Thursday, January 31, 2008

A loss for the SWP

By a Guest Poseur

I learned yesterday that my friend and comrade, Rahul Patel, is moving on from his role as Branch Secretary of UNISON's Westminster local government branch, in which he has done much work for our Union and its members for a number of years.

The branch has a majority of its members in the private sector thanks to the obsessions of the Tory employers - and Rahul, and other branch activists, have faced unique challenges over recent years.

Rahul will be sorely missed. We could do with more such activists.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Email Your MP:Temporary & Agency Workers Bill

Via "Facebook" today I got a message that TULO has set up an "email tool". This is to enable trade unionists to contact their local Labour MP’s and ask them to support the new private members Bill by Andrew Miller MP, the Temporary and Agency Workers (Equal Treatment) Bill.

This Bill is up for its second reading on Friday 22nd February, and if it is to proceed then it will need the support of at least 100 MPs.

There is a drop-down menu to select your MP and a “model” message. You can also lobby via letter John Hutton MP, secretary of state.

Rt Hon John Hutton MP, Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform1 Victoria Street, London SW1H 0ET

The Guardian today reports that there might be some movement in the Government’s position. Senior Labour backbenchers have met Gordon Brown aides on this issue. I believe that next month, the European Social Council will meet again to try and come to a European Union wide agreement. Hopefully this will result in a more positive result than last time!

You can also join the TULO Facebook group on this important campaign.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Murad Qureshi: London living wage for all housing workers?

Yesterday was a busy day for UNISON Labour Link meetings. At lunchtime I was a guest at Tower Hamlets Labour Link, while in the evening I convened a meeting with the UNISON Housing Association Labour Link members.

At that meeting was the Labour London Assembly member Murad Qureshi who is a member of the branch and technically still in my own UNISON “shop”!

During the meeting we discussed the future new role of the Greater London Assembly and the provision of social housing in the capital. The Mayor will soon exercise new powers over development and finance. Murad agreed to look into whether or not the GLA/Mayor could insist that any future housing developments in London should be conditional on employers paying a London Living Wage (currently only £7.20) in the same way that directly employed staff in the GLA are protected. The Labour GLA members have also tried to extend this protection for all Transport for London employees and the Olympics 2012.

This is clear red water between us and the Tories who are pledged to reduce the wages of vulnerable low paid London workers to the minimum wage (only £5.52 ph).

We will be holding a further meeting with Murad in the future over the GLA elections. If anyone can help with his campaign please let me know.

Revolting comrades

Hat tip to Alan G who sends me this amusing letter from “The Electoral Commission” about the row over the use of the Party name “Respect” between Galloway’s Jamaati Party and the SWP.

This row amongst former comrades is why Carole Vincent is standing in the Leyton by-election under no political label and why Galloway is probably going to stand as a London GLA list candidate under another (don't mention "respect")party label.

Check out Socialist wreakers and splitters (and the 104 comments) for the full fun.

How did embittered lefties leak things before there was blogs?

Betrayal at SYN

I know I shouldn’t....

"From: Owen Jones To: socialistyouth@lists.riseup.netCc: XXX and XX

: Tuesday, 29 January, 2008 2:08:59 PMSubject: [socialistyouth] Resignation Comrades,I'm writing to you to let you know I'm resigning as Co-Chair.Recently I betrayed the trust of SYN's other Co-Chair, XXX. This has caused an irreversible personal breach which I don't think is going to be healed.

To quickly explain: Both of us were preparing for the upcoming public meeting on Islamophobia. Originally we were going to invite a speaker from the Muslim Council of Britain, possibly to be balanced by the AWL's speaker suggestion. X had objections to this because of the MCB's stance on LGBT issues and therefore I agreed with her objections and disinvited her. Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch then made it clear he was going to decline to speak. X and I subsequently debated the original decision to invite the MCB and X once again made clear her entirely legitimate objections and strongly opposed an invite.

In a moment of total but unfortunately unforgivable stupidity,I forwarded our debate to Bob Pitt on the basis that I didn't have answers to her objections and therefore requested a response from him to them on the MCB's positions on LGBT issues.This was a total betrayal of X confidence on my part and as a result she no longer feels able to continue working alongside me.

Understandably she feels both hurt and betrayed. Given I caused this problem, it is my responsibility to resign from the organisation.This is very sad for a number of reasons. X has been my closest comrade for over a year and a half. We've worked together extremely on numerous issues and campaigns. I'm very sorry that I've ended our close political partnership and indeed our friendship.I also want to say that it's been a genuine pleasure. I've got to know some great comrades through SYN. I think the future of SYN is starting to look very bright.

From now on, I've got no doubt that SYN will be an activist-orientated organisation with a number of public meetings,campaigns and protests coming up. Comrades have come up with some great ideas about how to take the organisation forward. I think there are a number of really talented comrades who want to be involved and make SYN a massive success.

It's up to SYN members who they have as their replacement at the upcoming Conference. However, I want to suggest XX as an excellent candidate. I think that he's an activist who has the support and respect of everyone in SYN, who operates in a non-sectarian fashion and would take the organisation forward as it expands and develops. I hope comrades will give that some thought.I know there are some of you who will be very glad to see me go but,regardless of whatever political differences, it's been a privilege to work with many of you and I wish you all the best. I hope to stay in touch with many of you in the months ahead.Finally, I'm sorry to have let both X and all of you down. In solidarity,Owen

Homeless Charity Shelter attacked over “bullying”

I’ve been contacted by a very sensible UNISON member over the employment dispute at the housing charity Shelter. The dispute is about pay and grading reductions for staff (while the senior management retain their perks and privileges).

