Thursday, 30 April 2015

Solar farms and the environment

The day started with me being, well outraged is perhaps too strong a word, decidedly miffed at a minimum. I have listened to and respected the BBC Today news and affairs programme practically since its inception but for the first time today it let me down. Sarah Montague seems to believe that the Green Party is a one issue party judging by the way she was perusing Natalie Bennett about climate change and the environment in today's interview. The Green Party has been around long enough (at least 40 years) to have developed a well rounded set of policies which cover the vital issues of living in the UK, all tempered with the concept of being good to the planet and the people on it. The manifesto does not have to shout and scream "Save the Whales" or "Ban Fracking", I suspect that Ms Montague was confusing Green Party with Green Peace.

Environmental issues are still key to the Party. Non fossil fuels and clean, renewable energy are area's in which we would like to invest. Later on today I visited a proposed Solar Farm consultation and exhibition in Overseal, Derbyshire. I wanted to find out more about the proposal, the company's plans and the benefit to the local community. Although the company's main aim was to develop the site to produce power, they suggested many areas whereby the community could gain a better environment by duel use of the land, for example grazing, bee skips, wild flower meadow. It appeared to me that there is a distinct opportunity for South Derbyshire Greens to broker the possibilities of duel land use to local individuals, ensuring that it is just not a field full of Solar Panels. It doesn't need to be in our manifesto for us to be involved.

I really think that Ms Montague's researchers let her down today, she only quoted the "Mini-manifesto". Our full manifesto includes such  policies as: Decarbonising Transport; International Agreement on Climate Change; invest in an £85 billion public programme of renewable electricity generation, flood defences and building insulation. If that is not tackling climate change, I'll go sunbathing in December, between the Solar Panels.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Fixing the Economy:Tax Rises

Could William Hague be guilty of bribery or was it just a publicity stunt when this morning he announced that a new Conservative government would not only keep taxes low, but also would legislate to make rising  taxes illegal. This appears to me to be a shallow attempt to coerce the electorate into voting Conservative while imagining that the general population are avaricious and unintelligent. Firstly, even though a UK Parliament could make a law to not to rise taxes, the very same Parliament may also pass a counter law saying that it can, at any time that it chooses ( I simply do not understand why the idea of tax rises is so bad. I believe that you pay for what you get, tax less and you get less: less jobs, less nurses, less libraries, less homes, less high quality education, a less healthy, literate, informed and happy population. We all pay tax to receive services and if we want services that will provide a good quality of life for everyone we have to be prepared to pay for them.

The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) also think that taxes should rise. In their Manifesto 2015 ( They believe that "Vote winning policies will only serve to damage the public interest". They say that the current set of cuts and the "Austerity" model is unsustainable and that cuts during a growth period is unprecedented. It has not and will not reduce the deficit and that Government has to budget for the medium and long term. One of the major problems is the increasing proportion of people over the age of 64 to those between 16-64: it estimates that state pensions will account for around 16% of government spending by 2019. They emphatically state "If debt levels are to remain sustainable: either taxes will have to go up, substantial cuts will need to be imposed on other budgets such as education, or care and pension levels will need to be cut. There are no other options."

So, the Green Party are committed to raising taxes. At least we are honestly stating that, we are not giving hollow promises that we will or will not keep or taxing by stealth, such as student loans or uping VAT. We understand the reality and we know that by investing in public services tax payers will get value for money. More tax means more jobs, more nurses, more teachers, more buses, more affordable homes, more care and more equality. A common question asked of Green Party election candidates is "... and how will you pay for that?". The frank answer is "by increasing taxes". However, the tax increases are targeted on people who are well able to pay them. The Green Party 2015 Manifesto sets out in fully costed detail what taxes will be increased or introduced ( Some will be unpopular, for example the reintroduction of the fuel duty escalator, higher duty on tobacco and alcohol. Whereas other will be popular, reducing the tax gap between the highest earners and the general public with a new top level 60% income tax. This on its own could raise £120 billion per year. We will wage a war on tax dodgers with a new army of HMRC recruits, reinstating posts that have been cut. There will be some tax reductions, for example, employers' national insurance and VAT on housing repairs. We will take the money in, like every government does but then we will reallocate the money and channel it into the things that matter. We will give you back your money, as hospitals, trains, houses, nurseries and schools.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Badgers, Foxes and Nature and Wellbeing

