Green Queen v Greene King

Marina takes on a brewery and drinks them into defeat plus advice on keeping the Wolfowitz from the

Dear Marina,

I, like you, hold leadership aspirations. I am a much better future prime than that young Blairite from Eton. How can I maximise the promotion of my world class fiscal credentials on the back of this Wolfowitz saga?

GB, London

Gordie, if you with your fiscal fingers or that spliffing toff from the Dark Side are serious about leadership, gently close the door on the World Bank and walk away.

This unhealthy obsession with carting money around the globe hinders progress. At the unleashing of Transition Town Lewes this week, it became evident we need to localise cash flows, not globalise them.

As we ease gently into a low carbon economy – necessitated by post peak oil and global warming issues - communities must become more self reliant. That includes becoming self financing. What we don’t need right now is big banks telling us we can borrow money but only on conditions that favour the financial institution rather than the enterprises they purport to help.

Communities must issue their own currency that can only be spent locally. If you can’t work it out Gordie, step aside. The world needs ME right now, far more than it needs either of you two. Up the revolution!

Dear Marina

Great to see you in the Lewes Arms last night. How’s your head?
Up the revolution!

Andi, Transition Town Lewes

What do you think? So much to celebrate and we’re still six days off the culmination of Operation Destroy the Dark Side. Hangover aside, I am effervescing with the excitement of it all.

A once local brewery gets gobbled up by the international scene. Some plonker in an office somewhere makes an unfortunate decision. He removes the local grog, Harveys, from the tap because he thinks this will improve sales of the company’s non local own brand ale.

DOH! This being Lewes – epicentre of the burgeoning revolution – direct action was inevitable. Hence for months we’ve all been drinking elsewhere while the dedicated picketed the Lewes Arms.

Greene King apparently recognises the stirrings of a baying mob when confronted with it, and thus, eventually, it capitulated. Harveys is back on tap and it is once again possible to drink ethically while revolting.

Globalised capitalism nil, power to local people, one point. God, I love Lewes.

Dear Marina

I understand you are trying to organise new places to grow food in our community. I love gardening but I’m disabled and need raised beds. I couldn’t cope with an allotment. But I’d love to get involved with a shared community garden. Is that possible?

Sue, East Saltdean near Brighton

PS: I voted for you and the LibDem team and I made my dad vote LibDem as well. He normally votes Conservative

Thank you for voting for us. We will do you, your dad, our community and the world proud when we win on 3rd May.

With the collapse of Communism, that other revolutionary hotbed – Cuba – found itself without an oil supply. It was forced over night into a low carbon economy. The number one priority was to feed the people and so land, rooftops and open spaces were commandeered for food production.

A military parade ground, for instance had its paving slabs pulled up. These were used to create raised beds.

Need, in this case was the mother of invention. Here in Blighty, of course, hardly anyone has noticed a similar need hurtles towards us faster than a bolting Apocalyptic horse.

With just 20 years to save our selves - we will starve once we’ve run out of small oil rich nations to invade - now is the time to reclaim the land, start growing and pass on cultivation skills.

So yes, Sue. Together we will make this happen. But first we have to stop the Tories. For as you well know, should the Tories take over our town on 3rd May, there is, I fear, no hope for this world.

All offers of help, especially money, for Operation Destroy the Dark Side to 77 Oaklands Avenue East Saltdean Brighton BN2 8PB. Cheques made payable to Lewes LibDems. Or email votepepper@yahoo.com

Marina Pepper is a former glamour model turned journalist, author, eco-campaigner and Lib Dem politician. A councillor and former Parliamentary candidate, she lives near Brighton with her two children.
Why not e-mail your problems to askmarina@newstatesman.co.uk?
Getty
Show Hide image

Who will win in Copeland? The Labour heartland hangs in the balance

The knife-edge by-election could end 82 years of Labour rule on the West Cumbrian coast.

Fine, relentless drizzle shrouds Whitehaven, a harbour town exposed on the outer edge of Copeland, West Cumbria. It is the most populous part of the coastal north-western constituency, which takes in everything from this old fishing port to Sellafield nuclear power station to England’s tallest mountain Scafell Pike. Sprawling and remote, it protrudes from the heart of the Lake District out into the Irish Sea.

Billy, a 72-year-old Whitehaven resident, is out for a morning walk along the marina with two friends, his woolly-hatted head held high against the whipping rain. He worked down the pit at the Haig Colliery for 27 years until it closed, and now works at Sellafield on contract, where he’s been since the age of 42.

“Whatever happens, a change has got to happen,” he says, hands stuffed into the pockets of his thick fleece. “If I do vote, the Bootle lass talks well for the Tories. They’re the favourites. If me mam heard me saying this now, she’d have battered us!” he laughs. “We were a big Labour family. But their vote has gone. Jeremy Corbyn – what is he?”

The Conservatives have their sights on traditional Labour voters like Billy, who have been returning Labour MPs for 82 years, to make the first government gain in a by-election since 1982.

