Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Unions are the solution, not the problem

"With the recent rail strikes and the TUC ‘Demand Better’ demonstration, unions are in the news a lot, and it's not always positive. But don't believe the noise. Join us. Stand Together. Because we know it can be better than this.

Great UNISON video. Bang up to date. 

Monday, June 27, 2022

Dunstable Downs Walk


Off message but yesterday Gill and I went on a lovely circular 4.5 mile around Dunstable Downs, Chilterns.  Superb views across the Vale of Aylesbury. One hour drive from East London. 

Started off at the National Trust visitor centre. There was scores of families enjoying the wind and the sunshine flying their kites. 

First half of walk was quiet country paths where we hardly saw a soul. One short but busy stretch of road. The Whipsnade Tree Cathedral was worth an explore. This is a variety of trees planted in the shape of a Cathedral by a survivor of the First World War to remember his friends who had been killed. 

The magnificent final mile was along the crest of the Downs back to the flying kites. Quick pint in the Beer garden of "The Farmers Boy. 

Other pictures of walk on my Facebook page

Sunday, June 26, 2022

My Week 20.6.22-25.6.22


A really busy but interesting week. It was my first day back at work after almost 2 weeks holiday (Malta then UNISON conference in Brighton) so lots of tenancy and trade union issues to try and sort out (not helped by major IT/server problems). 

Monday evening was the full council meeting at the Old Town Hall in Stratford.  I spoke in favour of the Climate emergency update and gave what I thought was a gentile dig at the two new Green Councillors for opposing it. While their job is to be the opposition to the majority group at Newham Council, they should not in my view just oppose everything for the sake of opposition. I was pleased that they abstained at the actual vote and did not "oppose" the update. 

I was also really pleased that former long serving Councillor, Pat Holland, was awarded as an "Alder Person" for the Borough in recognition of her work for residents. 

Tuesday evening was another meeting at the Old Town Hall. This time the local Housing Forum, which was really positive. It was great that senior Housing managers met up with residents, face to face, to listen and respond to their concerns (similar to speed dating!). 

On Wednesday evening I attended virtually my UNISON branch General Purposes & Finance Committee meeting. 

Thursday evening we had a virtual induction for my new role as a member of Education, Children & Young People Scrutiny.  Which I am really looking forward to being a member of this so important committee. 

Friday evening I met up with former housing colleagues from Tower Hamlets UNISON for a birthday beer and curry. 

Saturday morning I covered the Councillor surgery for my colleague Cllr Whitworth at Stratford Library, who is away on leave. I had what I thought was a constructive meeting with local residents about very serious and multiple ASB issues. But also was able to look at the various historical pamphlets and documents in the library (see picture of Queen in 1953 and Vicarage Lane E15 in 1960's)

Sunday, I had a lovely recovery walk in Chilterns which I will post upon separately. 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

"Get help with school clothing costs this summer" UNISON "there for you" (Apply ASAP)


School Clothing Grant 2022

Important: Before starting your application, please ensure you carefully read the How to Apply Guide. We cannot accept applications that do not include a membership number and all supporting documents. If you do not know your UNISON membership number, please contact UNISONdirect on 0800 0 857 857 for this information.

What is the fund for?

A grant has been put in place that will assist our most vulnerable members with the cost of providing school clothing. This is in response to the growing difficulties many members on low incomes face, especially with the cost-of-living crisis.

How much are the grants?

They are one-off non repayable grants of £70 per school age child. Only one application can be accepted per household.

Am I eligible?

  • To be eligible, you must meet the following:
  • You are a member for at least 4 weeks and have paid 4 weeks subscriptions before 24 June 2022.
  • You are financially responsible for the child/children and receiving Child Benefit for them.
  • You have total combined (you and your partner if applicable) savings/rolling bank balance(s) of less than £1,000

And either:

    • Your household has a net income of less than £26,000 per anum


  • You are in receipt of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit or Tax Credit payments.

Important information:
Please note that the date of application will be taken as the date we receive the form, and all required supporting documents.
As this is a limited fund, we cannot guarantee you will receive a payment even if you meet the eligibility criteria. It is therefore important that you apply as early as possible.

We will need the following supporting documentation from you with your application form:

  • Most recent payslip for you, and your partner (if applicable)
  • Most recent 30-day bank statement for all bank accounts held by you, and your partner (if applicable) Your bank statement must show all income and transactions for a complete month including Child Benefit Payments.

Plus (if applicable):

  • Proof of Universal Credit or Housing Benefit payments or Tax Credit payments.

Please note we cannot consider applications without a membership number and all supporting documents.

