Friday, January 31, 2014

Another day, another reason why the ABI is a self serving cartel ripping off UK pensioners

Check out Con Keating's brilliant rebuttal on Henry Tapper's blog of the latest attempt by the greedy cartel also known as the Association of British Insurers (ABI) to justify the ripping off of British pensioners.

I am amazed that otherwise decent and respectable insurance companies soil their reputation in this way. Their lust for excess profits from their rip off charges in the DC pension business mean they defend the indefensible and attack new better value ideas such as "Collective Defined Contributions schemes".

You are forced to conclude that the senior managers of insurance companies are far more concerned with their inflated pay and bonuses than the interests of their poor (in the true sense of the word) policy holders. 

Personally, I hope a future Labour Government will break up this cartel and separate the insurance and pension industries. There are clear conflicts of interest.

Hat tip Newham's own Nigel Stanley at TUC Touchstone

Friday Sectarian: Sex, Power Play, and Trotskyism

Hat tip A Very Public Sociologist (and Captain Swing) The splitters from the SWP have split again!

"With great regrets, we are resigning from the ISNetwork. Many of us were involved in the setting up of the network, and we are very sad that it has come to this. We remain in full solidarity with ISN comrades, and look forward to working with them on campaigns. Despite the repeated characterisation of us as a 'right bloc', we do not represent any unified political position beyond our concerns about both the political direction and internal culture of the ISNetwork.

It has been clear for some time that our critiques put us in a minority: contrary to a common smear, we have always been willing to argue from this position, and welcomed this political debate. However, there has been an increasing breakdown of trust between us and various leading members of the organisation. It is now clear that we are not welcome in the ISN. One of us is a woman sex-worker and bdsm practitioner. After many years of self imposed isolation from politics, she believed she had finally found a space where even those comrades who disagreed with her positions would discuss controversial topics of sexuality and desire in respect and comradeship. Instead she has been browbeaten, patronised, marginalised and moralised against, and the topics she wishes to discuss with her comrades dismissed as, in the words of one SC member, self-evidently 'sordid.'

She has been made to feel so unwelcome that she feels forced to leave the SC and ISN. The SC has put out a statement strongly implying racism and claiming 'inappropriate' argumentative techniques against three of our members. We entirely reject these insinuations and urge anyone interested to examine the threads in question & and judge for themselves.

That they are over a controversial and charged topic -and one on which the signatories to this letter do not necessarily agree- is not in doubt: however, if there is a single statement made by any comrade that can reasonably be judged 'inappropriate', let alone racist, we urge their accusers to state it. It is claimed, on the basis of a leaked email thread of a private conversation, that we have been politically dishonest, and set out to split or even destroy the network. This is wholly untrue. As has been made clear in this week's bulletin, we had intended to launch a platform within the ISNetwork in order to argue for our position.

However, recent events had given us an increasing sense that we might not be able to remain members, due both to legitimate political differences and to the personalised politics of vituperation at the brunt of which we have felt. Accordingly - as is explicitly allowed in the ISN constitution – we have been discussing among ourselves to work out how best to argue our position within the network, our chances, and our contingency strategies if we felt unable to continue. At issue here is not just the conduct or content of recent discussions or even the political direction of the ISN, but the question of making a habitable culture of discussion on the Left.

When some of us recently wrote an article criticising a politics of anathema within the ISN, we were derided by opponents who denied any such thing exists. Unfortunately, it does. One SC member has recently publicly insisted that 'no one is being targeted personally'. The very same SC member recently seconded a denouncement on Facebook, by another SC member, of several of us as 'arrogant fucks' and 'bad rubbish' to whom 'good riddance'. One leading member expressed a desire on Facebook to strangle one of us - referring to her as a 'nauseating tosser' - and not one of the SC members to whom she said this suggested it was an inappropriate comment to make. Several SC members openly expressed their agreement with a status referring to us as 'parasites'. Another SC member wrote 'they should count themselves lucky they haven't been expelled' – particularly galling to two of the 'Facebook Four' involved in our thread.

There are further examples, but this culture is one in which we can no longer work: we also would like comrades to consider whether left organisations can hope to attract a new generation of members if they treat each other in this way. We look forward to working in a left culture that has ended certain practices inherited from the SWP.

These include moralistic browbeating; the implicit claim that various controversial topics are inappropriate for discussion; that certain comrades can not be argued with on them; and that dissenters from these nostrums deserve to be attacked in personalised terms. We know many ISN members look forward to this with similar enthusiasm. Jamie A Magpie C Kieran C A. M. China M Richard S Len T Rosie W"

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"We need a reckoning with our banks..."

Great Labour Party political broadcast on "A new approach to Banking". Yes, Ed we do need "a reckoning with our banks". Broken markets need... fixing. That is what real progressive governments do.Go for it!

