Friday, August 31, 2007

National UNISON Labour Link Elections

Back from holiday (by coincidence in Wales, Scotland and Yorkshire) and I have been asked about my post supporting Rachel Voller as London’s representative, from other UNISON Labour link members, about the regional elections elsewhere. Done a little bit of digging. Of course, some excellent representatives to National Committee have been re-elected unopposed and also in some regions there is a simple fight between good comrades who all put “members first”.

However, I would like to plug: James Black in Yorkshire region, Margaret Wilkinson in Wales and Alan Cowan in Scotland. The ballot papers were sent out on the 20 August and you have until the 14 September to return them. So, please encourage any UNISON Labour Link members who live in the UNISON regions below to vote for:-

Rachel Voller (Greater London)

Margaret Wilkinson (Wales)

Alan Cowan (Scotland)

James Black (Yorkshire)

(BTW– I was really on "holiday" in these regions during the last few weeks – honest! I did have some interesting meetings though - Check “Wild Wales” and I’ll do something on Edinburgh and Sedbergh in next few days)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

“Wild Wales”

Just spent a few days walking in “Wild Wales”. Ok, the North Wales coast isn’t that wild anymore. Even though a Friday night out in Rhyl can be pretty hairy at times! Whilst visiting Ruthin for a family meal I noticed the plaque to George Borrow on the pub “Wynnstay Arms” commemorating his stay in 1854. George was probably the first “tourist” to Wales. His book “Wild Wales” published in 1862 is credited with popularising Wales as a holiday resort. I have got a copy at home. However, it is also noticeable to me for two other things. Firstly, his descriptions of the absolute grinding poverty in Wales during this period. I was born exactly 100 years after it was published; so much has changed in a relatively short period of time.

The second notable fact is it records how fond this first English tourist was of beer (ale) and drinking generally while on “holiday” in Wales. Which takes me back again to Rhyl on a Friday night. Some things don’t change.

Picture top left is of Conwy Mountain and left of my sister’s chocolate labrador Jazz, who lives to walk in the hills, usually in search of sheep to bark at and puddles or lakes to jump into; the muddier and smellier the better.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Epping Forest Council By-Election: BNP standing - help needed

There were 6 BNP Councillors in Epping Forest, now one has stood down (for “business reasons”?) and there is a by-election on Thursday 30 August. In 2004 Labour lost two seats in this ward to the BNP. It appears that a number of BNP national organisers now live in the area – Eddy Butler, Julian Leppart and convicted terrorist and Jew beater Tony Lecomber (as in far right photo - hopefully being nicked for something serious - his quote “The sick minds who would have us believe that Jews were gassed at Auschwitz are completely twisted). Delightful crew!

Contact local Party organisers Tom or Margaret (UNISON member) on 020 8508 6916. Help also wanted on Election Day.

It would be great if any local Party or trade union can organise canvass or leafleting teams. Alderton ward is only minutes away from Debden Underground (central line – zone 6) and not that far from the M11.

On this Saturday 25 August meet up 10-30 to 11am at a street stall held in the Debden Broadway (again a few minutes from Debden tube) were you will be given walks and leaflets.

UPDATE: not good news at all - BNP retain seat and Labour loses ground! Need to think about how we tackle BNP in East London. Skilled working class/self employed/middle class Loughton is very different than Barking & Dagenham. But the fascists are still able to win? hmmm

Election Results: Thursday 30th August 2007.
Epping Forest DC, Loughton Alderton BNP 393 (32.2; -5.4), Residents 367 (30.1; +1.0), Con 163 (13.3; -3.1), LDNeil Woollcott 172 (14.1; +10.5), Lab 98 (8.0; -5.2), UKIP 28 (2.3; +2.3).Majority 26. Turnout 36.7%. BNP hold. Last fought 2006.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Vote Rachel Voller - UNISON Labour Link Elections

Ballot papers are being sent out from today to the home addresses of all UNISON members who pay the Labour Party political levy (also known as the APF). Each UNISON region elects one delegate to the National Labour Link Committee. In most regions there is a contested election. In London I am supporting Rachel Voller (together with the overwhelming majority of the UNISON London regional committee - I haven’t been able to contact everyone but so far the endorsement for Rachel has been solid)

Rachel works as a midwife for UCH in central London. She is a committed UNISON and Labour party activist and has done an excellent job for London UNISON Labour link. My branch Tower Hamlets nominated her at our last Labour Link meeting.