How do I send my form with supporting documents?
Complete the form and email to (please ensure this is password protected):

Alternatively post to:
2022 School Clothing Grant
There for You

How will you contact me?
All contact will either be by email or phone. We may need to contact you to request further information.

Please remember to check your junk/spam folders

How do I apply?

Please read through our how to apply guide and download an application form on our School Clothing Grant page.

Apply for a School Clothing Grant

Thursday, June 23, 2022

"Thank you for your support UNISON" KAM RAI for Chingford & Woodford Green

"Proud to be backed by my union @unisontheunion to be Labour's candidate for Chingford and Woodford Green. 

With the Tory cost of living crisis hitting workers hard, I'll always stand with the trade union movement to fight for fair pay and conditions."

Kam is a hugely impressive candidate who stood out in an exceptionally strong field seeking Greater London UNISON Labour Link nomination. He will make a great MP. 

John Gray

Chair UNISON Greater London Labour Link

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

"Comrades, Courage and Forward" - Support the RMT Strikers for Fair Pay & Job Security


Tomorrow members of the RMT union will be taking a second day of National strike action to support their claim for Fair Pay and Job Security. After years of wage restraint, the Railway employers are only offering a 2% wage increase this year, increasing to 3% if the unions agree to "new working practices" (such as compulsory redundancies).

Inflation is currently 9.1% so do the maths. Even if the RMT members accepted the full 3% they will be agreeing to a 6.1% pay cut (and the prospect of compulsory redundancies). Inflation is predicted to rise to 11% this year. 

I believe that the RMT have called for a 7% increase, which appears more than reasonable (and is still below inflation). 

Obviously it is too early to know what will happen. However, it is a lesson to workers and the wider Labour movement that the chief way you can deliver successful strike action is to have high density of trade union membership like in the RMT. 

The more of us in the union at work, the better the deal we will always get. 

Picture above is of the West Ham Strike Committee of the National Union of Railwaymen (predecessor union of the RMT) in 1919. Check out the motto on the Banner "Comrades, Courage and Forward"

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

"I'm proud to be backed by UNISON: Rachel Blake Cities of London and Westminister


"Thank you @unisontheunion for your backing in Cities of London and Westminster. The crisis in social care needs urgent investment in the workforce, I will stand up for workers in Parliament"

Pleased that Rachel was nominated by UNISON Greater London Labour Link. A super strong candidate and condolences to the other excellent candidates. 

John Gray

Chair UNISON Greater London Labour Link

Monday, June 20, 2022

"What Happened at UNISON’s Annual Delegate Conference"

Hat tip the Social Review website. While they have got some things wrong and don't really understand the existential threat to UNISON from its current majority NEC -  but apart from that it's worth a read. 

To find out what really happened at Conference check out past posts on this blog! 

By Alex Maguire

"UNISON, the largest trade union in the country, recently held its annual delegate conference (14th to 17th of June). This is supposed to be the supreme decision-making body of the union where policy and rules are decided as voted on by delegates from UNISON’s local branches. But it was clouded by the infighting that has grown to engulf the union

Away from the infighting, there were some eye-catching declarations at UNISON’s conference. The largest women’s organisation in the UK voted to end support for the Nordic Model and expand support for trans equality. What these will look like in practice is less clear. As well as this, people who only see trade unions through the lens of the Labour Party will have been heartened by UNISON voting to support Proportional Representation (although it did not specify which form). This means that Unite and UNISON are now both in favour of supporting PR and its likelihood of passing at the Labour Party conference in September has greatly increased.

However, the most significant part of the conference was the continued internal battle on UNISON’s National Executive Council. As was demonstrated by motions 10 and 11 (both entitled ‘Not in Our Name’) passed. Motion 10 essentially reversed changes that the NEC (controlled by the faction Time For Real Change) had attempted to make to the balance of powers between the general secretary and the NEC and essentially established that the NEC’s capacity to change how the union operates is limited and that conference is the supreme decision-making body of the union. Motion 11 was a vote of no confidence in the NEC and was eventually passed by a card vote with a winning margin of 63%.

There is nothing in UNISON’s rule book that states what should happen if the conference declares that it has no confidence in the NEC. For the sake of clarity, it would have been sensible for a branch to prepare a rule change motion outlining what should happen in this eventuality. As a result of these votes, there were considerable divisions on the NEC. Some (those not in the TFRC faction) felt that the only recourse was for the whole NEC to resign and stand for election again, this was put to a vote on the NEC but it was defeated by the votes of the majority TFRC, whose actions had resulted in conference expressing no confidence in the NEC in the first place. There was also at least one alternative statement prepared by the NEC which appeared to more directly engage with motions 10 and 11. 

