Monday, 12 November 2018

The Silent Sisterhood

by Les May
Asia Bibi

THERE’s a pub in Slaithwaite, or ‘Slawit’ as the locals call it, by the name of ‘The Silent Woman’. I imagine it has done a roaring trade recently as all feminist journalists and politicians hide there in case someone should chance to raise with them the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has fallen foul of Pakistan’s draconian, but vague, blasphemy laws.

A year ago the Twitterati were obsessing about the self promoting #MeToo movement; Harriet Harman was in full flow demanding anonymous ‘hot lines’ so that supposed male miscreants could be ‘outed’ and Clive Lewis was being pilloried by MPs Stella Creasy, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips, Mims Davies, Justine Greening and Guardian journalist Nadia Khomami, about something he said, which none of them actually witnessed.   More recently Boris Johnson was being accused of ‘Islamophobia’ for a comment about some women wearing burkas.

So what have this self righteous bunch had to say about the Asia Bibi case?  Not a lot it would seem.  Whilst they are keen to promote the idea that western women are living in fear of walking down the street in case some man wolf whistles at them, makes some tasteless remark or just says something they don’t like, a poor Pakistani woman who has just had her sentence overturned after eight years in jail with the prospect of death by hanging to look forward to, has been abandoned to her fate by these supposed liberals.

If anyone in this world is a victim it is Asia Bibi.  She picked up a drinking cup belonging to a Muslim woman and was accused of ‘polluting’ it simply by being a Christian woman and hence ‘unclean’.  An argument followed and lead to her being accused of blasphemy.   First she was beaten up by a mob which broke into her house, then she was charged with blasphemy, found guilty and sentenced to death.   This was upheld by a higher court.   Last week this sentence was overturned by the Pakistan Supreme Court which said the women who had made the accusations against her were lying.

What followed was that mobs demanding she be hanged rioted for several days doing what has been claimed to be £900 million of damage.  Imran Khan, the prime minister, struck a deal with the rioters that she would no be allowed to leave the country until the verdict had been ‘reviewed’Forcing her to stay in a country where tens of thousands of people want to kill her is inhumane.  Her lawyer has left the country in fear of his life.

I am normally very reluctant to resort to the word ‘racism’ to describe someone’s attitudes or beliefs, but I cannot help noticing that Asia Bibi is a poor, brown, ‘asian’ woman and the women who do the shouting about ‘misogyny’ are affluent, white and western.

The failure of these women to use their positions to draw the attention of the British public to Asia Bibi’s plight is difficult to explain unless they simply do not care, don’t think it will raise their profile in circles which will help them in their career or are afraid that they will be accused of ‘Islamophobia’.

There is one bit of good news. Heywood and Middleton MP Liz McInnes has written to the Minister of State, Mark Field, about this case and asked him to encourage his colleagues at the Home Office to consider the religious elements of this matter before making decisions on asylum.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Great War on Children

by Les May

I was brought up to believe that World War One, known until 1939 as the Great War, started in August 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918.  It didn’t, it ended on 28 June 1919 when the peace treaty was signed. The 1918 date refers to when an armistice was signed and the warring armies ceased shooting at each other.

This is not me being pedantic, it matters because the difference between the two date embraces a period when things happened which brings no credit to the British state and the politicians of the time.

At the battle of Jutland in 1916 the German High Seas Fleet came off rather better than the British ships sent to intercept it.  But the Kaiser was in no mood to risk his favourite toy in another encounter, so effectively ‘Britannia Ruled the Waves’ and the naval blockade of Germany, which had been in place since 1915, continued.  Unable to produce enough food and no longer able to import it, Germans slowly starved as their daily intake fell to less than 1600 calories in 1916/17. Food, or lack of it, had become a weapon of war.

The Armistice required the German’s to hand over to Britain and France their navy and their weapons, which they did.  With Germany effectively neutralised one might have expected that the British and French would agree to the German request that the naval blockade be lifted.  They refused.  Even after fighting stopped, the British government continued to blockade German ports, creating the conditions for famine.   The economic blockade of the Central Powers was to continue until a peace treaty was signed.

One woman who thought this was wrong was Eglantyne Jebb. She had leaflets printed showing the effect of the continuing blockade on children in Austria and Germany. One of these showed an Austrian child two and a half years old.   It weighed 12 pounds 2 ounces.   It should have weighed 16 pounds more. Another showed two children looking like the images we associate with the liberation of Belsen in 1945.  In her poster Eglantine asked ‘What does Britain stand for? Starving Babies; Torturing Women; Killing the Old?.’

When she put up her poster and handed out her leaflets she was arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act.  At her trial she conducted her own defence. The Crown Prosecutor, Sir Archibald Bodkin did not spare his condemnation of her; she was found guilty and fined £5.  Before the court was cleared Bodkin went over to her and pressed a £5 note into her hand.  Next day the story was on the front page of the Daily Herald complete with pictures of the offending leaflets and the poster. She may have lost the case but she had scored a moral victory.

Not everyone saw it like that.  At a meeting held in the Albert Hall many of the audience arrived with rotten fruit and vegetables to throw at the ‘traitor’ who wanted to give succour to 'the enemy’.   It did not happen. Eglantyne asked ‘Surely it is impossible for us, as normal human beings, to watch children starve to death without making an effort to save them’The crowd turned out to be ‘normal human beings’ and a spontaneous collection was taken.   It was enough for Eglantyne and her sister to invest in a herd of dairy cows to provide a sustainable source of nutrition to the children of Vienna.

