Thursday, February 28, 2013

Christian and Muslim Brainwashed Morons

Read the captions on the photographs. This is a great question to ask islamophobes. The answer is of course that all of these brainwashed morons above do not represent Christians or Muslims. They are fanatics who only represent their own twisted and bigoted egos. All men I note. Hat tip Cllr Shadab Qumer via FaceBook

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Tory Whitehall crib sheet for attacks on poor and vulnerable

Great post stolen from Redbrick blog.
"From an anonymous correspondent

As welfare ‘reform’ and housing cuts bite ever harder, when do we reach the point where the government concedes that the hardship caused is an inevitable consequence of rebalancing the public finances and reducing the deficit? So far, they seem to be in deep denial.

This contrasts with the Thatcher era, because when she increased unemployment as a tool of economic policy, she at least admitted that the growth in joblessness was a price which was (on her reasoning) worth paying.

The Cameron government seems either to deny that there is any hardship or to blame anyone other than the ministers who have instituted the cuts. Whenever some new example of the horrendous effects of their policies (here’s a good example - Ed) is presented to them they have a range of stock responses.

We’ve been wondering if there is a standard Whitehall crib sheet for ministers. Well by sheer chance, we’ve been sent what looks like the housing and welfare crib sheet in a plain brown envelope.

In the interests of open government, here it is…

Say the cuts are avoidable. This is Eric’s favourite. The trick is to give the impression that all the cuts can be made painlessly by eliminating luxuries and sacking backroom staff. You can use his little list. Even the Prime Minister makes this excuse: at PMQs last week he accused councils of making high-profile cuts ‘to try to make a point’, not because they need to. Some people will believe him.

Blame the victims. This works well too. Extravagant housing benefit claims may only happen in a few isolated cases, but even so the press will lap them up, especially if they are large families, unemployed, migrants or – even better – all three. Give the impression that such claims make up most of the welfare budget. Whatever you do, don’t admit that over half of welfare spending goes to older people as they are seen as deserving of it. If talking about housing benefit, try to give the impression that it’s spent by the tenants themselves to fund their indolent lifestyles – whatever you do, don’t admit that the money goes to landlords who are pushing up rents because there are insufficient houses.

Use the keywords. We know it sounds boring, but you have to repeatedly refer to ‘scroungers’, ‘strivers not skivers’ and talk about ‘subsidised housing’ not council homes. This helps confirm the impression that most welfare spending is a waste of money. Suggestions for new and even more derogative terms are always welcome. IDS has made a good attempt to link welfare recipients in the public mind with drug addicts and alcoholics. Follow his lead.

Blame the previous government. It’s their fault we have too few homes. Focus on the fact that housebuilding in Labour’s last year was the worst they achieved, even though we know that was because of the credit crunch. Don’t admit either that (a) housebuilding under the coalition is on average 45,000 homes less per year than the output under Labour, or (b) that 2010/11 and 2011/12 were the two worst years since the war for English housebuilding.

Blame local government. So Westminster’s putting homeless families up in expensive hotels and Camden’s sending them to Coventry (or Leicester, or somewhere else absurdly far from London). Brilliant: we can say how stupid this is and tell them to stop, even though we know they can’t.

Don’t admit that policies to cut the welfare budget affect anything else. For example, some academics argue that cuts in benefits for private tenants mean that more of them will become homeless, or that more people will need accommodation with lower rents in the social sector. Deny that this will happen. If any evidence emerges that shows you’re wrong, under no circumstances must you agree with it. Better still, don’t read the evidence then no one can accuse you of knowing the facts but ignoring them. Alternatively, officials may be able to find an obscure or outdated source that on the surface appears to contradict the evidence: use it!

Deny that cuts are taking place. For example, is there any part of your budget that you have decided to protect, however small? Grossly exaggerate its importance. Take a lesson from Grant Shapps: every time someone said funding for homelessness was being cut and decimating services he would point to his department’s small fund for homelessness prevention, and claim that because it hadn’t been reduced then either services had been unaffected or – yes! – any cuts were local councils’ fault.

