Monday, October 26, 2009

SWP splitters and wreakers?

I’ve just had to interrupt a break from blogging to comment on this Workers Weekly (WW) post that the deposed former SWP central committee (CC) member and General Secretary of disrespect John Rees has formed a political faction within the SWP called “The Left Platform”.

Hat tip thingy to Comrade Mecader who poses the question that does this mean that the other SWP Factions are called “The Right”? Considering the number of titled members of the English aristocracy who are leaders in the SWP then such a name would be very apt. See this post on the related bout of CC SWP internal witch-hunting

WW believes that this is the start of a split within the SWP and Rees with his Faction will eventually leave (or most probably forced out for heresy). Other interesting stuff in this report – the SWP CC members are in favour of debating with the BNP in the media and apparently they have the blooming cheek to refer to their estranged comrades in CPGB, Workers Power and AWL as “sects”(Oi! that's my job! also don’t they have mirrors in SW8?).

I spoke recently to a good comrade about rumours of a SWP split and he just shook his head and said “I’ve been active in the Left since I’ve been in school and this is just what happens time after time after time...”

Check out the AWL take here. Picture of John Rees in happier days in between his old mate Mahmoud Ahmadinejad´s Uncle and partner in crime “lockout” Lindsey German

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Intermission

Blogging will be a little intermittent (or non-existent) during the next few days. So apologies for not publishing or responding to comments.

Housing Matters 25 October 2009

Big Failure over Fire Safety results in Tiny fine?
Inside Housing has a Crazy story about an utterly inadequate sentance given out for serious safety failures – “two residents escaped and another was rescued uninjured from flats in a three-storey building in the Morecambe area in March last year. Fire crews investigating the blaze found a fire alarm system was not working, fire doors were not self-closing or fitted with smoke seals, a fire exit door was not fitted with an appropriate lock and no FRA had been carried out under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005".

This block was owned by Lancaster Council who were fined just £3000 and “managed” by Adactus Housing Group who were only fined £2000 (plus costs). What sort of message or deterrence does such a tiny fine send out to Landlords about the importance of ensuring basic fire safety?

Easy Jet Council Sheltered set back
Roof reports here on another London Tory Council Barnet and its plans for an “Easy Jet” style service plan. Residents will be able to pay extra to jump the queue for services. It also reports that the Council’s plans to get rid of residential wardens in its sheltered blocks have now been put on hold due to a pending judicial review that the Council failed to properly assess the impact of such cuts on disabled and elderly residents.

“They also have a reputation for being chummy with investors and developers...”
In another report here Inside Housing goes amongst the “slums” and the “barracks of the poor” in Hammersmith and Fulham (H&F) to meet Stephen Greenhalgh right wing leader of its Conservative Council. Greenhalgh was the co-author of a recent pamphlet called Principles for social housing reform published by the think tank Localis. In which he clearly calls for the ending of security of tenure and the introduction of market rent levels. He and the Tory Party are now busy trying to distant themselves from the report. Even though Conservative shadow minister for housing Grant Shapps was at a meeting to welcome it. Local tenants point to new H&F Council developments where there is no public housing included and of course the local Tory Politian’s have “a reputation for being chummy with investors and developers” and enjoy regular visits to developer conferences in the south of France.

Sanctuary at home from DV & Hate
The LGA report on a scheme (it’s not a new idea but is being reported as one) to encourage building “panic rooms” within homes for victims of domestic violence and hate crime. “The rooms have solid core doors, reversed to open outwards with two mortice bolts fitted to the inside of the door along with three large steel hinges and a 180 degree door viewer. An emergency telephone is also provided under the scheme – 999 only – and will be wall mounted”. This is an excellent initiative since many at risk do not want to “go homeless” and flee their home but they must have protection if attacked at home and before the Police arrive.

The first Election manifesto
The FED launched their manifesto last week and had 30 MP’s in attendance (including 3 former housing ministers). Some of things I found interesting that they called are:- £11.7 billion investment to build 150,000 homes 2011-14; manage unsold private sector new build at market or sub market rents until recovery; allow more public housing to be made available to those who are not the most vulnerable but cannot afford homes; compel the nationalised banks to give mortgages for shared ownership and stopping pre-payment rip offs for domestic fuel.

(this is my weekly round up of Public Housing news - picture is of a East London Estate taken at dusk last week which I just happen to like)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Them and us always: Labour Party Political Broadcast 1993



Hat-tip thingy (believe it or not) LEAP

Transformation leadership and Trade Unions

This is another plug - but this time for what is probably the most prolific and enthusiastic UK trade union web site UNISONactive for their post on Why Transformational Leadership matters in Trade Unions.

What does the passing of trade union leaders such as Jack Jones (see picture of the International Brigadier) mean?

While I may not totally agree with all the analysis and its conclusions this is really good stuff.

Just fancy – a proper argument put forward about the leadership of trade unions and real working class politics without any of the blinkered sectarian rubbish.

Whatever next!

Roger Mackenzie the blogging West Midlands UNISON regional secretary also likes this discussion.

BNP=NAZI Painting by Numbers

Hat-tip thingy to an ace post here on Harry’s Place about how Nick Griffin and the BNP are not just right wing nationalists who just don’t like immigrants. In reality they are Nazi's (followers of Germany National Socialism) and fascists who admire, defend and promote Adolf Hitler and want to replicate his regime in our own country. They are really a Hitler Worshiping Cult.

