Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tower Hamlets School Strike

Picture is from the Strike yesterday against the Tory-led government cuts by NUT and UNISON members in Tower Hamlets schools. 

I went to the picket line at Albert Jacob House in Bethnal Green and met up with these strikers on route to their rally in Whitechapel.

I understand that UNISON deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnat spoke at the rally (I had a clash so couldn't make) which was well attended.

Push for More Midwives!

UNISON midwives and nurses at Kingston Hospital, Surrey held a candlelight vigil tonight (30th March 2011) to protest at the shortage of midwives at the hospital and to oppose the loss of 500 nursing and medical posts at the hospital.

Nora Pearce UNISON Midwifery Convenor stated

" UNISON is campaigning against the national shortage of midwives. We will be campaigning with local mothers to ensure Kingston hospital gets the resources it needs to continue a high quality service to mothers"

Michael Walker UNISON London Nursing Officer states

"The national shortage of Nurses and Midwives is being exacerbated by increased attendance at A&E and higher birth rates than projected, The Government needs to act urgently to avoid a crisis" (press release)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Newham Labour Movement Family meet up for TUC March

This is a picture of local trade union and Labour Party members meeting up outside Stratford Station on Saturday morning to go on the TUC March.

East Ham MP Stephen Timms, Newham Mayor Sir Robin Wales and about 50 Councillors, trade union activists and local residents marched together against these Tory led government cuts and for an alternative economic policy.

Many more from Newham of course marched with their trade unions and affiliates or with friends and families.   I was by then already with my UNISON branch and London region at Embankment. 
The joint leafleting beforehand across Newham by Party members and union activists helped contribute in a small but symbolic way to the success of the March.  It encouraged many ordinary Newham residents to attend who would not have gone otherwise and showed that the Labour movement family when working together can deliver.

Picture Ali G.

Monday, March 28, 2011

UNISON NEC Elections 2011: Community Service Group General

This morning I received a letter from UNISON headquarters telling me that I had been elected unopposed as a National Executive Council (NEC) member for UNISON Community Service Group - General seat. 

I must admit to being just a little disappointed that there will not be a full contest but this will free up my time to support other sensible left comrades who will be fighting contested seats.  Many thanks to all the branches with Community members who nominated me.  I am really proud to be one of the first two Community NEC members of UNISON. Congratulations to Isobel McVicar from Manchester City Branch who was also automatically elected.

I will take up this seat for two years after the UNISON National Delegate Conference in June. 

In the meanwhile my many good comrades in UNISON United left have sent me this YouTube video above to celebrate the occasion.  


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Newham London Run 2011

Yesterday I was marching in central London, today I was running (very slowly) around the Olympic Park in Stratford, Newham.  So another day, another photo collage. This 10k run started outside the Railway Tavern Hotel (one of the best pubs in Newham by far) and was set off by Cllr Paul Brickell, the Newham Council Executive Member for Olympics and Public Affairs.

We ran through Westfield Stratford City and the 2012 Olympic site.  Then along the Greenway and finished in Stratford Park (which is in my ward, West Ham).  Nearly 4000 runners took part.

The run really brings to home the huge size of the Olympic park and the massive regeneration that is going on.  This is great news for Newham and East London.

Cllr Forhad Hussain was I think the only other Newham Councillor taking part (UNISON member of course) he was also on the March yesterday.  He ran with his twin brother Fokrul and was supported by his "Team Hussain" nephew supporters. 

It took me 1 hour 11 minutes which is pretty slow but 7 minutes better I think than last year.  Next year I will try and break the 1 hour (and maybe even run the marathon that I was supposed to have done this year).

All in all a great event and I would encourage everyone to take part next year.  I'll post all the pictures on Facebook when I get a chance.

(double click to bring up picture detail.)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The TUC March for an Alternative: The Condem Emperors have no clothes

  This photo college is from today's TUC march in central London. Some 250,000 protesters are estimated to have turned up. I marched alongside UNISON Housing Association branch and UNISON London region.

I felt the day was a great Labour movement family success. The trade unions had members there from all over the UK. Including many who have never marched before. 

The March was cheerful, colourful, noisy but determined.  In Newham local trade unions, Labour Party members, Councillors and the Mayor met up and marched together against this Tory led Government savage cuts to our public services.

It was a great day affected only a little by the antics of a tiny number of spoilt brat parasites who were up to their usual nonsense. I simply cannot repeat the language I heard by genuine working class trade union marchers about these Tory 5th columnists.

At the Rally in Hyde Park Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband and UNISON General secretary Dave Prentis spoke to a great reception.

At the rally I was interviewed by a Spanish radio journalist. She asked me why was it so important to be on this March? Luckily for me we had a discussion on this while marching and I was able to pinch someone else's big idea.  I explained to the journalist that the main reason for marching today is that many people in this country had believed (wrongly) that the cuts are all necessary.  But by getting hundreds of thousands of people to come together and say "No they are not" will help change minds. People will realise that Emperor Cameron and Clegg - have no clothes.

(Click on picture to bring up detail and I will post more pictures from the march on FaceBook).

Update: UNISON TV Youtube on March - some members of my branch are in the background at around 1 min 24
Update: Photos from March here on Facebook.