Apply a sticking plaster. It’s obvious to a fool that the scale of the welfare cuts must – in reality – mean massive hardship. Furthermore, Labour will find deserving cases (people dying of cancer, homeless ex-servicemen, that sort of thing). First, always offer to investigate the particular case, implying you might do something (even if you won’t). Second, point to the money that’s been set aside for special cases (e.g. discretionary housing payments). Never fail to give the impression that this is sufficient to deal with any genuine hardship. Mention the amount e.g. DHPs total £60 million in 2012/13. This will seem a large sum to the public even though it’s only a tiny fraction of the cuts taking place.

We’re dealing with it. Unfortunately some problems are so big and so obvious that you’ll have to pretend you’re doing something about them. For example, every fool knows builders have virtually stopped building. Given that the housing budget had one of the biggest cuts of all in the Spending Review there’s precious little we can do, but you must pretend otherwise. First, argue that output is going up even when it’s going down (NB. Don’t appear on Sunday Politics, choose programmes where they don’t do their research). Second, have some useful initiative available that sounds like it might solve the problem even if it’s far too small to make any difference.

Grant gave us NewBuy and FirstBuy, which both sound sufficiently impressive, but we might need to invent one or two more when people realise how inconsequential they are. Say we are selling more homes under right to buy as if this helps solve the problems, even if we aren’t and it doesn’t.

Joking aside, Richard Vize made the excellent point in the Guardian last week that Cameron and Co. are undermining local government and failing to prepare people for the depth of the cuts that are now hitting them – with much worse still in the pipeline. He says that ministers are ‘giving the impression that public services can indeed manage cuts without pain or profound change. They can’t.’ How can the coalition expect to be taken seriously as a government, if they make cuts on an unprecedented scale over a dangerously tight timescale, but refuse even to admit there might be consequences for public services?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Newham Council Motion On Campaign Against Blacklisting

This is the speech I made last night at Newham Council meeting seconding the motion here item 17 proposed by Councillor Unmesh Desai.

"A few weeks ago, like many of you here, I went to the funeral of former trade union activist and Labour Councillor, Vic Turner.

At the funeral I bumped into my TUC health and safety tutor, a former construction worker called Dave Smith. Dave taught me about 10-15 years ago in North East London College. He was a great tutor who also spoke of his past life as an engineer and carpenter on building sites.

When I asked him why he stopped working on sites, he told me that he had no choice. He just stopped getting any work on building sites even as a sub-contractor. He retrained as a carpenter but still could not find any long term work. He suspected that it was to do with his trade union activities and work as a safety rep for UCATT, the construction trade union, but he could not prove anything. His income went down from £36k per year to £12k per year. In 10 years he estimated he lost £175k in wages.

As Dave put it recently in the Guardian. He was a qualified engineer during the longest ever building boom in this country yet his children relied on milk tokens.Dave had a family to support so he had no choice but to retrain as a part time teacher to try and earn a living for them.

In 2009 the Information Commissioners Office finally raided the HQ of a company called "The Consulting Association" and amongst thousands of others, they found a 36 page secret report on Dave, including his national insurance number, photographs, his car and even the place where his brother worked, as well as crude smears. Much of the information was held in card indexes with information clipped from newspapers and passed to employers who would check against potential recruits.

Dave and many others on the list are taking their case to the High court for compensation and Justice.

So far Consulting Association has been fined a miserly £5k for helping to destroy so many people’s lives, while the companies and senior executives who supplied and used this unlawful information have not suffered at all. They admit to wrong doing but refuse to pay any compensation.

Council, we don’t want McCarthyism in this Country. How would any of us here tonight, or our  partners or children, like to face a lifetime of unemployment, because they asked their employer for a health and safety risk assessment or protective clothing?

Like many members I have relatives who work in construction and even in North Sea rigs. This is dangerous work and we want stroppy union reps challenging employers and doing their best to make things safe.

The criminal and civil law has proved to be totally unable so far to protect workers from such victimisation. The only things that these big publicly listed construction companies understand is their pockets. We need to make it crystal clear that not only is blacklisting wrong but to use our influence in the construction sector and make it clear we don’t want those who don’t apologise and don’t pay compensation in our Borough.