Homes for London

Check out this Youtube clip of London Assembly member and Labour Housing lead, Tom Copley, putting forward the alternative to do nothing, market knows best, Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson. Tom will be the guest speaker at my branch AGM (Greater London UNISON Housing Association).

"Dear Friend,

Yesterday I presented a range of proposals to the Mayor aimed at addressing London's housing crisis as part of City Hall Labour's alternative budget.

The plans are drawn from a report that I published this week, Fair Housing, which followed a survey of nearly 2,500 Londoners. The survey reveals that 43% of Londoners spend between 25-50% of their take home pay on housing, and that 23% spend over 50% of their take home pay on housing.

Our proposals include:
  • Establishing a London Housing Corporation, which would borrow against the GLA’s revenue stream to rapidly expand housing supply by directly commissioning new homes, and encourage institutional investment from pension funds
  • Driving forward housing supply by reorganising the work of the GLA Land and Housing Directorate into a new body called Homes for London
  • Creating a ‘Decent Homes Fund’ that provides low-cost loans for landlords to bring London’s stock of privately rented accommodation up to a decent standard.
  • Establishing a ‘London Bad Landlords Register’ and a private tenants ‘Know Your Rights’ website
  • Lobbying the government to increase investment in affordable housing.
Several of these measures were formally passed by the Assembly as part of a cross-party budget amendment. The Mayor will have to come back to us in February responding to each of our proposals and explaining why he either agrees or disagrees with them. If he rejects the proposals the Assembly will require a two thirds majority vote to force them through.
Over the coming months I shall be working up detailed proposals for exactly how Homes for London and the London Housing Corporation would work and the volume of housing that could be delivered across all tenures. What is absolutely clear is that unless the Mayor adopts a far more interventionist approach, we are not going to solve London's housing crisis any time soon.
The Mayor has the power to act. The question is whether he is willing to do so.
Best wishes,

Tom Copley AM
Labour London Assembly Member (Londonwide)
City Hall Labour Housing Spokesperson

PS – you can keep up to date with the work I’m doing on the Assembly and around London by following me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.  You can also visit my website at"

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Labour will reverse David Cameron's tax cut for millionaires

How many people really disagree with these statements?

If you are wealthy you have to pay your fair share because it is also in your interests to do so.

“I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilisation.”
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Emma Reynolds MP guest speaker at UNISON Housing Association Labour Link

This flyer is going out to all members of our branch who choose to pay the Labour Party political levy - the Applied Political Fund (APF).  Emma is the MP for Wolverhampton North East and Labour Shadow Housing Minister.

In the past our Guest speakers at our Labour Link AGM have been previous Housing ministers Jack Dromey MP; Alison Seabeck MP and John Healey MP.
Wolverhampton North East and Shadow Housing Minister, - See more at:
Wolverhampton North East and Shadow Housing Minister, - See more at:

Monday, January 27, 2014

Holocaust Memorial Day

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day which is held on the anniversary of the liberation by Soviet Troops in 1945 of  the Auschwitz concentration camp.

This morning the new Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis spoke on "Thought for the Day" (Radio 4 "Today" programme) about his Great Uncle, head of a Jewish seminary in Lithuania who while trying to arrange an escape route for his family and students from advancing German forces became separated. He only found out at the end of the second world war that his students, staff, his wife and their 10 children were all murdered by the Nazi.  A shocking story.

We must never forget the unique evil of all forms of fascism.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Canning Town North Labour doorstep (and some local East End "Faces")

On Saturday afternoon Lyn Brown MP had organised a West Ham CLP Labour Super Saturday doorstep in Canning Town North ward.

We split into difference canvass teams and I went with Party stalwart John Saunders and Stratford Councillor, "Red" Terry Paul who was born in the ward and still lives here today.

We started in Addington Road, E16 which Terry told us was the childhood home of actor Reg Varney. Who I remember from the 1960's comedy classic "On the Buses" (see above).

While one of our local Labour Party volunteers actually lives in the flat that actor and singer David Essex use to live in as a boy (see his picture as "Che" in the musical "Evita"). Both Reg and David went to the local Star Lane Primary School (at different times).

Terry also pointed across the local park (see picture bottom left) where the house he was born use to be and also the home of Jonny Speight, who became the writer of iconic BBC hit "Until Death Do Us Part" and created the West Ham supporting East End monster bigot, Alf Garnett (see above played ironically by north London, left wing, Spurs supporting, Jewish actor, Warren Mitchel).

The actual canvass was pretty solid and supportive Labour heartland. We had some decent conversations with local residents on local issues and problems but on the whole it was very positive. One of the last addresses we called at the resident was openly anti-Labour and said that all Labour Councillors in Newham were former patients of closed mental health institutions! He said that if he had a gun he would shoot the lot of us.

I told him not to be so silly. While he is fully entitled to his views about our mental health, he should realise that for all our faults, Labour is the only Party who stands up for working people against the rich. If the Tories get in next time with a majority, then forget about a free NHS, employment protection and a fair wages.

