Sunday, October 31, 2010

“The End of Social Housing 1945-2010”

Picture is from the front page of Friday’s “Inside Housing” magazine.  Its grim conclusion is that the ConDems have decided to end Social Housing. 
To be clear this is about the ending of a key plank of the welfare state, it is about the end of all Social Housing whether provided by Councils or Housing Associations. I don’t think that people generally have “got this” yet. 
Quite rightly they have been distracted at the plans to “Kosovo” style cleanse the poor out of middle class Britain.
For much of the 20th century, all British governments, Labour and Tory, provided direct financial support to build social housing for working people, the elderly and the vulnerable.  This government has decided that it will not be doing so any more.
There is some money set aside for existing commitments but once this is spent any new homes for rent will only be allowed to be built if they charge tenants 80% of market rents.  They also will lose their security of tenure.  What this will mean according to Inside Housing is that an average working family of three will pay £140 more per week (note per week) than they would currently.  This is not social housing anymore.
Ordinary working families will not be able to afford to live in such “housing” and will seek cheaper and smaller housing in privately owned slums and ghettos. 
Unemployed tenants will fall into arrears due to housing benefit cuts and will face eviction; they will be held to be “intentionally homeless” and be forced to move into privately owned slums and ghettos. 
Ironically the foundation of the Welfare State was laid by Liberal, William Beveridge.  One of the “5 Giants” it was created to tackle was “squalor”.  We are about to turn full circle.
Does anyone in this government “get it” either? 

"The future of our schools" TUC conference Sat 27 Nov

The TUC are putting on this special conference on the future of schools and "debating the Government's reform agenda".

"What do government policies on schools mean for our children and communities?

What are the long-term implications of giving more schools greater autonomy - improved schooling for all or a two-tier system?

Does the focus on parental choice empower the majority of families?

What do academies and free schools mean for teachers and other education professionals?

This conference will consider these questions and hear a range of views on the future of our schools.

The event is based around panel discussions and workshops so that participants can share their experiences and opinions with others.

The event is for everyone with an interest in the future of our schools, including parents, pupils, school governors, school staff, trade unionists, local authority officials, academics and policy advisors.

To register for this free event please complete this online form:
Let your friends and colleagues know you are attending this event:"

Labour Conference 2010: Friends of India reception

On the Tuesday evening of the Labour Party conference I was invited to attend the Labour Friends of India reception. 

This is a picture of Newham delegates and visitors (I'm hiding in the back row between flags) with the India High Commissioner, his Excellency, Mr Nalin Surie, shaking hands with Chair of LFI Barry Gardiner MP.

This was a really good event.  Loads (and loads) of MP's turned up to give short speeches. 

This of course had nothing to do with the Shadow cabinet elections (as many of them freely acknowledged).  Click on picture to bring up detail.

PS Apologies for the delay in posting.  I still have about 5 stories on Conference that I want to post before they get too stale.  Will get around to it...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

London UNISON 1st Health Brigade's: Lean Green Recruiting Machine

Picture is of some of UNISON's finest out recruiting new Student nurse members at Kingston University. 

Gracie, Debbie, Micky and Chong recruited over 200 UNISON members at this one event. 

They are well on their way to forming a 2nd Health Brigade in Greater London UNISON region!

Well done comrades!

Onwards and forwards.

John's Autumn Watch

Off message but last weekend I went for a marvellous Autumnal walk in the Chilterns.  It is apparently a particularly "bountiful" season this year with lots of fruit and berries.  Thanks to the cold winter last year which killed off fungi and pests with a warm but showery summer.  Double click photos to bring up detail.

In the weak sunshine and long shadows the trees are starting to change colours.  It had rained the day before and there was that lovely wet, musty muddy smell in the woods. 

There were some huge birds of prey floating up high looking for dinner and a very disdainful small deer (left - Munjac?) who hopped away like a rabbit.   

The walk was (number 15) "Great Hampden and Little Hampden".  There were simply superb views all along the route.  It was only 6.5 miles and while up and down there was nothing too strenuos. 

There was a little bit of history at Hampden House which is the site (right) of the home of John Hampden, the leading Parliamentarian whose refusal to pay Ship Tax in 1641 was one of the triggers of the English Civil War.  See - the British if pushed too far can be rebellious! (not that Revolution did poor John much good)

The rolling hills and beech woods of the Chilterns are deservedly an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and only a few miles from London.  It can get very crowded in the more popular spots but this walk was quiet and very peaceful.  Recommended.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson risks all to defend London Poor

"STATEMENT issued by the office of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London:

Comments I made in an interview this morning to BBC London radio have been entirely taken out of context. When I said that I would rather share a cell with Slobodan Milosovic than be in the same room as David Cameron, I meant, of course that the Prime Minister has my full and unambiguous support.

It was deliberately misleading of journalists to report my comment about George Osborne being “an incompetent oik” entirely out of context, then ignoring my tribute to George as “one of the best Chancellors the country has had since May.”

