Monday, February 28, 2011

Bill Wakefield

I've just heard the news that Bill Wakefield, a former Tower Hamlets NUPE branch secretary and  Councillor passed away last night after a long illness.

Bill (seen in picture standing with white shirt addressing a housing strike committee meeting in 1999) was  employed originally as a Gardener by the Council.  He was also a fiery resident rep, staunch Royalist and upon his retirement, a vocal pensioner activist.

His passion and commitment to the interests of ordinary working people in East London will be missed.
(double click picture to bring up detail) 

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Our pensions under attack: organise now!

The latest leaflets from UNISON on pensions.  Double click to bring up details.

West Ham MP Lyn Brown (with badly broken elbow)

Picture is of Lyn Brown our West Ham Labour MP  who suffered a very bad fall on the steps of the House of Commons early this month.  She has broken her elbow in several places and has been warned that she may never recover the full use of her left arm.

Check out Lyn's column in the Newham Recorder here.

As Lyn herself admits it could have been a lot worse.  I am sure that she enjoyed the supportive text I sent her as West Ham CLP agent saying she should take more care of herself in the future and not rush about.  As Agent I am far too busy at the moment for a by-election!


It was a shame that some local Newham Tories posted a typically sneering, misogynist and unpleasant post on their blog.  But there you go - same old Tories, same old Nasty Party.

(Hat tip Picture - Newham Recorder)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Greater London Labour Link Elections 2011

AGM's may be largely over for the year but Labour Movement Elections continue.  The evil one(s) didn't  put forward a slate for this year's London Labour Link elections which is quite interesting and I think another sign of their increasing marginalisation.  But there is some opposition so it is still important for the forces of light and reason to support this slate. 

Standing for: National Labour Link Forum (Male seats) - Blue Ballot paper

Standing for: National Labour Link Forum (Female seats) - Purple Ballot paper

We are all seeking election to represent the views of APF payers in the London Region at the National Labour Link Forum.

We support the link we have with the Labour Party, Labour in Government has delivered real improvements for our members, but, now we are in opposition we need to make sure that we influence the internal review and national rethink of policies that the Party is carrying out over the next 2 years.

To defeat this ConDem Tory Government in 2015 (or preferably long beforehand) we need to appeal to our core Labour vote.  We therefore need to champion trade union issues and move our members concerns up the Party political agenda, using our influence to promote a manifesto that includes;

  • Reinvestment in public services
  • Defending pay and public sector pensions
  • Access to housing for public sector employees
  • A fairer taxation system
  • Government policies that promote growth and jobs.
You want delegates who will be listened to and not be afraid to argue for change within the Labour Party but who also realise that the only alternative to making the Party electable is another dose of Clegg and Cameron.

It is vital that we ensure that Labour Link becomes more visible within the union.  We need to encourage APF members to join local Labour Constituency Parties and be elected to positions of responsibility in order to further the progressive agenda.

Next year in London the Labour Party candidate Ken Livingstone will be standing to be London Mayor.  We must unite around Ken and work to bring down this ConDem Tory Mayor.

ps Support Gloria Hanson as Delegate to 2011 Labour Party Conference as well!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Levellers Day: Saturday 14 May 20111

"La révolution dévore ses enfants".  History? Look today at Libya.  This whole subject is as topical now as 350 years ago.

"On 17 May 1649, three soldiers were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire. They belonged to a movement popularly known as the Levellers, with beliefs in civil rights and religious tolerance.

During the Civil War, they fought on Parliament’s side, had at first seen Cromwell as a liberator, but now saw him as a dictator. They were prepared to fight against him for their ideals and he was determined to crush them.

Over 300 of them were captured by Cromwell’s troops and locked up in Burford church. Three were led out into the churchyard to be shot as ringleaders, these three soldiers were executed on Oliver Cromwell’s orders in Burford churchyard, Oxfordshire.

In 1975, members of the WEA Oxford Industrial Branch went to Burford to reclaim a piece of history that seemed to be missing from the school books. They held a meeting in remembrance of the Leveller soldiers. The following year, Tony Benn came and read in the church and in each succeeding year, people have come to Burford on the Saturday nearest to 17 May, debated, held a procession, listened to music and remembered the Levellers and the importance of holding on to ideals of justice and democracy

Levellers Day is one of a family of events that celebrate and commemorate important dates in the history of the development of democracy in the United Kingdom. Together they create a focus for working people, socialists and the trade union and labour movement to come together and gain inspiration to carry forward their struggles into the future.

Durham Miners’ Gala 9 July, 20119 July, 2011

The Tolpuddle Martyrs’ Festival 15-17 July, 201115-17 July, 2011

Burston Strike School Rally 4 September, 20114 September, 2011

Women Chainmakers’ Festival –Black Country Living Museum 14-16 September, 201114-16 September, 2011"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

West Ham CLP AGM 2011

I am just back from this year's West Ham Constituency Labour Party AGM.  Via of course "The Goose" in Stratford (unbranded Pilsner lager still at £1.49 per pint!).

This was the sixth Labour Movement AGM I have attended so far this year.  Hopefully the last!  The meeting tonight was well  attended, well run and pretty good humoured.

