Tuesday, August 31, 2010

John Biggs: Tower Hamlets Labour Mayor Candidate

 London Assembly member John Biggs is standing to be the Labour Party candidate to run for Tower Hamlets Mayor.

There has been the usual exciting and colourful Tower Hamlets selection process.

Labour Party members (only) will vote on Saturday on who they want to be their candidate in the Mayoral election on 21 October 2010.

I have worked in Tower Hamlets for the past 20 years or so - but I am not of course a local member so I shouldn't really interfere in the selection process.

But - this being Tower Hamlets (my 2nd favourite London borough ever) I can't help mentioning that in a strictly personal capacity - I thought John was an excellent Labour Council leader and London Assembly member.  He is also a stanch trade unionist and a very decent person with good politics who you can rely on. We don't agree all the time but there again - who does!

There are other good candidates standing but if I had the choice (and I don't) then I would definitely be voting for Mr Biggs to be Tower Hamlets Mayor. 

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies".

"I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies. Already they have raised up a monied aristocracy that has set the government at defiance. The issuing power (of money) should be taken away from the banks and restored to the people to whom it properly belongs."

Thomas Jefferson, third U.S. President (1743 - 1826).

Some things never change!

Hat-tip thingy to my new UNISON Eastern region RO.

“The Spark of Rebellion in Bow and Mile End”

"Walk the streets where strikers, suffragettes and rebel councillors made their stand for the rights and dignity of ordinary working women and men from the 1880s to the 1920s. Find out what they did, who led and supported them, and why they should be remembered and celebrated. Places on this walk will be strictly limited to 30 on a first-come first-served basis. £7/£4".

2.30pm on Sunday September 12th.

See East End Walks.  Hat-tip Andy at Socialist Unity

Monday, August 30, 2010

Newham Councillors & Mayor 2010: The Largest Labour Group in the Country

 I thought I would cheer up every one's Bank holiday by posting this picture from the AGM of Newham Council. 

The photo was taken in the historic Old Town Hall in Stratford. 

I hope this isn't seen as political boasting but:-

In the London Borough of Newham 60 out of the possible 60 elected Councillors are Labour Party candidates.

The directly elected Mayor, Sir Robin Wales is Labour. So are both MP's,  Stephen Timms (who has the largest majority in the country) and Lyn Brown.  The local directly elected London Assembly member, John Biggs, is Labour as is the directly elected Member for the European Parliament, Claude Moraes.

Is there something in the Newham - clear red water?

"Crisis, what crisis?"... CONDEM porkies about National Debt

 You would think from recent announcements by Osborne (and whatever Libdem spokesperson) that we are indeed about to go cap in hand to the IMF at any moment. 

This BBC graph based on IMF figures reported upon yesterday on Labour list by Howard Dawber makes you think "wot?".

Just look at the current and projected debt levels?


The ConDems have based their whole economic policy on the idea that the economy is tanking, that there is no spare money in government, but that growth is strong enough to cope with a massive reduction in public spending. In their analysis Britain’s deficit and debt puts us on a par with Greece and if we don’t take drastic action the whole economy will collapse. Labour’s plan to halve the deficit in 4 years, generally regarded as ambitious but workable by economists, is too slow. They want to halve it in two years.

Why is it a bad idea? The ConDems have their facts wrong, and on top of that have the wrong strategy as well. Despite being faced with the worst world-wide recession in decades, Labour took brave decisions to support the banks, stimulate the economy and keep spending under control. As a result, unemployment when Labour left office in 2010 was lower than when Labour came to power in 1997. Interest rates remain the lowest they have been for decades. Having got the economy out of recession at the end of last year, growth is now higher than expected – the economy grew by 1.1% from April – June. Unemployment fell in the last quarter and is lower in the UK than the EU average. Our banks have been stable and secure.

And what about our terrible, terrible debt – the reason the Tories keep talking about the “unavoidable” cuts? UK debt as a percentage of GDP reached 68.7% earlier this year and is still rising. That’s not great. But it is comfortably lower than the other G7 countries like Germany, the United States, France, Canada, Italy or Japan. Last time the Tories were in power they put up our debt from 34% of GDP to 51% to help get through the recession of the 1990s. This time they are doing the exact opposite to what most countries around the world agree is the right way to get back into sustainable growth. For a comparison with our major international competitors see this graph. The “savage” cuts programme is not just wrong because it is not based on a real understanding of the economic position of the country, it is wrong because it may reverse the positive trend of growth.

The Bank of England says that the ConDem plans will lead to a slower recovery and higher inflation than previously expected with Labour’s plans.

Finally we taxpayers are already £5bn in profit on the government’s investment in Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland. Within a year of the end of the recession Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling’s decision to step in with funding has been proved not just right but very profitable too. The Tories, incidentally, want to sell these shares off at a loss to benefit their friends in the stockbroking and hedge fund industry".

