Friday, 13 January 2017

Green Party Policies Worth Paying Attention To: (especially LGBTQIA+)

The Green Party has often received little mainstream coverage from our media outlets. Currently run by co-leaders Caroline Lucas, MP for   and Jonathan Bartley, a NHS and disability champion and with the amazing Amelia Womack as deputy leader, the party continues to make waves among Millennial voters who are concerned that environmental issues are being ignored by a Conservative Government preoccupied with vague platitude platforming and gerrymandering. The Green Party supports seeing more renewable energy projects across the UK, reducing our reliance on fossil fuels,
stronger protection laws for our endangered habitats and National Parks and 100% adherence to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change which aims to limit the increase in global temperatures to well below 2°C by encouraging the UK Government to work together with other signatories in the EU to find the best solutions.

However, the Green Party isn't just one that deals with environmental issues. Caroline, Jonathan and Amelia are worried about growing inequality, wanting to make sure that "everyone has access to a secure job that pays at least the Living Wage (LW) and building "an economy that works for the common good, not just the privileged few". So I thought I'd do a blogpost on the sorts of policies that the Green Party are advocating for that do not often get much attention. If you agree with some of them, why not consider thinking about voting for them in the local council elections or at the next General Election? After all, if you're an independent voter like me, it's worth keeping your options open.

Policies:

Climate:
  • The Green Party is committed to banning fracking in the UK. I agree that the focus on funding for future energy production should be within the renewables industry sector, including providing subsidies for offshore wind power and investments in tidal and hydroelectric facilities.
  • Coal stations must be phased out and not be replaced by nuclear power stations. It's unacceptable that taxpayers will need have higher energy bills to subsidise the new development at Hinkley Point C.

Economy:
The Green Party wants to make sure that everyone in the UK is paying their fair share of tax and that those with the most money shoulder the biggest financial burden.
  • A Robin Hood Tax would be levied on the banks, a wealth tax would be put on the top 1% of UK earners, with tax avoidance loopholes closed.
  • The Green Party would use the money generated from such taxes to restore the public sector, creating 1 million good jobs paying a LW.
  • The Green Party want to see an increase in the NLW to £10 an hour by 2020 so that young workers will not need to use a food bank to feed themselves after paying out for their rent and transport. The Green Party would reduce National Insurance contributions from employers to incentivise them to pay a higher NLW.
  • The Green Party wants to see pay ratios in place for those companies who seek government contracts- they suggested 10:1 in August 2015 so may be willing to back Corbyn's proposal for a 20:1 should it become official policy in the future.
Brexit:
According to the latest statement on Brexit made by Jonathan Bartley on January 12th, 2017, the Green Party are pro-EU immigration, which means they are committed to the principle of Freedom of Movement and not just focussed on protecting access to the Single Market. The long term policy is to push to retain open borders but they recognise the current political climate seems to be against such an idea. The Green Party seek to collaborate on  the Brexit process with other parties, so will back the Lib Dem's proposal for a 2nd referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal. The Green Party are also open to a "progressive alliance", backing candidates who share similar policies in order to maximise representation in the House of Commons that is pro-EU.