Today we routinely see nations using the tactic of a blockade to enforce their will on others.   Ironically Eglantyne Jebb went on to found the organisation ‘Save the Children’ which runs the Health Facility in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah which came under attack a few days ago.  Yemen of course is blockaded by the Saudi and United Arab Emirate forces, and is a country where millions are in danger of famine.

Save the Children are also active in Gaza another place which is blockaded.

The continued blockade of German ports after the Armistice in November 1918 is not one of the most glorious events in our history.  But who are we to judge?  A hundred years on Eglantyne Jebb’s rhetorical question, ‘What does Britain stand for? Starving Babies; Torturing Women; Killing the Old?’, still lacks a convincing answer.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Asia Bibi: The responsibility of us all!

 TODAY on Twitter Peter Tatchell tweeted:

'I am not holding British Pakistanis & Muslims responsible for the plight of Asia Bibi. I'm simply asking them to help her. They have more influence in Pakistan than white politicians. If they speak out, their voices will have more impact. They can help save her life.'

 He later tweeted:

'Pakistan govt has caved in to Islamist fanatics. Bid to stop Asia Bibi from seeking safe refuge overseas = death sentence. UK Muslim & Pakistani leaders have more influence in Pakistan than UK govt. If they speak out for #AsiaBibi they could help save her.'


More Whingeing from Alphabet Soup Brigade

By Les May

INSTEAD of standing her ground Jenni Murray, a presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, has spinelessly pulled out of a talk at Oxford University, following an accusation of transphobia.

The accusation came from the Oxford University LGBTQ Society, the Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign and the Oxford SU Women's Society, who have excavated an article from the Sunday Times Magazine which appeared in 2017 in which Murray had written "Be trans, be proud - but don't call yourself a 'real woman'."

Now as a man I might just take exception to her opening gambit "Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood?" I might for example ask just what privileges most men actually have? When I see the jobs that many men do it is certainly not obvious to me that they are more privileged than Murray. It’s also the case that Murray seems to be more privileged than many women I know.

The Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign wrote in a statement which has appeared on Facebook; “Her views, which clearly reflect a lack of engagement with the vast majority of actual trans people, and are in sum deeply harmful to trans women and trans feminine people, contributing to and exacerbating the harassment, marginalisation, discrimination, and violence that they already face.”

Quite how you engage with a bunch of people who have already decided that they are victims of harassment, marginalisation, discrimination and violence, I don’t know. Murray has simply expressed an opinion which is open to challenge. I’ve previously expressed the opinion that the crux of the matter for me is whether a man who decides to transition to being a woman is willing to lose his wedding tackle.

If what I have written offends you, feel free to be offended. But first you might like to scan the web pages at

which include the comment; ‘Terms are always changing in the LGBTQ+ community. This list will be updated as often as possible to keep up with the rapid proliferation of queer and trans language.’

These pages look like an exercise in narcissism, one aspect of which is an excessive desire to be admired and an excessive need for affirmation. You really know when you are accepted when people ignore you.


Friday, 9 November 2018

Cheerful Cherub by the Sea Side

  Merit Award for Tony Lloyd's Right Hand Man



 Simon Danczuk with young Councillor Liam O'Rourke
LIAM O'Rourke, who works in the office of Tony Lloyd MP for Rochdale, and is the cheerful cherubic councillor responsible for resources in the Rochdale cabinet, may well have friends in high places, but so far as the Labour Party rank and file is concerned he hasn't covered himself with glory.

At a meeting of Rochdale council on  the 28th, February 2013, the then recently elected Councillor O'Rourke said:  ''The implementation of decisions to make redundancies were helped by our relationship to the trade unions' (see Northern Voices; Thursday, 28 Feb. 2013)

Councillor O'Rourke came back quickly on NV to clarify this with the comment:  'Far from selling their workers a bitter pill, the [h]ard work put in by the council and the unions meant that people left in a manner that was satisfactory for them.'

To which a local resident Tony Jones, from Back of the Moss in a comment on NV responded:  
'Haha - So this is where Councillor O'Rourke is hiding out.  Most people in my ward had thought you had dissapeared.  No sight of you in the Heywood Advertiser, no sight of you in town with the exception of going off to Lourdes.  Would be nice to get a leaflet now and again telling us what we actually voted for your for. You have been a very bitter dissapointment for many I know who voted for you. -' 

Things have not changed for Rochdale or Councillor O'Rourke since then!

Last Sunday, the website Zelo-Street reported: 
'...what should have been an enjoyable weekend for the Rochdale area contingent was marred by what happened at the Merit Award Dinner, held on Friday evening at the Blackpool Hilton Hotel with guest speakers Barry Gardiner, Lavery, and Rebecca Long Bailey.  

Someone must have pulled a fast one, because Zelo-Street adds:
'The problem was that one of those awards went to Liam O’Rourke, a Councillor who represents Heywood North.  Why should that be?  Ah well.  My sources tell me “All nominees have to be nominated by their own CLP, and it has to come through their CLP Secretary.  He was never nominated by his CLP, nor or did it come from his Secretary”.'

So who proposed Councillor O'Rourke for the merit award?

No-one will say apparently.

This seems to be the latest piece of shabby politics in Rochdale, because we at Northern Voices have seen papers showing evidence of increasing poor governance involving people in control of the Rochdale Labour Party.