Thursday, September 30, 2010

Help Labour's Abbas win in Tower Hamlets

I got this email this afternoon - spread the word - it is just absolutely essential that we have a honest and competent secular socialist as Mayor.
So please support Abbas to be the elected Executive Mayor of Tower Hamlets. 
I think you know why.
"Dear Member
Helal Abbas is running to win the Tower Hamlets Mayoral Election for Labour  on the 21st of October.  It will be a tough fight.

The Conservatives have won council seats in the borough, the Lib/Dems are fielding a candidate and Respect and George Galloway are openly supporting an ex-Labour independent, who has declared himself a candidate

Tower Hamlets Labour Party will need all the help that you can give. The campaign office is at 349 Cambridge Heath Road, London, E2 9RA and will be open for canvassing and leafleting from 10am-6.30pm every day until the election.

Please ring 0207 729 6682 or email for further details or to let us know when you are available.

With your help we can ensure a Labour victory on the 21st of October
Ken Clark
Director London Labour Party 

Labour Conference 2010: Life in the Northern Quarter

This year I stayed in an one bedroom flat in the “Northern Quarter” of Manchester. A world heritage site no less. This was not only cheaper and better than a hotel but it was also a far more interesting and cosmopolitan place to stay than the City centre. 

In the mornings I was able to try and shake off the Midland Hotel induced hangovers with an early morning jog around the nearby canals. 

On route I would pass an area near Piccadilly Basin which had been closed off to the public and was being used to film a Hollywood film based on the “Captain America” comics.   Apparently this part of Manchester resembles 1940’s Lower East Side, New York.  It was strange to see cast members walking around dressed as “gangsters and molls” in period hats and trench coats while texting or sheltering from the rain using modern umbrellas. 
Running (very slowly of course) along the canal’s you become very aware of Manchester’s industrial history and the “dark satanic mills” that we sang about a few hours ago earlier at conference.  Many old mills have been turned into apartment blocks similar to the old Bryant and May Matchmakers building in Bow.  There is even an area called New Islington to make me feel at home. The best run to appreciate the new and the old Manchester was along the Ashton Canal to the Man City stadium and back. 
On a sad and depressing point I did notice that thanks to the Banker's recession work has stopped on many construction sites which are moth balled and up for sale.  Some of the newly built apartments and office buildings also appear to be mostly empty.  Regeneration of this part of Manchester is obviously in trouble.

Massive CONDEM public spending cuts will just further destroy confidence. This will mean more construction workers will be unemployed, less taxes will be paid and more money needed to pay benefits.  Which will increase pressure on the deficit and mean more public spending cuts which will mean....We need our new British superhero, Ed M, to save us!

Labour Conference 2010: Harriet Harman, the Red Flag and the New Jerusalem

Labour Party deputy leader, Harriet Harman, gave a witty and unifying closing speech to this year’s conference. 

I liked the self deprecating joke that she was only elected the "most fanciable MP" in a Sky News poll because her husband, Jack Dromey - had used "the Unite block vote". We then all sang the “Red Flag” followed by “Jerusalem”.  Then after several minutes of clapping and cheering Ed, there was the traditional mad rush to pick up luggage and get to the train station. 

Beforehand John Denham MP had given a cracking speech warning the 4,500 Labour Councillors that they will have the fight of their lives to make sure they protect essential public services.  He also exposed the crucial flaw in Cameron’s “Big Society” that volunteers want to supplement public services not replace them. He gave the example of people who volunteer to “befriend” pensioners but they would not want to replace the services of the district nurse. 

Harriet was then introduced by UNISON activist, Norma Stephenson, who had been elected the Chair of the Labour Party NEC last night. 

Building a New Jerusalem is now on hold until 2015 at the latest.  The opportunity may come sooner but it is best to plan for a long and at times very painful slog back to power.

I'll be trying to catch up on my posts about conference over the next few days.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Labour Party Conference 2010: ETUC Day of Action

Today is European Trade Union's Council "Day of Action" against spending cuts.

Across Europe there was lobbies and protests against cuts.  I missed a Lobby this lunchtime outside Manchester City hall, since I got the timings wrong. 

Local UNISON member Grant Higgerson (carrying placard) had been at the lobby.  Since he had taken the whole afternoon off to attend the rally he had decided to spend the rest of the time reminding Labour Party delegates and visitors about the importance of saving public pension schemes.  Grant is supported here by another trade unionist - from the NUJ!

