Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Beggar's Opera* Or Comic Opera?

Tonight, at Rochdale Town Hall's Full Council meeting of the Rochdale Town Council, it was more like watching a stage show of Bertold Brecht's 'Threpenny Opera' than serious politics.  It was like viewing a tribe of back-patting gangsters as both the Tory and Labour politicians vied with each other to heap on the praise.

Councillor Liam O'Rourke even pontificated on how the local Tories joined up with the governing Labour lads and lassies to proclaim and pass proposals no matter their political origin.  At one stage we were left wondering if the bashful Councillor Blundell was having an affair with one of theTory lassies, so intimate was their demenour.

There is much of the tragi-comedy about politics in Rochdale these days, which even in its own petty way rivals Brexit and Trump on the stage of national and international politics.

A major asbestos scandal has dogged the town for decades, the site of the former asbestos factory is now fast becoming a dump for waste which is being fly-tipped on an industrial scale; buildings surrounding the town centre neglected for decades are now cracking and disintegrating to such an extent that recently the trams to the town centre had to be stopped and buses diverted; travelling people now threaten Cronkeyshaw Common; market traders disappointed with the poorness of their trade in groceries have formed a co-op and are threatening to leave the town and now the Greater Manchester Spatial Strategy threatening the.Green Belt around Rochdale.

But recently, it has been the proposals for issuing Public Space Protection Orders with on-the-spot penalties that has been causing consternation.  And this seems to be where the Tories and labour parties are uniting most.  Tonight, Councillor Sullivan and Councillor Howard moved and seconded a motion for extending the imposition of Protection Orders to the proximity of schools.  The motion stated:
'This Council welcomes the future consultation on potential use of Public Space Protection Orders in the Town Centre and recommends the introduction of similar Orders to enhance road safety outside schools.  As a Council we are committed to protecting the safety and welfare of the Borough's children, which is often put at risk by irresponsible parking outside schools.  The Council calls upon the Cabinet to develop proposals to trail Public Space Protection Orders around schools with known parking problems to tackle the associated risk to children, parents and carers; and following a period of monitoring to establish the success of this intuitive, the Council should explore options to roll out a programme of Protection Orders around schools.'
What this means is that extra unnecessary laws will be brought in by the law-makers of Rochdale to duplicate laws that already exists.  What begun with a Labour Party campaign to clean-up Rochdale Town Centre of bheggars and other what our disgraced MP, Simon Danczuk, calls 'wrong-uns' , is now moving relentlessly on to a campaign against improper parking around school yards.

*  The Beggar's Opera is the story satirised politics, poverty and injustice, focusing on the theme of corruption at all levels of society. Lavinia Fenton, the first Polly Peachum, became an overnight success. Her pictures were in great demand, verses were written to her and books published about her..   Elisabeth Hauptmann (with Bertolt Brecht) and Kurt Weill adapted the opera into Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera) in 1928, sticking closely to the original plot and characters but with a new libretto and mostly new music.

Allinson on BBC 2 Daily Politics!

Workplace activist, Ian Allinson, who is standing as a "grassroots socialist" candidate for the position of General Secretary, of the trade union, Unite, was interviewed yesterday by Jo Coburn, on the BBC2 'Daily Politics' show. Both Gerard Coyne and Len McCluskey, who are also standing in this election, declined to appear.

Allinson, is the only candidate in this election who is not a full-time paid trade union official. An employee of the global tech firm Fujitsu, in Manchester, and a trade union convenor, he is the underdog in this election having fewer branch nominations than the other two candidates. If elected, as General Secretary of Unite, Allinson has vowed to forgo the six figure salary that goes with the job and to work for his current pay. He also wants to see all Unite officials elected, rather than appointed.

Questioned by Coburn about being the favoured candidate of the 'Socialist Workers Party' (SWP), Allison said that he had a broad range of support within Unite. Nevertheless, Allinson's political background is within the SWP.

During the run up to the election, there has been a certain amount of mudslinging between two of the candidates. Gerard Coyne, the West Midlands, Regional Secretary of Unite, accused McCluskey of taking a loan off the Union to buy a property in London and  he claims that McCluskey, is more interested in Jeremy Corbyn, and the Labour Party, rather than Unite members. His brother, Kevin Coyne, is  also a national officer of Unite.  

Coyne, is seen as the candidate of the Labour right and the one candidate who is most acceptable to New Labour and the bosses. He was recently given column inches in Rupert Murdoch's "Sun" newspaper, to present his election address, entitled - "I'll get your union back." He says in his election address to Unite members - "Just last year, Unite put £417,000 of your money into a luxury London apartment for his (McCluskey's) personal use."

Writing for the Murdoch press, is hardly likely to endear Coyne to many British trade unionists, given the way in which, the Murdoch press have vilified trade unionists over the years. Rupert Murdoch also backed Donald Trump in the U.S. Presidential elections and News International, was also embroiled in the phone-hacking scandal.

Unite have stated that the loan made to McCluskey was a -"shared equity arrangement made with officials required to move to London with the property being sold after the official left the post." However, prior financial assistance of £90,000 was given to McCluskey in 1994, to buy a house with his then partner, Jennie Formby. In 2013, Formby was appointed Unite's political director on a salary of £75,000.

Len McCluskey, has been General Secretary of Unite since 2011 and until his resignation, in December 2016. In his election address, McCluskey says - "I'm overwhelmed that nearly 1200 branches - more than 80% of the total - have nominated me... I regret that this election has been marred by so many smears and lies by Mr Coyne, aided by the right-wing anti-union media, designed to undermine your union to further his own ambitions..."

Yesterday, on 'Daily Politics', Allinson said that he felt that Unite had not put up enough fight against government austerity policies and the recent Trade Union Bill. Like many Trotskyists, he believes that English workers are always itching for a fight but are being restrained and held back by the likes of trade union leaders, like McCluskey. He said that he was in favour of the free movement of labour across countries and opposed Trident. He feels that the money could be used to create sustainable jobs and to build more council housing. Asked about the allegation that McCluskey, was intending to affiliate Unite to 'Momentum', which supports Jeremy Corbyn, he said this was utter nonsense as only a Unite conference or the NEC, could make that decision.