If they pay so little heed to the health and safety of their own workers then it is clear that they don’t give a monkey about the safety of our residents who live next to sites either.

I will also be asking Legal services to confirm that the Council Pension fund can contact our fund managers to make sure that if we hold any money in these rogue companies that they are taken to task.

Council, please support this motion and send a message that Blacklisting will not be tolerated in any form or in any industry".

The motion was passed unanimously. Today Dave is in Court again asking for justice. After the debate a Councillor told me that on the London Cross Rail project a contractor which was known to have a good record on health & safety and high Union membership has lost its contract. It seems Blacklisting is still going on. Can other Councils and CLPs consider this motion item 17 as well.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sign petition to stop market tendering of NHS services

To: Members of Parliament and of the House of Lords

We the undersigned call on both Houses of Parliament to ensure the NHS Competition regulations (SI 257) made under the Health & Social Care Act 2012, are subject to a full debate, and vote, on the floor of both Houses of Parliament, and that they are defeated or withdrawn.

Why is this important?

These regulations - which will only go to a vote if parliament insists - would require virtually all health provision to be carried out in competitive markets, regardless of the wishes of either local people, GPs or local Clinical Commissioning Groups. 

They contradict assurances that were given by health ministers during the passage of the Act that it did not mean the privatisation of the NHS, and that local people would have the final say in who provided their NHS.

For example, Lord Howe said then “Clinicians will be free to commission services in the way they consider best. We intend to make it clear that commissioners will have a full range of options and that they will be under no legal obligation to create new markets... this will be made absolutely clear through secondary legislation and supporting guidance as a result of the Bill”.

Andrew Lansley said (in a letter to the Clinical Commissioning Groups set up to manage most health budgets) that “It is a fundamental principle of the Bill that you as commissioners, not the Secretary of State and not regulators – should decide when and how competition should be used to serve your patients interests..” We call on parliament to take all necessary steps to ensure these regulations,
which would be incredibly damaging to the NHS, do not become law. For more information see this report:

Hat tip Captain Swing

Tory Carvery

Hat tip David Marsden on FaceBook

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Galloway the Ego slithers back to the East End

So Gorgeous George Galloway and his creature Diss-Respect is back in Newham, busy trying to stir up division and discord  in our community.

Jumping on any bandwagon they can, less than 3 years since this unlikely alliance of Muslim religious conservatives and extremist revolutionary atheists  were kicked out of East London, they are back with more of their nonsense.

Diss-Respect is trying to inflame concern about the recent refusal of a planning application for a large mosque in Abbey Mills, E15.

Galloway has taken time off from sucking up to murderous dictators, rape suspects and despotic regimes to claim if it had been a Catholic or Jewish church, then it would have been given permission. The only reason according to him, it was turned down was that it was "by... Muslims".

This is a completely untrue and also in my view a despicable statement to make. Even the worse sort of carpetbagger must realise that such baseless, inflammatory comments are shameful and potentially incite hatred.

Galloway calls for Newham Labour Mayor Robin Wales "to resign" over the turning down of the current application.

Why?  Robin Wales played no part in the planning committee decision. It was made by Newham Councillors. You cannot "whip" Councillors on planning decisions.  They make their own minds up on the merits of the application within planning law.

Robin Wales was re-elected as Newham Mayor in May 2010 with 68% of the vote. One of biggest majorities in the country on the same day that Galloway was humiliated and thrown out as a MP of next door Tower Hamlets.

Boris Johnson, the Tory Mayor of London has also turned down this application. Although I would be more than happy for Boris to resign, why hasn't Galloway called for his resignation as well?

Doesn't Galloway realise how stupid he and anyone else looks calling for anyone to resign when there is no legal or any other basis whatsoever to do so?

Newham is an imperfect but still successful multicultural and diverse community.  One key thing that all right thinking people agree upon and value is the rule of law in this country. I personally fully support the idea of a beautiful, signature mosque and religious facilities for this site, but it must fully comply with planning law. No ifs and no buts.