Update: Picture of UNISON Bromley Health Branch banner at a ETUC rally.

Health SGE member Mike Davey on real left.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Labour Conference 2010: Ed Miliband Leader speech

I was late leaving a pension fringe and as I hurried out of the hotel toward the conference centre I got shouted at by camera crew to "get out of the way".  Ed appeared a minute later to go and give his leadership speech. 

I went into the wrong queue and when I eventually found the right one it was too late to get in - the hall was filled to its 2500 capacity.  There was a theatre nearby from which you could have gone and watch but together with a couple of hundred other disappointed delegates and visitors we watched the speech on the TV's while sitting on the floor amongst the conference stalls.

You could hear Ed speaking from all directions and at slightly different play back speeds.  Which was rather strange. 

It was I think a great speech.  Ed was very emotional at the beginning and at one point I thought he was even going to have tears rolling down his cheeks.  Especially when he talked about how grateful he was for this country who gave refuge to his parents who had fled Nazi persecution. 

There was also comedy - when he reminded everyone of the daft insults that had been made about him such as being like Wallace from "Wallace and Gromit" or "Forrest Gump".  When he mentioned "Red Ed" he got massive applause for wanting a "grown up" debate over politics in the future

He supported trade unions who tackle low pay but would not support "irresponsible" strike action.  He committed again to a "living wage" not just a minimum wage for all.  He said it cannot be right that a banker can earn more in one day than a cleaner does in a year?  Inequality is bad for everyone, rich and poor. 

He thought that the War in Iraq had been a mistake - even thought it had been genuine and well intended but he strongly supported the War in Afghanistan.  While he was a firm defender of Israel's right to exist so did Palestine have the right to be a state and the attack on the Gaza convey had been a terrible misjudgement.

He finished with an appeal to us all to be optimistic.  "We are the optimists in politics today," he said.
"So let's be humble about our past. Let's understand the need to change. Let's inspire people with our vision of the good society.

"Let the message go out, a new generation has taken charge of Labour. Optimistic about our country. Optimistic about our world. Optimistic about the power of politics.

"We are the optimists and together we will change Britain." To which he had a standing ovation in the hall and a round of applause from our little groups. 

It was a little odd clapping a TV screen but it felt the right thing to do.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blogger's 4 Labour Fringe

Live post from the fringe. 

This is the audience fom the panel's point of view. 

I'll post later in more detail.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Labour Party conference 2010: General Election report (the role of unions)

I am listening to the debate on the General Election in the conference hall.   Andy Kerr (Labour NEC and CWU) has just spoken about the role of the unions in the election.  He thanked the unions and in particular TULO for their work.  In the election the unions fought for a “fair future for all working people”.  He compared the role of the unions in elections on both sides of the Atlantic. 
During this election as in America, what was found to work is one union member talking to one. New media helps but it is no substitute for targeted calls to targeted seats by trade union volunteers.  The unions used targeted direct mail.  Aided by polling and which was also used to tackle members concerns especially BNP threat. The unions ran voter registration and postal vote campaigns. 
TULO used its website to support the wider campaign and to respond quickly to events.  The unions had deadicated organisers for all key seat seats.  Remember that not all members use internet.  Anti-tory posters and bill boards were most effective.  The unions were major funders in the election but it was not just money. 

Labour Party Conference 2010: Sunday 26 September

First day of the 2010 Labour conference.  I am enjoying being a "Ex-officia" visitor and not being a delegate this year. 

Since I am not representing either my union or my local party I can pick and choose what debates I will attend in the main conference hall.

I will hopefully be able to attend and post on more fringes.

It's also my first big conference in the City of Manchester - which I am also enjoying hugely.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Ed Miliband is our new Party Leader

This is a great result for the Labour Party and the nation.  Ed narrowly beat his brother David in an incredibly close contest (50.65% to 49.35%)

David was in the lead until the very last stage.  The vote by trade union affiliates and the socialist society made the difference. 

The conference hall was packed with members even standing around the edges.  As the result was announced there was a huge cheer.  Around me delegates were hugging each other and some were openly crying. Ed was clearly emotional during his acceptance speech and I am sure it must have been also emotional for David as both brothers walked out of the hall together side by side.

Labour Leadership: Waiting for the Result

We're waiting patiently in our seats in the Manchester Central conference centre for it to begin (15:55). I'm with UNISON colleagues sitting next to the  Sky News room.