As for my reported comments about the entirely reasonable, fair and welcome changes to the proles’ rent handouts, it should be patently clear to anyone with a First in Literae Humaniores from Balliol that my comparison of the reforms with “ethnic cleansing on a scale not seen since the collapse of the Yugoslavian Tourist Board” was simply an endorsement of Iain Duncan Smith’s critical faculties.

So, gosh, well, I hope that clears that up, what?" Hat tip thingy Tom Harris MP "And Another Thing"

Spelling it out: Lib Dems and the Cuts

Great win for Labour in Camden Kentish Town by-election.

This is the leaflet that I understand upset a few sensitive souls?


hat-tip thingy Country Standard

FTSE 100 Bosses gave themselves a 55 per cent rise last year

"Short of throwing a champagne celebration for themselves outside a Merthyr Tydfil jobcentre, FTSE100 bosses could not have shown less tact."  Hat tip the!!!!

This news that directors of the top 100 companies in the UK gave themselves (forget the utter fiction that this is decided by "independent" remuneration committees) an average rise of 55% is just a kick in the teeth to all of us. 

What is worse - is that this was done in our name.  Our Pension and Insurance funds will, (despite being "owned" by ordinary Brits who would if they had the choice no doubt vote to block such theft of their dividends) approve all these disgusting payments at Company AGM's.

It is the bleeding obvious that the sector cannot regulate itself due to imbalances in favour of completely selfish and sometimes utterly corrupt City interests. 

We need the Government to act and allow the owners of companies to stop being ripped off by their managers. Hat Tip thingy Adam Smith

East London Labour Party Quiz Night: Thursday 18 November 8pm Start

Will you stand up for Education?

Fund our Future: National March & Rally 10 November 2010.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Champagne Charlies

For no particular reason whatsoever I thought I would republish links to some of my favourite posts on this blog.

My speech at Labour Party conference in 2009 about the millionaire Champagne Charlies - Cameron and Osborne

This one about the "curse of grayee" following the Daily Mirror exposure about Cameron being found out quaffing £140 per bottle champagne.  This was after he wanted pay freezes on millions of public sector workers who earn less than this amount per week.

Or this post about "how to become a Tory MP" - one way is to bribe members of CCHQ "It was a person I'd bought champagne at the last Party Conference. It was the best £35 I ever spent in my time in the party."

Finally this post on the speech to this year's Labour conference by respected Railway union leader GerGerry Doherty's defence of basic health and safety on the London underground and his attack on Bullingdon Champagne Mayor Boris Johnson.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anthem against the Cuts

Hat tip UNISON East Midlands


Get your "The Cuts Won't Work" tee shirts here.

From the site "The cuts won't work, they'll just make things worse."

"...This sums up precisely the case against the rolling back of the state which is now being executed in an ideological crusade on a Thatcherite scale.

The website carries a brilliantly brief argument against the cuts and Philosophy Football are proud to produce this non-profit campaign T-shirt in support at the special low price of just £9.99. Available in sizes small-XXL , plus skinny-rib fit, from"

National Health & Safety Inspection Day: Safety First!

Today is National Inspection Day! Check out this UNISON link for resources and check out your workplace. 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Son of Manse "exposed" as "Martyr of the Revolution"

I thought that I would cheer everybody up with this photo. An old friend is currently working in China and a couple of months ago he went for a walk in the local 'Martyrs of the Revolution Park'.

He swears his photo is real and this is what he saw.
Remind you of anyone?

(hint: "Red Gordon")

(hint: Mandy will be upset with him since he didn't have his tie on).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tower Hamlets: A bit of a flashback

Tower Hamlets Councillor Rachel Saunders gives her personal take on what has gone wrong with the local Mayoral election.  Hat tip Labour List (and Unmesh Desai!)

"Thursday night, the night Labour lost Tower Hamlets, felt like a bit of a flashback. The venue was different, York Hall instead of Canary Wharf’s Winter Gardens, but Oliur Rahman and Rania Khan were doing V for Victory signs, hard working Labour activists were miserable and Ken Clark (London Labour's regional director) was at the front of the room looking grumpy.

One difference though – in 2006 I went up to a couple of Labour councillors and gave them a piece of my mind for working as a part of a group of Labour councillors who were making deals with Respect and others to save their own skins and knife councillors they disliked. This time Lutfur Rahman was victorious, but no longer in the Labour Party, at last openly supported by Respect and by others who travel through political parties as it suits them.

This election result came after a messy summer, where two separate panels made up of NEC and regional board members decided not to shortlist Lutfur Rahman, but he got on the shortlist through an appeal. Having previously declined to shortlist him, NEC members chose not to accept his nomination by the local party, and voted instead to impose the sitting council leader Helal Abbas.

Abbas is a decent man with an impressive personal story. From his leadership of the local squatters movement in the 1980s, standing up for Bengali families in desperate need who were excluded from social housing, to his record as the first Bangladeshi council leader, Abbas was the best candidate to steer us through the difficult times ahead. Why did he lose?