In the CLP Officers elections the Chair Conor McAuley was re-elected; Alan Griffiths re-elected unopposed as Secretary; John Saunders elected as Treasurer; Winston Vaughan elected as Ethnic Minorities Officer and Yetunde Muda as Womens's officer.   Due to proportionality rules we were not able to elect some of the posts.  We need more women to be nominated.  This will be send back to wards and affiliates.

In the Functional Officer elections I was re-elected unopposed as Campaign Co-ordinator and Agent; John Whitworth as Political officer; David Christie as IT officer; Gerry Carlisle as Disabilities Officer and Kim Silver as Trade Union Liaison Officer (Kim who is on the UNISON NEC was elected 38:1!); Terry Paul as Assistant Secretary; Mas Patel as Assistant Agent; John Saunders as Premises manager and Fund Raiser (the 100 club - the ever so mysterious local Labour Party monthly tote) and Clive Furness as Social Secretary.

There was a contested election for auditors! We elected 2 delegates to Party Conference, Yetundee and James Beckles (and will hopefully also get a young member to attend). 

The trade union delegates "had a huddle" and we elected delegates to EC (including myself) and Local Government Committee (LGC).  West Ham nominations to LGC will be sorted out at the next GC. 

At the end of the meeting we had an extraordinary meeting about Greater London Assembly election candidates 2012.  Branches and affiliates had voted overwhelmingly to support the renomination of John Biggs, Nicky Gavron and Murad Qureshi as our candidates.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"Women and the Global Economic Crisis" International Women's Day

In association with SERTUC Speakers:

Frances O’Grady Deputy General
Secretary, TUC

Yvette Cooper MP Shadow Home
Secretary and Shadow Minister for
Women and Equalities

Fatima Del Rosario Herrera Olea SITAG
(Agricultural Workers Union, Peru)

Margaret Browne Secretary of Women’s
Committee, Irish Congress of Trade
Unions and President of the Irish Bank
Officials Association

Pemba Lama Deputy General Secretary
of the General Federation of Nepalese
Trade Unions

On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day the TUC will be highlighting the global fight back against the
disproportionate impact that the global economic crisis has had on women all over the world.

Women are more likely than men to be in vulnerable jobs, or to be unemployed, to lack social protection, and to have limited access to and control over financial resources. Women in both developed and developing countries are facing job cuts, loss of livelihoods, increased responsibilities in all areas of their life, and even an increased risk of violence.

As we in the UK fight savage, ideologically driven cuts that are hitting the women and the poorest hardest and hollowing out public services, we also stand in solidarity with our sisters around the world in their battles for equality and social justice.

Please RSVP to Tanya Warlock on t: 020 7467 1357

Photo: Dar Yasin/AP/Press Association Images

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'elf and Safety Poster - Soviet Style (1)

Well, I suppose it makes the point in a rather graphic Socialist realism kind of way.

Not the sort of stuff that we would expect to see on our dear old HSE web site but it does make the point.

Would such realistic posters make a difference to health and safety at the workplace? 

Would it change or influence behaviours?

Or do such images just "scapegoat" and lay the blame on individual workers for accidents rather than significant failings in the Company Safety Managment system in place at the time?


(you can guess my view)

Monday, February 21, 2011

"Unison publishes list of 62 councils ‘robbed’ by Housing Minister"


- Unison publishes list of 62 councils ‘robbed’ by Housing Minister
UNISON, the UK’s largest union, today challenged Housing and Local Government Minister Grant Shapps (pictured left), to honour his pledge made in the House of Commons, not to cut the Supporting People grant by more than 1%. The grant helps support more than 1 million people, funding women’s refuges that provide a haven for victims of domestic abuse, helping rough sleepers, and people with mental health problems. It also funds sheltered wardens and community alarms.

Last week in the House of Commons, Liverpool (Walton) MP Steve Rotheram, asked “If I can prove that it (the cut to the Liverpool Supporting People grant) is 30%, will the Minister give us back the other 29% so that we only suffer a 1% cut?” Grant Shapps replied “I take him up on his challenge.”

The union is today publishing evidence that Liverpool’s Supporting People grant has been cut by 30%, together with a list of more than 60 other councils also facing cuts of more than 1%. Camden council has lost more than 60%. The union is challenging Grant Shapps to give all these councils back the difference so they can keep these services to vulnerable people running.  

Dave Prentis, UNISON General Secretary, said:

“All over the country, Supporting People grants fund women’s refuges; providing a haven for victims of domestic abuse.  They help keep people who have fallen on hard times from sleeping rough, and give people with mental health problems a roof over their heads. More than 800,000 elderly people rely on services funded through Supporting People. Drastic cuts will mean shelters shut, and beds lost, pushing vulnerable people onto the streets or leaving them without the help they need.

“In the House of Commons, Grant Shapps said that this grant had been protected, so the average cut was just 1%. But our evidence taken from his own Department’s website, proves many councils have been hit much harder. Grant Shapps promised to give Liverpool back the difference if he saw evidence that it’s grant had been cut by more than 1%. Here is that proof in black and white.

“We challenge Grant Shapps to stand by his word, to give Liverpool back the money that has been taken from them, and to do the same for the 61 other councils hit hard. Either Grant Shapps didn’t know what was going on in his department, or he didn’t care about some of the most needy and vulnerable people in our society. This is his opportunity to put things right.”