While I am appalled at the attack on frankly already relatively low paid employees I am also conscious of the enormous damage that “Shelter” (which does a fantastic job for vulnerable people) is doing to its reputation.

Shelter CEO Adam Sampson please sort this out.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Tower Hamlets Labour Link pushes for London Living Wage.

Today I was invited to attend a lunchtime UNISON Labour Link (APF) meeting with Tower Hamlets Council deputy Leader, Sirajul Islam. Cllr Islam has been a member of UNISON for many years. Before my TUPE transfer I also use to be the Labour Link officer for Tower Hamlets LG branch.

Cllr Islam spoke about his belief that the current industrial dispute over the proposed Tower Hamlets ALMO could hopefully be resolved and how the Labour Council is pressing ahead with its programme to improve services for residents in the borough and how the constructive role of staff is crucial.

Wearing my new hat as UNISON Housing Association Branch Labour Link officer, I asked him what the relationship was with the various RSL’s (Housing associations) in the borough (at the moment mainly “good” apparently) and also whether he would support the idea that all the housing organisations in Tower Hamlets should pay as a minimum a “London Living Wage” (£7.20 per hour) to all employees (including agency workers). There is a proposal that they should all only pay agency and temporary staff the living wage. He promised to look into this idea and report back.

I need to investigate this further, but by co-incidence I recently found out that apparently if you employ agency or contracting workers you have to pay the government 15% VAT on the total cost. Never mind additional agency fees (which VAT is also payable upon) but surely that money could be better used paying staff a “living wage”? At the moment the Council and many RSL’s employ vulnerable workers who are only paid the minimum £5.52 per hour.

We also discussed the forthcoming GLA and Mayor elections and what we can do to help. An interesting fact came out about how the Labour vote across London is so important. In 2004 Ken Livingstone got more actual votes from Richmond (true blue Tory area with a high turn out) than Barking! (Labour but low turn out). Interesting for a number of fairly obvious reasons.

Picture of Cllr Islam with the excellent new Tower Hamlets UNISON Labour Link officer (and Redbridge Labour party activist) Fazlul Chowdhury (left).

Big Bang Canvass and Leafleting in Leyton

Received today this lively flyer via UNISON Labour Link with request from Walthamstow CLP for assistance in the Leyton ward by-election. Picture of Labour Candidate Khevyn Limbajee (right) who is standing against (amongst others) Big Brother “page 3 Sun model” Carole Vincent (believed to be standing for anti-Galloway dissRespect/SWP)

Big Bang Canvass and Leafleting in Leyton

In addition to the important normal schedule we are organising special evening and day blitzes. So please come along and help us in this crucial by-election and meet members from across London, the South East and beyond.

Thursday 31st January 6pm 101 Vicarage Road E10 -finding Labour voters in our quieter streets

Sunday 3rd February 12noon 16 Brunswick Road E10 - canvassing and leaflet delivery

Thursday 7th February 6pm 74 Windsor Road E10 - campaigning round the Orient

Saturday 9th February 12noon 74 Windsor Road E10 - firming up the Labour vote on the estates

And don’t forget the big day
Thursday 14th February.

Contact numbers
Terry Wheeler 07903755943
Chris Robbins 07904590526

Sunday, January 27, 2008

London UNISON Regional Council Elections

On Wednesday 6 February 2008 it is the AGM for the Regional Council. UNISON is the biggest union in London with more than 130,000 members. There are 152 branches that are entitled to send delegates to the AGM and vote in a secret ballot for lay regional council officers, regional sub-committees, conference delegates, motions and proposed rule changes. The AGM also approves (or not) various reports.

The president of UNISON, Norma Stephenson, is our guest speaker. There are also speakers from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, on public sector pay and a Parliamentary report from Jeremy Corbyn MP.

I am standing to be re-elected as Regional Finance Convenor. This is one of the 5 Regional Council Officers posts. I am also supporting Gloria Hanson for Regional Convenor; Conroy Lawrence for Deputy Regional Convenor; Lynn Bentley for Regional Publicity Officer; Gill Brown for Regional Equalities Convenor.

Check out “UNISON members win at Regional AGM” (5 February 2007 – one of my first ever posts)

Below is my election statement. I'm sure Andrew will post my opponents statement in "comments".



I am currently the Regional Finance Convenor and strongly believe that
strong management of our member’s money is I believe the key foundation to organising campaigns that deliver for our members.

If re-elected as the Regional Finance Convenor I would ensure that the member’s money is used to support branches with key issues such as:


Defending Pensions

Campaigning to defend our public services

Campaigning for equalities


Financial decisions need to be open and transparent and be easily understood by activists.

I want to make sure that activists better understand the financial support that is available to branches and ensure that the money gets to them to support recruitment and organising campaigns.

The Region has the money to back a growing union – the bigger we are, the stronger we are – let make sure it happens.

I am an experienced branch officer and regional activist for many years (including holding the position of branch treasurer, assistant branch secretary, branch health and safety officer and member nominated representative on Pension panel).

If anyone wishes to discuss my statement with me they could ring **** or email

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Work stress causes heart disease

Today’s TUC Email Newsletter on health & safety “Risks” has a very interesting article on recent research that appears to directly link work related stress with heart disease.