Apparently all 5 candidates attended a briefing at 3pm.  They were only allowed to take one aide in with them each and had to surrender their mobile phone.  Allegedly the aides are all  bringing 3 phones each! As if:)

A result is expected at 16.40.  Everyone is expecting it to be close.

Friday, September 24, 2010

On route to Manchester for Labour Party Conference

Live post from Crew while on my way to Manchester for this year's Labour Party conference. 

Ken Livingston was declared the London Labour Party candidate this morning.  He did well with 58% of the vote but Oona King came a  respectable second.

I'm not a delegate this year to conference but am going as a Councillor and Party member.  Tomorrow afternoon I have a ticket to the special leadership conference.  You probably know by now who I hope will win.  On Monday evening I will take part in this fringe as a panelist.

I'll try and blog as much as possible. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Union meetings..Now and then

On Tuesday I had the great joy of attending the UNISON London Regional Committee.  Before I bored everyone to tears with my Finance Convener report, the Regional Council Officers (RCO) had tabled a statement to the Committee on “Responding to the Coalition Government”. 

This one and a half page statement was something that we RCO’s had genuinely thought would be welcomed and serve to unite all sections of the Committee. It recognised that the real agenda of the Coalition government was to destroy our public services and committed the region to campaign and defend public services.

It also stated that we must ensure the union survives; work with members to defend jobs and livelihoods; campaign for quality public services; organise in private companies; enhance unity across workplaces and unite London against the Coalition.

All good stuff I thought.  I was expecting a debate on the statement (this was our first meeting since the General Election) however for some reason the discussion only centred on the use of this one sentence (& two words) the “current attack on public services is not only an attack on public service workers but on our society and the British people as a whole”.
There was then, to my mind, a very odd and rather unreal debate about the use of the term “British People”!  According to some members of the committee this was the wrong term to use since there are millionaires who are British so if we use the word British this means we are actually defending millionaires? 
One committee member wanted us to get rid of “British people” and instead only use the term “working class”.  It was gently pointed out that while we here today might indeed think all working people in Britain are “working class”, most workers, rightly or wrongly, do not recognise that this term applies to them and if we want to genuinely connect with them we should use terms that they relate to. 
This statement of the bleeding obvious didn’t go down well with a minority of committee members and the debate continued. I pointed out that the use of the term “British people” was actually something that we RCO’s had welcomed because we felt it was vital  to make the argument that the public sector trade unions are not just opposing the coalition just to defend our our own jobs and interests - but that we think that quality public services should be protected since they are the glue that hold this country together! 
There were some sensible points made such as some of our members are not British or do not see themselves as British (as my Plaid Cymru Councillor brother-in-law would no doubt agree). 
But overall I was astonished and frustrated that in the face of the impending Coalition Tsunami and slash and burn of our public services - we spent our precious time arguing over the modern day equivalent of “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin”.  
It has since become apparent that one of the reasons for this classic “Life of Brian” debate was that some of our ultra left witch hunting brethren had thought (wrongly as usual) that the phrase “British Public” had been inserted into the statement by some dastardly doublethink enemy of their micro-sects!
Due to the scale of the threat we face we really cannot afford to waste any more of our time on such pointless and self indulgent navel gazing or rearranging of the Titanic's deck chairs. The ultra left have got to grow up and stop behaving like a dog constantly gnawing and slobbering at its favourite bone. IMO.

(see video: some things don't change)

Abbas 4 Mayor

"Le Roi est mort, vive le Roi!" Despite the inevitable fuss and bother the local Party are pulling together around its Council leader, Helal Uddin Abbas (centre with file), as the Labour Party candidate to be Tower Hamlets Mayor.

No one person is bigger than the Party.  Our elected National Executive Council leadership have decided overwhelming to back Abbas in very difficult circumstances.  Abbas is an able and experienced leader and politician.  He was very positive towards the trade unions when I was the Tower Hamlets UNISON Labour Link officer and I have always thought he was a decent and honest secular socialist. 

I understand that there has been a failed legal attempt to challenge this decision. Nominations close at noon tomorrow. 

I shall look forward to the campaign!

Hat tip for picture to Dan McCurry.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Striking the Balance: Thank you

Hat-tip thingy SERTUC - "Many thanks to everyone for their interest shown in SERTUC Theatre Club and extra special thanks to Mikron Theatre Company for performance at TUC Congress House on Wednesday 1 September 2010.