UNISON evidence shows that:
One council (Camden) faces a cut of more than 60%
Seven councils (West Berkshire, York, Rochdale, Nottingham, Bournemouth, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire face cuts of between 40% and 50%,
Eight councils (Newcastle upon Tyne, St Helens, Isle of Wight, Bristol, Manchester, Halton, Leeds and Liverpool) face a cut of between 30% and 40%,
Seven councils face a cut of between 20% and 30%
Twenty Two councils face a cut of between 10% and 20%
10 councils face cuts of more than £5m (Camden £18.470m; Manchester £12.613m; Liverpool £11.167m; Leeds £10.614m; Nottingham £9.942m; Bristol £9.275m; Gloucestershire £8.601m; Oxfordshire £6.627m; Rochdale £6.587m; Newcastle upon Tyne £6.527m)

Check out Unison press release.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Death and Rebirth of Public Housing

This motion on Housing was passed at our recent Branch AGM(s) and will be submitted to this year's UNISON National Conference. 

"This Conference notes:-  
  1. That the ConDem government is proposing cuts to Housing Benefits that will result in financial hardship and even evictions for hundreds of thousands of private and public sector tenants.  This is not only the unemployed but families in work on low wages and pensioners.  
  1. Cheaper rental areas will face an influx of people and families from more expensive areas.  Local education, social and medical services will not be able to cope with such dramatic population changes.  
  1. This ConDem Government has stopped a hundred year old tradition by all previous political parties of subsidising the cost of building new homes for low income families.  It is also proposing to end security of tenure for new tenants and charging them “near market” rents.  This has been estimated as meaning that an average 3 bedroom home for rent will cost an extra £130 per week on top of the existing social rent.  The government has also slashed existing new build and refurbishment programmes.  
  1. This Government has removed the safety net of ensuring that vulnerable and homeless families have the Right to re-housed in secure public sector housing and instead are to be housed in unregulated private sector properties.   
  1. We believe that this is an ideological attack by the Condem government upon the low paid and those most at need.  There is a battle of ideas in housing that at this moment progressives are not winning. We need to oppose and campaign against all regressive housing policies. 
This Conference calls for:- 
  1. The only short term solution to Britain’s housing crisis is the reintroduction of rent controls which will bring down private and public rents to affordable levels.  For this to work all tenants must be offered security of tenure.  We should allow a reasonable return by private landlords but not at the current levels.  
  1. That the only long term solution to adequately house the 4.5 million on Council waiting lists is to build more homes.  This could be paid for by savings from Housing benefit and the replacement of Council tax with a continental style Land Tax as well as direct public and private investment.  These homes must have secure tenancies and affordable rents. The ConDem government’s expectation for new homes to be funded through higher rents at 80% of market rents will mean fewer truly affordable new homes.  The ConDem government blames housing applicants for the length of waiting lists, rather than government’s woefully inadequate funding and Right to Buy policies.  In 2008, Shelter calculated that 1.76 million homes had been lost through Right to Buy.  
  1. We request that National Labour Link considers affiliating to the Labour Housing Group in order to help win the battle of ideas in housing during the next General Election campaign.    
  1. It must be an overriding priority of the next Government that there must be a renaissance and rebirth of good quality, affordable, accountable and secure public housing.
5.  The NEC to coordinate a campaign against government housing reforms.   This to include : production of information for shops and members ; encouraging shops to    distribute information and hold meetings to discuss their response to the reforms ; encouraging shops to lobby Councils and Housing Association Boards to join us in opposing government reforms.
      6. The NEC to seek further joint working with other trade unions in the housing association & voluntary sector, tenants groups, councillors and MPs".
Picture Eric Tamm

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Dilip Sardar: The first Bengali Tower Hamlets Council employee?

 On Friday evening I went to a UNISON reunion with former colleagues who use to work in the Malmesbury Housing office in Bow, East London. We were all pleased to see Dilip (left) who retired from the Council 7 years ago.

Dilip joined the then Bethnal Green Council on 16 January 1962.  He started work in the Stores department of the depot in Digby Street, E2.  His manager at that time was not known by his job title but by his former military rank as "Major".   In 1965 Bethnal Green, Stepney and Poplar councils were merged to form "Tower Hamlets".

Dilip thinks in 1962 he may have been the first Tower Hamlets Council employee of Bengali origin.  Even though bearing in mind the strong trading links between Bengal and the Docks there was probably others who worked for the predecessor councils.  Dilip is a Hindu Bengali from outside Calcutta while most Bengali's in Tower Hamlets are Muslims who have roots in Bangladesh.

I first worked with Dilip as an Estate Officer in Malmesbury in the early 1990's together with our former manager, the shy and retiring, Derek Barclay (top right) and the hero of the hour Caretaking team leader, Montrose Matty (bottom right).  We reminisced about the good old days when there use to regular weekly team and community building meetings every Friday afternoon in various local public bars. 

Malmesbury was the last big estate (800 units) to be built by Tower Hamlets Council in the early 1980's.  We were based in a former fish and chip shop in Heylyn Square, E3.