You know in your heart of hearts, that they will be coming to get you!

(Personal views as always. Afterwards Terry and I went for swim at Balaam Street baths as part of our training programme for London Triathlon)

East Ham Women’s Forum 31 Jan

Hat tip West Ham Labour blog  "Our comrades in East Ham have invited West Ham women to their meeting. It’s an informal meeting to discuss the formation of an East Ham women’s section and to explore and debate ‘women’s role in elections’ and is there a ‘women’s vote?’.

Anita Pollack, former MEP
Kirsty McNeil, former Prime Ministerial aide to Gordon Brown and member of the executive committee of the Labour women’s network
Seyi Akiwowo, West Ham CLP’s women’s officer
and special guest speaker – Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham

When: Friday 31st January, 7-9pm
Where: Lister room, East Ham town hall

It promises to be a lively, fun evening full of insight, shared experiences, networking, seeing old friends and making new ones!

For more information and to RSVP: Please contact Farah Nazeer at
Organised by: Cllrs Farah Nazeer, Kay Scorsby, Ayesha Chowdhury, Lakmini Shah, Feroza Nekiwala, and Labour party members Anita Pollack, Gloria Hanson, Pushpa Makwana, Sue Masters and Rokhsana Fiaz".

(Check out Newham Story for the picture of Susan Lawrence's election address from 1923 when she became MP for East Ham and made Labour history by becoming one of the first ever women Labour members to Parliament.  I also use to manage Susan Lawrence House in Bow as a Housing officer and once spoke to a relative of Susan who wanted to know the location of the building)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

West Ham Labour Doorstep - Aileen Walk 2014

Busy political Saturday. In the morning I went out with West Ham Ward Labour team, door knocking in the Aileen Walk area next to the park.

Picked up quite a bit of case work about street cleaning, estate lighting, pot holes and uneven pavements.

When I go door knocking it is always a little strange to see swastika on peoples homes (see picture top right). I remember many years ago being stunned when I first saw this and when I knocked on the door, I expected some tattooed Far right Nazi to open it and was amazed that it was an Asian family! I now know that the Swastika was an ancient symbol of  "wealth, prosperity and auspiciousness" which was nicked by the German Nazi for their own vile use.

After a short break we then went off to Canning Town North ward for a Super Saturday with our MP Lyn Brown.

Hat tip pictures Seyi

The theme for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April

"The theme for Workers’ Memorial Day on 28 April this year will be: 'Protecting workers around the world through strong regulation, enforcement and union rights'. ITUC, the global union body coordinating the event worldwide, says it is also encouraging unions to use the slogan, 'Unions make work safer' on their materials.

For news, resources and updates on UK Workers’ Memorial Day 2014 activities, see the TUC 28 April webpages.

Ÿ For global coverage, see the ITUC/Hazards 28 April webpages and facebook page".

Hat tip TUC Risks E-bulletin.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Exclusive Pictures of Justin Bieber being chased by Police on allegations of DUI...

Off message and I know it is really not a laughing matter but it made me....:)

Hat tip Comrade Rayner

Local Government under Labour - Setting the Agenda

On Wednesday evening I went to the Local Government Association (LGA) headquarters in central London for the launch of a new report on the future of Councils under a Labour Government.

Paul Hackett from the Smith Institute opened the meeting and noted that we were in Bevin Hall in what use to be "Transport House", the former national offices of the T&G union.  There must be various labour movement ghosts of the past in this room and building.

Paul hoped that this report will help bring together Labour Councils and the Parliamentary Labour Party. 

Clive Betts MP was first speaker. He thought that after the the fundamental attack on local government by this present government we cannot just go back to the way things use to be. There is also a disconnect between the political class and those we serve that has to be addressed. 

Labour needs to think in opposition now since we will be too busy when in government.
Next speaker was Hilary Benn MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government

Hilary thought that there is a struggle between local and central government. In the NHS we need national standards but there is an appetite for change for what local government provides. 

Interestingly he thought that the referendum on independence in Scotland will settle the Scottish Question but then the English Question on decentralisation will have to be answered. 

He talked about the crisis of confidence in our politics and the failure of consumerism, where far too many people think they can just sit back and do nothing but moan about the way things are run and don't realise they need to contribute. 

He ended by stating his belief that the tide is flowing towards real localism.

Cllr Lib Peck, the leader of Lambeth Council spoke about canvassing and speaking to people who said they "don't do voting". She wanted to ask them "what bit of voting do you not get?". 

The next Labour government needs to be bold. Emphasis the core values of public service. Councils need greater income raising powers, the ability to borrow and planning powers to get rid of too many payday loan and betting shops.

Final speaker was Cllr Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council. He asked what Labour authorities wanted to do? They want to encourage economic growth and jobs. End social determination but not by the tools of the past. Instead of national programmes there should be  devolved economic development.

