Monday, 5 December 2016

Are N.H.S. services in Greater Manchester safe with Andy Burnham?

'Doe-eyed' - Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham, who is standing as a candidate in the Greater Manchester mayoral elections, was recently described by one newspaper columnist, as ‘doe-eyed’ and a cross between ‘Paul McCartney’ and a ‘Thunderbird puppet’. Last week, Andy, the Member of Parliament for Leigh, was on the stump in Ashton-under-Lyne, where he was billed to be speaking at a public meeting on ‘Health and Well-being, at Clarendon Sixth Form College.

While the event was free to attend, and was advertised on ‘’, it was not widely advertised or easy to register and many of the people who were attending the event, told me that they were Labour Party members who had received invitations to attend the meeting. Despite assurances from a Labour functionary, wearing a red tie, that it was indeed a public meeting, a Tameside councillor, told me that it was by invitation only.  

By all accounts, the event turned out to be less a “Policy Development Conference on Health and Well-being” and more an Andy Burnham roadshow. A health professional, who managed to attend the meeting, who is also a Labour Party member, told NV that the event was a ‘missed opportunity’ and a ‘waste of time’. Seemingly, proposals to integrate health and social care in Tameside and across Greater Manchester, “the first properly integrated National Health and Care Service”, which Burnham supports, were presented as a shining light within Greater Manchester.

While the public are told that Andy Burnham is keen to involve the public in developing policies that “will make a real and meaningful difference to people’s lives”, this turned out to be even more bullshit. According to our health professional, the people in charge of the meeting were not interested in talking about the massive bed cuts at Tameside Hospital, low staffing levels, or how tax-payers’ money is being wasted. Neither had they much to say about the fate of the N.H.S. Instead, all the speakers focused on how Andy Burnham’s career as a Labour politician, had been full of dedication to the well-being of the great British public.

Although I think that integrating health and social care could be an excellent idea, the thought of out-of-their-depth, ten-bob councillors, in Greater Manchester, having greater control over N.H.S spending and health care in the region, is something that fills me with abject horror. In 2013, the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), said that Labour dominated councils like Manchester, Salford and Tameside, were at risk of becoming the equivalent of ‘one party states’ like North Korea, China or Cuba.

Last month, Sir Richard Leese, the Labour leader of Manchester City Council- a council where almost all the council seats are filled by Labour - speaking about DevoManc, told an audience at the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations (G.M.C.V.O) A.G.M, that he wanted to see ward and hospital closures across Greater Manchester, including Tameside. He believes that many people who are currently in hospital, need not be there and that their needs could be better met in other ways. 

However, as part of the ‘Devolution’ agreement, the government have made it a condition that all the ten council’s in Greater Manchester, develop ‘new care models’ between now and 2020, to receive the £450 million, ‘Transformation’ fund monies agreed in the devolution agreement. Mr Leese also believes that it is the role of voluntary organisations, to “fill in the holes”, left by public service cuts.

Already, Tameside Hospital have confirmed that they are planning to close 246 beds at the hospital by 2020 and claim that this can be compensated for by the creation of five local multidisciplinary care teams. Moreover, care services are steadily being privatised - CareUK have recently been given a five-year contract for musculoskeletal services in Tameside. Nationally, some 200 N.H.S care services have also been handed over to the billionaire tax exile, Richard Branson.

Milton Peña, a retired consultant orthopaedic surgeon, who worked at Tameside Hospital for seventeen-years, told a public meeting held in Stalybridge in September:

“Such a massive reduction in bed capacity will lead to a drastic deterioration in quality of care of patients in Tameside and Glossop. Safety, effectiveness and patient experience, will be significantly affected.”

Some people are rightly suspicious about the notion of “integrated care” believing it to be a cover for cuts, deprofessionalization and the downgrading of N.H.S services. They question how private companies can provide a high standard of health and social care while making profits and point out that this is often done, at the expense of cutting staff and working conditions.

Although, Andy Burnham, failed to explain how ‘integration’ will improve health and social care, some sceptic’s in the ‘Tameside Keep our N.H.S Public’ group, believe that Labour in Manchester, have:

“swallowed hook, line and sinker current government ideology that believes publicly funded and provided health and social care services should be severely reduced, leaving a ‘safety net’ for the deserving poor, for whom no alternative is possible.”

As they point out, this would mean most of us paying for services or taking out private health insurance as is the case in America, where failure to pay medical bills, is the main cause of middle-class bankruptcy in the United States.

As a candidate for Mayor, Andy Burnham, should tell the electorate whether he agrees or disagrees with Sir Richard Leese in wanting ward and hospital closures across Greater Manchester and how “integration”, will improve health and social care.

