Green politics, philosophy, history, paganism and a lot of self righteous grandstanding.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Shell No! Shows The Way

It's not often I get invited to a party with Emma Thompson, but today I had to turn down an offer to join the actress for a party outside the Shell Centre in London.

The celebration was the news that Royal Dutch Shell had pulled out of their plans to drill for oil in the High Arctic. Campaigning by Greenpeace around the world had made the icy north a little too hot for the oil giant, and so after investing 7 billion dollars in the project they decided to pull the plug. Publicly they said there wasn't enough oil for them, privately they admitted they were shocked by the degree of public opposition to their plans.

The good news, coming so soon after the VW scandal broke, makes an interesting test case on how we should deal with "sustainable" companies. Like VW, Shell had invested heavily in a brand image as a modern company that cares about its responsibilities, and both companies have a string of awards and a library of glossy reports to prove their credentials as socially responsible corporations.

Greenpeace had run a limited campaign against VW because of their lobbying to reduce EU
emissions standards, but had ultimately lost.

Against Shell though they deployed their full arsenal, with protests from Seattle to London, on land, at sea and most recently hanging in the air off a bridge in Portland. First they went for their allies, forcing Lego to back out of £68 million deal with the company, and then they came for Shell in person. First they dropped a banner, then they serenading their headquarters with a succession of musicians, some famous and some not, and then they parked a three ton animatronic polar bear outside for most of September. That's when they gave in.

VW and Shell came at Sustainability from different directions.

Volkswagen made cars for hippies in the sixties, and more recently gained a reputation for safety, economy and practicality.

Shell, meanwhile, gained a reputation in the nineties as one of the worst companies in the world. They had devastated the Niger Delta, funded an oppressive military dictatorship, and they were culpable in the execution of the man who opposed them. For VW Corporate Social Responsibility was the natural progression of a sensible car company, for Shell it was a passport to rejoin the human race.

However VW and Shell were alike in other ways; they both wanted to be number one. Merging with
Audi and then Skoda, VW became the giant of the European market. With arch rival BP disgracing itself in the Gulf of Mexico, Shell became the world's second biggest oil company.

But there were problems ahead. VW had the challenge of making it's diesel cars cheaper and faster than the opposition. Shell had to face up to the decline of conventional oil resources. Both companies faced a choice: become genuinely 'sustainable', or go for that coveted Number One slot.

Unfortunately greed won out. VW fitted the 'defeat devices'. Shell went into tar sands and Arctic oil.
It's easy to think that the chief execs of these companies live on a different planet to the rest of us, but actually they don't. This makes it even more sickening to think of the world they planned to leave for their children.

Because the truth is that more often than not the 'sustainable corporation' is a lie.

True, there is good news out there.

There are the Googles and the Interface Carpets of the world, but these are companies who streaks ahead of the opposition and can afford to be generous, and whose core business was never a major threat to the planet.

There are also the Teslas, and the Solar Centuries and the Ecotricities of the world, but these are small
companies that will never become big until the VWs and Shells move aside.

However despite twenty years of talk of 'sustainability' and 'social responsibility' not one fossil fuel company has switched to renewables, not one car company has given up petrol, not one cement company has given up coal. They have talked the talk, but they've not walked the walk.

Worse, they have pulled the wool over the eyes of politicians and governments have abdicated their responsibility to legislate. VW was trusted to keep it's own house in order. As a result it's crimes were not discovered by any government agency, but by a small NGO. Shell had been given permission to drill in the Arctic by President Obama. What stopped them was not our 'democracy', but people power.

The lesson is clear. The corporate world will not reform itself voluntarily. We need to make them.

Power never gave up without a fight. Shell was the most recent battle. Lets get on and win the war.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Changing the Scorpion's Nature

VW joins the Dark Side

Fans of the Citroen 2CV may object, but once upon a time if you drove anything other than a VW Beetle or Camper, then you couldn't call yourself a true environmentalist.

The company that had made Adolf Hitler's People's Car', and which owed its post war survival almost entirely to a single officer in British Army, had successfully made the leap from the Nazis to the New Age.

The good vibes generated in the sixties carried forwards to the modern era where VW were regular receivers of awards for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility.

But all was not what it seemed.

In 2011 Greenpeace took them on for their lobbying efforts to reduce European Union emissions standards. VW won and, in a dirty deal with the United Kingdom, the Germans agreed to help block the regulation of coke-snorting British bankers in exchange for the UK helping to block regulation of the gas-guzzling German cars.