The estate office also managed George Lansbury House (which was built near his former home) and the Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock on Electric House.  The famous Match Womens strike of 1888 also took place within the Estate boundaries.

A good night was had by all.

"After the Big March we're having a Party"

Add caption
Flyer from Philosophy Football "Saturday 26 March is the day of the enormous TUC March for an Alternative. At the end of a day's marching Philosophy Football is organising,  in association with the TUC, a big night out. Headlined by the superb electro hip-hop beats of Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip, with the brilliant comedy of Josie Long, the show is opened by the surreal juggling of Rod Laver. And after the acts have finished the Melstars: Music soundsystem provide an upbeat set to fill the dancefloor. 

Its a fantastic bill. The night starts with a specially commissioned film of the day's march introduced by TUC Deputy-General Secretary Frances O'Grady. And reviewing the politics of protest a panel of speakers featuring Guardian columnist Zoe Williams, London Citizens organiser and academic Maurice Glasman, student activist Jessica Riches and Unison National Secretary for Local Government Heather Wakefield.

The show starts at 7pm , its the perfect way to complete the day. At the excellent theatre-pub The New Red Lion 271 City Road, London EC1, nearest tube The Angel handy to get to from the end of the demo.

STOP PRESS! Only standing room tickets now remaining.  Available from >

Or you can phone to book on 020 8802 3499. Do book early, we don;t expect to have any tickets on the night".

Friday, February 18, 2011

St Georges Hospital, London - £55 Million Cuts - 500 Jobs going

Despite the great news today about the Tory climbdown over the privatisation of our Forests and the apparent retreat over reducing Housing benefit for the unemployed.  This Government still shows its nasty, vindictive side by the announcement that "Leading Hospital" St Georges in Tooting London will suffer £55 million in cuts and 500 hospital jobs (10%) cut.  Three wards are due to close. 

UNISON PRESS RELEASE "Staff at St Georges Hospital, South London have acted with growing shock and anger at the announcement that 500 posts ( almost 10% of the workforce)at the hospital are to be axed as part of the Governments 20 billion NHS cuts programme.

St George's will now be forced to cut £50m from its annual budget, cut 500 medical nursing and health care posts close wards, cut approximately 100 beds, and cap the number of births in its Midwifery unit to 5,000 a year Posts affected include frontline doctors, nurses and professional staff.

Michael Walker, UNISON Regional Officer, states "In a week when the bankers are set to receive huge pay rises and multi million pound bonuses, we are going to witness the spectre at St George's of dedicated nurses, doctors and health staff losing their jobs. How can that be fair or right?"

Nurse Jane Pilgrim, UNISON Nursing Convenor at St Georges Hospital states:
"We were told by the Government that there would be no cuts in frontline posts but in reality the NHS is witnessing swingeing cuts to frontline services every day".

Geoff Thorne, UNISON St George's Branch Secretary stated: "Before the General Election Andrew Lansley visited St Georges Hospital and gave a personal guarantee to staff that there would be no frontline cuts in the NHS"

Nora Pearce UNISON Midwifery Convenor states: "Capping the number of births at St George's to just 3,000 a year will mean thousands of local women will no-longer be able to have their babies at St George's, denying them the back up and confidence they know comes from having a baby at an internationally renowned teaching hospital.

Michael Walker, UNISON Regional Officer stated: "UNISON will be working with St George's Hospital management to mitigate the impact of these cuts on patients and staff. Mr Lansley needs to urgently recognise the damage he is causing to the NHS with these unprecedented levels of cuts".

"We fear these cuts are just the prelude to even greater cuts in our NHS when the Government unleash GP Commissioning and GP's are forced to ration care.  "We urge all local Member's of Parliament, of all political persuasion’s to intercede and urge Andrew Lansley the Conservative Secretary of State for Health to halt these disastrous cuts at St George's before patient care suffers.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Tories Attempt To Privatise Blood

UNISON press release: Karen Jennings, UNISON Head of Health:

“What is this Government thinking of, is nothing safe? The blood service is world class and doesn’t need interfering with.

It epitomises how successfully volunteers and the public sector can work together, free from contamination by the profit motive. It is a service people are proud to work in and you cannot put a price on giving blood to save lives.

“We know from all the evidence that fragmenting services, outsourcing and the contracting out damages that ethos and more importantly damages the smooth running of the service.

“How can Cameron and Lansley claim that the NHS is safe in their hands, when they are planning to literally drain its lifeblood.”

Michael Walker UNISON Regional Officer states

"Blood Service Collection teams are fully committed to an NHS run blood service, so are the donor's who donate their blood, any attempt to privatise the service will be meet with a tidal wave of opposition from staff and donors. The Government should be under no illusion that we will fight any attempt to introduce profit making into the blood service, We have fought similar proposals from previous Conservative Governments, including the use of direct action and the staff will not hesitate to do so again"

"DH looks to private sector to save money on blood service
16 February, 2011 | By Sarah Calkin
The Department of Health is considering outsourcing key elements of the NHS blood service to the private sector. HSJ has learned the DH’s commercial directorate has held talks with private providers about running parts of the NHS Blood and Transplant service. It is not known which companies the department has already spoken to, but HSJ understands NHS Supply Chain, which is operated by logistics firm DHL has been invited in for discussions, as has Capita.

