Tuesday, January 31, 2012

London Marathon 2012 Wk 14: Olympic Park Circuit

Run of the week was a "circuit" (of sorts)  around the London Olympics
2012 Park in Stratford.

I ran from Forest Gate to the Greenway at West Ham. The Greenway was blocked off at the High Street. I tried to rejoin via Blaker Road but this was fenced off. So I went along the canal to Marshgate Lane and eventually came back on the Greenway, stopping off at the view tube to take pictures of the Olympic stadium and the Orbit (see right).

The Orbit at the moment does remind me of the monster aliens from HG Wells "War of the Worlds". But I have little doubt it will eventually become a poplar icon.

Past the Second World War pill box and anti-tank defences then Old Ford Canal Lock.  Do you remember Chris Evans and "The Big Breakfast"? It was filmed here at the Lock Keepers cottage. I use to cycle into work along the towpath and wave at Chris and his guests filming in the garden (they never waved back).  I ran along the towpath (the area has totally changed - there are now Art Galleries, cafes and residential blocks) until the Eastway.  Then there was a long bit of road and pavement towards Spitalfields Market.

I wasted time trying to find a way to cross the A12 at the Asda Retail Park (there isn't one). There were groups of people at the retail park being taken on a guided view point tours around the Olympic site. Eventually made it back to Forest Gate past Leyton Underground and West Ham Cemetery. I was supposed to be running for 90 minutes but it took me 2 hours. It was a good run but a bit of a slog from Leyton onwards. I will post other pictures from the run on FaceBook.

I am running the London marathon in April 2012 sort of using the official advanced training programme and will be raising funds for Homeless Youth charity "Alone in London". Click here to sponsor me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Ken in Newham

This evening I joined Labour Candidate for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone and his team as they visited the historic Theatre Royal in

Ken had been in Newham all day and had already gone on a Housing enforcement visit with Council officers and Newham Mayor Robin Wales in the morning. He then had a briefing with local Councillors and a Q&A with students at Newham College, as well as a “walkabout” in Green Street.

With Ken was Assembly member Val Shawcross (who is standing for Deputy Mayor) local Assembly member John Biggs and Newham’s finest, GLA Candidate, Councillor Unmesh Desai (who is also East Ham Labour Party Agent).

At the Theatre Royal there was firstly an informal meeting with staff and local actors (whose first break had been in the Theatre) in the “Green Room” followed by a brief tour of the theatre and a visit to a Performing Arts class to observe a lesson on “improvisations”. Which was simply enormous fun to watch. Afterwards there was a very relaxed discussion between staff, the young people and Ken, Val and John about the future of performing arts, dance and further education generally. I think the photo above is great. 

Afterwards we went off to the Didsbury Centre in East Ham for the Newham “Tell Ken” event (sponsored by London UNISON Labour Link) which I will post upon soon.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Newham Burns Night: The GS Piping in the Haggis

On Friday I celebrated Burns Night at the Newham event in Stratford Town Hall.  I had heard that the new General Secretary of the Labour Party, Iain McNicol, was attending but I didn't know that he played the bagpipes. So I was astonished when he "Piped in the Haggis" (see picture).

I had a conversation with Iain later in the evening about various Party issues. A good guy I think.

While searching Google tonight I see from an usually reliable source that Iain also has a black belt in Karate. Which as the Labour Party GS will no doubt prove very, very useful...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

John Gray - The Movie (coming soon)

"John Gray lives with his beautiful wife Susie Slumber, who unfortunately does not share his interest in plain oatmeal or overcast days. Wanting more, Susie leaves. Before John can figure out what to do, he is visited by the mischievous Rem. John must learn to look beyond his gray world fast before all is lost".

This is a "short" for a feature length film of the same name out in June. Seriously weird but nice camera work. Please note I assume that there will be the usual disclaimer "Any reference or similarity to anyone living or dead is purely coincidental, all 'characters' are fictitious"


Friday, January 27, 2012

One Barnet UNISON Strike Action 9 Feb 2012

Barnet UNISON are balloting for a further round of strike action to prevent the wholesale privatisation of Council services in their borough. Send the branch messages of support via the website
www.barnetunison.me.uk. During previous strike action when members of the branch finished their picket line duties they went off to volunteer and work unpaid on various local Barnet community projects for the rest of the day.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Britain & Europe: Which way for Labour?" Newham Compass & Fabians

A rather topical debate on "Britain and Europe: Which way for Labour?" will take place 7.30pm on 21st February at the West Ham Supporters' Club (the football club not the Labour Party! NewhamTrades Council also use to meet here). Organised by the local branches of Newham Compass and the Fabians. 

I've not heard Jon Cruddas MP speak about Europe before and no doubt he will have some interesting perspectives.  While Anita Pollack lives in Newham and was the MEP for London South West from 1989 to 1999. She wrote the excellent book "Wreckers or Builders: A History of Labour MEPs 1979 to 1999" which one day I will try and do justice to in a review.