Then, in this last week, the true scale of the extent to which VW had sold its soul became apparent.

A sophisticated electronic device told the car when an emissions testing device was attached, causing the engine to reduce its otherwise illegal emissions.

The alternative would have been to fit a system that uses urea, under the slightly more appealing trade name of AdBlue. Just refilling your tank of AdBlue costs around £200, so with 11 million cars on the road VW had clearly saved themselves a lot of money. However the "defeat device" meant that these vehicles were pumping out between 10 and 40 times the permitted amounts of nitrous oxide. That really is taking the piss.

For VW, this is big.

For those of us who want a cleaner world, and who recognize that, for better or worse the corporations will be running the show for a few years yet, it's potentially even bigger.

Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith

In 1897 the Yukon, part of Canada's frozen north, experienced the last gold rush of the nineteenth century. To get to Canada the prospectors had to pass through the town of Skagway, part of the US state of Alaska. Possibly the most lawless town in the world, it was the place where "a bunch of the boys were whooping it up" in Robert Service's poem The Shooting of Dan McGrew.

But Skagway was also one massive confidence trick. Virtually the private property of one Jefferson Randolph 'Soapy' Smith, the entire town was built around ripping off the gullible gold seekers. Smith owned the newspaper, his own militia, the US Marshal's office and scores of pickpockets, robbers, crooked lawyers and prostitutes. New arrivals paid to send overpriced telegrams on the non-existent telegraph, lost money on the rigged gaming tables and were ripped off by apparently benevolent friends who met them off the ships from the south.

Sometimes, when the unfortunate soul was left penniless on the freezing streets, Smith would meet them, express concern and, reaching into his bulging wallet, give them just enough money to get back to Seattle. The victim would then leave Skagway convinced that they had just met the one honest citizen in the town.

To those of us on the outside of the corporate machine the behaviour of many of our bog companies seems little better than that of Soapy Smith. They rob us, poison us, engorge themselves at our expense and then, when the hordes of outraged people gather at their gates to demand justice, they deploy a little largess to make themselves look good.

For far, far too many corporations this is indeed how they work.

Dick Barton

But not all of the corporations are evil all of the time. The reality is rather more complex.

The 1940s British radio drama Dick Barton, which was very popular with small boys my Dad's age until it was replaced by an educational farming program called The Archers, allegedly used to employ two teams of writers. One had the job of inventing dire predicaments to land the daring detective in, whilst the other had the task of coming up with ingenious ways for the square jawed hero to escape.

It certainly seems as if many companies run a similar system. One team tours the world driving down prices, encouraging suppliers to cut costs and uprooting entire factories and moving them across the world when governments or Trade Unions threaten to spoil the party. Simultaneously the other team tries ensure the company obeys the law, respects human rights and doesn't trash the planet.

I expect VW operates in a similar way. Team B that puts together the Corporate Social Responsibility reports and strives  to ensure the company treads lightly on the earth are probably dedicated professionals who really want to make the world a better place. The problem, as the Dick Barton script writers found, is that Team A tends to win.

On the radio this led to them inventing the cliche 'with one bound he was free' as the hero was trapped in ever more fiendish plots. In real life there is no such easy way out when the profit motive trumps ethics.

And VW certainly isn't the only Janus-faced company trashing the planet whilst trying to be good.

BP broke the mould by ending the denial of climate change by the oil industry and genuinely put a lot of effort into cleaning up their act on human rights. Green groups never fell for it, but John Browne's company became poster-boys for the sustainable corporation. At the same time a policy of reckless cost-cutting led to disasters in Texas and the Gulf of Mexico.

The Scorpion and the Frog

So how does it all end?
For Soapy Smith not well. He was shot dead by a vigilance committee.

For BP not much better. The Gulf of Mexico cost them billions and destroyed their 'Beyond Petroleum' image so completely that anything they did to try to recover was just seen and a bribe or utter hypocrisy.

It doesn't look much better for VW either.

So why do they do it?

Why, when all their highly paid CSR professionals in Team B are telling them of the huge risk to reputation, to profits and to everything else, do companies that publicly claim to be on the Light Side of the Force keep going over to the Dark Side?

Well, the answer is obvious: because they're greedy and because they can. The for-profit corporation, if it was a real as opposed to a legal person, would be a psychopath. Psychopaths can live useful and productive lives, but you don't take your eyes off them.