Instead, the statement that was released recognised Conference’s sovereignty but argued that as all the other motions passed at conference required a functioning NEC, it would be necessary for the NEC to continue operating in order to fulfil its function and deliver on these motions while striving to regain the confidence of the membership. The public reading of this statement by the NEC resulted in a mass exodus by many members from the conference hall, though Conference managed to remain quorate, and presumably conscious.

Adding to the drama was the fact that conference also passed a rule amendment that means that unemployed members who were dismissed from employment due to “Any act of discrimination or harassment” from holding a seat on the NEC. The consequence of this is that UNISON’s now former president Paul Holmes of the TFRC faction (he was replaced as of Friday by Andrea Egan, also of TFRC) can no longer sit on the NEC or hold the office of President.

UNISON continues to be beset by infighting and, rather than providing resolutions, conference appears to have further inflamed the situation. UNISON is now in a situation where its NEC does not have the confidence of its sovereign body, a large proportion of NEC think the entire NEC should resign, and the infighting at the executive level has not been resolved. It’s currently unclear how this infighting will end (delegates may get the joy of having the same battles at next year’s conference), but what is clear is that UNISON’s 1.3 million members deserve better".

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Widford Circular Walk (Hertfordshire Walker)


Off message but to recover from UNISON Conference, Gill and I went for lovely relaxing 5.5 mile walk today in Widford, Hertfordshire, only 36 minutes by car from Forest Gate, Newham. 

It was listed on the free walking site check out

There was a few lots of "up and down", a little overgrown due to time of year (so shorts were not probably a great idea). Got lost a couple of time but used the subscription ordnance survey app to find a way to re-join route. Some noise from Stansted bound planes but nothing excessive.  

We saw hardly anyone apart from a few dog walkers and gardeners. 

I totally recommend the OS app. It is admittedly a little user unfriendly but it will let you know via GPS were you are at any time and you can work out what to do if you are lost. 

At the end of walk we went to the local village church and saw fantastic medieval paintings then off to the Chequers Pub, were I had a pint of local brew of Treacle Mine IPA, which was delicious. 

I have posted further photos on my facebook page here

Saturday, June 18, 2022

London UNISON at TUC #DemandBetter March & Rally 18 June 22


No rest for the wicked -  first day back from 4 day UNISON National conference at Brighton, I went up to join the TUC March and Rally in London demanding action on the cost of living crisis. 

We began forming up in Portland Place (outside the BBC studio) for 10.30am then started off at 12 (on time for a change). This was the first big national "march and rally" I had been on in 3 years due to Covid. It was great to meet activists and staff who I have not seen in person for so long. Obviously there was many of us there as well who had spend the previous week locked up in the huge shed that is the Brighton Conference centre.

We marched down to Trafalgar Square then along Whitehall (past you know who's address) and into Parliament Square for a rally. 

You can tell from the photo college that at some stage I had a new tee-shirt courtesy of UNSION London Ambulance Service, remembering the late and much lamented former UNISON President, Eric Roberts. 

As a UNISON Greater London Regional Council Officer, I joined our new Regional Secretary, Jo Galloway and the London team and helped out carrying the Regional banner. Which was a handful at times in the wind. 

It was fantastic that we got so many members coming up to us to wish us luck and offer support including Shadow Secretory of  State for Health, Wes Streeting MP,  Barry Gardiner MP and Leader of Redbridge Council (as well as Chair of LGA Labour Group), Cllr Jas Athwal. 

I was pleased also to see Rachel Blake (see photo bottom left), who as Chair of London Labour Link following a selection process with our vice chair Yvonne Green, we recently endorsed as a London Labour Link early nominee for the Parliamentary seat in Cities of London & Westminster. Good luck Rachel in this process since we need people like you to stand and win seats for Labour. 

While carrying the Regional banner, I had a number of conversations with various activists who for some reason were interested in the nomination process.

We finished in Parliament Square where there was a rally which included a brilliant contribution from our General Secretary Christina McAnea “The people holding the hands of dying patients were our members, while the Tories were partying in Downing Street

Today I saw my union at its very best. I hope that from tomorrow onwards, those who profess that they want the union to succeed and keep us united will do the right thing. Nuf said after a great day. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2022: Day 4 (Majority NEC refusing to resign despite Conference No Confidence Vote in them!!!!)


Last day of UNISON National Delegate Conference was as dramatic as the previous 3 days. I did not have time for a run this morning as had to pack and check out of hotel and place my suitcase in conference centre before 9.30am. 