I asked a question to the panel that a future Labour government needs to trust Local Authorities with taxation and spend. I appreciate there is a battle with our Treasury team over expenditure but times have changed and in the Party we have largely got rid of out trot head bangers who wrecked local government in the 1980s. We can only get rid of the centralised nanny state if you trust the people to hold councils to account for their money.

Hilary responded by saying that while he wished that there was a political consensus on income raising for local authorities there is currently not one.

There followed a wide range of interesting questions and answers. I think that it is fair to say that there was a consensus about the need to devolve real power from the centre and a wish that Labour made its mind up quickly before 2015 and if elected, took no prisoners and got on with things from get go. 

Check out of course, the excellent Chapter 10 of the report: "Troubled families in troubling times" which just happens to be written by my local MP, Lyn Brown, Shadow Fire and Communities Minister :)

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Learning and organising in Greater London UNISON 2014

UNISON Branches in London Region should have got plenty of hard copies of the latest guide to our trade union courses for 2014. You can also access it at our website here. There is a wide range of great courses for new and old activists alike held in local collages across the region.

I need myself to book one of the 2 day "Stewards Refresher Course" (which is a Employment Rights Act requirement) since it is over 5 years (and the rest) since I did my last steward training.

(The front cover of the guide above has nothing to do with my recent decision to get fit and lose weight by entering the London Triathlon. Honest Guv).

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

UKIP Shipping Forecast

Enjoy. I did hear it on Radio 4 "The Today" on Monday morning but was reminded at UNISON NEC Policy committee meeting today. 

UKIP is an extremist right wing Tory protest front run by millionaires who want to destroy employment rights and protections for all workers. Never forget this.

Vote UKIP and you not only get the "mad, swivel-eyed loons" as your representative but your your job and wages will be put at risk.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

West Ham Labour Education Debate

Check on this report on last week's West Ham Labour Party debate on Education. This was hosted by the Women's Forum and took place at the Old Town Hall in Stratford.

The author, Rania Ramli is a student and Young Labour member of West Ham ward.

"The speakers were Lord Andrew Adonis (the driver of the Academy program in the UK), Sharon Hodgson MP (Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities and Former Minister for Children and Families), Professor Becky Francis (Professor of Education and Social justice at Kings College University), and Dianne Walls (who has taught in the East end for over 40 years and who is currently a school governor for Chobham Academy). 

The main objective of the event was to reflect on Labour’s legacy with regards to education, and discuss the stance that the party should take in developing a new policy".  Chaired by
CLP Women Officer, Seyi Akiwowo (also West Ham ward).

Also bookmark our West Ham Labour blog here. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Red Vicar of Thaxted

Another lovely Sunday walk and another history lesson. The walk was a circular 6.5 mile route starting from historic Thaxted in Essex. Very muddy but lots of sunshine.

In Thaxted there is a magnificent Church dating back to the 14th Century. For over 30 years (1910-1942) its Church of England priest was
Conrad Noel the "Red Vicar of Thaxted. He had been appointed to the parish  by Lady Warwick a left wing landowner who apparently was the former mistress of King Edward VII.

 In 1911 he became a founding member of the British Socialist Party and in 1920 hung the Red flag and the flag of Sinn Fein alongside the flag of St George inside the Church. This led to the infamous "Battle of the Flags". Which resulted in disturbances and even fist fights.

According to this account Posters in the town declared "No Bolshevism for Thaxted" while the Church defence was headed by a small party of former policemen who had been dismissed for striking in 1919 (described as ‘Lansbury’s Lambs’)!

Noel also once wrote "Some Cork Black and Tans say they are on their way to England to murder me at night. About murdering, I will put it in the hands of the police, but of course they could not protect so open a place as the vicarage. It may be bluff, but...".

Ironically Noel was a friend of the "patriotic" English Composer Gustav Holst who also lived in the Village (I vow to thee my country)

Eventually he was forced by a Church Court to remove the flags.

Today inside the Church there is a bronze head of Noel and a simple plaque alongside that states "He loved justice and hated oppression".

Other pictures of the walk are here on Facebook

Sunday, January 19, 2014

West Ham Street Surgery: Devenay Road, E15

Picture collage from yesterday's door knock in my ward at Devenay Road, London, E15.

Picture on top left is of me, top local community activist Bill and West Ham Labour candidate, John Whitworth.

Devenay Road and the surrounding streets are very interesting. It was a estate built by Newham Council 30 (ish?) years ago especially for local young couples on the waiting list who wanted to stay in the borough and buy its family sized homes. The Council at the time was able to arrange mortgages.

The houses are very attractive terrace or semi detached with garages and gardens next to West Ham Park.

I don't know if the house prices were subsidised or if the purpose was an early attempt to create mixed tenure communities in the area? Does anyone know?

Other pictures in collage show two beautiful chihuahuas puppies whose owner came to the door when I knocked; one of the gates that have sealed off part of Aileen Walk due to ASB, a rather mangy but curious ginger cat that followed us around the road and overgrown tree roots which are causing a pavement tripping hazard that I will be raising a Newham members enquiry about to the Council tomorrow (and various other environmental issues).

