Tag Archives: adopt an mp

Adopt an MP – a Caroline Lucas update

16 Oct

If you are a new reader, you should know that I have officially adopted Caroline Lucas MP, as part of the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Adopt an MP campaign. And the adoption is taking very well! I have stalked seen Caroline twice this week – on Monday at the TUC Alliances for Green Growth conference and at the Climate Rendezvous, hosted by Climate Rush. I almost went to see her again last night host an evening with Peruvian activist Hugo Blanco on Latin America and the Ecosocialist Alternative, but I went to the pub instead. I have to say, Caroline is so hard-working. She seems to always be dashing in and dashing out again, but always completely on the ball and so enthusiastic. She isn’t just any MP, she is the only Green Party MP and that means she is the face of the UK Green Party movement. That’s a lot of responsibility, but I think she does it fantastically.

Here is the transcript of her speech to the TUC conference. Some of the points I got from it were:

  • We can not continue to measure a society’s success by GDP, we need to acknowledge that increasing levels of wealth are not making us happier and start looking at different measurements (check out NEF’s Happy Planet Index).
  • A less consumption-obsessed society is crucial if we are to meet the requisite cuts in emissions, as no amount of energy efficiency initiatives or technology will compensate for a world that is growing ever larger and making more and more energy demands.
  • We need to really start pushing for government regulation and back off the individual behaviour change. We can only achieve so much without proper regulation.
  • We need a shared vision – not one about shivering in a hair shirt in a cave, but one that stresses warmer homes, better public transport, cleaner air (all things that can only be achieved with regulation).

The Climate Rendezvous speech was similar, but peppered with fun anecdotes and infected with the enthusiasm in the room (she was wearing a red sash too – photos to come soon). She said:

  • Westminster looks like Hogwarts.
  • That our political system is completely archaic compared to the European parliament (she used to be a MEP). We have all kinds of weird traditions like having to vote at midnight, and having to vote for and against something if you want to abstain, which just makes you look like an idiot.
  • That a suffragette once hid in a broom cupboard under the stairs all night on census night, so she could write on the census that her address was at Westminster. This would have gone unremembered but Tony Benn took his own hammer and nails and put a plaque on the cupboard to commemorate it!
  • That sometimes she walks the long way round from her office to the chamber, because it takes her through a corridor full of photos of suffragettes and memorabilia, which makes her feel fired up by the time she gets there.
  • That when she thinks about how urgent taking action on climate change is (we have the next 5-8 years), the bristles stand up on the back of her neck.

It really struck me that she is not at all in it for the power (of course, I’m not sure if you could be, being a part of the Green Party). The fact that she has to fire herself up as she walks along the corridor I think is symptomatic of how much she has taken on – the entrenched, old-fashioned, archaic traditions of Westminster – as a progressive, passionate woman. She simply cares about it A LOT. It is so nice to see a politician be like that.

Gosh, I have really just swooned over her, haven’t I? What if she’s secretly married to Jeremy Clarkson? That would take the shine off a bit!

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Super Sunday

26 Sep

1. This is Emmy the Great. Er… I LOVE HER. She makes lovely music. She wears big knitted things. She is half English, half Chinese (’tis all about the half asian invasion). And she is now a big fan of Climate Rush! I have heard on the grapevine that she is looking for a “climate action presence” at her gigs next year, so we might be climate suffragetting it up at an Emmy the Great gig near you. How bloody cool is that?

2. Frozen yoghurt and napping on the beach on sunny Wednesday was pretty super.

3. I was really moved by MummySam‘s craft project this week. She is sewing journal entries, expressing the feelings that come up in trying to raise a child with Asperger’s. Do read her blog about it here.

4. Here is a short video of me being a Green Dragon at the Wipe Out Waste Awards last week. There will be a longer video soon where we were all encouraged to look super scary and evil so I can’t wait for that one! The bit where I stand up and do a funny twizzle is where I am explaining that my jacket came from a charity shop!

5. I bought a typewriter. “Hipster idiot” you may be thinking but AHA you are wrong. For I have no illusions of typing away on this into the night (although Cormac McCarthy wrote all his novels using just such an Olivetti 32 so it can’t be half bad) but I am going to use it to make nice business cards and badges etc for my upcoming craft project. Plus it looks soooo pretty.