Friday, March 25, 2011

It's tomorrow! Stand up for your Public Services and an Alternative Economic Policy

Get out and march tomorrow.  Newham Trade Unions and the local Labour Party are meeting up outside Stratford Station ticket barrier at 10.30am. But you can turn up as late as 2pm to Embankment to take part in the March. Check TUC latest tips here

Thursday, March 24, 2011

UNISON health and safety seminar 2011: Judith Hackett on the cuts and charging for enforcement?

Today the national UNISON Health & Safety Seminar took place at the ICC in Birmingham. There were around 250 delegates from all over the UK and all parts of UNISON. Assistant General Secretary (and member of HSE Board) Liz Snape chaired the seminar. She told us that UNISON has 12,000 safety reps protecting members and although our work is often invisible and behind the scenes are role is absolutely vital. Our keynote speaker was Judith Hackett (left) who is the Chair of the Health & Safety Executive who was described as someone “who says it as it is”. This reminded me of the last time I had heard Judith speak.

Judith also thanked safety reps for the important work that they do. The core mission of the HSE is still to prevent death, serious injuries and work related ill-health. She believes that despite the cuts and recent Coalition reports and pronouncements they still fall with the broad HSE strategy that was started in 2008. Safety reps and managers need to lead in safety matters. Need Joint working such as the “Safe and Sound at work - do your bit” course. In which there is joint training with reps and management. Finding solutions together rather than being confrontational. .  

The Comprehensive Spending Review meant a 35% saving on public funding over the next 4 years. However, a bit of context. 35% cuts are the norm in the Department of Work & Pensions. So we are not being dealt with harsher than anyone else under this remit. She accepts that many of us think there should not be any cuts at all.

1/3 of their work is claimed back already from industry. The cuts apply to the rest. Moving the HSE headquarters from London to Bootle has saved money. 200 HSE staff left in a voluntary exist scheme recently. Rationalisation of estate and cuts in back office services will result in further savings. Recognise the importance of saving front line services as far as we can. Will not change in high risk industries but will look to modernise. Other services we will not change are reactive work including inspections and responses to complaints and reports. Reactive will remain unaffected but somewhere pain is inevitable. Numbers of inspections will have to be will have to be reduced in some areas. Have to target inspections with regard to risk. Compare other possible methods of interventions than individual premise inspections. In some workplaces, pro active inspections remain the best but in other sectors evidence points to effectiveness of other interventions. We will not take decisions in isolation, we will speak to stakeholders. We will learn as we go on. Over time a company or sector may improve performance and receive less attention or if they deteriorate they will receive more. 

On Monday the Minister said the clear intention is to take tough line with those who flout the law. See the idea of cost recovery from firms who do this. We can discuss what “low risk” is. However “low risk” does not mean no risk. In future we may have a supporting role rather than leading role in the production of guidance. Charging for HSE inspections. This is a fair deal. It should be welcomed by vast majority of employers since they claim they are complaint so they have nothing to worry about. It only penalises those who don’t comply. It brings a level playing field with costs. It is another form of enforcement. We may charge for some advice. But will not go back on our policy to make all information and guidance free to download from our web site. Our ideas need to develop and work out the detail and we need to consult. So context again: there is not a 35% reduction in everything we do. We already recover costs so it seems fair to extend this. It puts an increased onus on those who at fault. So they should be charged for the costs we bear to put their house in order.  

Summary. Foolish to deny times are tough. What is still constant is that we both share similar concerns and a “shared mission”. We won’t agree on everything but we all agree on this. Now we need your support and all of you to play your part. To be our eyes and ears. This is not where you want to be but despite the problems we all need to work together and do our bit.

In the Q&A she was asked is it sending the wrong message by saying office’s are “low risk” when many office workers suffer from high stress levels and asbestos is found in offices? She said again that low risk did not mean no risk. It is obvious that the level of risk in a corner shop will be different from that found in a Timber cutting yard.
I asked whether she was suggesting that safety reps should be taking the place of HSE inspectors and if she envisage a “beefed up” role for reps? If so this would maybe help change the governments mind about cutting inspections? She responded by repeating our importance as being their eyes and ears.  

She confirmed that the “Killer Asbestos” campaigns will continue and that she was not sure whether a reduction in RIDDOR reporting from 3 to 7 days was a good idea. But we need to review RIDDOR since there are a lot of problems with it such as under reporting. She dismissed the question that did the cuts mean that the HSE was now a toothless tiger by saying that the organisation has delivered amongst the best health & safety record in the world. Things are not perfect but you should not forget this. The safety system in the UK does not depend on the HSE alone. You do yourself a disservice if you think this. 

Andrew Lansley "tosser" Rap

This is just a little bit rude about our well beloved Tory Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley.... But he is intent on destroying the NHS. 

Hat tip COHSE Union

In the final frame there is a superb quote about the NHS by Nye Bevan which I will not spoil by revealing. 
Instead this below is one of my favourite "Nye" quotations about the NHS.