A senior source told HSJ the commercial directorate were “market testing the blood transfusion service” and “bringing people in to see how they would do it better”.  NHS Blood and Transplant survived the cull of arms length bodies in July but a second review was announced to look at how the service could become more “commercially effective” and identify functions which could be contracted out.

HSJ has been told the DH is considering outsourcing blood distribution and storage but keeping its collection in the NHS.  A DH spokeswoman confirmed the department was reviewing the future of the service.  She said: “It is important to recognise that NHSBT already outsources some of its support functions. The current review is at the early stages.

“During the review, we will be considering the experience and skills that exist in the private sector to identify opportunities for making NHSBT more commercially effective.  “We are not considering any functions that could risk destabilising the current national donor system, particularly the interface with donors. Where functions are being reviewed, ministers will be fully consulted before making any recommendations.”

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Cameron breaks promises to Armed Forces"

Hat tip recently retired Soldier and current Labour Councillor, Alasdair Ross. "The Conservatives have rightly come under some fierce criticism for their failure to deliver the promises they made to the Armed Forces before the election. Both Channel 4 News and the local Ipswich Evening Star asked me for my views on the Tories failure to stick to pre election promises on what they would do to make the Military Covenant law.

Here is my piece that I wrote for the Channel 4 News website:

I am sure today many soldiers will be sitting in their Units feeling they have been used by this Government - not used as in the way they would expect to be used- serving their country in Afghanistan, the Gulf, the Balkans but used by Cameron - as a publicity stunt.

The Tories claimed that Labour had broken the Military Covenant and that they would make sure it became law - yesterday they broke that promise - all we will get now is a report every year about the covenant.

Cameron also probably gained many votes off servicemen and veterans when he increased the operational allowance (an allowance introduced by labour) but what he forgot to say, whilst making his speech in June on HMS Ark Royal (scrapped) is that pay would be frozen and other allowances cut and scrapped. All with far more speed than it has taken to cut the allowances to MP's and the Lords

When I served in the Army, I had a decision to make when my daughter reached 11, would I put her in boarding school or move back to my home town. I chose my home town and I was able to do with help from the army through the 'Over 37' package, this gave me assistance in getting home once a month to see my family, and for them to settle down before I had to leave the forces at 40. that package is to be scrapped and also the boarding school allowance is to be cut.

So the only choice would be to leave your child in a Forces school, and that mean every two years they would change school- so much for looking after Forces families. There was talk from the Tories of paying for soldiers children to go to university, well if a child has to move schools every two years there would be little possibility if any child gained the academic qualifications to get into university.

Today many of my ex comrades feel used- used by Cameron in a cheap election gimmick.

On the Channel 4 News blog here, you can read by piece".

Monday, February 14, 2011

Holocaust Memorial Day - Suitcase Kindertransport

This photograph is from the statue commentating the Suitcase Kindertransport in the aptly named Hope Square outside Liverpool Station in East London. 

Before the Second World War nearly 10,000 children (mostly Jewish but also many children of left wing opponents) were sent to the UK from Germany and saved from being murdered by the Nazi.  Many of them arrived in the UK via Liverpool Street Station.

On the 27th January it was Holocaust Memorial Day.  In many Newham schools they held workshops and ceremonial remembrance events.  In Essex Primary School in Manor Park, Ruth Barnet, who was actually one of these Suitcase Kindertransport children who fled to safety and who then went to this school, gave a speech to the school together with our Mayor, Sir Robin Wales. Check out also The Newham Mag (page 14)

The original tale of the Suitcase Kindertransport has been one of the top ten posts of the week on my blog for quite a while.

Update: Check out more photos of statue on Facebook here

Sunday, February 13, 2011

London Labour Housing Group

I was reminded today that I haven't posted fully on the successful launch last month of the London branch of the Labour Housing Group (LHG). 

Steve at the LHG "Red Brick" blog has of course posted an excellent report.  Check out the comments at this post which gives an accurate flavour of this event.

It was (IMO of course) a pretty damn good Labour Movement Family event that drew together the best elements of our movement. Labour Party elected representatives, trade unions and grass roots Party campaigners and members working together and sharing ideas.

It was held at the Grand Committee Room in Westminster Hall and was packed to overflowing.  Standing room only. It was more like a rally than a meeting. 

It was Chaired by Nicky Gavron AM, guest speakers were Ken Livingstone, Karen Buck MP and London UNISON Regional Secretary, Linda Perks.   Labour Shadow Housing Minister, Alison Seabeck MP came in and opened the meeting.

I think that many people present were fairly shocked at how mean, destructive and sheer bloody minded nasty the Condems polices are on Housing. 

Afterward there was a reception sponsored by UNISON London Labour Link in St. Stephen's Tavern which also went down well.  You can see in the collage above Party members of UNISON Housing Association branch with London Assemby member, Murad Qureshi (who use to be a member of our branch). Double click collage to bring up detail.

I think we will all be looking forward to a future LLHG Policy and Campaigning day soon. 

