Monday, 7 March 2011

Statement of support to Young Greens

New Labour broke their pledges and introduced tuition fees. They even brought in the chief of British Petroleum to decide the future of education.
The Lib-Dems betrayed young people. I am not going to bother talking about Cameron.

Mainstream politics is stagnant.
The student movement has been a breath of fresh air.

I would like to thank the LSE Green Society and Young Greens in general for all the work in organising protests, producing placards and taking risks in the face of aggressive policing.
We need to recognise what you have done not just for students, nor just for London but also for the Green Party.

We must also pay tribute to our current assembly members for the important work they do.
But we cannot just pat ourselves on the back in London.
We are now members of what can only be described as a two-speed Green party.

In Brighton, they have been moving fast. They have been bold. They have set an agenda to successfully reach out to a wider group of the electorate.
In London, we are in danger of falling far behind. We lost most of our councillors last year, We failed to retake Ladywell. We fear we may not hold both our Assembly seats.
We cannot ride on the success of Brighton. We must achieve successes of our own in London.
So, instead of planning to stand still, we should plan to increase the number of Assembly Members.
We have to come out of our comfort zone.
Business-as-usual will no longer do.

That's why we have to choose a mayoral candidate that can appeal to new groups; to groups who think about voting Green but never do.

I am running because I believe I can do that.

There are three groups in particular who are sympathetic to our message:

To students: we should say that we will stand by you, fight the cuts agenda, create a decent future. That for our society & economy, education isn't a cost. It's an investment.
Because today's students become tomorrow's knowledge workers, keeping the capital afloat.

To the one in 3 Londoners of foreign origin: that we are a party that doesn't ignore you, but values you and will fight for your rights.

To 100,000 f small businesses, that we understand your concerns, that we demand the banks support you as they promised when they were bailed out and that we demand a level playing field with big business.

We must show London how our radical message is so different to that of 3 very similar parties.

That means talking up the Green Party, standing up for environmental and social justice, and showing the wider public what that means.

That's why I urge you to vote for me.  

Sunday, 6 March 2011

We need a new direction

We have 2,500 members in the London Green Party. On paper. Let’s be honest, we barely have one in ten out there knocking on doors, manning stalls, talking to people.  That’s one activist per 30,000 Londoner.

These are impossible odds.  With a couple of councillors, having lost most last year, most of London is barren Green territory. On current trends and Local Party planning, most of London 32 boroughs will not have a Green councillor for the rest of this decade.
We cannot say the ‘plan’ is working.
What’s the strategy? Where’s the ambition? What’s the purpose? Some might ask: what’s the point?
Like all eruptions & earthquakes, it’s difficult to know what’s happening until it hits you. The good news is that many members are passionate and don’t like what they are seeing.
two-speed Party: Brighton far ahead, London trailing well behind.
We need to mobilise the existing membership. Not with another email but with a strategy that’s inspiring.  Something which says we are venturing out of our comfort zone. That we want to reach out to new constituencies. That we have taken a look around the capital, and it’s different to what we thought.
London is the fourth largest French City….. There are 400,000 people making this the Paris of the Thames.
An equivalent number of Arabs – Edgware Road & beyond – so much the focus of our minds with the bravery of their compatriots in North Africa and the Middle East.
Ditto: Latin Americans…. & Africans, Afro-Carribeans, Greeks, Turks and South Asia.
Do we think a letter in the local paper is the only way to reach them?
There is a wealth of ethnic media (European and beyond). The French in London aren’t losing their culture or language skills.  For Bengalis alone, there are four TV stations, two radio stations and over a dozen weekly papers.
Greeks: London Greek Radio. Indians: Sunrise TV & Radio. And much much more.
We complain that the mainstream media ignore us. True. But do we have a media strategy for the capital that explores these other channels?
Before someone says we don’t have a strong media team, I say we should contact our members from these minorities (or majority-minorities in some boroughs as some say) and ask them how their media works, and how to get into them.
The Students & the Young are our natural base. Or should be.  Some of us cannot see the potential. That’s the brigade which says: carry on like before, let’s stick with the same message as the last twenty years, who cares if we are tagged as a one-issue party…..
The Young Greens have an opportunity to mobilise over the next two years. Long ignored, they have participated and themselves been inspired by the student movement, still going strong with the occupations and involvement in the anti-cuts protests.
They wrote a pledge and asked for support. Is it a perfect document? Is it meant to replace the entire Party manifesto? No.
It is an expression of the Next Generation of members looking at the world from their point of view and like all lobbies and groups focusing on the day-to-day issues that confront hundreds of thousands of students & youth in the capital. Housing, education, transport & more.
I signed it because it was aspirational. It understood that the Greens stand for environmental justice but that we need to give weight to social justice too, in the language of the constituents we claim to want support from.
I don’t mind being in a minority in political terms. Some things have to be said.
The document has been hit with criticism. The glass half full mentality. Finding what’s wrong with a sentence, crossing the tees here, dotting the i’s there. Where’s the generosity?
The Young Greens didn’t have to do a hustings. They did.
They didn’t have to spends weeks preparing a document, a platform for Young Green politics in the Capital. They did.
They didn’t have to try and engage with other Green activists at conference, online or in meetings. They did.
At the least, we should welcome the contribution, agree with 95%  of it, and encourage them to boost the Party.
The only way I see the immediate 15 months is to open the door and get in new members. That means bringing in free membership back for under 30s. Keep that door open till Xmas. Get roadshows into campuses, get Caroline Lucas speaking, get the membership forms filled.
The Lib-Dems are on the brink of collapse in London, especially with the young.  We should be aiming at powering ahead of the Lib-Dems.
The Tories are in fear and bunkering down.
New Ed’s Labour is picking up the flow by doing nothing, by pretending they didn’t rule over 13 years of neo-liberal surrender to the banks, nor break their own pledges over tuition fees. That Ed Mili & Aaron Porter say they want a graduate tax.
Everytime a graduate gets a job, earns money & pays income tax, that’s what a graduate tax should be. We already have it.  Nothing more on top, thanks. Get rid of the fees. Invest in a new generation.
The Next Generation get it when it comes to climate change, anti-war, anti-cuts, Green New Deal, wealth re-distribution and the need for a new direction.  They are receptive to the Green message. They are waiting for us to prove we want their support.  They won’t come to us until we take the first step towards them.
We have to seize this opportunity. It’s there in front of us, if only we can see it. We will only see it if we change direction.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Farid on Gaza