“Stressed workers suffer a greatly increased risk of heart disease, a study of UK civil servants has found. Stressful jobs have a direct biological impact on the body, the research indicated. The study reported online by the European Heart Journal focused on more than 10,000 British civil servants, part of the ongoing Whitehall II study. Those under 50 who said their work was stressful were 68 per cent more likely to develop heart disease than the stress-free”.

A 68% increase is significant. In my previous job I tried unsuccessfully to ask the employer to record and report incidents of heart disease and strokes to the safety committee, so we could try and identify if certain jobs were in fact prone to stress related illness. That request got no where fast.

Should I in the future ask trade union members who have suffered heart disease and who work in stress full jobs to fill in an accident/incident report?

Friday, January 25, 2008

James Purnell - DWP Minister (and bad photographer)

Tom P has reminded me that while new Work and Pensions secretary, James Parnell may have many talents, photography is not one of them! In March last year I asked James to take a picture of Tom and I with the journalist Nick Cohen (see photo). We had just been to see Nick talk about his book “What’s Left”. I’ve spoken to James briefly a couple of times since on pension issues. While I don’t agree with everything he says, he knows his stuff (The Radio 4 “Today” programme this morning tried to catch him out by asking "what is an annuity"?).

While many in the trade union movement will regret Peter Hain leaving the Cabinet, I doubt if we have seen the last of him. I believe he will “clear” his name and resume his "colourful" career at some point soon.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Lambeth UNISON Talk the Walk ....and Walk the Walk

Lively reports from Wednesday’s AGM at Lambeth UNISON LG. It would appear that the usual suspects were defeated by ordinary rank & file Lambeth Unison members. This about their support for a rather daft, emergency motion attacking the national union leadership. This motion was over a UNISON “rule I” (internal discipline) investigation into alleged racism over a leaflet put out by some UNISON members during last years conference. Unlike others I won’t comment directly on the allegation since there is an independent investigation underway.

However, I understand that a majority of Lambeth UNISON were outraged at the motion (especially black members) and also at those that supported it. The motion ended up being referred back to the Black members self organised group. A number of Lambeth UNISON members are also reported to have taken their recycling responsibilities very seriously by ripping up various SWP/United Left leaflets that had happened to be left on seats before the AGM.

I am really encouraged by these reports. UNISON members are standing up for what they believe and not supporting motions that attack their union for investigating their own member’s complaints.

I hope that people don’t mind if I post via “YouTube” the excellent early anti-Nazi video version of the “Lambeth Walk”. And to be absolutely clear, I think this video is an important historical record - only. Enjoy.

Finally, I’ve heard that my election rivals for the UNISON SGE national elections were present at the AGM meeting, I suppose my invite must have been mislaid, lost in the post, eaten by my dog, or lost for some other good reason (hmmm- I haven’t got a dog?).

Explaining Tory “Dog Whistle” Politics in London

Last night, we had as our guest speaker at Labour Party General Committee (GC), London Assembly member, John Biggs. John represents “City & East” consistency which is made up of the City of London, Tower Hamlets, Newham and Barking & Dagenham. Some points from his address I thought were important (my interpretation): –

With regard to the current allegations made against the Mayor, Ken Livingstone. John pointed out he is the deputy Chair of the London Development Agency (LDA) which is at the centre of (what I believe to be largely malicious) allegations made by the Tory “Evening Standard”.

There has been more than 600 projects funded by the LDA. Given the “challenging” nature of many of these schemes it is inevitable that some will fail. Such project’s takes up less than 1% of its funding.

The allegations are in reality what are called “Dog Whistle politics” as practiced by conservatives in Australia. It is no coincidence that the current allegations are mainly against black led projects and leaders. This is in order to polarise white voters and frighten them into not voting for Labour.

Recorded crime has gone down in London. More needs to be done. But one obvious reason for this reduction is the increase in the numbers of Police and the introduction of dedicated teams of regular Police and Community Support Officers in every London ward. While this reduction is due in part to the work of a London Mayor and assembly members. However, it is also due to a partnership between the Police and local Councils and their communities.

In London we have a number of very large, single deck “bendy buses”. The Bendy bus service 25, which goes though much of East London, is one of the busiest routes in London with 22 million passenger journeys per year. Buses are a “bread and butter” issue since many low paid workers cannot afford to travel on the tube or railway. There are problems on “bendy buses” with fare evasion, anti-social behaviour and overcrowding. However, there are number of sensible initiatives to tackle these problems. Such random spot checks on a whole bus by the Police and fare inspectors.

John talked about the various significant environmental issues being tackled by the Mayor and the GLA. He also acknowledged that he had always argued for greater powers for the Labour assembly over scrutiny of the Mayor, but the government had disagreed.

He concluded by re-instating that we need to maximise the Labour vote in London on May 1 to keep Ken as Mayor; Stop the BNP gaining a seat and send a national message to smug Cameron and the Tories that they will be beaten.

We also later had a lively Parliamentary report and Q&A with our MP Lyn Brown.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Meet Mayor Ken Livingstone

London TULO is holding another meeting for trade unionists, who pay the Labour Party levy, to meet Mayor Ken Livingstone and local Labour assembly members.

The venue is the historic old Town Hall in Stratford, London, E15. Only 5-10 minutes walk from the bus or railway station. Ticket only - so contract your trade union political officer.