Now, this not mean that we should just right off the million odd voters who voted for the BNP at the last European union’s election and also to simply keep calling the BNP Nazi’s (not matter how accurately) by itself is not enough. But we need to let people know on the doorstep that the BNP is a foreign, anti British, unpatriotic, extremist rabble led by convicted criminals and violent hooligans. Check out this shortened version of the Harry’s Place 10 examples of how BNP leaders are apologists for Hitler:

1.Nick Griffin leads 500 NF Nazi saluting thugs to the Cenotaph in December 1986
2.Griffin has described the Nazis as “a movement that aimed to give a voice to the deepest aspirations of a nation”.
3.In 1996 Griffin picketed Coventry Cathedral in protest at a service being held to commemorate the Nazis’ destruction of Coventry in the Second World War
4.Griffin has described British RAF pilots as war criminals and murderers.
5.Griffith edited The Rune that claimed that Churchill was a tool of the Jews who deliberately prolonged the war against Nazi Germany in order to lead Europe down a road to “racial suicide.”
6. Griffin is a notorious Holocaust denier... I have reached the conclusion that the ‘extermination’ tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie and latter witch-hysteria.”
7. Griffin’s chief lieutenant between 1999 and 2007, Tony Lecomber, branded Winston Churchill “a drunken, warmongering slob”.
8. Griffin proclaimed on the front cover of The Rune: “SS Special! Sick of Vera Lynn? See pages 18, 19, 20, 21, 24, & 88″. The last number was not a page number at all; “8″ denotes the eighth letter of the alphabet “H” and in fascist parlance “HH” means “Heil Hitler”.
9. Mark Collett the BNP’s director of publicity, said of Winston Churchill: “Churchill was a f***ing c**t who led us into a pointless war with other whites [ie the Nazis] standing up for their race”.
10. “There is a strong, direct link from Oswald Mosley to me,” Griffin boasted.

Last year I was at a Labour Party street stall in Stratford when we had a discussion with a young white woman who flippantly said if she was black she wouldn’t mind the BNP getting into power since they would give her a plane ticket to the West Indies. A black British Labour Party member present who happened to be born and bred in East London responded by saying “look love - if the BNP ever got in power they wouldn’t send people like me on a holiday – they would stick us in camps and gas us”.

Nuff said.

Friday, October 23, 2009

In UNISON with Bow Postal Strikers

Picture is of CWU pickets outside the Tredegar Road Delivery Office in Bow, East London this lunchtime.

UNISON Housing Association Branch caretaking steward Paul McCabe is holding our flag (right).

This was a well organised and supported picket on a busy road. There was noticeable support by local residents and cars, vans and lorries passing by. Sky TV News had a satellite camera crew there and they kept complaining that they were unable to complete their interviews due to supporters constantly honking their car horns as they drove past. Local TFL buses, delivery vans, scaffolding trucks and even a Met Police carrier showed their support!

The strikers themselves were apologetic for any inconvenience suffered by the public but were passionate that their strike was not only about saving peoples jobs, protecting wages and conditions but also about making sure that the Post Office remained a public service serving the local community. As a housing officers Paul and I know we rely on the local posties to let us know of any concerns about the elderly or vulnerable residents they visit each day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Climate Change Denial Fund Managers

This is a little late but last week at a meeting of Council pension funds (LAPFF), Catherine Howarth of Fair Pensions gave a presentation on their recent survey about the importance of climate change to large investment fund managers. See the actual report here.

There was a lot of interesting stuff in what she said. Fair Pension's actual conclusion is that climate change is not given the importance it deserves due to lack of client demand, short termism and the low price of carbon. But what I found fascinating is that 11% of these major fund managers did not consider climate change to be an important investment issue. In fact they considered it as either unimportant or very unimportant. 11% also do not engage with companies about the risks and opportunities of climate change. This is a significant chunk of our fund managers who have £6 trillion of asserts under their control made up of predominantly ordinary workers pension and insurance funds.

This "climate change denial" argument is sheer madness. Maybe only 11% of major funds take this view but we are talking about the big boys and girls of the investment fund world. Nor should we forget that only 39 of the top 100 managers bothered to reply to the survey (despite being requested to do so by many of their clients). So the figure of 11% is in all probability far too small and not truly representative about the scale of the problem.

So, what we have is at least a tenth (probably significantly more) of the biggest fund managers in this country are in effect climate change deniers. While some may argue about the actual threat posed by climate change surely nobody can deny that it will change the investment landscape whether you like it or not and that our economy and many companies are being shaped by this agenda.

Lets at least try and change things by the very simple act of increasing client demand (by pension funds) over our fund managers by asking questions and adding to the pressure for them to take the issue seriously and take meaningful action over climate change.

CWU Postal Strike –Message of support from UNISON

UNISON General Secretary to CWU.
I have today written to Billy Hayes, general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, reiterating UNISON's full support for the strike action on Thursday and Friday 22/23 October.

No worker takes the decision to strike lightly and it is important in such difficult times that workers know they have the full support of their fellow trade unionists.

Our postal services are a vital public service and I know that you will share my feeling that the CWU share our battle to fight for publicly-owned and publicly-run services.

I'd ask all branches to contact their local CWU branch to find out how you can best show your support at a local level.

For more information, go to
http://www.cwu.org/
UNISON general secretary

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

100% 4 Labour

Yesterday evening was a bit of a “red letter” day for me. For the first time ever I went out door to door canvassing and every person we spoke to who voted in elections declared themselves as Labour Party supporters.

Most were more positive than some...but okay, okay - this was in a solid Labour Council ward (West Ham – all three Councillors are Labour) in a safe Labour seat (Lyn Brown MP) and the borough has a Labour Mayor (Sir Robin Wales) and at least 54 Councillors out of possible 60.

It also had the largest Labour majority in the country at the Euro-elections. But I have never ever gone out and knocked on doors and had no-one “Against”, “refusing” to say (usually but not always Against) or a supporter of another political party. I am not going to get too excited about this since tomorrow evenings canvass may well be a different experience. Such is politics. But I think there is message somewhere – the polls do seem to be slowly closing the gap (too slowly) but I do think that the penny is beginning to drop and voters are thinking about what will happen to their jobs, wages, pensions, schools, social services and hospitals if the Tories do get in.

It is too easy to slag off Labour and run down their achievements - sometimes they deserve to be slapped around (e.g. the Posties) but the alternatives to Labour are frankly just too dire to contemplate (see photo previous post).

One thing that did trouble me was when we called at an address where a couple in their mid to late 20’s answered the door (with their young toddler who was making cheerful loud noises and enthusiastically trying all different ways to escape and run out of the door into the corridor) and they explained to us that they had never voted in their lives. They were not at all hostile and seemed quite happy to speak to us but seemed to be a little astonished that we should be calling on them and asking them to vote (for anyone). They were very much the exception but...