What is the future of the Arab Revolutions?

People came out demanding change.
Washington stood by its dictator. The protests grew. People died.
Protesters stuck flowers down the gun barrels of the soldiers.
The Army protected the people.  
The US then asked for a peaceful transition.
It called for the downfall of their strongman. The dictator fell.
People Power had won. A couple of years later, one of the largest US military bases in the world was shut down.
That was 1986. Ferdinand Marcos. Manila. The Philippines. That's when the phrase “People Power” became known to many in this generation. 
Yet, 35 years later, that country is still a vassal state of America. The poor man of South East Asia. There was no liberation.
This is a warning to the new Arab revolution.

What do Washington, London and Paris have in mind for the Arab World?
The Barcelona Declaration of 1995 called for a Free Trade Area.
Both the U.S. and E.U. had a road-map to one day integrate the European Union, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab World into a 'Mediterranean Union”
The prize is a 350 million strong consumer market. For that they need to shift from kleptocracies to democracies. But not real ones. The leaders must be co-opted.
Zbigniew Brerzhinski is the architect of a strategy to counter what is called the “Arab Awakening”.
The aim is: “Democratic Evolution. Avoid Revolution”.
He and his friends knew the dangers and difficulties. In 2008 he put it bluntly:
“Before it was easier to control a million people than kill them; today, it is easier to kill a million people than control them”

But what we have been seeing over the last few weeks has not been in the plan. These are not colour-coded revolutions.
This is much too fast, much too unpredictable and much too democratic. From Bahrain to Benghazi. Algiers to Alexandria to Amman. And soon, Rabat and maybe Riyadh, Dubai and Kuwait.   
This week, Pearl Roundabout in Bahrain replaced Tahrir Square. 1.2 million people where two thirds are Shiite, with no rights. More than half the workforce is imported from South India. 
The Saudis, next door, cannot accept a truly democratic Bahrain. The big Saudi oilfields nearby are Shiite majorities. Saudis are not shy in sending tanks and planes to bomb in Yemen. They are rumoured to have sent police forces to Bahrain. 
And as for awakening: the people of the Arab World have not just woken up. They were already awake.
What the Arab people are doing now is mobilise.
Egypt, maybe Tunisia, so far, look like a takeover, not yet a transformation.
When millions of people were in the streets, they had power.
When they are not, power flows back to the bureaucracy.
Revolution is in the air. So is counter-revolution.
The Egyptian military high command are all Mubarak cronies. In their 70s.
The coup leader, Defense Minister Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi, is 75 & commanded the Republican Guards.
This is not 1952. The Colonels are not in power. 
With all due respect to Egyptians who may hold respect for their military, their generals look a lot like the Pakistani Generals. Controlling the economy. A finger in every pie. A business as much as an army.
Can a new Egypt be born without overthrowing this whole system?
If the answer is no, this means one thing ultimately: taking on the generals.