Yesterday there was a successful trade union meeting for Ken and the Labour Assemby members in central London. I understand about 150 trade unionists attended.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Big Brother’s Carole Vincent is Candidate with No Name.

Former Big Brother contestant (and part time “Sun” model) Carole Vincent, is standing to be a Councillor in a by-election in Leyton, Waltham Forest, East London for SWP/Respect.

Due to bickering over the use of the name “Respect” between George Galloway’s “Jamaati/ Respect” and John Rees “SWP/ Respect”, she has had to stand under no political label on the ballot paper (which is pretty apt for all strands of diss-respect)

I am not going to gloat too much since this by-election follows the conviction and disqualification of the Labour Councillor Miranda Grell for “falsely branding a Liberal Democrat rival a paedophile and telling electors he had sex with teenage boys.” Miranda, who still protests her innocence, has since resigned from the Labour party.

Campaigning journalist, Khevyn Limbajee, is the excellent and well respected (in the true sense of the word) Labour Party candidate. I’ll post details about local campaign activities as soon as I can.

Hat tip to Alan G.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dutch bring home their bacon over Sudan

The giant Dutch pension fund for health and social workers, PGGM (worth 88 billion Euros with 2 million members), has decided to withdraw its investments in Chinese energy company, PetroChina, due to human rights violations by this company in Sudan.

PGGM has tried to “engage” with PetroChina for many years. However, according to PGGM, the parent company, CNPC, is involved in human rights violations in Sudan.... “and as the largest player in the Sudanese oil industry, CNPC is also a major financier of the Sudanese government, which commits human rights violations on a wide scale.” (IPE) This is the first time the fund has “disinvested” due to engagement failure.

I think this is a positive development. While I am a firm believer in engagement and trying to persuade companies to change, at the end of the day, you must be prepared to disinvest if companies continue to ignore their owners concerns.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

What have the Unions ever done for us?

Continuing here with the Monty Python “Life of Brian” theme, with an excellent typically Aussie take on the age old question of “What have the Unions ever done for us?” Hat tip to Ian at IANSREDLOG

Friday, January 18, 2008

Hope Not Hate in 2008: Beating the BNP in London

After work yesterday I went to a Searchlight meeting at the House of Commons, held on “Beating the BNP in London”. Frank Dobson MP chaired, speakers included Jon Cruddas MP, Megan Dobney (SETUC) and Nick Lowles (Searchlight). As you would expect there was a good attendance and range of people present.

Afterwards I went to a West Ham Labour Party Campaign meeting, where we had invited our “City & East” London Assembly member John Biggs, to talk to us about campaign issues. The BNP came up as well since Barking and Dagenham is also in “City & East” constituency (City of London, Tower Hamlets and Newham).

There is a real risk that the BNP will win seats in the London Assembly. Last time they got 4.8% of the vote and under the PR list system they only needed 5% to get a seat. If they get 8% they could get 2 seats, 11% 3 seats. The BNP themselves are predicting 3 seats. In the last GLA election 2004 which was held at the same time as the European election, the UK Independence Party got 8.2% and 2 seats. Since then UKIP has collapsed and it is likely that the BNP will get some of their votes. Hopefully these sobering facts will concentrate minds.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ken meets London Labour Party campaigners

Last night I went to a meeting of the Labour Greater London Assembly & Mayor campaign 2008 at the Party HQ in Victoria Street.

It went very well. There was a good mixture of London assembly members, the Mayor Ken Livingstone, London MP’s, PPCs, MEPs, Councillors, Regional board members and TULO members.

Picture is of Harriet Harman, Labour Party deputy Leader (who addressed the meeting), Ken, Joan Ryan MP, Len Duvall AM (Chair) and Ken Clark (Regional director).

Ken was on good form and gave his usual cracking speech. He was introduced by Len beforehand as the model candidate who always does what his agent is told to do and never interferes in the campaign. Of course.

Doing the Lambeth Walk

It appears that a blogging comrade of mine is somewhat upset at the prospect of a democratic election (by secret ballot) of a national trade union position?

I think I know the real reason why? However, personally, I couldn't possible comment.

Check out "Election time" and "Don’t do it Glen"

p.s Any resemblance in the picture to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

“Judean People's Front" v "People's Front of Judea”

This time a lift from East London Advertiser (by deputy editor Ted Jeory) about the latest farcical dispute in diss-respectland. The really fun bit is speculating whether or not the warring parties will stand candidates against each other in the forth coming Greater London Assembly and Mayor elections?

George Galloway appears to have decided to stand for Respect Renewal . Will he go for Mayor against Ken Livingstone and declared SWP Candidate Lindsey German ?(aka Respect Independent or is it now called "Respect - the Splitters coalition"?) or in “City & East” against Labour Assembly member John Biggs? Or will be stand down to pursue his many lucrative media business interests! We're have to wait and see.

"THE battle for the soul of MP George Galloway's Respect party has
entered a new phase with the warring factions squabbling over their

The four councillors who split from their seven Respect colleagues on
Tower Hamlets council to become Respect Independent in October have now
changed their name again.

From today (Jan-15), the defecting group is known as Respect - the
Unity Coalition.

The first shots in the opening battle were fired today by Cllr Abjol
Miah, leader of the larger rump group which is still known as Respect.

He is lodging an official objection at the Town Hall because he says
the name is the 'official' party title, registered with the Electoral

But Tower Hamlets council told the Advertiser that any objection would
not be upheld because "the name change is entirely valid for purpose of
council business."