Yesterday we had been promised by the UNISON Presidential team that the NEC would respond to the many complaints that they and the Standing Order Committee (SOC) had received about why they had not resigned or even responded to the overwhelming "No confidence" vote about them, that had taken place on Tuesday. I and many others had been asking what on earth is happening. 

It had been put on the agenda in the SOC report for this morning as first item (Emergency Motion 6) . However, the Vice President announced that the NEC had not yet discussed the fact that the conference they were chairing had no confidence in them but would agree a statement during their lunch time break today (bless 'em). 

So we continued with conference business with a marvellous video by Shaka Hislop, about UNISON support for "Show Racism the Red Card" followed by other motions. 

During lunch I went with my branch delegates (apart from you know who JO!) for traditional Fish N Chips & Mushy peas at the Regency café, 

After lunch at we restarted conference at 2pm but there was still no statement. Eventually a statement was read out by the Vice President, that said basically the NEC were very sorry to have upset any one, they have leant some lessons but they don't really care about the no confidence vote and will continue as usual. 

This caused up roar at conference with many delegates walking out and a rush of people to raise points of order. I happened to be first because I was genuinely curious how the Vice President would rule how conference delegates could question the NDC on this statement. Other delegates spoke about how angry and disgusted they were at this statement and tried to reference the statement back. The Vice President completely ignored my point of order and all the others and carried on regardless, despite so many delegates packing up and leaving conference. 

Conference business carried on and at the 3.45 official close there was a mass exist of delegates, as the so called "President" returned to the platform stage, despite Conference ruling he was ineligible to hold this office. One of his sycophants who was cheering him on had just previously screamed vile threatening abuse at one of the conference speakers. Of course nothing was said or done about this. I understand that complaints have been raised but again no one has any confidence that this NEC will do anything to protect delegates or anyone else if their political mates are in the frame. 

I went home by rail to London and had a think about things on the journey. While I was pleased that Conference had stood up for up for itself and effectively challenged, what is in many views a frankly corrupted and dishonest NEC. I am still shocked at the blatant disregard of the majority NEC of basic labour movement democratic principles. You don't need to know chapter and verse to know that if you lose a vote of no confidence in elected office you must stand down. 

If you don't you are acting in this regard, even worse than that monster Boris Johnson, who would have resigned if he had lost such a vote. How can we attack the Tories, when our majority NEC leadership are even worse unprincipled hypocrites then Boris? We surely do demand better. 

I am now back in London and will be joining UNISON members at the TUC demo tomorrow (as long as I wake up in time!) 

Pics of branch delegates/members, family and friends.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2022: Day 3 (Why hasn't our NEC resigned yet?)


This morning I started the day with another slow jog along the Brighton beach front. During breakfast at the hotel my branch delegation agreed which 6 motions that we want to be "prioritised" for debate on Friday afternoon (the infamous UNISON "snake" - please don't ask me to explain what it is).

Conference started with a Solidarity photo call in support of Turkish trade union leader, Gonul Erden followed by an address by Mehmet Bozgeyik, co-president of KESK. After further debates on motions, Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions gave a video message. 

During lunch I attended a very good fringe on health and safety. First a comprehensive report and presentation by Scott Donohoe from UNISON  Scotland on their Covid-19 Response then a fascinating academic report on the effectiveness of safety reps by Minjie Cai from University of Greenwich. A great fringe which had very practical solutions for union reps followed by some well researched blue sky thinking. 

Thursday afternoons at UNISON conference is set aside for debate on proposed rule changes. Normally a poorly attended and often pretty boring session. Not today. 

I spoke on the rule change 1 which was about whether conference could trust the current NEC to allow unemployed members to retain their unison positions. Clearly in light of the overwhelming decision on motion 11 that conference has no confidence in the NEC. We cannot trust them. The amendment was passed but there was a card vote and this failed to reach the 2/3 majority needed. 

However, Rule Change 2 was passed by more than 90% of delegates (so no card vote needed). Which meant that if someone is dismissed due to discrimination then the NEC would not be allowed to give that honour to them. Of course if someone is cleared on appeal then their position would be reinstated. 

I did point out in my speech that if my branch met and and passed a vote of no confidence in its executive, we would of course all resign and there should be fresh elections. Why hasn't out NEC resigned yet? Isn't Conference supposed to be "Sovereign" in our union?

After conference I went to another great fringe organised by UNISON black workers on "Racism and levelling up". Chaired by my branch member Lola Oyewusi. Keynote speaker was David Lammy MP with UNISON Head of equalities Gloria Mills, TUC Kudsia Batool, Alba Kapoor from Runnymeade Trust and UNISON East Region secretary Tim Roberts. 