National Health & Safety Inspection Day: Wed 27 October

 The Wednesday of "European Health and Safety week" (25-29 October 2010) is also "National Health & Safety Inspection Day".  All trade union safety reps are encouraged to carry out a safety inspection of their workplace with their local management on that day.

This year's theme for European Health & Safety week is "Maintenance" (click on word for TUC guide).

Even if you are not trained (yet) as an appointed trade union safety representative encourage your line manager to walk around your workplace with you, look out for obvious danagers such as trip hazards and speak to staff and ask if they have any safety issues or concerns.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

I hate DIY...why don’t we have a decent rental sector for everyone in the UK?

I have spent most of this Bank “holiday” weekend painting and decorating (Ugh)! Tomorrow I will try and finish off the living room. I now look up at the freshly painted ceiling and it still looks a bit of a mess. I freely admit to being really, really rubbish at DIY.

I had the simply awful experience of having to go to the local “B&Q” last weekend (“the horror!, the horror...!”) to get paint and stuff and then to nearby Homebase yesterday (don’t ask) to get the things that I had forgotten to get or couldn’t face looking for in B&Q.

In most civilised parts of the world people rent all their lives and don’t share the British obsession with home ownership. Friends working aboard tell me that it is perfectly normal for them to pay reasonable rents for well maintained (and professionally decorated!!!!) homes.

A major reason for this is that unlike in the UK most European countries expect home owners to pay fair taxes on any capital appreciation in the value of their properties.  This helps level out the "housing tenure" playing field.   

Video - the Royal Family (and twiggy!) show us how DIY really should be done.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Save NHS Direct

This BBC report confirms earlier rumours that the CONDEMS are planning to scrap NHS Direct and replace it with a privately run call centre staffed by unqualified operatives. 

So much for the Tory pledge to safeguard the NHS?  NHS Direct is a success and actually saves money by stopping people going to see the GP's or A&E unnecessarily.  They also conversely -save lives since many people (especially men) will not go and seek medical advice in person but will ring up NHS Direct and will then accept their advice that they should see their GP.

This only works because people trust the service and know that they are speaking to properly trained and qualified NHS staff

Most privately run medical call centres have a terrible reputation.  People do not trust the confidentiality of these centres and the quality of the advice. 

This is from the UNISON press release: -


The Guardian states that Conservative Secretary of State for Health has let slip that the Coalition is to scrap NHS Direct for a cheaper service.

The proposal is to replace 3,000 dedicated specialist nurses and health professionals with a cheap private call centre, with no access to a nurse.

Private call centres with unqualified staff can never replace this excellent service, which provides vital immediate support such as during the swine flu outbreak which saw scores of people die.

NHS Direct UNISON Official Michael Walker states:

"Not one Coalition party stated they would scrap NHS Direct in their manifesto. There is no mandate for cutting this service . If the government attack NHS Direct, what else is next? What other NHS cuts are they hiding? It is time for Cameron and Clegg to come clean about their real plans for our NHS."

Join UNISON's campaign to Save NHS Direct.

Friday, August 27, 2010

UNISON urges vote for Ed Miliband

"Labour Link Enews - Aug '10

UNISON urges vote for Ed Miliband

Welcome to the 26th electronic newsletter from UNISON Labour Link. It is aimed at those both active in UNISON and those in the Labour party who are interested in our campaigns. UNISON is calling on its affiliated members to make Ed Miliband their first preference choice in the Labour Leadership ballot.

UNISON backs living wage call

UNISON has welcomed Ed Miliband's plans to push for a living wage. The Labour leadership candidate has proposed that companies which agree to pay a living wage of at least £7.60 an hour would get a tax reduction. Ed Miliband's Living Wage plan.

"I'll defend the public sector" says Ed Miliband

“If I’m the Labour leader I will be absolutely vigorous in my defence of the public sector” promises Ed Miliband in an exclusive interview with UNISON's InFocus magazine. Ed Miliband interview.

How to vote for Ed Miliband

Affiliated members of UNISON will receive their ballot papers with U magazine in early September. This handy guide will help members fill in the ballot paper correctly and ensure all votes count. Vote Ed Miliband.

Show your support for Ed Miliband

Visit Ed's website and see what events there are in your area and how you can help his campaign. Ed Miliband website.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about our campaigns, help build the link between UNISON and Labour, or think there's something we should know contact: labourlink@unison.co.uk or call us on 0845 355 0845".

(I got this email yesterday from UNISON Labour Link)

Friday Puzzle - Who is Nick going on about?