Galloway has also been spouting on about how he is going to run a petition on a debate in the House of Commons on this issue. Galloway is one maverick MP out of 650. The rest of MPs quite rightly mostly despise him and will not pay the slightest attention to anything he says or does.

Picture above is of the former Newham Respect headquarters "To Let".

No comment.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

UNISON Labour Link Officer Branch Report 2012

My report to UNISON Housing Association Branch Annual Report 2012.

"In the GLA and Mayor elections in May, Branch Labour Link members played their part across London by being in UNISON door knocking and tele-canvassing teams which helped get rid of nasty Tory GLA members such as Brian Coleman, while London Mayor Candidate, Ken Livingston only narrowly missed out being elected.

We held our annual meeting in the House of Commons in October and our key note speaker was Shadow Housing Minister Jack Dromey (see picture), who in a well attended and lively session, made a convincing case for an alternative housing policy.  At the same time he listened to our concerns about poverty wages, insecure employment and the impact that austerity has on those trying against the odds to provide quality services.

He overstayed the Q&A by 40 minutes and let one of our major employers, who also had an appointment that evening waiting for him.

In 2013 we need to exercise our local and national political muscle to support our campaigns to not only save our jobs, pensions and pay but argue for different ways of doing things. For example sector wide collective pay agreements;  for a living wage plus (decent pay, pensions and sickness benefit) for all housing and care workers and no public sector contracts for employers who do not  recognise trade unions.

Those of us who support the Labour Party need to play our part in making sure that a Labour Government is elected in 2015 and that it is a truly progressive Government with an alternative economic policy that will transform our society.

John Gray"

Friday, February 22, 2013

Labour London Housing Group Policy Conference: 13 April 2013

Jack Dromey MP is the Keynote speaker with Karen Buck MP, Sir Steve Bullock, Cllr James Murray and Jacky Peacock. (Double click to bring up details). I will be taking part in a panel session.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Guest post on her speech to the London Labour Party Biennial Conference last Saturday.

"Good morning Chair, Conference, my name is Sanchia Alasia and I’m here as a Greater London UNISON Labour Link delegate, asking you to support housing composite no.2. As a Councillor in Barking and Dagenham I am seeing an increasing amount of sheds in gardens that are becoming an ever increasing occurrence for people’s dwellings in my ward.

This is simply not acceptable. In order to deal with this issue effectively, with the landlords who take advantage of vulnerable residents, UNISON believes that we need to give our enforcement professionals the tools to enforce effectively, not on a voluntary basis, but a mandatory one.

The current laws that we have are too slow and expensive to implement and the government’s response is woefully inadequate. UNISON urges you to support this composite to make it a clear and simple criminal offence to allow tenants in premises that are not fit for human habitation and to hold our landlords to account. Conference please support this motion. Thank you".

Boris and his Pension Merger Plan to Rescue GB Plc

On Monday the FT rather oddly announced that the new Chair of the London Pension Fund Authority (LPFA), Edmund Truell, with the support of Mayor Boris Johnson, is to merge all 34 London Staff Council funds "into a single scheme and channel more investment into the capital’s infrastructure projects".  The Evening Standard also waded in on Tuesday in a similar vein here

The fact that neither Boris nor the LPFA has any legal powers to do this was not mentioned.

Now it makes perfect sense to look into merger in order to see if it will save money and stop Councils and pension scheme members being ripped off by vested interests. Equally, no one would be more happier than me if we could use pension funds to kick start the economy and say build more homes.

But there is a problem. Some 4.6 million Brits have a local government pension entitlement. Its primary purpose is to pay an income in retirement and not to be a substitute for inadequate investment in infrastructure by Government.

Some people also think that the LPFA is looking at merger due to its own internal financial predicament as a mature scheme with many pensioners claiming their money but relatively few active members still paying into the scheme.

There has also been claims of scaremongering. The Local Government Pension Scheme as a whole has assets of £160 billion. It is not broke. Some schemes do indeed have difficulties but in many cases this is due to outdated and irrelevant accounting measures which price scheme liabilities on the current abnormal 200 year low in gilt yields.