Yesterday at the UNISON NEC Policy Committee we had a good presentation and debate on Europe. The irony of ironies is that the Prime Minster, David Cameron, for short term political advantage "veto's" (sort of) an agreement on saving the Euro solely to appease his own anti-Europe fanatics.

When in fact the actual measures he opposed for Europe are pretty much the same hard line slash and burn budgetary cuts being pursued at home.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Man's a Man for A' That

Tonight (January 25) is the anniversary of the birth of Scottish Baird, Rabbie Burns and is the traditional time to mark his life with poetry, haggis and a glass (or three) of whisky. However, like many people I will be celebrating his life over the weekend. My Father was born and bred in Scotland and he loved to read Burns and recite out loud. While I must admit to being at times somewhat linguistically challenged at some of the poetry, I don't think anyone with any social conscious cannot fail to be moved at the simple beauty and meaning of his language in A Man's a Man for A'That and not understand its message of liberty, equality and universal human rights.

(It helps of course if you have a 18th Century Scots/ 21st Century English dictionary)

Hat tip "The Macalmans" check Youtube version for some "Notes for the Sasunnach and other strange folks" i.e dictionary of some of the more unusual words.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

London Marathon 2012 Wk 13: In Dublin's fair city

Recovered quite well last week from the 14 mile run the previous Saturday. Run of this week was a early morning 40 minute jog around Dublin City centre. I was in Dublin to help make a pensions presentation to the NEC of the IBOA (the Irish Finance workers union)  The previous evening their lay officials had taken us out for a few Guinesses (I can vouch that it does taste better across the water).

To my surprise the next morning I did have just a little bit of a hangover. I had been assured by my hosts that the delicious herbal chasers that accompanied the Guiness were purely medicinal and designed to smooth the stomach and clear the head.  They were called Bushmills or something
like that? Very nice.

I firstly jogged around St Stephens Green which is a perfect City centre park full of history. Then under Fusilier's Arch and down Grafton Street.  At bottom is entrance to Trinity College where I did a quick circuit around the lawns.  Along O'Connell Street and across the bridge to the famous General Post Office which was the head quarters of the rebels during the Easter Uprising 1916.  There you can indeed still see what appears to be bullet marks on the outside columns.

Back across the river by a different bridge then to the hotel via side streets only getting lost once or twice.

I am running the London marathon in April 2012 using the official advanced training programme and will be raising funds for Homeless Youth charity "Alone in London". Click here to sponsor me.

Monday, January 23, 2012

TELL KEN: Didsbury Centre, East Ham Mon 30th Jan

Next Monday January 30th Labour candidate for London Mayor, Ken Livingstone, will be spending the day in Newham campaigning. In the evening 7pm to 8.30pm there will be a "TELL KEN" event at the Didsbury Centre, 2 Didsbury Close, East Ham, E6 2SX (5 minutes walk away from East Ham Town Hall). This is sponsored by Greater London UNISON Labour Link.

Further good news today about Ken's campaign. Another
opinion poll has put him (narrowly) into the lead. "

Tessa Jowell said today, “This poll shows that Boris Johnson is increasingly out of touch with Londoners facing a squeeze in their living standards. They know that under Boris Johnson, fares have gone up; violent crime including knife crime and robbery are rising while the numbers of police keeping Londoners safe are being cut. Ken will put Londoners first by cutting bus, tube and train fares and making the streets safer by protecting police services.

Wipe the National Debt Slate Clean: One-off International Wealth Tax to Save the World?

Recently I went to a "Chatham House" style briefing where a respected financial figure gave their view on the world economic outlook. It was pretty grim to say the least. The speaker argued that we are basically stuffed and leverage (debt) is the key worldwide problem facing both the private and public sector. We all face years and years of recession and cuts in our national income (GDP) before this debt is paid off. All in all a pretty dire doom and gloom prediction.

The speaker was less forthcoming about possible solutions but did mention a recent study in Boston had recommended that there could be a one off international wealth tax which could be be used to pay off and resolve the debt crisis at a single stroke. I was the only one at that meeting to openly express a view that this seemed a "good idea".

There was the counter argument that you could never get the wealthy to agree to such a measure, they have too powerful economic and political domestics interests to allow such a tax to be considered and that there would be a "flight of capital" from any country or continent that would want to adopt such a measure. I was not convinced.

When I got home I searched for this study. I found the original report by the Boston Consultancy Group (BSG) from September 2011. The BCG is a leading world wide management consultancy firms, who are not at all a "leftie" organisation.  Check out their solution. In ancient times debt use to be wiped clean on special occasions. So why not now?

To pay for this wipe out of debt they propose a "one-time wealth tax" on financial assets and other taxes on property. Only for those with assets above 100,000 euros.

I also think that the wealthy have enjoyed in recent years unprecedented growth in their share of national income and the value of their investments.  So they will still be ahead even if they did have to take  a substantial "haircut". Remember, if we don't deal with this debt mountain and we face the armageddon of decades of depression, then surely it is in the interests of the wealthy that they pay this one off tax to preserve the long term value of their remaining capital?

