Election 2015: Will YOUR candidates vote for Trident in 2016? by Julia

trident vote A decision on whether or not to replace the UK Trident nuclear submarine system – at a cost of £100bn – is due in 2016 and successfully elected Members of Parliament in the forthcoming 2015 General Election will have to vote on this. We wrote to parliamentary candidates in our area of Hall Green, Yardley and Solihull and asked them the four CND questions about their views on Trident at this time. We are publishing the views received by CND (nationally or locally) in response to these questions.

The four questions asked are:

  • The UK’s submarine-based Trident nuclear weapon system is approaching the end of its operational life. Do you think the UK should replace its nuclear weapon system?
  • The next government will conduct a Strategic Defence and Security Review. Do you think that should consider the possibilities and implications of scrapping and not replacing Trident?
  • The next government will need to attend the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in New York. Do you think it should support a nuclear weapons convention or ban, similar to those for chemical or biological weapons?
  • The next government will have to decide whether to carry out the current coalition government’s projected austerity programme. Do you think spending £100 billion on Trident replacement can be justified?

To find out whether the person you are thinking of voting for has answered these questions, or otherwise whether they have given any indication of how they feel about Trident click on your Constituency name below.

Hall Green

Solihull

Yardley

Tributes are being paid to Michael Wilkes, former Lord Mayor of Birmingham, who died recently and Birmingham’s council cabinet held a minute’s silence in his memory.

michael wilkes 3Justice should be done to his radical constructive thinking, lamentably ignored by the council, which included an emphasis on the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation, the living wage, the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance, the undertaking of thorough corporate reform and the imperative to wind back globalisation.

This thinking was informed by his work as professor of economics at the University of Birmingham – the youngest to have achieved this position the writer has been told.

A citizenry of good intent and a new discipline, socionomics

Wilkes advocated a new discipline, socionomics, to replace the “desiccated, manipulated, disloyal, extractive and highly unequal economy that has been allowed, and – by some administrations – encouraged”.

He acknowledged that this would be no easy task: the social and moral education needed to produce a citizenry of good intent which would make the socioeconomic system work properly and sustain it for future generations and wind back globalisation will take longer and involve people and organisations and other countries.

Practical steps that could be taken immediately:

  • the restoration of equitable and redistributive taxation,
  • the introduction of living wages,
  • the plugging of many loopholes for tax avoidance,
  • the undertaking of thorough corporate reform
  • and the recreation of an active, interventionist and self confident public sector.

A Birmingham Municipal Bank, keeping money and jobs in the city could also be the means through which ‘Brummie Bonds’ could be issued

bham municipal bank

In the council chamber and in the public press he proposed the re-establishment of the city’s Municipal Bank – suggesting its relocation in its old headquarters on Broad Street, which had been re-acquired by the council – and asking: “Where better to begin a new Municipal Bank offering fair and consistent rates for saving, encouraging thrift (as per the mottoes inside) and discouraging the profligacy so rampant in today’s society? A Birmingham Municipal Bank could keep both money and jobs in the city and be the means through which the oft-suggested ‘Brummie Bonds’ could be issued to allow ordinary folk to support civic projects . . . while offering a secure return”.

He recognised that the major banks – whose defects he outlined well before the 2008 failure – would attempt to stifle such an initiative with anti-competitive practices

Optimistically he said, “I’m sure that these could be overcome and they would be far better to start mending their ways. Indeed Birmingham could lead the way again as it did in the early days of commercial banking”.

“These measures would represent leadership in its finest form. This, and the promotion of the concept of stewardship in place of the present self serving forms of ‘leadership”.

In another blog he pointed out that after decades of under-investment we need (infrastructure work) in energy, transport, public and heritage buildings and right across the board – we would generate business to firms and encourage them to invest, create or save jobs, keep more of the money at home and provide a better quality infrastructure and the much needed energy security along with stable prices in the future if cartel behaviour can be regulated or re-nationalised away, adding “To my mind that’s a whole lot better and wiser than, in effect, saying: ‘Here’s £100, dash down the shopping centre and spend it on imports’ “.

Economic recessions are about a serious and sustained shortage of aggregate demand – and it matters what makes up that demand

The less expenditure frittered away on fashionable gadgets and bric-a-brac and which leaks out on imports, and the more of it invested in improvements in the nation’s infrastructure and the environment, securing productive jobs and supporting manufacturing, the better.