Check out more photos of the event at Facebook here.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

UNISON Housing Association Annual Report: Labour Link Officer

"Even though the Conservatives were deprived of an overall majority and we did very well in the London Council elections the General Election result was a crushing defeat for Labour Party and its affiliated supporters. Many thanks to all those Housing Association branch UNISON activists who worked so hard for Labour. The Party is now undergoing a necessary 2 year review of policies to make it electable again which UNISON Labour Link will play a full part. Housing must become a key policy issue.

We have got to win the “battle of ideas” in housing policy.

UNISON Labour link is sponsoring the launch of a London Branch of the Labour Housing Group which will contribute towards campaigning and developing policy particularly for London. In March there was a well attended meeting of our branch Labour Link members at the House of Commons. The keynote Speaker was the then Housing minister John Healey MP (see main photo). Clive Efford MP, National Officer Mike Short and our own regional officer Colin Inniss also spoke. Striking members from Notting Hill Housing Association also met and lobbied John. During the industrial action Labour Link was able to arrange access for striking members to lobby local Labour MPs Karen Buck, Glenda Jackson and Sadiq Khan.

Last year all UNISON Labour link member’s received a ballot paper to vote for the New leader of the Labour Party and in London who should be the Labour candidate for Mayor. UNISON nationally and regionally voted overwhelmingly to nominate Ed Miliband MP to be the Party leader. During the election itself UNISON members’ votes helped make the vital difference to ensure that he was selected. In London we nominated Ken Livingstone to be the candidate and he also won the candidacy. The next elections in London will be the GLA elections in 2012.

I am planning another Branch Labour Link meeting later this year and I will invite members of the Labour Party shadow Housing team as speakers. In the meanwhile if any branch members are individual members of the Labour Party, local Councillors, resident reps or sit in whatever capacity on Housing Association Boards then please let me know.

If anyone is interesting in finding out more about joining the fight back against the Coalition and Boris and how to join the Labour Party, the LHG or becoming a UNISON delegate to your local Party then also please contact me".

(above is my contribution as UNISON HAB Labour Link officer to our branch annual report -  see my Secretary report here)

Friday, February 11, 2011

This Land is Your Land: Hands off our Forests

Hat tip Mary, Country Standard and of course many thanks to Billy Bragg.

Update: Sign the 38 Degrees petition "Save Our Forests" here which has already broken its 500,000 target.

UPDATE:  Hooray for the forests! it appear we have won!

March for the Alternative Widget

Hat-tip to self confessed "Labor-geek" johninnit for the TUC "March for the Alternative" neat-o widget above which I hope other bloggers will also post and place on their sites. Just click on the "get widget" button and copy & paste.

Also post your message on why you will be marching on Saturday March 26th!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Clean Sweep: Centre Left Victory in London UNISON elections

This is a picture of myself, Monica, Gloria and Conroy after the London Regional Council AGM.

Emma and Lynn had to leave straight after the meeting.

Our Sensible Left slate won all the Regional Council Officer posts (Executive) for the 6th year running.  I don't know yet what the margin was this year but I suspect it is as good or even better than in the past.  Local government branches are coming on side as they realise that sloganeering and grandstanding is not going to achieve anything. 

The AGM went off very smoothly and guest speakers UNISON President Angela Lynes and Deputy GS of the PSC Hugh Lanning were well received. 

I had to answer a few questions during my presentation on the financial report.  The debates over number of regional council meetings and quorum were actually pretty good and people listened to the arguments.  There was little hostile heckling and no attempts to shout down speakers that the Ultra left (some of them not all) didn't happen to agree with.  Which I think is very positive.  It was agreed to cut the number of meetings to 3 per year (at last) and keep the quorum at 1/3rd (thankfully).  It was a pity that there wasn't time to debate my branch Housing motion and the others since we ran out of time. 

I hope (and expect) now that the Region will unite around Gloria and Conroy as we oppose the cuts while defending our members.

There was tremendous support shown for the TUC March 26th and I am sure that UNISON London region will play a major part in mobilising for it and making it a great success.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

UNISON London Regional Council AGM 2011

This morning is my third Labour Movement AGM in less than a week.  I have at least 4 more before the end of the Month.  At the London Regional Council AGM, the forces of light and reason will be battling with those of the destructive left who wish to destroy any chance of building real unity in the movement against the cuts - for example they want to hand all powers over Council finances to highly paid Chief officers to do as they see fit. 

I think we need now more than ever a Sensible Left lay leadership in the region who can unite the union across all our Service Groups and face the coming challenges of cuts, privatisation, reorganisations and direct attacks on our union.  We need an experienced, successful and proven leadership who will put the union first.  

So support Gloria and her team.

Gloria Hanson - Regional Convenor
Conroy Lawrence - Deputy Regional Convenor
John Gray - Regional Finance Convenor
Monica Hirst - Regional Equalities Convenor
Lynn Bentley - Regional Publicity Officer
Emma Rolland - Regional Young Members Convenor

UPDATE: Victory for Sensible Left slate. Full sweep. Report to follow.

Monday, February 07, 2011

UNISON Housing Association Annual Report 2010: Branch Secretary

(From Annual Report) "I unexpectedly became Branch Secretary in May following the resignation of Mary Powell. I think everyone would want to thank Mary for her many years of service to the Branch, both as secretary and as an executive committee member beforehand.