. A free health service is pure Socialism .—Aneurin Bevan, In Place of Fear, p106

Update: you can buy the single online here from itunes!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Osborne's 'no budge' budget" - A Titanic "full speed ahead" to the Iceberg

Below is Unison's response to today's awful, bodged and Titanic "full steam ahead to the iceberg" budget.

I wonder how many folk recognise the picture of the actor and remember or realise its significance? 

Not a lot according to last years General Election results. 

Why is it each generation eventually forgets not just how horrible the Tories are but that they are economic illiterates who think that mass unemployment is "a price worth paying".

" Osborne’s ‘no budge budget’ is a missed opportunity to right Tory economic wrongs, UNISON, the UK’s largest union, said today. By passing up the chance to scale back the savage public spending cuts, the Tories are condemning the economy to long-term low growth and high unemployment.

The union said that the Tory’s half-hearted attempts to tackle rising inequalities through a Learjet levy and action on tax loopholes, were token gestures, which would not restore fairness - spiralling out of control under the Tories.

UNISON General Secretary, Dave Prentis, said:

“Under the Tories our economy isn’t growing, but the dole queues are. The Government’s own Office of Budget Responsibility has downgraded the growth forecast by 0.9% since the Chancellor’s last budget. The carnage going on in the public sector was completely written out of the Chancellor’s budget.

“Osborne should have used this budget to right his economic wrongs. This no budge budget flies in the face of mounting evidence of the toll Tory cuts are taking on our economy and our society. The Chancellor is pinning his hopes on the private sector driving the recovery – but the evidence shows the private sector is not creating enough jobs to stop total unemployment from rising.

“Struggling families will be pleased that tax receipts have been used to stop fuel price rises. But with dole queues rising, and business and consumer confidence low, this is a warning to Osborne – he will not be able to rely on tax receipts to top up spending much longer.

“Osborne's over-hyped increase in tax allowances will in fact be worth less than £2.50 a week to the average basic rate taxpayer. This is more than cancelled out by the increase in VAT, which will cost the average family more than £3 a week, and other reductions in benefits, tax credits and services, which will cost families even more.

“This small tax giveaway will do nothing to help the 2.53 million people on the dole and struggling to find work. It is a drop in the ocean for millions of public sector workers hit by pay freezes. With inflation up to 5.5%, any benefit will swiftly be wiped out by higher prices.

“The Learjet levy is a token gesture. The mega-rich who can afford a private plane could pay a lot more towards our recovery. Instead, public sector workers are cutting back on food, vital healthcare such as dentists and prescriptions, and are still racking up high levels of personal debt. The poor, sick and vulnerable who did not gamble away our future are paying the price, as the public services they rely on disappear.”

On top of the VAT rise and cuts to tax credits, benefits and services that are hitting all workers, public sector workers are being hit by an increase in their pension contributions that will take more than £10 a week out of their disposable income, and a pay freeze that, with inflation running at 5.5%, will have the effect of reducing their real living standards by the equivalent of another £20 a week.

The union is calling for a change of direction and a budget for growth including a Robin Hood Tax. This tax on the banks would add £20 billion to the public purse – twenty times the measures the Chancellor announced today to close tax loopholes. Twenty billion would save local services from shut down, keep children’s nurseries open, stop hospital’s shedding jobs and save adult day centres from closure.

There is another way

- Andrew Lansley’s £3 billion* top-down reorganisation of the NHS could fund 600,000 hip operations, or fund full home care packages for 150,000 elderly or vulnerable people.

- Francis Maude’s “mutuals taskforce” has a £10 million price tag – these funds could keep more than 200 social, youth and community workers in their jobs for a year.

- And Gove’s Academies and Free Schools programme has £410 million of funding – which could restart around 20 of the vital school rebuilding projects he cancelled last year, giving disadvantaged children better schools, and creating valuable construction jobs.
(picture is from "Boys from the black stuff")

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Ekaya union members lobby against 30-60% pay cuts

Check out this YouTube clip about the lobby last week by UNISON Housing Association members against the slashing of pay in Ekaya Housing Association.  Pay is being cut by between 30-60%, redundancies and an increase in working hours.  The Ekaya senior management will still of course pay themselves the same money.

There was a recent meeting at the annual UNISON London Labour Link forum at the House of Commons with Ekaya UNISON members and prominent Labour MP's and Assembly members about their plight. 

Plans are being made to lobby the local Council leaders and the next Ekaya Board meeting. Watch this space.

Anniversary of the murder of Airey Neave

Early this month while on route to the LGA Labour Group Spring conference I was surprised to come across this apparently "blown up" car in the underground park entrance opposite the Houses of Parliament.

It was quite a disturbing sight but you could tell by the lack of Police etc that this wasn't for real. There was a couple of security guards near the entrance and putting 2+2 together I asked them whether this was a TV production on the murder of Conservative MP, Airey Neave? They confirmed that it was connected to a film about him.

I can still remember being shocked by his murder by the INLA on 30 March 1979. Not only had cowardly gangsters killed a democratically elected Politician within the confines of our Parliament, Neave was also a respected Second World War hero. He was the first person to escape from the high security German Prison of War Camp at Colditz and had helped prosecuted German Nazis at the Nuremberg Trials. The BBC TV series about Colditz was then hugely popular.