So far there has also been no mention either that in the new LGPS 2014 scheme members (and their "widows & orphans") will face the future costs of poor investment performance.  Under European and UK law pension funds must be run in the interests of beneficiaries, then the case for or against merger or for investment in any particular asset class, must first and foremost take into account their interests. Not short term political ambitions for a flat in Number 10.

There are a number of obvious risks. What if merged Council pension funds invest in building homes for rent and there is a property price crash? What if investment in alternative electricity supply is undermined by a change in future Government policy? In other countries pension funds that invest in infrastructure get significant Government financial support or guarantees.

There is also the issue of "why only the LGPS?". While it may seem rather strange that there are 101 separate LGPS schemes worth £160 billion, there are about 53,000 private Pensions schemes. The vast majority of whom are tiny. How well managed are they? This is also important to GB Plc since the Private sector defined benefit schemes alone have £1.1 trillion in investments. Surely it makes sense to look at merging private sector schemes as well?

The Secretary of State, Eric Pickles, who the FT claims is a supporter of Council Pensions merger, may have the legal power to force merger.But unless this is done sensitively and by putting the interests of beneficiaries first, then it is likely to end in tears. Which if the supporters of merger are right, would indeed be bad news not only for the LGPS but also for GB Plc.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Ultra Left Claim UNISON 2011 Pension Strike Victory!

There was an excellent UNISON NEC meeting today. In a special meeting of the Policy  Development and Campaign sub-committee, I was pleased to hear some members cite the UNISON Pension Strike Victory of 2011.

I couldn't agree more. 

It seems mind that the Ministry of Truth has been a bit busy.

I did make this prediction (last paragraph) at the time.  :)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

London Labour Link Election for Delegates to National Labour Link Forum 2013

Election statement for ANDERSON, Jason; DAVEY and SLATER, Jonathon.

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

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

To defeat this ConDem Tory Government in 2015 (or preferably long beforehand) we need to appeal to our core Labour vote. We therefore need to champion trade union issues and move our members concerns up the Party political agenda, using our influence to promote a manifesto that includes:
  • Reinvestment in public services
  • Increase public sector pay and keep defending our pensions
  • Access to fair and affordable housing for public sector employees and their families
  • A fairer taxation system
  • Government policies that promote growth and jobs.
You want delegates who will be listened to and not be afraid to argue for change within the Labour Party but who also realise that the only alternative to making the Party electable is another dose of Clegg and Cameron.

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

Next year in London the Labour Party will fighting local Council and European elections. We must unite around the Party and work to bring down this ConDem Government".

Sanchia, Lynn, Grace, Gloria and Kim were elected unopposed as female delegates. Vote also for John Gray as the General Seat delegate to Labour Party Conference.

London Labour Link Election for Delegate to Labour Party Conference 2013

Election Statement - John Gray (Vote John). "I am seeking election to represent the views of APF payers in the London Region at this year’s Labour Party Conference.

I support the link we have with the Labour Party. Labour in power has delivered real improvements for our members, but, Labour needs to change and do more to win the next General Election.

We need an alternative economic policy. We need to champion trade union issues within the Party at Conference and move our members concerns up the political agenda.

As an active UNISON and Labour Party member I believe in supporting the Party, but also in campaigning for or against change where it impacts on our members.

Campaign within the Party for policies that lead to:
  • A real increase in public sector pay. Our pay in real terms has been cut. Our economy is suffering from a lack of demand. To increase demand, pay more to ordinary workers who will spend it and not give tax breaks to millionaires who will save it.
  • All public sector contractors should be forced to pay a Living wage, Sickness benefits and a Living pension.
  • In a recession you should invest in public services not cut it. Reduce the deficit instead by progressive and fair taxation on those who can afford it.
  • Defend all public sector pensions.
  • Access to quality and affordable housing for public sector employees and their families.
Next year there will be local Council and European elections in London. It is vital that Labour does well in these elections in the run up to 2015. We need at all costs to get rid of this Tory led Coalition government which is destroying the NHS and public services. To do this we need a Labour Government that will be as bold, radical and reforming as in 1945-1950".

