Monday, 29 March 2010

NEC Dumps Reynolds!

The contest to find a replacement for Tory boy James Purnell MP, has led to a bitter row within the higher echelons of the Labour Party. On 17th March, 'The Times' reported that a national executive selection panel, had dumped Jonny Reynolds from the list of candidates hoping to replace Purnell as the MP for the constituency of Stalybridge & Hyde.

The selection panel which met on 15th March, had been set up to conduct interviews and to decide on a final shortlist. Amongst the members of the panel, were former minister Keith Vaz, Paddy Lillis, deputy general secretary of USDAW and Tom Watson, Downing Street`s nominee on the panel. A source who was 'familiar with the discussion' told the newspaper that Reynolds 'had performed poorly' and... 'had not even defended the MP (James Purnell) effectively when asked about questions over his expenses.' It was also claimed that another candidate, Peter Wheeler, who is sponsored by UNITE, 'gave an impressive performance.'

Despite the fact that the NEC special selection panel has 'full delegatory authority to make decisions which cannot be overturned', the newspaper reported that Purnell, with the aid of Lord Peter (Mandy) Mandleson, had forced the leadership to reopen the shortlist so that his 'preferred successor', Jonny Reynolds, was included.

In a statement issued to The Times, Tom Watson, said: "I was not aware that there was an appeals process. But I have been told that Peter Mandleson and James Purnell have demanded that Mr Reynolds be placed on the shortlist. I know of no rule that allows for an appeal once the panel has decided the shortlist." He later quoted guidance from the NEC which stated that the special selection panel had full authority to make decisions which cannot be overturned.

Following the decision to put Reynolds back on the shortlist, two other candidates, Barbara Roche and Floyd Millen, withdrew from the race. We also understand that another candidate, the former Greater Manchester East MEP Glyn Ford, (who failed to make the shortlist despite being endorsed by the UNITE North West Region), has also demanded that he be given the same right of appeal.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Review: La Buena Nueva (The Good News)

YESTERDAY, the Cornerhouse in Manchester showed the Spanish film 'La Buena Nueva' (The Good News), the true story of the trials of a young sincere priest who is sent to a poor village in Navarra, bordering the Basque region, but in 1936 the centre of traditional right-wing Carlist politics and religion. On his arrival the socialist mayor and his party are about to be overthrown by a group of Falange fighters and incomers, who are sent to unite with the local Carlists to take over the village. Several socialists who take to the hills to escape are shot by the Falange. Others are thrown in a pit.

The priest trys to maintain some sort of neutrality for the Church and adopt a prudent postion helping some of the widows of the victims. But tensions develop, not just between the priest and the Falangist incomers, but also between the Carlists and the Falange. Conflicts between differing approaches to the Church and religion of the conquerering parties are lightly touch upon. More interesting is the priest threat to the boss of the Falange that one day he would have to pay for the killings. The implication throughout the film is the underlying suggestion that some day the bodies will be discovered, making the film a harbinger of what is now happening in so far as there is a recuperation of historical memory and a recovery of the bodies of Spanish Civil War victims all over Spain. Writers in Spain are already turning out novels about the civil war and no doubt there will be many more films on similar subjects.

NAN Theme: Social Democracy on its last legs?

NAN Conference at Central Methodist Hall, Hargreaves St., Central Burnley: Saturday 27th, March, starting at 11.30am:

Long time Burnley anarchist, John Simpkin, told Northern Voices last night that this Saturday he intended to address the Burnley NAN Conference on what he called 'The collapse of Social Democracy in the UK'. Dealing with the forthcoming election he said he was asking: 'Is Parliamentary politics any longer relevant to ordinary people?' He will speak at 2pm.

Jim Petty, a well known local anarchist, will consider the relevance of the General Strike and its historical conception from the English Civil war through the 19th Century and the notion of the National Holiday, to the experience of the general strike in the 20th Century. Speaks 12 o'clock.