A useful reality check.

(Picture of West Ham parish Church, Cllr Bourne with the Ironmongers stone and the various local history information boards placed on the building site boundary walls)

"Well I never..." Thatcher on Unions (1975)

"As you well know, for over 100 years, ever since Disraeli's day, since before the Labour Party existed, it has been the belief of the Conservative Party that the law should not only permit, but that it should assist, the trades unions to carry out their legitimate function of protecting their members."

The Times also reported at in the speech that she caused more confusion by claiming that she, too, had been a trade unionist in her time: "I was a member of the Association of Scientific Staffs when I was a research chemist", she said. "I do not know if we have a union now, do we?".

Document type:
public statement Conservative Trade Unionists
Document kind:
Speech
Venue:
London
Source:
(1) Thatcher Archive: speaking text (2) The Times, 3 March 1975
Journalist:
(2) The Times Diarist, 3 March 1975

hat-tip thingy Col. Roi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Veterans against the BNP

The BNP appear to want to hang all British generals (and I suppose all the soldiers carrying out their orders) who have served in Afganistan and Iraq as "war criminals". Hmmm. Check out Nothing British about the BNP website (the site appears to have been hi-jacked at the mo.)

We reject your HATE Herr Griffin

Send a message of HOPE. On Thursday BNP Neo-Nazi Nick Griffin will appear on Question Time.

Hope Not Hate ask us to send a message of hope about why we're proud of Britain or to send Nick Grffin a message about what you think of his racist lies.

So close to Remembrance Sunday as well.

Click here

Monday, October 19, 2009

Tea with Mrs Pankhurst

Tonight I went to a marvellous piece of political theatre performed at the main hall of TUC Congress House by New Strides. The production was before a packed audience and sponsored by SERTUC.

The play is an attempt at a snapshot history of the women's suffrage/suffragette movement. From the very different viewpoints of working class socialist and pacifist Selina Cooper and that of upper middle class, Tory libertarian and (dare I say) militant terrorist Emmeline Pankhurst.

The reaction of the audience that I spoke to afterwards was pretty much similar to mine. We were all a little shocked that Emmeline Pankhurst on the one hand before July 1914 was a convicted terrorist found guilty of being involved in a plot to blow up the Home Secretary Lloyd George’s home then went on during the First World War to become an ardent supporter of the war and encouraged the handing out of white feathers to men who were not in the military. She actually died while campaigning to become an Conservative Party MP!

Her historical contemporary (and tactical opponent for much of their lives) Selina Cooper I felt was portrayed in perhaps a tad too much true working class heroine of the people mode. But while it would appear that her role so far in the movement has not been properly recognised or remembered. Mind you I have a problem with those who claim to be anti-fascist but remained a pacifist in the 2nd World War.

The fascinating answer to the question about whether women’s suffrage in Britain was actually brought about by violent militant protest, socialist campaigning or women’s war work is left at the end of the play to the audience.

I think on balance that the only conclusion you can take from the play is that it was the ardent support for war by Emmeline Pankhurst and her (control freak) daughter Christabel that made the crucial difference. The “good” daughter Sylva Pankhurst (who was apparently disowned by her mother for being "weak") did not apparently play any major role in the 1918 decision to grant the vote to women (over the age of 30) neither did Selina Cooper.

In reality the reasons were more complicated.

This play was first performed in the Edinburgh festival in 2003 and I would recommend it if it comes to a theatre (or union hall) near you. Make your own minds up.

Update: I forgot to mention that the tea and cake was very nice as well.

United Left TV Highlight of the Week

Grandstanding union infiltrator at private political meeting. Hat-tip thingy Comrade Mercader

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Housing Matters 18 October 2009

Housing association rents to come down? Rents are linked to the September Retail Price Index (RPI). We now have deflation of 1.4% which could mean a real reduction in many rents (it's complicated) of 0.9%. The government have got to make up their mind what to do since housing associations have declared that if this happens it will mean less money to invest in new homes.

Many staff are also very interested in this issue since some pay deals are thought to be dependent on what will happen. There is even a threat of legal action against the government over any forced reduction in rents. Which seems a little barmy. The obvious retort by tenants will be that they didn’t see many Housing organisations complaining about last year’s RPI 5% increase in rents?

London Mayor Boris has set a 10 year target of 333,800 homes for the GLA but the top 3 borough targets are 28,850 new homes for Tower Hamlets, 26,000 for Greenwich and 25,950 for Newham. So East London boroughs politically controlled by the Labour Party have to house the most rather than less densely populated wealthier Tory boroughs? Hmmm. The word gerrymandering suddenly comes to mind for some strange reason?

Labour Housing Minister John Healey wants to take on Tories at next election over housing issues and challenges them to a live TV debate. There should be “clear red water” between Labour and Tories on this issue.

There is outrage by tenant groups over the suggestion by the regulator TSA that lifelong tenancies should be dropped in areas with long waiting lists. After all we don’t want middle income folk to live amongst the poor now do we? (hmmm YES WE DO!)

Safe as Houses - I’ve signed the No. 10 petition by Inside Housing here – which following the Lakanal Fire and Notting Hill poisoning deaths calls for carbon monoxide detectors in all new homes, fire emergency procedures posted on each floor of a tower block and a national register of tower blocks. Positive stuff but not enough – there should be an emergency evacuation plan and procedures for each block and regular drills, all staff to be properly risk assessed and trained in fire prevention and evacuation and the retrofitting of water sprinklers in blocks. Also assessments on whether or not extra fire escapes need to be provided to existing blocks.

The National Housing Federation predicts that house prices will increase by 20% in 2014 despite substantial falls in 2009 and 2010. House prices will eventually increase because of the fundamental shortage of supply. This makes sense so unless we can massively increase supply we will again see rising prices and huge increases in waiting lists.

Anchor Trust CEO calls for Answers on Housing for the Elderly here and launches a manifesto. A valid topic but this is totally overshadowed by his obscene salary of near £400,000 per year. No one will pay attention to what he says anymore.

The LGA reports that Councils will take out a judicial review of the government decision to withdraw Decent Homes Money for ALMO’s. I’m surprised that some Councils who are affected are not taking part. Mention no names...