Please also vote for Jason Anderson, Mike Davey and Jonathon Slater (and not the Miserablist One) for National Labour Link Forum (see next post).

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Branch Secretary Annual Report on 2012

This was my contribution to the Branch Annual Report. "2012 has been another appalling year for many of our members.

You may be one of the many Care and Support workers who have had their wages and conditions slashed or you may work in Housing  Management and had another year of pay cuts due to below inflation cost of living rises.

In one of our major employers, it is estimated that in real terms, average pay has been reduced by nearly 14% in the last 5 years since the link with RPI (Retail Price Index) was broken. No wonder so many of us find it hard to manage and pay the bills. While at the same time rental income for landlords has outpaced inflation and many senior executives have seen their pay go up and up.

Some employers and the Social Housing Pension Fund also seem to have taken leave of their senses
and are trying to close down pension schemes due to “funny money” deficits. This decision is wrong and completely unnecessary since they know that the Government has announced that the way we value pensions is nonsense and are reviewing it.

This year our guest speaker at our AGM (12 February) in the House Commons is Gregg McClymont MP, the Shadow Minister for Pensions. No doubt we will be discussing the issue with him!

It has not all been doom and gloom. We have been able to win better than average pay deals in certain
employers and we have protected many members from some of the worse attacks on terms and conditions. Our stewards and branch staff have made a difference and have kept people in jobs, stopped unfairness and supported members going through difficult times.

What has been pretty obvious to me, is by and large, in the employers where we are better organised, with greater membership density, greater number of local stewards and regular joint consultative meeting between the union and management, we have been able to achieve much better pay, protection and pension deals than where we are weaker.

This should be no surprise. This is bread and butter trade unionism. The more of us in the union, the better organised we are, the better deals we are able to get for our members. It is as simple as that.

From April this year it will soon cost you up to £1200 for an employment tribunal hearing if you are unfairly
dismissed, discriminated against or suffer a determent. You cannot rely on your employer or the law to protect you at work. You can only rely on your trade union.

So once again I ask us all to recruit more members and nurture more activists and stewards. It is in everyone’s interests that this happens and it is the only way in the long term that we can increase your pay and better protect you at work.

John Gray

Sunday, February 17, 2013

London Party Biannual Conference contested Election Results

Linda Perks - 76.01% - Elected
Beulah East - 20.36%
Narider Matharoo - 3.64%

Disabilities Officer
Sean McGowan 47.65% - Elected
Sally Mulready - 23.92%
Nick Russell - 21.95%
Placida Ojinnaka - 4.94%
Robert Douglas - 1.54%

Ethnic Minority Officer
Raj Jethwa - 71.02% - Elected
Mandy Ricahrd - 17.74%
Munir Malik - 9.43%
Fahim Aktar - 1.81%

LGTB Officer
Anton Johnson - 52.26%
Daryn McCombe - 47.74%

NE London CLP's - Women
Lisa Homan - 83.33% - Elected
Judith Atkinson 16.67%

S London CLPs - Men
Charlie Mansell - 52.50% - Elected
David Gardner - 17.50%
Jeff Hanna - 15.00%
Will Martindale - 15.00%

S London CLP's - Women
Christine Bickerstaff - 70.00% - Elected
Maggie Hughes - 30.00%

NE London CLP's - Men
Unmesh Desai - 55.56% - Elected
Ricahrd Price - 44.44%

C London CLP's - Men
Francis Prideuux - 70.73% - Elected
David Warrick - 29.27%

(hat tip picture Sadiq Khan MP)

Cornish Rebellion 1497 and the Battle of Blackheath

A few weeks ago I went on a Sunday walk from the Isle of Dogs, under the Greenwich tunnel and then around Greenwich. To my surprise I came across this slate memorial plaque in Blackheath.

It remembers the leaders of the Cornish Rebellion of 1497.   Michael Joseph, a blacksmith  (An Gof) and a lawyer, Thomas Flaman.

Astonishingly there was a battle near this spot between a rebel army from Cornwall and the army of King Henry V11. The rebellion was sparked off by taxes being levied in breach of traditional rights and a 10,000 strong army marched all the way from Cornwall to demand the King changes his mind.

