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Farming, The EU, The Expressway and Why You Should Vote Green [Video]

Spent the early morning yesterday in Otmoor being interviewed by the BBC about our policies on farming, food standards and stewardship of the land.  Lots to say on this, but as always happens with these things, a 10-minute interview gets condensed into a 10-second comment!

On the way back we passed several signs on field gates warning about how the area is under threat from the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.  As someone who’s been involved in the campaign to stop this ridiculous and unnecessary development I thought I’d add a few more comments by way of a video and also expand a bit on what the Green Party would do to protect our vital green spaces.

This is something I’ve been involved with for a number of years now, right across the county, trying to combat the epidemic of projects that want to destroy these areas in the name of profit and greed.

Yes we need housing, but it has to be the right housing in the right places.  Building on green belt will never be viable in terms of affordable housing as the land is so expensive.  Developers build in a set level of profitability, usually a staggering 20%!  That means that removing protection from green spaces like these just increases the number of high value, unaffordable houses being built.

Not only that, concreting over green spaces means they can no longer lock up the carbon that we need to reduce in our environment, and they also increase the likelihood of flooding as they can no longer absorb the increased level of rain we’re getting as the climate patterns shift.

The Conservatives back all these projects because they are there to help wealthy landowners, developers and investors make a fat profit out of our rural heritage.  As your MP I would resist all these projects, just as I now resist them as a District and Parish Councillor.

Greens CAN WIN

As we’ve just seen in Wallingford, where another Green councillor has just been elected to the county council, Greens CAN WIN and we WILL WIN if people get out and give us their vote.  Even if I don’t win in Banbury, a significant increase in the Green vote there will send a strong message to government that we demand change.  An increased Green vote will be a visible signal of that, whereas another ‘heroic defeat’ for the other parties will get lost in the usual fog of post-election reporting.

Now more than ever we need a strong Green voice, for the environment, for our future and for our children’s future.  Please vote Green on December 12th.

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Thanks Once Again

I didn’t think I’d be here writing a second thank you post so soon after the last one. In fact I didn’t really expect to be doing this all again. For someone who isn’t a natural politician, I thought in 2015 that once in a lifetime was enough.

But we did it all again and I have to say I enjoyed most of it as much as I did last time.

I will admit though that the come-down from this campaign has been much harder given that I failed to build on the vote achieved last time. In fact it was reduced, mainly by virtue of people believing they were voting for Jeremy Corbyn.

I do have to say, as I said numerous times during the campaign, Labour had no hopes of winning in this constituency. The Labour candidate is also no supporter of Corbyn. In fact I support him more than he does!

So those previously loyal Green voters who switched this time to Labour really did nothing to help towards a Labour victory in Westminster and have arguably done some damage to the Greens.

The number of votes cast in a general election does count for each party. Not just in electoral terms but also in terms of how much government money is given to that party to continue to be part of the democratic process, something known as ‘short money’. We also have the deposits in each constituency, which at £500 a time is money that a party like the Greens, who don’t have large corporate backers, can ill afford to lose.

Over the whole country the Green vote fell by roughly 50% and that was certainly the case in Banbury. As a result there may well be a lot less chances to vote Green next time we have an election, especially if that’s any time soon. Much of the funds generated in this election will go towards leaflets, deposits and other expenses. The reduction in ‘short money’ will be something of a blow too.

So your vote and your support for the Greens really matters, whether we win or not. Labour won’t face the loss of their deposits and, with hundreds of MP in Parliament and now hundreds of thousands of members, they won’t be short of funds either.

Please remember that next time you think about abandoning the party you say you otherwise support. We’re only here because of that support, and when it’s removed we quickly lose the ability to give you the choice to vote Green in the future.

Every one of those 1250 people who took the trouble to support a party they truly believe in and give me their precious vote yesterday has my personal thanks.

I am of course disappointed that there weren’t more, especially as there were over twice that number just two years ago when our policies were just are relevant as they are now.

The dash to Labour was perhaps understandable in the context of Jeremy Corbyn’s popular appeal, but in a constituency like Banbury and vote for any of the progressive parties would have sent a message of hope and defiance just as effectively as one for Labour.

Sadly, in solidly safe seats like Banbury it’s very unlikely that one party will ever loosen the stranglehold being applied by The Conservatives, so we have to work together as the Greens have done in other constituencies.