It will take a bit longer than a day to articulate what went on in the Bangladeshi community over the past few weeks and months. It is important to be clear that our greatest campaign leaders and activists were Bangladeshi, and that Lutfur presented himself as “Real Labour”, exactly like Respect before him – the bonds that tie our party to the east end of London remain strong, and our opponents only win by impersonating us.

I think our loss has two root causes. One, despite London region intending to run a short selection process and leave us a long summer to campaign, the cock ups and conspiracies meant we must have appeared to our electorate to spend the entire summer warring amongst ourselves. Combined with the London mayoral selection and leadership elections that many of us were involved in, we can’t blame our electorate for feeling like we lost our focus on what should really matter. We did continue to run campaign sessions several times a week, but not everyone will have seen us. This will have contributed to the very low turnout.

Secondly, Lutfur’s narrative was up and running before our story had its boots on. Lutfur presented himself as a victim of the evil Labour Party machine. He had much of the Bengali media behind him, and the intervention of Ken Livingstone, who turned up a few days before polling day and did a walkabout with Lutfur that the BBC were available to film, meant that Labour Party process was all anyone could talk about. Added to this was a smear campaign more filthy than I could have imagined – and I’ve seen a few nasty ones since Respect came into town.

Make no mistake though, there is no difference between the coalition of people that came within one councillor of toppling us in 2006 and the people who managed it on Thursday. Previously Ken Livingstone came to Tower Hamlets to slate Jim Fitzpatrick MP and give Galloway a hug, this time he slated Abbas and hugged Lutfur. Siraj of Clifton restaurant was a supporter of Galloway then and he’s a supporter of Lutfur now. Oliur Rahman, the first Respect councillor and opponent of Jim Fitzpatrick in 2005, who has been a member of four political groups in as many years (SWP/Respect, Left List, Labour, Lutfur), was crowing at the Labour defeat.

The selection process was a mess, but the NEC were absolutely right to stop Lutfur being the Labour candidate.

We defeated Respect convincingly in May 2010, and we’ll do it again. We’ll do it in exactly the same way. Again, we have a wave of new activists who are disgusted at what they have seen and want to defeat it. Again, we have excellent local organisation and hard working talented activists and councillors. We’re stronger than before, with two excellent Labour MPs. We’ll win back the hearts and minds of the people of Tower Hamlets through demonstrating that we understand their concerns, and that only Labour can represent the whole of our community.

This time we’ll have to stand up for them in opposition at the Town Hall. If you oppose the politics of hatred and division that Galloway stood for in Tower Hamlets - before we drummed him out - then stand with us".

Sunday, October 24, 2010

SERTUC Rally: organising to defeat public service cuts (and splitters and wreckers)

Yesterday there was a successful and vibrant Labour movement rally at Congress House about grown up trade unionists organising with others to defend public services.

There were a few problems which I will return to later. This official trade union rally of affiliated trade unions and trade councils from all over London and the South East was organised by SERTUC. Who had spent a lot of time, money and energy organising an event to unite the Labour movement against the Coalition cuts and to be a springboard to organising against them.

The Rally started at 12 noon. There was an excellent and diverse line up of speakers. I was there with London UNISON convenor Gloria Hanson and other delegates to the SERTUC Council meeting that had been held immediately beforehand. Trade union branches who had marched to the Rally arrived at about 12:10 with their banners.

At about 12.30 Gloria and I were concerned, since numbers seemed a little light and many UNISON members that I expected to be there were missing. I went out to look for them. I knew the march had finished at nearby Bedford Square, which is just around the corner from Congress House. I went there and was astonished to find that a separate rally had been organised by the “NSSN” (aka as SPEW - Socialist Party of England & Wales) in Bedford square with speakers and a PA. There was around 300 people present I guess, The speaker’s at the time were busy happily attacking trade union leaders and “New Labour” (don’t think they actually understand that there has been change of government).

I went looking for London UNISON members. I said hello to an old UNISON Hackney mucker but most UNISON members I found actually thought that this was the SERTUC rally. I pointed the way to Congress House. I eventually found a bunch of London UNISON members having a chat together about 75m away from the main SPEW rally and gently chided them to come to Congress House as soon as possible.

When I got back to the Conference hall it was pretty full. CWU leader Billy Hayes gave a passionate speech about how hard work and organising had saved the Post office from privatisation in the past and will do so in the future.

FBU President Mick Shaw spoke about the cuts that fire-fighter’s have already faced across the country and that there is nothing less to cut. Today’s strike action in London by fire fighter’s is as much about protecting the service to the public as about stopping them all being sacked and re-employed on inferior terms and conditions.

Brand New Labour MP, Chuka Umunna, gave an assured Labour movement family speech (I’m trying to upload it to YouTube but having a few technical problems) pointing out the real differences between Labour and the ConDems.

Other stuff I found interesting was that the annual interest rate on new government debt (gilts) is 1.8%... in 1945 National debt was 250% of GDP yet we then went on to create the welfare state... the NHS, nationalised Coal and Steel and a mass public house building programme... the journalists who vilify trade unions would not be able to write a sentence if they had not been properly taught by trade union members.