"I was in fact having this debate with a 'commrade' from Lambeth last night (he happened to be there in the same pub as me) this lefty who is as good looking as Nora Batty and has the wit and charm of Robert Mugabe, was arguing that we (those of us in the Labour party) should regain the party before we start supporting any leaders better still, in his opinion, leave the Labour project and join a real (in his Mugabian reasoning) party. This is the kind of person of course who would rather spend time and energy arguing with the other 28.4 ultra left versions of the far left than concentrate on achieving change and therefore and that way help those wo need it most?"

The World of Nick Venedi

Any ideas?

Update: Nick has clarified his comments here

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Safety Matters: Pre-employment health checks, asbestos in schools and risky work fines

Nothing much is supposed to happen in August but check out this week’s TUC weekly on-line bulletin  “Risks”.

Pre-employment health checks are to become illegal under the Equality Act in October. Employers will not be able to ask health questions or make medical checks on job applicants before offering them the job. This will make it far more difficult for them to discriminate against the disabled since they would then have to “justify” why they are withdrawing a job offer after they discover someone has a disability.

Excellent news!

Waltham Forest Council Ace UNISON health & safety rep, Su Manning is mentioned also for “hammering” her employer over HSE enforcement notices about their failure to carry out checks over asbestos and legionnaire disease in schools (schools????? I kid you not)

Another important advance reported was that the Appeal Court has ruled that it was legal for courts to give firms big fines over significant (risky) safety failures which could (but luckily didn’t) have resulted in large numbers of people being killed.

This is fundamental to the H&S principle that prevention is much, much better than cure.

(picture I took of disturbed and crumbling asbestos pipe lagging in a library basement used as a storage area during a trade union safety inspection in 2003)

"Explore the Story of Social Housing in Tower Hamlets"

Shame I cannot make this local history open day on Saturday.  Mind you I still don't like the term "Social Housing" which was a term first used by one Michael Heseltine (I prefer "Public Housing").

"CCTV footage reveals shocking cruelty"

"POLITICAL activists reacted with fury today when Sky News broadcast CCTV footage of an innocent political party being unceremoniously dumped in a wheelie bin.

“Well, no-one was looking and no-one seemed to care anyway,” said the unnamed brute (David Cameron, 44) who carried out the crime. He was seen initially to offer friendship and affection to the party, before quickly opening up the bin and throwing it in when it was least expecting it.

The party remained in the wheelie bin awaiting rescue. But no-one bothered.

Nick Clegg is 30. At the very most".

Hat-tip thingy to Tom Harris MP

(Just in case you don't know...)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Ed Miliband for Labour Leader Video: Change to win

Check out this new "Ed Miliband for Labour Leader" campaign video featuring East Ham CLP comrades (there are two featured!)

I've been delivering leaflets this week on behalf of Ed's campaign and have a list of members to call.  Don't forget East London fund raiser this Saturday.

Getting rid of 'elf & safety cowboys?

Some sort of "good news" on the safety front for a change.  IOSH report here that a new scheme to accredit "Health and Safety" consultants will be announced in the "next few weeks".  This scheme will be chaired at first by the HSE. 

Currently anyone can call themselves a "safety consultant" and small organisations in particular are prone to being ripped by inexperienced unqualified "cowboys". 

"IOSH members working as consultants will have to be Chartered to join the scheme, so that clients can be confident that they will get advice from someone with a degree level qualification in safety, practical experience, and a formal commitment to Continuing Professional Development".

But the scheme will be "voluntary" and therefore have no real teeth.  Big companies usually (not always) get competent advice.  Small companies and organisations will continue to be sold unsuitable "off the shelf" safety policies and risk assessments that will gather dust on office sleves.   Guess what size organisations tend to have most deaths and serious injuries at work?

This is I suppose a start and better than nothing but it needs to be put on a legal footing and properly regulated.  It should be a criminal offence to sell safety advice without adequate experience and qualifications.  The HSE need to continue to Chair and lead this scheme.  

Trade union safety reps should check on the competency of all advisers employed by their organisation (see SRSC regs Brown Book reg 4A).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

English/Welsh/Scottish "Defence" leagues...and their Nazi supporters

nuf said? Hat tip Harry's Place

Pedal-Power to the People

"In February 1894 a group of young men met to discuss how they might 'combine the pleasures of cycling with the propaganda of Socialism'. They formed the Socialists' Cycling Club, a name which at their second meeting was changed to the Clarion Cycling Club, after their favourite newspaper - a socialist weekly written & published in Corporation Street, Manchester.

100 years on Manchester Labour Clarion Cycling Club invites you to join our inaugural fund-raising bike ride to Quarry Bank Mill. Comrades can choose to join the ride at any point along the route from where we head out towards Manchester Airport to take the 8-mile Orbital Cycleway to Styal Country Park. At a very leisurely pace the ride should take around two hours to complete although we will of course be stopping en route to take on liquid.