I also think that people underestimate the ability of liberal western democracies to take drastic action when they are up against the wall. If their economic survival is at stake then you can rule nothing out.

The first successful modern day capitalist revolution had its roots in Boston in the 18th Century. Who knows, the next one may have already started in Boston in the 21st Century.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Chartered Institute Housing Election 2012

I've just taken part in the first ever election for the Vice President of the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). You get a email with a unique security code and you cast your vote on-line at the independent Electoral Reform
Services website.

The Vice President will become the President of the CIH next year. It's a bit suspect that this is the first ever openly contested election at the CIO but better late than never I suppose. I posted here that I know one of the candidates, Jan Taranczuk, quite well (his wife Kathy use to be my Tower Hamlets Local Housing office boss for many years). I don't know his opponent, Paul Tennant, who is the CEO of Orbit Housing Association.

If you are a member of the CIH you have until 30 January to vote. You can see their election statements here. There is an online husting tomorrow 12pm on the Guardian Housing Network blog. This afternoon on the Inside Housing site here there is a online poll (see picture right: double click to bring up detail) and both Jan and Paul were running neck and neck at 50%.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Sometimes Two 'Eds aren't better than one!

I’ve had a comment wondering why I haven’t posted on the two Eds' recent pronouncements on cuts to spending and public sector pay. 

I was thinking of writing something but I thought I will calm down a bit before doing so. Ironically I remember listening to a speech by Ed Miliband himself reflecting on the last Labour government. He remarked how sometimes he would be listening to the radio in the morning and hear for the first time a new government announcement and he would say to himself “why on earth did we say that”? I had a very similar feeling listening to reports of Ed Balls speech last Saturday on my headphones while out on a long run. Why on earth did he say that?

At best this is similar to the 1997 Labour manifesto to keep to Tory government spending limits during the first (two) years. At worse it seems just a complete back track on any alternative economic policy.
I can get the argument that any opposition party cannot commit to all cuts being reversed. I understand that you cannot predict exactly what state the economy will be in 2015. But to give the impression that there will be no rebalancing of budget cuts and taxation is simply daft.  Equally why would an opposition Party want to agree with the Government on such profound and controversial issues? That is not their job? They are ...The Official Opposition. They are there to hold the government and its policies to account. While I don't expect yah boo politics and pointless oppositionalism. There is an alternative economic case to be made. I agree that we are not winning this argument at the moment but I genuinely think that the Party is in danger of missing the boat.  The economic crisis will deepen and so many people will be so adversely affected by both unemployment and cuts to services and pay that there will be a political mood change for a fairer and more progressive society. 

Finally, I simply don’t believe that a Labour government in power will do this and I also don’t think that the public will believe it either. So it is in my view pointless guff which has done nothing but to genuinely upset many Labour Party supporters and our core vote. I was pleased to hear today (while on another run) Margaret Beckett ring in to "Any Answers" and indicate that the whole matter had in deed been some sort of a presentational cock-up.

Being in Opposition is a pretty awful and frustrating job. Everyone in the Labour movement is absolutely desperate to do every thing possible to get rid of this government. But on this particular issue the Party leadership has got it wrong. These things happen from time to time.  What really matters now is that the Two 'Eds stop digging holes and start building for change. 
Check out UNISON response here.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Virgin Media Rubbish Service Update: Branson Brand did Cut off my Phone line for complaining!

Quick update on the latest old nonsense from probably the most badly run and vindictive private monopoly in the land.

I tried to cancel my subscription on Jan 3rd to Virgin Media following the nasty and despicable
attack by their brand owner and chief private shareholder, Richard Branson, on trade unions.

It ended up with me being shouted and threatened by one of their managers and my telephone line being immediately cut off. I made a complaint which I finally (despite two chase ups) got a response on Tuesday by email. They completely ignored pretty much all my points and told me that my service will be totally disconnected on 3 February and that I would be charged £144.

They also told me to ring a repair helpline to report my phone being out of order. Which I did today with a mobile. After the usual long wait and millions of menus and pressing alphabet keys on your telephone which they did not recognise, I finally got to their faults helpline. They informed me that there was a billing problem and that was why my phone was cut off so they transferred me to customer service. I treid to point out that I didn’t think this was the case since my other services were working normally (for Virgin). The customer services operative was very helpful but she could not explain why I was cut off since my account was up-to-date. Eventually (20 minutes wait) it was agreed they would transfer me back to repairs. Repairs could not understand why I had been cut off by them but said it was some sort of a “mistake”. After another 20 minutes they agreed to restore my telephone service in “2-24 hours”. I am pleased to say that 4 hours later it is now working.

It is quite clear that my phone was cut off maliciously for over 2 weeks purely because I treid to cancel my service and they are now intending to totally disconnect my service (without my agreement) and charge me £144. Needless to say I will continue complaining. Many thanks to everyone who have contacted me to share the awful experiences they have had with Virgin Media and suggestions on what to do next.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Elder Abuse: sign the UNISON e-petition and pass the link on

Check out and please support this petition calling for a Parliamentary debate on Elder Abuse.  They need to get 100,000 supporters.