Len McCluskey recently stated that Jeremy Corbyn should be given 15 months to see if he could improve Labour's opinion poll ratings. If not, he feels he should be replaced by another leader. Allinson, supports Corbyn unequivocally, in spite of his shambolic performance as leader of the opposition. Although Labour held Stoke in a recent by-election, with a reduced majority, it also lost the safe Labour seat of Copeland, which went Conservative.  At the Richmond by-election held in December 2016, Labour lost its deposit and got fewer votes in the constituency than there were Labour Party members.

Jeremy Corbyn, leads a party that was pro-Remain and pro-EU, yet he's been a life-long opponent of Britain's membership of the European Union. After the vote for Brexit last summer, he stupidly called for Article 50 to be invoked immediately. John McDonnell, also claimed that Britain leaving the EU was nothing less than an "enormous opportunity." In February, having seen all their amendments defeated, Corbyn led his Labour MPs into the House to vote alongside the government for its Brexit bill. However, some Labour MPs, opposed the three line whip and voted against it.It was reported that immediately after Labour voted for the Brexit bill, some 7,000 Labour members stopped their standing orders and packed it in. Caroline Lucas of the Green Party, said that the un-amended bill was the "blueprint for an extreme Tory Brexit and Labour waved it through."

Already there is speculation as to whom might be the next Labour leader. Keir Starmer, Clive Lewisand Rebecca Long-Bailey, have all been tipped as future Labour leaders.

Ballot papers for the 2017 election of Unite General Secretary were sent out on Monday 27th March.

Farnell is in Fabian Socialist Tradition

WRITERS on the left in Rochdale have been anxious to infer right-wing tendencies in the proposal of the Labour Council to inflict on-the-spot penalties upon the beggars in Rochdale town centre.   Were as, for my part I see Richdard farnell and even Simon Danczuk in the great tradition of Fabian state socialism.. 
Some leftist critics of Rochdale council have summoned up references to the German laws of the 1930s, and people like the pacifist Phillip Gilligan was  driven to write in the Rochdale Observer (March 18th, 2017):
'....after coming to power in Germany, the Nazis sought to exclude many groups from their so-called "national community", including those who they labelled "asocials".  There measures became steadily more oppressive and, in just one week in 1937, 11,000 beggars and homeless people were arrested and sent to Buchenwald concentration camp.  They were never seen again.'
Before Hitler and the Nazis established any kind of clean-up campaign against anti-social elements it was the Fabian state socialist Bernard Shaw who who as early as 1931 was filmed delivering a 'Paramount Sound News Exclusive' which caused outrage at the time.  J. Kelly Nestuck writes describing this encounter  vividly:
'In the black and white footage, Shaw, with his Irish lilt and smug grin, seems to argue in favour making everybody "come before a properly appointed board, just as he might come before the income tax commissions," to justify their existence..
"If you're not producing as much as you consume, or perhaps a little more," he suggests, "then clearly we cannot use the big organisation of our society for the purpose of keeping you alive, because your life does not benefit us and it can't be of very much use to yourself."
How very practical and rational these old fashioned state socilalists like Shaw were, and somewhere I seem to remember that Malcolm Muggeridge, who knew many of these Fabian socialists, would ponder the puzzle about whether if the great man Shaw and a begger man were in a boat and one should have been sacificed which one should go overboard; Muggeridge took the view, as I recall, that humankind would benefit far more 'if  it was Shaw who took a header into the depths'.
Most anarchists and decent people would have no hesitation in making a similar choice if Simon Danczuk and/ or Richard Farnell were poised aboard a craft in difficulties with a pair of limbless beggars.

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Daniel Clayton & the Rochdale Allotments

Letter to Editor of Rochdale ONLINE (28th, March 2017) :
Dear Editor,

Further to my recent letters about the creation of new allotments in Rochdale, I am now in a position to reveal that within the last 12 months twelve new plots have been created.

Many thanks to Val at Townships & Communities for her efficiency and thoroughness in dealing with my enquiry.

Her letter states:
“In 2016 / 17 we have created 12 new allotment plots at a derelict horse grazing site on Kellet Street.
In 2013 [this site was] derelict and dangerous structures plus fly tipping of tyres, fridges, a boat etc.
All this has been cleared, the perimeter secured with fencing / gate repairs and new installation, small car parking area to prevent parking issues on already congested streets around the site,

Japanese Knotweed treated, path network created and new allotment society set up to run the site. The work to get the next 20 plots on this site ready for allocating is nearing completion and these should be ready for allocation from mid-April.

Work is also ongoing with our Estates Department to identify other sites and as a result of that process multiple sites are now being tested for suitability (checking access, if the soil is contaminated etc) prior to organising works to bring these other sites into operation as allotments during 2017 and 2018.”

Hence, by the end of next month 32 of the promised 100 allotment plots will have been created.
I had stated in a previous letter that my hunch was that the actual figure would be zero and it is reassuring to know that some work is being done. However, as things stand, just 12% of the stated target has been reached so I do not feel that my cynicism is entirely unwarranted.

Finally, I’d like to wish good luck to the people now tending those new allotments and to the people waiting for a plot of their own.

Growing one’s own food is a beautiful way to foster a relationship with nature, and with issues such as the exponential use of foodbanks these are vital skills that we all need to share with each other.

Daniel Clayton
Rochdale Green Party

Incovenient Questions at Rochdale Township!