In the fable of the Scorpion and the Frog, the latter reluctantly agrees to give the former a lift across a river, having been convinced by the argument that treachery would doom them both. This though is indeed what happens, and the scorpion stings the frog to death. As they both sink beneath the water to their deaths the scorpions only defence is it's just his nature.

In the aftermath of the VW scandal we should all be minded to remember just what the nature of the modern corporation really is.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Fracking Won't Fix The Climate

Britain should go all 'out for shale' says a report, funded by the fracking industry. So, no news but the old news then.

However the tack has at least changed slightly. The reason, says The Task Force On Shale, is that gas can provide a bridge to a low-carbon future. This is a something of a recurring meme these days from the fracking industry, and it has legs because it's a complicated argument to debunk. But debunked it needs to be.

First, what the Task Force got right. When burnt in a power station fracked gas gives off approximately half the carbon dioxide of coal. This is good, although not good enough to prevent dangerous climate change, which requires use to cut our carbon use by 90% or more. However The Task Force at least admits this and is only advocating shale as a bridge to cleaner and greener technologies.

Now here's the bad news, starting with the length of the bridge. Even if all the anti-fracking groups packed up and went home, and even if the British geology behaves and gives the frackers a clean run, shale gas will take time to develop. It is the fuel of the next decade, not this. New gas power stations will need to be built to burn it. They will have a lifetime of thirty years and there is no precedent for shutting down profitable stations early.

That means four more decades of carbon fuelled power in this country. This essentially 'business as usual' scenario, if followed worldwide, could, in a worst case scenario, see us committed to a global temperature rise of 4 degrees by 2050 according to the IPCC. This is a point that's easy to misunderstand - Emma Thompson recently came a bit of a cropper with it - so let's be clear: we won't see a temperature rise of 4 degrees by 2050, but we will have burnt enough fossil fuels to make such a catastrophic change in the climate inevitable by 2100, even if we don't burn another lump of coal or cylinder of gas in the second half of the century.

Indeed, some say that a 4 degrees rise could occur as early as the 2060s. This is scary as I might still be alive then, although two thirds of the world's plant and animal species probably won't be.

The Task Force would argue that a 'dash for gas' would avert a worst case scenario, but there's another factor they haven't considered. Whilst we might not be burning any more coal - in fact we definitely won't be burning any more coal if we don't build any more coal fired power stations, as the ones we have will be almost all retired by the end of the decade - but, in the absence of a global deal, there's no reason why other people won't burn our coal for us. That's what happened in America. Fracking reduced their domestic coal use, but coal mining actually increased. They just exported more.

So instead of replacing coal, fracking just adds another fossil fuel to the mix to be burnt alongside the black rocks. Dress it up any way you like, this is not good. The solution, as the divestment people will tell you, is to Leave It In The Ground. Fracking is only better than coal if the coal stays in the earth. At present there is no way the fracking industry, or its government supporters, can guarantee that.

The problems though don't stop there. Once of the biggest unknowns about fracking is the amount of the gas, methane, than leaks out, either during production or on the way to the power stations.

Methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and this is only partly offset by its
shorter life in the atmosphere. Overall the IPCC considers methane to be thirty times more potent than carbon dioxide, so the leakage rate is very important. Industry funded studies show very low rates, but independent studies have produced leakage rates of 12% or more. As a  rate of just 3.6% would be enough to wipe any gains from the cleaner combustion of methane, these figures are worrying.

Incidentally, it's very easy to get yourself confused on this issue to. Methane is much heavier than carbon dioxide, so 3% of a certain amount of methane weighs a lot more than 3% of the equivalent amount of carbon dioxide. The House of Lords committee managed to confuse just about everyone by claiming Greenpeace had got this figure wrong, when it appears it that it was them who were confusing people.

Then there is the very real threat that fracking will up all the money the government has allocated to 'low carbon' energy, leaving solar, wind and energy conservation stranded.

All of this means that even if fracking was clean and safe, and even if there were hundreds of communities queueing up to welcome the rigs, its contribution to climate change would rule it out as a future energy source.

The Task Force would no doubt reply that I'm not being realistic, that the renewable alternatives just aren't there. But I would reply to them by asking: why aren't they there?