RMT leader Bob Crow gave his usual high octane, finger waging and podium thumping speech. Great fun to listen to and highly entertaining if you are a trade union activist and but essentially empty and forgettable to everyone else (except for the hat – which was memorable). This is a problem. Which I think Bob knows.

By the time Steve Hart, the London UNITE regional secretary came to the rostrum the wanabee alternative SERTUC organisers had turned up and made the mistake of trying to repeatedly shout him down (as they do – it reminded me of a London UNISON AGM). Steve stopped and just took the abuse for about 30 seconds then laid into the “Peoples Front of Judia” and the “wreckers and splitters”. To which the hall erupted into loud clapping and cheers . This shut ‘em up and Steve continued with his attack on the real enemy – the ConDems.

Why do we put up with these Rule or Ruin sects?

SERTUC regional Secretary Megan Dobney spoke next to close the conference. The usually mild mannered and consensus Megan asked the idiot fringe present to “shut up and listen for a change”. She pointed out that the unions must either change government policy or change the government...from 1920-1960 national debt in this country was never less than 100%...72% of the cuts will come from purse not from the wallet.

On 26 March we need to have a successful TUC March against the SERTUC there are about 1/3rd of all trade union members nationally...we need therefore to get at least 1 million members from SERTUC on that march, if we cannot even do that then we will risk losing the battle... we must not forget the elections next May.

Everyone must remember the discipline and commitment by this Government to their manta that this recession was left to them by the Labour Government...we must show the same discipline and commitment to our manta and show that this recession is due to a global banker’s crisis - not ours.

Tories telling porkies?

Well, someone's telling porkies? If the cuts are really necessary just to balance the books and not ideological then why don't the ConDems promise to reverse at least some of the cuts when (if)  the "good times return"?

Question to Tory blogger Iain Dale on Stephen Nolan Radio show (22 Oct:)"If these cuts are not ideological? why will the Coalition not state that when the economy improves, they will put the money cut back into public services?"
Answer: "That's a given".

Daily Bile: "Yesterday Mr Cameron suggested cuts may become permanent when asked to pledge spending would be reinstated when finances recovered. He said: ‘I think we should try to avoid that approach.’

Guardian (1.44pm 3 Aug)"Cameron has been asked a question about fire service cuts. A woman is worried because she says the local fire brigade had already suffered cuts, and now the government has plans for more. She cites casualties of the cuts and asks Cameron whether, once the austere times are over, the government will review the cuts it imposed and, where necessary, reinstate some of the resources that have been withdrawn. Cameron says this isn't the way he sees it. He says it's going to be tough to implement cuts, but he thinks there is scope to find more efficient and cost-effective ways to deliver services, notably back-office functions. He seems to be confident that there will be no going back..."

The real reason: "It's about ideology, stupid"

Hat-tip Col. Roi

Saturday, October 23, 2010

SERTUC Council meeting

This morning I went off to the Southern and Eastern Region TUC Council (SERTUC) meeting at Congress House.  Firstly there was a UNISON pre-meeting for delegates.  Then up to the 5th floor for Council. 
Normally we are in the basement conference area but this was being prepared for today’s “anti-cuts” Rally.  The meeting finished at 11.45 so that delegates can get to the Rally for 12 noon. 
SERTUC President Martin Gould gave his usual straight talking and no nonsense feisty opening report on the battles ahead.
We then moved directly to motions.  We passed unanimously a CWU motion “Keep the Post Public Coalition”.  UNISON delegate Brian Walters (and son of a postie) seconded this motion in fluent French to honour the protests taking place across the channel!  There was also an Unite motion “Attack on Public Services”.  I spoke on this 2nd motion. 
I reminded Council that we must talk to our members and not just ourselves.  Some polls show that even a majority of union members think the cuts are necessary.  We need to challenge this and one way is to let our members know how sheer “nasty” they are – as a working front line secretary of the UNISON Housing Association branch we have to deal with a 50%  or £4 billion in cuts in housing; the ending of security of tenure which will mean that my members will be expected to evict Grannies whose kids have left home; in London there will be no more new public housing starts in 2011; who will house the expected extra 82,000 private tenants who will be evicted in London due to restrictions in Housing benefit?; London Councils report that some authorities are planning to block book B&B’s in south coast resorts; future rents in public housing will be 80% of “market rents” which in London could mean an average  2 bed flat rental will rise from £90 per week to £250.  Who can afford that?
Never the economics theory but surely it is madness that my members who develop homes are being made redundant at the same time as construction workers are being laid off resulting in less income tax and more claims for benefit at the same time that we have 4 million in housing need! 
SERTUC secretary Megan Dobney reminded us that the Fire Brigade Union (FBU) were on strike in London from 10am this morning (there is a SERTUC solidarity meeting for the FBU on Thursday evening at Congress House).   There is another one day strike due on 1 November 2010.  
There were a few contributions around the secretary’s report but we eventually finished early enough to even have extra items of AOB!
Off to main SERTUC rally 11.40.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"We want a school fit for the 21st Century.."

This great YouTube video has been produced by pupils (past and present) staff and teachers at Little Ilford school in Newham about the cancellation of a planned new School building (BSF) by the ConDems.