'Always Look On The Sour Side of Life'

How Ken Loach Renders Reality on Film

Reviewing  'I, Daniel Blake' & the impact of 'Social Realism'

by Brian Bamford

Reverend David Grey, a former friar, at Ashton Jobcentre
THE film Ken Loach's 'I, Daniel Blake' had the biggest domestic opening of its director's career with receipts of more than £2 million after its first three weeks.  Audiences predictably have been massive in Newcastle where the film is staged.  But also on social media, where the hashtag #iamdanielblake took off.   It is to be released in the USA on December 23rd.

The Euro-septic MP, Iain Duncan Smith at one point complained that the film was unkind to the staff at the job-centres and benefit offices, who were enforcing the sanctions which is central to the film's message.

As things turned out audiences in this country have been flocking to see the film, which portrays the difficulties experienced by a Newcastle joiner with an heart condition trying to make sense of the British benefit's system. 

Working class culture has a rich tradition in many post-war British films.  In 1996 I interviewed Jim Allen, one of Ken Loach's screen-writers and a former building site worker, who had just collaborated with Loach on the film 'Land & Freedom' about the Spanish Civil War, and had previously worked with him on 'Raining Stones' (1993). 

At that time in an essay entitled 'Rendering Reality on Film: art and the emotion racket' (The Raven, Spring 1996), I wrote:   

'... in Raining Stones in 1993 (based on a council estate in Middleton, Greater Manchester), they are  concerned with the problems of survival on the dole in Britain today.  How to get by on a council estate amid the loan sharks and drug pushers.  Making out and leading a decent family life, in the aftermath of an era of social blight and desperation for the poor that shows  no sign of ending in the near future.'

Loach himself is uneasy about being identified with 'social realism' because he thinks it pigeon-holes his films puts off the public, he has said:  'It's a way for critics to isolate someone's work... As a film-maker you just want people to come with an open mind.'

Some doubt the accuracy and truth of the events in the film, although Mr Iain Duncan Smith has given a radio interview in which he said:that the film showed 'the very worst of anything that could happen'.

The benefit agencies and jobcentres have long been held responsible for inflicting suffering upon people at the bottom of society's pile.  Only last week the National Audit Office which found that  the Government spent £147 million more on administering the system than was saved through sanctions.  In my capacity as a Trade Union Council Secretary in Tameside, Manchester, I recently wrote to Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union that represents jobcentre workers:

'...  the protests at Ashton Jobcentre are now in their second year...  During the last two-years, staff working at Ashton Jobcentre, have made numerous complaints that they have felt threatened by protests taking place outside Ashton Jobcentre.  While this has often led to police intervention, no protestor has ever been arrested, cautioned, or rebuked in anyway.  The police have often considered these complaints, as time-wasting or baseless...  You may be interested to know that on one occasion, the Reverend David Grey, a former friar from Gorton Monastery, entered Ashton Jobcentre dressed in clerical vestments (see picture) to offer staff spiritual guidance and counselling..  We were later told that the Jobcentre had summoned the police on the pretext that staff felt threatened and intimidated by this man of God.'

This kind of corny confrontation between the British benefit bureaucracy and the claimants has been going on for as long as I can remember.  It's an authentic long-running farce played out daily up and down the country.  Towards the end of the film, Daniel Blake asks to sign-off as a claimant saying that applying for work with a heart condition like his was just wasting everyone's time and only served to humiliate him as a claimant.   The film critic Antonia Quirke has written:  'Very few people can hit you in the thoracic cavity like Loach.  Of course I cried, as I always do...'.

This is what my mother would have called a 'tear jerker' or Bertold Brecht the 'emotion racket', but while social realism may scare some off the cinema Danny Leigh in the Financial Times suggests:

'That is the essence of modern social realism – a place on the screen for people often seen as statistics'.

The film has already won the Palm d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival, and has scored as  a hit at the British box office. 

Time to Publish Rochdale's Child Abuse Reports

Is there a cover-up going on in Greater Manchester?
by Les May
SOME three weeks after I originally wrote to him I have had a response from Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd.  A response to my e-mail, but not to my request:

‘Could we have a single and unambiguous public statement from you either that you repudiate Mr Danczuk's assertions and that you consider that the GMP investigation was thorough and carried out to the highest standards or that you agree with Mr Danczuk's assessment of the investigation and believe that GMP failed in its responsibility to carry out a thorough investigation into these allegations.’
Instead he directs me to an article in the Manchester Evening News which deals with the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service not to proceed with the case against David Higgins who in April this year was charged with 18 counts of indecent assault and one count of attempt indecent assault of two boys under the age of 16.
Lloyd is trying to conflate his response to the single case in which there was enough evidence against an individual to launch a prosecution, with the 13 cases where there was no realistic chance of a successful prosecution because there was no firm evidence.  So we still do not know whether he thinks the GMP investigation was done incompetently or not.  With support like this for the police service I’m glad I don’t work for GMP.
Like Danczuk he wants to talk about ‘victims’, even though there has not been a trial, or in Danczuk’s case, even in the absence of anyone being charged.  Unlike Danczuk he does not want to commit himself about how well Operation Jaguar was conducted.  He will neither reassure the public that the investigation was carried out to the highest standards nor will he dissociate himself from Danczuk’s wild comments about a ‘catalogue of failures’.  As Operation Jaguar is said to have cost half a million pounds this is simply not good enough.
We should not forget that not everyone who has had traumatic things happen to them necessarily wants ‘punishment’ of wrongdoers.  It may be that people simply need to have their side of the story heard and acknowledged, and have a burning sense of injustice when it is not.
For legal reasons that were entirely valid in1970, Cyril Smith never stood trial for indecently assaulting young men at Cambridge House.
But the detailed article which appeared in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in May 1979 ensured that their story was heard.  That Cyril was able to continue as an MP for another 13 years was not due to him being ‘protected’ by the security services, nor due to David Steele ‘turning a blind eye’.  It was due to the fact that the press chose not to run the story.
In refusing to publish the Shepherd and Mellor reports Rochdale MBC are denying the men who were at the school in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and are now approaching forty and with families of their own, the opportunity to have the unsavoury things that were going on at the school publicly acknowledged.  Some people would say they are being denied an opportunity for ‘closure’.
I am not aware that Mr Danczuk is on record as urging RMBC to publish these reports though it has been suggested that he should.  Unless he does start to press for publication his continued reference to ‘victims’ at Knowl View will begin to look like crocodile tears.

Crossrail Dispute

Financial Appeal
Terry Wilson was elected as shop steward 6 weeks ago at  the Tottenham Court road site his employer Laing O'Rourke refused to recognise Terry as the steward they have also denied access to any union officials on their sites for months now and are a well known blacklisting firm , there industrial relations officer is Brian Boyd ex aeeu official. The day after attending a demo over 2nd tier payments Terry  was told he was being transferred to another site which is not part of the crossrail project . The Lor workers cabined up over the dodgy transfer for 2 days last week , and walked off site last Friday.Today at a picket off the site the workers voted to continue the strike and have said they will not return until Terry is allowed to return to the Tottenham Court road site. We cannot allow Lor to get away with their union busting tactics any longer
Please donate to the strike fund
Account name:Unite London Construction LE/0555 Branch
Account number :20276649
Sort Code :608301
Cheques payable to Unite the Union. Send to Peter Kavanagh marked Crossrail dispute Tottenham Court rd
Unite the Union 33-37 Moreland Street London EC1V 8BB
Many thanks in Solidarity National Construction Rank and File

Bristol Radical History Group

Slaughter No Remedy

Date: Monday 5th December, 2016
Time: 8.00pm
Venue: The Cube, 4 Princess Row, Kingsdown, Bristol, BS2 8NQ
Price: £5/£4

With:  Colin Thomas, Lois Bibbings, Ben Griffin, Ben Pike

The premier of Slaughter No Remedy a short film that studies the life of Walter Ayles a leading member of the Independent Labour Party in Bristol who was jailed in 1916 for his refusal to fight in World War One. This is followed by Watford’s Quiet Heroes a documentary telling the dramatic and largely forgotten stories of WW1 war resisters. Finally, The Unseen March exposes the contemporary policies that are increasing military involvement in schools across Britain. From the expansion of cadet forces to academies sponsored by the arms industry, the armed forces are playing a growing role in education without public debate.

A panel discussion follows, featuring historian of conscientious objectors Professor Lois Bibbings, Ben Griffin of Veterans for Peace and documentary film makers Colin Thomas and Ben Pike.

Book this event here

Plaque to mark Eastville Workhouse at 100 Fishponds Road

Date: Wednesday 7th December, 2016
Time: 11.00am
Venue: 100 Fishponds Rd, Pedestrian Entrance to East Trees Health Centre, Bristol BS5 6BF
As part of the ongoing Eastville Workhouse history project a cast aluminium, painted plaque by local artist Mike Baker will be unveiled on the surviving gates to the workhouse at 100 Fishponds Rd. Over eighty years, thousands of men, women and children passed through these gates, driven by poverty, great age or ill-health. Families were separated, endured hard labour and a punitive regime. The plaque shows a relief of Eastville Workhouse and Fishponds Rd in the late Victorian period and marks the location of the institution which remains a dark, but important, symbol in the history of East Bristol.

Detroit: Future City?