In the longer term, a restored and re-balanced economy, achieved by these Keynesian means, will provide the firmest foundation for the restoration of future public finances and the resumption of prudent and sustainable ways of living.

fluoride UK mapBirmingham – together with only 10% of the UK’s population – accepted the expense of adding fluoride to its water supplies in 1964. Scientific research gives cause for concern on several counts.

Thyroid malfunction

An article in the Birmingham Mail (Feb 2015) referred to research published in the BMJ, which found that medical practices located in the West Midlands (a wholly fluoridated area) are nearly twice as likely to report high hypothyroidism prevalence in comparison to Greater Manchester (non-fluoridated area). Lead author Professor Stephen Peckham, from the Centre for Health Service Studies (University of Kent), said: “The finding of this cross-sectional study has important implications for public health policy in the UK and in other countries where fluoride is added to drinking water or in other forms such as fluoridated milk and salt”.

Childhood cognitive impairment

A year earlier the Lancet had published Neurobehavioural effects of developmental toxicity by Dr Philippe Grandjean and Philip J Landrigan, MD, which listed fluoride as one of eleven neurotoxicants affecting affect millions of children worldwide. The abstract pointed out that industrial chemicals that injure the developing brain are among the known causes for the rise in the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, dyslexia, and other cognitive impairments, affecting millions of children worldwide.

Effect of fluoride accumulation on bone structure over many years fluorosis dental

Fifteen years ago a link with hip fracture was published – though classified as low risk – in the Lancet: ”There is a low risk of hip fracture for people ingesting fluoride in drinking water at concentrations of about 1ppm. This low risk should not be a reason for withholding fluoridation of water supplies”.

In 2001, a year later, the World Health Organisation reported that the dental effects of fluorosis develop much earlier than the skeletal effects in people exposed to large amounts of fluoride. Clinical dental fluorosis is characterized by staining and pitting of the teeth. More seriously: “Chronic high-level exposure to fluoride can lead to skeletal fluorosis. In skeletal fluorosis, fluoride accumulates in the bone progressively over many years. The early symptoms of skeletal fluorosis, include stiffness and pain in the joints. In severe cases, the bone structure may change and ligaments may calcify, with resulting impairment of muscles and pain”. Though stiffness, joint pain and hip fractures are common in this country, severe cases of skeletal fluorosis are rarely seen in UK and US.

The effects of cumulative fluoride intake

An American environmental health journal records that no systematic research has considered the effects of combined cumulative fluoride intake from all significant sources. Several published studies in the past decade have measured only the daily intake rates of fluoride from various sources such as diet (especially ‘economy’ tea, which the NHS advises should be consumed in moderation) fluoridated toothpaste, dental care products and infant formula (including Fomon et al. 2000; Jackson et al. 2002).

eu dg public health header

A report by the European Commission Directorate-General, set up to protect and improve public health, records that fluoride from treated drinking water, food and dental products accumulates in the bones and kidneys but only in 20% of the plasma in the central nervous system.

It records that approximately 99% of the fluoride in the human body is found in bones and teeth. The level of fluoride in bone is influenced by several factors including age, past and present fluoride intake, and the rate of bone turnover. Soft tissues do not accumulate fluoride, but a higher concentration has been reported for the kidney due to the partial re-absorption. The blood-brain barrier limits the diffusion of fluoride into the central nervous system, where the fluoride level is only about 20% that of plasma.

Enough time has now passed to warrant an assessment of all the long-term effects of ingesting fluoride from drinking water, food and fluoridated dental products.

vicsoc headerBirmingham and West Midlands Group 

 Victorian and Edwardian Buildings explained: An exploration of the architectural styles important from 1830-1914.

A day school organised by the Victorian Society, Birmingham and West Midlands Group, on Saturday 16th May 2015

Birmingham and Midlands Institute, Margaret Street, Birmingham B3 3BU. Registration from 10.45 for 10.15 start. Day ends 16.30 

This event is aimed at anyone interested in learning more about the key architectural styles of the Victorian age. No previous knowledge expected! Starting with coffee at 10am the Day School will be chaired by Professor Hilary Grainger, Chair of the Victorian Society who will also be contributing a paper on the use of Terracotta and the so called ‘Queen Anne Style.’ Other speakers will look at the Arts and Crafts movement, the Classical style, the Gothic Revival and the predominant Edwardian Style.