The move by the four defecting SWP-sympathetic councillors, Oli Rahman,
Ahmed Hussain, Rania Khan and Lutfa Begum, is the first shot in what
promises to be a bitter fight over who can stand as Respect candidates
in May's London Assembly elections.

But the longer the 'farce' continues, as observers describe it, the
more both factions risk losing credibility with mainstream voters.

An old scab postman lay dying…

Another straight lift - this time from the Health & Safety website HandSigns. Couldn't resist it.

"An old scab postman lay dying… He sent for his son.

The son rushed to his bedside and put his ear close to the old man’s lips.
“Yes Dad, what do you want to say to me?”

“Son”, he wheezed, “I’ve got one last wish, and I want you to see it’s carried out.”
“Yes, Dad, what is it?”

“When I’m gone, I want you to arrange my funeral.”
“Yes, Dad, I’ll do that.”

“And I want you to arrange that the Union Banner is draped on my coffin, and that my pallbearers are good Union members, and better still, Union Reps.”
“But Dad”, the son replied, confused, “You never supported the Union. When you started in the Post Office as a casual, it was the Union who got you a permanent contract, but you always slagged them off.”

"I know, son.”
” And the Union got you taken on full time, but you thought it was management who had given you a full time job, and although you joined the Union, it was only to get any protection going, in case you needed it.”

“Yes, son, that’s true.”
“And when you were threatened with dismissal for sickness, it was the Union Rep who represented you and saved your job.”

“Yes, she did.”
“And you took every pay rise, and improvement that the Union negotiated, though you always said that the Union did nothing for you.”

“And when the Union said a stand had to be taken against Management’s refusal to negotiate on their plans to cut wages and impose their Business Plan, you resigned from the Union ‘on principle’, as you were against strikes.”

“Yes, son, I did — the Union can’t tell you what to do.”
“And you crossed the picket line, laughing at your colleagues standing there losing pay to defend their pay, their conditions and their jobs.”

“Well, yes, I did. They’re idiots to think they can stand up to Management.”
“And you did every bit of overtime going, even coming in on your days off.”

“Yes, son, well, you have to look after yourself.”
“And if anyone called you a scab, you went running to the manager to get disciplinary action taken against them.”

“Yes–well, they shouldn’t be so nasty to me, I’m only doing my job.”
“So Dad, if you’ve hated the Union all your life, why would you want Union members to be your pallbearers?”

The old scab wheezed and gasped, turning blue, before he breathed his last, and departed this life for that hell reserved for scabs, nonces, bullying managers, torturers, concentration camp guards, fascists, greedy bosses, and the rest of the dregs of humanity. He beckoned his son to come closer, and with his last breath he whispered:


Monday, January 14, 2008

Register Now to Stop the BNP

Straight lift from Harry's Place - by Jonathon Hoffman.

The London Mayoral elections are less than four months away. Ken versus Boris promises to be a fascinating and close contest, but the London Assembly elections are just as important – arguably, more so.

The reason is that the racist BNP stands a real chance of winning one (maybe even two) Assembly seats. This would be in the 11 seats that are elected London-wide (there are in addition 14 constituency seats which are elected on a First-Past-the-Post system).

To win a seat, the BNP needs to win 5% of the ‘London-wide’ votes (in the 2004 election it won 4.71% and issues such as immigration and militant Islamism are obviously higher on the agenda than they were then).

You may have heard about the BNP’s bitter internal feud which began just over a month ago. But the BNP heartland in East London has been little affected, in the judgment of Nick Lowles of Searchlight:

"However, the rebellion appears to have run its course in terms of personnel leaving as well as the regions affected. Virtually no-one from the North East, Wales, West Midlands, London, Eastern, South East or South West has joined the rebels and with Eddy Butler deciding to stick with the party leadership the all-important East London and Essex branches have been rebellion free. ...He must have been heartened by fact that no organiser or councillor in London has broken ranks and with the London Assembly elections being contested under PR he surely thinks that a strong showing here will silence his doubters. The 2009 European Elections, again contested under PR, will be another centrally run election and so the effects of depleted branch structures, such as in Yorkshire, will be negligible.

However, this strategy will stand or fall on whether Griffin can get people elected to the London Assembly and the European Parliament. With the exception of the Barking and Dagenham breakthrough, Griffin hasn't really delivered a great deal since 2001-2003 and that was more down to external factors than his own fantastic leadership."

If the BNP were to win a seat, it would represent another rung on the ladder of ‘respectability’ that they crave. First the Oxford Union, then the London Assembly….

John Cruddas (the Labour MP for Dagenham) is doing a great job fighting the BNP in East London. The best way to help him is to maximise the turnout on 1 May. The higher the vote, the lower will be the BNP’s share.

Please copy/paste this article and distribute it as widely as possible.

There are two ways to maximise the turnout. First, everyone who is registered should make sure they vote – in 2004 the turnout was only 37%. Second, everyone who is eligible should register. The deadline for this is 5pm on 16 April.

To be able to vote, you must live in London and be over 18 on 1 May.

Many people do not realise that EU and Commonwealth citizens can vote and it is in these categories that the potential for registration may be greatest. So please tell anyone in this category.

Here is a site which contains a form to register to vote.