Date: Wednesday 7th December, 2016
Time: 8.00pm
Venue: The Hydra Bookshop, Old Market St, Bristol BS2 0EZ
Price: Donation
With: Sarah Coffey

The US city of Detroit had a population in the region of 1.8 million in the 1950s but automation and the flight of big business, particularly in the automotive industry, led to massive redundancies, foreclosures and the displacement of millions. The population now stands at less than 700,000, the lowest it has been for a century. In the midst of this neo-liberal catastrophe and the associated withdrawal of public services, residents have banded together to create their own solutions including food networks, community safety patrols, free schools and neighbourhood housing projects. However, these pioneering  Detroiters are faced with an onslaught of further privatisation, dissolution of democratic control of local government, the removal collective bargaining and raids on pension funds. These competing models of the 'future city' will have ramifications not just in the US but worldwide. 
Sarah Coffey, a longtime Detroit resident, community organiser and a co-founder of the Midnight Special Law Collective has been closely involved with autonomous communities in the city.

The Talented Mr Sketchley (1823-1913)

by Christopher Draper

JOHN Sketchley’s name pops up in numerous labour histories but never accompanied by an adequate biography so who was this man – the only anarchist whose activism stretched back to Chartism and forward into the twentieth century?  William Morris appreciated John’s significance, reminding readers in his flattering introduction to Sketchley’s magnum opus of, “his career so important and instructive for us." 

Road to Damascus
Sketchley was born in 1823 in Hinckley, Leicestershire to parents William and Elizabeth. His father was a stocking maker and John followed him into the trade.  Although it was less than a decade since Ned Ludd visited Leicester, John’s dad was no frame-breaker, with a political outlook conditioned by Roman Catholicism. 

When John was 16 he went with his father and friends to hear the Reverend Simmons preach at a nearby village and it changed his life. John recalled, “the Rev. gentleman dwelt at great length on the sufferings of the poor and very ably expounded the principles of Chartism as the one thing needed.  I felt pleased with the sermon and when he announced that he should preach there again the following Sunday I was delighted.”

As a Catholic choirboy John naively expected his own parish priest to also preach the charitable gospel of the Charter but was rapidly disabused:
“Father Proctor on entering the pulpit, took for his text the well known words, 'ALL POWER COMES FROM GOD' etc, etc.  His sermon was a political one. He commenced a violent attack on the French Revolution; condemned the Republicans as atheists, robbers and murderers, declaring that they were the scourge of France, accursed by heaven, and abhorred by every good man.  He next came to Chartism, which he condemned as synonymous with atheism and infidelity and concluded by calling on every member of the congregation not to attend another Chartist meeting.”

John’s dad insisted he attend that afternoon’s Catechism class and forbade further attendance upon the Rev. Simmons but John disobeyed… ”I hastened to Earl Shilton and at 3 o’clock was listening to the Rev. Mr Simmons. A second sermon was given at 6 o’clock, after which a committee was formed for Hinckley and district. I was appointed Secretary of that Committee."

Facts Before Faith
As a Chartist militant, John didn’t immediately abandon the Catholic Church but throughout the following decade carefully compared and contrasted the gospels of each.  “I left the Church only when I was thoroughly convinced that its claims were incompatible with human liberty and human dignity.”

Enduring loyalty, careful study and sombre reflection remained defining characteristics of Sketchley’s libertarian politics throughout his long and active life.

Although John recorded that many feared Chartists were on the verge of violent revolution in truth the movement was inadequately organised.  “The storm of 1842 closed with arrest of large numbers of the leaders; the people became more or less demoralised, the movement collapsed for the time and the people found that something more was needed than resolutions, cheers, petitions and even threats of violence.”

John continued to campaign for the Charter and was warned that his arrest was imminent but he refused to desist. 

The Next Step
Sadly the movement disintegrated around him until John had to admit:
"Chartism is a thing of the past…reaction everywhere triumphant, the people everywhere again in chains…nothing left but to give to Chartism a decent burial in the hope of a more glorious resurrection.

“In 1850-1 I began to study the writings of the immortal Mazzini and the documents sent for by the Central European Democratic Committee and in the latter year I organised a republican group…”

At that stage the twenty-eight year old John Sketchley was living in Chapel Street, Hinckley with his young wife Lucy and their infant son, Julian, named after “Red Republican”, George Julian Harney. Both John and Lucy worked as stocking makers and in 1855 John was called to give evidence on the trade to a Parliamentary committee.

Woollen stockings were made on frames supplied by manufacturers who charged workers “rental” plus other costs and paid for each completed “piece”, minus “expenses”.  Workers complained of onerous charges and unfair distribution of profits. Serving as secretary of the local Stocking Makers Committee, in 1859 Sketchley’s militant opinions of the exploitative nature of the trade prompted one local manufacturer to sue for libel the owner of the Midland Express newspaper in which they were published. Sketchley further accused the manufacturer, a “Mr Homer”, of operating an illegal “truck” system of payment whereby workers received vouchers exchangeable only for goods from his wife’s shop instead of currency.  Despite the detailed, objective evidence Sketchley submitted, the court ruled in favour of the manufacturer against the publisher.  The case cost Sketchley nothing but he had his own problems.

