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

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.
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This Ada Lovelace Day, let’s celebrate women in tech while confronting its sexist culture

In an industry where men hold most of the jobs and write most of the code, celebrating women's contributions on one day a year isn't enough. 

Ada Lovelace wrote the world’s first computer program. In the 1840s Charles Babbage, now known as the “father of the computer”, designed (though never built) the “Analytical Engine”, a machine which could accurately and reproducibly calculate the answers to maths problems. While translating an article by an Italian mathematician about the machine, Lovelace included a written algorithm for which would allow the engine to calculate a sequence of Bernoulli numbers.

Around 170 years later, Whitney Wolfe, one of the founders of dating app Tinder, was allegedly forced to resign from the company. According to a lawsuit she later filed against the app and its parent company, she had her co-founder title removed because, the male founders argued, it would look “slutty”, and because “Facebook and Snapchat don’t have girl founders. It just makes it look like Tinder was some accident". (They settled out of court.)

Today, 13 October, is Ada Lovelace day – an international celebration of inspirational women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It’s lucky we have this day of remembrance, because, as Wolfe’s story demonstrates, we also spend a lot of time forgetting and sidelining women in tech. In the wash of pale male founders of the tech giants that rule the industry,we don't often think about the women that shaped its foundations: Judith Estrin, one of the designers of TCP/IP, for example, or Radia Perlman, inventor of the spanning-tree protocol. Both inventions sound complicated, and they are – they’re some of the vital building blocks that allow the internet to function. 

And yet David Streitfield, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, someow felt it accurate to write in 2012: “Men invented the internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolised Mr Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died.”

Perhaps we forget about tech's founding women because the needle has swung so far into the other direction. A huge proportion – perhaps even 90 per cent - of the world’s code is written by men. At Google, women fill 17 per cent of technical roles. At Facebook, 15 per cent. Over 90 per cent of the code respositories on Github, an online service used throughout the industry, are owned by men. Yet it's also hard to believe that this erasure of women's role in tech is completely accidental. As Elissa Shevinsky writes in the introduction to a collection of essays on gender in tech, Lean Out: “This myth of the nerdy male founder has been perpetuated by men who found this story favourable."

Does it matter? It’s hard to believe that it doesn’t. Our society is increasingly defined and delineated by code and the things it builds. Small slip-ups, like the lack of a period tracker on the original Apple Watch, or fitness trackers too big for some women’s wrists, gesture to the fact that these technologies are built by male-dominated teams, for a male audience.

In Lean Out, one essay written by a Twitter-based “start-up dinosaur” (don’t ask) explains how dangerous it is to allow one small segment of society to built the future for the rest of us:

If you let someone else build tomorrow, tomorrow will belong to someone else. They will build a better tomorrow for everyone like them… For tomorrow to be for everyone, everyone needs to be the one [sic] that build it.

So where did all the women go? How did we get from a rash of female inventors to a situation where the major female presence at an Apple iPhone launch is a model’s face projected onto a screen and photoshopped into a smile by a male demonstrator? 

Photo: Apple.

The toxic culture of many tech workplaces could be a cause or an effect of the lack of women in the industry, but it certainly can’t make make it easy to stay. Behaviours range from the ignorant - Martha Lane-Fox, founder of, often asked “what happens if you get pregnant?” at investors' meetings - to the much more sinister. An essay in Lean Out by Katy Levinson details her experiences of sexual harassment while working in tech: 

I have had interviewers attempt to solicit sexual favors from me mid-interview and discuss in significant detail precisely what they would like to do. All of these things have happened either in Silicon Valley working in tech, in an educational institution to get me there, or in a technical internship.

Others featured in the book joined in with the low-level sexism and racism  of their male colleagues in order to "fit in" and deflect negative attention. Erica Joy writes that while working in IT at the University of Alaska as the only woman (and only black person) on her team, she laughed at colleagues' "terribly racist and sexist jokes" and "co-opted their negative attitudes”. 

The casual culture and allegedly meritocratic hierarchies of tech companies may actually be encouraging this discriminatory atmosphere. HR and the strict reporting procedures of large corporates at least give those suffering from discrimination a place to go. A casual office environment can discourage reporting or calling out prejudiced humour or remarks. Brook Shelley, a woman who transitioned while working in tech, notes: "No one wants to be the office mother". So instead, you join in and hope for the best. 

And, of course, there's no reason why people working in tech would have fewer issues with discrimination than those in other industries. A childhood spent as a "nerd" can also spawn its own brand of misogyny - Katherine Cross writes in Lean Out that “to many of these men [working in these fields] is all too easy to subconciously confound women who say ‘this is sexist’ with the young girls who said… ‘You’re gross and a creep and I’ll never date you'". During GamerGate, Anita Sarkeesian was often called a "prom queen" by trolls. 

When I spoke to Alexa Clay, entrepreneur and co-author of the Misfit Economy, she confirmed that there's a strange, low-lurking sexism in the start-up economy: “They have all very open and free, but underneath it there's still something really patriarchal.” Start-ups, after all, are a culture which celebrates risk-taking, something which women are societally discouraged from doing. As Clay says, 

“Men are allowed to fail in tech. You have these young guys who these old guys adopt and mentor. If his app doesn’t work, the mentor just shrugs it off. I would not be able ot get away with that, and I think women and minorities aren't allowed to take the same amount of risks, particularly in these communities. If you fail, no one's saying that's fine.

The conclusion of Lean Out, and of women in tech I have spoken to, isn’t that more women, over time, will enter these industries and seamlessly integrate – it’s that tech culture needs to change, or its lack of diversity will become even more severe. Shevinsky writes:

The reason why we don't have more women in tech is not because of a lack of STEM education. It's because too many high profile and influential individuals and subcultures within the tech industry have ignored or outright mistreated women applicants and employees. To be succinct—the problem isn't women, it's tech culture.

Software engineer Kate Heddleston has a wonderful and chilling metaphor about the way we treat women in STEM. Women are, she writes, the “canary in the coal mine”. If one dies, surely you should take that as a sign that the mine is uninhabitable – that there’s something toxic in the air. “Instead, the industry is looking at the canary, wondering why it can’t breathe, saying ‘Lean in, canary, lean in!’. When one canary dies they get a new one because getting more canaries is how you fix the lack of canaries, right? Except the problem is that there isn't enough oxygen in the coal mine, not that there are too few canaries.” We need more women in STEM, and, I’d argue, in tech in particular, but we need to make sure the air is breatheable first. 

Barbara Speed is a technology and digital culture writer at the New Statesman and a staff writer at CityMetric.