"This petition has come from the Retired Members of UNISON, but you don't have to be a trade unionist to sign it. It affects everyone and is non-political. The law regarding elderly vulnerable people needs changing for you, and for your family:-

• Due to mental/physical incapacity many older people are as vulnerable as a baby. There would be public outcry if politicians opposed legislation for
care of children as hard as they oppose legislation for care for the elderly.

• There are specific laws protecting children, animals and domestic violence, but only regular laws to protect the Elderly

• We are calling for the introduction of Elderly Abuse Protection Legislation as a matter of urgency.

• As with child abuse, and racial or homophobic hate crimes, incidents of neglect and ill treatment that specifically targets an older person should be a specific criminal offence with additional penalties.

JOIN OUR CAMPAIGN. Sign this petition

Ken in the lead for London Mayor (just)

Good news that YouGov opinion polls have Labour Candidate, Ken Livingstone in the lead . Only just (39% Ken and 37% Boris) but it seems that Londoners are beginning to get fed up with "out of touch" Old Etonian Millionaire, Boris Johnson and the Labour Fair Fares campaign is also making an impression on hard pressed commuters.

On Saturday 28th January, to mark 100 days to go, there is 100 campaign events in one day across London (see video). 

Check out Red Brick on role that the housing crisis in London has helped bring about this change.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dirty Unilever

Unilever – not as clean as it claims” reveals how the world’s third largest consumer products company pays its CEO Paul Polman 285 times more than the average worker yet is forcing through plans that will see UK workers’ pensions fall by between 20 and 40 per cent. Unite says this is a continuation of a global strategy which has seen the company cut jobs and pursue ruthless outsourcing in order to generate wealth for its executives at the expense of the workforce.

Unite is urging viewers to send a simple message to CEO Paul Polman, which is “it is time for you to talk.

On Wednesday January 18th workers will begin a programme of 11 days of strike action right across the UK operation, hitting production of leading brands from Pot Noodle to Marmite, Persil to Dove. The workers are furious that the company is planning to ditch their final salary pension scheme despite earlier assurance to the workforce that it would be retained and the company’s point-blank refusal to discuss alternatives with the workers’ unions".

AMNT Presentation to Irish Banking Trade Association

Yesterday, during a visit to their headquarters in Dublin, Janice Turner, the Joint Chair of the Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) and I gave a 45 minute presentation to the Irish Bank Officials Association (IBOA) National Executive Committee.

The IBOA represents 22,000 finance workers in the Republic and Northern Ireland. It has has been very supportive of the AMNT and its lay pension trustees NEC have played a key role in our growth. Their members are in Defined Benefit (DB) and Defined Contribution (DC) pensions schemes.
Being finance workers they are acutely aware of the value of pensions and the threats that all their schemes currently face. The employer pension "promise" and "covenant" is under attack. For example the UK regulated Banks suffer from unnecessary and damaging accounting standards while in the Republic there is also no equivalent of the Pension Protection Fund (PPF).  This needs to be challenged.

I think that the IBOA committee members and officers appreciate that the AMNT is the only organisation that is run solely by member nominated pension trustees who want to not only defend and promote DB but also want to improve all DC schemes as well.

At some point in the future it would make sense to try and organise local pension training and briefings by the AMNT outside London. 

Many thanks to the IBOA for the warm welcome and hospitality they showed to us during our visit.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Labour Party NEC elections: Joanne Milligan

Joanne is standing for the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC). Click here for a copy of her request for nominations. CLP's have until the 30 March 2012 to make nominations.
Party members will receive ballot papers in June.

Joanne is the type of Labour Party member who you will bump into campaigning in various by elections in the midst of winter and Chairing effectively those difficult regional and national meetings where some folk prefer the traditional Party bunfight rather than reasoned debate.

In September 2010 I posted here on Joanne's (successful) attempt to be elected to the Labour Party National Policy Forum. This post is the second highest page view "hit" ever on this blog (google stats).

Monday, January 16, 2012

London Marathon 2012 Wk 12: To Warren pond and back

According to the training programme I had to either enter a half marathon race or run 13 miles as fast as I can. I couldn't find a race this weekend so decided to make my own run. The 15 mile Epping Forest Centenary Walk starts nearby to where I live. Warren pond is about half way. So I thought I would run there and back. I had a running backpack with extra juice, clothing, phone and money.  I started off after I finished my Council Surgery. The weather was
fantastic. Blue skies and winter sunshine.

I still got lost in a couple of times in Leyton flats. But managed to find my way to the reservoir and across the foot bridge over the North Circular. Then shortly after the Rodney "Gipsy" Smith memorial I got lost again and ended up in Woodford Green. I managed eventually to get back on track and reached Warren pond (see picture) which is right next to Queen Elizabeth Hunting Lodge where I started last week's run. By coincidence there was a cross country run taking place organised by the local running club Orion Harriers. I turned back home towards Forest Gate.  I got lost again in Hatch Grove and came to a complete halt and had to backtrack. Eventually finding Highams Park lake and getting back on track. I got lost for the last time after the reservoir.