If you missed Striking the Balance at SERTUC Theatre Club, you can catch up with the tour dates at 39 years of rural touring: Mikron is the little touring theatre company with the reputation for tackling large scale subjects and turning history into vivid and dramatic entertainment.

For a free equal pay DVD sampler and additional information on equal pay or other issues, please contact: TUC Publications, Trades Union Congress Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS Tel: 020 7467 1294 Email:
If you wish to know anything additional about the work of SERTUC or join mailing list, please do not hesitate to check the website for updates or contact SERTUC:
Tel: 020 7467 1220
Here is a video presentation of Striking the Balance".

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blogging for Labour: How social media can drive a wedge into the Coalition.

Hope those of you who are going to this years Labour Party conference will come to this fringe on the Monday evening.

"Blogging for Labour: How social media can drive a wedge into the Coalition". 

I think that anyone going to conference and reading this blog - will be somewhat interested!

Mary Honeyball MEP will chair and the panelists are Jessica Asato; Alex Smith Labour list, Tom Harris MP and moi.

Monday 27 September 18:00 - 19.30. Manchester Central - Charter 1.

UPDATE: see report of the actual fringe here

European Trade Union Day of Action: 29 September 2010

A week on Wednesday there is an European wide day of Protest against Austerity,  There will be an international demo in Brussels and protests in all member countries.

Kaschke loses Libel Appeal against Dave Osler

Another Tower Hamlets saga.  Self proclaimed “Party Shopper” Johanna Kaschke failed to get permission at the Royal Court of Justice (RCJ) today to appeal against her libel case being thrown out as an abuse of process.

Kaschke was trying to sue Dave for libel over a web post he did about her on his blog.  It was a completely ludicrous claim that should never have got before any court in the first place and should never have taken over 3 years to be dismissed.

One of her libel claims against Dave was that a commentator on his blog had described her as being "one cherry short of a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte".

Kaschke has exhausted the British judicial process but will no doubt continue to try and waste public funds on other pointless legal adventures.

I’ve just had a cheery conversation with Dave on the phone.  Much to my regret I was unable to be there in person.  He is in a pub (naturally) celebrating and about to go off to our favourite RCJ Indian restaurant for a meal.  Before going off to the AWL 70th anniversary “celebration” of Trotsky’s assassination! (or something like that?) A busy day.  My AWL invite must have been lost in the post.

Dave (Photo: on the left of course) thanks his top Solicitor-Advocate, Robert Dougans, (bottom of photo) and blogging solicitor David Allen Green (top - aka Jack of Kent).  No doubt Dave and David will post on today’s events in due course. 

Alex Hilton and I await the pleasure of Ms Kaschke company at the RCJ in a month or so as she seeks permission to appeal the judgment that her claim against us should also be thrown out. 

I can’t wait.

(pictures from Dave's partner Stroppy Bird who was herself libelled by Kaschke who keeps referring to her as Mrs Osler!!!!)

Lutfur Rahman removed as Labour Candidate for Tower Hamlet's Mayor

I once got myself into a little bit of bother over a post that included the words "However, this being Tower Hamlets the story developed"...

Well, my "inbox" this afternoon has been flooded with emails referring to this statement from the Labour Party NEC. 

"Having received a number of serious allegations concerning both the eligibility of participating voters and the conduct of Lutfur Rahman, the NEC has decided to investigate the allegations made. As a result, administrative action has been taken to remove Lutfur Rahman as a candidate pending the investigation. Nominations for Tower Hamlets mayor close this week and in the circumstances the NEC had no option but to impose another candidate. The NEC has voted to select Helal Abbas Uddin as Labour's candidate".

I understand that John Biggs has stood down as a candidate and is supporting Helal.

Hat-tip Dave Hill's London blog.  Neither Marsha or Andy are best pleased! (neither of whom like me are members of Tower Hamlets Labour Party).  While Ted missed a scoop by going to the Gym.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nick Clegg and David Cameron: separated at birth?

"Listening to Nick Clegg’s speech I am struck by the fact that I could imagine David Cameron giving more or less exactly the same speech, almost word for word.”

Iain Dale: Leading Tory blogger.

Nuf said?

Stratford & West Ham Festival 2010

Sunday's community event in Stratford Park was I thought a great success.  Local residents from all parts of Stratford and West Ham ward came together to enjoy the festival.  Lots of great music, dancing, exhibitions, workshops and stalls for young and old. 

It was also fun! 