Is it because the government prefers to frack the Labour north rather than build wind farms in the Tory south, because it prefers to accept donations from the existing fossil fuel industry rather than pump prime the new solar revolution and because it prefers to risk catastrophe in the long term rather than spend money on prevention now?

It is a funny sort of 'realism' that ignores the physics of the problem in favour of the economics and the politics.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

How I would chose the next Executive Director of Greenpeace International

How would I, one of Greenpeace's unpaid volunteers, chose the next Executive Director of Greenpeace International, the most highly paid if its paid staff?

Probably I would chose to be locked in a police cell with them, facing perhaps six months in prison and with the possibility that what we just did might not play very well with the public in general and the environmental community in particular.

I once spent a short period of time with Lord Peter Melchett in just such a position. He bore up pretty well, and if he hadn't already been Director of Greenpeace UK at that time I'd have given him the job.

The role of volunteer in Greenpeace is a complex one. It encompasses everyone from the occasional attender of stalls to stalwart organisers of many decades experience. Some of us know very little of the world of campaigning whilst some of us think we know more than the professionals at Canonbury Villas. A few of us actually do. Many have been on more actions than some of the Actions team and others are more qualified to campaign than some of the Campaigners. That Greenpeace has been able to command the services of this 'territorial army' of volunteers, prepared to give up their time, energy, skills and even liberty, is something that helps make Greenpeace a great organisation.

Keeping this going is the challenge.

But volunteers have another role to play in the organisation. Greenpeace staff are dedicated people, doing a job they love for an organisation they are committed to. Most of us aren't like that. Many professionals in NGOs have never worked outside the field. For them the idea of doing a job you hate for a company you despise is an alien concept, but that is reality for most of the people we are trying to influence. If you're not someone who goes to work to pay for the car that takes you to work, it's hard for you to understand that life. Volunteers provide that link, that insight and that grounding in everyday reality.

But then the job of Executive Director is also a complex one. The Director isn't just the top of the organisational tree, he or she is also our link to the outside world, the one who walks point for an international organisation that plays in the big league. They are responsible for the safety of activists playing some very dangerous games with very serious players, and they carry the can for an organisation prepared to take risks. But most of all he or she is the leader of the world's most effective organisation campaigning on the world's most pressing problems.

Most volunteers will never meet the ED, and many would struggle to name them. In an organisation like Greenpeace many layers of management lie in between. But their roles are interlinked. When out on the streets trying to attract a bored public it is important that the name Greenpeace catches their attention. Big, internationally successful campaigns make this easy. Big, international failures make it difficult.

And Greenpeace is an international organisation, at ever level. Last summer I travelled with the British contingent to The Human Chain in Germany. 8000 Greenpeace supporters, ten percent from outside Germany, protesting against open cast brown coal. What's more our London coach was almost as international as the main gathering. Eight nationalities was the count I think. Not counting Geordie.

An amazing success then, but, but, but... Of those 8000 people, every single one looked like a
Greenpeace supporter. A European Greenpeace supporter. This was Greenpeace in its comfort zone, mobilsing on home turf in one of the greenest counties in the world.

Meanwhile, in the Global South, the people who will actually decide what sort of future the world will have are were largely ignorant of what we were doing. The future of Africa, Asian and South America is the future of the world. That they will bear the brunt of the climate chaos the affluent West has unleashed is certain. Whether they follow our path of unsustainable development is not, but that will be their choice and not ours.

So the big problem the new ED is how do we merge these two worlds. How does a continent that has colonised the world on the back of cheap hydrocarbons, tell the rest of the planet to keep it in the ground? We cannot loose a single one of our core supporters. Even in Germany there not enough of them. But when we talk about solving the global ecological crisis, we must also be taking about the global majority world.

And here Greenpeace hits its next problem. Greenpeace has its way of doing things. Greenpeace is organised, it is is disciplined and it's people, the professionals and the volunteers, are chosen because they are competent and can be trusted. My trial judge described us as having "the mindset of an elite military unit". Never mind that the night before this "elite military unit" had been playing some very silly games in the pub, when the show started we performed. That is the Greenpeace way.

But as Greenpeace has grown as an organisation, the problems have grown even faster. When looking at the big issues in the world; climate change, the loss of biodiversity, a voracious industrial capitalism, etc, we find that Greenpeace cannot work alone. How does an organisation that won't let a volunteer put a sticker on a tin of tuna without fully training them, work with organisations that are considerably looser than ourselves, whether that be anti-fracking Nanas in Lancashire or landless farmers in Brazil? How does this square with 'the Greenpeace way'?