I have worn a number of different union hats over the years but
this is my first time as a Branch Secretary. It has been a bit of
a rollercoaster experience, especially since a few weeks earlier, I was also elected for the first time as a London Borough Councillor as well.

Two key events during the year were the Notting Hill Strike (see Chair’s report) - the first strike in our sector in decades and our first National UNISON Conference for the Community and Voluntary sector. Meanwhile our branch is one of the biggest in London and the Southeast and still growing. Our finances are in better shape than they have been in a long time. We are thinking about moving the branch office to somewhere central and accessible. While most of us will be bitterly disappointed at the election of this new government at least locally in London the BNP scourge were wiped out.

However, let us be in no doubt that all of us are facing a horrible year ahead. Most of you already have experienced zero or below inflation pay awards which has meant a cut in real terms. Some employers have even increased hours and cut basic pay. In parts of the housing and social care sector, we are facing a race to the bottom for staff terms and conditions. Of course we understand that decent employers are facing huge problems by being undercut by “minimum wage” cowboys. However, some employers appear to be using this as an excuse to do whatever they want.  Amazingly some employers are even trying to de-recognise
unions. Collective bargaining is a fundamental human right. Full stop. Any employer that tries to de-recognise is not only anti-union but will also be condemned for attacking human rights and basic freedoms of association.

Our residents are also about to feel the full force of the Coalition cuts. We will be expected to be evicting not only the long term unemployed when their housing benefit is cut but also lone parents whose children have left home and are now deemed to be “over occupying”. New development is shot to pieces due to the Cuts while the proposed 80% market rates for new homes will mean in the future that there will be no such thing as affordable housing for low income families.

Meanwhile there are 5 million on the housing waiting list. Many living in appalling conditions.  There is an alternative to all this. We must constantly remind ourselves that this recession was not caused by over paid public sector lollypop ladies but by entirely avoidable failures in the Banking system. Instead of massive cuts the deficit should be tackled by a fairer taxation system and government policies that promote growth. We also need to turn ourselves into a campaigning and organising union at all levels. The TUC have organised a national protest in Central London on Saturday 26th March. Please try and make sure that every union member possible (and their families) turns up to support this protest. We shall be there with the branch banner.

We desperately need to increase the number of union members in each employer to at least 50% of total and increase the number of trained stewards and safety reps.  Our target is at least one rep in every workplace or area. We need to hold regular workplace meetings of members and reps. Reps from across the employer need to meet together and plan. There should be timetabled Joint consultative committees and joint health & safety committees with management. We need to communicate better with members and utilise both old and new media. Produce regular local newsletters as well as blogs. We want to research and develop practical, convincing arguments not dogma. We need to form alliances with other unions, with resident and community groups. We need to use our political funds to lobby Ministers, MP’s, Boris, London Assembly members, Regulators, Councillors and Boards.

Our UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis told Conference last year that “our time has unions were not created for the good times... but for the hard times”. We now live in hard times and the simple choice is that if we do nothing these hard times will just get much, much worse. We won’t win all our battles but by organising, by campaigning - we can help protect members jobs, we can successfully fight
to preserve our terms and conditions, we can build a momentum that will delivery on pay.

Please recruit a work colleague to the union, volunteer to become steward, write an article for a newsletter, help organise a local meeting – then with your family join UNISON on the TUC March in March.

John Gray (Photo on cover of Annual Report is of Branch Labour Link Members at our House of Commons event last year supporting the UNISON Million Voices Campaign)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

West Ham WSPU banner

Hat tip to Col Roi for this picture of the banner of West Ham "Women's Social and Political Union" WSPU.

Does anyone have any further information about this branch?

I have found this link to a West Ham Branch of the East London Federation of the Suffragettes (ELFS).  Which split from the WSPU in 1914.

I found this fascinating quote here about East London in the First World War. "The worst outbursts of anti German feeling came after the sinking of the Lusitania in 1915. West Ham alone suffered £100,000 of damage after rioting. Suspected Germans were beaten up and their premises looted. The ELFS centres were used as refuges by those caught in the violence". 

Update July 2013: I found this in the Museum of London website about banner "Suffrage banner of the WSPU, West Ham. Trumpeting angel design in central medallion adapted from Sylvia Pankhurst by Misses MA & E. Brice. The letters made by Miss Friedlaender and her brother, members of West Ham WSPU. Rectangular banner in grey green glazed cotton ground, purple and dark green velvet, pale green silk and wool and cream silk. Circular design of trumpeting angel in white silk with banner inscribed 'Freedom'. WSPU in cream silk against the bars of a prison cell window in purple on green velvet. 'West Ham; on either side at the top and 'Courage Constancy Success' along the bottom, in letters of white silk stretched over a cardboard core.
Artist/Photographer/Maker Women's Social and Political Union Date 1911 AD - 1913 AD
Image Number 003571" 
Also see this post 

"The People of the Woods ARISE!"

Great post in Country Standard about the first (probable) major U-Turn by the ConDems.  We can defeat them.  

"A growing revolt is in full swing in the English Countryside. Rural Communities are banding to get her to take direct action to prevent the Tory/Lib Dem privatisation of England's great forests.

On Friday, Tory Minister Mark Harper, MP for Forest of Dean was heckled and pelted with eggs by a huge crowd, including Country Standard supporters in the small town of Coleford.