I proved conclusively that Councillors cannot dance (and suffered when I woke up with a stiff neck this morning – probably from taking part in the “Swing - line dance” or was it the finale mass “knees up”?). 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

“Building London’s Future” (& defending London’s poor & vulnerable)

The proposed Tory/Lib Dems reforms of housing benefit (HB) “will lead to two things - firstly a dramatic increase in homelessness which will result in a shift in London’s population -equal in size to a typical post war new town and secondly - deepening and abject poverty”.  So said the host, MP for Westminster North, Karen Buck MP, in her introduction to a “crisis” housing meeting on Thursday to launch this report by London Labour Party.

The report details David Cameron’s and his London Mayor, Boris Johnson, attempts to “cleanse” the Tory controlled boroughs in the Capital of their poor and the vulnerable by changing housing benefit to private tenants.

To show the seriousness of the situation there was a pretty high profile panel of speakers.  Labour Party Leader Harriot Harman MP, Shadow Secretary of State Yvette Cooper MP, Leader of LB Hammersmith & Fulham Labour Group Cllr Steve Cowan, Shadow Minister of Housing John Healey MP, GLA member and London Labour Party leader Len Duvall and Shadow Minister of London, Tessa Jowell MP.  This was before an audience of Councillors and housing activists from across London.

Despite working in housing in London I must admit to being rather shocked at the report and its conclusions.  I will try and post in more detail on each speaker and on the rest of the report another time (there was a lot of interesting stuff) but I’ll outline now the key thing about HB changes that should have every single person who gives a damn about London (and elsewhere) jumping up and down.

Housing benefit provides a roof over the heads of millions of people.  If these cuts to HB go ahead it will mean:-

Yvette Cooper MP: “One million families will lose £12 per week...50,000 of the poorest pensioners will lose £11 per week...Working families will also lose £12 per week...Disabled residents will lose £13 per week.  These are averages...A pensioner in a one-bed flat in Hackney will lose £21 per week...150,000 households in London will not have enough benefit to cover the rent...A population the size of Hackney could be forced to move to cheaper accommodation.  This is what you get from the £550 million of cuts to HB already announced.  Remember that the CONDEMS want £2.3 billion cuts in HB”. 

From the “Building London’s Future” report: “People in London will face on average £1,000 a year cut in support”....159,370 private sector tenants on Local Housing Allowance (LHA) will lose an average of £22 a week in the first wave of cuts....80% of LHA recipients in London will lose more than £10 a week...990 families in a 2-bed property in Tower Hamlets will lose on average £27 a week...73 families living a 2-bed property in Camden will lose on average £53 a week.

(as soon as I find a link to the report I will update but you can check this government site here to find out what will happen to your local authority)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Work related ill-health: this, that and the other

As a trade union branch secretary I get these sort of questions quite often so I’m thinking of sending this check list out to all branch stewards and safety reps on how to respond to union members who asks for representation on work related ill-health matter.  Have I missed anything out?

This: If there is any chance of a personal injury claim then make sure they are referred immediately to a union lawyer.  Do not delay since there are strict time limits. Some so-called “no-win no fee” solicitors will charge you for an insurance  policy in case they lose and expect you to pay up front for very expensive medical or other specialist reports.

That: Reassure that this referral should not affect your member’s employment and is usually dealt with by the employers’ insurers!

Other: Most (not all) of no-win, no fee firms are simply crooks. 

This: Was an accident/incident form filled out at the time?  If not then do a retrospective one backdated and send to manager(s).  If our member was off work for more than 3 days (at any stage due to the accident or incident) ask for confirmation that this report will be sent to the relevant Health & Safety enforcement unit (either the HSE or the Local Council depending on where you work). If your member is off sick due to work related stress, bullying or harassment - report this as well. 

That: You cannot rely on my managers to always fill out an accident/incident form.  Make sure they do and keep copies of report and ask for a written copy of management’s  investigation into the original report.

Other: if an accident or incident form is not filled out the member may lose out in state benefits and a personal injury claim - regardless of its merit.

This: Ask for copies of the health & safety risk assessment covering what the member was doing at the time. 

That: There is a statutory requirement for suitable and adequate risk assessments for all significant workplace activities to be in place. (use your common - but this requirement pretty much covers everything a worker does)

Other: If manager does not respond or risk assessments are inadequate or none existence or out of date then take up with local joint safety committees first but if no joy take it up further and if necessary report to the relevant Health & Safety enforcement office. Get advice first from your union.

