Thursday, 24 March 2011

e-Hustings for Green Party Members

House of Lords e-Hustings: Jessica Goldfinch (Total words: 350)

Question 1: The purpose of the House of Lords is to scrutinise and amend legislation drafted by the House of Commons. This is highly technical work, as are the rules governing procedures and processes within the House.
Could you tell us how your background and work experience have given you the skills to work with draft legislation as a Green peer, and what those skills are?
Transferable skills: reading, assessing, critical analysis, scrutiny, research and application of documentation, reports, research – including legal documents. Experience from: 1 year bi-lingual Law/LSE and King’s College; BA (Hons) Psychology/Exeter and three years’ postgraduate; charity work with Rethink, (scrutiny of mental health legislation) and Mediawatch, (legislation of media); Chair of Regulatory – Norwich City Council.
I intend to take full advantage of the non-partisan/ impartial advice and training offered to new peers.
 (words – 70)
 Question 2: Are you in favour of abolishing the monarchy?
No – “The Marmite Monarchy” - agree with much of the Republican argument, ( I prefer to use these arguments to reform the monarchy, e.g. transparent auditing and fair taxation. The psychological and financial impact of a living breathing monarchy is underestimated. I am persuaded that the smallest of businesses rely on income from its existence e.g. Royal Wedding estimate, £100 million including security; revenue estimate 1 billion.
Open to persuasion.
(words – 70)
 Question 3: Do you agree that promoting workers' co-operatives is an important aspect of laying the foundations for a green society? If you do, how would you work for this in the House of Lords?
Yes – bicameral work/collaboration are essential. Both Houses, Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and London Regional Assembly have Cooperative Party representation. Likewise NEF, (, would be an excellent starting point.
Members can promote a particular issue within the House in a variety of ways:
·         Ask the government a question
·         Request a short debate
·         Introduce a Private Member’s Bill
(words – 59)
Question 4: How would you support growth in renewable energy provision and wide-spread conversion to electric cars?
Using methods as described in question 3 – Lord Reay’s criticisms (11/01/11 ), notwithstanding!
Building on the work of the Science and Technology (03-04) EU(07-08) and Economic Affairs Committees (07-08) and advice from e.g. Friends of the Earth, Norway Communicates.
I would not support conversion to electric cars unless impact of battery cell production and energy source assessed.
(words – 58)
 Question 5: If elected, what will you do, if anything, to further the cause of the immediate abolition of the House of Lords and the creation of a democratically-elected second chamber of the British parliament?
Bicameral liaison with Caroline Lucas (MP)/other members.
The Committee, led by the Deputy PM/Cabinet Office, is independent of the Lords. To change House of Lords reform legislation, the Government has to amend current legislation or introduce a new piece of information. The Lords would consider this through the same procedures as would apply to all legislation and/or use methods Xref. Question 3.
FYI: Lord Steel Private Lords Reform Bill - at the Lords’ Committee stage; a response to omissions made in Constitutional Reform and Governance Bill 2009–10 (Royal Assent April 2010).
 (words -93)

Thursday, 17 March 2011

'Only Connect' -"Howard's End" (1910) E. M. Forster, 1924-1925

This epigraph pretty much sums up my approach to politics.

Any group, political or otherwise, can have its policies, its focus, its raison d'etre. It can protest, shout, lobby, petition. A political party can doorknock, hold hustings and spend thousands on election campaigns.

But, it is all pointless if you cannot 'connect' with the people you are seeking to win over. Sometimes it can mean just 'sitting with' feelings or behaviours we find uncomfortable or alien, but above all it is about listening; really listening. This will include hearing lots of things which you don't want to hear.

And then you must act.

Contrary to popular belief I don't believe members of the House of Lords to be 'alien', although practises, history and behaviour might be! In any event, a Green Lord will have to work with up to 740-odd other Lords and I believe that the vast majority will want to work with us. There is a wealth of dedication and expertise in the House of Lords and it would be foolhardy to dismiss it.

Learning policies and protocols is the "easy" bit, delivering them in an enticing way is the "clincher".

Measured, calm, respectful, with kindness and fire in the belly: this is how I intend to 'connect'.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Out of the mouth of babes.

My daughter, Hannah, asked me about 'the old days'! About Margarate Thatcher, unemployment queues and so on.

I told her about the song 'Enola Gay', which really switched me on to politics.