Here are the member countries of the EU:
Austria Belgium Bulgaria Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Estonia Finland France Germany Greece Hungary Ireland Italy Latvia Lithuania Luxembourg Malta Netherlands Poland Portugal Romania Slovakia Slovenia Spain Sweden United Kingdom

Many Bulgarians, Czechs, Hungarians, Poles, Romanians and Slovaks live in London. BNP policy is to favour native British workers over non-British ones. It is therefore in their interest to register and vote - for anyone except the BNP.

Commonwealth countries include:
Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa. A full list of Commonwealth members is here

UPDATE: check out 2012 Stop the BNP/Hope not Hate site here

Sunday, January 13, 2008

“Safer to be feared than to be loved”

This morning I listened via the BBC radio website “play it again” facility, to a translation of the infamous book “The Prince” by “Niccolo Machiavelli”.

This was last week's BBC Radio 4 “Book of the Week”. The “play it again” facility lasts a week, so you can still hear it in full until I suppose tomorrow morning’?

This version had been translated by Peter Constantine (Amazon £7.69) and was read by Peter Firth.

Machiavelli is someone who you hear being referred to quite often but no-one you know has ever read his books (or maybe no-one wants to admit it?). Cromwell apparently owned a manuscript; Napoleon had a copy of the book at the Battle of Waterloo, while Hitler boasted that he always had a copy on his bedside table.

Machiavelli wrote "The Prince" in 1513 after an illustrious career as a diplomat, courtier and soldier for the Italian Florentine republic. At the time of writing he was in exile after being wrongly accused of "conspiracy" and had even been tortured (by a particularly cruel process which involved deliberately dislocating both his shoulders). Despite experiencing such torture, Machiavelli thought that it was a perfectly legitimate political tool!

Nick Robinson, the BBC Political reporter (and blogger) introduced most of the readings and tried to draw comparisons to modern day British politics. While I enjoyed listening to the 5 programmes, it was clear that 16th century Italy was not a particularly pleasant place to live in and that there are not that many modern day lessons to learnt from his book.

Barbaric and unspeakable cruelty at the time was quite commonplace. Italy was a divided country of warring city states in almost constant bloody conflict. Surprisingly, Machiavelli was a voice of reason with regard to cruelty and warfare. While he supported rulers being cruel and ruthless when necessary, he wanted it to be quick and short lived. Afterwards, a ruler who wanted to survive should rely on being a fair and just Prince, rather than just a despot (and he should be mean and keep taxes low!)

I had until today always thought that the most famous quotation by Machiavelli was that it was “better to be feared than to be loved”. However the programme explained that his actual conclusion was that for a ruler it was “safer to be feared than to be loved”. Which I think is somewhat different.

A good historical rather than political read.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Fidelity: “links” to Darfur and “disgusted, Tonbridge Wells”

Quick update on the work of super investment sleuth, Tom P and his continuing investigation into investment Fund manager, Fidelity, who are exposed as major financial contributors to the Conservative Party. In recent years they have donated £415, 500 to the Tories despite not declaring this to potential customers such as Council pension funds.

Tom has also pointed out that during the recent Parliamentary debate on political party funding, Fidelity’s sponsorship of the Tories was mentioned and it was pointed out by Lib Dem MP David Heath, that Fidelity “deals with those who are creating the circumstances of genocide in Darfur” (Hansard). Check out “Fidelity out of Sudan

Not only this, Tom finds out that Fidelity directly employs former minister, Tory MP for Tunbridge and Malling, (and former PPS to Margaret Thatcher) Sir John Stanley as a “consultant”. He also appears to be paid as a director of a Fidelity investment trust. Jobs for the boys? It is a little unclear what he advises Fidelity upon. Is it on political donations?

Finally, Tom has also ferreted out Fidelity support of Pro-Tory business pressure group called The Enterprise Forum . They sponsored last year a breakfast meeting addressed by Philip Hammond MP - Shadow Secretary of State for Work & Pensions.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Curse of Labourhome – Why Barack Obama lost in New Hampshire

Now the dust has settled, it is time to explain what happened. Last week I posted about Money Shop and Payday UK who have high street stores which target vulnerable “customers” with unsecured short term loans and charging up to 1330% APR.

I also posted these items on Labourhome and got some useful information. Labourhome commentator “Rwendland” pointed out that even in the land of the free; many US states limit the amount of interest that can be charged on loans. They are even called usury laws. Other countries also have such laws. In Canada they have a legal limit of 60%.

So there are precedences to ban this vile practice.

Redrooster” pointed out that there is a UK website called “debt-on-our-doorstep”, this is a bit out of date but it provides a lot of useful information about how excessive interest rates can be restricted by the state.

Finally, Rwendland also posted on Saturday a comment that pointed out that the Democratic front runner at the time, Barack Obama, had actually voted against a poplar congress resolution to “To limit the amount of interest that can be charged on any extension of credit to 30 percent” while his rival Hilary Clinton had voted in favour of it.

Of course, once this disclosure had filtered through across the pond – Obama was history. Such is the power of “Labourhome”.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Election Time

It’s that time of year again in the trade union and Labour movement. Never mind the GLA, London Mayor and local Council elections in May. We now have the season of AGM’s and internal Elections upon us.

Below is my request for nominations sent to UNISON Local Government (LG) branches in Greater London region for the LG Service Group Executive.

Time for a Change?

I want to be a London representative on the SGE because I think that it’s time for a change. I would be someone who has ordinary members’ interests at heart and puts their concerns first.

A National Union that listens to London?