£10 will guarantee you a place in the peloton and for anybody who wishes to come along but doesn't have a bike, a number of bikes have been made available to hire for a minimal fee.

To book a place or for further information contact: suzanneDOTrichardsATeasynetDOTco.uk."

hat-tip thingy Col. Roi

Ed Miliband Fund Raiser: Sat 28 August 7.30pm at Ilford

Redbridge Councillor, Barbara White and UNISON Labour Link national committee vice-chair, Rachel Voller are organising this fund raising Quiz for Ed on Saturday.

"Dear Comrades,

As some of you may know I am supporting Ed Miliband for the leadership election.

I am trying to help the campaign and because of this Rachel Voller and myself are arranging a quiz night at the RAFA on Saturday 28th August, commencing at 7.30pm. Entry to the quiz will be £10 and this will include a finger buffet. All of the monies will be sent to Ed Miliband’s campaign office the following day. If you have a raffle prize that we could have that would be most welcome.

It would be helpful if you could let me know if you are attending in order for us to buy sufficient food. Even if Ed Miliband isn’t your 1st or 2nd preference you are still welcome to come.

The RAFA Club is situated at 295 Cranbrook Road and it would be appreciated if you could contact me at bwATbarbarawhiteDOTco.uk if you intend supporting this event. The club is an old house opposite Valentines Park and the nearest side road is Beaufort Gardens. I’m very sorry to say that there isn’t any disabled access. There are three steps to the doorway but after that it is all on one level.

Please feel free to circulate this to other comrades.

Kind regards,

Barbara White".

Monday, August 23, 2010

"Union buster" Tory minister of Health & Safety?

I came home tonight to find that the latest publication of Labour Research Department “Health and Safety Law 2010 had been delivered.

Every active trade union safety rep needs to have this guide to hand.

I note that it describes (p3) the appointment of Chris Grayling as Health & Safety minister as “not good news for trade unions or workers. The safety campaign group Hazards has reported that he was a former director at Burson-Marsteller” and says that this company is well known as one of the more prominent “union busting firms”.

No real surprise - typical Tory, but we will have to work with them somehow.

I suppose all of those who ranted that there is no difference between a Labour Government and the Tories are really proud of themselves now.

“The war revolutionised the industrial position of women – it found them serfs and left them free”

This quotation by feminist and suffragette, Millicent Fawcett, was in the latest issue of “the Newham mag” (a free fortnightly Newham Council magazine). There was a great article (page 16) about “World War 1 comes to East and West Ham”.

Two other things I learnt from this article was that the (top) Edward VII pub in Stratford High Street used to be called the “King of Prussia” but due to anti-German sentiment it was renamed.

Also that the “Royal Welch Fusiliers” which was my “home” regiment in North Wales for some reason recruited in West Ham during the First World War!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

"Managers behaviour are key" to getting sick workers back to work

Remember the BBC comedy sketch when Basil Fawlty suggested Sybil that she should enter “Mastermind” and her specialist subject should be “the bleeding obvious”?

This recent "back to basis" guidance on what Managers should do with long term sick workers is from the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personal & Development supported by the Health & Safety Executive amongst others)

"Staying in touch regularly with the individual while they are off sick

• Reassuring them that their job is safe

• Preventing them from rushing back to work before they are ready

• Providing a phased return to work

• Helping them adjust to the workplace at a gradual pace

• Asking the individual's permission to keep the team informed on their condition

• Encouraging colleagues to support the individual's rehabilitation

• Holding regular meetings to discuss the individual's condition and the possible impact on their work"

I would add regular consultation with trade union reps as also being key but all of this is a welcome start.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

“Quite Right Mr Trotsky: Some Trotsky myths debunked...”

Quite Right Mr Trotsky: Some Trotsky myths debunked; and how Trotskyists today hamper the fight for peace and socialism” (1985).

For some reason or other I decided today to start rereading “Quite Right Mr Trotsky” by Denver Walker. This is sadly nowadays long out of print but you should be able to get a copy online or at a second hand book shop.

It is quite a controversial book – see here “...Denver Walker’s curious concoction of fact, falsehood and frivolity”

However, it seems that Comrade Lenin never thought that much of Comrade Trotsky (this feeling was replicated).

For example (page 8) May 1914 he is quoted as saying “A joke is the only way of responding mildly to Trotsky intolerable phrase mongering”.

So -  some things don’t change then.

I’ll post on the book as soon as I have finished. I am particularly interested in finding more about the Revolutionary Workers Party and their views on the certainty that ET must be a Trotskyite :)

NHS Privatisation

A good introduction to the CONDEM White paper on the NHS.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Many Conservatives are disappointed and frustrated that after 13 years in opp..."

"Many Conservatives are disappointed and frustrated that after 13 years in opposition, up against a dreadfully unpopular Labour leader, in the middle of the biggest economic slump for 70 years, Dave still couldn’t win an overall majority.