NB Housing Matters: is my attempt to post weekly on public (aka social) housing issues I happen to come across. Picture is of Canary Wharf from a West Ham tower block prospective.

When Gandhi met Charlie Chaplin in Canning Town

Check out this lovely report from the Newham Council website about the meeting that took place in 1931.

Before the meeting Gandhi said he had never heard of Charlie Chaplin!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

100,000 "Visitors" to John's Labour blog




Campaign in West Ham, West Ham

I’ve been helping out the local Labour Party branch in West Ham ward - West Ham CLP with voter ID (aka on the knocker) for the past couple of weeks.

The pictures are of activists on the evening sessions (Labour Party Stalwart John Whitworth, local Councillor Freda Bourne and activist Jennifer Sheikh) outside the newly built Rokeby Community centre. This is also a Sure Start centre which if the Tories get their wicked way they will close.

West Ham is a solid Labour ward with three Labour Councillors and the doorstep reaction is at times humbling since it is so overwhelmingly positive and loyal Labour.

However I had a real conversation with an angry but still polite unemployed construction worker of about my own age who complained that he couldn’t get work because of all the East Europeans taking all the jobs. The ward is within walking distance of the Stratford Olympic site. He wasn’t impressed with my initial argument that I don’t think that this statement was actually accurate and that also there are similar numbers of Brits working aboard to that of foreign nationals working over here - I mentioned members of my own family who work abroad and other friends who are part of the wider British diaspora especially in overseas construction projects.

He was then even less impressed with my comment that we should be aware that since neither of us were born in London and both of us probably came here looking for work (he had a strong Scottish accent) that there are probably locals who resented us coming to London “taking their jobs”. To which he said this was different since he was British. I asked him as a fellow (half) Scot if he had never heard his fellow London born workers moaning about us “jocks” coming down and stealing their jobs? To which he said that he did not care what I said and that while he did really want a Labour not a Conservative Government most of all he just wanted a bloody job. Which was fair enough and there is a clear message there for us politicos.

The borough of Newham at the next election will have two parliamentary seats within it - West Ham (Lyn Brown MP) and East Ham (Stephen Timms MP). West Ham ward is one of the 9 wards within the West Ham Parliamentary Constituency. Confusingly the world famous football club West Ham is actually located in East Ham.

Friday, October 16, 2009

No Place for Hate


I have signed up to the "No Place for Hate" campaign at my workplace. In you live or work in Tower Hamlets you can pledge online either in your personal capacity or on behalf of your organisation.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Vote Peter Daley – Putting London Members First

  • (Peter is standing as a Candidate for London in a UNISON Service Group Executive by-election. 90,000 members in London who work in Local Government and the voluntary sector will be receiving ballot papers over the next few days.

    Please vote for Peter and encourage your fellow UNISON members to do so)

    I have worked for Wandsworth Council most of my working life. I have been active in NALGO and UNISON throughout. I have been a steward, Branch Officer, Regional delegate, National delegate. In addition I continue to play a full role at Branch and Regional level and within the Regional Black Members and Disabled Members self-organised groups.

    Wandsworth was the first outsourcing privatising council in London. I have a great deal of experience dealing with market driven politicians and managers. I believe in public services being retained in the public sector. I also support UNISON in negotiating, organising and bargaining with private companies so we can protect, organise and represent our members where services are outsourced.

    I believe in:
    100% trade union membership
    Supporting the organising, training and recruitment initiatives to defend the union in this period of recession
    Putting members first so that your worries, concerns and your interests – over employment, equality, fairness, protection, wages, pensions – are placed first.
    Never take members for granted.
    Providing effective advice, support and protection for our members.
    Distancing ourselves from the MPs gravy train

    I am against those who want to use us as political footballs for any political party or organisation.

    London is facing awesome and frightening change: be in Boris Johnson’s ego-mania, or privatisation and outsourcing on an unimaginable and unprecedented scale.

    The old ways don’t work. Now is the time for change, for new leadership, for the assertion of your interests as the only real priority. Now is the time for unity of all our members. Now is the time to develop a real voice in London for supporting our national union.

    Please support me in the forthcoming service group election – Vote Peter Daley.

    Thank you.

Update: Check out this facebook group

Further Strike Action in London Met


UNISON and UCU trade union members of London Metropolitan University are on strike today and tomorrow (Thursday 15th and Friday 16th October).

Check out their weblog at Save London Met for full details. Management have already made 350 job losses and now want another 100-200 redundancies. See previous report of last July’s Bastille Day action.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Refuse to Be Beat

Refuse to be Beat: This is a fund raising concert this Sunday at the 02 Academy in Leeds to support the 300 UNISON and GMB members currently on all out strike in Leeds over the refuse collector’s dispute.

It should be a good night!

Love Fashion Hate Sweatshops

I got this email from War on Want who are running this innovative campaign – "We're upping the ante in our bid to get Gordon Brown's attention - and we need your help to do it.

We all know a picture's worth a thousand words. So we're going to do more than just tell the PM we love fashion and hate sweatshops. We're going to show him.Here's how you can help put a face - and a fashion sense - to our campaign.Just strike a pose in your favourite outfit, take a picture, and upload it at the link below:http://lovefashionhatesweatshops.org/YourPicture

If you like, you can add a personal message to the PM about why you love fashion and hate sweatshops. Why it's unacceptable that workers supplying British shops earn as little as 7p an hour in appalling conditions - and why the government must end the abuse by taking steps to regulate British companies.We'll add your photo and message to our web gallery, which we'll deliver to No. 10 in December.The PM will be able to see for himself how strong our support is to end sweatshops.Take a moment now to strike a pose

:http://lovefashionhatesweatshops.org/YourPictureBe a part of the gallery. It's easy to do. And it's guaranteed to make an impression.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Strikebreakers

Hat-tip thingy Tom Miller

Tate & Lyle fined £270,000 over workers' death in Silvertown

I came across today this Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report on the conviction last Friday of sugar giant Tate & Lyle over the death of one of its workers in 2004. Tate & Lyle have a refining factory in Silvertown and are an important employer in my borough Newham. They generally have a very good reputation. I am however shocked by three things about this avoidable death.

