Thursday, 26 February 2015

Five things you can do now to make a difference...

I joined the Green Party last year and am passionate about the values it stands for and the possibility for change. But it's hard to know how you can make a difference when it feels like the electoral system is rigged against us (all of us!). Well, of course, I think people should vote for what they believe in but I've also found some other ways that I think we as individuals can start to make a real difference and be heard through our actions as well as our votes...

1. Change energy supplier - money talks so what better signal to send than to switch to an energy company that is committed to supplying 100% renewable energy. In this year's Which? survey revealing the best and worst energy companies for customer satisfaction, the two companies that came out on top were Ecotricity at one and Good Energy at two.

2. Be mindful of what you buy - we are so lucky in Lambeth to have so many incredible local shops and markets. It really makes me sad to see how society in general is so obsessed with consumerism and since going to see The Minimalists on tour last year in London I've been happily de-cluttering and not spending on superfluous things. So, I would encourage everyone to think about what people and things are adding value to your life and then try to live more consciously.

3. Eat less meat, fish and dairy - after watching the screening of Cowspiracy with the Lambeth Green Party this month I've had my eyes opened to the impact agriculture has on the environment. Already fascinated with nutrition and using diet to manage symptoms of my own chronic health condition, I'm now happily working my way through the recipes in Ella Woodward's new book, Deliciously Ella - cooking that is healthier, cheaper and more environmentally friendly, what's not to like about that!

4. Show kindness and be thankful - as cheesy as it might sound to some, I really do believe in building a society for the common good. All too often, especially in London, I have found myself rushing around, unable or incapable of stopping to appreciate the small things. Well, a couple of weeks ago I went to a workshop with the Museum of Happiness at Roots and Shoots in Kennington. It reinforced a lot of the things I've learnt over the last few years, that living in the moment and showing gratitude and sympathy towards people around you, really can have a significant impact on your own health and well being.

5. Show that you care about people, community and the environment - media success is measured in views and engagement. A really simple thing you can do is read articles that sound interesting and if you really do find them interesting share them on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat - wherever is authentic for you. The more that other people, the media and organisations can see that we care about these issues, the more notice they will take.
And in the run up to the election, data analysts will be watching even closer than ever to see how our clicks will influence the results in May.

I wanted to write this after listening to Donnachadh McCarthy, author of The Prostitute State, at last month's speaker dinner. He reminded us of Mahatma Gandhi's famous quote and it's something that keeps sticking in my mind...

'be the change that you wish to see in the world'

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Labour's relationship with tax avoidance

“The world is not run from where you think. Not from border fortresses, not even from Whitehall. The world is run from Antwerp, from Florence, from places you have never imagined.”- Hilary MantelWolf Hall

And twas ever thus. But today it’s not Antwerp and Florence but Bermuda and the Cayman Islands. Today it’s not Henry Percy and the landed aristocracy the money men have by the balls, but the Labour Party.

In 2013-14 the Labour front bench accepted over £600,000 of research help from the multinational accountancy company PricewaterhouseCooper to help form policy on tax, business and welfare. Streatham MP and shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna had research support from PwC between September 2013 and January 2014, and again between June and September this year, with a total value in excess of £60,000 - that’s more than double the average salary for his constituents.

‘So what?’ You may ask. 

Despite the rhetoric of Miliband’s crackdown on overseas ‘tax havens’ his party continues to be influenced at the highest echelons by firms like PwC where tax avoidance and is at the heart of their mission. 

According to a public accounts committee report published two weeks ago the top tax partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kevin Nicholson, misled MPs over complex Luxembourg financing structures the accountancy firm helped to set up for scores of multinationals to avoid tax.

These companies infiltrate the policy making process, help design the HMRC’s tax laws  and then advise their clients, individuals and big businesses, on how to avoid paying this tax. How else do companies such as Amazon, who, despite a UK turnover in the trillions contribute less than £10m to the treasury, get away with such fraud? 

UKUncut is leading the fight against tax avoidance in the UK, but with the ‘Big Four’ consultancy firms so firmly entrenched in the political process of the ‘traditional’ parties, without a change to the political system, there will be no change.

In what way is the multi-billionaire tax avoiding Topshop owner, Philip Green an appropriate man to advise the government on austerity. In a country where one missed appointment at the Job Centre can lead to benefit sanctions and DWP is targeting ‘benefit cheats’, blatant fraud is acceptable so long as you’re a millionaire or a multi-national company.

Is it any wonder that politicians continue to inflict drastic cuts to public services, the NHS and the welfare budget, cuts that disproportionately harm the poorest in society, while the richest in society receive tax breaks? 

When the party that is supposed to represent the workers is on the payroll of parasitic ‘big business’ there is a serious issue about the ability of these predatory firms to exert such an influence at the heart of politics. Is it any wonder that people are disillusioned with the political establishment?

The Green Party alone is not funded by big business. We rely on the generosity of the general public and individuals, who are passionate about our values, to make donations. Last year a £7,000 donation from one of country’s richest men was rejected because he is not a full UK taxpayer.

Only the Green Party is not in the pockets of profiteering capitalists; only the Green Party offers a real alternative; only the Green Party offers the chance to change!