Afterwards David met up with UNISON Labour Link members. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2022: Day 2 (our NEC should resign)

Day 2 (Wednesday) of Conference started fairly early for me, with a short slow jog in the sunshine along the beach and then back to my hotel. There were people swimming near the Pier and while bizarrely I managed to pack 2 different pairs of trunks (and no phone charger!) I doubt I will be brave enough to go for a dip but who knows. 

There are 4 Greater London Housing Associations delegates (I am a sharer) in the hotel and the planned delegation meeting over breakfast didn't quite work out but since there did not appear to be anything that contentious today we agreed by WhatsApp to formally meet later if necessary. 

The result of the card vote (where each delegation records how they voted in accordance to how many members they have) yesterday on motion 11 was overwhelming. There was a massive 655,809 votes in favour of the motion, which explicitly called a vote of "No Confidence in the NEC" over their outrageous rule breaking, trying to sack our elected first ever female General Secretary and their deliberate attempt to start a civil war in UNISON at a time we should be united to fight the Tories. This was about 63% of the total vote. 

If the NEC had any basic trade union honour or principles, they should immediately resign after such a vote of "No confidence" about them at our sovereign decision making body, National Delegate Conference. We can then hold fresh elections. A UNISON NEC should not act as Boris Johnson Mark 2. 

I am not holding my breath to be honest but hope I am wrong. 

Next I tried to speak on motion 58 (Campaigning for a National Care Service) but got knocked off again by a point of order. 

I had to leave conference floor to write speaker notes for our London regional motion on Pensions but came back for our General Secretary speech by Christina McAnea. 

Her speech was fantastic and inspirational. We have an intelligent, experienced, capable working class woman as our General Secretary. Check out the YouTube video in previous post. 

It is disgusting that she has been treated so badly by lets face it, fake left sexist bullies and harassers, who have tried to take legal action against her and even sack her. 

Total respect to Christina for sharing with us that she was diagnosed with breast cancer in February this year which meant she had to cancel some meetings. She is now in remission and now totally up for the fight.

After her marvellous speech I swooped my badge with my sharer and went off to watch conference on the TV while typing speeches and doing stuff for work. 

There were a number of excellent debates during the afternoon. 

At close of conference, there was our traditional London region "huddle" to discuss which motions (out of the many) delegations think should be debated in the short time we have before end of conference. Delegations have a form to fill out by tomorrow morning. 

After consultation with senior lay London activists I recommend:-

1. Motion 39 "Future Pension Provision" (which is the London Regional Motion)

2. EMC1 "Angela Rayner is Welcome at UNISON Conference" (which is our branch motion as well)

3. EM2 "Ukraine"

4. Motion 84 "End Misogyny and violence against women"

5. Motion 121 "Speak up and Speak out". 

6. Composite motion C "Sexual Harassment"

After close of conference I went to really important fringe on the what happens when Financial companies take over Care Homes. Christina was on the panel and gave a great speech. This issue is obviously important to her. I note that no one from the NEC turned up. Our NEC do not care about Care or Community issues it seems. Nuf said. 

Busy day tomorrow - Rule changes!

Christina McAnea, general secretary speaking to UNISON NDC 2022

Christina McAnea, UNISON general secretary addresses national delegate conference 2022.

Fantastic speech and Christina tells it as it is.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2022: Day 1

A busy first day of UNISON conference in Brighton. I managed to go for a short slow jog along the prom this morning. It was a beautiful sunny morning. 

Conference was supposed to start at 10am but started late. I was expecting some trouble about the Standing Order Committee (SOC) reports but attempts by the majority NEC to "reference back" (reject their recommendations) the decisions of our independent SOC were decisively defeated by conference. I thought this was interesting and a good sign. 

I am a "shared" branch delegate and then handed over to my "sharer" and largely missed the discussion on the annual report and financial statements. I did witness the huge row by so many delegates who walked out of the conference hall, amidst shouting and chanting, when the "President" gave his speech. This is due to the many complaints of misogyny, bullying and harassments by the #Kirkless15 against him. I have never seen such anger and disruption in my 25 years or so of attending UNISON conferences

After lunch there was massive debates on two "Not in our name"motions, which condemned the majority NEC not only for fragrant rule breaking but dividing our union by their divisive and sectarian actions. There was some fantastic contributions, in particular from colleagues in Northern Ireland who know what it is like to have intolerant bigots and extremists trying to gain power. I tried to speak on both debates but points of order that the "question be put" were passed before my turn to speak. Such is life but I will post my speeches. 