So, imagining we locked in a cell and awaiting our fate, I would like the aspiring ED to answer these four questions:
  • What do they think Greenpeace gains from its reserve army of volunteers?
  • What will they do to continue to ensure their ongoing support?
  • How does a centralised and disciplined organisation work with other, less formal groups, to solve the really big problems of the world?
  • How does a global organisation that has traditionally been run by the sort of people whose fridges are full of tofu, recruit volunteers from the people of the world for whom even having a fridge is an unrealisable aspiration?

Monday, 13 July 2015

Sinking a Rainbow

Thirty years ago today the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior was lying on the bottom of Auckland Harbour, the target of a state sponsored terrorist attack that had killed photographer Fernando Pereira.

The vessel had been on her way to protest French nuclear tests when she had been attacked by members of the Action division of the French intelligence service, the DGSE.

None of the nations that are currently fighting the War on Terror ever condemned France for the attack.

Saving the World

I don't know what gives some people a social conscience.

However if you are someone who cares about the rest of humanity, there are various ways you can show it. Some people care for relatives, others volunteer for local charities.

Some of us though take a broader view and campaign on issues of human rights, international development or the environment. All are worthy causes and all are represented by internationally respected non-governmental organisations. All are ways of making the world a better place.

However if you want an interesting life, you need to choose the environment. There are certainly parts of the world where it is very dangerous to be a human rights activist, and also places where international development workers risk their lives every day, but in the boring old western world these are fairly safe activities.

Not so being an eco-warrior.


Personally I've got away fairly lightly. An irate farmer in Norfolk nearly ploughed me into GM plant food and I once found myself alone in the dark with a couple of members of the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment. (Note - I found them before they found me!). I've had plenty of tussles with security and been arrested, searched, bailed and all the fun of the fair, but have walked away every time with no serious injuries and no criminal record.

However a quick look through my friends and social media contacts and you find;
  • Mr. Phil Ball, former BBC natural history film maker, who was arrested at gunpoint by Russian Special Forces on the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise as it protested against Arctic oil, and who spent three months in prison facing charges that could have banged him up for 15 years.
  • Ms. Vera Scroggins, a 63 year old Pennsylvania anti-fracking campaigner with a clean criminal record and who has never been arrested, but who is banned from 312 square miles of the state by an injunction.
  •  Mr. Darryl Cheney, Californian forests campaigner, blown up by an allegedly FBI manufactured bomb under his girlfriend's car seat (word 'allegedly' added on the advice of my lawyer).
  • My various Reclaim the Power friends who were collectively sued by French power company EDF for £5 million pounds after they occupied one of the companies gas fired power station.
And so on.

Somehow don't think any of this would be the case if I volunteered for Oxfam or Amnesty International.


The obvious question is why?

The easiest answer is because we're the ones who play the dangerous

You steam into a farmer's field a four in the morning it's no surprise he gets spikey. We should just count ourselves lucky he left his twelve bore at home. Same if you mess with the Russians, or take your liberal, towny ways into timber country.

Direct action is the way we do things, which is probably the fault of the original Greenpeacers. Bearded seventies eco-warrior Bob Hunter coined the phrase "media mind bombs" for direct action stunts that were filmed and then broadcast round the world.

However we also need to be honest and say that we do this because we desperately lack the sort of legal and political remedies to our problems. We lie down in the road because it's the only thing we can do.

That is our weakness.

Big Enemies

But that only partly explains the problem.

The Rainbow Warrior would have been a minor distraction for the French military guarding the atoll and nothing they couldn't handle. Similarly the Russian coastguard seemed to have the Arctic Sunrise well covered. Vera Scroggins is clearly no serious threat to anyone's fracking rig. Earth First!'s blockades in California were annoying, but they were hardly bringing the logging industry to their knees and Reclaim the Power weren't going to bankrupt EDF.

So why the overkill?

With hindsight the Rainbow Warrior is the one that stands out. The nuclear tests were a bit of willy-waving by a fading military power. It hardly seems worth killing for, but then I'm not the self-obsessed president of a former imperial power.

However if you look at the other cases it all becomes clearer. One thing that links Arctic oil, fracking,
privatised power and clearcutting, is that they all make money. Serious amounts of money. We are stepping on some very big toes.