The day will commence with an overview of the key architectural styles, given by Tom Ashley, Senior Victorian Society Caseworker. Other contributors are Alan Crawford, Ian Dungavell, Joe Holyoak and Anthony Peers. Wherever possible local Midland buildings will be used as examples of the styles discussed.

The cost is £36 (£20 for full time students with no other income) to include tea/ coffee at registration, buffet lunch and tea/coffee during the afternoon.

Please contact helenepursey@yahoo.co.uk or 0121 449 5186

mcb header

Fairness, Not Favours has been published by the Muslim Council of Britain, which was founded in 1997. MCB is a democratic, non-partisan organisation that will not endorse any single political party.

mcb fairness favours coverFairness, Not Favours presents a consensus view amongst its affiliates of the issues affecting British Muslims ahead of the 2015 General Election. It gives a voice to the whole range of principles, ideas and concerns that British Muslims will have, not merely for their own interests, but for the common good.

MCB hopes it will serves as a useful guide for incumbent and prospective Parliamentary candidates, and for local Muslim communities seeking to engage in political dialogue.

This document is based on consultations amongst its affiliate network and with focus groups conducted in various UK regions; it also draws on the MCB’s recent publication, ‘British Muslims in Numbers’ that used 2011 Census data and more recent research to provide a demographic, socio-economic and health profile of Muslims in Britain.

muslim vote pledge

There are twenty-six Parliamentary constituencies with a Muslim population of 20% or more. There is also a sizeable Muslim presence in several marginal constituencies.

A range of issues affecting British Muslims is highlighted. In essence, they seek a compassionate and caring society, one where no groups are left behind through disadvantage and discrimination.

While Fairness, Not Favours sets out issues affecting Muslims specifically, the MCB recognises that there are a number of factors that will inform the choices of a Muslim voter. Accordingly the Muslim Council of Britain will also be endorsing policy platforms from other organisations and inter-faith bodies that seek the common good of society as a whole.

Krystyna Mikula-Deegan, a supporter of the Save Good Hope Hospital Campaign, is standing for the local elections as the National Health Action Party [NHA] candidate in Erdington.

krystinaShe invites readers to meet at Mother’s Café (next to Greggs) in the Precinct, High Street Erdington Shopping Centre tomorrow, Tuesday 14th April at 1.30.

Krystyna says: “It will be informal meet, over a cup of tea and a chat and we’ll take it from there. If you can come, or if you’d like to get in contact you can email me at nha.erdington@gmail.com. Twitter @KrystynaNHA”.

Those with a deep concern about the future of the NHS might be willing to help Krystyna, who has leaflets to deliver in order to increase awareness of the party in less than four weeks! Erdington is quite a big ward, with 9,000 homes.

She ends: “Do let me know if you can come, although you can come at short notice, too. Just turn up, you’ll be very welcome.

nhap header

moseley hall hospital

A local resident, recently discharged from Moseley Hall Hospital describes the ‘amazing’ after care for those with restricted mobility or other temporary handicaps.

Amidst the present climate of complaints, accounts of horrors, corruption, disasters cuts in vital services with the expectation of more to come there is one amazing service that, so far, has not been touched: post hospital discharge – Home Care Enablement Service funded by the council.

Under this scheme the South Care Home Team visits the discharged patient four times a day; first at 7am by a carer who will help him or her to get out of bed, wash and dress and will get breakfast. Another will come at 12.30 and get lunch, and another carer will come at 5.30 to get the evening meal. A fourth will come at 9.30 and help with getting to bed.

Each of these carers, of various ages and nationalities has been efficient, and kind. It is a lifeline for people recovering from an operation and will continue for up to six weeks, without charge. It certainly has been a lifeline for me and for my family.

How excellent to be able to give glowing praise to a service that has so far been unaffected by cuts.

Long may it last.

Elizabeth Way

elizabeth 1For the last three years, friends have celebrated the birthday of long-term campaigner for peace and justice, Moseley’s Elizabeth Way, by gathering to hear an overview of the situation in Palestine, given by a Moseley resident who visits the territory each year, giving practical and moral support to those in need. The first part may be read here.