The young are at the forefront of this revolution.
But it is also a revolution of the working class. The regime cracked just as the strikes started to spread like wildfire.
In the next phase, it's what the working class does that will be crucial.
As a blogger says, "We have to take Tahrir to the factories now."
      One in three of Egypt's workforce is found on the farms, in the villages, in the rural areas. Food prices are rocketing but they are not getting the benefits. They will come in to the picture.
There are three possible outcomes:
1)         The Mubarak regime without Mubarak survives but gets a facelift
      2)         These people co-opt the elections this year while the army stays in the background
      3)         There is a real social and political revolution. Radical change. Wealth and power is redistributed, The             entire structure of power is re-organised.

Washington, and the Egyptian elites cannot want an Egypt that is truly democratic, with an independent foreign policy.
      If the people have free will:
      They will demand the lifting of the siege of Gaza. To stop being prison guards and to let the people of Gaza free.
      They will demand that Cairo stop selling natural gas to Israel at half price.
      They will demand that US Fifth Fleet no longer sail through the Suez Canal on its way to the base to Bahrain.
      They will demand that the 1979 Camp David accords with Israel are scrapped.

Could this end up like Latin America?
Could the Arab World shift to the Left and break free from the US?
Latin America also had dictators in place for decades. By the early 1990s, people had given up on that continent. 
Who foresaw that ex. Colonel Hugo Chavez would come into office in the late 1990s?
He calls himself a socialist, is redistributing the oil wealth to the majority and nationalises foreign companies.
He has a vision of a united Latin America.

Chavez also looked at the example of another Colonel.
Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Arab nation.
Who knows which direction this will go.
So far, the uprisings are not being called Muslim revolutions but secular, Arab revolutions.

The US with all its power has tried to topple Chavez. Several times. It failed.
It tried to topple Evo Morales of Bolivia. It failed.
It tried to topple Rafael Correa of Ecuador. It failed.
The US is over-stretched.
The US economy is in debt up to its eyeballs.
The US is in crisis.
There could be no better time for the Arab people to rise.
That's why it will succeed.
Thank you for listening.

Farid gave this speech at SOAS on Thursday 17th of February.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

One in ten suffer from learning difficulties

I am at a Dyslexia conference. It’s well attended but there are no poliicians nor are there head teachers.

There are so many people affected by this learning difficulty that to fit them in London it would mean Zone1,2,3 and 4 filled completely.
It affects one in 10.
Yet there is no profile. It’s hidden.
For a so called knowledge economy in London, we cannot leave behind 800,000 people.
Think of the cost to the economy of not helping them to fulfil their potential.
And the heartache for parents.
Teachers are stressed. We have to ally with them in reducing their bureaucratic burden such as the campaign to get rid of SATS, reduce targets and return responsibility to them.
Then they will feel they can cooperate in paying attention to 3 pupils in every classroom.
Politicians better pour resources not cut.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Libraries to be axed by market fanatics

Those who count only profit do not grasp the value of a service whose gift is humane, generous, and life-enhancing for all