I was really pleased that both motions were passed overwhelmingly by conference which included a vote of no confidence in the NEC. The 2nd motion was bizarrely disputed by a tiny minority of delegates so went to a "card vote". We will find out that result tomorrow but the view of conference was absolutely clear on the "No confidence in the NEC". 

After conference, there was a really packed UNISON Labour Link rally with keynote speaker Angela Rayner MP (deputy Leader of the Labour Party), Abena Oppong-Asare MP and our General Secretary Christina McAnea. Angela was on form and gave a marvelous and passionate speech about the importance of her UNISON family. 

I am so pleased that my branch was one of many that have sent in an emergency motion to conference, condemning the Majority NEC for "banning" Angela from speaking at the main conference by their ultra far left extremists. 

After a long day, some of our branch delegates went for a curry, followed by a walk along the Brighton Prom, enjoying the full moon across the water. 

Monday, June 13, 2022

UNISON National Delegate Conference 2022 - Monday evening

This evening UNISON National Delegate conference 2022 in Brighton started off with Regional briefings for delegates and visitors. Greater London met in the Holiday Inn chaired by our ace Regional Conveyor Yvonne Green. Our new Regional Secretary, Jo Galloway was also on the top table. 

I gave a plug at the end of meeting for the Labour Link fringe tomorrow with Angela Rayner MP (and offered to have a chat on motions to anyone who asks)

After the briefing I went to the packed "Kirklees 15" fringe (see top left) where hundreds of delegates listened to the frankly appalling accounts of alleged bullying and harassment of mostly female UNISON members and branch employed staff by our current lay president. 

It was one of the most powerful campaign meetings I have ever attended.  Despite some grandstanding and point scoring by those who should know better (nuff said), it is clear that the failure to even investigate, the so many complaints of bullying, harassment and threats of violence by our so called "President" is a disgrace and brings UNISON into disrepute.

This is someone who has been sacked by his employer for bullying, harassment and threats of violence on the evidence of UNISON members and UNISON branch employed staff. Incredible. 

Tomorrow is the start of conference and as a branch delegate I look forward to taking part in debates but also more than happy to help and assist anyone with speech writing, practices etc. 

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Frost bite in Gallipoli


Last week I was in Malta on holiday with Gill staying in a rented house in Pieta, a suburb of the capital Valletta. I will post another time on what a truly wonderful place Malta is to visit. 

By coincidence, just across the road from where we were staying was a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery.  Wherever I go, I always try to go and show my respects to these graves. 

The cemetery was as usual, kept in immaculate condition and walking along the graves and reading the inscriptions. There were many very sad and moving stories about so many young victims of the first and second world war, who were buried here and those who died in accidents or illnesses during the interwar garrison years.

I was struck by one memorial to Private E (Edwin) Marsh (see main picture) from the 7th Gloucester Regiment who "died in Malta on Dec 12 1915 from Frost Bite contracted in Gallipoli in the service of his country. This monument is erected by his mother".

Edwin was before the war a South Wales Coal Miner and died of gangrene to his feet from frost bite 

My maternal Grandfather (Taid in Welsh) Frederick Matthews, was also from South Wales (he was a  steel worker) and fought in Gallipoli (Royal Naval Division) and I knew from military records that he had been evacuated from that front to a hospital in Malta on Jan 1 1916 suffering from frost bite to his feet. Malta at the time was turned into a vast military hospital for all the many wounded from Gallipoli. 

He was lucky and survived and when he eventually returned to fight with his unit in mainland France, he was awarded on 10 June 2017 a Military Cross for "conspicuous gallantry" by attacking enemy positions and capturing prisoners. Incredibly he survived the whole war. 

These sort of things must make you be conscious of the role of chance or luck in life. It could have been Edwin who survived the frost bite and Fred who didn't. In such case I would not be here and there is a tiny probable chance that Edwin's Grandson, could have come on holiday and also pondered on Fred's grave in Pieta. 

Saturday, June 11, 2022

UNISON Service Group Executive Election Results 2022


Yesterday I was really pleased to get an email from the elections office confirming that I had been elected unopposed to the UNISON Service Group Executive (SGE) for Greater London Community (alongside I believe the one and only, Lola Oyewusi). 

I haven't done a proper reccie on the national results yet but I was delighted that Sonya Howard defeated a long standing tfrc incumbent to join Clara Mason, representing London on the Local Government SGE. Also, London Ambulance Service, Julie Cunnane, will be there for London Health. 