This: think about advising your member to go to their local Citizen Advice Bureau (or Law Centre if they do welfare rights) and have a full benefit check.  Union reps are not specialists in this area.

That: Many ill-health benefits are NOT means tested so it does not matter what your savings are or what your partner (if you have one) earns.   

Other: Remember if work related to ask about Industrial Injuries benefits which are also none means tested and “no fault” (you do not have to prove negligence).  This work related benefit covers mental and physical health illness.  Apply to have it backdated to date of accident or onset of illness. 

This: What do the Employer Occupational health advisers say about the illness and the likelihood (prognosis) of recovery? 

That: Has the government funded “access to work” advisers been contacted?  Will they/Employer pay for such things as a taxi to take your member to work or provide specialist equipment? (the employer will usually have to pay as well – quite right too)

Other: If Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) should apply the employer should make reasonable adjustments and/or consider redeployment.  Remember under DDA such employees have to be given priority for suitable redeployment.  If a disabled member can at all realistically do the new job they should ring fence it for them.   Argue about redesigning a potential job around his disability (HR don’t generally like this argument).

This: If your member is off long term and their contractual sickness pay has run out check to see if the company has a Permanent Health Insurance Policy (PHI).   If there is any delay in payment find out who is responsible for the delay.  If an unreasonable length of time is taken (and there usually is) consider making a formal complaint of maladministration to the employer and insurance company and ask the employer make up the wages until a decision made. 

That: If someone is off long term sick then the insurance company should assess our member and start paying as soon as the sick pay runs out  (if eligible) .  Always appeal the decision if the PHI Company turns down unreasonably any claim and ask the Employer to pay for an “independent health assessment”.   

Other: Remember nearly all (non-mutually owned) insurance companies are simply crooks.

Finally: Does your union have a welfare fund?  If so consider referring the member if in financial difficulties (some unions have disability and/or ill health benefits as well?)

What have I missed out?

New CONDEM Logo as more Lib Dem Cllrs join Labour

Hat-tip thingy Steven Frear.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Pope, the Dove and the Thorn

I'm not particularly exercised in any way by the Pope's visit. 

In my perhaps, wishy, washy British way, I think that it is some sort of a "good thing".

I was brought up in a largely  secular environment but many of my boyhood friends were Roman Catholic (mostly second generation Irish).

I would fundamentally agree with those who argue for tolerance and free speech for all believers and non believers. 

I do like this photo by a retired RAF serviceman, John Gray (no known relation), of a "Dove of Peace" to celebrate the pontiffs visit (even if it was published in the Daily Hate).

But while I also do think that some of the more militant secularists have overstepped the mark somewhat recently, to be honest, the clearly racist remarks by the Pope's advisor, Cardinal Kasper, about Britain and our multicultural society just about makes you despair of the Catholic Church and its leadership.  IMO.

Labour Housing Group Conference Fringe: Sunday 26 September

I received this quarterly newsletter form the Labour Housing Group yesterday. The fringe at Party conference will take place at the Friends Meeting House on Sunday evening.  It is just outside the secure zone (so you will not need any conference pass to attend).

By coincidence yesterday I attended an excellent housing briefing by the Labour Party on "Building London's Future".  The information we received about the likely consequences of the CONDEM cuts in housing benefit is frankly pretty scary.  I'll post on this later. 

As part of the response to the CONDEM plans I did at the meeting bring up the idea of a London branch  of the LHG which seemed to be well received.

(not forgetting another key fringe that will be taking place this year!)

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Modern Day WI Harmonies: Paint balling, Squad Biking...Jam and Knitting

This is a good news story for a change, tempered by a tinge of sadness.  This morning I was listening to the "Today" radio programme interview "live on air" a new group of female singers.  The singers are aptly called "The Harmonies" and they are all members of the Women's Institute (WI).  It is still the largest voluntary organisation for women in the UK with 205,000 members. 

As part of a process to update the image of the WI, the organisation had encouraged the formation of this group of their members who do not conform to the perceived stereotype of WI members.  In the interview "The Harmonies" obvious enthusiasm about the paint balling, squad biking, blogging and twittering which they get up to as WI members came over as clear as their appreciation of traditional WI Jam and knitting traditions.

I recognised one of the singers, Gemma Woznicki, (5th right) as the daughter of a Tower Hamlets comrade - a staunch UNISON steward, anti-fascist and Labour Party loyalist, George Woznicki, who very sadly is no longer with us.