I went for a walk today, that is I went leafleting again, and to reward myself after posting about 100 leaflets I walked around the lake in Melbourne (Derbyshire, not Australia!) in pursuit of the sight of some bluebells. I did manage to find some and I also found some very large mounds with holes that may or may not have been badger setts. I have only ever seen badgers once, at 11pm one night I saw two running one after the other down the road leading from the main road to the river in my little village. I was surprised by the speed and the power of the animal. Although their diet consists mainly of earthworms, the organic gardener's friend, and I saw badgers eating birds eggs on a television programme recently, I can forgive them because they are a natural part of British wildlife, another mammal living freely and untamed amongst us. This is one reason why they are important and should not be culled. I sympathise with cattle farmers who's herds have contracted TB and I consider it such a waste when cows are slaughtered to control the disease. However, killing cattle and culling badgers does not manage to kill the bovine TB bacteria ( A programme of vaccination is much more effective.

As for foxes, well in my innocent youth I thought that fox hunting was OK because foxes were clever and cunning and were hardly ever caught, but I learnt that that was not the case. Although foxes can be a nuisance in both rural and urban area's raiding bins, eating hens and they tend to raid my allotment and dig through the compost, they do not deserve to be ripped apart by dogs. Once again there could be more effective ways of controlling another member of British wildlife. I have discovered that covering newly planted and composted soil with pruned twiggy branches keeps the foxes off the allotment. We have killed off so many species so far, let us keep the ones that we have and treat them with dignity.

Finally, you may have gathered that I am an outdoors sort of person, enjoying long country walks and tending my organic allotment. It comes as no surprise therefore that I would wholeheartedly support a Nature and Wellbeing Act ( Walking in clean open air is more beneficial than working out in a gym, running around playing games on grass makes children fitter that playing with a Wii. Sitting in peaceful woodland, walking the dog or meditating next to a fishing rod is a great way to release stress. I believe this, and so does the Green Party and this is what they would do, and what I would push for if elected.

  • Significantly expand protected areas – National Parks, forests and land protected under EU Birds and Habitats Directives – and strengthen and enforce protections. 
  • Take a landscape approach to conservation using reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, improved agri-environment schemes and the planning system.
  • Reform farm payments so that they incentivise soil protection, wildlife conservation, flood prevention, water quality and carbon capture.
  • Reverse the presumption in favour of development and make sure developers cannot destroy unique habitats by ‘offsetting’ elsewhere.
  • Reduce pesticide use, ban neonicotinoids and strengthen planning guidelines to protect bees
  • Improve non-car access to green open spaces and natural areas.
I am so pleased that the Green Party agrees with me. 

Monday, 27 April 2015

Numbers are good, targets are bad

I received this reply to the previous post from a Maths student, and I thought that it was worth sharing

 "Something that is important to input here is that currently, the numbers approach isn't working. But much of the operational research (mathematicians who aim to make the world more efficient) cannot give optimal (or most robust) solutions to the end user because politicians come in and tell them that they have to input 5000 new nurses etc so they have something concrete to give to the constituents. I would like an approach that embraces the power of numbers, statistical models, predictive and prescriptive approaches but also has an element of the qualitative about it also.

 There should not be targets to be hit numbers, but using the numbers to better understand where things go wrong in conjunction with the doctors and nurses. Giving patient outcomes as a measure of performance, not numbers in and out. I think using numerical approaches but also perhaps learning a thing or two from customer service specialists would do well. And I mean to say this not in to get the suits in, but working how to perform at your best as a team, talking to people who may have good suggestions."

I think that the point is that numbers help us to understand how the world is, and that targets to make greater numbers do not change the world. Using numbers to make informed decisions will. Numbers and statistics are not the bad guys, it is the fairground "High Striker" approach that is.

Photograph by By Hedwig Storch (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

National Heath Service

A voter has drawn my attention to a cross party Bill that Caroline Lucas MP (Green Party) presented to the House of Commons on 11th March 2015. It was supported by 11 other MPs from the Liberal Democrats, Labour, SNP and Plaid Cymru. I have read this National Health Service Bill to restore the NHS as a publicly funded and accountable service with very great interest. I am a passionate supporter of the National Health Service not only because I was born in Tredegar, birthplace, home and constituency of Aneurin Bevan, the Minister for Health commonly considered the architect of the NHS (  but also because my entire family have had good service from the NHS since it's outset. 