Brian Bamford, of the Northern Voices affinity group, will address the issues of middle class influences in British politics including anarchism; the failure of the left to provide a vision or strategy owing to its cultural fragmentation, and the current problem of party political funding.

Neil & Graham, from Wellington, Shropshire, will describe the history of the struggle against open-cast mining in the Wrekin Forest and discuss the the issue of the climate camp in a Shropshire area of natural beauty.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Spanish Civil War talk at Working Class Movement Library, Wednesday 24th March 2010

This wednesday 24th March 2pm, a local historian Chris Carson will give a talk at the Working Class Movement Library on local participation in the Spanish Civil War. Hopefully he will make reference to Anthony Beevor's excellent book on the the war entitled "The Battle for Spain".

There is a section on the International Brigades which makes extensive references to the Moscow Archives and is a devastating critique of the role of the Communist leadership of the Brigades alluding to the hundreds of executions of brigade members and the concentration camp at Camp Lukacs.

Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) Conference Agenda

on Saturday 27th, March 2010
hosted by Burnley Anarchists:
at Central Methodist Church Hall,
on Hargreaves Street,
near main Post Office and shopping centre:

Revised AGENDA:
11.30 ................................. Group Reports.
12.00 ................................. Jim Petty on the General Strike.
1pm to 2pm ...................... Lunch: plenty of local pubs, cafes & shops.
2pm to 3 pm ..................... John Simpkin: anarchists & the General Election.
3pm ................................. Brian Bamford: Workers' Next Step & Party Funding.
4pm .................................. Neil & Graham: Combating Open Cast Mining.
5pm .................................. Close of meeting.

Friday, 19 March 2010


Is it dumber & dumber Derek or will it be Lord Simpson of Stalybridge?

WITH the UNITE union giving £11 million to the Labour Party since 2007, last Monday on Radio 4 it was astonishing to hear Derek Simpson, one of the joint UNITE General Secretaries, declare that the recent attacks of Gordon Brown on the union's decision to launch a strike at British Airways - only goes to show the Government is not in the union's pocket or words to that effect. £11,000,000 of UNITE member's money going to the Labour Party and nowt to draw?

Some say this money is allowing UNITE, through its Political Director and Downing Street groupie, Charlie Whelan, to place UNITE candidates in constituencies such as Stalybridge & Hyde; where the Labour Party is looking for a successor for James Purnell, former Work & Pensions' Minister. On Wednesday, Nick Robinson, the BBC's political correspondent on Radio 4, drew attention to UNITE's role in the struggle going on in that constituency Labour Party association. Purnell's entry in the Register of Member's Interests shows the Stalybridge & Hyde Constituency Labour Party got £2,000 from the UNITE union - or rather, from the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers as it then was, in 2001: it is not clear if this record is up to date and Purnell's local Party didn't receive anything after that date (see Northern Voices 11 - out shortly). At least one UNITE Branch Secretary in the North West has been seeking information about details of political payments from the union to regional MPs like Purnell and their constituency associations. Mr Purnell had displayed some wrongheadedness in his MP's expenses claims: most notoriously hundreds of pounds for some fridge magnets. As yet, this Branch Secretary has only been told that UNITE pays money to the Labour Party constituency associations, not the Labour MPs.

In the February/March issue of UNITE's 'The Workplace Reporter', the joint UNITE general secretaries, Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, say: 'The Tories will do nothing to help hard pressed communities.' What would those Northern folk who are right now having their houses bulldozed by New Labour's HMR Pathfinder Project in Derker, near Oldham, and in Toxteth, Liverpool, on the famous 'Welsh Streets' (see below and in Northern Voices 11, out this month), have to say about that? Then our dynamic duo, Simpson and Woodley, say hopefully: 'Of course, we also need positive reasons to back a fourth Labour term.' Then comes their act of faith: 'We believe that Labour's manifesto will offer them, and will make a shift towards the values of traditional social democracy.' One might like traditional furniture, or traditional music or even traditional food, but 'traditional social democracy' - well I don't know about you, Derek, but I can take it or leave it?