While I want the SGE to be part of a campaigning, progressive union that fights injustice, privatisation and inequality, I also want the union to be one that speaks out for ordinary members and a region that is listened to throughout the union. As a member of the SGE I would support measures to promote a democratic union that not only pays attention to its branches and SOGs but is able to take their views forward.

Skills and Knowledge Necessary?

I believe that I have these skills and knowledge to represent London. I am currently the London Regional Finance Convenor and Regional Council officer. In this role I also attend Regional Finance meetings, Regional Committee and other meetings and functions on behalf of the region. I have attended national UNISON lay committees, working groups and forums. I have also been a branch and Regional delegate to Local Government conferences and National Delegate Conferences.

Real Practical Experience

I have practical day-to-day experience of the problems facing our members in London. Both in local government and the voluntary/private sector. I work in a front line post as an estate management housing officer. For many years I was an active Branch officer in Tower Hamlets LG branch. Last year I was TUPE transferred and I am now a member of the Housing Association branch and the acting UNISON convenor of Circle Anglia Group HA. Obviously I have first hand experiences of negotiating over outsourcing and protecting member’s terms and conditions! I have represented and supported members at all levels including employment tribunals. I have also participated in and organised effective industrial action to defend members.

Protect our Pensions

We want to ensure that we now continue to keep a firm eye on the Local Government Pension scheme and make sure that we head off any problems in the future. Also we need to campaign for decent pensions for the voluntary sector, housing associations and privatised services. For the last 12 years I have been a pension activist in London. I have also been the convenor of UNISON London and National Capital Stewardship forum.

Core Trade Union Issues

Finally, I believe that nationally and locally, UNISON has a responsibility to push what I believe to be real key trade union issues such as: Pay, health and safety, pensions, equality, anti-privatisation and employment rights further up the trade union agenda.

I want to be a modern, progressive representative for London who wants to work with other regions and to get things done and make sure that we truly reflect what members actually want and need. Please consider nominating me.

John Gray

P.S If anyone wants to discuss any issues with me or would like me to come if possible and visit your branch then please contact me.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Boris says Ken to blame for knife crime

Yesterday received a news release from Labour London Assembly Leader, Len Duvall about Boris's attack on Ken for his supposed lack of leadership on gun and knife crime. This attack was a feature, in the ever so neutral and objective, London Evening Standard on Monday evening.

This is a ridiculous argument. Ken has always been consistently strong on law and order. His arguments that it is was the poor and vulnerable that suffered the most from crime and they needed protection by the Police, use to infuriate the left. Now the right are making fools of themselves (and worse) over what should be a serious issue, by claiming he is soft on crime. Len’s comment on Boris was: -


Londoners will see through Boris Johnson’s hollow words on knife crime according to Labour’s leader on the London Assembly.

Assembly Member Len Duvall today told a meeting at City Hall that Johnson’s lack of understanding was down to his self-imposed six-month exile from London politics.

Len said, “To suggest that the Mayor is to blame for the recent spate of appalling teenage violence just goes to show how much Boris Johnson has got to learn.

“We have a Mayor who has invested heavily in the police after years of Tory cuts when crime went through roof. We now have dedicated neighbourhood and transport policing teams and more police on the beat. And the number of murders has actually fallen since 2000.

“The Mayor has also just committed nearly £80 million to youth provision in the capital. Maybe Boris was still in hiding when this was announced? I can think of no other reason why he would be completely ignorant of the investment in policing and youth services we have seen under this Mayor.”

Monday, January 07, 2008


My “grown up” job is an estate managment officer for a housing association. I have just been sent a link to an entertaining new site (still under construction) called “HousingStories”. Some of these stories don’t exactly show the Social Housing “profession” at its best. I can well believe the GLC mouse story. Not sure what housing management pioneer Octavia Hill would have made of it?

As a young Housing Officer, I received a complaint from a tenant that she kept hearing loud animal noises coming from the council house next door. When I visited the property I was amazed to find a fully grown bull in the back garden. What made it even more puzzling was that there was no rear access to the back garden. The tenant explained to me that he had got the bull when it was just a calf and brought it through the house into the back garden. The idea was that it would be a pet for the kids until it was ready to go to market. When I asked how he intended to get it out of the back garden, he suddenly went quiet! We ended up having to have the animal sedated and hoisted over the house with a crane.

The housing chair had a habit of always falling asleep during council meetings. His political colleagues decided that at the next council meeting they would take a vote to exclude any member committing this sin. As the meeting began our housing chair dosed off. The mayor immediately called for a special vote to evict from the chamber any councillor who fell asleep during the proceedings. As the vote was being taken by a show of hands our councillor awoke, noticed the hands of his colleagues in the air and joined in the vote!

Row over corporate killing fines

This months SHP magazine reports on a row about how to fine offenders under the new “Corporate Manslaughter and Homicide Act”. The Sentencing Advisory panel have suggested that the fine should be 2.5-10% of an offending company’s annual turnover.

The IOSH think this is fair since it is in line with the fines that can be levied on companies for infringing European competition law. Surprise, surprise the CBI (the “Voice of Business”) think that fines running into “hundreds of millions of pounds...unfair”. While the CCA thinks even 10% is too low.

The CBI seems to forget that this is about companies being punished for killing people. While competition laws are important surely committing manslaughter should attract a higher penalty. Better still a custodial sentence?

Saturday, January 05, 2008

“Why should my pension scheme fund the Tories?"