London's inner borough libraries could be badly hit.
The public library service offers children a chance to discover a love of books and the characters in them. 
The government, in the Dickensian person of Mr Eric Pickles, has cut the money it gives to local government, and passed on the responsibility for making the savings to local authorities. Some have decided to protect their library service, others have hacked into theirs like fanatics. In Oxfordshire we are threatened with the closure of 20 out of our 43 public libraries. The leader of the county council says cuts are inevitable, and invites us to suggest what we would do instead. Would we sacrifice care for the elderly? Or would youth services feel the axe?
I don’t think we should accept his invitation. It’s not our job to cut services. It’s his job to protect them. Nor do I think we should respond to the fatuous idea that libraries can stay open if they’re staffed by volunteers. Is the job of a librarian so empty that anyone can step up and do it for a thank you and a cup of tea? And who are these volunteers? Who are these people whose time spreads out in front of them like the limitless steppes of central Asia, who have no families to look after, no jobs to do, no responsibilities, and yet are so wealthy they can commit hours every week to working for nothing?
But there’s a prize being dangled in front of these imaginary volunteers. People who want to save their library are going to be “allowed to bid” for money from a central pot. This bidding culture sets one community, one group, one school, against another. If one wins, the other loses. It’s imported the worst excesses of market fundamentalism into the one part of our public and social life that used to be free of the commercial pressure to win or to lose, to survive or to die, which is the very essence of the religion of the market.
Like all fundamentalists who get their clammy hands on the levers of power, the market fanatics are going to kill off every humane, life-enhancing, generous, imaginative and decent corner of our public life. We’re coming to see that old Karl Marx had his finger on the heart of the matter when he pointed out that the market in the end will destroy everything we thought was safe and solid. “Everything solid melts into air,” he said. “All that is holy is profaned.”
Market fundamentalism, this madness that’s infected the human race, is like a greedy ghost that haunts the boardrooms and council chambers and committee rooms from which the world is run these days. The greedy ghost understands profit all right. But that’s all. What he doesn’t understand is enterprises that don’t make a profit, because they’re set up to do something different. He doesn’t understand libraries at all, for instance. That branch – how much money did it make last year? Why aren’t you charging higher fines? Why don’t you charge for everything?
The theory says they must do such-and-such, so they do it, never mind the human consequences, never mind the social cost, never mind the terrible damage to the fabric of everything decent and humane. I’m afraid these fundamentalists of one sort or another will always be with us. We just have to keep them as far as possible from power.
I still remember the first library ticket I ever had. My mother took me to the public library just off Battersea Park Road and enrolled me. I was thrilled. All those books, and I was allowed to borrow whichever I wanted! And I remember some of the first books I borrowed and fell in love with: the Moomin books by Tove Jansson; a French novel for children called A Hundred Million Francs; why did I like that? Why did I read it over and over again, and borrow it many times? I don’t know. But what a gift to give a child, this chance to discover that you can love a book and the characters in it, and share their adventures in your own imagination.
No one else even knows what’s going on in that wonderful space that opens up between the reader and the book. That space full of thrills, full of excitement and fear, full of astonishment, where your own emotions and ideas are given back to you clarified, magnified, purified, valued. You’re a citizen of that great democratic space that opens up between you and the book. And the body that gave it to you is the public library. Can I possibly convey the magnitude of that gift?
Somewhere in Blackbird Leys, somewhere in Berinsfield, somewhere in Botley, somewhere in Benson or in Bampton, to name only the communities beginning with B whose libraries are going to be abolished, there are children who only need to make that discovery to learn that they too are citizens of the republic of reading. Only the public library can give them that gift.
I love the public library service for what it did for me as a child and as a student and as an adult. I love it because its presence reminds us that there are things above profit, things that profit knows nothing about, things that have the power to baffle the greedy ghost of market fundamentalism, things that stand for civic decency and public respect for imagination and knowledge and the value of simple delight.
Leave the libraries alone. You don’t know the value of what you’re looking after. It is too precious to destroy.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Farid for Green Mayoral Candidate

The next Mayoral candidate must offer Londoners an inspiring vision for the capital. We can do this in London the way our leader did in Brighton – by offering a radical, coherent alternative to the three main parties.

We must be part of the anti-cuts movement. Many Londoners will be hit particularly hard by coalition policies - young people and students, women, and people from ethnic minorities.

Investment in free education and affordable public transport are vital for this city’s development and as candidate I would defend both.
Bringing back the Congestion Charge to the Western Extension Zone is one way we can reverse the recent fare rises.
First-time buyers are priced out of the market. Meanwhile, one in ten households are stuck on housing waiting lists.
We have to pressure local authorities to use their powers to bring empty homes back into use.
We have to set out a programme to refit homes to reduce carbon emissions, reduce heating bills and reduce unemployment.
With 15 years experience running small businesses, I want to take our message to this vital sector, talk their language and explain why our party is their natural choice.

I was recently an International Coordinator for the Party, serving on the National Executive. I am a communicator on behalf of the party at rallies, meetings and in the media.
I am currently leading a working group on ethnic minorities. We can no longer ignore the one in three Londoners who are of foreign origin.

I stood as Parliamentary candidate in Tower Hamlets and took the party into communities where we had been largely absent. This was done via ethnic TV, radio, newspapers, social media, stalls, meetings, networking and door-to-door conversations

We must engage with ethnic minorities who find our beliefs, ideas and policies are most in line with them – if only we would talk to them.
This is the strategic objective we must set ourselves.

By recruiting more ethnic minorities we will boost our electoral chances.
The Greens must reflect the city in gender, ethnicity and sexuality if its people are going to vote for us.

Regularly voting Green, I joined the Party after spending a few years in Bangladesh. There, I saw the devastating impact of floods and climate change and its connection to poverty and social injustice. I campaigned against India and China's mega-dam building projects, for the economic rights of female garments workers and for rickshaw pullers. I set up a Renewable Energy Association to promote solar power, a sector which has now taken off.

On my return, I joined the Green Party because for me it is the only one which has a coherent ideology to transform society in both rich and poor countries, for men & women, for young & the elderly.

Half-Basque, half-Bengali, born in Hackney, I was brought up in London. Married, I have a 9 year old daughter & live in West London.