GREEN Party activist, Daniel Clayton in a letter in this Wednesday's Rochdale Observer challenges the process and working of last Wednesday's Rochdale Township Committee.  Mr. Clayton, who was present at the Township Committee to hear a response to his query which we set out below:
'It was reported on 14 March 2016 that the Labour Group wanted to adopt a policy promoted by the local Green Party to create additional allotments in Rochdale.  How many allotments have been created over the 12 months since then?'
The Chair described Clayton's question as 'too politically motivated'.
How extraordinary!
The Chair told Mr. Clayton, that his question was tardy and hence, as Private Eye might say 'Reply came there none!', but he then promised that a written response would be forthcoming.
It now seems that in truth the question from the Green Mr. Clayton had been in fact been received in good time but that it had been forwarded to the Environment Dept., and seeming lost in the Council machine.
The Chairman was much kinder to one of his council colleagues, Allen Brett who got pride of place with the questioning allowing him to use the Township as a platform to ask his own question about when the Metro tram would be able access the town centre again after the recent upset caused owing to the long-neglected buildings on Drake Street?  Councillor Brett, it seems, is anxious to prove his worth since he moved to represent a ward nearer the town centre.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Comical Carryings-On Among the Comrades

by Brian Bamford
LAST Monday the latest meeting of the Friends of Freedom Press (the directors) ought to have been held at the building in Angel Alley just off Whitechappel High Street in London. Alas, when Ernest Rodker, a director and Friend, arrived in time for the meeting he found the building closed and shop shut up.
The meeting had been called-off at very short notice. Fortunately, more by luck than good management, no directors or ‘Friend’ from the North was already on the train bound for the South at the moment when the event was called-off at the last minute.
There is a certain slap-stick nature to the going-on at the premises of Freedom Press which matches most of the prejudices of the enemies of political anarchism.
Donald Rooum, who retired or resigned as a Friend of Freedom Press earlier this year, did so it is said because of certain over-wrought behaviour at some gathering over a year ago at which at least one Friend declared himself to be scared-stiff.
Absurdity seems to follow the English anarchists in the dealings with everyday affairs.:
In a book review of Malcolm Muggeridge’s book ‘Chronicles Of Wasted Time’, which Scott Alexander did in 2015, he reported upon some hilarious goings on at the anarchist or Tolstoyan Whiteway experimental colony originally founded in 1898, where the former editor of Freedom Tom Keele went to live after he abandoned the capital. Mr Alexander writes that:
The land was cheap in those days. And they (the founders) acquired it by purchase; then to demonstrate their abhorrence of the institution of property. Ceremonially burnt the title deeds. It must have been a touching scene – the bonfire, the documents consigned to the flames, their exalted sentiments. Unfortunately, a neighbouring farmer heard of their noble gesture and began to encroach on their land. To have resorted to the police. Even if it had been practicable, was unthinkable. So after much deliberation, they decided to use physical force to expel the intruder… The invading farmer was, in fact, thrown over the hedge in the presence of the assembled Colonists. There were many such trag-comic incidents in the years that followed; as well as quarrels, departures, jealousies, betrayals, and domestic upset. In the end, the Colonists found it necessary to re-establish their title to the land by means of squatters’ rights, and then proceeded to bicker amongst themselves as to who should have which portion.’
In 1909, Gandhi visited the Whiteway Colony in 1909, and pronounced it a failed Tolstoyan experiment.  As to the fate of Freedom, which ceased serious publication in 2014, well the jury is still out on that one.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Loneliness of the Longdistance Whistleblower!

by Brian Bamford
Derek Pattison - Joint Editor wrote on 9th, March 2017:
'I feel compelled to comment. There is no doubt that Mr. Wainwright's help in exposing this blacklisting scandal, was absolutely invaluable to many building workers.  This was because he was a 'blacklister' turned 'whistleblower' and had valuable inside information.  However, when he gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, he was asked at what point he realised that there was something reprehensible or immoral about blacklisting construction workers.
'Many people (including those on the Scottish Affairs Select Ccommittee) felt that he did not act as he did, because his conscious pricked him, but because he had been shit on by the company he worked for when he raised the issue of alleged corrupt practices and they took detrimental action against him. Some people feel that he really blew the whistle because he was a disgruntled employee who wanted to get back at the company that he worked for.
'There is nothing surprising about this and people often do blow the whistle for similar and not unrelated reasons, rather than acting in the public interest.
'Mr Wainwright refers to his meeting with Ian Kerr.  As I understand it, Kerr said in his evidence to the SASC, that Mr. Wainwright had said that Tarmac (the company he worked for, now Carillion) did not need his services because they had their own information about construction workers and could operate their own blacklist.
'Understandably, Mr Wainwright will now want to minimise his involvement in this scandalous practice of blacklisting, and engage in ex-post facto rationalisations.  No doubt, Alan will be happy to expand on these matters and answer questions about this, when he meets trades unionist to talk about his role in the blacklisting of construction workers.'
Derek Pattison, the joint-editor of Northern Voices, wrote the comment above earlier this month in response to an appeal from the whistle-blower and former costruction industry boss, Alan Wainwright in a legal case against Balfour Beatty.  Derek, in his account below, was clearly anxious to show that there is much that is complicated in the affairs of men and women:  the line between morality and expediency may well be a fine one.  It is now worth reminding ourselves by re-reading what the journalist Rob Evans had to say in The Guardian on Friday the 15th, May 2009:

Alan Wainwright: The lonely life of a construction industry whistleblower 

by Rob Evans Friday 15 May 2009

Alan Wainwright
Blacklist whistleblower, Alan Wainwright. Photograph: Christopher Thomond 

How former manager exposed how workers were being secretly blacklisted. 