They'd be better off saying nowt, as to call upon us to fight for something as devoid of meaning as traditional social democracy. So why does UNITE keep throwing its member's money at the Labour Party? It can't be idealism or ideology; when it just amounts to managing and engineering social democracy. And the BA dispute seems to show that it's not about furthering our member's interests: after over 12 years in power the Labour Government shows no sign of getting rid of, what Simpson and Woodley admit, are 'the most restrictive anti-trade union laws in Europe ...' Perhaps, in the end, it is nothing less than another case of 'cash-for-honours': Arise: Lord Simpson of Stalybridge! Don't forget that predecessor of yours - Lord Scanlon, who went from being a communist party fellow-traveller in Manchester to playing golf with the bosses on the South Coast of England.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

I`m being harassed says Parker-Perry!

The question of who smeared Councillor Jonny Reynolds is becoming more intriguing by the hour. As we reported on 14 March, someone using the nom de guerre 'Sam Smith' has being sending e-mails to the website 'Tameside Eye' in order to smear Councillor Jonny Reynolds who is seeking to replace James Purnell as the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde.

In one e-mail to Tameside Eye, Sam Smith alleges that Councillor Reynolds (who worked in the constituency office of Purnell) continued to receive £500 pm from the taxpayer, in a secret deal to pay his mortgage, despite never attending the constituency office or doing any work for almost 12 months. He then adds that this can be checked by cross referencing his (Reynolds) start date at University with the MP`s staff payroll. Sam Smith then says: "You will not receive any reply to this e-mail address. Keep it secret and there is more to come."

Whoever Sam Smith is still remains something of a mystery. But as we pointed out previously, the computer used by Smith was located to the offices of Tameside Council. Likewise, it also appears that Councillor Sean Parker-Perry has being using the same IP address as Sam Smith. Liam Billington, the Tory blogger who runs the website Tameside Eye, says: "I used the service 'Did they Read It' to trace if Parker-Perry had read the e-mail that I sent. He opened the e-mail under the same IP address as Sam Smith - The source code for this e-mail confirms this."

It appears that when Billington confronted Parker-Perry with this evidence, he reacted angrily saying: " I question both the source and motivation of the editor of this website. Since being expelled from the Conservative Party, spending time in police captivity and his close relations with the Tory PPC, Billington has continued to harrass(sic)me. I have categorically denied this allegation that I have e-mailed Billington and I believe Billington struggles to grasp the technological intelligence to make these statements...I have instructed solicitors to deal with Billington and his accusations, a matter that could once again involve the Police."

Readers of Northern Voices magazine (see NV 10) will be aware that this is not the first time that Councill Parker-Perry has alleged that he is being harassed by Billington. In 2008 he made a complaint to the police alleging harassment. On that occasion the Manchester CPS refused to bring a prosecution against Billington although he did spend 7 hours banged up at Ashton police station.

We would also point out that while Parker-Perry denies having e-mailed Billington, a perusal of the website (Tameside Eye) will show that on Feb 26 a Sean Parker-Perry sent not just one, but two e-mails to Billington - see website for further details.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Who smeared Councillor Jonny Reynolds?

In Tameside the local Labour Party is affectionately known to some as Zanu-Labour. This is due in part to the fact that its leader, Cllr Samuel Roy Oldham, has now been in power longer than Robert Mugabe who leads Zanu PF in Zimbabwe. It also refers to the corrupt and incestuous nature of politics in the One Party State of Tameside. Recently there have been moves to oust Oldham as leader of the council and to replace him with Kieran Quinn, the cabinet deputy for Economic Services. Though Roy Oldham announced last year that he was 'minded' to step down as leader, he now says that this challenge to his leadership is like a 'slap in the face'. The contest to replace James Purnell as MP for the constituency of Stalybridge & Hyde is also becoming sleazy, with one candidate already being smeared with a view to undermining his candidacy.