After running along the A104 for a while I managed to cross the road and find a path back to the Centenary Walk.  At around this point I was running on empty. My legs stopped doing what I wanted them to do and every step was pretty sore and painful. I remembered why I hadn't done a marathon since 2002. I slowed right down to a very simple jog and managed to get myself home.  There and back took about 2 hours 50 minutes. I got lost a couple of times which did not help. I did a 10 minutes walk/job/stretch in the beginning and at the end a 10 minute walk cool down. so I think that I did 14 odd miles cross country in about 2hrs: 30 minutes. Which is not great but not bad at this stage of the programme.  After a quick shower and change I hobbled over to the West Ham Scouts to support their traditional Pensioner "Christmas" Dinner and Show. 

I am running the London marathon in April using the official advanced training programme and will be raising funds for Homeless Youth charity "Alone in London". Click here to sponsor me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Virgin Media Complaint Update: Big Fat Zero

I made a complaint here on 4 January about anti-trade union boss Richard Branson and the treatment that you receive when you try and cancel your Virgin Media Contract. Following which Virgin Media apparently decided to cut off my land line to punish me for daring to make a complaint.  I made a further complaint here but once again, I have had no contact at all with Virgin Media. They are of course ignoring their own complaint procedure. But no surprise there. My phone is still not working.

I've just made a third complaint and have given them 72 hours to respond or I will make a report to the regulator. Not that they are at all bothered about this since the regulator is I understand pretty toothless.

I've had a quick look around Youtube and this clip by the CWU about Virgin Media plans to close its Liverpool office is one of the very few about Branson and Virgin Media that is not so rude as to contravene the Public Order Act. Sign the CWU petition against offshoring jobs here.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

AMNT Pension Week article on Governance & the LGPS

I wrote this article on behalf of the Association of Member Nominated Trustees (AMNT) last month which was published in Pensions Week.

I tried to answer the following question. "I have just been elected as a trade union employee representative on my local government pension scheme. What should I do next?".

Quick plug for the next open meeting of the AMNT on 23 February 2012. One of our speakers is Con Keating. Who is one of the leading proponents of Defined Benefit (DB) Pensions Schemes.  To attend this event join the AMNT here.

(NB I am Chair of the AMNT DB working group not the AMNT as stated in the Pension Week article)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Carlsberg Beer Strike banned: Production "essential service"... (Probably)

I've just sent a protest email to the President of the Republic of Lithuania, their Prime Minister and
the CEO of the Carlsberg brewery in Lithuania.

The Lithuanian Courts have apparently "banned" a strike by Carlsberg brewery workers on the
grounds that beer production is an "essential public service". The strike was against the 3rd year of a pay freeze.   

This is not only plain silly but a clear infringement of International Labour Law. The Union has made a complaint to the ILO. Carlsberg, the 4th biggest brewery in the world,  is in danger of becoming a laughing stock and destroying their international brand name.  Click here for further details and to send your own email protest.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

120th anniversary of the election of Keir Hardie as Independent Labour MP for West Ham South

In July 1892 Scottish trade union leader J Keir Hardie became the first Independent Labour MP when he was elected for West Ham South. He defeated the sitting Conservative candidate by 5,268 votes to 4,036. Following his election he made a speech to supporters from the outside balcony of the Old Town Hall in Stratford.  Today you can walk past this spot on Stratford High Street.

At the West Ham ward meeting last week the following motion was passed unanimously:-
“West Ham Labour Party branch propose that the 120th anniversary of the election of Keir Hardie as Independent Labour MP for West Ham South be marked in some way in Stratford Town Hall ”.  This was noted at West Ham Executive Council last night and will go to the local Party General Council on the 26th.
This anniversary will also take place just before the London Olympics 2012 begins in Stratford. We will see if we can possibly link both events. In the meanwhile I asked the social media Labour Movement historian Captain Swing (who had reminded me of the anniversary) if he had any ideas how we can mark the occasion. He suggested (amongst many things) that we hold a local Labour Party seminar to discuss what Keir Hardie can teach us today (and to dye the Thames Red!). Hat tip picture Captain Swing.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Vinnie Jones' hard and fast Hands-only CPR

I saw this TV advert from the British Heart Foundation (BHF) featuring Vinnie Jones a few days ago and thought it was simply great. I have been trained in first aid off and on since I was a kid.   I'm currently a designated workplace first aider.  During the actual training I come away feeling fairly confident about carrying out CPR for suspected heart attacks.  Yet as time goes on I get less and less sure, that in an emergency, I would remember the exact sequence of mouth to mouth resuscitation and chest compressions. If I feel this, you can understand why members of the public, who have never been trained, often panic and don't do nothing when they come across someone dying of a cardiac arrest. What the BHT and Vinnie "explain" is just get on and do "Hands-only CPR" in time to the music (ironically) of "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. It can make a dramatic difference in survival rates if CPR is given promptly. Time is of the essence.