Firstly the “accident” occurred in March 2004 and has only now come to Court? Justice delayed is Justice denied?

Secondly the victim 53 year old Keith Webb died while he was in the cab of in a 9 tonne digger which was being hoisted by a crane from the dock inside a massive raw sugar container ship. The digger came away from the crane and crashed into the ship and then into the harbour killing Keith. Check out this article in the Independent.

How anyone ever thought that it was a safe practice to transport both driver and machine via a crane at the same time is beyond me? The risk must have been clearly and wholly foreseeable? The company has been fined £270,000 (and £90,000 costs) for serious managment failings but why hasn’t anyone been held individually responsible for this death? Hopefully recent changes to Corporate Manslaughter law will change things for the future (and help prevent such incidents happening again).

The Judge on Friday held that the death was the direct result of the company "failing to discharge its duty". It had not "provided and managed a proper means of access to ships being unloaded". He said it had also "failed to manage and control its staff properly to prevent being carried in vehicles lifted by crane". Although there were guidelines in place regarding the use of ladders "the unavoidable conclusion is that the actual practice on the site was that instructions were sometime ignored". "This is a serious failure of management and supervision for which the company must bear responsibility, and I sentence on that basis."

Last and not at all least thirdly "Above all, however, this is a human tragedy as Mr. Webb leaves a widow, two grown up children, and two grandchildren, one of whom he was sadly never able to meet. This terrible accident should never have been allowed to happen." HSE Inspector John Crooks.

Mr. Webb's widow Avril, who was present in court, said: "Although Keith died five years ago, for me, it's like yesterday. My husband was ripped from my life, from our family's lives. There was no illness to prepare us for our loss. "I'm still trying to fill the huge void left by his death, still trying to pick up the threads of a life that I can no longer enjoy. I am half of a whole person. I am no longer part of a couple."

Later this month it is European Health and Safety Week which will aptly concentrate on making sure that all work activities are covered by suitable and adequate risk assessments.

SWP Witch-Hunting Students

Editor Andy Newman of Socialist Disunity gleefully reports here on the latest SWP cull of dissenters “co-incidentally” just before the start of their conference.

This time students at the London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) who were apparently associating with “anti-party” elements have been suspended.

I better warn our secretary of my local Labour Party ward to watch out whom she is seen speaking to or they could be for the chop too!

Hat-tip thingy Col. Roi.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Labour: Fighting for the Right things..Against the Odds..Because We Must!

This is just a lovely but also passionate short video that was played at this year's Labour Party conference. Great stuff!

Vote Peter Daley 4 London - UNISON LG Elections

Peter is standing for London in the UNISON Local Government Executive (SGE) election. He is an excellent candidate and I (personal capacity) would urge every eligible member in London to support him. Please encourage your colleagues to vote for him as well (but note that UNISON funds cannot be used to support any candidate). Double click picture to bring up details and download flyer.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Housing Matters 11 October 2009

Click on link here to view The Guardian Video posted by its ace London blogger Dave Hill on Tory Housing policy in Hammersmith & Fulham. I personally don’t have a problem with believing that nearly all Tories genuinely think they are doing the right (pardon the pun) thing in housing policy. But what they are doing in practice in Hammersmith & Fulham is the wrong thing, for the wrong reasons and will result in the worse possible outcome. Which I think this video makes clear in a non-partisan way.

Inside Housing reports here that “Quiet Man” Iain Duncan Smith MP former leader of the Conservatives has been appointed by David Cameron as a key figure in any future Tory government social policy programme. Iain of course is head of the Centre for Social Justice which brought out a report in favour of tenancies for work and ending lifelong security of tenure for tenants.

The Fed (National Housing Federation – the corporate Housing Association’s trade union) attack here the plans announced by Conservative Shadow housing minister at conference to introduce a right to move, end new build targets and green grants. I guess the Fed think these are just headline seeking gimmicks not thought out sustainable policies.

Aftermath of Camberwell Larkanal Fire (6 dead) – Inside Housing report that in the 3 months before the fire Southwark council carried out 54 Fire risk assessments (FRA) of its tower blocks but in the 2 weeks after the fire they carried out 120! The point missing is that there should have been suitable and sufficient Fire Risk Assessments in place for all of the blocks (200 odd). The Fire Brigade have already issued notices against the Council for failing to carry out FRA in a number of blocks.

I am also willing to make a somewhat educated guess that at the time of the fire there was no suitable or sufficient risk assessments in place (maybe on a office shelf) for any Southwark Council Housing staff (nor any of their contractors) from the risk of fire while they are at work in these blocks. H&SAW Act 1974/MHASAWR 1999 et al.

John's Iron Law about all Housing Organisations: If they don't look after the safety of the staff then they won't either be any good at looking after the safety of their residents.

(this is my weekly round up of Public housing news - let me know if I miss anything)

Saturday: International Seminar - Palestine

First seminar session was “Justice for Palestinians”. Sarah Colborne spoke of behalf of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PCS). While from another perspective Paul Ussiskin (picture) was a speaker from “Peace Now”. Paul is a British Jew and former member of the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) who had actually served in the West Bank.

Paul agrees with the recent UNISON conference composite that there should be a boycott of goods and services produced in the occupied West Bank. He does not support the PCS view that there should be a total boycott of Israeli. He believes that such a total boycott will just serve right wing nationalist interests and encourage a “Fortress Israel” mentality. Paul has been attacked by other Jews because of his support for an independent Palestine. He also understands people who hate Israel and while he believes that is their right: if people hate he cannot have any dialogue with them. Change can only come about by dialogue. He explained that USA Jews are very influential in Israel while those in Europe are not. Many Israeli simply don’t understand why Jews still choose to live in Europe. However, there is now a new generation of American Jews who question the traditional Jewish lobby position of supporting “Israel right or wrong”. He is more optimistic for the future.

In the Q&A Sarah pointed out that while PCS was very disappointed with the current Labour government they had done research with Tories candidates and found them even more hostile towards Palestine than even previous Tory Parliamentary candidates.