Below is Rachel’s election address, please “copy & paste” and email to anyone who pays the UNISON Labour link levy in London.


I’m an ordinary community midwife who witnesses the result of poverty pay and poor housing daily. That’s why I want to continue doing all I can for our members and the community we serve.

Like many UNISON members I live a long way from work to live in affordable accommodation, adding to the daily pressure of being a shiftworker.

Since my election I’ve made sure the voice of ordinary UNISON members has been heard at the highest levels within the Labour party.

Whether questioning Gordon Brown directly or lobbying Ken Livingstone I have put London UNISON members first.

I have:

- successfully lobbied to stop the late start of weekend tube trains which would have hit thousands of shiftworkers;
- won support for the LGPS amongst London Labour MPs;
- represented UNISON on London Labour party’s ruling body;
- organised UNISON members to visit Parliament to meet MPs face to face.

I will:

- demand Gordon Brown builds enough affordable houses across London;
- campaign for a Ken Livingstone victory in 2008 to ensure a living wage is introduced;
- expose the racist lies of the BNP;
- organise more chances for members to meet Labour politicians.


Dave Prentis, our General Secretary, has shown strong leadership and won major concessions from Labour.

I want to work with Dave to build on this and put our members’ priorities first.

I will not enter into alliances with outside extremist political parties like the Socialist Workers’ Party, Militant Tendency or obscure backbench MPs like others would.

UNISON has a central role to play in the Labour Party and I intend to use it for the best interests of all our members.

Remember your vote will count.

Contact Rachel via

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Women at War – East London 1940 & 2005

On Monday afternoon by chance I listened to a superb play on Radio 4. It was the first of a series called “Women at War”. Only 15 minutes long “Night in the Front Line” by
Molly Lefebure, was read by Julia McKenzie. Click on here to listen again before next Monday.

It was the story of an ordinary East End woman, Mrs Minnow, enduring a particularly heavy and bloody Nazi air-raid during the Blitz. A very simple, personal story of survival. No heroics, just trying to live through unimaginable devastation and death.

Towards the end of the play Mrs Minnow described how the next day she walked along Bow Road, East London towards Stratford in order to escape the bombing. Along the road with her was a constant stream of other survivors walking along the road in the same direction of safety.

This image immediately reminded me of driving towards Stratford along Bow Road on July 7 2005 after the London Bombing had shutdown the transport system and similar steams of Londoners walking down the same road in the same direction.

Of course, no matter how horrific July 7 was, it was nothing compared to the Blitz. But Mrs Minnow reminded me of that day. History repeating itself?

“Christian” Councillor refuses to swear on Bible over assault on Police

Newham in the news again. The "Christian People Alliance" (CPA), a bigoted right wing fundamentalist (and so-called) “Christian” Political Party, has 3 elected borough councillors in the Canning Town South Ward of West Ham CLP. One of its Councillors, Simeon Ademolake (left), was convicted last week of assaulting two Police officers and fined £1000 in total for these offences. Apparently this was in connection with a visit by bailiffs over unpaid parking tickets. See my previous post on this thoughtless thug and serial Parking ticket offender. The judge last week made it clear that he thought Ademolake was lying (at best) during his evidence.

Despite this, he has not resigned from the Council and is appealing against his sentence. Now, normally if someone was appealing I would be careful about saying anything until the appeal is heard. However, I was amazed to hear that Ademolake (and interestingly the CPA leader Alan Craig) refused to give sworn evidence at his trial on the bible, despite being so-called “Christian” politicians? His wife did. I have searched the CPA websites for some sort of explanation but there is nothing.

What is going on? What hypocrisy? Why hasn’t the Alan Craig, the leader of the CPA kicked Ademolake out of his Party? Why does Craig not give swear on the bible when giving evidence at court? Something stinks. The CPA are surely the mirror image of the "Respect” Islamist fundamentalist bigots in Newham and Tower Hamlets.

Hat tip thingy to local newspaper Newham Recorder which was also picked up again by Marsha on Union Futures.
UPDATE: He wins the appeal because the CPS lose his file and fail to warn witnesses to attend the appeal! Check out

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Newham UNISON branch Chair suspended

I’m on leave at moment and “out and about”, but managed to find out that rumours about Michael Gavan's suspension by his employer, Newham Council is true. Now, to be honest Michael and I don’t see “eye to eye” over some things (e.g. Respect), but he is a democratically elected trade union official with a very good reputation as an able rep when defending his members in discipline or sickness hearings.

From the information available to me, it seems that the allegations against him are also frankly rubbish.