There is a serious side to this. I will declare that my father died of a heart attack in the street of a small town while he was on a long distance walk. The family know that a Police Officer did attend and tried CPR which eventually failed.  What we don't know exactly is how long it took for officer to arrive and whether if a passerby had tried "hand-only CPR" earlier there might have been a different outcome.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beware: Pickpocket Operating on Public Transport

hat tip thingy: Ken for London

UNISON Pensions decision: jaw-jaw better than war-war (for now)

In a victory for common sense UNISON elected lay reps have voted to continue with negotiations
over Local Government and NHS pensions.

This morning there was a two hour Pension Summit with 250 senior lay reps present were it was clear that an overwhelming majority of branches, up and down the country, wanted negotiations to continue.  While reserving the right to call further action if these talks break down. Their was near unanimous agreement that there had been a significant improvement in the offer over pensions and that we had a duty to talk not walk.

Next there were separate detailed briefings on the Local Government and NHS pension schemes after which the different Service Group Executive's (SGE)  met and debated on what to do next.  I am really pleased that all the SGE's voted to talk further. 

One sour point in an otherwise positive and constructive day is that it is clear that certain "individuals" outside the union have been telling completely despicable lies about UNISON and trying to interfere in our internal democratic process.  Now while I can respect the opinion of those who genuinely feel that UNISON have made a wrong call.  This is the decision of our democratically elected representatives. What many UNISON reps will not tolerate is unrepresentative, ultra left sects playing out their toy town revolutionary fantasies at our expense. We will not do what we are told to do and think by rule or ruin wreckers and splitters.

Monday, January 09, 2012

London Marathon Training Wk 11: Epping Forest

I've started getting back into the training programme after crimbo and New Year.  My achilles seems better but still no interval sprints.  I'm using energy sport drinks for distances that take longer than 30 minutes and I think that they do help a little.

The run of the week was in Epping Forest.  It started at the car park opposite the Butlers Retreat cafe (currently being refurbished) in Rangers Road, across Chingford plains and around Connaught Waters (see picture).  Then an anti-clock wise circular route through the forest following various random paths that happen to take my fancy. Coming out of Bury wood into Chingford plains again and ending back at Butlers retreat.  It took around 75 minutes and was a enjoyable but muddy run through some gorgeous scenery.

Next to Butlers retreat there is the 16th Century Queen Elizabeth's Hunting Lodge. I once (for a very short time) had a telesales job in the stables next door.  It was a complete and utter con job.  If you ever get an unsolicitored letter or postcard in the post telling you to ring a number since you have won a prize - don't.

I am running the London marathon in April using the official advanced training programme and will be raising funds for Homeless Youth charity "Alone in London". Click here to sponsor me.

More photo's from run on Facebook here.

Nelson ILP Clarion House Centenary Celebrations 1912 - 2012

"The Clarion House was built to be a non-profit making co-operative with any excess money to be used in spreading the word of socialism.
This was no accident, no coincidence. It was planned in the hope that others would take it as a model of how society as a whole ought to be organised.

Visitors could come and witness how people - lots of people - were prepared to devote their lives to the Clarion movement for no personal gain, other than the knowledge that they would leave the world a better place than when they entered it.

The Clarion is a vision of the future, a vision of a socialist society, a commonwealth, based on co-operation and fellowship, not conflict and material greed...." (click to see more - hat-tip Captain Swing)

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Public Pensions dispute: do we talk or walk?

Next week I will be attending a national UNISON briefing on the pensions dispute which will be followed by a meeting of those Service Group Executives (SGE) who have members in the Local Government and NHS pensions schemes.

The SGE’s is made up solely of elected lay members. I sit on the Community & Voluntary SGE and we will be debating and making a decision on whether to support the framework agreement on resolving the pensions dispute. I posted here my initial views on the agreement. Whilst I look forward to the briefing and the debate, the more I think about it, the more convinced I am, that we have to see this through. We need to carry on talking and not walk out of negotiations at this point.

Calling for walkouts is one thing but actually getting people out on strike nowadays is very, very difficult. First and foremost you have to convince members that this strike action is an absolute last resort. When all other attempts and means to negotiate have been exhausted. We were able to demonstrate this was the case for the November 30 strike. Members know that there has been concessions made and will expect us to try our best to put together a deal before being called out again.

We also need to raise our game. The strike on November 30 was a great success but in many ways we punched above our weight. We now know where we were strong and were we were not. We need to build upon our strengths and organise in those areas where we simply don’t have the membership density or steward structure to deliver.

Some unions appear to have rejected talking further and want to plough on with further strike action. If that is their decision then fair enough that is their choice, I for one will not interfere with their internal democratic decision making process. I do wish that others would do the same with UNISON! While I accept that some may argue tactically that the talks will not result in an acceptable offer and instead we should organise more strikes. I do not accept for a moment that to keep “Unity” we must refuse to negotiate until we get an offer that all 27 different trade unions in all their different pension schemes find acceptable. This is just nonsense.