Suspicious Death
On the night of Sunday 13th November 1859, John’s wife, Lucy was suddenly taken ill and died before morning. Sketchley’s obvious distress at being left alone with two young children increased after it was suggested she may have been poisoned.  The Coroner said the symptoms suggested strychnine and ordered an inquest.  A post mortem revealed that, “the brain was affected by chronic disease and the upper part of the spinal marrow injected with blood” but the examining surgeon, “did not consider this sufficient to account for death."   The inquest jury accordingly requested that Lucy’s “stomach and other internal organs were sent to Professor Taylor for analysation."

Mrs Frances Wathers, a neighbour, and little Julian Sketchley were both questioned before the analyst finally pronounced, “That the deceased did not die of poison but the precise cause there is no evidence to show.”

New Wife, New Career
A year after Lucy’s demise, on the 23rd December 1860, John walked down the aisle at St Michael’s Parish Church, Coventry with 23 year old, Mary Ann Osborn. Sketchley had given up stocking making and become an “Insurance Agent”, with other sidelines  including acting as sales rep for, “JOHN CASSELL’s COFFEES – Celebrated for their Great Strength and Fine Aromatic Flavour”!

John escaped the factory system but his son ten year old Julian wasn’t so lucky, he was employed as a “winder”. Besides selling coffee and insurance, John occasionally received payment for his journalistic contributions and the punchy tone of his style is evident in a piece submitted to The Midland Workman in 1861, which concludes with this stirring call to arms:  “The interests of employer and employed are said to be identical; yet they are arrayed against each other as antagonists in war. Political economy may sanction this but morality condemns it and it will yet have an end. The just and moral will yet be triumphant.”

Brought to Book
In 1865 morality triumphed against him when he was in trouble for not paying the baker’s bill for refreshments he’d served up to members of his insurance scheme.  “The plaintiff sued for the sum of £1 1s. 8d. as due to him for bread and plum cake, which had been ordered by the defendant to supply a tea party held at the Town hall, in connection with the National Mutual Assurance Society." Judgement was given against John who was ordered to pay off 5s. a week.

The following year he was back in court after refusing to settle an account totalling £4 11s. for stationery supplied to him.  Having ignored the legal deadline for submissions the court let him off lightly and accepted a belated offer to repay 12s. a month.

Adding another string to his bow, John began retailing books and pamphlets but it did nothing for his finances. Sketchley found getting books on account easy but settling the account was impossible. London publishers proved less willing to be fobbed off with hapless promises of future payment, and owing £23 4s. 8d to Messrs. Dean & Sons was the last straw.  After giving the Court the run around for six months, in July 1867 Sketchley was committed to Leicester County Gaol and his wife and children sent to the workhouse.  As no-one came forward to settle his debts, he remained in prison until the end of the year when Deans finally accepted that they weren’t going to get their money and agreed to his release. 

Radical Republican
Throughout the late 1860’s, Sketchley was Secretary of the local branch of the “National Reform League”.  Through the pages of the Leicester Chronicle he rhetorically asked - “working men of Hinckley and district, are you willing to remain political slaves – mere political ciphers in the land of your birth?” 

In 1870 John and his family moved to Birmingham.  A voracious reader he became increasingly aware of and in touch with continental revolutionaries and their political ideas. During 1872-3 John was one of the main contributors to W H Riley’s, “International Herald” where the advanced nature of his politics was obvious, “The term Republicanism in its modern or European sense, embraces the social as well as the political emancipation of the People…  A mere political revolution, leaving the great social questions unsolved leaves the great mass of the People in social degradation, still victims of social tyranny and oppression…."

In 1875 Sketchley founded “Birmingham Republican Association”, and campaigned for the abolition of the Monarchy, House of Lords, State Church and Standing Army as well as the nationalisation of the land and the currency. Two years later he renamed the organisation, “The Midland Social Democratic Association”, which EP Thompson describes as, “The first English society of the modern Socialist movement.”

International Socialist
By 1879 John Sketchley was part of an advanced guard of European socialists anxious to replace workers’ affection for Liberalism with revolutionary ideas.  His 36-page booklet, “The Principles of Social Democracy: an exposition and a vindication” was published and broadcast by the revolutionary internationalists of London’s Social Democratic Club, Rose Steet, Soho.  As English anarchist Frank Kitz later recorded in his memoir, “Many thousands of this pamphlet were sold, the German section bearing the major portion of the cost, in order to aid propaganda among our own working class.”

The following year, with backing from, “The Land Restoration League”, John published a four-page tract entitled, “Land Common Property”. Next came longer, locally published pamphlets on, “The Workman’s Question: why he is poor” and, “The Funding System, or how the people are plundered by the bond holding classes.”