Hat-tip Tom Harris

"Never was so much owed by so many to so few"

The 70th "anniversary" of the Battle of Britain was marked today by a reading of the famous Churchill "few" speech by actor Robert Hardy in Whitehall. 

Hearing his stirring words were actual veterans of the conflict and (Newham born) Dame Vera Lynn.

This was followed by a flypast by  Spitfire and Hurricane fighter planes.

If it was not for their incredible bravery and self sacrifice of the (whole) RAF at this time it would have been very likely that we would have been defeated in the Second world war and would all been subject to Nazi rule.

I hope all members of the Nazi BNP feel deeply ashamed of themselves on such a day.

Equally those cowardly armchair warriors on the ultra left who sneer on those who actually had the courage to put themselves in harms way and actually fight fascism.

Two sides of the same debased coin.

Jimmy Reid: 'We don't only build ships. We build men'

I'm pretty sure that (nearly) all of us will forgive trade union leader, Jimmy Reid, who died this week aged 78, for the implicit sexism of the above wonderful comment.

I was hobbling along (dodgy Achilles heal) Wanstead flats on Thursday morning listening via headphones to "Today" on Radio 4 and was simply bowled over by this marvellous clip (only 3 minutes) of an interview with Jimmy from 2007.

Enjoy on playback here (not sure how long it will be available?).

Hat tip picture and a surprisingly interesting and even sympathetic story on Jimmy from the Torygraph.

"THE PROBLEM with the Socialist Workers Party"

"THE PROBLEM with the Socialist Workers Party, the old joke goes, is that hardly any of its members are workers, even fewer are socialists and none of them knows how to party".

The Guardian, March 29, 1991

Hat tip thingy Harry's Place
(Special day tomorrow folks!)

UNISON's First Community Conference - 2nd Nov 2010

I got this email today encouraging branches of the new UNISON Service Group "Community" to register as visitors to our first ever conference. 

"On Tuesday 2nd November, in Telford, UNISON will hold our first conference focused on members in the Community service group – members workers for charities, housing associations, social enterprises, and other community and voluntary organisations.

The deadline for registering delegates has now passed, but there is still plenty of time to register to attend as a visitor.

The conference has a wide-ranging agenda, looking at issues including personalisation of social care, safeguarding, volunteering, two-tier workforces, housing policy, TUPE, equalities, pensions, pay and reward, trade union organising, and facility time. There will also be a lunchtime fringe meeting, open to visitors, on personalisation.

To view the Conference Bulletin, including all the forms you need and lots more information, please click here: http://www.unison.org.uk/conference/community.asp

So please come along and take part!"

"How the Vote Was Won"

Hat-tip SERTUC

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Nick Clegg's photo-op at £44k cut Children's centre which may close 2011

Deputy PM Hypoc....nuf said? hat tip thingy Tom Harris MP

"Two Tier Code will be mourned by some but welcomed by many" (pass the sic bag)

I have just come across a briefing by  - let us say a "progressive (sic?) international law firm" (mum's the word).

In this briefing these fine "progressives" were dribbling at what they believe to be the immediate prospect that this CONDEM government will soon abolish regulatory guidance on the "Two Tier Code" on out sourced public services.

This code was introduced after negotiations between the Labour Party and affiliated trade unions in 2004 (and improved in later agreements). 

The aim was to protect the terms and conditions of existing public sector staff who were transferred and that of new entrants.  Particularly with regard to pensions.  Now, the "code" was far from perfect but it did help protect against a race to the gutter by employers.  Protecting predominantly low paid female workers against "slash and burn" of their already basic terms.  It was especially important in trying to prevent employers taking on new staff on rubbish terms and no pension.

Let us be perfectly clear - if the "code" is abolished this will mean existing staff protections will be undermined and most new entrants will be on National minimum wage (NMW) with no sick pay, no pension and minimum holidays.  Effectively this means poverty labour.

Now, thinking about the title of this post - who who exactly are the "many" that these progressives think will "welcome" the demise of the "Two Tier Code"?  Will it be the hundreds of thousands of workers likely be actually affected who will be the ones jumping up and down in joy at the prospect of a whole £5.80 per hour (if over 22)?  Or will it be "progressive international lawyers" who charge more per hour on such contracts than the NMW pays in a week?  

I know, I know...it's a tough question to answer....

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"We didn't Vote to Die at Work"

I've just joined this health and safety Facebook group set up by Hazards.

This is what it is about...'We didn't vote to die at work' is the Hazards Campaign's response to the Con-Dem government attacks on workplace safety and health. We need to fight against: deregulation; the misrepresentation of health and safety as silly red tape instead of our human right; the lie that health and safety is a burden on business; and cuts in enforcement that are proposed by the new coalition government.