I told her about the 'Thatcher milk snatcher'; the miners' strikes, (xref'ing to 'Billy Elliot'). I told her about UB40s and then UB40's song '1 in 10'. She felt that not a lot had seemed to change, but that there were lots of good things in the world and the Green Party seemed really hopeful about the future.

When I go out to GP meetings or doorknocking, we often joke, (whilst I stand in Superman flying pose), - "There goes Supermum...changing the world one person or doorstep at a time!"

We talked a lot and this, (in the run up to last year's elections), was the result. This encapsulates why I do what I do and who I do it for. Enjoy.

Friday, 11 March 2011

“Experience is the name every one gives to their mistakes.” Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)

Mistakes, I've had a few! However, for those who want to know the types of experience I can bring to the Lords on behalf of the Green Party, I list them here:

  • Law and debating - I cut my teeth at the LSE/London University and still enjoy debating and can cope with hostile audiences.
  • Parliamentary Candidate for Norwich North - I had various hustings, in various settings, with various audiences. On one occasion I managed to take the brief and learn very quickly about business, economics and finance. I learned enough to debate and demonstrate GP policies as robust and sound.
  • City Councillor - Committees and groups - Twinning, Museums, Standards, Norwich Consolidated Charities, Housing and Co-Chair of Regulatory. I was particularly involved in the numerous applications made under the then new licensing laws.
  • Psychology - Assistant Clinical Psychologist for two years and one year Doctorate, not completed due to family circumstances. Skills involved assessment, counselling, co-running care in the community homes and planning and implementing 'rehabilitation' and more. Adult and Older Adult care; Child Psychiatry; Dementia Care - the skills set here is multi-faceted: report writing, time management; research; therapy and interventions; planning and carrying out interventions, including neuropsychological assessments for stroke, brain injury, dementias, motor neurone disease etc.
  • Lectures and talks - I have lectured to small groups and to large auditoria on mental health.
  • Media - my daughter and I have worked in TV and radio for 'Red Nose', Rethink and Blue Peter. I have had media training under John Morrell:
  • Other jobs  - I've worked supermarket tills, shelf stacking, fruit picking, toilet cleaning, making fridge seals, road gang 'stop-go' sign, factory and field work.
  • If there is anything else you would like to ask, please do.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

WhoseTurn is it to Clean the Loo? - International Women's Day

How I wish that this 'day' didn't have to exist, sadly it does and it needs to exist.

Women still earn in the regions of 17% less (full time work) and 36% (part time work), than their male counterparts for the same job descriptions. My union, 'Unison', regularly sends out reminders to "get your pay level checked".

Looking at our televisions, women are depicted as superfluous and fickle. Like male characters, this might be alright for mutual comic or near true-to-life depiction purposes, but when it seeps into every pore, I get angry. Women are only good for dodging chocolate muffins in the street; getting confused over which damn yoghurt to eat; musing over pebble shaped air fresheners and also the most important job of all - holding "compare-your-shopping-receipts-parties" - I must do that next week!

I get angry at having to buffer my daughter at every turn: at the corner shop, supermarkets, petrol stations, newspaper stands - so-called Lads mags, Sunday Sport, pornography and fickle displays of women are everywhere. What are boys and girls supposed to make of this?

The first time my daughter exclaimed in a petrol station queue, she was 5 years old: "What are big jugs mummy?" The queue members looked at me as if I was some permissive lax parent. I found the courage to point out that it was the shop that was wrong and that my child and I should have a right to buy a pint of milk without having to have the producers of milk thrust in our faces. I now challenge and have managed to get numerous shops to consider their responsibilities and change to dust covers and appropriate displays.

Women's bodies are for consumption everyday and in every conceivable way. Increasingly, this is now becoming a problem for boys and men, but not any where near to the same extent. If we saw men depicted in the way women are in local shops etc., there would be uproar.

Pornography: porneia - the lowest class of whore in ancient Greece; graphico/graphia - graphic depiction.

So, there we have it: The Graphic Depiction of the lowest class of Whores, every day, in every way. Think about what that means for a moment; it's truly horrible.

I am not so naive as to think that the porn industry or the depictions of women as fickle will disappear, but I do believe that each and everyone of us should consider our part in these depictions. Our daughters, our mothers, our girls, our women and increasingly boys - we should have their backs at every turn and demand a 'public' space in which we can all feel safe.

"Working It" do you intend to start being a Lord?

When asked this question, which I'd already asked myself, I thought I will take this on in the way I take on anything new...reconnaissance. From my military dependent background, "the reccie" is where one starts from. To know and map the way of the land, before entering fully with a strategy at hand.