This quote is from Newham UNISON via “Union Futures” Irene Stacey, Newham Unison branch secretary, “Michael is an honest and hard working branch chair and would never do anything that is not in our members' interests,” This is not the first time that the council have attacked our union and it is no coincidence that Michael has been suspended. It comes shortly after the union started a campaign against the privatisation of the refuse and cleansing service and Sir Robin Wales publicly declared that Unison stood in the way of his plans to cut pay and increase working hours for our members. The terms of the suspension are outrageous and underline the nature of the attack on the union.

Michael is a well respected representative and now he is banned from assisting anyone who faces sickness or disciplinary charges. It is clear that the council intend the suspension to drag on for as long as possible – no investigation officer has been appointed and no date for the investigation meetings has been set.

We expect the full support of our national union in fighting this attack on our union branch organisation. We will be asking for a ballot for strike action.

We will be asking for you full support in fighting for the reinstatement of our branch chair because if the council get away with picking and choosing who represents our members, then the council will feel confident to smash through wages, terms and conditions and push through more and more redundancies.”

Irene is a UNISON NEC and National Labour Link Committee member.

Together with other West Ham Labour Party GC delegates we have contacted the Labour group leadership and others on this matter and the related (I believe) issue regarding the current “single status” dispute.

Send messages of support to Newham UNISON

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bullying the sick and vulnerable?

Wikipedia defines bullying “In colloquial speech, bullying often describes a form of harassment perpetrated by an abuser who possesses more physical and/or social power and dominance than the victim”

I’m just going to let off steam and have a rant (I can’t go into specifics) at the trend by many so-called “caring, responsible employers” to use discipline procedures and terminology to deal with very sick and vulnerable staff.

To make things clear I will only refer to what happens to staff who it is fully accepted by all sides, are genuinely chronically sick or have a very serious underlying medical condition. For example staff, who have recognised chronic mental health problems such as severe clinical depression, Bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia. Who are also doing all they can to manage or overcome their conditions.

However, some employers treat sick employees as “criminals” and have adopted sickness policies that send out extremely threatening “standard” letters and arrange “frightening” management meetings (“at which you could be dismissed”) for such employees. These letters are utterly unsympathetic, instructing employees to intend “Final Absence meetings” where they could receive written “Final Written warnings” for extensive periods during which they could be dismissed if there is any further sickness regardless of their disability.

Look, I’m not talking about someone where it is even suspected that they are “playing the system” (extremely rare) but people who it is recognised are chronically ill, even suicidal but employers still insist on sending out such letters. I had a case a few years ago when there was an employee off sick with a chronic mental health illness who was instructed to intend a “Final Absence Meeting” and given a written final written warning for 18 months over his sickness, even though he was hospitalised for his illness and confessed that he felt suicidal over the “written warnings”. The member felt that being “disciplined” in such a way for being ill meant it was their fault that they were ill. This just added to the illness.

If someone is very ill and there is no reasonable chance of recovery and all possible treatment, redeployment and adaptations seriously considered then there will have to be a process to end their employment. But that doesn’t mean employers should be allowed to bully vulnerable people out of a job.

I have no doubt that in the future (if it has not already happened) someone will kill themselves over such letters and warnings. What’s the best way to deal with these “rogue” employers? Will the New Commission for Equalities and Human rights do anything? Check out ban bullying at work day 7 November 2007

Friday, August 10, 2007

Shadwell Election Day (and Result)

Just back home from “post election” curry and chin wag at Zeera Restaurant, Mile End. Delicious as usual. Received text from usually very reliable source at the election count in Town hall. Not looking that good at the moment to be honest. At 00:40 Respect on 1400 votes and Labour on 900.

However, very good campaign by Labour Candidate Michael Keith and Tower Hamlets Labour Party. Picture of Labour committee room at Cable Street and the top cross London canvass team that I spent most of the evening with (from Barking, Croyden, Enfield, Tower Hamlets UNISON, Havering, West Ham CLP – sorry if I left you out) next to Watney market. Who says “knocking up” cannot also be fun!

I must admit that I thought that the campaign went quite well – usual thugs not about? no-one threw anything at me, no physical threats, no foul abuse etc. We will see. I won’t wait up much longer. But "Community Politics"? - has the well "respected" (pardon the pun) local Bengali businessman come up with the votes (ignore the SWP, they are just playing a mugs game in Shadwell)?

UPDATE 01:00 - Just about to post above when result came in - 97 Majority to Respect!

