Richard's blog

Hoon: "£50k and I'll tarmac Sipson for ya!"

Three cheers to Dispatches for catching buff-Hoon shouting his mouth off about how much (or how little) it costs to buy his support. You know you've crossed the line when the Prince of Custard, Peter Mandleson, goes on Newsnight to call you corrupt (I mean talk about pot... kettle).

So how much do we think Hoon charged BAA for pushing through arguably the most controversial bit of infrastructure since, well, the last Heathrow expansion? BAA and Labour operate a revolving door policy, but still, persuading the Cabinet to ignore over 80% of the responses to a consultation you've already tried to rig tends to be costly.

Now that everyone knows that Hoon is as crooked as a thrupenny bit, it's time to go back to the third runway decision and consider it afresh. Sure, we don't know that Hoon took cash from BAA to influence Government policy, but the man's got form. The man's got form.

Manchester Airport to be as big as Heathrow

Campaigners against expansion at Manchester Airport have been digging around in the Committee on Climate Change's aviation report, and discovered that the airport's expansion plans would make it as big as Heathrow by 2050.

Unsurprisingly people near the airport - including those at Hasty Lane who risk losing their homes to make way for a freight depot - are not best pleased. A Liberal Democrat councillor, who's been campaigning against expansion, told the Manchester Evening News that "Nobody I’ve spoken to was aware of the extent to which Manchester Airport hopes to expand, indeed those I’ve told are both shocked and stunned by the news."

The airport recently drew up a carbon reduction strategy, including magic lightbulbs in the toilets and all sorts of eco-gubbins. It omitted the emissions from planes, making it as useful as a chocolate teapot. It still received a Carbon Trust Standard award... which just shows up the Carbon Trust as arch-greenwashers.

Residents are fighting back though: recently they twinned with Sipson to show solidarity between blighted communities. Rumours abound about their latest plans... we'll bring you updates as we receive them.

Craven council approves expansion of Lydd Airport


Imagine you're a councillor in on the south coast of England. A tiny airport, best known for hosting raves during the acid house days of the early 1990s, comes to you for permission to expand. The airport is nestled between Dungeness nuclear power station and the oldest RSPB bird sanctuary in the country. You'd say no, right?

Not if you're a councillor from the rotten borough of Shepway. Last night this ragtag bunch of incompetents decided to approve expansion, overlooking the concerns of the nuclear power plant about the potential risk of a plane hitting a reactor, local people worried about the noise of planes overhead, the impact on the bird population and even the recomendation of their planning officers that the expansion plan be rejected.

As usual, the airport owners have been over-hyping the benefits of expansion. They renamed the airport London Ashford Airport, despite it being nowhere near London or Ashford. I'm not sure in what warped version of reality they envisage passengers landing at Lydd and not being pissed off when they find out that London is still half a world away.

Earth to Shepway Council: you are in the middle of nowhere. No one will voluntarily fly to you. The only attractions in your area are Pontins and the RSPB reserve at Dungeness... which you've just ruined by encouraging thousands of planes overhead. Well done chaps. Trebles all round!

Transition Heathrow turns wasteland into community garden

Community activists from the group Transition Heathrow have taken over an abandoned market garden threatened by the third runway. Around lunchtime, 20 people "swooped" on the land in Sipson, one of the villages due for demolition if the third runway at Heathrow goes ahead.

More photos on Transition Heathrow's Flickr stream.

After securing the site, the group immediately informed their new neighbours and local residents of their intention to reopen the old market garden for the benefit of the local community. The 'Grow Heathrow' project aims to encourage and support locally grown produce in an area that once had some of the most fertile soils in Britain.

Transition Heathrow has launched the project to highlight the need for a community controlled food supply in order to remain resilient to the impacts of peak oil and climate change. It intends to use the old market garden not only for growing, but also for activities such as bike workshops, clothes making, solidarity support for local workers and direct action workshops for people trying to stop the third runway.

Transition Heathrow member and local resident Joe Rake, described the events of the day. "Around lunchtime, a group of us walked onto the site. Once we had secured the gate, we set about telling local residents why we were there and inviting them to join in. We also had to start tidying up as it appeared to have been used for scrapping cars. Since the last tenants were evicted, the site has attracted unsavoury characters, so we wanted to restart the market garden for the good of the local community."

Many of those involved in the 'swoop' see today's action as a positive way of resisting the third runway whilst building an alternative community solution in its place. Heathrow resident Amy Summer said "We've been fighting the threat of the third runway for years, and its blighted our community. This kind of action not only helps stop expansion but also helps regenerate the area, providing local skills, green jobs and organic produce instead."

"This form of direct action is just as important as sitting on a runway, blockading the bulldozers or striking for more green jobs. There's no point in growing your own veg if it's going to be covered in tarmac by BAA. At the same time there's no point in community resistance if there's no community left to defend. We have to do both," she added.

Post COP reflections: support activists still locked up in Denmark

Well we're back from Copenhagen. Some of us at least: reports are still coming in that while some people were deported for such crimes as carrying a Leatherman, others were locked up for holding a small cloth roughly the size of a hand towel somewhere in the vicinity of the great and the good.