He didn't and his 25,000 army with heavy artillery routed the rebels.

The leaders were executed at Tyburn (now site of Marble Arch).

Is this a precursor to the "No taxation without Representation" of the American Revolution?

It is amazing what history you just happen to stumble across.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

London Labour Party Biennial Conference 2013

Add caption
Today was the London Regional Conference of the Labour Party at the Old Town Hall in Stratford, E15.

I had my ward surgery beforehand and missed the opening speeches and arrived towards the end of the plenary Housing debate.

The main hall of the Town Hall was packed with delegates. Standing room only.

Activist Jeffrey Blay, 62 years a Party member received an award from Iain McNicol, the General Secretary of the Labour Party as did the former London Regional secretary, Ken Clarke.

Iain addressed Conference next. The last time he had been in this hall he had  "piped in the haggis" for the Newham Burns Night (I saw him do this in 2012. I wonder if any other political party has a bagpipe player and black belt in Karate as its GS). He reminded everyone that the Labour Party started in this town hall with the election of Kier Hardie in 1892. Sadiq Khan MP, in his first outing as Shadow Minister for London spoke next and praised the Party links with hard working people through the trade unions and slams the London Tory record on housing. London faces a catastrophic housing crisis & social cleansing.

The morning session finished with the debate on the NHS. Picture above of Maggi Ferncombe from UNISON moving the motion on defending London's NHS.  

I didn't go to any of the lunchtime fringes due to a meeting but after the end of the NHS (no pun intended) and the London economy debate, I attended the workshop on Trade Unions and Labour Party Liaison.  Chaired by Fiona Twycross with UNISON Regional Secretary and Vice Chair Labour Board Linda Perks, Labour Party Regional Secretary Alan Olive and Alan Tate from CWU.

A delegate got herself into a little bit of a pickle when she realised that there could be a double meaning to her claim that the Labour Party is always looking at Scandinavian models! In the Q&A I mentioned the successful London training events London UNISON has run for branch Labour Link officers and that you can arrange union meetings at the House of Commons with friendly Labour MPs to attract rank and file members who would never normally attend any union or political meetings. 

My second workshop was led Margaret McDonagh and John Braggins on "Winning in low turnout areas and building our winning alliance". A key point was that we should "Stop Voter ID Now" (which will upset our organiser!).  Instead of asking people to do something for us (go out and vote Labour) we should be asking them what we can do for them. Makes sense to me.

After the motion on the London Economy there were emergency motions on the plans by Tory Mayor Boris Johnson to slash the fire service in London and the threat to our education services from the so called "Free Schools". I seconded the motion against Free Schools and will post my speech later. I then had to run off to another commitment and missed the election results, the close and the singing of the Red Flag and Jerusalem.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Tesco Value Burgers in a Previous Life: Every little helps

Hat tip Mrs Bee on Facebook.

Lenin woz 'ere

I was rushing to a meeting in central London recently and happened to look up and see this new plaque in Tavistock Place, WC1. This is one of the great things about London that you stumble across such things.

More details about Lenin in London here and here.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

UNISON Greater London Housing Association branch AGM 2013

On Tuesday evening it was my branch Annual General Meeting. Which took place this year at the House of Commons. Thanks to our keynote speaker (and his staff), Shadow Pension minister, Gregg McClymont MP (see top right).

The AGM was very successful with the best turnout I have seen since I joined the branch in 2008.

There were lots of members present who have never been to a trade union meeting before. Hopefully we didn't scare them off and they will return!

On the way into the House of Commons members of the branch gave out "Love Trains, Hate High Fares" postcards to commuters outside Westminster station.

I had been re-elected unopposed as Branch Secretary as was the Chair, Tony Power.

It was a traditional Labour movement annual meeting with introductions; apologies; minutes: meeting; matters arising; branch officers making verbal reports and taking questions on the running of the branch; elections to vacant posts and conferences; rules changes; motions and affiliations.

There was some very good debates and contributions made during the motions and rule changes. 