I thought at the time that this was not only morally wrong but also a completely stupid and self defeating act. The INLA later descent into a cesspit of blatant sectarian killings, merciless internal republican murders and drug dealing was therefore no great surprise to anyone.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Lyn Brown MP attacks Tories over abolition of EMA

Watch this YouTube clip of West Ham Labour MP, Lyn Brown, tearing into this Tory–led Coalition while on the floor of the House of Commons, over the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA).

TUC March for an Alternative next Saturday: March with us for Newham

Picture is from the TUC March on Saturday 26th stall outside Stratford Shopping centre last week (and opposite the historic Old Town Hall).

Labour Party and trade union activists were handing out to shoppers the jointly produced "March with us for Newham" leaflets.

There were stalls also in East Ham and Beckton on both weekends.

On Saturday "Battle of Cable Street" Veteran Max Levitas came again up to the stall to help out.

Check out this site here for TUC tips for first time Marchers.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean you don't do nothing...

Driving up the spectacular Horseshoe Pass in North Wales on Friday lunchtime I was listening to Jeremy Vine on Radio 2.  He was discussing the recent United Nations vote on Military action to save Civilian lives in Libya.  His guests were Professor Michael Clarke from the Royal United Service Institute and the serial apologist for murderers and tyrants, Lindsey German.  

Professor Clarke gave a considered and objective assessment of the situation and eventually a reasoned but reticent (and limited) backing for military action. 

While German, the crank cultist (who last year had to resign before being expelled from the SWP sect and then went on to form the even smaller Real-SWP sect "Counterfire") waffled on in support of doing nothing since we cannot topple all the world's tyrants (and therefore we should just let Gaddafi's war planes, tanks and artillery slaughter the Libyan opposition). 

Professor Clarke rebuked her with "Just because you can't do everything, doesn't mean you don't do nothing..." and reminded us all that timely and appropriate Military invention can and has saved lives.

Remember, even in the UK, we know what Gaddafi and his goons are capable of - from the public machine gunning of an unarmed London Police officer, to blowing up a civilian jet plane over Scotland killing 270 and the supplying of IRA terrorists with tons of explosives and weapons which were then used to murder many, many more innocents

So we should all know exactly what will happen to the civilian population if Gaddafi retakes the rebel held towns and cities.  No Excuses.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Save Our NHS: Sign 38 Degrees petition

Cick on here  to sign the Petition "Save Our NHS" by 38 Degrees.  They have over 195,000 signature and are aiming for 250,000.

"The Petition Text

To the Coalition government,

Our NHS is precious - we won't forgive you if you ruin it

  • Don’t break up our health service and hand it to private healthcare companies
  • Listen to the the real experts - doctors, nurses and patients - when they give warnings about these plans
  • Don't rush through massive changes without testing them properly first
  • Protect patient care - don't cut beds, wards, doctors or nurses"

Thursday, March 17, 2011

TUC 60-second ad contest 2011 (and the UNISON Ants and Polar Bear ad)

I was only intending to plug the TUC 60-second ad contest "Impact on the Cuts" (check here).  You can vote on completed submissions.  Some really great new stuff. 

They also had a section on "Classic" video's such as this "famous" UNISON advert using the Polar bear and ants.  There is some mixed reports on the reaction to this video.  Some people were apparently put off since they don't like ants! 

However, I think the majority of people who see this clip do "get it" and understand that acting (dare I say) in UNISON you have more power and influence at work than lone voices.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

"Battle of Cable Street" Veteran Urges Support for TUC March on 26th

Max Levitas who marched against the fascists in Cable Street in 1936 joined our Labour Party and Trade Union stall in Stratford on Saturday to pledge support for the TUC March for an Alternative on the 26th.

Max (picture) is now 95 and was a Communist Party Councillor in Whitechapel from 1945 to 1958. At Cable Street he marched alongside Phil Piratin (on of the first Communist MP's and father of one of my former UNISON branch secretaries).

He still comes shopping to Stratford twice a month and takes the 25 bus here and back.

I have seen Max speak at events in the past and once even knocked on his door while canvassing for Labour.  He is still proud to be a Communist but says he would usually vote for Labour if there was not a real Communist standing and is pleased to see the Labour Party out campaigning.  He will be there on the TUC March on the 26th.

Max warned us about the threat to the Labour Movement from those who have their own agenda and will try their best to wreck and split us.  Of course, I haven't a clue who he means?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

West Ham & Stratford Spring Festival 2011

This collage is from the West Ham & Stratford Ward Community Forum Spring Festival that took place on Saturday at the Old Town Hall. 

The event was packed inside the main hall and outside.  There was a wide range of stalls from all sorts of local organisations and groups. 

Well done to everyone who worked so hard to make this event such an success.

Double click picture to bring up detail.