6. Ed Miliband is leader of the Labour party! I actually think that’s quite super. I wish we had less “career” politicians and more who had gained experience contributing to their community in some way, but I think he’s a nice guy, he listens and he’s always made time for us at the climate change conferences as UKYCC.

Funny anecdote – back in 2008 at the conference in Poznan,we had our first meeting with him (where he bought us all beer! Way to get the youth on side). He was 3 months into the job of Energy and Climate Change minister and seemed very unsure of himself. Obama had just been elected, and Ed lamented that we had no one in the UK like him. I said that the opportunity was there for him, the door was open and all he had to do was walk through it. He actually put his head in his hands (!) and said, “I know, I know. You’re right.” I don’t know if he would remember that exchange, but it’s funny to think that we were probably witnessing a slow realisation in him that he needed to step up.

7. I have been listening to She & Him: Volume Two on repeat for the last couple of months. You may have heard Zooey Deschanel’s silver tones before in that much lauded film, Elf. This is her folky two piece band and I rahlly like it.

hanna ♥

Does this mean I can have a baby shower?

25 Sep

Writing the piece for Call4 this week on UKYCC‘s Adopt an MP campaign reminded me that I had yet to get my act together and adopt mine. So, having confirmed that my new MP was indeed Caroline Lucas from the Green Party (inner cheer!) I looked up when her surgeries were and lo and behold, within a few hours I was sitting opposite her and her aide, chatting about climate action and the coalition government.

Things you might like to know:

– She is very lovely. And her staff are very nice too (bonus points).

– I asked her about Chris Huhne’s battle with the Treasury to save DECC and to what extent any cuts (or the scrapping of it entirely) would affect the UK’s ability to keep on track with our climate commitments. She responded that in light of George Monbiot’s recent article (which basically says that all current and previous attempts to curb climate change have failed) perhaps we need to scrap DECC and see climate change for the national security issue it is – moving its whole remit into the MOD. She was only half-serious, but I see her point. She predicted however that it wouldn’t end up getting scrapped, as it is such a symbolic department – but it might get hollowed out.

– Much more of a serious issue to Caroline was the scrapping of the Sustainable Development Commission earlier this year, which had been carrying out valuable environmental auditing work. Caroline told me that the SDC had saved the government £300m through their work, over the 10 years that they had existed. The cost of running the commission? £4m per year. So scrapping it…. kind of didn’t make any sense on any level. She also made a very good point – how can the coalition ever deliver on their promise to be the “greenest government ever”, when they no longer have any auditors to tell them whether or not they have achieved that aim?

– Other things we touched on briefly were those who were doing their environmental bit in parliament (Chris Huhne, Peter Ainsworth *applause*); how, through green job creation, we can have an economic recovery and tackle climate change at the same time; how our government is getting sidetracked by nuclear; and how she wanted to learn more about the Canadian tar sands and might put forward some parliamentary questions about them (yay!).

So that was my first meeting with Caroline Lucas! I have an enviable job on my hands – tracking an MP who basically thinks a lot of what I think, where no persuasion or lobbying might be needed. What I would like to provide though is a boost, links or contacts where I can and one more voice cheering her on when she stands up in parliament. I’m looking forward to the next few months!

Adopt an MP

23 Sep

This is cross-posted from Call4.org (I officially adopted Caroline Lucas tonight too! Blog on that soon!)

Since last week’s launch of the UK Youth Climate Coalition’s Adopt an MP campaign, MPs have had more to worry about than just totting up their expenses accurately. For lurking around every corner (or, possibly, just turning up to their advice surgeries) will be a young person (or “adopter”) ready to question them on their commitment to creating a clean energy future.

It’s as simple as it sounds. The aim is to get 650 young people from every constituency in the UK to adopt their local MP and “track” them as they try to make climate change their top priority, whether that’s through writing letters, emails, visiting them in person or more exciting means!

It’s about building relationships

What is most appealing about this campaign is that it doesn’t dehumanise politics, or politicians. It is very much about creating personal and lasting relationships that can affect real change. As the Adopt an MP webpage says – “Like any new relationship it will take time, patience, trust and a little love”. It might sound unrealistic, idealistic or even sentimental. But this campaign takes inspiration from others that have really worked.