UNISON International Officer Nick Crook spoke next on Palestine – the trade union perspective. He spoke about implementing the UNISON conference decision on Palestine and the partial boycott. UNISON is to issue advice about what pension funds can or cannot legally do. As a member nominated representative in the Local Government Pension Scheme I look forward to this advice. However, I am pretty sure that it will fall short of what some people want. The key issue will be the “threat” to a fund from having investments in the “illegal” occupied settlements in the West Bank.

(I try and post on other sessions during the week)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Showing support on the Picket line in Leeds Bin dispute

Picture is of the UNISON International Seminar delegates visiting the UNISON/GMB Picket line early this morning outside Leeds City depot at Knowsthorpe Way (Rubbish Collection agency!). UNISON NEC member Linda Sweet is standing behind the main UNISON flag to my right.

Check out last night’s comments on the strike here by local MP Colin Burgon.

The picket was well organised, disciplined and in good spirits. Some 300 rubbish collection workers and street cleaners are on strike over proposed pay cuts of up to £6,000 per year. The strikers themselves are confident of victory and that they can stay out as long as is needed. Walking around Leeds city centre you can see rubbish piling up. The main streets are being partly cleared by strike breaking agency workers (I thought that this was illegal?) but the side streets are pretty rank.

Click on this report at UNISONActive about Thursday rally addressed by Paul Kenny the General Secretary of the GMB.

Picture by Delroy Bent - Lewisham Local Gov. International Officer.

TPA director does not even pay any tax

We find out here and here that a director of the so-called Tax Payers Alliance (better known as the Higher Rate Taxpayers Avoidance Alliance) does not pay any British Tax. How can any group comment on crucial citizen issues such as levels of taxation when its director doesn’t even pay any?

Hat-tip thingy Col. Roi

Dave Osler: A Labour Comrade in Arms


Check out Dave’s latest post here and add a message of support in his "comments". I’ll post on my own local difficulties another time. Meanwhile they do say that a picture is worth a thousand words so surely a video...

Colin Burgon MP – Guest Speaker

After dinner local Leeds Labour MP for Elmet Colin Burgon spoke to seminar delegates. (Usual health warning on posts made from hastily scribbled and illegible notes).

Colin is proud that he is born and bred in Leeds and actually went to school with our UNISON General Secretary Dave Prentis. He is retiring at the next election (he is 62 and I think he was therefore more relaxed and “off message” than other Labour MP’s who busy campaigning for re-election).

He began his speech by reminding the audience of the current strike in Leeds by UNISON/GMB dustbin and street cleaning workers. The dispute is about an attempt to cut their wages by £2-6k per year over single status. The strike has been well organised and solid with good co-operation between the unions and Colin is confident that it will succeed. A delegation from the seminar is going down to support the Picket line in the morning (see next post).

Colin managed persuasively to link the Leeds dustbin strike to Latin America! The Economic Neo-liberalism that was introduced into South America by the military dictatorships in the 1980’s cut public workers pay and privatised services and this is the same model that Leeds City Council (Lib Dem/Tory) wants to introduce. People are treated as “Consumers not Citizens”.
Colin is Chair of the All Party Committee on Cuba and Labour Party Friends of Venezuela. He has a lifelong interest in internationalism.

Colin was born in 1948 which he believes was also a start of a Golden Age for the British Working class which ended after the Oil Crisis in 1975-79. This was a time of full employment, rising living standards, dignified jobs and a sense of working class consciousness. He mused on the retreat of the left not only in the UK but in recent elections in Germany (vote for the SDP at 60 year low) and France (Socialists on 17% and Communists have practically disappeared). He blames this on the acceptance by social democratic parties of the current market led intellectual framework.

He is firmly against the “Professionalism of Politics” and warned everyone that many ordinary working people think that nobody talks to them and nobody listens to them. Controversially (not least for an avowed internationalist) he also attacked the free movement of Labour in the EU which he thinks undermine the terms and conditions of UK workers. An incomes policy by any other name. Colin is very critical of New Labour but believes passionately that Labour is the only Party for working class people for all its faults. The Party is still on its historic mission. The NHS is to him an example of “Socialism in Action”. He fiercely challenged and corrected some negative questions about the Party during the following Q&A.

I managed to ask Colin a question by firstly pointing out that we all in this room shared common values and the objective of a fairer society but we just can’t all agree on the means to bring this about. So I asked my usual question about the possible role of pension fund governance and “Workers Capital” in changing society? Colin apologised that he did not know enough about “Workers Capital” to answer the question. Which is unfortunately is the answer I get often get whenever I manage to ask this question at such meetings (us New Capitalists need to try harder).

Picture of Colin (3rd from left) with Colombian Congressman Borja; John Cruddas MP and UNISON Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet at the Labour Party conference - from Justice for Colombia

UNISON International Seminar: Leeds 2009

Yesterday evening the UNISON International Seminar began in the Queens Hotel in Leeds. There are 93 delegates registered from all over the Country. Most are BIRO’s (Branch International Relation Officers).

Unions love jargon and I can remember the first time I heard the term BIRO's I could not for the life of me work out what the term stood for.

I’m here as a delegate from the London Regional International & European Committee with our Chair Ray Mouratsing. At the “Introduction to Weekend” there was an “ice breaker” group quiz. We split into groups of 2 or 3 and had to answer questions on posters with geographical themes put on walls around the conference room.

Some of the questions – (and surprising answers). FRANCE - What percentage of workers in France are members of trade unions? Is it 70%:40% or 10%? (Answer 10%). True or False - until 2009 did some trade unions in France have special rights due to their resistance work against the Nazi during World War 2? (Answer True)

SWAZILAND – How much money did the 13 wives of the King of Swaziland spend on a recent shopping trip to Europe? Is it £500,000: £1 Million or £4 Million? (Answer £4 million). How many political Parties contest elections in Swaziland? (Answer None – there are no elections in Swaziland as it is an absolute monarchy).

Friday, October 09, 2009

Equality Matters – Tory attitudes to lgbt rights: Same old “Nasty Party”?

