storm Poorun and Jim Jepps)

The three best things about coming to talk to people directly, in my opinion at least, is that you hear all the day to day issues that no-one could know unless you lived near a certain corner, or had dealings with a particular company. You get a real feel for a place and its people. It reaffirms that almost everyone is a decent, polite human being.

Even when people don't agree the worst you get is a "Not today" and a closed door and more usually you still get a nice chat and get to know each other a bit - even if you still disagree at the end.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Today's climate demo

I went to the large and lively climate demo today. In the run up to the Copenhagen talks it was well timed to show the great and the not so good who will be attending that we expect some kind of meaningful commitments to be made over the next few weeks.

I'm pessimistic frankly, but it was great to be among tens of thousands of others who see the need to tackle the increasing destabilisation of our climate.

It was also great to see fellow Lewisham Green Party council candidate (for Ladywell this time) Charlotte Dingle there. She was organising the Young Greens and sporting new hair colouring just for the occasion.

Cleaning Up In Crofton Park

While most of Crofton Park is lovely there are several hot spots where residents are blighted with dumped mattresses and all sorts of assorted rubbish. If you are one of those people unlucky enough to be affected by these unofficial dumping zones it’s not just a real eyesore it attracts other problems.

Everyone wants to live in a well maintained, attractive community. There are certain items, like old paint tins, that are far too difficult to dispose of at the moment. By improving recycling and waste facilities, making it easier to get rid of these more difficult objects responsibly, we’d have less dumping.

This also means tackling run down parts of the ward. There are specific sites, which are often invisible to most residents because they are tucked away down side streets, where derelict housing, broken walls and abandoned waste ground create a downward spiral, becoming a magnet for anti-social dumping.

It can often be a number of little things that have been allowed to accumulate which can spoil the quality of life for the whole neighbourhood. It's important not to allow problem areas to develop because once a patch of ground or the garden of an abandoned home becomes established as a dumping ground it’s harder to put right again.

We need a blitz on the handful of problem areas and then make sure we don’t allow them to develop again by making it easier to dispose of rubbish responsibly and clearing away dumped objects as quickly as we can.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Launching Darren Johnson for Lewisham Deptford

Today we officially launched Darren's campaign for the Lewisham Deptford's Parliamentary seat. Caroline Lucas, the Green Party's leader, came down to wish him well and I filmed the pair of them at some local spots.

It's only the second time I've put any video together so we'll see how it turns out. They must have faith in me though as they insisted on a group shot to commemorate the occasion. Lack of coffee and the chill, cutting wind explain the disgruntled look on my face!

Darren Johnson, Green Party leader Carline Lucas, and Jim Jepps Crofton Park Campaigner
Check out Darren's campaign web site watch the video here press reports here and here.