ALAN WAINWRIGHT is a whistleblower who appears to have had a significant hand in changing government policy. The one-time construction manager used his inside knowledge to expose the clandestine use by companies of blacklisting that has prevented trade unionists and alleged "troublemakers" getting jobs.
By going public, he set off a chain of events which resulted, on Monday, in an announcement from the business secretary, Lord Mandelson, that the government was finally going to outlaw covert blacklists. Mandelson had been forced to act after a watchdog closed down a private investigator allegedly at the heart of blacklisting in the construction industry. Wainwright played a key role in helping to unmask the investigator, who is due to be prosecuted for breaking the data protection act on 27 May. This week he is pleased, but keen to stress that others, including trade unionists and politicians, deserve the credit as well.
He has trodden the familiar path of a whistleblower – battling for a long time in obscurity while being ignored by those in power: "It was demoralising not to be believed." Like other whistleblowers, he suffered for going public – losing his job, having no income, using up all his savings to live, experiencing a lot of stress, and fearing he would be evicted from his home: "It affects your relationship with your children, who are the most important thing in my life."
Industrial strife
Wainwright, 45, grew up in Deeside, north Wales. He started off as an electrician then ran a recruitment agency before being recruited by the Tarmac construction firm.
His whistleblowing story starts in 1997 when he was the national labour manager at an engineering company, Crown House (then a Tarmac subsidiary). He had been told by a senior manager that construction companies paid a private investigator, Ian Kerr, for information to "ensure that certain workers did not gain employment on their projects". He was told to meet Kerr because the vetting was being extended to Crown House's labour force.
"He [Kerr] definitely made it clear that they were undesirable people who had a history of causing disruption to projects," Wainwright says.
He had two meetings with Kerr, who said that many construction firms supplied him with details of workers on his database. As an example, Wainwright was shown a list of more than 100 names. According to Wainwright, Kerr said that when someone applied for a job, the company would forward their name to him so he could check his database. Wainwright said that if a worker was rejected, a simple "no" would come back, with no other explanation.
Wainwright's department faxed a weekly list of names to Kerr; later the lists went to Tarmac's head office: "It was very discreet, a closely guarded secret. It was made clear to me that I was not to discuss it with anybody, and I didn't." However, something was stirring in his mind: "I knew deep down that there was something wrong with it."
Yesterday, Laing O'Rourke, which now owns Crown House, said that in recent years it had bought companies which had paid Kerr, but this had been stopped.  In 2000, Wainwright briefly worked for the Drake and Scull construction firm. He said his managers sent him a list of 500 workers, with their national insurance numbers, which it had received from rival construction firm Balfour Beatty.  He said the listed workers had been employed on three large construction projects that had seen a lot of industrial strife, and that the list was distributed to managers to ensure some workers were not employed.  The memo, dated August 2000, advised him to "keep this information confidential".
The Emcor construction company, which owns Drake and Scull, said it was aware of the list described by Wainwright: "We have employed individuals named on that list, at the time and subsequently. We do not condone blacklists."
By 2004, Wainwright was a manager for Haden Young, a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty. Within a year, he came across what he thought was fraud by employees, but says his bosses were not interested in finding out the truth – a claim they deny. "The management shunned me," he says. "It got to the point where I felt very isolated, alone and alienated. It was one of the most distressing periods of my life."  He initiated a grievance complaint against the company, but began to worry that he himself would be branded a troublemaker.
In a letter to his head office in July 2005, he wrote: "The company operates a blacklisting procedure for new recruits and hired temporary agency workers to check for any previous history of union militancy, troublemaking."
Copies of Haden Young faxes from the time show lists of names being faxed to head office so that, he believes, they could be vetted.
Yesterday Balfour Beatty said it did "not condone the use of 'blacklists' in any circumstances and has taken steps to ensure that none of our companies use such services."  In 2006, Wainwright quit Haden Young but lost an employment tribunal claim. He was by then convinced that he had been blacklisted as he had applied unsuccessfully for more than 150 jobs.  He believed he had to make a concerted effort to expose the blacklisting if he were ever going to get work. He set up a website and posted names of hundreds of workers he believed had been blacklisted to alert them.
Unfair dismissal
He linked up with workers who thought they were being blacklisted, shared his inside information with them and gave evidence for them in industrial tribunals.  Three workers won their case in 2007 for unfair dismissal when a tribunal concluded that a "disgraceful" blacklist did exist in the construction industry.  A Guardian article on the cases last June caught the attention of the Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, the official privacy watchdog.  He investigated because he was worried that workers were unfairly being denied jobs.  As Wainwright had met Kerr and still had documents concerning the alleged blacklisting, he was able to help him.  Investigators raided Haden Young premises and tracked down the elusive Kerr to a nondescript office in Droitwich, Worcestershire. In February, they raided Kerr's premises and seized a secret database of 3,200 workers, effectively finishing the 66-year-old's business.
Thomas then named 40 construction firms including Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert McAlpine, Laing O'Rourke, Emcor and Crown House, which he said had been clandestinely using the database to vet potential workers. According to Thomas, the firms bought details of the individuals' trade union activities and work record from Kerr. Workers were said to be labelled, for example, as "Communist party", "lazy and a trouble-stirrer", "Do not touch" and "Irish ex-army bad egg".  Among the entries was one on Wainwright recording how he had helped blacklisted workers.
Now the jovial Wainwright is happily out of the construction industry and working for a concert ticket business.
He is animated about who are the ultimate culprits –  the directors of the construction companies. "Ian Kerr is not the primary cause of this.  The companies set him up in business, funded his existence from the start, and each name on the list would have been provided by the companies.  The directors took the decisions to join the system."
He is not ready to celebrate the end of blacklisting yet as he is waiting to see if Mandelson manages to draw up a proper law to eradicate it. "I am cautiously optimistic, however," he says.
Alan Wainwright's new blog on the construction industry blacklist is now live
Alan Wainwright: the CV
Born Chester 1963.
Career 1979-1989, qualified electrician; 1989-1993, managing director of own recruitment business; 1993-2000, national labour manager, Crown House; 2000, business improvement director at Emcor Drake & Scull; 2001-2004, human resources consultancy work; 2004-2005, production manager, Haden Young; 2006-present, concert ticket buyer, after 200 unsuccessful job applications.
Family Divorced, son 21 and daughter 19.
Interests Writing, performing and watching live music.