Whilst I congratulate Sean for achieving an impressive increase on his vote share, he was still some 12000 votes away from a win. All the time Labour and the Conservatives continue to reject the electoral reform proposed by Greens and the Libdems we’re very unlikely to see individual votes changing the outcome of elections like these.

I’m very pleased on a national level to see The Conservatives on ever more shaky ground and I hope all the other opposition parties in Westminster will work together to thwart what will probably be a severe and extreme right coalition between the Tories and the DUP. I think we see now that this election was less about the good of the country and more about Theresa May clinging on to power at any cost.

As always, it was truly depressing to see the Conservative vote increase in number in a constituency that should be acutely aware of the damage they are likely to wreak on public services, the NHS and in particular the Horton Hospital which is now very likely to be completely downgraded or closed if the Conservatives maintain power.

Thanks to everyone who worked on my campaign and to the other candidates for a clean and well fought fight. I hope going forward, progressive parties in Banbury may work more closely together to achieve real social change and electoral reform, that way we can ensure every voice and every vote counts in the future.

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We Shouldn’t Let the Immigration Debate Decide Our Position in Europe

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This is a copy of a piece I wrote for Huffington Post this week.  You can find and comment on the original here http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/ian-middleton/eu-referendum-immigration_b_9322718.html


 

So here it is. After years of campaigning and complaining, manoeuvring and cajoling, half-truths and good old fashioned British pig-headedness, the moaning masses of middle England have finally got their referendum.

I say ‘their’ referendum because this isn’t being staged at great expense for those of us who want to stay part of Europe. It’s not even for those who don’t really give a toss either way.

It’s certainly not for those more outward looking souls, who appreciate the many advantages of being a member of the European club. The easy movement between states (yes that does apply to us as well as all those annoying refugees and migrants) and the free transport of goods. Funding for urban and industrial renewal. Numerous environmental improvements to beaches, rivers and the countryside, including controls on things like GMOs. Human rights, animal rights, consumer rights. Cheaper phone charges and easier and cheaper travel and currency exchange. Social welfare protection and labour rights, and a panoply of other advantages that most people take for granted and will miss when they’re gone.

No, it’s a referendum for misguided and ill-informed little-Englanders, draped in Union flags, firm in the belief of two world wars and one world cup and certain the word ‘Great’ attached to Britain means something other than the first letter on a sticker they slap on the back of their booze cruise charabang, just to remind those envious foreigners that they were unlucky enough to be born on inferior soil.

But moreover, it’s a referendum for politicians who have been looking at continental Europe down the wrong end of the telescope for so long now, they just don’t realise how small this country has become on the world stage. A myopic concern about how much money we pay to Europe and a studied ignorance of the huge returns our EU membership generates.

Most people who focus on our payment to Brussels like to remind us what else we could do with that money. Yet with a growing national debt, and stubbornly high deficit, any such savings would likely fall into the same black hole as most of the rest of our national finances. Either that or it would go towards servicing the country’s circa £50bn annual interest payments, paid in large part to European banks anyway.

It’s not 1975. The geo-political landscape has changed around us since the last time we decided if we wanted to be a part of Europe. Yes, back in the swinging 70s it was the ‘Common Market’, but by necessity and common interest it’s become more than that. Those advocating some kind of return to a simple trading relationship are ignoring both the reality of our reduced place in the world and the promiscuity of world markets.

Neither is it 1938, even though Cameron’s Chamberlain moment was equally as hollow. Just like his pre-war counterpart, the agreement he reached in Brussels was peripheral and disposable, focussing as it did on the false polemic of immigration and border control.

It was a pantomime, with Donald Tusk and Angela Merkel as the ugly sisters to Cameron’s Cinderella. Shouts of “they’re behind you” were evident from the likes of UKIP and Front National pointing to the ‘hordes’ or ‘swarms’ or ‘bunches’ of ‘migrants’, ‘refugees’ or ‘immigrants’, depending on which description David Cameron and the BBC have alighted on this week.