Cameron and his desperate allies for power within the current Conservative Party claim that they have changed and they are no longer the “Nasty Party” . They have become open and inclusive. I’m not too sure and perhaps the Tory Party attitude towards lgbt rights is I think a litmus test about the Tories and their attitude to equality issues as a whole.

Hat-tip thingy Leftfootforeward and Labourlists

Let’s look at the Tory Voting record on LGBT rights in the European Parliament. While the Conservative Party try to convince people that they are modern and compassionate, their elected representatives in the European Parliament consistently undermine the veneer to expose a homophobic and outdated disregard and disdain for the rights of homosexuals:

Tory MEPs voted with Jean-Marie Le Pen against the creation of the Fundamental Rights Agency, the European organisation that protects the rights of homosexuals from discrimination. (February 2008)

Cameron’s so-called ‘compassionate Conservative MEPs’ voted against a key report that would combat any form discrimination in the provision of goods and services, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. The report those MEPs rejected would ensure that the victims of discrimination were "automatically assisted in legal proceedings". (May 2008)

There was not a single Conservative MEP that voted for a European Parliament resolution calling for "worldwide decriminalisation of homosexuality" and an end to "discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in all sectors". (June 2007)

All Tory MEPs refused to support a resolution condemning homophobic and racist violence(June 2006)

They voted against including discrimination due to assumption or association in the horizontal equality directive (April 2009)

Most Tories abstained in the final vote on establishing a horizontal equality directive. Callanan, Hannan and Helmer voted against. The directive outlaws discrimination in providing equal treatment on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation (April 2009)


The European Parliament voted to condemn a law in Lithuania, comparable to Section 28, and refer it for investigation by the European Fundamental Rights Agency. All of the Conservatives bar one abstained. Richard Ashworth, South East MEP, and the rest of the ECR group voted against. (September 2009)

Also, there's also Helmer's quote in the Real Tories, Real Words leaflet, " 'Homophobia' is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions" from his blog in July.

Tory MEPs including Tannock have repeatedly voted against an extension of gay rights including:

last month Tannock voted against a ‘motion of resolution’ condemning a law in Lithuania comparable to Section 28.

In April this year, Tannock
abstained in the final vote on establishing a horizontal equality directive. British MEPs, Martin Callanan, Daniel Hannan and Roger Helmer voted against the motion. The directive outlaws discrimination in providing equal treatment on the grounds of religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation.

Tannock and Conservative MEP colleagues
voted against a key report that would combat any form of discrimination in the provision of goods and services, including on the grounds of sexual orientation. But in in June 2006, Tannock and other Tory MEPs refused to support a resolution condemning homophobic and racist violence.

Michael Cashman MEP speaking exclusively to Left Foot Forward said, “Equality measures have to be adopted by the Member States unanimously. On the basis of the Tory voting record here in the European Parliament, it is clear that a Tory Government would use its veto and prevent Equality legislation ever seeing the bright light of day.”

To me one of the major Labour Government triumphs in recent years is that Labour has genuinely become the Party of Equality. Lots of more work needs to be done but we are on our way I think. This is not only a clear achievement now at risk but also crystal clear red water between us and the Tories.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

A New Popular Front for Labour?

It is somewhat unusual to say the least for me to agree (mostly) with these similar posts on Socialist Unity and Grimmer Up North. Respective bloggers Andy Newham and Susan Press who I have crossed online swords with in the dim and distance past were unusually sharp and dismissive I thought about some of our comrades on T-h-e L-e-f-t who had turned up to the demo outside the Labour Party conference the other week and who made an absolute spectacle of themselves.

I was a CLP delegate at conference and I was going to come outside and say hello to the marchers (my fellow blogging sad sectarian Dave was suppose to be there to buy me a beer) but I was late getting into Brighton, saw the heaps of placards waiting to be picked up and couldn’t be bothered so I just hurried into the conference hall. So I missed the march which inside conference to my knowledge no one even mentioned.

I have been on mainstream demos in the past were the ultra extremists have simply high jacked it and just p***d absolutely everyone else off with mindless placard sloganism, chanting, postulating and grandstanding. I suspect they really just don’t realise how much damage they do to their creditability and that of the protest they have taken over.

While I don’t generally mind that this sort of behaviour on their own marches since it keeps them as fully paid up members of the lost deposit brigade I do think that this is just another yet own goal in the wider Labour movement. Which is a genuine bloody shame.

I think that the penny is finally beginning to drop and the prospect of a possible Tory Government led by a real right wing Eton Mafiosi is beginning to wake up those who (not Andy or Susan or course) had fallen into lazy and thoughtless anti-Labourism. IMO.

If people genuinely do not want to support the Labour Party during the next few months then I can understand and while I think they are wrong that is their choice. But those who profess to hate the Tories but won’t do anything for Labour “because they are just as bad” I have nothing but scorn. There is no alternative to Labour at this time (and I hope never) so if you support anyone else but Labour or do not vote then really you should go the whole hog and just vote Tory.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Cameron Pension Plans - it’s the rich that have the pleasure and the poor what gets the blame

Left Foot Forward post here today by Will Straw reminds me of the annoyingly catching ditty in this title.

Will’s argument is persuasive that Cameron’s state pension reforms will have a disproportionally negative impact on the poor. The continued huge range in life expectancy between rich and poor by geographical areas in the UK should also still enrage all Progressives. Why is there this near 13 year difference in life expectancy between Glasgow City and the Royal Borough of K&C?

In the comments at Will’s post there was I thought a pretty pertinent aside by “Roger” on the state of the very poor in our society and our willingness as an society to condemn and blame the victims for killing themselves unlike wealthier counterparts?

This reminds me of Charles Karelis’s “The Persistence of Poverty.” The basic argument is that the wealthy misunderstand the mental state of the poor, which leads them to make conceptual errors when creating policies to address poverty, or, in this case, obesity. Think of a bee sting, he advises. If you have a single bee sting, you’ll go buy some salve to take away the pain. Now imagine three bee stings, a sprained ankle, a burn, a cut, a crick in your neck, a sore throat, and arthritis. Does the bee sting matter anymore?”

Monday, October 05, 2009

Tories Support Latvian Fatherland (and Waffen SS?) Party.