The coalition is moving on many fronts, including Lord Young's review of health and safety, Vince Cable's deregulatory review of all regulation, Nick Clegg's requests to name a law to be cut, and the overall massive cuts in budgets which will reduce funding for the enforcement agencies - the HSE, local authorities, the rail regulator and others. The Health Protection Agency, which covers many occupation-related issues like radiation exposure and pandemics, has already gone. Health and safety is not a burden on business. Good health and safety pays for itself. When it comes to poor health and safety, business does not face so significant a burden - because business externalises the cost onto us all, paying less than 25 per cent of the costs arising from work-related deaths, diseases and injuries. Instead, it engages in cost shifting to the victims, their families, the public purse and the community as a whole".

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Vive La Quinte Brigada

Refer back to this post (Sunday) on Spanish Civil War poet, Charlie Donnelly, and the line in the song "even the olives bleed". 

Hat tip to Facebook Friend Charles Smith (even though I have chosen a different YouTube version of this simply superb song by Christy Moore.

TUC 60 Second Ad contest: Vote for shortlist

Check this site out to take part in the 2010 TUC 60 Second Ad contest.  Watch and vote to shortlist.  Short listing will finish this Friday 20 August!

Beware "Folks, a quick warning to you all. There is no point in voting multiple times, because the votes will just get deleted (eventually). If this problem persists I may have to consider banning people from the competition. It is clear from the voting system that various people have been figuring out ways to vote themselves up. I’ve already deleted over 350 5 star votes and I’ll work my way through deleting the rest".

You can also register to make comments.  There are a number excellent video's to choose from (including many connected to UNISON) but I thought that my overall favourite was this "its never too soon" by Rayburner.


Stuff the CONDEMS - Join Labour Today! (special trade union rate)

"Wave goodbye to public services - in future you're on your own". 

This photo and membership form is from UNISON Labour Link Summer 2010 magazine.

Trade union affiliates can now join the Labour Party for only £19.50 per year (by direct debit).

If you join before 8 September you will also be able to vote in the Leadership elections.

"Are you fed up with Tory/Lib Dem attacks on jobs?

Fed up with their attacks on the public services we've fought so hard to build?.

There is only one progressive party that will stand up for you. 

It's the Labour Party and we're inviting you to join them".

Join (and vote for Ed Miliband as leader of course)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Council loses Court fight to duck Housing Association Pension obligations

This is an extremely odd story (to me anyway) and probably completely obscure to most folk. (Inside Housing 12 August). Daventry Council transferred its 3100 homes and housing staff to Daventry & District Housing Association. Despite there being an explicit clause in the transfer agreement that the Council will be responsible for making up the deficit in the (LGPS) pension schemes up to the point of transfer, the Council later went to the high court and claimed solicitors made a "mistake" and both parties were liable.

The High court kicked out the case on the seemingly very logical grounds that D&D HA had never made any plans to pay the deficit or put it in their business plan.

Apart from the legal arguments about who did and said what – there is a basic pension governance issue at stake. Why should a new organisation be responsible for a pension deficit run up before it even existed? Daventry Council before transfer would have had the legal responsibility for trying to make sure that the pension scheme (part of Northamptonshire LGPS) was properly funded and investments handled properly before transfer.

After transfer the housing association as an “admitted body” would then be “responsible” and it would be up to them to play its part in making sure that the scheme was run properly and they would liable for any funding shortage.

The impact on residents (and staff) in a small housing organisation of dealing with an unplanned £2.4 million shortfall could have been disastrous.

Yet another reason why staff members of pensions schemes (who are the real beneficial owners) should be fully engaged in all aspects of their governance.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

“Even the Olives are Bleeding...”

Yesterday I posted here on listening to an interview on Radio 4 with a BNP apologist for the murder and torture of British POWs.

I was driving home to London from Edinburgh. The next radio programme iPM calmed my soul and restored my faith somewhat in the world. The iPM programme firstly had an intelligent feature on “strikes” and “picket lines”. Its listener’s reported mostly positive and uplifting experiences of taking part in strike action including romance, humour and camaraderie. But there were also some negative experiences.

A former British Leyland machinist turned coal miner who scabbed during the national strike of 1984-85 talked about his experiences and how now 25 years later he recognised that NUM leader Arthur Scargill had been right at the time to fight pit closures but he should have “...had the guts to hold a national ballot”. Which I thought was just a little bit rich and self serving. This “anonomised” worker had recently been out on strike action over zero pay offers which he supported. Not least since the company enjoyed not only good profits but was still paying their executives big bonuses!

The next feature was about the Irish poet, Charles Connolly, who was killed aged 24 in action fighting the fascists during the Spanish Civil War. His family had been invited to Spain to take part in recent commemorations.

Shortly before Charles was killed in battle he made the remark to a compatriot about this bloody war that “even the olives are bleeding....”.