"Don't Privatise Our Blood Service"

"UNISON Reps from across the South east including Isle of Wight handed in a letter to the TUC Trades Union Congress in London urging them to join the campaign to oppose the threat to privatise the NHS Blood Service and pledging support for the TUC demonstration in London on Saturday 26th March

Debbie Jones UNISON South East Blood Service Convenor stated

"We are fully committed to maintaining the blood collection service on the Isle of Wight and a delegation from the Isle of Wight blood collection team will be attending the demonstration on Saturday March 26th in London we hope many of our blood donors will join us"

Michael Walker UNISON Regional Officer states

"UNISON nurses and donor carers will fight any attempt to privatise the NHS Blood Service and we urge the public to support our campaign in the coming months".  (UNISON press release)

Monday, March 14, 2011

Lisa Nandy MP and John Cryer MP Fund Raiser

Picture from last week's Labour Party fund raising meal in Southwark for Lisa Nandy MP and John Cryer MP. 

It was a rare combination of an excellent meal, lots of table political debate (and the odd bit of juicy gossip) as well as some great speeches. 

Guest speakers were John Healey MP and Dennis Skinner MP with the traditional Labour Party auction led by the Daily Mirror's finest, Kevin McGuire.   The supporters were local Party members, affiliated unions, friends and family.

Dennis gave a typical barn storming speech.  He pointed out that in 1997 £33 Billion was spent on the NHS while in 2010 Labour spent £113 billion.  He is a survivor of Cancer and a Heart attack who would not be here now without the NHS.

He talked about the "Tribune Test".    He and John don't just disagree with the Tories but both of them detest them and what they do.

John Healey talked about how he use to manage 2000 people as Housing minister, however he is now ordering his own stationary and photocopying.  He notes that despite defeat the Labour Party has not turned amongst ourselves as the Tories did in 1997.  There is so much at stake and so much depends on us.  What the Tories did in 1980s with Utilites they will now do now with our public services. 

They are not making these cuts because they need to - it is because they want to.

Update: in the traditional Labour Party raffle I won "Change" by Barack Obama.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

March with us for Newham: Saturday 26th March

I am really pleased that in Newham, our Local Labour Party and trade unions are mounting a joint campaign against these vile Tory-led Government cuts.  This Labour Movement family leaflet was jointly produced and paid for by the Party and the unions.  Yesterday it was handed out across Newham.

Never let anyone forget that the blame for these massive and unnecessary cuts lies solely with this dogmatic and ideological Tory-led government.  There is an alternative.


Fighting the Good Fight: Thurrock Council Elections May 2011

West Ham and East Ham Labour Party members out last weekend canvassing and helping out our Essex comrades in Stanford le Hope, Thurrock.

There are no elections this year in Greater London so the Regional Party has asked CLP's to help their nearest local Labour parties outside London.

There are regular trains to Thurrock from West Ham station.

Members were out there yesterday and today as well.

It will be great to help inflict "savage" defeats on Tory and Lib Dem Councillors in May.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Bill Wakefield

Picture is from Bill Wakefield's funeral procession entering Manor Park Cemetery on Friday.  Bill was a Labour Movement Champion.  Trade Union leader, Councillor, Residents rep and Pensioners activist.

This was a traditional East End funeral for someone who had lived and worked nearly all his life in Bow.

Bill (age 81) was first seen off from his home in Rosebank Gardens, Bow, E3.  There was a very good turn out of family, friends, neighbours and former work colleagues. 

The horse drawn hearse then took Bill to the cemetery followed by loved ones and friends.  Bill's coffin was carried into the crematorium for the Service by four of his great nephews who also gave a touching personal tribute to him.  During the service we were told that Bill was from a family of 13 (only 9 lived to adulthood) and that their parents decided not to evacuate them during the Second World War so they all lived though the Blitz and the V1/V2 Rocket attacks.

Bill spent a year away on National Service then returned to work at the Post Office (GPO) before becoming a gardener in Victoria Park.  He became the Tower Hamlets Council NUPE Branch Secretary.  NUPE later merged with other public sector unions to form UNISON. After his retirement he became a Labour Councillor, Residents and Pensioner rep.

After the funeral there was a Wake with a superb spread at the Colburn Arms and I had the chance to speak to his sisters and his nephews.   Check out also these reports in East End Life and East London Advertiser

Bill was a great fan of Shirley Bassey and at the service they played one of his favourite records - it had to be her version of "My Way".

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hutton Report - Remind me again why the low paid are paying for the Banker's crisis?

There was no great surprises this morning at 8am with the publication of Lord Hutton's final report on public sector pensions.

He doesn't seem to "get it" that he is being used by this Tory-led government to justify an infamous double whammy of massive increases in pension contributions at the same time as equally massive cuts in pension benefits.

There is no repeat no dire crisis in funding arrangements for public sector pension funds.  There are indeed problems but remember only 4 years ago there was a huge row between the then Government and the public sector unions about pensions.  A tough compromise deal was eventually hammered out which saw rises in employee contributions, reductions in benefits and caps on employer (taxpayer) contributions.  Which the unions accepted despite the pain because it was promised that this will make the schemes affordable and sustainable.  So what on earth has really changed in these 4 short years about pension fundiamentals?

What is happening is quite simply a Thatcherite and Orange book ideological attack on the principal of collective provision coupled with plain old fashioned public spending cuts.  For example this government has reduced grants to Councils by £1 billion based on an assumption that staff contributions to their pension schemes will go up by some 50%! (repeat 50%).  If this goes ahead then this will mean that pensions will become unaffordable and people will leave their schemes in droves.  If this happens and members can't afford to remain or join then yes, the public sector schemes will indeed fail.