Burnham pledges free bus passes for 16-year-olds, but not for over 60's!

Labour Mayoral Candidate - Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayoral candidate for Greater Manchester, recently launched his mayoral manifesto. Amongst other things, he pledged to roll out free bus passes for 16 to 18-year-olds, who live in Greater Manchester.

According to a recent report by the “Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change” (CRESC), published in November 2016, Greater Manchester is a city region marked by low wages and precarious work with an acute shortage of social housing. Despite this, the report points out that fares for public transport are high and most commuting is by car. The report says:

“Excluding movements from Salford to Manchester, 60 to 70% of the commutes in to Manchester City from the nine other boroughs are by car. Commuting to work accounts for less than 20% of trips in Greater Manchester.”

Since the deregulation of buses under the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher in 1986, bus trips in big cities outside of London, have collapsed from 2bn trips a year to 1bn. Moreover, while fares have risen, services have worsened or have been cut altogether. Around 40p in every pound of revenue that bus companies take, comes directly as a subsidy from the taxpayer.

By contrast, bus use in London since the 1980s, has gone in the opposite direction, from 1bn to 2bn trips a year. Under ‘Transport for London’ (TfL), everything from the fares, the bus route, the timetable, and the profits that the bus company makes, are decided by the Mayor and TfL. Under the “Oyster Card” fare system, which everyone must use, Transport for London have introduced a standard single fare for journeys which allows passengers to pay one single fare if they change service within one hour. Free travel on bus, tube or tram, is available if you live in a London borough and are over 60-years of age.

However, if you live in within Greater Manchester, you are no longer entitled to a free bus pass when you reach 60-years of age. This change came about in 2010, when the qualifying age for a free bus pass, was moved incrementally, each year, towards pensionable age.  

As a 62-year-old man who lives in Labour controlled Greater Manchester, I must pay full bus fares until I qualify for a free bus pass (if there are still free bus passes) in September 2020, when I will be almost 66-years of age, possibly riddled with arthritis, and with a long white beard, and a walking stick. Like many people, the high cost of travelling on public transport in Greater Manchester, means that I rarely use it nowadays.

While I don’t begrudge giving a healthy 16 to 18-year-old a free bus pass, it seems outrageous to me, that because I don’t live in Greater London, I cannot get a free bus pass as a man in my sixties, but would be entitled to it, if I lived in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

Although I accept that many people who live in Greater Manchester may be totally unaware that they no longer qualify for a free bus passes at 60, the government must marvel at the way in which they get away with this in England - cutting people’s benefits while at the same time, cutting taxes for the multinationals and the rich. No doubt, they must wonder why, the people of Greater Manchester and the other areas of England, put up with such blatant discrimination in transport policy within the regions of the UK.  No wonder, some politicians get awarded lucrative part-time jobs in the city.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Unite row between rivals McCluskey & Coyne

International Business Times:reports:

The bitter row between Len McCluskey and Gerard Coyne, his main rival for the leadership of the Unite union, continued on Friday (24 March). Coyne told International Business Times UK that McCluskey has spent "far too much time" focusing on Westminster politics and suggested the current general secretary is Jeremy Corbyn's "puppet master".
"People really do believe it's time for a change and a sense that under Len's leadership we've spent far too much time focusing on Westminster politics and not enough time on supporting our members and protecting them through difficult times," he said.
"I'm actually saying that the relationship with the Labour Party is likely to be very different under my leadership. Not in that we don't affiliate – that's within our rules – but the focus on the leadership of the Labour Party and effectively being a puppetmaster to the leader of Labour Party that will definitely end under me.
"There's a big enough day-job here in being the Unite general secretary then trying to be the general secretary of the Labour Party at the same time. I think you'll see a very different and tangible change when I'm successful."
Coyne, who is Unite's regional secretary for the West Midlands, issued the attack against McCluskey with just days to go before voting opens on Monday 27 March. Unite is the UK's largest trade union with more than 1.3 million members and the organisation is a major donor to Labour.
But, like other unions, Unite's membership has fallen over recent years. More than 42,177 people left the organisation Between 2012 and 2015, according to the union's annual returns. Coyne wants to make Unite "relevant for the 21st century" and introduce a new "family membership" to boost the union's influence.
"We want to reach out and bring them into the family of Unite by making sure that if their parents are already Unite members that they get that protection the union can provide," he said.
Coyne added: "One of the realities is that since 1979 trade union membership has been declining year-on-year. Part of my argument is that the union has not been relevant to the world of work is today and it's changed quite rapidly, not just in terms of the loss of manufacturing jobs, but in the structure of the way people are involved in work.
"You've seen a massive increase in zero-hours contracts, almost one million people, there's 1.6 million people on agency contracts and more than four million on self-employment, a lot of those are on bogus self-employment where they are working for one employer and it's a means of avoiding National Insurance Contributions [from the company]."

Operation Clifton Further Discredits Danczuk

by Les May
WHEN Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale's book ‘Smile for the Camera’ was published in April 2014 it was applauded by almost every reviewer.  But there was one slightly sceptical note struck by Nicholas Blincoe who reviewed the book for the Daily Telegraph.  Whilst almost everyone else seemed to accept at face value everything that Danczuk and his aide Baker had to say about Cyril Smith’s activities, Mr. Blincoe was more cautious in what he said:  
'If it emerges that Smith, who died in 2010, raped young boys at Knowl View, the failure to act earlier will seem unforgivable. But the guilt will be shared.  Everyone in Rochdale read the RAP story.  I pored over it as a 13-year-old. There was never any doubt over Smith’s guilt. So why did no one do anything?' and 'Investigations into Knowl View by the police and council have been extended to discover Smith’s role, if any, in the abuse. We will soon know if Rochdale’s sympathy for Smith was a terrible mistake.'  