Our Moseley ‘reporter’ visited Palestine and Israel to stand in solidarity with Christian people during the week for Christian unity and peace in Palestine. It was heartening to see that different denominations were able to cooperate for this.

hansa palestine prayer Xn unityAbove: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land hosted a joint service for the Arabic, English, and German speaking congregations in Jerusalem.  

The difference our visitor noticed during her visit after eighteen months was that there was a marked increase in the presence of Orthodox Jews in East Jerusalem, especially around the Damascus Gate. On Friday evenings Orthodox Jews go into the compound of the al-Aqsa mosque.

The Palestinian economy is suffering as Hebron Souk market takings are down because Israeli settlers above spit and throw objects at tourists and few mainstream tour groups visit, having been told that the area is too dangerous. Only two good ‘alternative’ companies take tourists there.

In an earlier version of this post, the writer incorrectly stated that the Damascus Gate had been closed. Though the situation is very tense and many horrifying incidents have taken place in the vicinity, closure is merely under discussion.   One of many reported incidents, earlier this month: an Israeli settler ran over a Palestinian female who currently remains unidentified, while she was standing at the light railway stop located near the mosque’s Bab al-‘Amoud gate, also known as Damascus Gate, in East Jerusalem …

All Palestinians, Christian and Muslim depend on being granted permits to areas which Israel controls, even within the West Bank. Therefore Christians from the West Bank are not able to worship in churches in Jerusalem unless granted a permit.

west bank checkpoints 13It was not possible to give a definite statement about the number of checkpoints in the West Bank – this changes as the Israeli army can move them at will and create flying ones as when it wants on the grounds of security. According to Israeli NGO B’Tselem, there were 99 fixed checkpoints in the West Bank in September 2013, in addition to the 174 surprise flying checkpoints. In August 2013, 288 flying checkpoints were counted. However, according to the Israel Defence Force’s blog, there were 12 checkpoints in the central region of the West Bank.This figure does not include the numerous road blocks that prevent Palestinians from crossing the wall and in many cases deny access to areas within the West Bank. As our reporter comments: “the whole system is complicated and fluid so that Israel can manoeuvre as it chooses”.

palestinian workers checkpointIn Haaretz, Rabbi Yehoshua Looks writes, “When I, as an Israeli Jew, approach a checkpoint in a vehicle . . . the feeling I have is of minor inconvenience balanced by acceptance of a reasonable price to pay for security . . . Imagine what it might feel like not to be in one’s car but on foot, to wait, be interrogated, perhaps wait some more, all the time wondering when or even if you will come out the other side. And then, contemplate whether this is really what we need to live securely”.

As may be seen in the latest statistics on the latest report on the website of the United Nations Office for the co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs Palestinians are suffering far more violence and insult than they inflict, but our reporter concluded:

Despite all their daily difficulties, including restrictions imposed on their movement by the Israeli soldiers and harassment from Israeli settlers who live there, the Palestinian people remain firm in their nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation and their hospitality remains as great as ever.

armando iannucciIn a January article Iannucci wrote: “They’ve had months, years even, to prepare and mighty budgets for media spend, and yet we feel so little the wiser. You get the impression they’d love their manifestos to go out encrypted. It’s easy to see then why the Brand mantra – “Don’t Vote” – has so much appeal. Post 2010, we all got austerity measures, bedroom taxes, NHS reforms and tuition fees that absolutely nobody voted for because absolutely no political manifesto mentioned them. So why shouldn’t we abandon our political masters and stay at home?

Extracts from a more recent article by Armando Iannucci in the Observer

Questions to David Cameron include:

  1. What are the further £10bn of welfare cuts you need to make but haven’t detailed?
  2. Do you accept that parliament will not vote on a possible replacement to Trident until next year?
  3. If so, can you explain why the Ministry of Defence has for the last two years spent £1.24bn on “getting ready” a replacement and preparing “long lead” parts of an as-yet unvoted for missile system?
  4. Is it true that for your first year in office you had no idea of the full scale and ambition of Andrew Lansley’s NHS reforms and were furious when you found out?
  5. Why did you push the TV companies to schedule as many of the TV debates as possible before the publication of the party manifestos?
  6. How can the electorate question you on your proposals if you’ll take questions only before you propose them?
  7. Do you feel responsible for a political culture in which more than a million benefit claimants were sanctioned and penalised in 2013 but only one HSBC tax evader has been prosecuted?
  8. How do you feel about the rise in suicides of people who have been denied disability benefit?
  9. Why do we have so many food banks? Why do Save the Children and the Red Cross, two organisations set up to work abroad, now work extensively in the UK?
  10. How do you square launching the “big society” with Iain Duncan Smith’s refusal to meet volunteers from the food bank charity the Trussell Trust in 2013 because he felt they were “scaremongerers” and “political”?
  11. Why did IDS refuse to speak in a 2013 Commons debate on the growing use of food banks? Indeed, why did he leave that debate early?