In 1884, Sketchley joined the Marxist “Social Democratic Federation” and was appointed Secretary of the Birmingham Branch, which met at the Bell Street Coffee House. Although
John was happy enough with Marx’s diagnosis of society’s ills he never swallowed Marx’s statist solution.  It’s significant that when Sketchley published a hugely expanded (238pgs), version of his original “Social Democracy” booklet in 1884 he asked libertarian, William Morris, rather than SDF party-leader, H M Hyndman, to write the introduction. When Morris’s anti-parliamentary faction split at the end of the year to found the “Socialist League” Sketchley joined the Birmingham Branch and wrote regularly for the SL’s newspaper, “Commonweal”. 

Lessons from History
Sketchley’s writings were superbly well-informed and his prose crystal clear.  Consider the inspirational clarity and anarchist analysis evident in this short extract from one of his 1885 Commonweal pieces:
"The gullibility of the English is great and their credulity almost unbounded. After centuries of misrule and generations of cruel deceptions they are again becoming the victims of designing politicians.  Ignoring the past they have learnt nothing by experience. They are as thoughtless today as though the facts of history have no lessons for them. It is strange that the working classes should be so easily gulled, so easily deceived for the thousandth time” (this assertion is then copiously illustrated with specific examples drawn from English and European history of the manipulations and cynical duplicities enacted by politicians…), I have said that the whole political life of England is based on expediency and not on principle and that the third Reform Bill will accomplish nothing for the toiling masses.  But it will do one thing.  It will undeceive them to a great extent. It will show them that the vote will not give them political power.”

Sketchley was keen to explain, illustrate with evidence and promote anarchist ideas but preferred to label himself a Socialist and maintain relationships with all progressive elements of the local community and labour movement. 

Rebel Without a Penny
Sketchley’s expertise in political economy wasn’t reflective in his domestic economy and before the year was out John and his family were again penniless.  An “Appeal” was published in November’s “Commonweal”:  “As it is the wish of many friends that comrade Sketchley the veteran Chartist, Republican and Socialist should resume more active work, where his well-known abilities and great experience will be of the greatest services and where he can devote his future years to the furtherance of the Socialist movement, we ask everyone to assist us in making the testimonial a success. All who have received subscription lists etc might kindly remit to the treasurer, William Morris.”

With financial support from comrades John was soon back in action and in 1886 delivered several lectures away from Birmingham, travelling in May and September to Sheffield. In June 1886 John journeyed north to Blackburn to deliver a series of lectures under the auspices of “Darwen Progressive Society”.  What he didn’t do was follow the hackneyed path down to London, despite the blandishments of comrades including George Odger.

Socialism Begins at Home
Despite his concern for humanity Sketchley neglected his wife and children. Mary Ann stuck with him for almost three decades, despite the indignity of the workhouse.  Poverty killed half of their numerous offspring in infancy and her life was a constant struggle to keep the family together.  At the end of 1886 they finally separated and John left Mary Ann to look after the family on her own. Although John’s propaganda spoke eloquently of the rights of women his personal politics appear unconvincing.

Mary Ann stayed in Birmingham, in their old home at 348 Cheapside, with seven of their surviving children. John moved out, first to 8 Arthur Place, Birmingham, then after making several further propaganda trips to Sheffield, at the end of 1888 he settled there, initially at 299 Shalesmoor.

Sojourn in Sheffield
Sheffield had obvious attractions for Sketchley; a Socialist Club, a tradition of labour militancy and an emerging anarchism.  In 1889 John campaigned alongside Edward Carpenter and Fred Charles, in a series of Sheffield street meetings organised to raise support for the striking London dockers.  In July John visited Nottingham to stand on a platform in the Market Place with seven comrades and deliver what the local paper described as, “extravagant tirades against Royalty…round the platform a large crowd of men and boys collected and if they came for the purpose of hearing members of the Royal Family insulted they must have gone away fully satiated."

Having settled in at Sheffield in April 1890 John placed a notice in “Commonweal” seeking comrades to start a Sheffield branch of the Socialist League:  “As the study of Socialism from a revolutionary or international standpoint is absolutely necessary, it is intended by several friends to form a branch of the League. I have therefore to ask all those who are willing to join in forming such branch and who are willing to help in propagating the principles of true Socialism to communicate with me as early as possible – J. Sketchley, 165 Gibraltar Street, Sheffield.”

Hull, Gateway to Anarchy
John’s ad proved unproductive, so he decided to move on.  Hull looked promising as it had long been a key access route for smuggling anarchist and advanced Socialist propaganda between Britain and the continent, especially Germany.  Hull’s socialist club, “Club Liberty” was a haunt of International Anarchist ideas and personalities with the two leading lights anarchists Gustav Smith and Conrad Naewigger.