Hat tip to West Hammer Julianne Marriott for photos.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Oh What a Lovely War! Stratford Theatre Royal Thurs 6 March

The theatre production "Oh What a lovely War" is returning to its original roots at the Stratford Theatre Royal, for the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Newham Labour Party has booked the theatre on Thursday the 6th of March.

If you want to see the show that night please contact Allan Davies on 07938223014 or email newhamlabourATgmailDOTcom. Tickets £35 each (£25 restricted viewing)

Friday, January 17, 2014

What have the Unions ever done for the Labour Party?

I will be attending the special Labour Party Constitution Conference on 1 March as a delegate of an affiliated Trade Union.

While I don't think that unions are perfect nor that we should be scared of any debate about our role or influence on the Party. I do wonder why there is such a negative image about the relationship between the Labour Party and the trade unions?

It makes me think - what exactly have the (affiliated) trade unions ever done for the Labour Party?

Well, apart from the bleeding obvious (trade unions formed the Party, supply most of its money and many of its leaders and activists) the union block vote has also saved the Party from destruction on a number of occasions in its history.

Rows about the union role in the Party are as old as the Party itself. The trade union candidate for Leader of the Party, John Robert Clynes, was defeated as far back as 1922 by the non trade union candidate Ramsay MacDonald (and we all know what happened to him!)

In 1935 at its Conference, the unions saved the Party (and maybe the Country?) by voting against pacifism and in favour of the UK rearming against Nazi and fascist aggression. The Party Leader at the time was a local hero of mine, George Lansbury, who was a true London east end principled socialist. However, he also unfortunately believed that the way to deal with the Nazi threat was to try and convert Adolf Hitler to Christianity. The unions thought otherwise.

t Ermin’s Group
In 1983 the Labour Party Conference upheld the decision of the National Executive Committee to expel from membership the leadership of the ultra left entryists, Militant Tendency. Two thirds of constituency delegates voted against the expulsions but the unions cast their block votes in a card vote and kicked them out.

While not denying there has been own goals (1978/9) I could go on and on about what the unions have done for the Party. The union influence in the Labour Party is its anchor to working people and while this relationship will evolve and change, we meddle with it at our peril. 

I hope and expect that the unions and the Party will come to an agreement about the latest development in our common future and we can put this matter to bed. We can then all concentrate on the real enemy and get rid of this vile right wing Tory Coalition Government. .

Personal views as always. Check out my favourite video on what the unions has ever done for all of us.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Illegal immigration began in 1492

Now I don't know if this story is really true (see caption) but it made me smile (and I hope it is).

I was once told in London that I should go back to Wales and  stop stealing an English born person's job (it was intended to be "funny").

I replied only when he goes back to his German Forest.

Hat tip Facebook.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Reminder: West Ham Education Debate Thurs 16 Jan 7pm Stratford Town Hall

This will be a great free debate taking place tomorrow at the historic Old Town Hall in Stratford High Street, London E15. It is only 5 minutes walk from Stratford Railway and Bus station and at the back of the Town Hall, in side streets, there is free parking spaces after 6.30pm (check Parking signs !!!). 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Le Vieux Cordelier 2014 by Nick

"I was amazed to witness an outburst by our great leader of men, and women, at the BC today. He was clearly upset about 2 motions submited by two branch committee members which want to amend the rules of Lambeth Unison. They have every right to do this. I don't think the motions will get two thirds majority nor will members at AGM be very interested in the content. But that does not mean the people who have submitted these motions are right wing or reactionary? I would be happy to leave the argument there but since Jon of the Rogers has also had an outburst on his blog I thought I would respond in kind. Or is he trying to get attention for himself..? I wonder..

Nick Venedi"

Ryanair Robbing Pensioners (and pension peril of zero hour contracts)

According to the FT controversial airline Ryanair is closing its Pension fund for staff in Ireland and transferring their accrued defined benefit pension scheme benefits to a defined contribution scheme - in which future benefits will depend on investment performance???

Not only are they doing this to active (current) members but also to former staff who have left their pension with the scheme.

Does this mean that staff who were promised a guaranteed pension will now have to face the uncertainties of the investment market? Why did the trustees agree to this?

Yet I understand that many of the new Ryanair staff can't even join the DC scheme as they are 'self employed' on zero hour type contracts!

So it seems that all staff in Ryanair former, past and future will be stuffed.

Except I believe its senior management.

No surprise there!

Hat tip Pension Biggles

Monday, January 13, 2014


CRATUPEAR is the acronym of the "The Collective Redundancies and Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) (Amendment) Regulations 2014" which comes in force on 31st January 2014. 

Hat tip to Daniel Barnett Employment law bulletin  for this information and the summary of the changes below. The Tories have tried to water down employment protection for workers but it seems to me they are making TUPE even more complex, confusing and potentially litigious than ever.