Hat-tip former MEP Anita Pollack whose daughter went to the school.

Oh dear, what a shame, never mind, onwards and forwards

Check out the result of yesterday's election for Tower Hamlets Mayor here.

We live in interesting times in East London.

“Knocking up” the Labour vote in Isle of Dogs

Back (via Spinnakers pub) from “knocking up” the Labour vote in Tower Hamlets (see main picture) for the Executive Mayor contest. I was part of a Newham team led by the super fast walker, Councillor Unmesh Desai, together with “Fitz” from Canning town and long standing Councillor (and TSSA Union activist) Amarjit Singh.

Nearly 60 activists from Newham had been recorded as coming over to help today.
The purpose was for us to knock on the doors of voters who had been previously identified as supporters of the Party and check that they had voted. If they have not voted then our job would be to “encourage” them to go out and vote. In a tight election this is crucial. Labour will win this contest if we get our vote out.

We had two lists to cover near Manchester Road in the Isle of Dogs. Mostly around the Samuda Estate and St John’s. Local landlords Island Homes (One Housing) are refurbishing many blocks (Labour government decent homes proramme?) and have taken away or obscured block signs behind scaffolding, so we had some fun and games identifying the location of certain blocks.

The response from those voters who we managed to find indoors was very good. It is perhaps a sign that people actually value the democratic process more than sometimes we think, since we were thanked by many people for reminding them to vote, even if it meant they had to rush out of their home into the cold at 9.30pm.

One of the last blocks we visited was “Betty May Gray House”. A well maintained block built by the Isle of Dogs Housing Association in 1962 (a good year) on land given to it by said Betty Gray (no known relation). Great views from the top floor.

Last night was probably the quietest time I have ever had on an election night in Tower Hamlets. I understand the usual mayhem was taking place in other parts, but I only saw one team of Tories out delivering leaflets and one independent/respect outside a polling station. The Count is going on overnight and we will find out the result in the morning.

(main picture of Gotham City from a marvellous pre-war Manchester Road sheltered scheme managed by Southern Housing)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Stop the ConDems and Vote Labour, Vote Abbas for Labour Mayor

Polls open 7am today.  It is vital to send a message to the ConDem's about the "cuts" and get the Labour vote out.

If the Party can successfully "knock up" our supporters to come out and vote we will win. 

No doubt of this - whatsoever. 

So we need bodies to come and help!

In Bethnal Green volunteers should come to the Party rooms 349 Cambridge Heath Road, E2 9RA, 0207 729 6682 (5 minutes walk from Bethnal Green tube and opposite York Hall Leisure centre).

Poplar and Limehouse volunteers should go to 98 Copenhagen Place, E14 7DE, 07599617125.

If you can spare an hour today at all (especially after 4pm) then please do so. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

"because we are tories - and that's what we do..."

Well, no great surprises today.  It's not that we were not warned I suppose.

"It's the same the whole world over, It's the poor wot gets the blame; It's the rich wot gets the pleasure, Ain't it all a blooming shame".

Check out UNISON's view on this attempt to strangle the recovery and the new fightback Labour Party website Your Better Way

By coincidence this evening was my UNISON Housing Association branch executive meeting and while everyone of us dreaded today I think we would agree that there was definitely a feeling that we are not down and out and that it is still possible and feasible to defeat the coalition by organising and sheer plain hard work. 

Not (IMO) by gesture politics and pointless oppositionalism.

Osborne Apologies

Fat Chance.

I don't think it will be much use trying to ring the Number 11 Emergency number either.

(Forest Gate Railway station hat tip Ali G)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

"despicable politics funded by scumbag millionaires"

Just when you thought that Tower Hamlets politics could not any worse!  Check out Ted's post here about the completely vile and rotten scumbags who have tried to misuse abused women to further their campaign of hatred against Labour candidate, Helal Abbas.

Someone in the know said to me this is "despicable politics funded by scumbag millionaires".

I understand that those who were involved will be having the 6AM knock by Old Bill in coming weeks...

Wot a shame...

TUC Lobby of Parliament and Rally against the Cuts

This lunchtime I went to the House of Commons to lobby my MP about the "Cuts".  Since the "Lobby" could only hold a maximum of 100 people UNISON had organised a committee room for MP's to meet their constituents from up and down the land. 

I met up with my fellow London UNISON Regional Council Officer Monica Hirst and Roy Reid the UNISON Newham LG branch Chair (see main picture in Great Hall). 

Monica lives in Brent and her local MP (and Minister for Children) is Lib Dem, Sarah Teather. Monica was with a number of UNISON members who live in Brent and I stood and watched her "lobby" Featherstone in the corridor just off the central lobby.  There was about 12 members from various trade unions present.  I stood back since she is not my MP and waited for Monica, but of course, I tried to earwig on what was going on in the hustle and bustle of the corridor.  Moncia works in health and was most unimpressed when she asked Teather about GP commissioning only to be told that "Oh, I don't know how that came about".... 

Nor does anyone else outside Tory think tank LaLa Land Sarah.