You can listen again to the programme (recommended) on iplayer for the next few days or so - but I have down loaded it as a podcast so if you send me your email I assume I can forward it to you (12MB file!)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BNP "honours" Japan criminals who murdered Brit POW'S

Driving back home to the Smoke (London) from Auld Reekie (Edinburgh) today I was incensed to listen to a news report on Radio 4 "PM" about a senior full time official of the BNP (British Nazi Party) Adam Walker, who is attending a meeting of fascists in Tokyo organised by an extreme right wing nationalist party who deny that Japan committed atrocities during the Second World War.

They are all also even going to visit  "Yasukuni, a Shinto shrine in the capital that honours Japan's war dead, including 14 class-A war criminals".

I listened to this mumbling apologist for the mass murder, torture and starvation of British and Commonwealth 2nd World War prisoners (and the murder and rape of countless millions of other victims of Japanese racist aggression) as he tried to defend the indefensible. 

By coincidence on Thursday I visited the three military museums in Edinburgh Castle and can vividly remember the many harrowing accounts and pictures of Japanese executions and deliberate cruelty to Scottish Prisoners of War. 

Putting aside mere common decency and humanity for the moment - how on earth can anyone who claim to support our armed forces and be a patriotic Brit possibly support the BNP after this latest crass exposure of its deep rooted Nazi cultism?

Hat-tip to Paul for YouTube video.

(Check out my next post for details of a later Radio 4 programme I heard this afternoon that I did not shout abuse at).

Friday, August 13, 2010

Vote John Gray (for US Senate)

A long lost cousin across the pond is standing as a Green Candidate for the US Senate 2010.

He is currently an elected mayor.  The seat is currently held by a Democratic.

Unfortunately for John he has only a 2% poll rating at the moment. He is also facing another "independent"  challenger who is a former Ranger Commando that has the "support" of local "Tea Party" activists.

I wonder who my other US blogging cousin would support? :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Challenging Poverty in Changing Times"

This conference organised by the TUC unemployed workers centres looks like it will be well worth a visit if possible. I would have thought that "Challenging Poverty in Bloody Awful Times" would have been a more accurate but less diplomatic title.

The speaker list is "interesting".  The Comprehensive Spending Review will be published (I think on the 20th October) a few days latter.

Will Simon Hughes turn out to be a progressive or a conservative - a Lib Dem or a CONDEM MP?

How will he respond to the likely outcomes of the morning workshops?

How will the TUC, its affiliated trade unions, Unemployed worker centres and NGO's work together?  I don't think as a rule trade unions and NGO's really understand each other that well.

Is this about organising campaigning and opposition to "cuts" or is it about trying to influence and change policy?

I think we need to do both.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

TULO campaign to Save the Labour Link

I got this email this morning from TULO on defending the link between the affiliated trade unions and the Party – the Labour Movement family.

I don’t suppose any of the leadership candidates will not sign the pledge but it is right that TULO and the rest of us should be campaigning on this issue and making people aware of the real threat.

“Dear John,

Where would the Labour Party be without us?

It's almost impossible to imagine. For over a hundred years, trade union members have been at the heart of the Party. Together, we have fought for the rights of working people and their families - and built a better society as a result.

Now, with the Labour leadership election approaching, we find ourselves in a precarious situation. The Tory and Liberal Democrat Coalition wants to change the way political parties are funded. This would threaten the way unions currently affiliate to the Labour Party and represent their members.

It's crucial for union members that we have a Labour Leader who will defend the strong relationship between the Party and the unions. Ask the candidates to pledge their support for a strong link between the Party and the trade union movement:


Labour was founded on the principle of being a voice for the people of Britain; the voices of millions of working people are brought to the centre of the Party through collective representation by the affiliated trade unions.

Now with the Coalition government looking to change how political parties are funded, working people's voice could be silenced....”

I think that the Party and the trades unions are pretty shell shocked at the moment with all that has gone on under the LIBCONS (and the far, far worse to come) so this should also be a good time to build a better relationship in the future between the wider Labour movement and its political arm.


Don't worry I am not about to review the musical but this morning on my blogger email there were 11 spam anon comments waiting to be "approved". 

So I have set up "word verification" for any future comments.

It is a little bit of a nuisance but only take a minute or so (if sober - this may also reduce the alcohol or drug induced rants I receive from time to time).

There was also this morning a couple of the normal idiotic comments which I have approved and look forward to responding when I get a mo:)

Monday, August 09, 2010

One of the Same - Tories and Lib Dems

Hat-tip thingy JAOTHER

Shappi Khorsandi at the Edinburgh Fringe

Last night I saw live (for the first time) the Iranian born stand up comedian Shappi Khorsandi. The performance was sold out. It was a very much a “political” show but also featured her recent experience of marital breakup and divorce. Which I think the audience generally found uncomfortable at times and they much preferred the stories of casual racism and middle class ignorance that Shappi has come across in her life.