But what really links all them all is the complete lack of a moral case.

Who, apart from a French nationalist, could claim reducing a pacific island to radioactive mess is good thing to do? Who, apart a Russian nationalist, can make a case for Arctic oil? Who, but a Climate Change denier, could argue for fracking or for more fossil fuel power stations. Who really supports clearcutting?

And when you're whole case is based on a fraud you never compromise. You can always torture one less person, always give a bit more aid. But give an inch to the the Green lobby? That would be to admit that the Emperor really did have no clothes.

So when serious money, or serious ego, lacks moral force, it falls back on physical force.

And that is their weakness.

Sunday, 5 July 2015


Speech to Manchester Greek Solidarity Day Rally

Καλό απόγευμα Μάντσεστερ. Σήμερα βρισκόμαστε με την Ελλάδα.

Good afternoon Manchester. Today we stand with Greece.

We hear that Greece needs to pay its debts. But what of the debt we owe to Greece?

The legacy of Classical Greece is incalculable. They were the greatest thinkers, scientists, artists and, it is often forgotten, engineers of Ancient Europe. But what about the debt we owe to modern Greece?

On 28 October 1940 they rejected Mussolini's ultimatum and joined the Second World War. for the first time since the Fall of France Britain had an ally in the war on fascism, and an ally that could win battles.The Italians couldn't beat them so the Germans had to. That delayed Operation Barbarossa by five weeks, meaning when the snow came in the winter of 1941 the Nazi's panzers were still fifteen miles from Moscow.

The Communist Greek guerrillas continued to fight and as a result of fighting, famine, massacres and
the Holocaust, up to 800,000 Greeks died during the war, or more than one in ten of the population. Proportionately only Poland suffered more.

Their reward from Winston Churchill, was the re-arming of the Nazi Security Battalions with British
weapons, which they turned on their fellow citizens. The communist party was banned and many were exiled, some only returning in the 1980s.

In 1967 the military seized power. It took Britain a whole 24 hours before we recognised the Colonels as government. More repression of the Left followed.

And so on.

But I don't want to end it there. Because there are links between Britain and Greece we should be proud of, and times that people from this country have stood side with the Greeks.

The Greek revolt against the Ottoman Empire was mostly funded by a private committee in England. Our greatest Romantic poet, Lord Byron went out to fight and died in Greece. By the end of the war our greatest living sailor commanded the Hellenic Navy. The mightiest ship in their fleet, possibly in the world, was Karteria, built in London and Captained by Frank Hastings from Leicestershire. The head of their army was Irish by the way.

Greece eventually gained her freedom when the commander of a Royal Navy squadron sent to observe the situation took it upon himself to wipe out the Turkish navy. The Duke of Wellington sacked him, but the Greeks names several streets after him.

During the Second World War, whilst Greece starved, a group of Quakers met in Oxford to do something about it. Ignoring the government that opposed sending any aid to an occupied county, they raised over £10,000 for the Greek Red Cross. The Oxford Committee for Famine Relief eventually changed its name to Oxfam, and continues to help victims of war today, but it all started in Greece.

In 1961 the lawyer Peter Benison wrote an article in The Observer on The Forgotten Prisoners, highlighting six people around the world imprisoned for their political or religious beliefs. Amongst them was Toni Ambatielos, a Greek Communist arrested for his Trade Union activities. The article led to the creation of Amnesty International. Ambatielos was released in 1963.

Syriza, for the most part it seems, studied in this country. Two of their central committee still work in British universities. Yanis Varoufakis, the Greek Finance Minister, has worked for University of Essex, the University of East Anglia and the University of Cambridge. His wife studied sculpture at St Martin's College in London where she met a young Jarvis Cocker and may have inspired the 90s anthem Common People.

Then there is my connection with Greece. Jarvis Cocker wasn't the only 'lanky northern git' to meet a
Greek student. I have a message for you from her today:

"We can't say Yes to lose our freedom and hope for our children. Doing the same mistake twice is not a wise thing to do! If we allow them to rule our life we will become animals."

There has always been a connection between Britain and Greece. But this is not an alliance of governments, but of ordinary people who want to make the world a better place. That's why I am very proud to stand her today with all of you, with my friend Maria, with all the Common People of Greece but also with everyone else around the world, whoever they are and wherever they may be, who supports justice and fairness and who believes that the debts of courage and friendship human beings owe to each other are far more important than the money we owe to the banks.