We then went to the Rally at the Methodist Central Hall and bumped into various people from all over UNISON.  Included London UNISON Deputy Convener, Conroy Lawrence.

I had "interesting" conversations with Labour Party colleagues about Tower Hamlets.  Never a dull moment. 

Picture top right is of two very silly and rather sweaty (and probably rather smelly) Toryboys dressed as pink dinosaurs deficit deniers who are being "picketed" by Unite reps!

Afterwards I went to work and later while on a standing room only train home tonight, as I travelled through North and East London, I just despaired at what tomorrow's leaked £8 billion in cuts to housing will mean for the homeless, for overcrowded families and children and for all young Londoner's wanting desperately somewhere to live. 

I am forced to conclude that the honourable member for Brent Central doesn't share my concern.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Union and Victory: Organising to Defeat Cuts in Public Services

Organising to Defeat Cuts in Public Services: a SERTUC rally

12.00-13.45pm 23 October, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS

A rally for key trade union activists in the SERTUC region, with keynote speakers:

BECTU                   Tony Lennon, Former President
CWU                       Billy Hayes, General Secretary
FBU                        Mick Shaw, President
GMB                       Dave Powell, Senior Organiser, Public Services
MP, Labour            Chuka Umunna
NUT                        Christine Blower, General Secretary
PCS                        Hugh Lanning, Deputy General Secretary
RMT                        Bob Crow, General Secretary
SERTUC                 Megan Dobney, Regional Secretary
UNISON                  Linda Perks, Regional Secretary Greater London
UNITE                     Steve Hart, Regional Secretary London & Eastern

SERTUC President  Martin Gould, will Chair the event

The first 500 will be admitted to the rally in Congress House on a ‘first come’. The over-spill will be directed to Bedford Square, where there will be an over-spill rally. Congress House is a fully accessible building. If unregistered please register your interest in the campaign by replying to

Please cascade this email to all your trade union contacts and colleagues

Megan Dobney - SERTUC Regional Secretary

(banner made for 1889 Dock Strike, carried in 1912 Transport strike and also the 1921 Poplar Rates Rebellion.  Picture taken in "People's History Museum" Manchester during UNISON Labour Party conference 2010 reception)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Tory MPs and Councillors fight ConDems over NHS hospital closure (?)

This should be interesting. Queen Mary's Hospital A&E and maternity services in Sidcup, Kent has just been closed (for the winter?). 

What is different about this campaign to save a local hospital is that it has been very heavily supported in the past by local Conservative Councillors and MPs. 

There is now a great deal of anger against the three local Tory MPs (including Jo Johnson and his brother London Mayor Boris Johnson) who promised to save the hospital during the General election but seem to have now forgotten this pledge. 

Look at all the hot air on the college above.

This site gives you a taste of local feeling.

"James Brokenshire MP is a disgrace to the people of Old Bexley & Sidcup. He swanned into the constituency saying, during the General Election campaign, that he would stop the closure programme of Queen Mary's A&E. HE LIED. He was not alone. The famous email that he sent out days before the election was signed by all the local (Conservative) candidates.

They were but words to get themselves elected...and so it proved.

We learn today (22nd September 2010) that Queen Mary's A&E is to close in 6 weeks' time. All we can say after this long 3 year battle is, yes - it is a case of LIES, LIES, LIES. See below. What do you have to say Mr Brokenshire?

Where can we go now, what can we do? To say that the Conservative government and the local Conservative MP have badly let down the people of Old Bexley and Sidcup is something of an understatement. To start with please write to your MP to ask them how it is that this closure has gone ahead when they said that they would stop it. This is not just James Brokenshire in Old Bexley & Sidcup, it is all those constituencies that border it including Bromley & Chislehurst (Bob Neill) and Orpington (Joe Johnson) as well as all the others".

Check out Bexley Times and "Tory MP Fury". 

Picture is of UNISON activists protesting last month against the closure (Mike Davey UNISON SGE Health Executive) who have been found themselves in recent years in the embarrassing position of being out-lefted at lobbies and demos by the extremely militant ranks of the Bexley Blue Rinse Brigade.

Methinks this demonstrates that people of all political persuasions value their key public services and if a campaign is properly supported (no trots please) they will join a coalition to resist the cuts.

This also reminds of Megan's argument 1) that we can defeat the cuts by working for a collapse of this coalition.  Yet another reason for joining the TUC lobby of MP's on Tuesday?

West Ham 6 play Millwall 4 (Abbas as Labour Mayor)

Apologies for post title but I just couldn't resist it. Yesterday I was out with a canvass team led by West Ham MP, Lyn Brown in Millwall, Isle of Dogs, Tower Hamlets.  We were campaigning for the Labour Party Candidate for Mayor, Helal Abbas.

Last Saturday about 40 activists from Newham helped out with the campaign. 

The meeting point was in Copenhagen Place which I thought was fortuitous considering the election will be held this week on Trafalgar Day.  We were sent off to knock on doors.  The reaction from voters was again very positive. 