Shappi's family had to flee Iran because her father, an respected Iranian poet, was accused by the regime of being “an enemy of Islam”. On one level it is deeply ironic that Iran the cradle and birthplace of civilisation is now run by a despotic government of ignoramuses.

I am reliably informed by Wikipedia that she is a Labour Party supporter.

The show was very, very funny. Some things didn’t quite “work out on the night” but we are all spoilt by flawless TV editing and for over an hour she had the audience eating out of her hand.

Picture is a screenshot of her festival web page since I asked beforehand if I could take photos and was told “no” by a member of the stage crew. Sitting in the front row was probably a bit of a mistake since Shappi asked that the hapless would-be-photographer identify himself - and she of course immediately started to gently embarrass me.

Equally be aware if you are intending to go and see her and you are a single male with a symmetrically face:)

UNISON London Lay Leadership visit to Bromley Local Govt Branch

Catching up on some posts - picture is from a recent visit I went on with UNISON London regional Convenor Gloria Hanson and our deputy Convenor, Conroy Lawrence.

The Bromley Local Government branch has been under "regional supervision" for the past several months. There was a number of  problems in the past but I think it is safe to say that we were all very impressed with the way the branch has reorganised itself and is out there connecting with members and fighting constructively for their interests.

Well done!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Newport (Ymerodraeth State of Mind)

This brilliant YouTube video should strikes a cord with anyone brought up from a small town.  Hat tip to Col. Roi. Of course, Newport was also the site of the Chartist Rebellion in 1839 which I think is the only serious attempt at violent revolutionary rebellion in modern mainland British History. 

You can see the original spine-tingling version of the song by Alicia Keys here.

UPDATE: sorry but EMI are just being greedy stupid t**ts but check out here

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Cameron and the future of public housing

Even rabid Tory right winger Nadine Dorries MP has attacked her leader, David Cameron’s plan to end security of tenure for Council and housing association tenants. Nadine points out here that this would not solve the housing shortage and will disincentives tenants. She at least as a child lived in a Council house an experience Cameron and the vast great majority of Conservative Party MP’s know nothing whatsoever about.

It’s clear that that Cameron has been publicly caught out telling porkies about the future of public housing. Everyone in housing knew that the Tories in opposition were planning to attack security of tenure. Check this from Inside Housing

“In the run up to the general election Mr Cameron came under attack from then housing minister John Healey, who accused the Conservatives of wanting to end secure tenancies.

At the time, Mr Cameron said the allegations were ‘simply untrue’ and a spokesperson for the Conservatives said the party had ‘no policy to change the current or future security of tenure of tenants in social housing’.

But today he said: ‘There is a question mark about whether, in future, we should be asking when you are given a council home is it for a fixed period? Because maybe in five or 10 years you will be doing a different job and be better paid and you won’t need that home, you will be able to go into the private sector.’

Nadine is right (never thought I would say that) that this proposal will not solve the housing crisis and will put people off getting training and jobs but if all public housing (Council and housing association properties) are only inhabited by the unemployed or disabled and are only a “tenure of the last resort” then they will indeed become the latest Tory “barracks of the poor”.

I don’t want to be evicting families out of their homes if one of them manages to get a job on minimum wage rates either.

Great Picture from the Daily Mirror

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"There is only one way to stop the party of billionairies and bankers"

More good stuff dug up by Col. Roi about Lib Dem promises made in the run up to the General Election.

People must feel that they have been taken for a ride.
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Wednesday, August 04, 2010

"Redcar - Made of Steel"

While dashing along the M6 on Monday afternoon I listened to Radio 4 “Archive Hour” programme about a history of iron ore mining and steel production in Teesside. Some folk would have immediately switched over but if they did they missed something special (IMO). Check out BBC iPlayer here (7 days ).

At one time railway lines and iron bridges all other the world would have had “made in Teesside” stamped on them.

Production first began in Teesside following the discovery of nearby iron ore deposits. The mines were still producing ore until early 20th century while the steel production plant at Redcar was very recently put into mothballs to the despair of the local community.

The programme did not romanticise the physically hard, dirty and dangerous work of mining or being a steel worker but it did celebrate their strong sense of pride, comradeship and solidarity.

The programme reminded me of the closure of the main plant at Shotton Steel works in the 1980’s.  Check out my thoughts pre CONDEM gov.

Question: Do we need to have employment with such bloody awful working conditions to bring about a similar true sense of class and identity amongst working people?

Sunday, August 01, 2010


"Un dimanche après-midi à l'Île de la Grande Jatte" by Georges Seurat

Posts will be a little erratic for the next two weeks.