Also, in the only contested Community election, our SGE Chair Malcolm Gray (no known family connection but coincidentally, he is also known to like an occasional beer and a curry) and Clare Penny-Evans, fought off tfrc extremist candidates to win both seats in Northern region. 

Looking forward to UNISON National Delegate conference next week in Brighton (Monday evening to Friday). Should be very interesting. 

I will try to blog as much as possible but for the first time in 11 years, I will be an active branch delegate (not there as a NEC member, mostly sitting on the conference pedestal trying to look interested) so will be busy writing speeches, trying to speak, organising and supporting delegates. 

UPDATE:  Did some rough and ready number crunching. SGE results 2022: Extremist hard left misogynist gang 45 seats (24%), Forces of light & reason/Unaligned 100 seats (54%) vacant seats 41 (22%)

Saturday, June 04, 2022

Demand better

Dear John, 

On Saturday 18 June, our movement will come together and take to the streets to demand action on the cost of living, a new deal for working people and a proper pay rise. It’s clearer every day that this Government have nothing to offer working people and their families. 


They promised higher wages, levelling up and an Employment Bill to extend rights at work. 

They’ve promised the Employment Bill at least 20 times, over 3 years. But when it came to the recent Queen's Speech it was nowhere to be found. They've conned working people long enough.  


Join us on the TUC march on Saturday 18th June in Central London, and share our social media graphics below to spread the word and encourage your friends to join the march and rally. 

This cost of living crisis is a WAGES crisis. Help with bills is essential, but it’s not enough. We need to fix our economy so that it works in the interests of working people. 


At Labour Party Conference last year, Angela Rayner launched the Party’s New Deal for Working People. Drawn up in partnership with the affiliated unions, it’s a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of working people by strengthening individual and collective rights – repealing anti-trade union laws, including the Trade Union Act, and introducing new rights to help unions bargain, recruit, organise and win a better deal for their members. Keir Starmer has promised Labour will write it into law within 100 days of being elected.  


We’ll be marching for union rights, a proper payrise, dignity and respect at work – and for real help with the cost of living. 


Everything is going up but our wages. So on 18 June, let's come together and demand better. 


Helen Pearce, Director, LabourUnions 

Robbie Scott, Campaigns and Political Officer, LabourUnions 


PS. For more information about the march and rally check out the TUC's website.


Newham Heritage Month 2022


Better late than never!

Muslims Celebrating Olympic Art and Sport, 2 June 11am-3pm, UKIM Masjid Ibrahim & Islamic Centre

There will be a range of fun activities for all the family at this celebration of Muslims and the London 2012 Olympics including art activities led by a local artists to make flags, badges and posters featuring the countries of participants, taster Taekwondo sessions, a chance to explore the research undertaken by UK Masjid Ibrahim and to listen to interviews of community members.

 Before & After 2012 - photography walk exploring the Olympic Park, 3 June, 11am-12pm, London Aquatics Centre

During this photography walk participants will learn about architectural photography and explore line, shape, form and textures.

 Newham Women in Sport Exhibition, 7-30 June, 9am-8pm, East Ham Library

East End Women’s Museum’s newest exhibition exploring Newham women in sport in photographs and stories.

 Who Wants to be an Olympian? 11 June, 10-11am, East Ham Library

The live family game show that brings back the thrills and spills of London 2012 and Newham’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes!

 Youth Olympic Graffiti Workshop and Display, 11, 18 & 25 June, 10am-2pm, The Mix Centre

This event will enable young people and adults to create artwork which will be displayed on the external walls that lead into our buildings, reflecting what they think about the 2012 Olympics and Paralympics, and their impact on the LGBTQ+ community. There will also be pictures and posters relating to the 2012 games, with young people facilitating discussions around what the games means to them.

 Family Workshop: Making Pictures with illustrator Salvatore Rubbino, 11 June, 11am-1pm and 2-4pm, Newham Poetry House

Re-live the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympics and exercise your artistic skills in a fun workshop with illustrator Salvatore Rubbino.

 Ten Years and Over, 2012 Activities Later….Together 2012 CIC Archives

In 2012, locally based disabled artists and other Newham residents came together with the UK Disabled People’s Council to create a series of events and activities celebrating the London 2012 Paralympics.  Join Together 2012 for a lunchtime online tour of their London 2012 Paralympics archives where they will also be announcing new plans for their physical archives.

 A Change 4 All: Film screening and Performance showcase, 24 June, 6-10pm, Silver Building

Celebrating the release of a youth-led documentary that uncovers the untold stories of Newham communities by highlighting their views on the legacy of the 2012 Olympics.