So yet again we have some of the most low paid and vulnerable in our society being expected to help make good a public spending deficit caused solely by Bankers and the Rich who ripped off this country and now expect us to pay for it.

This lunchtime I was interviewed by Channel 5 News (who reported only my comments on the likelihood of strike action), live on Sky News (robust but interesting) and ITN (see caption and this link). 

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Does my society look big in this? Philosophy Football

Hat tip Philosophy Football "SPECIAL CAMPAIGN LOW PRICE. JUST £12.99!

Mr Cameron and his, very, junior partner Nick Clegg would have us believe that our society can do just fine with fewer nurses and teachers, cuts to the emergency services and tripled university tuition fees. Closing down schools, hospitals, childrens' centres and services for the elderly adds up to a smaller, worse society, neither big or better.

All in the cause of deficit reduction? How about taxing the bankers' bonuses and closing down corporate tax evasion.

Wear Philosophy Football's 'Does my Society Look Big in This' T-shirt on the 26 March TUC March for the Alternative, the brilliant direct action of UKUncut or wherever and whenever the protest takes you. Available in sizes S-XXL, plus women's skinny fitted. From

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Greedy Bankers

"A public sector employee in a union, a banker and a member of the "squeezed middle classes" are sitting at a table.

In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen biscuits on it.

The banker takes 11 of them, turns around to the middle-income man and says "Look out for that  union guy.  He's after a piece of your biscuit".

Nuff said?

Today's Evening Standard Business section p 41(amazingly)


There Is Power In A Union

Class conflict in the first sucessful Revolutionary Republic?

"About twenty of Madison Wisconsin's bluegrass musicians, as the collective Pickers' Local 608, gathered at Audio For The Arts on Sunday, March 6th 2011, to record their own version of There Is Power In A Union, with special featured guest banjo man Bill Evans! Thanks to Kirsten M. for the camera work! Bluegrass Local 608 includes members of The Oak Street Ramblers, The Malt Liquors, Cork 'N Bottle String Band, The Pints, Spare Time Bluegrass Band, Northern Pikers, and others...

Monday, March 07, 2011

LGA LG Spring conference 2011: Return of the Wreakers and Splitters

During the lunch break at Saturday’s LGA Labour Group spring conference I wandered over to the main entrance of LGA house to have a look at the promised SPEW (Socialist Party of England & Wales) “mass national lobby”.  I looked out of the door and saw about 30 SPEWers ranting and raving incoherently. LGA Labour Group Leader, David Sparks, had agreed to accept a “petition” from the organisers.  This turned out to be a typical hate session against the Labour Party.    Well done for David for agreeing to even meet them and putting up with their childish and crank nonsense.
One of their skinhead organisers then immediately resumed the “Scum” chants at the top of his voice and the masturbatory finger waving.   This moronic and orchestrated “scum; scum; scum” chanting did obviously embarrass some of the more vaguely normal SPEWers but they did nothing to stop it nor did they seem to mind their lobby turning into something akin to an EDL rally. 
This is just Kamikaze politics. If any English Council did not set a balanced budget then the Chief Officer’s would be legally obliged to do so regardless of any political considerations.  If they refused then Pickles would do it.  Does anyone really want Eric Pickles to set their Council budget?
I do believe that if we unite and build - we can defeat this Tory-led government over policies and it is possible we may even bring them down as a government before 2015.  Yet at the first major labour movement political test we find the tiny and unrepresentative ultra left extremists attacking not the ConDems - but Labour Councils!
Instead of working together we see them in the finest Monty Python Life of Brian traditions do their best to wreak and split.  In London Town Halls Council reception staff have been beaten up by these yob protesters and even disabled Councillors attacked.  For what?  What did they think they would gain? Despite the fact that they could not get any one of the 4500 Labour councillors to publicly support their view they went ahead with their completely divisive and sectarian campaign anyway. 
What mandate have these tiny telephone kiosk sects to dictate to anyone what they should do?
Why were they not demonstrating in Cardiff that day at the Tory Spring conference?
Is it not bad enough that opinion polls show that the majority of ordinary people actually think these cuts are necessary.  Now, thanks to the SPEWers, SWPers, LRC and the rest of the Heinz 57 trots – even more people will accept the Tory lies that Councils do not need to slash and burn if they were just a bit more efficient. Well done comrades!
How can the Broad Left now work with these idiots. Who obviously don’t give a toss about the interests of ordinary working people and who think that all you have to do to bring about their revolution is to foam at the mouth and scream abuse.  Grow up - you are just helping the Tories get off the hook.
Talk about Tory fifth columnists.  Pickles must be laughing his ample socks off at his new best mates ever.

‘Fair Deal for Tube Users’

Ken Livingstone has called on Conservative Mayor, Boris Johnson, to get a grip of increased delays on the tube. The latest Transport for London (TfL) performance figures show:
• Tube passengers are spending 10% more time on delayed trains and 33% more time on the Central line.Tube passengers are spending 10% more time on delayed trains and 33% more time on the Central line.