‘Smith’s guilt’ here refers to the story which had appeared in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in 1979, about him carrying out fake medical examinations and spanking young men at Cambridge House Hostel in the early 1960s.  The reason ‘There was never any doubt...’ is that when the story appeared Smith huffed and puffed and blustered, but did not sue.

In the event Blincoe’s prediction of May 2014 that ‘We will soon know...’ proved to be wildly optimistic.  It has taken not one, but three, investigations to get at the truth about what Baker wrote and Danczuk put his name to.  
Essentially their credibility rests on three claims: 
1)  That Smith was protected by, amongst others, the security services, and was effectively immune from prosecution, 
2)  That Knowl View special school was a ‘sweetshop for paedophiles’ and Smith took full advantage of it,
3)  That there was a ‘cover up’ by officers of Rochdale Council about what was happening in the school. 
Now we have known since July 2015 that the first of these claims are false.

This is what I wrote about this incident on the Northern Voices blog in September 2015: 
On pages 221 and 222 of his book is a typical Danczuk story about Smith.  In recounting this story he forgot the collateral damage being caused to the reputation of the Northamptonshire Police:   
'His car had been pulled over on the motorway and officers had found a box of child porn in his boot.  The police were naturally disgusted and wanted to press charges.  But then a phone call was made from London and he was released  without charge Senior officers had threatened the officers involved with dismissal if he was not released immediately.  The mood was tense and sullen as officers stood back while Cyril breezily walked past them to freedom.  All the staff who knew about it were threatened with the Official Secrets Act if they discussed the matter any further.  Once again Cyril walked out of the police station knowing he was a protected man.'  

A totally convincing story, but totally untrue.    

How do we know?    

Because detectives have interviewed Danczuk, two former chief constables, about 60 police staff, a journalist who has written extensively about Smith, and several members of the public.   No witness has been found who saw Smith in custody or was involved in his arrest, no reports of the alleged incident have been uncovered and no witnesses have been found from Special Branch.   A manual trawl of its archives was undertaken by Special Branch and the Crown Prosecution Service searched its archives for relevant information.   Both found nothing. 

So far as I know this is the only one of Danczuk's stories that has been subject to scrutiny.  I leave it to your imagination to figure out how much it has cost to find out the truth about it just because he and Baker could not be bothered to check it out before committing it to print. 
Their second claim about paedophiles at Knowl View school was demolished in September 2016 when Operation Jaguar was closed due to the absence of substantive evidence.  
This is what the Greater Manchester Police (GMP) had to say: 
‘Between April 2014 and April 2015, 13 files with multiple allegations were submitted by GMP to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) relating to 27 suspects and 16 victims (I think they mean complainants), of both physical and sexual offences.  In 2016 the CPS communicated their decision on the final one of the 13 files that was still under review.  No further action will be taken in relation to this allegation.  In May 2016 a further file was submitted to the CPS and in August 2016 the CPS advised there was insufficient evidence to support a prosecution.’
Danczuk did not like this one little bit and responded with:  
'I believe that there has been a catalogue of failings by GMP during the investigation of these crimes.   A failure to prosecute will leave child sexual abuse victims devastated that the people who changed their lives forever will not be brought to justice.  This statement from GMP announcing that they have not been able to prosecute any more abusers will, I am sure, mean that the perpetrators of these horrific and evil crimes will sleep more happily in their beds tonight.’   

In other words he ‘knows’ the people accused are guilty, and if the evidence cannot be found it is due to police failings.
Whilst Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd did not see fit to defend the good name and professionalism of Greater Manchester Police, the local Police Federation chairman Inspector Ian Hanson, did saying:  
 '(f)rom his comments I would assume Mr Danczuk is in possession of very specific information that backs up his comments (and) if that is the case then he should refer that information to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaint's Commission) himself immediately.'   

In a Facebook post, Ian Hanson said a statement released by Mr Danczuk on Thursday was 'totally lacking in detail or substance'.   

Inspector Hanson said of Simon Danczuk: 
'.... I will publicly call him out to deliver the firm evidence that he bases his criticism of GMP on to my office by 12 noon on Monday - and I will personally deliver it to the IPCC.'

As for their claim of a ‘cover up’ this is implied rather than made explicit.  But anyone reading page 113 of their book could not be left in any doubt of what is being suggested, especially as they refer to one council officer by name.  Certainly the media took the view that the police investigation into whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council had come about because of the book.

Assistant Chief Constable Ian Wiggett from GMP, said:  
'Following the publication of MP Simon Danczuk's book 'Smile for the Camera’, GMP conducted an assessment of the allegations contained within that book. As a result of the assessment, GMP decided that a criminal investigation was required. 
'This also followed consultation with Rochdale Council and the QC conducting the independent inquiry on their behalf. The council asked Neil Garnham QC to suspend his independent review and he has agreed to do so.
'The GMP investigation will now seek to identify whether any offences have been committed in the way that previous reports of abuse were handled or allegedly covered up.'

After more than two and a half years and at a cost of nearly three quarters of a million pounds the Greater Manchester Police investigation Operation Clifton concluded that there was no ‘cover up’ of what was happening at Knowl View.  In other words Danczuk and Baker once again got it wrong.   Now at this point I must declare an interest.  In May 2015 I was interviewed at Rochdale Police Station for some two hours by two officers who were part of this operation.  I handed over copies of all the relevant documents I had amassed during my own investigation and signed statements detailing the information I had provided verbally.  At the end of the interview I was asked to express a view as to whether I believed there had been a ‘cover up’. I said no. So far as I was concerned I was very impressed by the thoroughness of the investigation.   

Danczuk sees things differently.  He has described Operation Clifton as a 'shambles' and he said: 'This must be the most bizarre and unprofessional police investigation I’ve seen in my time in public office.  The police have been effectively investigating themselves.  The way it has been handled by the police warrants investigation.'