Questions to Ed Miliband include:

  1. Why do you not make a speech highlighting the benefits immigration has brought to this country?
  2. Why did your work and pensions spokeswoman, Rachel Reeves, say Labour “is not the party of people on benefits”?
  3. If you’re prepared to admit that New Labour made mistakes over wealth inequality and financial deregulation, will you go further?
  4. Will you also admit that many of the administrative problems in the NHS were caused by New Labour’s mission to inject private market forces into an organisation not built for that purpose?
  5. Will you admit that much of New Labour’s obsessional drive to impose targets on the NHS pushed staff to breaking point with, to cite one example, paramedics suffering from urinary tract infections because their bosses wouldn’t permit them toilet breaks?
  6. If you’re in favour of commissioning a replacement to Trident, will you or any of your team be making a speech defending the cost and outlining your clear reasons for prioritising a nuclear deterrent over other spending plans? Or is this an awkward subject?
  7. When so much of the first-, second- and third-generation immigrant community votes for your party, why do you still prefer to use the language of “restricting” immigrant numbers employed by Conservatives and Ukip?
  8. Do you like the unemployed? Or are you embarrassed by them? Do you take it for granted they vote for you? Are you fully aware many of them are turning to the Greens, Ukip and the SNP instead?
  9. Why do you feel the need to talk tough about welfare cuts and immigration levels without much prompting?
  10. You do realise that the slogan Vote Labour, We’re a Little Like Ukip is not going to bring out your base?

Iannucci reflects: “Now is the best time in a generation to go out and vote. With such a fragmented system on offer, nothing is inevitable. Uncertainty may create instability, but it can also generate churn and change in a way that doing nothing never can. The truth is, we haven’t been abandoning politicians – they’ve been abandoning us . . . The 45% who voted yes to independence in Scotland . . . is driving the agenda in Scottish politics as powerfully as if it had been on the winning side . . . Alternative answers such as Green, nationalist, pro-NHS, even the Pub Landlord (standing against Nigel Farage), no longer look like stupid also-rans”.

To read the March article go to http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/28/questions-for-cameron-and-miliband-armando-iannucci


On February 14th, during a Birmingham Fossil Fuel Divestment Day in Victoria Square, Birmingham City Council was asked to move investment from fossil fuel companies.

bfoe divestment day2

Birmingham Friends of the Earth produced a giant Valentine’s Card, signed by members of the public and organisations, asking Birmingham City Council to be their “valentine” by divesting from fossil fuels. Read on here.

On the same day, in the Priory Rooms (Bull St), the Central England Quaker Low Carbon Commitment Forum heard about steps taken by Quakers in Britain to disinvest from companies engaged in extracting fossil fuels. The decision was taken by their Investment Committee, following their 2011 commitment to become a sustainable low-carbon community.

A sign that efforts to tackle climate change have been more effective than expected

iea logoA month later the Financial Times reported the International Energy Agency findings that global emissions of carbon dioxide, the most long-lasting greenhouse gas, did not rise in 2014 – for the first time in 40 years. Though the global economy grew 3%, the amount of CO2 pumped out remained at the 2013 level of 32.3bn tonnes.

Two factors were mentioned:

  • China has cut its use of coal, one of the biggest sources of carbon emissions, and installed more hydroelectricity, wind and solar power, imposed energy efficiency standards for industry, shut older factories and shifted away from the heavy manufacturing that has powered its economic growth.
  • Wealthy OECD countries have started to “decouple” economic expansion from emissions increases as they install more renewable energy plants and set a range of stricter standards on car fuel economy and home appliance energy use.

The IEA is to publish a June 15 report advising governments what energy measures should be agreed at a December meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Paris where world leaders are due to finalise a global climate change pact.

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