Now aged 67, John Sketchley, “Bookseller & Stationer”, lodged at 41 Porter Street with 24 year old Emily whom he described as his wife.  Meanwhile, back in Birmingham, his legal wife, Mary Ann Sketchley, described herself as a “widow”.  In Hull, John established, “The People’s Bookstores, 52, Salthouse Lane” where besides selling his own booklets he supplied a range of socialist and other progressive titles.  From Salthouse Lane, in 1896, John published a new title, as the anarchist newspaper “Liberty” announced, “Shall the People Govern Themselves? is full of facts, figures and statements in favour of an affirmative reply to the question… Sketchley always puts his case clearly and generally with considerable force: he has been very successful in this instance and his pamphlet should have a wide circulation.”

In August 1895 “Liberty” published Sketchley‘s own account of, “How and Why I Became a Socialist” which although eschewing the epithet “Anarchist” revealed the libertarian nature of his politics, “What are the elected but gods of the people’s creation, to whom the electors humbly pray and promise ever to pray for some paltry favour… The basic principle of Socialism is the sovereignty of the people, but that sovereignty rests upon the sovereignty of the individual. The individual can never be absorbed in the state…."

Sketchley and his local comrades founded, “The Hull and District International Socialistic Association” which held open-air meetings every Sunday at 11am on Drypool Green, where, according to the anarchist journal Freedom, “Comrade Sketchley always lectures on one or other of the great questions of the day.”

Comrade Sketchley was already a grand old man of the movement and as unsectarian as ever. In 1895, according to the “Hull Daily Mail” John gave members of Hull Labour Church, “some personal recollections of the Chartist movement”.  The following year John chaired a public meeting at St George’s Hall where George Lansbury, chief organiser of the SDF, “delivered an interesting address on Social Democracy”

A Long and Winding Road
Having put politics before personal well-being it was no surprise that as he approached eighty, John was again penniless and in 1900 a fresh public appeal was launched by his old Birmingham comrades, Emile Copeland and Henry Percy Ward.  A huge range of people contributed from Marxist party hack, Dan Irving (8s) to George Cadbury (of chocolate fame, £1.00).  Solvent and rejuvenated, from his new base in Birmingham in 1901 John once again ventured forth.   He delivered two talks at St James’s Hall Burnley and another at Colne, after which a correspondent in “Justice” declared, “taking into account Sketchley’s age, I think his pronunciation and voice wonderful.”

In the Edwardian era jingo politics eclipsed Socialism and as the First World War approached, John Sketchley was back, living alone in Leicester.  His views hadn’t changed but the audiences had.  He’d never attained a sustainable lifestyle but his politics remained constant; sensible, strong and well informed.  Unlike fellow anarchist militants he was never tempted to over react to either opposition or defeatism, or diverted down the electoral route.  Although his writings have never been assembled they’re worth searching out for information and inspiration.

Sketchley doesn’t easily fit political categorisation.  I claim him for anarchism but he didn’t do so himself.  He sometimes served as paid organiser for the Marxist SDF but rejected that party’s statist objectives.  Worst of all he was never part of the London bubble so seldom reported by “National” newspapers and now he’s overlooked by academics who regurgitate the same anarchist “names” and ignore anarchist activity in the “provinces”.

John Sketchley, perhaps Britlain’s most underrated anarchist, died in 1913 in Billesdon Workhouse.

Christopher Draper - Number 12 in a monthly series of “Northern Anarchist Lives” 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Blacklist Round-up

1. Spycops

2. Crossrail hit by action over pay and bosses victimization of UNITE steward
Defend Terry Wilson - victimized UNITE steward
6:30am Monday 5th December
Tottenham Court Rd Crossrail site

3. Laing O'Rourke
Early Day Motion
Motion S5M-02472: Colin Smyth, South Scotland, Scottish Labour, Date Lodged: 11/11/2016
Denial of Union Access by Laing O'Rourke 
That the Parliament notes the recent demonstration by the construction workers’ union, UCATT, at the site of the new £212 million Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in response to the reports that the principal contractor, Laing O’Rourke, has refused the union access; believes that this company has previously prevented union access from other publicly-funded infrastructure projects; understands that it was a member of the Consulting Association, which was reportedly involved in the blacklisting of construction workers; believes that the Scottish Government expects companies that are awarded public contracts to maintain high standards of business and professional conduct; considers that this type of activity by a contractor toward trade unions undermines the remedial steps called for in the government's procurement note on blacklisting, does not support the aspirations of the Fair Work Convention to promote a fair and balanced economy and undermines workers’ rights and increases exploitation, and supports the freedom of trade unions to organise and represent workers across the economy.
4. US blacklist of leftwing academics

5. Thank you to Salford TUC, SNP Trade Union Group, PCS Independent Left, Unite Liverpool construction branch for invites in the past few weeks.  Thank you John Bryan and Steve Acheson for representing.