I think that sometimes people forget the concept of the NHS. It is not a charity, it not a gift from a rich donor, it is not a commercial body trying to make money for shareholders, it is not something that "The Government" provides from some imaginary pot of money. It is a service that each and every individual in the UK pays for out of taxes, and just remember that we are taxed in many ways, VAT, duties on alcohol and tobacco as well as income tax. We all own the NHS, we pay into it to provide a service to us when we need it, for going to the dentist, for having our eyes tested, for pregnancy and contraception services. Just imagine the cost of having a baby if you had to pay the midwife, doctor, surgeon, nurses. This treatment is given unquestioningly because it is equally available irrespective of job, class, colour, creed, gender or sexuality. It is neutral and judgemental because it is about improving the health of our nation as a whole, from cradle to grave. 

Recently, I have been concerned about reports in the media of hospital failures of hygiene, lack of nursing care and overloaded emergency services and I believe that these issues have come about through the internal market system imposed on NHS services. This focuses far too much on financial outcomes and achieving statistical targets as opposed to real care for the patients. As a service for all more energy should be spent on co-operation, open science and working together in order to improve health. I do therefore fully support the inclusion of the National Health Service Bill in the first Queen's Speech of the new parliament,
Incidentally, I was campaigning at the weekend for the NHS to be kept as a public service.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Paying for petrol

I admit it, I do tend to be a bit of a petrol head, I do like little sports cars, ever since I had an MGB GT; my very first car in the 1980's. However, I know that there is a cost to consuming petrol, the cost to the planet as well as to my purse. This is why I use trains for long distance journeys instead of Desiree, my current love (Street KA). This is why I walk for short journeys and made sure that all my children could ride a bike. This is why I try to drive with fuel saving technique and would prefer to work at home instead of getting stuck in fuel consuming traffic jams.

The Green party manifesto states that we will restore the fuel duty escalator, which of course is hard on our pockets. However we will prioritise investment in places where public transport is currently poor, making it clean, cheap and reliable. We will invest much of the new roads budget into public transport without affecting road maintenance budgets. In the interests of safety we want lower speeds in urban areas and country lanes, this will lead to more efficient fuel use. A 'fair fuel' policy should also consider what is fair to future generations. I want to see investment in good and safe cycle lanes and paths foot paths encouraging people to make more use of them.

We will invest in recharging points for electric cars and the production of future vehicles and in renewable energy in order to power electric vehicles and find alternative fuels to fossil fuel in order to power heavy good vehicles and buses. The technology to stop relying on fossil fuel is out there, and this needs to funded because one day soon the oil wells will run dry. So, although the financial cost of petrol as we know it may increase, the ultimate cost to our environment will go down. I know which cost I would prefer.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Choosing to when or where to die

If we consider humans as sentient, thinking beings, then I believe that generally they have the right of individual choice of when and how to die. That is not to say that some individuals make choices about ending their own lives without considering the thoughts, well being and emotions of others, but then in some frames of mind people do not realise how much they are loved, needed and will be missed. Suicide is sad for those that are left, but is not a sin.

Assisted suicide is another matter. I can understand that someone may well want to die with dignity if they are fearful about an intolerable physical deterioration. I know that death is a release for people who have struggled against long term terminal illnesses, I saw my own mother fade away from breast cancer. I also know that a lot can be done in hospices to give terminally ill people a peaceful and serene death, but again I think that legal euthanasia would allow people choice. I also consider that if we went down the route of legal euthanasia we would need a whole load of checks and balances to ensure that no-one took advantage of the situation.

Both of these issues, death in a hospice and assisted death are covered by the Green Party Health Policy in the section End of Life Care ( Palliative care and assisted death with strict criteria and guidelines are supported in order to allow individuals to choose the nature of their death.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Arms and the Woman

I have been approached by a number of campaigners who are interested in my views about arms, armaments, defence and warfare, so this post is about my feelings on the matter.