One person told me that he and his family will be definitely be voting Labour on Thursday "we don't want our Council tax in the hands of George Galloway for the next 4 years".  I told him I couldn't possibly comment :)

I also knocked on the door of the Chief Executive of a well know East London voluntary sector organisation and had a chat.

What is strange is that I work in Tower Hamlets and have been campaigning a few times now and I have never seen any of the opposition parties out door knocking or delivering leaflets?  Instead it appears from this report by independent local blogger, Ted Jeory, that for some - most effort has been in simply smearing Abbas and trying to poison the community against him.

Respect are up to their old tricks I see.

I posted on Facebook the other day this great quote from local MP Rushanara Ali "What’s at stake next Thursday is a billion pound budget, in one the most vibrant and diverse boroughs at the heart of our capital. For the people of Tower Hamlets this isn’t about personalities, it’s about the real issues – schools, housing, jobs and the economy. This is no time for a Galloway-backed independent who appeals to the margins and wants to turn the clock back to the politics of the past".  The bile it generated from Labour opponents was great fun.

Election is on 21 October - Campaign office is at 349 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA - 3 mins from Bethnal Green tube and is open for canvassing and leafleting from 10am-until late every day until the election. Or you can ring 0207 729 6682 or email for further details.

Picture is from left: Newham Councillor Charity Fiberesima, Gordon Miller, Lyn, Councillor Pat Murphy (honorary West Hammer for day) and John Cullen.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Councillors can't dance

                     These pictures are from the recent "Stratford & West Ham Focus".  I did of course enjoy the clenched fist salutes celebrating the award of a "Green Park" flag for the venue Stratford Park. 

However, the photograhic evidence about the Jive dancing does seem particularly damning.

Should I have put in an accident/incident report (AIR) about the resulting stiff neck?

Still - a good time was had by all!

Lord Young Report on “‘elf n’ safety” A modern day siren?

I’ve just done my duty as an union safety rep and have read this completely nonsensical report bizarrely titled “Common Sense, Common Safety”.  Imagine a Daily Mail editorial 58 pages long evidenced almost entirely by “stories” (myths) published in the Sun, the Star, the Daily Express and the Torygraph.   It starts off by talking about the so-called rise of “compensation culture” in the UK even though he includes a summary that accepts the “consensus of evidence” from "stakeholders" describes this as a “myth” (page 46).  This is not the only myth in this “report”.
Good health and safety, systems and practices, have nothing to do with any supposed failings regarding personal injuries claims and compensation.  Frankly like the “stakeholders” I don’t believe that the UK is a compensation Nirvana since I have seen people hurt at work down to employer negligence and who don’t get any money or got pitiful amounts.  In the "Forward" Lord Young confusingly moans that “if there’s a blame, there’s a claim’... “and any claim means financial recompense”.  Of course if someone is to blame there should be compensation?  This is entirely different from saying “any claim” must result in compensation. 
On Page 10 he states that “the standing of health and safety in the eyes of the public has never been lower” This is complete rubbish.  You can only believe this if you rely on the tabloid media.  Health and safety is a key issue for people at work and is given as a major reason by members for joining unions.  There are very few of us who do not know someone, a relative, work colleague or family member who was killed at work or died of work related ill-health.  Only if you read the Daily Biles would you think this.  Lord Young states “Almost every day the papers compete to write about absurdity after absurdity” page 20.  True, but he misses the point.  These absurdities are nearly always absurd myths and often blatant untruths.  As his “Annex D: Behind the myth: the truth behind health and safety hysteria in the media” even makes clear.
Officials who ban events on health and safety” should put it in writing.  This is another silly myth.  Health and Safety Enforcement officers rarely “ban” events and if they do of course it would be in writing and open to challenge.  Has he never actually read or seen an enforcement notice from the HSE or a local authority?  Once again Lord Young appears to be just currying favour with the tabloids.
Words rarely fail me but I was completely taken aback at his recommendation that police officers or fire fighters should not be threatened with prosecution for putting themselves at risk for a “heroic act”! I have ever heard or read of any Police officers or fire fighters being “threatened” for such acts and could never imagine it would happen?  He has the cheek to talk about a “common sense” approach to things!
He wants less regulation of “low risk offices” and states that “No office workers died in 2009 due to accidents at work”? I would like to check this but how many office workers died from asbestos related disease and how many committed suicide due to occupational stress in 2009?  How many office workers now live in agony due to repetitive strain injuries they picked up in 2009?  It takes about 5 minutes, once a year, to risk assess a well managed office.  How is this a “burden”?  How much time and money does it cost a business if a worker is injured after tripping over a hazard and being off sick for a week?

Lord Young also confuses “eliminate risk” and “gold plating” (that bloody term again).  He actually implies that you should not try and eliminate risk since it encourages too much paperwork?  Everyone with the slightest knowledge of health and safety know you cannot eliminate all risks in life but it is an absolute basic building block of any safe system of work that you eliminate all significant risks that it is reasonably practical to do so.