Take the Adopt a Negotiator campaign – a TckTckTck initiative which sends young “trackers” from across the globe to follow their countries’ lead negotiators through the UN climate change negotiations. Our UK tracker, Anna Collins, built up such a strong relationship with the lead negotiator Jan Thompson last year, that she was soon sharing coffees and emails on a level that I suspect most NGO and business lobbyists would envy.

A turning point came when Anna wrote to Jan just before the Copenhagen talks:

I want to remind you to think of me when you are negotiating. And remember that each line of text you negotiate, is not just a line of text… but a moment in my life that changes because of the decision you make. Please remember just how much you hold in your hands over the next two weeks. Please remember that beautiful, amazing future I know is possible.”

Jan replied, telling Anna that her email had made her cry (on the bus, no less) and reassuring her that the negotiating team were going to work as hard as they could. It’s easy to forget sometimes that civil servants and politicians are people. Conversely, perhaps it’s hard for them to truly keep in mind the people they serve as they go about their daily business, and that’s why projects like this, based on personal interaction, can be so effective.

Adopt an MP’s launch event, Parliament in the Park, capitalised on this fact. It was an opportunity for MPs and their trackers to sit together on the grass, share tea and cake and talk about a green future. Sounds like one of the more pleasant avenues available to combat climate change…

It’s about making an impact

However, it’s not just about nice chats and tugging at heartstrings. The Australian Youth Climate Coalition did something similar in 2007 – their Adopt-A-Politician campaign. With 2007 being a Federal Election year, AYCC developed a non-partisan campaign to put local and national pressure on politicians to make serious policy commitments on climate change. They used traditional tools such as local organisers in marginal electorates, posters, leaflets and face-to-face meetings, as well as social networks and adverts in cinemas. They got a tremendous amount of press coverage and contributed to the 2007 election being called the “first climate change election”.

As well as making a political impact, campaigns such as these can have a massive effect on the campaigners themselves, empowering them and enabling them to recognise that these seemingly insurmountable problems have ordinary people at the heart of them. Mary, the “adopter” of Pat Glass in North West Durham, wrote:

“I arrive five minutes early for Pat’s surgery to find 3 people already in the waiting room. They are sitting around looking scary and tutting under their breath every time someone says anything. And when I say these people are scary, I mean SCARYI sit down and introduce myself to Pat. I warm to her immediately, and can see that this was a part of the reason she was elected for North West Durham, not just the fact that we are a “Labour safe seat”. We talk about the Adopt an MP programme and about her wanting to get young people more involved in politics (something I am particularly passionate about) and she completely gets on my good side by talking about getting people from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds into politics. I almost do my happy dance, but for the sake of my dignity I hold it back. I hope to meet with Pat again soon, ask her some questions of my own, get to know her as a person, and as a MP a little better. I’m sure we’ll get on like a house on fire, as long as I learn not to put my foot in my mouth. I’m sure I’ll get there.”

It’s about using what we have

Young people are arguably the only people who could run a campaign such as this – they who have time, technological skills and passion. A great example of this across the pond is the Canadian Citizen Factory site, launched by the youth-led organisation Apathy is Boring, which basically allows people to stalk their MPs. Liz McDowell (Canadian Director of the youth-led Otesha UK) looked up her MP recently in Langley, British Columbia:

“I found all his basic info plus a news feed listing all the times he’s been in the news, voted in parliament, spoken in parliament, joined a committee or tweeted in the past month. Giving this page a quick skim over, I learned that Mark Warawa has recently tweeted about census forms and climate bills, petitioned for more employment insurance and less access to abortion, and been in the news for coming 4th place in a local fast-draw shooting competition (apparently his worst placement in years). This feed is a gold mine.”

Mark Warawa, you have a new stalker. Better watch your back.

File those adoption papers

Want to get involved? Get adopting! You can register to track your MP and download an adoption pack here:http://adoptanmp.ukycc.org/.

It’s not about criticism or praise, but remembering that MPs are humans and supporting them to make a stand and fight to make a difference. In today’s government, they need all the support they can get.