Steve Acheson speaking at Salford TUC:
"I was blacklisted after a safety dispute at Pfizers in Kent. I was repeatedly sacked from jobs time and again. I appeared in the Royal Courts of Justice over terrorism. The High Court was not a full victory that blacklisted workers deserved. I will be relentless until we get justice".
6. Shrewsbury Pickets
Shrewsbury Pickets have engaged Mike Mansfield QC who has submitted papers to the Court of Appeal against the continued refusal to release the official government papers for the Shrewsbury trial.

7. Ongoing:
Durham TAs

Construction Rank & File - national meeting

Sat 10th December - Newcastle 

London Hazards AGM
Tues 13th December

The Tragedy of Stefan Kiszko

OVER 40-years ago a serious miscarriage of justice occurred in Rochdale.  Stefan Ivan Kiszko, a 23-year-old local tax clerk of Ukrainian/Slovenian parentage, served 16 years in prison after he was wrongly convicted of her sexual assault and murder.  His ordeal was described by one MP as 'the worst miscarriage of justice of all time'.  Kiszko was released in 1992 after forensic evidence showed that he could not have committed the murder.  He died in December 1993.  Ronald Castree (born 18 October 1953 in Littleborough, Lancashire) was found guilty of the crime on 12 November 2007.
Stefan Kiszko: When Even Angels Cry
AS September had just given way to October in 1975 in Britain, a young girl by the name of Lesley Molseed volunteered herself to go fetch bread for the family. In the cool air of England in autumn, her curly brunette locks bounced about as she worked her way towards a local bakery. Before she arrived there, she was snatched up by a man and whisked away to a steep hill known as Rishworth Moor. Once there, she was tossed in the grass, where she landed on her chest and she was viciously stabbed 12 times in her upper shoulders and back. Once dead, the killer lifted up her dress, exposed her underwear and ejaculated onto her undergarments. She was just 11. 
Once she was reported missing, an outcry for the discovery of her body erupted in her hometown of Rochdale. After three fruitless days, the police found her body on Rishworth Moor, decaying next to her blue linen backpack emblazoned with the symbol of Tweetie Bird. The public immediately called for the terrible, swift sword of vengeance in light of her murder. This lust for justice led authorities to man named Stefan Kiszko. 
Eerily reminiscent of the Salem Witch Trials in the United States, a gang of pre-pubescent girls had claimed that Kiszko had exposed himself to them – they would admit, years later, they had completely fabricated their claims.  When police followed up on the girl’s claims, they thought this man perfectly fit their profile of a man who would kill and masturbate over a girl.

Stefan Kiszko was a 24 year-old tax clerk of Eastern European heritage.  He was a large man, known for his kindness and social ineptitude.  It would later be revealed that he suffered from hypogonadism, or in other words, his testes were severely underdeveloped and he never underwent full puberty.  As such, he was literally a boy in a man’s body. Due to this, he lived with his mother and aunt in Rochdale.  Just before Molseed’s murder, Kiszko’s doctor had prescribed him shots of testosterone to treat his hypogonadism.  As expected, this lead Kiszko to develop sexual thoughts for the first time.  When he was apprehended by police, the police found 'girlie mags' and bags of candy in his car, which confirmed suspicions of him being a sexual deviant and a pedophile.

Upon his arrest, he was taken to the local police station.  Over the course of three days, Kiszko was subject to intense and grueling interrogations in which the police investigators pounced on every inconsistent statement Kiszko made.  At the time, suspects did not have the right to an attorney to be present during questioning; repeated pleas for the presence of his mother were ignored. Eventually, Kiszko confessed to the murder, with the erroneous belief that he would be released to his home and subsequent police inquiries would prove his innocence.

They didn’t.  He was never released back to this home.  Most damningly, his legal defense was woefully inadequate.  His lawyers never presented evidence that he had broken his ankle the summer before the murder and, given his weight, could not have scaled the hill upon which Lesley Molseed was killed.  Further, the semen samples taken from Kiszko contained no sperm while the semen recovered from Molseed’s body indeed contained sperm.  Despite all this easily verifiable proof of his innocence, Kiszko’s legal team sought to reduce the charge to manslaughter on the theory he did, in fact, commit the murder, but due to his testosterone treatments, was operating under diminished capacity.  His doctor, if he had even been called to testify, would not have agreed with that theory.  Testosterone doesn’t cause men to act like mindless beasts. 

Regardless of all this, Kiszko was convicted and sentenced to life.  The judge praised the verdict, noting the excellent nature of the police and investigatory processes, the adeptness of the prosecution and the sheer bravery of the young girls to come forward with their story. In the mind of the justice system and the hearts of the people of Rochdale, justice had been served.