Well, dare I say success-ish rather than victory? 560 odd Respect majority slashed to 97? Not really I suppose but if Labour got this vote at next election then nearly all Respect Councillors will lose their seats and Gorgeous George would be thrashed if he stood against Jim Fitzpatrick. I’ll sleep on the result and come back later. No doubt Dick Tuck would have come up with a good line to express my current feelings.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Respect Shadwell Mass Meeting

While out campaigning tonight with UNISON and NUS Labour supporters in the Shadwell Council By-Election. I went past the venue of the Respect “Mass Public meeting” at a local school. Apparently tonight they are going to disclose some “top secret” Labour Party” document. Can’t wait!

Despite being just after the official starting time the venue did not seem to be very busy. Therefore I have taken the liberty of ordering a suitable venue for the next Respect “mass meeting" (see above right)

While I’m at it – striking sunset tonight over Shadwell Basin

Monday, August 06, 2007

Business Candidates Split Respect

“I do favour trade unionism. We need all the trade we can get, so we have to help them.”

So says business wing Respect candidate, Harun Miah, for the Shadwell by-election, Tower Hamlets, when interviewed about his views in the recent “Workers Weekly” article entitled “Respect - the party for everybody”. The by-election is this Thursday 9 August.

It is quite clear that Harun hasn’t a clue what trade unions are about – he seems to think we are some type of “trade body”?

It gets even more farcical when Harun reflects upon a certain sensitive subject that many on the left traditionally hold strong views about:

“As for socialism, it does provide some sort of justice, some sort of equality. I agree with that. As long as it doesn’t breach the rights of others. Of course, Respect has socialism as an element, but it’s not the only element, is it? There are other concerns. But I don’t mind”.

He appears concerned about any interference in the “rights” of property and capital perhaps? Can anyone interpret his remarks otherwise?

Despite attempts to underplay Harun’s business connections and portray him as only the owner of a local shop, it is now clear that many have been mislead about the extent of his considerable business interests and that of his family. He may well only own one business outright, but he has apparently significant shares in a number of other businesses, not only several local retail shops but also a money transfer business and property letting agency. Is the only reason that he is against the privatisation of council housing estates is that the “right to buy” is restricted?

Let alone the fact that Harun also declares in the interview that he is a “mate” of Michael Keith, the Labour Party Candidate? Talk about keeping your options open! The previous Respect councillor for Shadwell resigned calling the party “bickering, immature, self serving” and “dominated by militants”.

While the “Workers Weekly” interview was all well and good, there were a load of questions that were not raised with Harun? I assume that a SWP full time goon was present during the interview.

I for one would have been interested in Harun’s view on the “London Living Wage” and how much his own work force is paid per hour? (never mind the legal minimum wage), What sickness benefits are they entitled to? what about his views over gay rights? civil partnerships?, a women’s right to choose? (we know already that Galloway has serious form on this issue).

It appears that many rank and file SWPers have also had enough. The preferred SWP candidate - young, female activist Sultana Begum was not chosen at a selection meeting dominated by local businessmen. Recently a senior SWP activist was expelled for supporting the selection of such candidates in Birmingham. At least one senior member of the SWP has been disciplined by its central committee for attacking their link with Respect.

Apparently there is a growing revolt by core members refusing to join “Respect”. Many complain bitterly that female and gay members have been cold shouldered and excluded (to be polite) at Respect meetings. The links between certain Respect members and Jamaat-e-Islami quite rightly horrify many.

It is clear that many (not all) members of Respect are only interested in male dominated communal politics.
Trouble in mill? – roll on Thursday.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Labour Rally at Cable Street – Michael Keith “on the stump”

Yesterday there was an outdoor rally for Labour Candidate Michael Keith in the Shadwell by-election, Tower Hamlets. The rally took place in the garden area adjacent to the Battle of Cable Street Mural (see main photo) painted on the side of St Georges Town Hall.

There were about 80 supporters, mainly from the local Bangladeshi community. Speakers included most of the “great and the good” of Tower Hamlets Labour politics. First was Baroness Uddin, then Tower Hamlets Labour leader Denise Jones , Parliamentary Under secretary of State for Transport and local MP Jim Fitzpatrick, Labour Prospective parliamentary candidate for neighbouring Bethnal Green & Bow Rushanara Ali. Councillor Anwara Ali (and local GP) chaired the meeting.