What he does not say is that the investigation was set up examine whether there had been a ‘cover up’ by Rochdale Council and that he was wrong to suggest that there had.
This is curious because in April 2014 he had dismissed the existing enquiry into claims of a ‘cover up’ set up by Rochdale Council in January 2014 as a ‘bogus review’ that lacked the necessary independence.  It was this enquiry which was superceded by Operation Clifton.  

He said at the time:  
'It's well known that Rochdale council are knee-deep in litigation over claims of historical physical and sexual abuse and their so-called independent review is nothing more than a defence of the council.  
'I don't know why they're calling it an independent review because the council commissioned it, they've set the terms of reference and the council leader is busy calling round people connected to Knowl View asking them to come and speak to him.
'There's nothing independent about it and I think it's wrong that the council should be investigating serious allegations of abuse that they had responsibility for preventing.'  

Incidentally, the council leader in question was Colin Lambert who went on to deliver the Labour party a stunning victory at the next election but was then replaced by someone closer to Mr Danczuk.

Operation Clifton cost almost £750,000, Operation Jaguar cost in the region of £500,000, the cost of the investigation by Northamptonshire Police is unknown but we can tentatively place it in the tens of thousands of pounds, if not more.  Taken together the sum is in the region of one and a quarter million pounds.  Even though Danczuk was the proximate factor which led to each of them, he rejects the findings of all of them. 

Allowing Danczuk to remain in a position where anyone might be inclined to take the slightest notice of his views on Cyril Smith, Knowl View and indeed the whole question of sexual abuse of children, is rapidly becoming an expensive luxury the country can ill afford.  But he won’t go until he is pushed and the people to do that pushing are the members of Rochdale Labour party or, if they still won’t do it, Rochdale’s councillors from the other parties need to kick up a fuss and not be cowed by attacks from Danczuk’s cronies.

Rochdale will never climb out of the mire so long as it has Danczuk as its MP.  Blaming the police when they don’t come up with the findings you think they should is lacking in judgement.  Doing it three times is the action of a fool.  

Friday, 24 March 2017

‘Down and Out in Paris ..,and Rochdale!'

by Andrew Wastling
'The government itself, which is only the mode which the people have chosen to execute their will, is equally liable to be abused and perverted before the people can act through it.' 
Henry David Thoreau , On the Duty of Civil Disobedience, 1849
INSTEAD of being a progressive driver of positive social change Rochdale council still seems intent on moving our civil liberties back almost four hundred years to the time when beggars or those without visible means were forcibly taken to the Parish boundary and unceremoniously thrown over it onto the mercy of the neighbouring Parish for poor relief giving to the rise to the expression ‘From Hell, Hull and Halifax, may the Good Lord deliver us!'
These words form part of the infamous Thieves’ Litany, uttered in Mediaeval Yorkshire as a leave-taking ‘prayer’ between two thieves as they parted. Hell was to be feared, of course, as was Hull Gaol with its evil reputation. Halifax was one of those towns granted the right to a ‘gibbet’, (still visible at the end of Gibbet Street , in Halifax to this day ), a particular savage form of early guillotine, which  was notorious for its quick use against suspected villains. In the seventh century paupers were sometimes branded on the forehead with a letter 'V' for vagrant. 
Whilst in  the 1930's, local Socialist writer Jack Hilton was truncheoned into near temporary paralysis at the Town Hall Poor Relief Assizes simply for speaking out in support of the poor & needy of Rochdale in the Great Depression. In the preceding eighty odd years we have thankfully made considerable progress.  Or at least some of us have.

Hilton knew he was a link in a long chain going back to the Middle Ages and beyond of those who'd chronicled the lived experience of the poor and marginalised in this country when he described the treatment of vagrants in the late 1500's in Caliban Shrieks ,written 1935 ,he vividly described the medieval lived experience the poor:
'Vagabonds were sentenced to be branded, five to be hanged , and eight set to service .  Service was unvarnished slavery .And it was from the stress of such times that humanity set up it's workhouses. We still have them with us.'
We also have first hand descriptive evidence by Jack Hilton of the scene in the Rochdale  Means tests for Public Assistance  in the middle 1930's when he noted brutality to the poor remained , just in a different form:
'What sort of civilised action in such callousness. When you take away the last straw off the poor blighter, it's a punishment that eats into his bone ? '
What sort of 'civilised actions' indeed comrade?

Proving that history does indeed have an uncanny knack of repeating itself we read that in the twenty first century Rochdale Council seems to be again intent on a course of action that insure that far from being feared that they are widely ridiculed & locally despised.
Human rights are human rights.  We can not decide that some human rights are more important than others or cherry pick those we wish to preserve & those we wish to ignore. For that way lies Animal Farms proclamation by the pigs and the rank hypocrisy of governments that proclaim the absolute equality of their citizens but give power and privileges to a small elite : ' All animals are equal but some are more equal than others,' is the well known political phrase.
Or perhaps in Rochdale Councils  case : 'some human rights abuses less important than other human rights abuses' ?
Maybe our council could take us further backwards  still and bring back the use of St. Chads stocks , reintroduce the 'rack', public floggings with the birch ,put the building of a shiny new privately run Rochdale Workhouse up for tender to the highest bidder and while they are at it have the poor of our Borough sew a letter 'P' for Pauper on their clothing so they can be easily identified for ridicule by their fellow citizens & aid their imminent arrest by the Goon Squads of the State apparatus ?
As to imposing one thousand pound fines for begging just refer R v Ealing Justices ex p Cloves (CO/16/10/89) where the Court said:
'If the defendant cannot pay the fine within a reasonable time, it is an indication that the fine is too high.'
Owing money is of itself not a criminal act.'
Amongst the widely ridiculed ' swearing ban' we also have the deeply undemocratic : 'Unauthorised distribution of printed material/leaflets' - having to get each and every leaflet authorised before it's handed out smacks of the Stasi, the Police State & Orwell's Thought Police. 
Who exactly decides what is to  be authorised and approved and what passes or fails to pass the official State sanctioned Censor I wonder ?
In the Manifesto Clubs booklet, 'Leafleting: A Liberty Lost?',  it is argued that:  '27% of councils now restrict public leafleting.'
Prompting their call for 'a review of local authorities’ no-tolerance policies, and for a more liberal regime that recognises leafleting as part of a free and vibrant civic life.'