I grew up in the 1960's during the cold war with the threat of nuclear war hanging over us. I felt a huge amount of relief once the cold war ended and I consider that having nuclear weapons are just as much an attraction for attack as a deterrent. Nuclear war is mutually assured destruction a situation that is realised by most major powers. I consider that warfare is evolving into other forms, biological and chemical weapons and cyber warfare, which could bring a nation to its knees with having to shoot a singe missile. 

I have always supported unilateral disarmament and I am in favour of not replacing trident missiles. I believe that the money would be better spent and save more lives if it were spent on the NHS, on schools and public libraries and information points. I am a pacifist and believe that there are many ways to resolve conflict rather than by aggression with military might. 

The Green Party considers that many current conflict situations have resulted from competition and exploitation by rich Northern countries and it is time that we all learned to co-operate with each other, to improve local economies and the environment. War is not good for such improvement. Global interdependence will engender common security and there should be a progressive reduction and the eventual abolition of offensive weaponry. This concept is of course an ideal for which to aim, and reality is a little grimmer. It appears that there is something in the nature of humans to be aggressive and provoke war.

Defence is therefore a consideration, but the Green Party believe that there are better and cheaper ways of defending the realm. To read the Peace and Defence policy in full see:
I would certainly support a review of the UK's approach to security, I do not approve of the promotion of arms sales and I certainly agree that research and the expansion of the renewable energy industry is preferable.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Education is not a soundbite

A local newspaper reporter asked me to outline my views on Education, briefly - only in two sentences, which is not nearly enough for me to say what I want to say about Education. And neither is this blog post, so I shall spare you the lorry loads of academic evidence and arguments that I could produce to illustrate my point of view. I have researched literacy and educational theories for a long time. I have chosen "Support for Education" as one of my election pledges not only because the subject is one of my specialisms, but also because the voters of South Derbyshire have concerns about Educational provision in the district: the secondary schools in the western part of the district are working hard to achieve Ofsted standards and adequate funding, while the eastern constituents are asking for another school to be built to accommodate an increase of population brought about by new housing.

A recent article in Derby Evening Telegraph reported that "children from poor backgrounds" in South Derbyshire are the least likely children in the UK to "succeed in life" according to a survey by the Sutton Trust ( The article does not examine the reasons for situation or blame any of South Derbyshire's schools but does call for government intervention to end educational inequalities. So, why are South Derbyshire children such apparent failures? I was a bit puzzled because I think that my South Derbyshire educated children have succeeded in life. I decided to read the original research to pinpoint the problem and find out what can be done to improve the situation. 

It turns out that the Sutton Trust was researching social mobility, the way that a child can move from one socio economic class to another, and the children that were studied (or rather, the statistics of the children that were studied) were those defined as "disadvantaged", meaning those receiving free school meals. Their GCSE results were examined as well as if they went to university and finally if they found a professional job. The study stated that it had nothing to do with the intelligence of the children. The study can be found here ( So, what the study seems to be telling us is that there are some children in South Derbyshire that are not not fulfilling their potential, for whatever reason, and the question now becomes how can Education help?

Successive governments have introduced schemes and strategies to measure and dictate what teachers teach with rigid targets and quotas to achieve. This sausage factory effect has not helped children to develop a sense of the love of learning for the sheer delight of learning. They have learnt to pass exams and reach, or not reach targets. Life-long education is vital for an informed, creative, literate and socially mobile population. To achieve this, the fully qualified staff of early years provision, schools and libraries should be allowed to inspire children in publicly funded establishments free from the dictates of targets and league tables.The Green Party intends to end academies and free schools and to fund local government adequately to provide for their schools. All children have a right to go to university and the Green Party will end student fees, allowing even the most disadvantaged children to achieve their potential. I believe that students should not have to pay £9000 for their education. I believe in scrapping the student fee. I went on student marches in the 1970's for all students to get full grants for their studies and I am distressed that it never happened. Education is not a sound-bite, education is a right.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Stimulating the local economy

The Green Party has a long term goal to promote sustainable local economies, encouraging people to shop locally and for business to source their goods and materials from as locally as possible. You will not be surprised that the Green Party favour Co-operative groups and in the constituency we already have Whistlewood Common; community owned and managed woodland and orchard,  ( The Green Party also want to develop local currencies, such as the Bristol Pound, which is a way to make sure that people invest in their local businesses (

The Green Party believe that stimulating a local economy improves the life, well being and vigour of a community. An example of this can be found at Wirskworth, where one member of the community took it upon himself to improve the main commercial area, getting residents together to regenerate the town ( Now the town is thriving.

