Monday, 14 November 2011

Streatham MP puts arms companies at centre of Labour's economic plans

It looks as if arms companies are to be at the centre of Labour’s developing approach to the economy – if comments today by Shadow Business Secretary and Streatham MP Chuka Umunna are anything to go by.

The MP tweeted last night in support of an article about the positive economic impact of Rolls Royce (one of the UK’s biggest exporters of military parts and equipment).

The Press Release from the Labour party about the economic/ business speech which Umunna is giving today also singles out BAE Systems – the UK’s biggest arms exporter. It says that the UK Government should buy more of its weapons from British firms like BAE.

Astonishingly this is described as Labour "calling on the Government to use its consumer power to reward companies doing the right thing"

Rolls Royce and BAE were the two firms which David Cameron was heavily criticised for taking to the Middle East, when weapons sold by the UK were being used to suppress civilians in Libya.

As well as being deeply saddening that Labour, even in opposition, appear to be repeating the mistakes of being in Government about cosying up to arms companies, this is also both a policy mistake and a political mistake.

The arms industry already receives around £700 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies every year. This is partly through the funding of research and development. Future generations will look back in amazement, unable to understand why, when faced with the threat of runaway climate change and financial meltdown, we subsidised jobs in the arms industry instead of putting money into renewable energy and other technologies to tackle the environmental and economic threats.

But this is also a political mistake. Three years ago, along with others at Campaign Against Arms Trade, I drew public attention to the involvement of Clarion events, an events company who promote exhibitions like the Baby Show, in arms fayres – where British companies promote their products around the world.

When people on MumsNet heard about Clarion’s involvement they were outraged and several got in contact with me. I went on the Radio 2 Jeremy Vine Programme to discuss it. MumsNet eventually boycotted the Baby Show being absolutely clear in their feelings toward the commercial arms trade.

MumsNet was a group which Labour were particularly keen to target at the last election. They still are given David Cameron’s unpopularity with women, and the disproportionate impact of the cuts on women.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Transport inclusion to be at heart of Lambeth & Southwark campaign

Green mayoral candidate Jenny Jones joined with me and other local people, including members of Lambeth and Southwark Green parties on Friday, for a flashride in Camberwell.

Together we staged a “go slow” of cyclists calling for a 20mph speed limit and safer streets along the new Cycle Superhighway 5.

This new Cycle Superhighway will run from Lewisham to Victoria along busy roads like Peckham High Street and Camberwell New Road with traffic driving past at up to 30mph, making it dangerous and frightening particularly for inexperienced cyclists. Many cyclists and potential cyclists are too frightened and daunted by the prospect of getting on a bike in the Capital.

It marked the start of the Green campaign in Lambeth and Southwark, which aims to highlight issues around inclusion and local transport.

Our research has found that the boroughs get one of the rawest deals in London when it comes to transport, with large numbers of local people excluded, pushed out or discouraged from using parts of the transport system through fears about safety or inaccessibility. Notably:

• Lambeth and Southwark account for half of the ten most dangerous locations in London for cyclists.

• Of the 32 boroughs in London Lambeth has the second highest casualty rate for both pedestrians and cyclists. Southwark has the fourth highest overall casualty rate.

• Of the 8 tube stations in Lambeth only 1 (Brixton) is wheelchair accessible. A freedom of information request that I submitted uncovered that the lifts at Brixton station have been out of order for 164 days since 2006.

Eight out of eleven overground stations in Southwark could soon be impacted by cuts leaving them unstaffed and “no go areas” for many travellers. This is likely to make it the hardest hit area in the whole country if the proposals go ahead.

• Both Lambeth and Southwark’s Taxicard schemes, providing subsidised door-to-door transport for people with mobility impairments, have been slashed by 33% and 25% respectively. ( Details of Lambeth Taxicard cuts here. Details of Southwark Taxicard cuts here )

There is an apartheid that runs throughout our transport system which excludes whole sections of London, and nowhere is this more true than in Lambeth and Southwark - and the situation is getting worse not better.

During the election campaign, Greens in Lambeth and Southwark will highlight the different features of the exclusion, and put forward proposals to tackle it.