The meeting in the local Library was full to bursting with further 500 outside in the street. The protesters chanted of 'Hands off our Forest' and 'Get Harper out' could be heard throughout the meeting and long into the night.

The huge crowd spilled over into the main street, with local residents and passerby signalling their overwhelming support.

It did not go unnoticed by those fighting the privatisation of the Forest of Dean that the building the meeting was held in Coleford Library, is also threatened with closure by the Tories.

Next Stop the New Forest ! Lets turn the anger on millionaire Caroline Spelman, Tory Environment Secretary architect of Forest Privatisation. The Right Wing Press running scared............

Sunday Telegraph 6 February 2011 - "Mark Harper, the Conservative MP for The Forest of Dean, was attacked by protesters as he exited a public meeting where he had been defending the Government's plans for a forestry sell-off. He was pelted with eggs by protesters who also attacked the police van to try to prevent him leaving.  Mr Harper accused a number of objectors of being "bent on violence" and likened them to a "baying mob". The public meeting, which took place in Coleford in Gloucestershire on Friday night, will have given the Coalition a worrying insight into the growing anger its forest consultation has provoked.

One Tory MP has already warned the sell-off could be the Government's 'poll tax moment'.

Martin Ives Sunday Times 6 February 2011 - "What do we want? The Forestry Commission. When do we want it? Now. In the past 10 days the coalition has performed the seemingly impossible feat of turning a dreary nationalised industry into the last redoubt of Merrie England. Watch out, its ancient greenwood is to be sold off or leased to axe-wielding spivs. So farewell, the woods that once sheltered Robin Hood; adieu the hearts of oak that kept the Royal Navy afloat.

Anyone who remembers how the view on a country walk has been spoilt by an ugly, dark wall of Christmas trees will be sceptical of the Forestry Commission’s stewardship of our green and pleasant land. Charles Clover, our environment columnist, sees merit in the government’s proposals.

However, there is no disputing how unpopular the policy is — opinion polls reveal more than 70% reject it. Damian Green, the luckless Tory minister who had to defend the measure on BBC’s Question Time on Thursday, was howled down. Conservative HQ had supplied him with an incomprehensible debating point about the Forestry Commission’s conflict of interest as regulator and timber merchant. He was chopped up for firewood."

Aneurin Bevan on the Tories: History repeating itself

Two quotations: "That is why no amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin.

Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through.

But I warn you men and women do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions...He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were" Aneurin Bevan - Bellevue Hotel - 3rd July 1948.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." George Santayana

That's what happened on May 6th 2010.

Painting by Andrew Vicari here and hat tip new FB friend Sue Marsh. 

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Stop the Millionaire Gangsters Massacring our Services


"It would be great if you could make a brief outdoor contribution at the ‘Stop the Valentine’s Day Massacre of Our Services’ Rally, opposite Downing Street 5 – 8 pm on Monday 14 February (along the lines of the budget day 20 October event).  This event is supported by SERTUC, UNITE (London & Eastern Region").

Hat tip Unite

Friday, February 04, 2011

Forest Gate North Labour Party Ward AGM

Last night was my local Labour Party ward AGM in Durning Hall, E7.  It was the best attended ward meeting I have been to and a sign that the Party is growing and that members feel the need to become more active.  The outgoing secretary Cllr Ellie Robinson reported that we now had 85 members.  23 joined in 2010 and we have 16 young members (this figure thanks in part to the excellent work done by Ellie and the rest of Newham Young Labour). 

During Councillor reports we discussed the massive and "savage" cuts being forced upon Newham by this Tory led government.  There was a mature and measured discussion about the harm being done and how to protect Newham residents and staff as best we can against the coming onslaught.

I spoke about how we must unite to oppose this government and support our local campaign "Newham Together" and the TUC March in March against the Cuts, which will take place in London on Saturday 26th March.  We must make sure this will be a well attended and supported event.  But also follow up with helping Party colleagues outside London in the local elections in May.  This year there are no elections in London so we can go out and help Labour Candidates elsewhere.  If we inflict "savage" defeats on local Tories and Lib Dem Councils this will make their local MPs take stock and think about changing their national policies.  We have been given a Tory council to target and have set provisional campaigning dates. 

I doubt that the ConDems will call an election before 2015 since turkeys would not vote for Christmas but I do believe if we campaign properly we can inflict defeats on the government and we may even help bring about a general election early.

Reacting to the Cuts will be really difficult but the Labour Movement family cannot afford to argue and bicker amongst ourselves since this will only benefit the real enemy.

New blood put themselves forward for a number of ward and Party positions.  I was very pleased that Tahmina is now our new secretary. 

Cllr Paul Brickell spoke and led a Q&A about the Olympics development and legacy plans which was well received.  In comparison to the sometimes ill-informed and blatantly untruthful, malicious twaddle we have come across lately.  

Future ward events planned include a tour of the Olympic Park and a Joint Forest Gate Labour Supporters meeting in March with Sir Robin Wales.  Our local MP Lyn Brown and London Assembly member John Biggs have also been invited to attend and speak.

Onwards and forwards.

(this picture from 1905 will be familiar to anyone who has lived in Forest Gate - hat tip Newham Stories)