NHS:
The Green Party is committed to making the NHS entirely a public service, removing private contractors out who only supply resources to make a profit. Victoria Derbyshire highlighted the example of a NHS nurse who had to pay £28 for paper when an external estimate of the price of the paper at a high street store was £4. That truly is a rip off and the NHS trust involved couldn't buy anywhere else because they were tied into the contract.
  • The Green Party will repeal the Health and Social Care Act 2012.
  • The Green Party wants to end open competition for all NHS services; should Virgin Care really be running mental health Services? Why can't NHS mental health professionals be allowed to expand their centres to make them accessible to all patients?
  • NHS hospitals can make almost 50% of their income from private patients, yet is that right when NHS hospitals were designed to help those who could not afford private health insurance? The Green Party wants to stop payments being made to private companies by putting forward the NHS Reinstatement Bill. After all, is it right that £18 million a day is paid to private companies, helping to boost their coffers and pay their shareholders more money?
Education:
The Green Party has a very bold education policy based on the idea that education, like the NHS should be free at the point of use.
  • If you work hard during your GCSEs and A Levels and satisfy the entry requirements to get onto a high-level University course, you should not be faced with a bill for daring to aspire to get a degree and enter a profession. The Green Party will scrap university tuition fees, not increase the cap as the Conservatives have done and write off unpaid student debt.
  • The Green Party would reinstate the Educational Maintenance Allowance for college attendees.
  • The Green Party is proud of the UK comprehensive system and feel that it is better to promote mixed ability high quality teaching within comprehensive schools rather than spending unnecessary money on a Grammar school vanity project that may only benefit those who already may have had advantages educationally wise- e.g. use of private tutors to allow middle class kids to pass the 11+ exam.
  • The Green Party is right to suggest bringing Academies and Free Schools back into Local Authority control. This would make it easier for them to follow an inclusive National Curriculum that includes teaching Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) and PSHE.
Housing:
The Housing Crisis has reached unacceptable levels in the UK and it is not acceptable for the Government to take piecemeal steps alone to tackle it. Theresa May's announcements for young people only help those who aspire to be homeowners, those who have been fortunate enough to save up part of their income towards a deposit whilst still being crippled by high rent charges. The Green Party have suggested a number of solutions which will help all people, regardless of their current financial circumstances and whether they want to be homeowners or not:
  • The Green Party will abolish the extremely unfair Bedroom Tax.
  • The Green Party want to see an increase in the number of social rented homes (in May 2015 they suggested 500,000 by 2020).  The homes would be funded by reforming Landlord Tax Allowances and allowing councils to borrow to invest. The homes built would be sustainable and include features such as solar panels wherever possible.
  • The Green Party also want to bring empty homes back into use with enforcing compulsory purchase orders and encouraging councils to turn them into council houses that can be rented out to those on unemployment benefits or disabled tenants.
  • The Green Party are in favour of private rent caps, especially as estimates suggest that 40% of Housing Benefit (£9bn) ends up in the hands of private landlords. We should be right to ask whether it's acceptable that Housing Benefit  is being used to prop up landlord profits.
  • The Green Party want to see longer tenancy agreements in place in the private sector, so that tenants do not feel they will be unnecessarily turfed out by landlords when they have not committed any criminal damage/offences whilst in the property.
Transport:
  • The Green Party is in favour of railway re-nationalisation, ending private contracts with Virgin, East Midlands Trains (through Stagecoach) etc ASAP which would make services more reliable. They believe 90% of profits go to shareholders rather than on improving railway stock and by making it public these profits would be ploughed back into the rail system.
  • The Green Party wants to see an immediate cut in rail fares by 10%, allowing financial breathing space for passengers.
  • The Green Party also want to promote walking to work schemes, car sharing, cycling to help reduce carbon emissions and healthier employee lifestyles wherever possible.
LGBTQIA+:
I find it incredible that a political party is brave enough to recognise that there are so many issues within the LGBTQIA+ community that need addressing that it needs to have its own manifesto.
  • The Green Party are committed to representing and valuing all members of the LGBTQIA+ community, including those who define themselves as agender, aromantic, non-binary or gender fluid; this has been affirmed by adding "trans men are men, trans women are women and non-binary identities are real and valid" into their policy platform. Very positive and certainly welcomed by myself and other trans and non-binary activists. I know some will say it's a mouthful to try and learn about all these different identities but if you're committed to equality of opportunity and human rights, it's absolutely essential that we do it. That's why I blogged on intersex and asexual issues before, to raise awareness amongst my readers that they do deserve to be recognised and valued as authentic gender identities and sexualities.