If I should be elected to South Derbyshire I would instigate and support a shop and source locally campaign, encouraging both residents and businesses to invest in their locality. As an example, it would mean making sure that home improvements, such as double glazing is done by a local firm, or a pub or restaurant sources vegetables from a local grower.This has the benefits of finance staying within the economy, an increase of local jobs as well as saving on transport costs. As the slogan says, Green Party... for the common good. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Reply to a question about aid to developing countries

This is a summary of a reply that I gave to a constituent about debt traps and the morality of the UK giving aid as loans instead of grants:

It could be argued that the UK  is actually quite a rich nation in global terms. It would seem only right and proper that we should give aid to nations who are struggling. But then the counter argument is some recipients of UK aid would feel more empowered to have a loan, rather than a gift of money, accepting a loan can allow you to keep your self respect, whereas a gift may make you feel worthless.
 However, the aid that you speak of is not from one person to another, it is large sums of money between nations, with loans accumulating interest, perhaps faster than can be repaid. I have therefore come to the following conclusions. It is not right that a relatively wealthy country such as the UK should make money from lending to a country which would struggle to pay the debt and therefore should not give loans to such nations. Aid, as a gift or grant, should be given but in ways that it could be used by the local population to help them make a living, for instance to pay for education, or tools, or community projects, or even access to the internet. I am a qualified librarian and information scientist, and one of the concerns in my profession is the digital divide, and the lack of Information in developing countries. By Information, I mean things like healthcare, for example knowing about how the Ebola virus spreads, or how to keep your child hydrated, as well as finding out about your own history or scientific breakthroughs, just knowing about things. Access to information allows people to become self motivated learners and provides a country with a discerning and literate population. But I am getting onto my own hobby-horse now.

The Green Party policy on debt in the developing world is that the UK should lead an international initiative to write off all debts, and I would support that policy. The Green vision is that global economy should change, with a greater emphasis on local economies, and it would therefore encourage counties in the South to trade with each other, instead of exporting to the North as it does now, often to the detriment of their population. Fortunately, the Green Party policy on aid accords with my ideas (I do tend to be a bit of a free thinker) and basically it believes that UK aid should be given out according to internationally agreed objective criteria to support locally designed and managed projects which will lead to a sustainable way of life and long term development. You can read more of the policy at:
 What would I do to stop a new debt trap being set in the global South? I would press what ever government is formed after the election, to write off the debts from countries who cannot pay them and to persuade other countries to follow suit. I would argue that aid from the UK is targeted at projects that stimulate a local economy and  ensure that the recipient country will gain a long term sustainable economic future. 

Friday, 17 April 2015


I am a trailblazer, I always have been even in my childhood in South Wales when two friends and I started a trend in the valleys of dressing in Welsh costume for St David's day. I was born in South Wales at Tredegar, the birthplace of the National Health Service, a hot bed of Socialism and exporter of politicians. It was the home of Aneurin Bevan and Neil Kinnock. My father was a steelworker in Ebbw Vale and my mother was a Baptist Lay Preacher. I was taught to think for myself and to vote for the best person to represent the constituency rather than for the party they represented. I learnt about social justice and basic human equality and to make changes in this world you have to be pro- active.

I slipped down the valley to study Art at Cardiff College of Art, then went on to Leicester Polytechnic to gain a BA(hons) in Fashion and Textiles. I was trailblazing again, I was the first one in my family to get a degree and go to University, now all my three children have gone to university. I have had a full working life being a wool shop manager, a teacher and a librarian, and carried on my studies, eventually getting a Doctorate in Information Science in 2012. This was also trailblazing, there is no other Dr Bamkin, not even on my husband's side, but my son-in-law and nephew are following in my footsteps.

So, what has this to do with Politics? It shows that I am not afraid of being the first, of setting a path for other people to follow, of changing the world to give others a better chance. I am the first Green Party candidate for South Derbyshire. There is a "Green surge" and I am blazing a trail in South Derbyshire to allow people to vote Green and to support the only Political party that is prepared to fundamentally change the current system, to give democracy back to the people and is working for the common good. I am blazing the trail for sustainable growth and economic stability. I am blazing a trail for you.