Good question. Ever since it came out in Labour & Capital” blog, that the fund managers Fidelity have recently given the Conservative Party £415,000; I have been contacted by furious UNISON members whose pension fund employ Fidelity.

Local Government Pension scheme members currently have little or no influence over who is employed to manage their pension contributions (their “deferred pay”). Now they find that their pension money is being used to enrich the Tories without them even being made aware.

Many UNISON members also work for Conservative controlled Councils and are obviously concerned that these Councils are paying huge amounts of money to a company which is a significant Conservative Party funder without any disclosure or consultation. LGPS Pension fund managers usually charge annual fees of hundred of thousands of pounds to manage Council funds.

I know that a number of Labour Party councillors are also livid that they have employed such a company without being aware of this potential conflict of interest.

The author of Labour & Capital, Tom P and his wife, has a ISA with Fidelity and has been trying for sometime to get proper response from Fidelity about why they pay the Tories, will they continue to do so and why don’t they disclose their political bias? He has been pretty much been fobbed off. See the latest rather pointless response.

Following the complaints I have received from UNISON members, I have (finally) drafted a letter to Fidelity which I will consult beforehand with the London and the National UNISON Capital Stewardship forums (I currently chair both).

I hope that the National Association of Pension Funds (NAPF) will also get their finger out and give some definitive advice on donations to political Parties. At the moment their advice is only that they would not normally support such donations. What on earth does that mean in practice? No doubt at this rate we will have to wait for some typically British financial scandal to occur before “the powers to be” get their act together and ban this frankly odious practice.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Backing Ken Livingstone for London Mayor 2008

The London Labour Party has launched a website for the re-election of London Mayor Ken Livingstone. So far the website. only has a request for donations and to "sign-on" box to enable activists to sign up for email alerts. More to follow.

Ken Livingstone is committed to securing the long-term success of our capital, making sure that every Londoner is able participate in that success – and protecting our environment so that London's success is sustainable.

We'll be campaigning hard to ensure that London remains on the right course and that Londoners understand the choices they'll face in the election for Mayor on 1 May 2008”.

During the election campaign I will also be doing my best to encourage trade unionists to support Ken and the excellent existing Labour GLA member for City and East, John Biggs, as well as looking to increase the Labour vote and turnout, not least in order to prevent the BNP from getting a seat.

Interestingly Galloway has indicated that he will stand for the GLA as well this year! Should be fun. Email Hat tip to AG

Thursday, January 03, 2008

1330% APR - Tackling the Loan Parasites (and Sharks)

I’ve been thinking of yesterday’s post and about what should be done about the likes of “Money Shop” and the rest (Payday UK “only” charge 1330% interest for a 30 day loan – please click on the link to check I am not making this figure up. It is unbelievable. Apparently they have 100,000 UK customers) who make such excessive interest charges.

Firstly, why not legislate against it. Usury use to be illegal for centuries. There also use to be numerous Bank of England regulated credit controls which were abolished by Thatcher?

This is not just “Old Labour” but actually surely it is the role of the state to legislate against such blatant exploitation of vulnerable people? These interest rates are just parasitical. We have after all made other justifiable interventions into the “market” such as the minimum wage and now personal pension accounts.

Of course there must be better education in schools about personal finance and what high interest rates really mean. Maybe also we should think whether the government could open an account for everyone in a community credit union as they did recently for kids?

There is an argument that if you restrict the “official” interest rate you may encourage people to use loan sharks. According to recent research 165,000 Brits already use loan sharks. So that argument is pretty poor. You are more likely to need a loan shark if you have to spend so much of a limited income on “over the counter” interest. Also these mind boggling rates almost make loan sharks respectable. It is interesting that the BBC link above mentions that Tower Hamlets loan sharks are being targeted by special trading standard teams. We have a bit of a history of this sort of thing.

If there is (rightly in my view) a fuss about the “unfair” charges paid to proper banks by (dare I say mostly “middle class”) bank customers and even a legal test case by the Office of Fair Trading, then why can’t the government take action to restrict the interests rate paid by the mostly very poor, “working class”?

Apart from being a point of principal and social justice - can you imagine the Tories supporting such a move? What would their paymasters, such as the pro-unfettered market "Fidelity Fund managers" say!

A decisive move in this direction would let in some clear red water... Gordon?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

An offer the desperate cannot refuse.

Walking along the Roman Road, East London before Christmas I found the local “Money Shop” had a wonderful special offer for customers – “pay only £5 for a £95 loan” at only 86.7% typical APR. So that’s okay then. An absolute bargain then with inflation at 4.8%?

Today I walked past the “shop” and it had no bill boards out on the pavement but it was announcing its “half price sale” in the windows. “ Pay only £7 (usually £14) for a £93 loan with our Half Price Sale. 141.9% APR typical. The total amount payable of £100 is repaid in 30 days".

Hmmm? Even the ubiquitous Barclaycard has credit available at 14.9% APR. Admittedly many of the Money Shop customers would be refused a credit card.

The Money Shop” website states that they have 250 stores in the country. You can also click on their TV adverts! This usury is not paying their staff great wages. The same site advertises for customer service reps for £14,000 (and 5% bonus) while the shop managers can get up to £22, 000 with “unlimited bonuses”! Oh, they are also “investors in people”.

Only a couple of hundred yards down the road is a credit union office, where you can get loans at only 12.68%. If you repay it over 12 months it could only cost 6.6%.

The money shop is a bit coy about who owns it. Hopefully my pension fund has no investment in it (anyone know?).