Friday, June 03, 2022

Support the Kirklees 15 at UNISON conference - Believe women & how can we allow allegations of bullying & harassment to be not even investigated???

This is incredible and a shameful stain on our union but 15 UNISON members (14 women and 1 man) have made complaints of bullying and harassment against the current lay President of UNISON. This includes threats of violence. This man has since been dismissed by his employer because of these complaints but the UNISON NEC have decided to not only ignore longstanding rules that unemployed members cannot stand for such offices but have also decided to drop all charges against him. See what the Kirklees 15 say about this and lets support them at NDC conference.

Check out their Facebook page

"We have seen some branches have passed this Emergency Motion to Conference which of course we fully support. It will have to go through the process of Standing orders to see if it will be allowed onto the Agenda of Conference.

Emergency motion for UNISON conference
This conference opposes the decision of the March 15 meeting of the National
Executive Council to summarily dismiss the serious complaints made against the President of the union by 15 union members and branch office staff without any explanation or reasons given.
Disgracefully, while the complaints were first received by the national union in 2019 (whilst Dave Prentis was still General Secretary) - over two and a half years later the complainants still do not know how the union investigation assessed the issues that they raised and now, on what basis that they were dismissed.
Regardless of the contestability or otherwise of the outcome of the parallel process of the disciplinary action taken by Kirklees council against the President our union must be seen to take allegations of bullying and intimidatory behaviour seriously and reach its own independent conclusions on whether the allegations have substance and how the union should respond.
Unison’s own investigation officer stated that there was ‘a case to answer’ and that an internal Unison disciplinary hearing should take place, which was also supported by the Lay Chair of the NEC committee which deals with union disciplinaries.
We call on the NEC to re-open the investigation to give the opportunity both to the complainants to make their case and to the President to defend his position and for both sides to be given full access to its results.

Thursday, June 02, 2022

The Queen and I: By a Loyal Republican


This is a post from 2012. I don't think that my views have changed but my respect for the Queen as a public servant and our Head of State still remains. 

Happy Platinum Jubilee Ma'am.
"I don’t think that I have posted before about the Monarchy? Which is rather odd since this is supposed to be a political blog yet in 5 years I have never mentioned our Head of State. Today I will not be lining the banks of the River Thames or watch the procession on telly unlike millions of my compatriots.

I am a republican and do not believe that it is right that the head of state should be an unelected heredity monarchy. I do not believe that it is right or proper that our MP’s, our judges, our senior civil servants, our military and police should swear an oath of loyalty not to upholding democracy and the rule of law in our country. Instead it is to Queen and her heirs. This is completely and utterly inequitable, illogical and even frankly absurd whatever way you look at it.

Yet, my views are very much in a minority. According to a recent poll 80% of the population support the monarchy with only 13% calling for a republic.

I think it is important to remember that my opposition is political it is not personal. It has nothing to with the Queen or her family. In fact as someone who believes in a public service ethos there is very few people I can think of who can demonstrate 60 years of such duty.

An elected President would not be without its problems. To me the words “President Thatcher” would have been hard to stomach. Getting rid of the monarchy would probably do little or nothing either to tackle the gross income inequality in our society. The Constitutional monarchies of Japan and Sweden are the most equal societies in the world, while the most unequal, is of course the Republic of the United States of America.

Constitutionally I suppose since all the major political parties are unquestionably monarchist and a clear majority of MP’s have always supported the status quo then ironically the Queen is our democratically arrived at Head of State. So why I don’t agree with the process I do as a citizen (not a subject) respect my Head of State.

Last week I attended a Jubilee Party at one of the primary schools in my ward. There was a mass of union jacks, patriotic bunting and pictures of the Queen. Hundreds of very excited children, many dressed as princesses and princes, looked upon by doting parents and grandparents. Before tackling the biggest piles of cakes that I have ever, ever seen, the children all sang word perfectly the song “God Bless the Queen” (see words on picture) while waving flags (and the occasional plastic swords). The scene reminds me of similar photographs from past Royal Jubilee’s and Coronation Parties. I don’t think anyone present will ever forget this celebration nor the processions and parades to follow this weekend.

And no matter what I may think or wish I very much doubt this Royal celebration will be the last.

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

Staying safe at work

Staying safe at work

Monday 6 June 2022 | 14:00-15:00



Workers should feel safe whilst working and when traveling to and from work. 

Join experts from the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, to find out about their Stay Safe at Work campaign. We'll also hear from reps about their own union campaigns. Unite's Get Me Home Safely campaign and USDAW's Freedom from Fear initiative.