• Station closures are up on District line by a staggering 1250% and over 100% on the Northern line.Station closures are up on District line by a staggering 1250% and over 100% on the Northern line.

• Delays up on the Jubilee line are up by 300% and over 100% on the Victoria line

Ken has called for a ‘Fair Deal for Tube Users’ which sets out five immediate steps the Mayor should

1. Get a grip of persistent tube delays and disruption.
2. Improve how TfL communicates tube problems to passengers.
3. Compensate delayed passengers and clearly explain how to claim refunds for late running journeys
4. Bring common sense to the weekend tube-closure programme.
5. Tackle the problem of engineering works over-running into Monday mornings.

Ken Livingstone said: “The increased number of delays and closures on the Tube are causing huge frustration and inconvenience for millions of Londoners. It’s time for Boris Johnson to roll his sleeves up and get a grip.

‘My ‘Fair Deal for Tube Users’ would put the interests of Londoners at the very top of the Mayor’s agenda. ‘The Mayor must be far more accountable for the tube, improve the way TfL communicates with Londoners, make more effort to ensure delayed passengers can fairly claim compensation and review the weekend tube-closure programme.’

London shadow transport minister, Jim Fitzpatrick MP said, “It's time for Boris Johnson to get a grip of the daily delays and disruption on the tube. It's not fair that Londoners are paying more in rail, tube and bus fares, because of decisions taken by the Conservative Mayor, and then suffer delays in their daily commute to work.

'Tube delays and closures incur costs which London businesses can ill-afford and are detrimental to the quality of life for millions in inner and outer London. The Mayor must act quickly to improve tube services and reverse the increasing delays we are all experiencing."

Val Shawcross AM, Labour’s London Assembly transport spokesperson said: “It is hard to recall a day in the past few months when there has not been a signal failure or major delay on the tube which has caused real inconvenience for Londoners. We are all paying more for tube services which Boris

Johnson’s own figures show are getting worse. ‘It’s about time Boris Johnson paid some attention to his day job and got a grip of the increasing number of tube delays. The Mayor claims he watches the tube on a screen in his office ‘like a hawk’, I think Londoners want a Mayor who is more than a spectator.”
(Hat tip poster to Col. Roi)

Sunday, March 06, 2011

LGA LG Spring conference 2011: “Representing our Roots”

After the keynote speech by Ed Miliband I went to this workshop with Iain McNicol (GMB National Political Officer) and Cllr Josie Channer (Barking & Dagenham).  Cllr Ann Lucas (Coventry) chaired (middle).  Please note the health warning about the accuracy of all my hurriedly typed notes.
Iain started with this story about Tory MP’s Tim Sainsbury and Nicholas Soames.  Sainsbury saw Soames in the House of Commons on a Friday afternoon dressed in his tweeds and said to him “Going rat catching this weekend Nick?” Soames replied “screw you grocer boy: people like you don’t tell me what to dress on a Friday”.  Which shows class is still important even to the Tories.  There are 18 millionaires in today’s cabinet.  In 1979 16% of MP’s were manual workers now only 4%.  Trade union and local government service is seen as the “poor relations” in the Party.  It became acceptable for ministers to define themselves against “Loony Councils” and “out of touch” trade unions.  Things were never perfect but this has led to a catastrophic collapse in activists.  There has been an onward march of professional Politian’s which is not in itself a problem but it is if it squeezes others out. What to do? Identify and encourage future Cllrs and MP’s;  select more local candidates that represent their community and set up training courses to make it more of a level playing field.
Josie was elected last May for the first time as a Councillor in Barking and Dagenham.  78% of Cllrs are from a professional background.   The 12 BNP Cllrs in the borough came about because the Labour Party failed to work with the working class community.  Need to recognise that people support the BNP on an emotional level and do not pay attention to “facts” about them. 
57% of British think of themselves as working class.  You need money to become an MP.  You need a minimum of £2000 per campaign.  She went to a training course for women interested in becoming MP’s and was told that you need to run for at least a couple of seats to get the experience.  She was thinking: “that is £4000, how can I afford that?”  What to do?  You need not to just talk about fairer representation; it has been talked about for a long time.  There needs to be changes.  You need to talk to the Unions.  The support of union members can make a difference. The Party needs to take this issue seriously and look at the selections processes, look at the social economic back ground of candidates, is the panel representative of local class and ethnic groups.  Will the Party commit to the time and resources needed?  Need to think collectively. 
In the Q&A I made the point that I agree with nearly all the analysis that the Party does need to change but we in the trade union movement also have to look to ourselves.  Sometimes I have heard affiliated trade union leaders use the language of the ultra left about the last Labour government and Labour Councils.  This is probably said in frustration with the Party, but if we mimic those who are enemies of democracy and socialism then it is no wonder that this feeds back to our members.  Who then come out with things such as “they are all the same” and don’t vote.  We need to think about different models and relationships - perhaps look at what happens in Nordic countries which have huge union density and are far more equal societies.
I’ll finish with another quotation by Iain.  This was from former GMB and Labour Party leader JR ClynesI didn’t come into politics to fight the class struggle I came to end it!”

Update: Iain has been appointed as the New General Secretary of the Labour Party (July 2011)

Barnsley by-election leaflet "It's Lib Dem or Labour here!"