Another myth being perpetuated in this report is that he states (page 11) that under the EU Framework Directive 1989 businesses have to risk assess everything. This is nonsense. You have to assess “significant” risks not everything.  For example you do not have to assess the risk of a meteorite falling on your head at work.  It may well be a risk but it is clearly not a significant risk. Common Sense?

I agree with the recommendation that health and safety consultants should be regulated (but that was already in hand under the previous government).  But he clearly does not understand existing safety practice by calling for “processes are in place to ensure that assessments are proportionate” since this is already in place, doesn’t he understand the concept of “reasonability”?
How can you possibly exempt people working from home from being covered by risk assessments?  Most such assessments I have seen just require an employee to email a digital photo of their workplace at home, do their normal Display Screen Equipment (DSE) training and fill out a tick list.  Hardly rocket science.  Lord Young despite apparently being an successful businessman doesn’t “get it” that risk assessments are there to protect the employer as well as the employees.
How on earth can he stop insurance companies requiring health and safety audits? (page 12) Insurances companies are independent and competitive businesses who decide policies and practices based on hard statistics? If they did not think that an audit was not necessary they wouldn’t ask for it.
My final myth is the recommendation that accidents and ill health should only be reported after someone is off work for 7 days instead of the current 3 days.  Since it is apparently too time consuming for businesses.  What twaddle.  He even supports the idea that employers will still have to investigate such incidents and look for yourself how you can make such a report online or on the phone in minutes.  He simply does not understand that prevention is better than the cure.  The HSE/LA want to know if an employer has a usual number of (so-called) minor accidents since it would indicate that there are problems that need investigating.
There are indeed “no win, no fee” corrupt lawyers in this country (and many honourable and professional ones).  By all means sort out the thieves who effectively steal compensation from their clients and make us all pay more in premiums but don’t blame elf n’ safety for this. 
There are also elf n’ safety con merchants who sell over the top and usually useless procedures to businesses.  However, don’t confuse this with an attack on health and safety itself.  Don’t pander to the mythology of the “Daily Biles”. 
What this report does demonstrate is that such is the widespread ignorance and misunderstanding of basic safety issues at the highest levels that we actually need greater regulation and enforcement not less.  I hope against expectation that no one  will listen to this completely flawed and potentially dangerous siren call.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The new CONDEM medical assessment: Sink or Swim

hat tip to "Respect for unemployed and benefit claimants".  Many moons ago, in the midst of rampant Thatcherism, I use to be the "Lothian Claimants Union" secretary.

Naive fool that I am - I use to think things then were horribly tough on claimants.

Uniting the East End: A call to action in Tower Hamlets

Bethnal Green and Bow Labour MP Rushanara Ali calls for Action in Tower Hamlets Mayor Election. Hat tip Left foot forward.

"In a week when we are all waiting with trepidation for the results of the Comprehensive Spending Review, while marvelling at the twists and turns of Lib Dem MPs as they attempt to crawl out from the tatters of their higher education policy, there is a vital campaign happening on the doorsteps of Tower Hamlets. In less than a week, residents of the east London borough will be going to the polls to elect their first directly elected mayor.

Six months ago, many, many people from across London and beyond came to help me and Jim Fitzpatrick beat George Galloway’s Respect and the parties that would later join together and form the coalition. During that election the people of Tower Hamlets rejected the politics of division and joined with us backing our Labour vision of a united East End.

Since that election we have been putting that philosophy into action, challenging the far right English Defence League when they tried to march here, challenging the coalition on cuts to our public services and more recently fighting for Labour in this election.

Ed Miliband and Left Foot Forward have long argued that Labour needs to be a campaigning movement or it is nothing. By opening up the campaign to new volunteers we helped to create, with a fantastic team of organisers, a formidable campaigning force during the general election. Our team working under the banner ‘Uniting the East End’ attracted hundreds of volunteers, which let us do the most important thing – in elections – talk to voters.

Last time we had three years, in this election we have had three weeks! As MPs, Councillors, Greater London Authority members, Labour Party activists and community volunteers we are fighting as a Labour team on behalf of Labour candidate Cllr Helal Abbas, but we can’t do it alone. We need the support of activists from across London – so let’s start building that renewed movement in the East End, home to so many of the great  campaigns of the past.

What’s at stake next Thursday is a billion pound budget, in one the most vibrant and diverse boroughs at the heart of our capital. For the people of Tower Hamlets this isn’t about personalities, it’s about the real issues – schools, housing, jobs and the economy. This is no time for a Galloway-backed independent who appeals to the margins and wants to turn the clock back to the politics of the past.

Over this weekend, and on election day on 21st October, readers of Left Foot Forward have a chance to help defeat the Galloway candidate in Tower Hamlets, and make Labour’s Councillor Abbas a mayor who will finally turn the page on the politics of division, and start putting the people of Tower Hamlets first.

Please come and join us in this campaign, details of how you can help can be found below. The campaign office is at 349 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA and will be open for canvassing and leafleting from 10am-6.30pm every day until the election. Please ring 0207 729 6682 or email for further details or to let us know when you are available. With your help we can ensure a Labour victory on the 21st of October.

(picture Dan McCurry at Labour Party conference)