Check out Rachel Reeves post on Labour list about Cameron and the Tories shameful association with the Latvian “Fatherland and for Freedom Party”. If the name alone was not enough we find that this party supports commemorations of 2nd World War Latvians who fought in Nazi waffen SS.

What on earth is going on here? I did hear last month Conservative Party Chair, Eric Pickles, completely inappropriate jocular references on the Today programme to this SS unit as just being conscripts. Yeah.

Does he dispute the allegations that this unit (a 1/3 were volunteers) were actively involved in the mass murder of Latvian Jews during the occupation? Yes or No?

This is all just to be honest pretty shameful. We can disagree on many things but all democratic parties should share a common platform of total opposition to Nazism (and any association) in all its shapes and sizes.

Cameron has dug himself and the Tories into a stinking 'orrible hole and needs to get the hell out of it (ASAP). Such an association demeans the whole democratic process.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Housing Matters 4 October 4 2009

I think that last week’s public housing news was dominated by the Labour Party conference. I will admit in advance that I will be drawn by issues I came across as a delegate.

Labour Investment v. Tory Cuts
Housing minister John Healey at a conference fringe event on Tuesday challenges the view that any new government elected next year would have to slash spending on public housing. It will happen under Tories but not Labour. Under Labour there was a medium term plan to increase capital expenditure.

CEO Excessive Pay: “Don’t Tar all of us with the same brush”
At another conference fringe in response to my question about the Housing Association sector's reputation being ruined by excessive CEO pay, David Eastgate Chief Executive Officer of Hyde Housing Association responded by saying that there were “several highly paid outliers” but “don’t tar us all with the same bush”.

I suspect that there are actually remarkably similar views of the RSL/RP sector shared by the blue rinse and pinstripe brigade currently gathering in Manchester.

Housing minister to look into HA Executive Pay.
At the “Communities” Policy Seminar (see picture above) I brought to Housing Minister, John Healey (right) attention that 2 years ago at the Labour Party conference I asked then minister Yvette Cooper about the soaring Pay of Housing Association CEO’s. I repeated the 2009 sorry tale of the Anchor Trust CEO pocketing just under £400k despite losing £35 million. When one of the panel heard that Anchor Trust had been originally set up by “Help the Aged” he said are you sure it was not set up by “Help yourself”. The Housing Minister said he would look into the issue and asked the housing trade unions to share any information they have about this issue with him. No problem with that methinks.

Housing issues in Prime Minster Gordon Browns conference speech
Another big push on anti-social behavior; more family intervention projects, help for 200,000 homeowners to stay in their home and supported accommodation for children with children.

Tory secret plans to triple rents and end security of tenure.
Labour Housing Minister John Healey (again) attacks Tory housing plans - which we all know will happen if they get in.

My Mum gets shower fitted in Sheltered Housing Association Flat”
And she is really pleased...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

SPEW loves this blog & 'fesses' up to selling out members



Comrade Mercader has posted this guest video on a recent meeting of London SPEW members. This meeting appears to have been held to celebrate John’s Labour blog and also contains some sort of amazing Ultra Left “show trial” confession.

Happy Birthday Health & Safety at Work

Thanks to the TUC for reminding everyone here that on Thursday 1 October it was the 35th anniversary of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

This Act which has always tried to bring together unions, employers and the government is the bedrock of safety for workers and the public in this country. It puts clear legal responsibilities on employers (and employees) and gave us safety committees, trade union safety representatives and obligations to consult.

While I think it needs to be amended to give for example safety reps greater rights and for there to be greater penalties for breaches - this one Act has helped save countless thousands of lives and prevented millions of accidents and industrial illnesses since 1974.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Alexander Baron book relaunch

The once very famous East End and second world war author Alexander Baron is enjoying a revival.

One of his most well known books "King Dido" is being relaunched at Bethnal Green Library on 23rd October.

Hat-tip thingy to Comrade Bolzen

(label facility currently broke on blogger)

Forest Gate North: The Fight Back begins

Back from conference yesterday then off to my local Forest Gate North Labour Party Ward meeting.

Our West Ham MP Lyn Brown (see photo) was the guest speaker and she gave a presentation on her work at Parliament and answered questions on the conference and other national issues.

The Conference message that the Tories are a change that we cannot afford was to say the least well received. All of the Newham wards now have a detailed campaigning work plan for the next few months. The Fight Back against the Tories now begins in earnest.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Harriet Rallies Labour Red Army

Conference just finished - Harriet Harman gave an excellent closing speech and now back off home to fight and win. Fighting for the many not the few.



Question Time on Equality Bill – How will women fare?

I missed this UNISON/Fawcett Society fringe (Wednesday) but have received good feedback from those who did and have looked at this here. Probably the largest conference fringe with over 150 present.

The UNISON speaker was Bronwyn McKenna, Head of organising and membership.

Now that “no win, no fee” legal vultures are now withdrawing their tribunal cases against UNISON the union can now concentrate on pursuing employers for equal pay.

GOTCHA!

A definite Conference "magic moment" happened late yesterday (Wednesday).
Unite Joint General Secretary Tony Woodley showed us all his recycling techniques whenever he runs short of toilet paper.

Wednesday PM – Co-op, Education (Free School Meals), Royal Mail Pension

Gareth Thomas MP, chair of Co-op Party addressed conference. The Co-op movement is on a bit of a roll at the moment. It’s not just about the failure of the demutualised banks and building societies but new interest in co-operative provision of public services – housing, hospitals and even schools.

The Education debate saw a barn standing speech in favour of free school meals by Newham Councillor Unmesh Desai (see picture). Newham is part of a government pilot to offer free school meals to all primary schools. A commitment to roll this programme out nationally in the Labour manifesto next year is IMO a "no-brainer".

Next we had some alternative show business glamour with awards given out by the Labour Party supporter Eddie Izzard.

Billy Hayes the CWU General Secretary successfully moved the emergency motion on the Royal Mail pension deficit. This deficit is mostly due to contribution holidays by the state owned Post Office during most of the period of Tory rule and the Party will now be pressing the government to take responsibility for it.