You can listen to Gemma and her friends being interviewed on "Today" and hear them sing "It's a wonderful world" from their new album which you can pre-order here.  It was a joy to hear. Later they were interviewed on BBC breakfast TV - check this link.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Battle of Britain Day: Sept 15

Last Sunday I went for a lovely walk (no. 23) in Bromley and on the way there and back drove past Biggins Hill airport.

There are original Battle of Britain Hurricane and Spitfire fighterplanes on fixed display as you drive past.

Next time you pass park up and have a look around.

This picture left is of a Spitfire that was flown by pilot officer G.A Wellum who was based at Biggins Hill from 10 July to 31 October 1940.

The BBC website has some superb stories here on the Battle of Britain and this special day.

Interviewed by Central China TV about "the Cuts"

This lunch time I was interviewed by a reporter from Central China TV about the impact that the cuts have had and will have on public services in the UK.

Central China TV is the major state television broadcaster in mainland China.

What was interesting (to me at least) was that an international Chinese TV Broadcaster is investigating issues involving poverty and deprivation in the UK when traditionally in "the West" we would consider ourselves to be the ones who should be sending TV crews to China to report on such issues. 

The interview itself and the questions asked were entirely professional and appropriate.

Apparently most news coverage in China about the UK is very positive and usually covers things such as technological advances and does not look at the darker side of our society.

I tried to be careful  in my answers and avoid slang or make any stereotypical assumptions.  Afterwards I did ask the reporter if I may have offended Chinese viewers by mentioning that in the UK, we often find that there is a crisis of overcrowding caused by different generations of families having to live together.  This is because grown up sons and daughters have nowhere else to go.  I was very gently put in my place when she replied that many Chinese may well want their extended family to live together or nearby but not in overcrowded conditions.

If the interview is used I may be able to get a web site link.

(the picture is taken outside Broderick House off Roman Road, E3 which I use to manage as a Housing Estate officer several years ago - I also learnt that in China instead of saying "cheese" when you take a photograph you say the Chinese equivalent for "aubergines")

STAND UP: For Decent Work - TUC Thursday October 7

Thursday October 7 is the "World Day for Decent Jobs".  This day is supported by the TUC and trade unions in over 100 countries.

The 3 core messages for this year are:-

- Growth and decent jobs, not austerity, are essential to beating the crisis and ending poverty;
- Quality public services are essential for a decent life and must not be slashed in the name of fiscal consolidation; and,
- The financial sector must pay for the damage it has caused and be made to serve the real economy and real human needs.

This is not just about developing countries - my branch has employer's who allow contractors to force their staff to work 6 x 12 hour shifts (including nights) per week on minimum wage (inner London).  I think that many other UK union branches can tell similar stories (and worse).

Find out more about this Day for action here while bloggers can participate here.

The TUC will be holding a comedy Stand Up event that evening (see left) featuring the excellent Shappi Khorsandi.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

First day of London Blitz 70th anniversity: Abbey Road Depot

Last week I posted about the first day of the London Blitz in West Ham on 7 September 1940.  That day 5 civilians were killed in in their garden shelter's in Ranelagh Road, E15.

Yesterday I went on a ward "walkabout" with my fellow West Ham Councillors, Ron and Freda, together with senior Council officers. 

We passed this memorial to 13 "Air Raid Precaution and Fire Service" personal who were killed on the same day at the Abbey Road Depot by German bombing.

This depot was first opened by West Ham Counicl 1896 and is still used now as a depot by Newham Homes.

Nearby Turley Close, E15 is named after Wally Turley. Turley was a sub officer in the West Ham Fire Brigade who was killed that day.

"Don't delay - Vote Ed Miliband today"

I received this email yesterday from UNISON Labour Link. 

I am sure that many ballot papers will still be sitting unopened in the kitchen drawers of busy Party and trade union members. 

Check out "how to vote" and Ed's exclusive message to UNISON.

Monday, September 13, 2010

TIGMOO 2010: “This Great Movement Of Ours”

I’m trying to follow the TUC conference which is taking place this week in Manchester as best as you can from London. I thought the call beforehand by Sally Hunt, General Secretary of UCU for radical reform of the TUC and the wider movement was a breath of fresh air.