We have learned that a certain 'Sam Smith' has been spreading vile and damning rumours about Cllr Jonny Reynolds who hopes to replace Purnell as the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde. In an e-mail sent to the Tory blogger, Liam Billington, the falsely named Sam Smith says of Mr. Reynolds: 'Who ordered the infamous James Purnell fridge magnets from the LFI connected company in Israel?' 'Who continued to receive £500 per month from the taxpayer, in a secret deal to pay his mortgage at 86 Broadbottom Road, despite never attending the constituency office or doing any work for almost 12 months?' 'Who announced he would stand as MP within hours of James Purnell's resignation in a 'done deal'. In a further e-mail, Smith says: "Reynolds left in July before Doherty (who formerly worked for Purnell) was sacked. He was still paid for 12 months after that date. If you want to cause damage you will need to release this on your website (Tameside Eye) on Monday morning."

Councillor Sean Parker-Perry (married to Fiona Pendry, daughter of the former Stalybridge & Hyde MP, now Lord Pendry) has confirmed that he will be seeking selection as the PPC for Stalybridge & Hyde. From an analysis of the various e-mails (IP addresses) undertaken by Tameside Eye, it appears that the computer used by Sam Smith to smear Jonny Reynolds, was located within Tameside council offices. Furthermore, it appears that when Parker-Perry opened an e-mail using the IP address, this was the same e-mail address as used by Sam Smith. As they say, the plot thickens. Watch this space for further developments!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Licence to Blacklist: Blacklist Support Group Comments on Tribunal case

The written judgement from the first full-merits Employment Tribunal (Dooley v Balfour Beatty) today found in favour of the company.

This is despite written documentary evidence showing that Balfour Beatty supplied information to a secret blacklist database complied by the notorious Consulting Association being shown to the Tribunal (which the judge Mr. B T Charlton described as "ghastly" in court).

The blacklisting evidence was not disputed by Balfour Beatty, as it was the company themselves who provided the blacklist file as part of their bundle of documents arguing that the information on the file was justification for a dismissal in the early 1990s.

The decision turned on the question of employee status and found that Mr. Dooley (an ex-bricklayer, now a UCATT full-time official) was not an employee of Balfour Beatty, and only "employees" are covered by the legislation. In an industry where sub-contracting and agency labour is widespread, this effectively allows the major multi-nationals such as Balfour Beatty, Sir Robert Mc Alpine, Skanska and Costain to blacklist workers who complain about safety or unpaid wages with impunity (as almost all labour is sub-contracted out).

Coming only a few days after the newly introduced Blacklists Regulations were condemned by Human Rights Experts for :

  • failing to comply with even the minimum requirements of the Eurpoean Convention on Human Rights
  • failing to make blacklisting a criminal offence
  • continuing to allow blacklisting for issues such as environmental or peace activists
  • not making any compensation for proven victims of the current blacklisting scandal

Professor Keith Ewing - Kings College London (author of Ruined Lives Report by the Institute of Employment Rights into blacklisting in the UK construction Industry) said of the new regulations:
"the blacklisting of construction workers because of their trade union activities is a vile practice, to which the current government has to its eternal shame done next to nothing to eradicate, and even less to compensate the victims."
A spokesperson for the Blacklist Support Group said today:
"The secret database and Invoices exposed by the Information Commissioners Office following their raid on the Consulting Association provides overwhelming documentary evidence that 44 UK building companies have been systematically blacklisting trade unionists in the construction industry for nearly 2 decades. The firms involved are multi-national household names and have publicly accepted that their senior Industrial Relations managers were part of the blacklisting operation. If the companies concerned had any sense of decency or corporate responsibility, they would come clean and offer to make recompense to those workers who have suffered over many years.
The Dooley decision and the new Blacklisting Regulations are basically a get out of jail free card for the major contractors. The blacklisters can hide behind the fact that they sub-contract most of the labour on major projects to escape any kind of legal responsibility. The new regulations will not make an ounce of difference to the likelihood of success for any blacklisted building worker seeking legal redress. If the new Regulations fail to make any difference for workers who can prove they have been blacklisted, what is their purpose?
The Consulting Association conspiracy is a clear breach of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Blacklist Support Group send out an unambiguous message today: if our human rights cannot be upheld in the UK courts or from UK Regulations, then we will be taking our claims to the European Court of Human Rights. We have suffered for many years: we are prepared to fight all the way."