Equally in Areopagitica, published in 1644, John Milton argued that licensing laws were a dead hand on the search for understanding, with every creation passing under the licenser’s stamp and pen before  it could enter into the world. The criticisms of fellow citizens were a surer test of truth than friars or crown agents, he argued:
‘Truth and understanding are not such wares as to be  monopolised and traded in by tickets and statutes and standards.’
The pressure of liberal opinion won the day, and the licensing of printing was finally ended in 1695, a century or more before many continental states.

'Why are beggars despised?' , asked George Orwell in 'Down and Out in Paris and London' , 1933 .
'A beggar, looked at realistically, is simply a businessman, getting his living, like other businessmen, in the way that comes to hand. He has not, more than most modern people, sold his honour; he has merely made the mistake of choosing a trade at which it is impossible to grow rich.'
In Austerity Britain where the Social Market Foundation (SMF) has just revealed the rich are 64% richer than before the recession, while the poor are 57% poorer .We have witnessed , and sometimes witness daily , since 2010 a year on increase in rough sleepers, a 60% rise in families living in temporary accommodation with 67% of children living in poverty from working families.  It should come as no surprise that at the same time the poor should be more visible on our streets .  Their cardboard pedestals a stark & constant reminder of the abject failure of neo-liberalism for many.  Equally we should not be surprised that those in power wish to demonise & scapegoat these inconvenient reminders that the glitzy consumerist utopia does not work for all.  Or even better sweep them out of sight and out of mind entirely.
Gentrification like urban poverty is nothing new. Just ask the sans-culottes driven out of their Paris quartiers in the 1860's by Barron Haussman in the 1860's , any barrios , favela , or slum dog millionaire dweller from Dickens to Dakar .Or simply ask any of the  29 mothers and expectant mothers from the E15 Campaign who received eviction notices and were told they would have to get out because the council’s funding stream to the mother and baby unit suddenly stopped by Newham Council due to Austerity and are now resisting gentrification across London.
Equally as Mike Davis points out in his excellent 'Planet of the Slums' , the 'brutal tectonics of neoliberal globalisation' have spawned :
'A proletariat without factories, workshops , and work, and without bosses, in the middle of the odd jobs, drowning in survival and leading an existence like a path through embers.'
Simultaneously we stand both despairingly distant from yet tantalisingly close to the post industrialism of Pyotr Kropotkin's 'Fields, Factories and Workshops Tomorrow'.  It does not require much investigation to see that:  
'Everywhere you will find that the wealth of the wealthy springs from the poverty of the poor.'   Especially when we consider that  a massive £250 million pounds regeneration programme for Rochdale Town Centre it is that many of us who comprise the 'precariat' still remain 'drowning in survival' and feel alienated to and disenfranchised from the local democratic decision making process that seeks to map out our sparkling futures in which we are no longer citizens but consumers.  Mere spectators of the Theatre of the Absurd many steps removed from a dysfunctional local 'democratic process' that is neither transparent , inclusive or truly represents or involves the majority of local residents at all.
A neurotic  political climate in which we read dumfounded that a legitimate question about , 'the Labour Group wanting  to adopt a policy promoted by the local Green Party to create an additional 100 allotments in Rochdale.' Was refused on the dubious grounds that the question , 'How many allotments have been created over the 12 months since then?', was deemed too 'politically motivated' by our Big Brother Council ?
Rather than seeing 'reds under the flower beds', conspiracies and shady plots in legitimate questions about innocuous allotments our council should have a thumb through Peter Hall and Colin Ward 'Sociable Cities' since 'the birthplace of cooperation' seems far from sociable at the moment with it's  proposed a Public Space Protection Order.  They should take a lesson from Colin Ward when he pointed out that : 
'The terrifying breakdown of social cohesion in the American city, in spite of intense institutionalized police surveillance equipped with every sophisticated aid to public control, illustrates that social behaviour depends upon mutual responsibility rather than upon the policeman.'

We can not either divorce the issue of urban poverty from the question of private property & public space.  Attempts to marginalise demonise the poor go back to 1824 and further still to medieval times, with attempts to criminalise the urban poor at the height of the industrial revolution.  During this time, land privatisation was being rolled out on a mass scale, and hundreds of thousands of people who lacked the means to purchase property were displaced from their homes and the land some of them had lived on for generations.  The Enclosure Acts equally played their part:

'The law doth punish man or woman
That steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose
That steals the common from the goose.'
Or my preferred version of this 17th century protest rhyme :
'The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Till they go and steal it back.'
These fundamental issues of land ownership & English liberty that can be traced back to the Putney Debates, & The Levellers when Cromwell's common soldiers took on their generals to argue for greater democracy and provided a platform for 'common people' to make their voices heard. These debates, forced by the Levellers paved the way for many of the civil liberties we rightly cherish and value today.

Fundamental to the birth of English liberty then  was the realisation by Colonel Rainsborough, (the highest ranking officer to support the ordinary solders) that:
“I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he” 

That was in Autumn 1647.  We're of course mindful that in 1649 Cromwell sent his mounted 'iron-sides'  in to brutally supress Winstanley's nascent communistic Digger Community at St. Georges Hill. Reminding us if we need one that where there are the seeds of liberty & dreams of utopia then we will find those willing to scythe such hard won liberty's & trample shared visions of a fairer society and a Better World into the dust simply to impose their own personal dystopia. In the future warns Orwell :   

'There will be no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. But always there will be the intoxication of power.  Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who’s helpless.  If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face, forever.  The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: don’t let it happen.  It depends on you.'