  • I fully support any attempts to give same sex marriage couples the same pension inheritance rights as heterosexual ones.
  • I think that all people convicted under discriminatory laws that have now been repealed should be pardoned and an unequivocal apology issued to them.
  • Reducing Employment Tribunal fees is a must and I'd also want to see dual discrimination re-established in the EA so cases can be brought for discrimination against your sexuality or gender identity.
  • Sex and Relationships education should include lessons on HIV/AIDS prevention, consent within LGBTQIA+ relationships and to make they are delivered in an age-appropriate manner. No student should leave secondary school feeling they are abnormal or have a mental illness just because they self-identify differently from their peers.
  • Removing the Spousal Veto from the Gender Recognition Act is an absolute must; trans people have the right to control their own body and gender identification whether the spouse approves or not. They are above the age of consent (16) so can do what they want.
  • I'd love to see more Gender Identity Clinics opened, more training for GPs on trans and non-binary issues so they can better support them in the community setting.
  • I'm also a big fan of the idea to help reduce unemployment rates among trans and non-binary people. Having access to courses, being given apprenticeship opportunities and working with employers to reform their HR policy to be more trans inclusive.
  • If a trans or non-binary person wants to start a business I approve of the suggestion of providing extra funding to them and possibly creating a mentoring network with trans and non-binary businesspeople to help them get their business idea off the ground.
  • The Green Party now wants to end discrimination against those in the community who want to donate blood, including trans, men who have sex with men and their partners and sex workers.
  • I love to see the Green Party take such a strong stance on protecting LGBTQIA+ refugees.
    • I approve of a moratorium on deportations until the system has been refined.
    • Indefinite detention periods should be ended for all refugees..
    • I want to see refugees get access to a fair hearing so granting them a right of appeal and access to legal aid is important.
    • I can't see anything wrong with allowing refugees to work whilst their application is reviewed.
    • The recommendations made by John Vine, who has worked as former Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration should be implemented. This means that:
      • Border agents are fully trained so they have the right processes to follow to sensitively find out information related to a refugee's identity and background.
      • Any questioning which involves talking about a refugee's sex life must be reported and never done again.
      • A thorough evidenced-based process is used to come to the right decision on a refugee's initial status whilst in the UK.
  • It is vital that LGBTQIA+ activists continue fighting to improve the rights of those that live in countries where it is still illegal to be authentically yourself in public. I want to see the Government being bolder in challenging regimes such as that in Russia which openly discriminate against LGBTQIA+ people and use the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court to do this. I completely agree with the Green Party's suggestion that the Commonwealth grant accredited status to the Commonwealth LGBTQIA Association...I'm surprised it hasn't happened before! The UK should take the lead in urging all Commonwealth states to end the criminalisation of homosexuality, empowering trans people and legislating to project LGBTQIA+ people from hate crimes. Easier said than done but we should try!
  • Increase funding for HIV prevention services, properly funding GICs, providing specialist services for LGBTQIA+ DVA survivors that are accessible and non-discriminatory.
  • Finally, I am 100% behind intersex advocates who want to stop unnecessary sex assignment interventions on children who cannot give their informed consent to allow it to happen. Intersex rights matter and is an entirely separate issue from gender reassignment surgical issues.
There you go! A few policies that the Green Party currently has on a wide range of issues that matter to the British electorate. I agree with most of the proposals, especially coming from the LGBTQIA+ manifesto, some of which could be easily adopted by the Labour Party if they chose to do so. The Green's Brexit position is much more akin to my own and I am more sympathetic towards holding a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, if possible. I want the NHS to be less privatised and want to see that there is more council houses available for those who are most vulnerable. SRE should definitely be made compulsory and I'm glad that The Green Party are supportive of the cross-party effort on this. The Green Party has a positive, empowering basic platform that goes far beyond the stereotype of being a party just concerned with environmental issues. Environmental issues do matter to Millennial voters, anyways! We want to see a reduction in carbon emissions, adherence to the Paris Agreement, protections for fauna and flora and any political party that commits to abandoning the Paris Agreement targets will haemorrhage voters at the next General Election!