Blacklist Support Group

Monday, 8 March 2010

Michael Foot: A political class that outlived its mission

Sunset for Socialism?

Michael Foot, former Labour Party leader [1980-83], who died last Wednesday [3rd, March] reflected the fundamental folly of the tradition of parliamentary socialism. He is a better example of this parliamentary foolishness than the much abused northern MP James Purnell [see previous post]. In Michael Foot we have had what appears to be a sincere socialist parliamentarian, who I saw in the late 1950s at a Labour Party Conference in Blackpool with his finger wagging from the rostrum at Hugh Gaitskell and the Labour leadership on the platform, denouncing their retreats in the socialist program. He was for decades the star orator of the left-wing rebels in parliament and a founder member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament; a rebel who argued that 'You can take a horse to water, but you can't make him drink!' In the end Foot, the Honorary Member for Ebbw Vale (or Blaenau Gwent) from 1960, accepted first his appointment as Secretary of State for Employment in the government of Harold Wilson in 1974 and during the Falklands war, as leader of the Labour Party, he seemed to dither between first calling for resistance to Argentine aggression then emphasising the need to work for a peace settlement with the Junta.

James Purnell, MP for Hyde & Stalybridge and former Minister for Work & Pensions, as we now know is standing down at the coming General Election [see previous post] and, like Michael Foot, has been a bit of a career politician. The 40-year-old Purnell has said he does not want to spend all his life in 'front line politics'. Over two weeks ago, following Purnell's decision to stand down, The Financial Times in an editorial regretted this saying he had been unusual in that he had been a Minister 'interested in ideas'. He may well be 'interested in ideas' but in his utterances it's hard to find any coherent philosophy. In his looks there is something of the hotel bedroom about him: something rootless and slightly insincere.

But is there a contrast between a 'sincere' Michael Foot and James Purnell MP, who some see as an opportunist; is it right to portray this as a distinction between left and right-wing Labour? I remember Foot in the late 1980s, in a Radio4 talk with AJP Taylor, the historian, and the broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge, and at the time a keen Foot fan said to me: 'Thatcher could never fit in with such company'. Maybe not, and Purnell, or even Tony Blair, would always seem like Cheap Jacks when measured against the intellectual skills of a Michael Foot. Yet George Orwell in a letter the novelist Julian Symons in 1948, wrote, commenting on the Labour party paper Tribune that: 'The evil genius of the paper has I think been Crossman, who influences it through Foot & Fyvel.' Orwell then went on to argue that: 'I really think I prefer the Zilliacus lot, since after all they do have a policy, i.e. to appease Russia.' Orwell's point here is to suggest that the Labour left, including Michael Foot, were really rather mealy-mouthed opportunists willing to make anti-American squeals on Foreign Policy to appeal to the far left, while in essence supporting the Labour Government on major matters such as conscription.

In retrospect it seems to me that Blair by inventing the concept of 'New Labour' in the 1990s performed a work of genius at a time when in reality the Labour Party was well past its sell-by date. Consider a movement like the Labour Party that began with the likes of Keir Hardy only to end up with prominent men such as Peter Mandelson and James Purnell. Progressive movements often start off with fresh dynamic characters such as Sun Yat Sen or Gandhi and conclude with something less savoury. Remember the words of Tony Blair on the first day of his election win in 1997: 'A New Dawn has broken!' He could only use that kind of terminology in the context of a virtual reality trick that portrayed 'New Labour' as something actually 'new'. In reality it was nothing of the sort but more a sordid sham to cover up the fact that, in terms of the Labour Party, we are not at the dawn of something but rather at its sunset. It seems to me that we are looking at a political class that has increasingly outlived its mission and this description of the political arena may go beyond the Labour Party.