Yes, we should have only one union per sector. Easier said than done of course - what sector are private companies in that also run public services? But it is a complete nonsense to have two, three, four or even more recognised trade unions in the same organisation. Good employers are confused and frustrated about who to negotiate with and bad employers openly boast about being able to “divide and conquer”.

I’m not sure about having a directly "elected" TUC General Secretary by all members since essentially Congress is a coalition of independent trade unions who also hold all the TUC purse skins. Sally rather accurately compared the current process of electing a TUC leader with that of the “Pope”. If we did go down the road of direct elections I think you would find if it came to the push, that like the Pope, the TUC Secretary would not have any “divisions” or real power.

Yes, definitely to Sally’s ideas about setting targets and priorities over achieving the holy grail of increasing density and membership. Density and internal organisation (the number of trained local stewards/safety reps backed by effective national union resources) is absolutely the most important issue that should be debated at Congress. Everything else is actually secondly. Without density and organisation we can achieve nothing and resist nothing.

Personally (since I have it on unreliable evidence that I love the sound of my own voice) I wouldn’t get rid totally of the conference “motion based format” but I think we need to change the emphasis to building and organising.

This morning while listening to my Walkman while running (aka jogging very slowly) around my beloved Wanstead Flats I heard TUC Secretary, Brendan Barber, being interviewed on “Today” by a rather over dramatic, John Humphrys, who was on Daily Mail Lite mode trying to provoke Brendan to say something stupid. He didn’t fail into this trap and came over I think very well – as a modern, sensible, thoughtful and constructive trade union leader. He made it very, very clear that TIGMOO will not be bankrupting itself in a series of glorious defeats but can and will, mobilise effective and telling industrial action and political opposition to the cuts.

Some trade unionists (and the Daily Mail) will be disappointed that he did not bang the Radio 4 podium with his shoe and threaten to bury the Condems. But until we build our density and organisation we cannot threaten what we cannot deliver. What the wider Labour Movement and its allies can deliver is widespread, co-ordained and SMART opposition which will include targeted industrial action.

We are ironically facing an opportunity and not only a threat. UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, speaks about the Raison d'être of Unions and that they are there for the bad times not just the good. Surely, now we are all facing this massive threat of cuts that there cannot be anyone in work who cannot say, hand on heart, they do not need to join a trade union? We recruit and organise or die.

(picture is of the first General Secreatry of the TUC - Mr C W Bowerman in a rather modern pose!)

Stratford and West Ham Summer Festival - This Sunday 19 September

This will take place in West Ham ward on Sunday.  "Attractions include a stage of international music, lindy hop and zumba classes, fashion show, clothes stalls, free bike doctor and bike marking, Gladiators-style Swing ball, craft stalls, massages, food stalls, free fitness checks, free smoothies, 5 a-side football tournament and activities for children including face painting, athletics tournament, and bug hunts.

Also information on all the latest 2012 developments, jobs, training and volunteering opportunities at the Games". Check out TFL.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

"Labour Bloggers fight the Coalition"

 Labour blogger Mary Honeyball MEP has organised this fringe at Labour Party Conference. 

I am also taking part and am looking forward very much to it. 

Apart from me, of course, there is a really good panel!

Hope you can make it as well?

Can blogging make a difference?  I think so...but there again, I would say that....

Ed Miliband in Leadership Lead

 Check out this report that a YouGov poll gives Ed Miliband a small lead over his brother.

Luke's blog breaks the figures down.  The Preference votes are going to be absolutely key.

Ed has a clear lead (57%) over David in the trade union vote (43%).

This news should give Ed further momentum.

It is going to be very close....

I read my emails properly yesterday and found out that my application for tickets to the actual Leadership conference on the 25th September had been successful! :)

(Don't Mention the Housing Crisis)

I've just signed up to support this National Housing Federation (NHF) campaign.

They are right that during the general election the housing crisis was hardly mentioned.

Yet "over a million children live in overcrowded accommodation" may "take 30 years" for some people to save up to buy a home....we are "building fewer homes" now since the second world war yet we "have 4.5 million people in housing need".  The icing on the cake is they estimate that Treasury plans ‘will cut off 400,000 of society’s most vulnerable’.

Contact your MP to support the campaign via the website (it takes 2 minutes)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Fourth International: East London 2010

This music video so, so, so reminds of "Ed"...who use to try and sell a "newspaper" outside the Malmesbury Estate, Bow...early 1990's (and the rest). 

Who is probably now Head of HR in financial services somewhere in Canary Wharf.

Hat-tip thingy various FB comrades