"The summary below of what the government is not changing is probably as important as what it is changing. The main changes which the government is proceeding with are amending the TUPE Regulations to:-

allow renegotiation of terms agreed from collective agreements one year after transfer, provided any changes are no less favourable to employees,

the location of a workforce can be within the scope of an economic, technical or organisational reason entailing changes in the workforce, thus preventing genuine place of work redundancies from being automatically unfair.

clarify that for there to be a TUPE service provision change, the service provision must be "fundamentally or essentially the same" as before the transfer

allowing microbusinesses to inform and consult directly with employees (in some circumstances) allowing TUPE consultation to satisfy collective redundancy consultation rules.

Importantly, the government is not:- removing 'service provision change' from what amounts to a TUPE transfer removing the transferor's obligation to provide employee liability information; rather, the time for providing such information is increased to 28 days.

 Also mentioned is the extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees with 26 weeks' service, which will come into force on 6th April 2014".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Private Thomas Highgate - the First to be Shot at Dawn

I think people know that on the 28 July this year it will be the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War. Not many will know that within a few weeks the first British soldier had been shot by firing squad for desertion.

This morning I was looking for a Sunday walk in the country and picked this 7 mile circular route starting in Shoreham, Kent.

Before I left I checked google for Shoreham and on Wikipedia found this "Shoreham was the birthplace and home of Private Thomas Highgate, who was the first British soldier to be shot for desertion during the First World War on 8 September 1914, following the Battle of and Retreat from Mons. In 2000, Shoreham Parish Council voted not to include his name on its war memorial. However, after a posthumous pardon in 2006, it was considered that his name might be added.[1]"#

I wondered if 19 year old Thomas's (see picture above) name had indeed been added to the War memorial and decided at the end of the walk to have a look.

The walk itself was wonderful (click for photos) and I would recommend it. Lots of up and down hills with great views and different scenery. You go past the historic Roman villa and Castle at Lullingstone. The only significant downside being some noise from nearby (but very largely unseen) motorway.

At the War Memorial near the old village bridge there was no sign of his name on it. I have since found out via the Internet that the issue has been hugely controversial in the village. It appears that 2 (or 3) of his brothers were later killed in the War but also that Thomas had deserted once before while in the (peace time) Army and had been imprisoned for 42 days.  It is reported also that Thomas had no witnesses for his defence at his trial for desertion since the rest of his unit were killed in the Battle.

I think that this is at the end of the day a matter for the local community and no-one else.

I will say that on the way out of the village I noticed 3 local teenage boys sitting on a wall near the village shop, probably aged about 15, looking bored and fed up as only adolescent boys can be. They were only a couple of years younger at most than Thomas was when he joined the Army at 17. I do wonder how they would have dealt with the aftermath following the carnage at the Battle of Mons?

UPDATE: BBC report 31 May 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

West Ham "on the knocker" in Thurrock for "Cost of Cameron" Day.

Today was a busy #CostofCameron day for West Ham Labour Party and other activists up and down the Country.

The Party targeted 106 marginal seats nationally and we locally went out to help comrades in our sister CLP in Thurrock, Essex. The aim of this campaign day is to speak to voters about why they are suffering a cut in their income due to this Tory Cost of Living Crisis.  Unlike (my view - see link) the "Fat Cat Executives" whose money has gone up and up at our expense.

Beforehand there had been a canvassing training session organised by West Ham Women's Forum. I had my ward surgery then at 11.30 (ish) 15 of us drove to Thurrock (others made their way by train).

The weather was glorious, perfect for being "on the knocker" - blue skies and thankfully dry. We divided into 3 teams and I was with John Whitworth, Charlene McLean and Gordon Miller.  Our MP Lyn Brown and local candidate Polly Billington led another team together with Thurrock activists.

Our reception was pretty good. A little different than canvassing in West Ham with its largely rock solid labour support but on the whole residents were pretty cheerful and even seemed to be pleased to see us! Even the odd Tories we came across!

The ward we were canvassing is currently Tory and based on previous experiences of campaigning out of London over the years I thought that we did pretty well. It was only one afternoon but I do think that even traditional Tory supporters, who are feeling the pain of year after year of pay cuts are starting to twig that a government that only delivers for the rich and not ordinary working families is frankly not worth supporting.

I am more and more convinced that 2015 is going to be about "the economy stupid" and while the NHS, Housing and Education will be important the Party that can persuade voters that they can put more money into their pockets and purses is going to win.

Hat tip ace photographer Gordon. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Financial Reporting Council "Why we are too lazy and owners too stupid to vote in pooled pension funds"

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) is a well known "mates club" of financial services industry representatives pretending to be a UK independent regulator on corporate governance and investment.

Top Finance blogger Tom P at "Labour and Capital" comments on the latest FRC report that dismisses attempts by pension schemes who invest in pooled funds to be able to vote on their shareholding.