They all praised Michael for the work he had done in the past for Shadwell and Tower Hamlets as a Councillor. Jim Fitzpatrick astonished the gathering (well, me anyway) with a confident and fluent 4 minute speech entirely in Sylheti. According to those next to me in the audience he spoke it very well! I have uploaded a 30 second clip of (poor quality video) of Jim in action onto You Tube.

Michael was last. He was literally a politician “on the stump” since he climbed upon the remains of a cut down tree stump (see photo). He then proceeded to give a well delivered and passionate speech about how important it is for the local area to return a Labour councillor and to turn away from the divisive policies of Respect. It went down very well.

Afterwards the canvassing continued. See Councillor (and Newham UNISON member) Bill Turner “on the knocker” in the Tarling estate. On Thursday there was a good show from Newham Labour Party. I heard that there were 25 “Newhamites” out and about in Shadwell.

Again very little sign of Respect campaigners. I saw Galloway briefly; it appears from speaking to other campaigners that he was up to his usual trick of using a megaphone to scream abuse and threats at Labour party activists. Charming bloke.

I’ve had a chance to read an interview with the Respect candidate and to do some digging - will try and post something interesting later tonight.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

East London Sunset

Completely and unashamedly off message – last night in our part of East London, there was a spectacular sunset. Shepherds delight or what. This may not match the dramatic sunsets that many will see on holiday abroad or in more rural or seaside settings this year, but it was pretty damn beautiful for all that (double click).

Normal service will resume next with a report on today’s Labour Party rally in Shadwell and diss-Respect.

I could of course make a link about the pending sunset of the Respect Party.... But I wouldn’t want to associate something so lovely with something so ugly.

Friday, August 03, 2007

East London 5 Star NHS Service

Today I had a first appointment with a NHS physio for a recurring knee problem. I arrived on time, went straight up to the reception (there was no queue) they confirmed my details and asked me to take a seat. Within 5 minutes the physio came into the reception and we went into his surgery where he questioned me and examined my knee. He discussed the possible cause and treatment, put a bandage on and recommended another appointment next week. The reception (again no queue) made an appointment for me for the following Thursday! The premises were newly refurbished, clean, bright and tidy.

I’ve had a problem with pains in my left knee for a year or two, and being a cowardly custard over this sort of thing, I have put up various excuses about not doing anything about it until my better half put her foot down (pardon the pun) and told me to stop whinging and do something about it.

My point is that I could not have had better treatment today for my medical problem. The publicly provided NHS is not perfect, there were a few hick ups on the way to today's appointment, however, I challenge anyone visiting Harley Street today for a similar problem and paying huge amounts of money, to have had a better service than I received.

In fact the only down side is that the physio was obviously full of "cold". He apologised, but said that symptoms had come on quickly and he hadn’t wanted to cancel appointments without any notice. Nuf said?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Film Rate your Blog

Hat trick to Canadian Labour blogger Wernerpatels for the link to a Mingle2 Website which claims to assess the “film rating of your blog”. You just type in the URL of your blog, face book or web site and they will “rate it”. They came out with a “parental guidance” rating for this blog.

Apparently, since the word “gun” comes up once and “murder” twice, in my previous posts. Which I assume refers to these on gun and knife crime. Not sure that this earns a PG rating? The Sun and the Daily Mirror is supposed to have a reading age of 9 or less (I think)? God knows what they and the Daily Hate would get under this assessment!

UPDATE: in fact I have just used it to rate the Daily Hate and it came back as "Restricted"! Wish that everyone who bought it had to still get the permission of their parents. Especially pensioners. Do wonders for its circulation.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thieving, Robbing Bankers UPDATE

Update to last Thursday’s post about being charged a fee by a dodgy ATM. I emailed my bank to complain and eventually today I received the following uninformative reply: -

"Thank you for your email.

Please be advised this is an independent link machine and we have no relationship with the ATM provider. I am unable to advise you how to raise a complaint other than to contact the ATM provider direct.


****** Bank

I have replied (as you do)

“This is a totally inadequate response. I believe that I have been deceived of money by a company who you or your agents authorised my account to be debited.

It is entirely unclear who or how I am supposed to contact this "ATM provider".

I wish to make an official complaint about this response. Please note that I do not blame any individual worker, rather senior management have failed to train or provide sufficient support to staff on how to properly answer enquires.

Please also email me a copy of your complaints procedures”.

I have also looked at my ATM receipt (which luckily I have not lost or eaten). It is headed “Cashpoint ATM” which I assume (but it’s not clear) refers to Cashpoint PLC. So I have emailed them as well to make a complaint. Let’s see what happens.