I totally agree that EU democratic and regulatory processes are in desperate need of reform, but these weren’t the points that Cameron argued. Driven by domestic pressures, piled on by a widening xenophobic rhetoric, he was pushed into a rushed and ill-conceived round of negotiations that resulted in him metaphorically claiming ‘peace in our time’ outside Number 10. It was a performance put on to give him a platform to launch the referendum that we all knew was coming, and the critic’s reviews weren’t great.

Sadly for him, us, and the rest of Europe, this was a missed opportunity that could have sparked a trans-national debate about the real future of the EU and brought about radical changes to shape it into something more even-handed and responsive to the needs of all member states.

But instead, Cameron wasted what could have been his real place in history for the sake of a thumbs up from the likes of Farage, Gove and Galloway whilst gaining little tangible return for the UK, save for some token restrictions on benefit payments to migrants who rarely claim them anyway.

In fact it’s recently been revealed that the UK government has no idea how much immigration costs us, nor how much migrants contribute to our economy. But let’s not let a little thing like lack of facts get in the way of a nicely staked out scapegoat.

And while we’re on the subject of discrimination, we mustn’t forget those hard-pressed city bankers quaking in their handmade brogues, terrified that they may be penalised for being outside the Eurozone. That of course, amid the posturing about immigration, was the main concern for Cameron and his paymasters. Essentially he was in Brussels to fight for the right to discriminate against the poor whilst protecting the interests of the obscenely rich, although of course that wasn’t so eagerly reported.

And there we have it. The crux of all this political, psychological and media-spun mendacity – Corporate interest. Insular businesses seeking to rid themselves of the European interference and regulation that keeps all the rest of us safer and better looked after. The refugee and migrant crises couldn’t have come at a better time for these vested interests to galvanise public opinion in favour of an out vote.

On this flimsiest of pretexts, and on evidence largely pulled out UKIP’s collective backside, we’re potentially going to launch ourselves into one of the biggest national disasters for several generations. The ‘Brexit’ silo mentality that is about as relevant in today’s globally connected society as statutes recorded on vellum.

One of the greatest achievements and advantages of the EU is freedom of movement between states. It’s a harbinger of a future globalised socio-economic system where borders and statehood will be irrelevant. One where the term ‘economic-migrant’ will no longer be a thinly veiled insult, just as it wasn’t when we and other nations economically migrated across the globe centuries ago, annexing and occupying entire countries as we went. In that context, and in view of the Tories much vaunted ‘on your bike’ ethos, I find it perplexing that we now seem to regard our attraction as place of opportunity as a bad thing.

And while we’re on that subject, if I were a British migrant living on the continent I’d be feeling distinctly uncomfortable right now. Especially those who have lived there for longer than 15 years and are inexplicably denied the right to vote in a referendum that may well decide their future.

Those whistling tunes in the dark about independent trade agreements with Europe and other global partners will soon find that our status as the 5th richest nation in the world is built on foundations largely stamped with a CE logo. Already Sterling has plummeted on the news that Boris is heading for the lifeboats.

Much of our apparent wealth is generated by the financial sector and supported by our membership of the EU. Who will want to trade with us as a small individual nation with a growing national debt and a dwindling economic base? No wonder the city was such a key part of Cameron’s negotiations.

The finance sector is pretty much all we have left. We don’t have anything else to trade. China and the USA know this and have already warned us that a UK outside the EU will be of much less interest to them. The US in particular sees our connection with Europe as a valuable conduit into EU financial markets.

Uncoupling ourselves from the EU will be a long, painful and essentially irreversible process. We won’t wake up one day and see bluebirds over the white cliffs and a land of milk and honey for all. It will take years of debate, legal dispute and the unpicking of labyrinthine systems of regulation woven into our own statutory frameworks. A drawn out and retrograde process, during which I believe we’ll slowly come to see the folly of our ways.

And once we’ve closed our borders and thumbed our noses at one of the biggest trading blocs on the planet, it will be too late to realise that we’re now more of a Pekinese than a bulldog. An isle not so much sceptred as septic, poisoned by our own arrogance and bigotry, left entirely at the mercy of a broken political system where wealth goes one way, and protection is only there for those who can afford it.

As Britain shrivels into, at best, a tawdry tax haven in perpetual serfdom to a rich elite, we’ll come to the sad realisation that we’ve been sold a Jerusalem built on false promises and false flags. I wonder if border controls and apocryphal straight bananas will seem quite so important then.