As Tom points out there is no good reason for this not happening whatsoever. The only reasons I can see is that most (not all) asset managers are just too lazy to arrange this and think that asset owners are too stupid to be able to vote. 

I am also forced to conclude that the FRC doesn't want pesky share owners to be able to vote because they may have the blooming cheek to vote down their mates obscene (and growing) executive pay and other super generous perks.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

"Fat Cat Wednesday"

Did you realise that yesterday was "Fat Cat Wednesday"? "Top executives will have earned more money by mid-morning today than the average worker does in a year, making it "fat cat Wednesday", a new report says.

The High Pay Centre think tank said chief executives in the FTSE 100 were paid an average of almost £4.3 million in 2012, equivalent to an hourly wage of well over £1,000, compared with the country's average annual wage of £26,000.

Executive pay has increased by 74% over the past decade, while wages for ordinary workers have remained "flat", the study found. Company bosses who returned to work on Monday after the festive break will have made more money in 2014 by mid-morning today than the annual salary of average workers, said the report.

UNISON Comment: Our pension funds should be voting NO to these outrageous pay deals at the company AGMs!"

Hat tip UNISON Capital Steward website

"Please come and have a DRINK!! with me"

I got this odd email invite the other day. Too busy doing union stuff to attend. 

: "For a new squabbling and democratic centralist disunted left? 

To: "Dave Bala<>
Dear Comrade, I am writing to ask if you would be interested in an initial chat and drinkies about how UNISON activists in London can best organise between and across branches and Service Groups to provide each other with solidarity, support and fun! 

I'm sending this to a fairly random selection of fellow activists who I think might be interested, but if I've got that wrong in your case please accept my apology and feel free to denounce me in whichever way seems most appropriate! 

A few of us will be meeting in the O’Neils pub in Euston Road for several hours from 1pm on Thursday 9 January to have such a chat about fine wines, favourite Waitrose recipes and Star Wars. 
We hope that this will be the beginning of a conversation which will broaden and deepen over the coming year. 

Since the tragic popular vote to walk away from pointless strikes was taken two years ago, we have been trying to chase more strikes, with precious little support from our national and Regional Union. 

Although individual branches and activists are resisting the attacks from us strike chasers we have not had a sufficiently strong rank and file network to force them to do what we tell them other in more than an ad hoc way. In London many of those trying to strike chase are under attack and feel isolated, and the official structures of the Union perpetuate that. 

With a further round of cuts and the threat of widespread privatisation at the same time as the possibility of spreading the fight for fair pay beyond Higher Education, now may be the time to build and strengthen an activist pub network for support and solidarity. We can only work out if this is possible through drinking between activists. 

Those of us hoping to start this discussion believe that all our union work must be founded on and informed by a principled and consistent opposition to oppression. We don't believe in an approach which sidelines (for example) issues of male violence against women in the interests of unity to oppose cuts. Our vision is of a workers' movement which builds unity from all our struggles and drinks together. 

Which is why we don’t want any of those splitters and wreckers from the SWP or SPEW, also why we have picked a pub to meet up with since we don’t want any boring teetotalers or Muslims turning up either. But while it's nice to have visions, what we need right now is far more practical. Such as a few drinkies! 

At this stage, we think activists need to consider and debate how we provide each other with mutual liquid aid in the circumstances of 2014 in UNISON in London. 

On Thursday lunchtime I hope to be part of the beginning of a long drinking discussion about how we might do that. If you're interested I hope you might be too? 

Obviously only a few of us will be able to participate in a lunchtime weekday chat. Many activists will be tied up in their branches doing real union work and don’t have full facility time like what we have. So they will not be able to use their facility agreements and travel during their union time to the pub, have drinkies, then travel back in union facility time. 

This is the beginning of a discussion of which no one knows the outcome. You know what it is like when you have had a few jars. 

Please pass this on to any UNISON member you think might be interested. Best wishes for the New Year! 

Dave Bala Lambeth Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Trotskyism Thought. (but completely unofficially of course!)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Cost of Cameron Saturday

This Saturday 11 January 2014 Labour activists will launch the "Cost of Cameron" day across 106 key marginal seats.  West Ham will helping out its sister CLP in Thurrock, Essex with our MP, Lyn Brown.

I am always amazed that British people are not more angry about the huge loss of pay they have suffered under this Tory led coalition government. While at the same time the rich have got even richer?

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Getting wet & furious on route to Great Tory Train Robbery Protest

As I walked to join the #GreatToryTrainRobbery protest at Stratford Station early on Monday morning, I was listening on earphones to Chancellor George Osbourn, being interviewed on Radio 4 news "Today".

Osborne blithely announced a further £25 billion in welfare cuts after 2015. When it was suggested that since payments to pensioners  cost half of all such welfare spending he should be cutting winter fuel allowances to wealthy pensioners, he said that this would only save a few millions. He suggested instead the savings will be made by further cuts to young people's housing benefit and by charging more to Council tenants who earn £60-70k per year.