The actual result of course was:-

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953
James Hockney (C) 1,999
Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463
Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266
Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198
Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60

Lab maj 11,771: Turnout 36.5%

In 2010 the Lib Dems only beat the Tories by 6 votes.

Interestingly the new Labour MP, Dan Jarvis, is the first Barnsley MP not to be born in Yorkshire or be a former miner.  However, he did serve in the Parachute regiment.  Which went down well in this traditional working class seat.

hat-tip Maturin

Saturday, March 05, 2011

LGA Labour Group Spring Conference: Ed Miliband

Today I went to my first LGA Labour Group Conference. The opening keynote address was by Ed Miliband in the historic Labour movement Bevin Hall.  The hall was packed to over flowing and there was standing room only.  Ed gave I thought a passionate and polished speech.  He particularly handled the Q&A very well.
Some key points from his speech were: - How unfair these Tory cuts will be - South Tyneside Council will lose £130 per person while Richmond Council will only lose £5.  7 out of the 10 most deprived local authorities will face the biggest cuts. Back office expenditure in Councils is only 9% of budget yet 28% will be cut. 
There is an alternative.  The cuts are so fast and so far that there is no time to adapt. They say the reason for the financial crisis is because we had a deficit.  Wrong - the reason we had a deficit is the financial crisis. 
It is very, very important we make it clear that this government is not just assaulting the poor - it is assaulting everyone on low or middle income.  The  top 1%-10% will be okay,  it is everyone else who will suffer.  Families with children who rely on Local authority services will lose £2700 per year and those without children will lose £1700.
The Tories are trying to shirk blame for these cuts by trying to devolve responsibility on local Councils. We need to judge this government on their deeds and not their words.
I tried to ask a question about the TUC March for an Alternative on Saturday the 26th but was not chosen on this occasion.   (There was widespread support for the March.)
The Q&A was quite different from normal. Ed asked questions back to those who raised issues.  Which is something I haven’t seen before and I think it “worked” and made the session far more interesting than usual. 
Next was the breakout sessions – I choose the one on “Representing our roots”.  Will post later-ish.

Friday, March 04, 2011

'elf & Safety Posters - Falling from Height - Soviet and HSE

Picture of Soviet Union 1930's health and safety poster and modern day HSE equivalent.

Some dangers do not change.

Check out the first historical safety poster in this series here.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Spring into Stratford (and West Ham)

On Saturday 12 March 2011 - 12 to 4pm there is the above West Ham & Stratford Spring festival at the Old Town Hall in Stratford E15.   

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Kaschke v. Gray & thought is was all over? is now!

After nearly 4 years of extensive litigation, Lord Justice Thomas today at a hearing in Court 68 of the Royal Courts of Justice refused Johanna Kaschke leave to appeal against her libel case being struck out.

He supported previous rulings that the difference between what Ms Kaschke has admitted to be true and what she thinks is libel, is so insignificant to be an abuse of a full Jury trial.  It is simply not worth the candle.  Even if she was to win (and of course she would not) her damages would only be minimal at very best.

Why this statement of the bleeding obvious has taken such a long time to come about at such a huge cost to the public purse is another matter.

This is now the end of the matter for Alex Hilton and myself.  Ms Kaschke of course intends to take the matter to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).  However, in the extremely unlikely event that the ECHR consider this a case worth examining it will be the British Government who will have to defend it not Alex or I.

Fellow defendant Dave Osler also had the case against him kicked out last year.

Many thanks to Robert Dougans, David Allen Green (Jack of Kent) and former members of the CCCP Young Pioneers for their outstanding help and support. Also last but not least thanks to Stroppy and Montrose. 

The final irony (of many) in this is that Ms Kaschke claims that she got involved in British Politics because she was worried as a Council tenant about her security of tenure. She then made her long march from Labour to Respect to CPGB to CPB to Labour (again briefly) then to the Conservative Party.  Her beloved David Cameron and his Tory-led government is now responsible for introducing changes to the Housing benefit system which will mean that Council tenants such as herself who under occupy their homes (have more bedrooms than they are deemed to need) will face being evicted.

Picture from last July when case first dismissed.

UPDATE: Check Index against Censorship press release and David Allen Green's post in the New Statesman about the case "with no merit whatsoever".

UPDATE: ECHR decision

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Captain SKA - Shame On You

Happy Birthday Labour Party: 111 Not Out.

One of the many possible birthdays of the Labour Party took place last weekend.  The founding conference was arguably on 26-27 February 1900 in the Farringdon Memorial Hall in London hoisted by the TUC.

Hat tip to Progress who seem to be the only ones to feature this important anniversary?

Check out this and that on what would Keir Hardie make of Labour 111 years on and Remembering Memorial Hall

Picture of the first ever Labour MP, Keir Hardie ,(West Ham South) addressing crowd. 

UPDATE: and posts by Denis MacShane MP and Gregg McClymont MP

Dydd Gwŷl Dewi Sant Hapus!

Dydd Gwŷl Dewi Sant Hapus! (Happy St David's Day) make sure you're wearing your daffs and leeks!

Picture hat - tip to Mrs B