The real threat to “Unity” will come if the unions start arguing amongst themselves with the loud mouths braying their “betrayal politics” mantra. The gains and real improvements that have been already won through the decision to strike and the ballot will be forgotten. Such division would only benefit this Tory led coalition. Pensions is not the only dispute that we are going to have to fight in the next 3 long years.

In my previous post I pointed out that some commentators are in danger of cutting off their nose to spite their face. I also think there is a risk that some in TIGMOO would rather indulge in sectarian infighting and point scoring, rather than carry out the hard work of recruiting members and stewards. Now, I am of course, a well known wallflower, who would not dream of indulging in polemic arguments with anyone.. but I would honestly rather be fighting the Tories and not other trade unionists.

However, I can’t resist this story. I met someone recently who told me how he had been hounded out of one of the ultra left sects because of the “crime of pessimism”. He was formally denounced for raising concerns about its support for a particular industrial dispute. As an experienced trade union activist he was surprised that his concerns were ignored because it did not fit the Party line. He was ordered to either repent his “pessimism” or face expulsion. In this case he didn’t talk he walked and left the sect before he was expelled. Needless to say that dispute ended in yet another glorious defeat...

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bella Ciao Syria

On Thursday I went to my Labour Party ward meeting. Afterwards I was speaking to a longstanding member who I hadn't realised was originally from Syria. He spoke about his distress about the massacres and slaughter that is happening in his homeland. Every day he receives emails and graphic videos with shocking images and news. At my request he sent me information and a link to a Google News Group on Syria.

I clicked on its Youtube links and was pretty horrified at what I saw. Dozens of different amateur videos showing countless people being shot, dying and dead in large pools of blood. Crying relatives and friends risking their own lives to pick up up bodies and the wounded being shot at themselves. Shaky Pictures of unidentified gunmen with telescopic rifles on the roof tops of tower blocks. Tanks firing at crowds of fleeing and unarmed civilians. Warning: this link is very, very graphic. Mainstream media just cannot show these pictures. Simply and utterly dreadful. Words (for once) fail me.

Hat-tip for Youtube video above to TheTollundWoman (not graphic)

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Virgin Media Sticky Fingers

Following Richard Branson’s ignorant attacks on trades unions I have been trying to cancel my cable service with Virgin Media without much success. So far I have been told various complete and utter porkies, threatened with a £141 charge, been shouted at and then my Virgin landline goes mysteriously dead.

The story so far is on Tuesday after various doomed attempts to cancel online (you can’t), I rang Virgin Media to find out how to stop my account. After the normal 15 minute wait and going through various menus and being cut off twice. I was finally connected to an operator who asked why I wanted to leave. I told him that Richard Branson had made a very anti-trade union video for Virgin America and as lifelong trade unionist I want nothing to do with him or any company associated with him. I was told firstly that Branson had nothing anymore to do with Virgin Media (He does, he owns the Virgin "Brand", I think 9% of shares and is their biggest single private investor). It was then claimed that Branson owns shares in BBC so will I boycott them? I said that he doesn’t have shares in the BBC, it is public broadcaster and was told again yes he did. I was also told that I either had to give 6 months notice or pay £141 to leave. When I said that this was unfair it ended up with me being shouted at! Then the following morning I found that my Virgin landline is suddenly not working.

I have been a customer of Virgin Media (and the previous cable companies they bought) for 15 years. I pay £70 per month. At times this has been a pretty miserable experience but this is really the pits. I have also worked in front line customer services organisation for over 20 years and have never come across such an appalling service or attitude.

I have made an official complaint about Branson and his remarks; about their so called “contracts”; the lack of supervision and training given to staff; called for the Virgin Cable monopoly to be broken up and for greater regulation and also that my phone is fixed. Needless to say some 48 hours later nothing has been done. I’ll post on future developments.

Employment Law Prospects 2012: Workers are going to be stuffed

This is from the newsletter published yesterday by Employment Law Barrister Daniel Barnett:-

"Expected Developments in Employment law" 2012 (my comments in italics)

"31 January
closure date for calls for evidence on the effectiveness of TUPE and the scope of the collective redundancy rules - may result in a formal consultation later in the year (TUPE protection will be brought down to the absolute minimum and you could be made redundant in just 30 days)

1 February
new tribunal award limits come into force (Good but still inadequate)

6 March
consultation closes on fees in tribunals and the EAT (It could cost you around £1750 to go to an employment tribunal - far more if you want to appeal)

expected that qualifying period for unfair dismissal will increase to 2 years · various tribunal reforms to take effect, e.g. increase in deposit orders and costs awards (bad)· unpaid parental leave to increase to 4 months · working time rules to be amended to allow holiday to be carried forward in limited circumstances · maternity/paternity/adoption pay increases · SSP increases (you could be sacked for no good reason after 1 year 11 months and you will have no effective legal remedy)

pensions auto-enrolment begins for larger employers (Good) · national minimum wage may increase, depending on what the Low Pay Commission recommends in February (wait and see)

Developments with no confirmed date but likely to be progressed in 2012
penalties for employers who breach of employment rights (Good but expect wrist slap)· early compulsory ACAS conciliation of all tribunal claims (possibly good) · amendment of whistleblowing rules so that disclosures about breaches of employment contracts are no longer covered (Bad) · compromise agreements to be simplified (possibly good) · consultation on 'protected conversations' between employers and staff about employment issues without risk of dispute (your employer could bully you out of your job legally without protection)· consultation on rapid resolution scheme as alternative to tribunal for low-value and straightforward disputes (Fixed penalty ticket justice?)