You have to know your available possibilities, before you know what is possible.

  • I would spend time getting to know everyone and everything; as far as is possible. I would get to know porters, canteen staff, cleaners, support staff and so on. In effect, all of the staff who will be supporting me from the practical point of view, everyday. Support staff often work exceptionally long and unsociable hours, for very little and should be respected and known by name. Good morning and the odd conversation wouldn't hurt either.

  • I would enrol on the training courses provided for newcomers. This will allow me to know the practical procedures and protocols for the job at hand.

  • I would study, (or get help to study), each and every Lord in a paced, by-group, fashion. Get to know their strengths, their 'weaknesses'. Work out where our natural allies lie. I cannot believe that out of 740-odd Lords that there aren't any who we could do business with.

  • By rigorous study we may find a few surprises, e.g. people who we thought we couldn't do business with previously.

  • I would set up close liaison channels with Caroline Lucas's office, to enhance bicameral communications. This will likely need additional staff.

  • I would also set up channels of work with the Scottish, Welsh and Irish Greens. This would likely need additional staff. This will alert me to anything which I've missed, because I'm not thinking as an MSP, Welsh Assembly Member or from and Irish Green perspective. They will know instinctively, better than I, what is required and I will learn that 'viewpoint' over time.

  • I would also assert my independence. All politicians are not the same and that goes for Greens. I would promote 'green' policy, but I will not be afraid to challenge anyone if I feel it is 'just'.

  • I will not rush in; though I am sorely tempted to. 
  • I will be measured.
  • I will not be afraid to ask for help or to delegate.
  • I will be tenacious and brave.

  • I will make sure that I plan my timetable, which luckily falls around the school terms(!), so as to maintain my home life. In particular, planning around my daughter's welfare. I will use the expenses allowances to support my home life in my absence, e.g. a Housekeeper-Friend for Hannah.

  • I see my job as, initially, being a 'sower of seeds'. To gently and persuasively implant nuggets of 'green', with respect and kindness at all times.

  • Our core principles and philosophy will not be used as a battering ram. I will find friends and allies who will help me introduce the 'green' perspective into 'thinking' in the House of Lords. It will be a hard and  long journey, one which I will try to expedite when I can.

  • I am nervous and 'afraid', but the challenge is calling and I'm doing it anyway.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Post Office Queues' Muse

I have been collecting benefits from the Post Office since I can remember. It can be quite soul destroying knowing that before you even get to the counter window, you are going to struggle to pay the bills or at least be left with very little.

When I was a single working woman, I accumulated and afforded a lot of 'stuff'. A Berghaus walking jacket, a car, a pair of Scarpa walking boots and so on. However, for years I have now found myself in the world of good will and kindness. My parents have bought me replacement coats and shoes, a friend gave me a car, another an old TV and so on. I am very lucky, on an extremely low wage, but lucky. How come?

I have come to know many people in our post office queue and as I watched a fellow 'queuer' go to the window, I knew that like me she wouldn't have much left after paying her bills.

True to form she has maybe a fiver left, but then rummages in her purse and has 'enough' to put into the charity box.

Real politics, affecting real people, affecting real lives.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

A Woman's Place is in the House...that's both the Commons and the Lords!

Oh Lord, what is it all about? Having watched the footage from both the Commons and the Lords on numerous occasions you can almost forget that what you are witnessing is a living, breathing process. The movement of bills, onto legislation and law given Royal Ascent.

My first thoughts were, what am I thinking, surely the call for candidates for the House of Lords didn't mean someone like me? I discussed the possibility with friends and family and came to the conclusion, "Why not me?".

How would I manage? Well being a single parent teaches you a few things about juggling, time management, loyalty, work, paying bills, DIY, gardening, cleaning, cooking, studying, volunteering, childcare, being a carer, a 'nurse', 24 hour security, admin, legal admin. The list seems endless and to pay for someone to do all of the jobs would set you back £400-800 per week and maybe more in some areas.

So, if you want information go to the source. I called the support team at the House of Lords and without giving away Green Party business, I gleaned information about how the staff are there to help you do the job.
That, as a single parent, I would get help with those jobs which need doing and that I wouldn't be on my own.

I was encouraged not to be put off by my circumstances. Suddenly my skills set looked even better, even to myself.

Have a look at the House of Lords website, it's very good and informative. You can even see live streaming of the progress of bills passing through.

Baroness King of Bow will be giving her maiden speech, marking the 100th International Women's Day.