It was raining quite hard at the time and was too windy to put up an umbrella (not the best day to start fulfilling a New Years Resolution to walk everywhere) but this helped cool me down while listening to this nonsense.

The Government has already restricted housing benefit to a room in a shared house for those under 26? Not all kids have middle class parents with spare beds to fall back on if they become unemployed or sick. Remember who introduced bedroom tax and got rid of spare bedrooms?

There is a tiny, tiny number of Council tenants (why only Council tenants? what about housing association tenants? Does someone like him know there is a difference?) who earn that amount of money. There is an argument about increasing their rent levels but I thought Tories were against means testing? Housing Associations have been given the power to charge variable rents but have, by and large, decided that it would be more costly and bureaucratic to implement than they would gain.

Frankly we need more better paid tenants living in social housing. We don't want benefit ghettos or private gated estates - we want genuine mixed communities with headteachers, entrepreneurs and doctors living alongside the retired, the low paid and the unemployed.

None of above is going to save £25 billion. The "Today" presenter gave Osbourne a hard time over his claims but like nearly everyone in the media, seems to accept that there is no alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts? What about increase in taxation for those wealthy enough to pay?

I had cooled down by the time I got to Stratford (aka soaked).  West Ham Labour Party CLP had organised leaflet protests against train and bus fare increases outside Stratford, Forest Gate, Canning Town and Royal Docks stations (see photo collage).

London has the highest public transport costs in the world. Fares under Tory Mayor Boris are rising 3 times more than wages. He is also getting rid of the staff who keep passengers safe late at night. This year's protest was at stations all over London and the South East.

It was also the first day back to work after the holiday for many workers. Fittingly, it is called "Blue Monday". I hope people in this years May election remember Osborne and the Tory fare increases of Blue Monday and vote Red.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Hayes and a Pioneer of Council Housing

I have been meaning to cross post this charming story of early London municipal socialism from "Hayes People History" for a while.

Councillor Robert William Gunton was a Civil Servant who came to Hayes which is now in Hillingdon, West London in 1913.  He became Chair of the Council in 1917.

Hayes was one of the first Labour Councils in Britain who as early as 1914 appointed "a sanitary inspector to "compel landlords to put their houses in a proper state of repairs".

In April 1919 Gunton was involved in ensuring "May Day" became an official Council holiday, seconding the resolution he referred to Oliver Cromwell having done away with it because of heavy drinking. "They had reached a stage he thought when working class did behave themselves better". Hayes became one of the first councils in Britain to allow their employees to enjoy International Workers Day, May 1st as a public holiday.

It was Councillor Gunton who moved the resolution at the Special Hayes Urban District Council held on 12th July 1919 not to participate in the national "Peace Celebrations" on July 1919, on the grounds of cost and glorification of war, an all most unprecedented move

Gunton with other local councillors pioneered the Building of Council Housing in Hayes. He was Chair of Housing when in 1920 Dr Addison, Minister of Health laid the first brick of a planned 2000 home estate.

The first building contractor was a certain Robert McAlpine!

"Each Council house was estimated to cost £675 and it was expected that two houses a day would be built, however due to the shortage of bricklayers they initially completed just three quarters of a house.

The situation with the bricklayers took a disastrous turn in April 1920 when the bricklayers went on strike. Councillor Gunton once again came to the rescue and secured agreement from both sides to end the dispute winning the praise of Sir Robert McAlpine.

Councillor Gunton was keen that the new Council estate would enjoy facilities such as shops as well as a Council run Cinema and a Public House (Pub) run on the Carlisle lines (Carlisle had successfully and profitably put its pubs under state control during the war to regulate alcohol especially spirits consumption as a safety measure as Carlisle was a Munitions town).

But not everyone supported the Council Housing scheme the local Conservatives argued that the workers houses should be built by factory owners and not paid for by the ratepayers.

Such was the support for the Council housing scheme locally that by April 1920 the local newspaper could announce that every member of Hayes Council was now a Labour Party member - 100% Labour.

In January 1921 Councillor Gunton could claim with some justification that

"Hayes was one of the few and probably only councils in the country that could say there were no slums existing in their district"

The Council house scheme was so popular, that delegations flooded in to see the developments, delegations from councils across the United Kingdom and as far away as America Austria and Japan.

Despite the cost, Councillor Gunton could boast in 1924 "The Labour Party was generally associated by the reactionary press with high rates, well the rates in Hayes did not happen to be high rates".

Finally R.W. Gunton was elected as a Labour Middlesex County Councillor Alderman during the first Labour controlled Middlesex County Council in 1946.

Given Councillor Gunton's role in pioneering and securing large scale affordable and good quality housing for many generations of Hayes residents, it is a shame his work and deeds are not better known.

Michael Walker