· Acas Disciplinary and Grievance Code to be 'looked at' with a view to a simpler dismissal process (nuf said?)

Do not expect the "law" to protect you at work. Time to join a union for collective protection and the Labour Party to get rid of this Government in 2015.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Life in Nahr-e-Saraj – Winter 2011

"As most of us worry about a few extra pounds we put on over Christmas or sit here moaning about the football, many others will have far more serious things to worry about, debt, unemployment, poverty and then we also have those who are worried about their loved ones serving in Afghanistan.

To remind us of how these brave men and women were spending their Christmas, I attach an email that the Colonel of 5 Rifles ( a good friend and former colleague sent me yesterday)"....  Click here Hat tip Alasdair Ross blog. Former British Army warrant officer and now a Labour Councillor in Ipswich.

London Marathon Training WK 10: Sleaford, Silk Willoughby & Scredington

This week the official training programme went to pot. I stopped all sprint interval training due to fears about my left achilles tender. I also went for a walk on Christmas Day and long walk on Boxing Day instead of running.  

Run of the week was on New Year’s Day. The previous night I had been to an excellent party in Scredington Village Hall in Lincolnshire. A Roast beef dinner, desert and cheeses.  All locally sourced fresh ingredients organised, cooked and served by members of the village hall committee followed by music and fireworks. I had left the car there so I planned to incorporate the weekly long run with picking it up (and getting rid of hangover). 

My brother-in-law drew a map and I started from their house in Holdingden, Sleaford (very near the site of a Anglo-Saxon settlement). Across fields, and along first an old disused military railway line from RAF Cranwell to Sleaford, past allotments then along a dry river bed which turned into the River Slea (Rauceby Banks). Through the town centre past the Handley monument over the railway then to village of Silk Willoughby (see picture of church and the early blossom on the tree in front. Spring is on its way!)

Past an enclosured with tiny very cute Shetland foals and then a long steady run past flat fields into Scredington.  A bit too long (1 hour 45 minutes) and too much hard surfaces but I was pleased that my achilles held out. A lovely part of the world. See pictures from run on Facebook here.

I am running the London marathon next year using the official advanced training programme and will be raising funds for Homeless Youth charity "Alone in London". Click here to sponsor me.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Stop the Rail and Bus Fare Rip Off

This morning I was outside Plaistow Underground station handing leaflets out to commuters about the massive increases in London bus and rail fares by Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson.   This is the 4th year of inflation busting rises. If you are on minimum wage you could spend a quarter of your income on
fares. If Ken Livingston is elected in May he has promised to save the average commuter £1000 over 4 years.

In Newham we had activists handing out leaflets outside nearly all our stations. While in London today there were thousands of Labour Party volunteers handing out information across hundreds of bus and rail stations across the capital.

The weather was pretty miserable, not that cold, but rainy and windy. One woman complained bitterly to me about the £5 extra a month she now had to pay while a man wanted to take leaflet to show his boss and ask for pay rise.
I'm starting to get a grip of the psychology of handing out leaflets outside stations.  When a group of people come towards you from say a bus, if the first person takes a leaflet then most of the rest will also take one. But if the first few don't, then no-one in that group will tend to either. 

Picture of top West Ham CLP activist Tahmina in action (yet again - she was also out tonight with Newham Young Labour outside Stratford station).

Monday, January 02, 2012

Welcome Back Big Bad Mikey :)

Welcome back to Newham blogging Big Bad Mikey. I always knew that you could not leave me and close your blog. I am so sorry that Dud and Pete upset you so much and I am glad you have returned to the fold.  I am sure that you will appreciate the above "You say goodbye and I say Hello" clip :)

Boxing Day Walk 2011: Aldbury, Ivinghoe Beacon and Ashridge

Off message - but a superb Boxing day walk ( Number 21) in the Chilterns.  An "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". 7 miles long orange
"Challenging Walk" but only 3.5 hrs long.

Aldbury, the starting point, is a chocolate box English village with thatched cottages, Olde worlde pubs, pond and punishment stock.

Ivinghoe Beacon (see picture right) is a spectacular (former iron age fort) hill
landmark overlooking the plains below.

Ashridge is a simple lovely forest estate and the walk that ends up at the Bridgewater monument. I have posted more photos on Facebook here.