The list of those detained or deported is growing - the convergence space where I queued for the coach had a special bit of wall for notes from the deported to their friends (mostly 'get my stuff'). It's criminal that the unelected lobbyists and fully-elected arseholes that conjured up this so-called deal on the back of a napkin have their mugs in the paper while the real heroes - those who took action to stop the world going to hell in a handbasket - are facing Christmas in jail.

Greenpeace UK has asked people to write to the Danish PM and whinge like hell about the detentions. They've got one of those standard template letter things, but you can modify it, perhaps to include the name of a friend, or to widen your objection to include those deported (including the foreign correspondent of the Spanish equivalent of the BBC, sent home for filming outside the Bella Centre while wearing full press credentials).

It's probably about as worthwhile as getting all the world's leaders in one place to solve a problem they created, but it's better than sinking into post-action despair. Actually, the best thing to do if you're living in Blighty would be to go blockade the Danish Embassy until they let everyone go... but it is snowing, after all.

Good COP, bad COP: politicians in Copenhagen have no authority

In the second of our debates around the COP15, Richard explains why he believes the politicians in Copenhagen cannot (and will not) sign an equitable deal and why the climate crisis is just a symptom of the larger crisis in capitalism.

In swanky rooms in the Danish city of Copenhagen, powerful people are deciding the world's future. They're thrashing out a deal which, they say, will prevent climate change from destroying our way of life. They talk of global equity; of the West helping the South to develop sustainably; of pulling together against a common climatological foe. They talk, and we should listen, right, because they're all so very, very important.

These people - our elected representatives - are liars and thieves and their solution, a complex web of carbon trading, offsetting and battening down the hatches, is not about solving climate change. It is a naked attempt to exploit a clear and present danger to cement their power at our expense.

We saw this on day two of the COP15 conference, when a secret agreement between "the circle of commitment" leaked into the open. It sought to bind the world's inhabitants into a two-tier emissions framework, with privileged Westerners getting double the carbon ration of the majority of the world's population.

This attempt to embed carbon imperialism and divide the world permanently into emits and emit-nots is just the latest in a long line of reasons to reject the COP15 outright. Another, more congenital problem is that those at the summit cannot solve climate change because they are the ones who caused it.

The conference-goers are committed to going only so far as is compatible with economic growth; entrenching the root cause of climate change and global inequity: free-market globalised capitalism. Their solutions rest on an economic and political system built on the exploitation of the planet and the people who inhabit it.

They'd have you believe that everything will be ok if we just internalise the climate costs: place a price on air and so it can be traded like a cheap bauble in a bazaar. But this just validates their pollution: they bought it, they can break it. While the Maldives and Tuvalu sink beneath the waves and millions of Bangladeshis are displaced by flooding, the global elite is opening up a new market for financiers to gamble with for short-term gain. Just as money is no use to an indigenous tribe forced from their land by illegal logging, what will we buy once they've rendered the world uninhabitable?

Look around you. The rush to create wealth for the very few at the expense of the rest of us has poisoned our seas, polluted our air, chopped down our forests and forced millions off their land and into indentured slavery at the hands of faceless global corporations. The politicians putting pen to paper slaughtered hundreds of thousands overseas in their quest for oil; support the cruellest of dictators if it smoothes the way for business; lecture us on 'doing our bit' while our taxes pay their mortgages; fiddled their expenses while the gap between rich and poor grew ever wider.

Throughout history people in power have taken every opportunity to put themselves first and to exploit every situation to their advantage. What makes you think they've suddenly changed?

Glenn Beck versus Plane Stupid


This is the funnest thing I've seen in ages. It’s like being slagged off by Nick Griffin and David Icke at the same time.

If you haven’t watched Beck you don’t know what you’re missing. He regularly weeps on TV because he’s so scared of what Obama’s socialist agenda might do to his beloved country.

In the UK, we call such people wusses.

Anthill Mob reinforce anti-expansion message during Copenhagen climate talks

Activists in east London have painted two mega-messages against growth in aviation - and flights at London City Airport in particular - to coincide with the Copenhagen climate summit. One message saying, ‘Still climate criminals!’ is written in giant letters on the top of a 60ft hill situated just south of City Airport, which planes pass directly over.

"It’s a message to the delegates flying to and back from Copenhagen," explains Elsie Wai, spokesperson for local anti-expansion group, the Anthill Mob. "The conscientious will be taking the train but the selfish will be flying. We’re reminding the selfish delegates that they’ll remain climate criminals until they start thinking green."

The group are also angry about London City Airport’s continuing attempts to increase business and private flights. The airport currently has approximately 80,000 commercial flights a year but aims to increase this to 170,000 by 2030. "That means more pollution, more global warming and more misery for local people," says Elsie.

The Anthill Mob’s second message is written in 10ft high letters along the boundary fence of Tate & Lyle’s sugar refinery - situated beside the Docklands Light Railway approach to the airport. The message reads: ‘Drop the sweet talk: no flight expansion at City Airport.’

"You only have to look around the area next to the airport to see that it is in terminal decline," says Elsie. "The airport has made millions in profits but all we get in return is more noise and pollution. Pretty much everything at City Airport is automated. As it stands, a tiny number of people benefit from employment at the airport while the wider community and the climate suffers."

Cases of asthma and child mortality are already above the national average in the borough of Newham – where the airport is based. Expanding the airport means a massive increase in pollution which will further blight one of the poorest areas in London.