There is a very serious side of an AGM, since we have nearly 3500 members to defend in the worse of times and a budget of nearly £250,000 to account for to these members. 

After the meeting, there was a less serious side, as we continued to put our world to rights and went to the branch social in the nearby "The Lord Moon of the Mall".

I'll post on Gregg's well received speech on pensions, my reports and the motions over the next week or so. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

UnionHome post on TUC Pension Seminar

UnionHome the new web site for the trade union movement run by Unions 21 have published a post that I wrote on the recent TUC seminar on workplace pensions.

If you have any sort of interest in the future of trade unions then UnionHome should be in your favourites folder.


Unmesh Desai for NE CLP London Labour Board 2013

Newham Councillor & GMB activist Unmesh Desai is standing for re-election on Saturday to the NE and East CLP seat on London Regional Board.

Unmesh is a hard working Party activist and campaigner. 

The election will take place at the Biannual Labour Party conference on Saturday. This is his election statement.

"I am currently the male representative on the Regional Board in the constituencies' section representing East and North East London and am standing again, the election being held at the London Regional Conference at Stratford Town Hall on Saturday 16th February, having been nominated by my CLP East Ham as well as West Ham, Barking, Dagenham, Hackney South and Hackney North CLPs.

Over the last two years  apart from being an active participant at Board meetings and proceedings I have supported, both as a Board member and a GLA List candidate campaign and fundraising events in as many constituencies as possible. If reelected and given that the next Board term will coincide with the run-in to the European, municipal and General Elections I intend to prioritise such activities even more. Also with others to make the Board a focus of coordinated London-wide Labour campaigns working with London trade unions, affiliates and community groups.

I am an active GMB member, Chair of Newham Fabians and Coop member, Vice Chair of East Ham CLP( Campaigns) and Cabinet member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour and would be grateful for your support on the above basis".

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Bringing Amazon to book: Protest over poverty pay & cheating the taxpayer

The GMB is planning a protest outside nine Amazon workplaces  tomorrow Wednesday 13th February.

Amazon pays many of its workers poverty wages and expects the tax payer to top them up with family credit and housing benefit. Yet at the same time Amazon has paid no tax in the UK for over 3 years on sales of £7 billion.

What a rip off. 

It goes without saying that Amazon doesn't believe in fundamental  human rights and refuses to recognise trade unions and collective bargaining.

Cartoon and hat tip Captain Swing

Monday, February 11, 2013

Welfare reform: Its a £500 per week cap: its not a minimum

Last week I was having a conversation with a (Non Unison) trade union colleague about welfare reform and its impact on our members who work in Housing organisations and the backlash they will face.

She agreed about the backlash but said it was about time that the Government cracked down on benefits since people got too much money.

I disagreed and said that Job Seeker's allowance is only £71 per week, so how can she say this is too much money? She replied by saying that "£71 per week? They get far more. No one can live on that". I said no, it is only £71.

She came back by saying she had a "friend" who hasn't worked in years yet she has paid off her mortgage while on benefits and goes on foreign holidays.

I said you only get some of your interest paid not capital repayment if you have a mortgage and are on benefits. It sounds like your "friend" is fiddling somehow, not that benefit levels are too high. Which is a totally different and criminal matter.

Later that day I went to a trade union shop meeting and when again I brought up welfare reform, I had one member say that he only earns £22,000 per year and it is wrong that families who don't work get £26,000. A number of people agreed with him. I had to explain that only a tiny, tiny number of families get anywhere near that amount of money and only if they have a large family and have to rent in an expensive part of London. I explained that most benefit claimants are on £71 per week income. Again, this figure of £71 per week was disputed since surely "they must get more" and "no one could live on that amount".

I think that this (totally unrepresentative) sample shows the job of work we all have on welfare reform. Such is the power of the propaganda by the right wing tabloid press such as the Daily Mail and The Sun, that many ordinary working people are believing the fibs about "striver's and shirker's".

Too often in the Labour movement we live in our own bubble and imagine that everything thinks the same as we do on key issues. We need to step outside our own self congratulatory comfort zone, speak to real members and challenge tabloid Tory lies.

 Picture hat tip Press Not Sorry