Copeland has become increasingly marginal, held with just 2,564 votes by former frontbencher Jamie Reed, who resigned from Parliament last December to take a job at the nuclear plant. He triggered a by-election now regarded by all sides as too close to call. “I wouldn’t put a penny on it,” is how one local activist sums up the mood.

There are 10,000 people employed at the Sellafield site, and 21,000 jobs are promised for nearby Moorside – a project to build Europe’s largest nuclear power station now thrown into doubt, with Japanese company Toshiba likely to pull out.

Tories believe Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on nuclear power (he limply conceded it could be part of the “energy mix” recently, but his long prevarication betrayed his scepticism) and opposition to Trident, which is hosted in the neighbouring constituency of Barrow-in-Furness, could put off local employees who usually stick to Labour.

But it’s not that simple. The constituency may rely on nuclear for jobs, but I found a notable lack of affection for the industry. While most see the employment benefits, there is less enthusiasm for Sellafield being part of their home’s identity – particularly in Whitehaven, which houses the majority of employees in the constituency. Also, unions representing Sellafield workers have been in a dispute for months with ministers over pension cut plans.

“I worked at Sellafield for 30 years, and I’m against it,” growls Fred, Billy’s friend, a retiree of the same age who also used to work at the colliery. “Can you see nuclear power as safer than coal?” he asks, wild wiry eyebrows raised. “I’m a pit man; there was just nowhere else to work [when the colliery closed]. The pension scheme used to be second-to-none, now they’re trying to cut it, changing the terms.”

Derek Bone, a 51-year-old who has been a storeman at the plant for 15 years, is equally unconvinced. I meet him walking his dog along the seafront. “This county, Cumbria, Copeland, has always been a nuclear area – whether we like it or don’t,” he says, over the impatient barks of his Yorkshire terrier Milo. “But people say it’s only to do with Copeland. It ain’t. It employs a lot of people in the UK, outside the county – then they’re spending the money back where they’re from, not here.”

Such views might be just enough of a buffer against the damage caused by Corbyn’s nuclear reluctance. But the problem for Labour is that neither Fred nor Derek are particularly bothered about the result. While awareness of the by-election is high, many tell me that they won’t be voting this time. “Jeremy Corbyn says he’s against it [nuclear], now he’s not, and he could change his mind – I don’t believe any of them,” says Malcolm Campbell, a 55-year-old lorry driver who is part of the nuclear supply chain.

Also worrying for Labour is the deprivation in Copeland. Everyone I speak to complains about poor infrastructure, shoddy roads, derelict buildings, and lack of investment. This could punish the party that has been in power locally for so long.

The Tory candidate Trudy Harrison, who grew up in the coastal village of Seascale and now lives in Bootle, at the southern end of the constituency, claims local Labour rule has been ineffective. “We’re isolated, we’re remote, we’ve been forgotten and ignored by Labour for far too long,” she says.

I meet her in the town of Millom, at the southern tip of the constituency – the opposite end to Whitehaven. It centres on a small market square dominated by a smart 19th-century town hall with a mint-green domed clock tower. This is good Tory door-knocking territory; Millom has a Conservative-led town council.

While Harrison’s Labour opponents are relying on their legacy vote to turn out, Harrison is hoping that the same people think it’s time for a change, and can be combined with the existing Tory vote in places like Millom. “After 82 years of Labour rule, this is a huge ask,” she admits.

Another challenge for Harrison is the threat to services at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital. It has been proposed for a downgrade, which would mean those seeking urgent care – including children, stroke sufferers, and those in need of major trauma treatment and maternity care beyond midwifery – would have to travel the 40-mile journey to Carlisle on the notoriously bad A595 road.

Labour is blaming this on Conservative cuts to health spending, and indeed, Theresa May dodged calls to rescue the hospital in her campaign visit last week. “The Lady’s Not For Talking,” was one local paper front page. It also helps that Labour’s candidate, Gillian Troughton, is a St John Ambulance driver, who has driven the dangerous journey on a blue light.

“Seeing the health service having services taken away in the name of centralisation and saving money is just heart-breaking,” she tells me. “People are genuinely frightened . . . If we have a Tory MP, that essentially gives them the green light to say ‘this is OK’.”

But Harrison believes she would be best-placed to reverse the hospital downgrade. “[I] will have the ear of government,” she insists. “I stand the very best chance of making sure we save those essential services.”

Voters are concerned about the hospital, but divided on the idea that a Tory MP would have more power to save it.

“What the Conservatives are doing with the hospitals is disgusting,” a 44-year-old carer from Copeland’s second most-populated town of Egremont tells me. Her partner, Shaun Grant, who works as a labourer, agrees. “You have to travel to Carlisle – it could take one hour 40 minutes; the road is unpredictable.” They will both vote Labour.

Ken, a Conservative voter, counters: “People will lose their lives over it – we need someone in the circle, who can influence the government, to change it. I think the government would reward us for voting Tory.”

Fog engulfs the jagged coastline and rolling hills of Copeland as the sun begins to set on Sunday evening. But for most voters and campaigners here, the dense grey horizon is far clearer than what the result will be after going to the polls on Thursday.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.