Thursday, 25 February 2010

Doing Away With Derker!!!

The Massacre of the North by Labour Party Loons & Ambitious Academics

This was in the most recent Sunday Times - another indictment of the demolition of Derker, Toxteth, Edge Hill, Bootle, Anfield, etc. Please distribute and comment (and don't forget to click 'recommend')

From The Sunday Times: February 21, 2010

LIVES are being bulldozed and no one listens Charles Clover Elijah Debnam is a plucky 89-year-old who served in the Royal Engineers in Gibraltar, Normandy and Germany during the war. He haslived in the same house in Derker, Oldham, since 1954. He loves his house, which was built in 1937 and which holds memories of his deadwife, Alice. The house has central heating and a garden where he can sit in the sun. Elijah would like to die in it. But now it looks as if that is not to be.

Elijah used to drive bulldozers when he was in the army: now the bulldozers are coming for him. His home and the terrace of five houses like it are to be knocked down, even though all of them are in perfectly good condition. He is to be removed from his neighbourhood and the network of neighbours who look after him. It is unlikely to do him any good.

Oldham borough council won a battle in the High Court just before Christmas to impose compulsory purchase orders to sweep away Elijah’s home and 467 others for a “pathfinder” scheme where private developers are given land that was once someone else’s to build on. The theory behind the pathfinders is that this will “renew the housing market”, make the remaining homes more valuable and make more people want to live in the area.

Unfortunately, the recession means no developer is likely to want to build, free land or not, so the areas the council has cleared so far are being grassed over and planted with cherry trees. So in a country which has run out of money and where housing is in short supply, good houses are being knocked down and not replaced at public expense. It’s a disgrace, but nobody’s listening.

If this had been a Tory government sponsoring private developers to chuck people out of their homes across the Midlands and the north of England, instead of a gigantic piece of social engineering dreamt up by left-wing academics and implemented by a Labour government with the aid of Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors and housing associations, you can be fairly sure you would have heard more about it on the BBC. There would have been talk of the vulnerable, their rights and about the people — there are dozens — who have died during the years of distress and bureaucratic intimidation by threat of compulsory purchase.

The other day I watched a film by Nick Broomfield, the documentary director, called Who Cares (1971). You can find it on YouTube. Broomfield filmed the felling of Liverpool’s elegant Georgian terraces and the forced removal of the people who lived in them to a brave new World of tower blocks where they lost touch with friends and neighbours. Nearly everyone in the political class today would regard what happened to town centres in the 1970s as a tragic mistake. So you wonder how the whole thing could happen again.

An as-yet-unpublished account by David Webb, a Newcastle academic, explains what happened and it goes back to Liverpool. There, a group of housing academics called the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS), based at Birmingham University, were trying to explain what to do about the depopulation of the late 1990s, which resulted in boarded-up homes. The group, led by Brendan Nevin, formulated a theory, based on Liverpool, called housing market renewal. This said that 400,000 homes across the north of England needed to be demolished if northern towns were to be revived again.

CURS sold the idea to John Prescott’s sprawling department. Nevin was brought in as an adviser. Parliament and press were never properly consulted — otherwise there would have been an outcry. The idea was buried in a paragraph in Prescott’s 2002 Communities Plan. Prescottgot the money from Ed Balls at the Treasury, whose wife, Yvette Cooper, came to preside over the 12 pathfinders as housing minister.

Nevin is now acting chief executive of New Heartlands, the pathfinder which is ripping the heart out of Bootle and Edge Hill and is about to start on the lovely “Welsh streets” in Toxteth, where Ringo Starr was born. But his ideas are increasingly under fire. The theory of housing market renewal identifies the cheapest housing as a problem requiring state intervention. It ignores the welfare of the people affected, the quality of their houses or how well they fit into the cityscape, the environmental impact of demolishing them and the blight that the threat of demolition imposes on an area.

The theory may be discredited but it bulldozes on through the lives of thousands of people like Elijah. Pathfinder has cost £2.2 billion to date. It has demolished four times more homes than it has built and the few homes it does build are often of worse quality than those that came down. It has also trampled our freedoms — the Homes and Communities Agency now has powers to compulsorily purchase any private property for the purpose of regeneration (undefined). There is no longer even the 1970s test that property has to be unfit, unsightly or underused.

The Tories have said they would stop unnecessary demolition and overhaul the pathfinder schemes. But I’m not sure they have fully understood the electoral opportunity, for the tinned-up houses and bulldozed wastes of Labour’s heartlands could not be a more photogenic example of broken Britain.

Monday, 22 February 2010

PURNELL QUITS!

Last weeks announcement by James Purnell MP that he`s intending to quit Parliament at the next election, will come as welcome news to many Northern Voices readers. The departure of this smug obnoxious little bastard will also be welcomed by many of his constituents, who have grown to loathe him during his time as a Member of Parliament. Elected as the Labour MP for Stalybridge & Hyde in 2001, he will be best remembered as a politician who courted contoversy.

He was once described by Mark Serwotka, the General Secretary of the PCS trade union, as the "the worst secretary of state for social security this country has ever had the misfortune of having". Though Purnell oppposed Labour`s 50 pence tax rate for all those earning over £150,000 p.a., in December 2008, he signed off a proposal to charge the poor on State benefits 26.8% interest on a social fund loan which had been interest free. Though he was accused of lining his own pockets at the tax payers expense, he believed in being tough with benefit claimants. He favoured lie detector tests to tackle benefit fraud and introduced welfare-to-work schemes which failed to deliver jobs but forced the unemployed to work for their benefits.

While Chairman of Labour Friends of Israel, a post he held for two years, he often accused critics of Israel of being anti-semites and he was a staunch supporter of the war against Iraq. His resignation from the Cabinet in June 2008, came at a time when he was embroiled in the expenses scandal. He was exposed as a profligate claimer who was was prepared to milk the system to its fullest extent. Although at the time of his resignation he called for the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to step down, he recently wrote in the Guardian that he considered Gordon Brown, to be a 'remarkable man' who would lead Labour into the next election.

In his maiden speech to Parliament in 2001, Purnell, referred to a speech made by Hugh Gaitskell in Stalybridge in 1952, when he attacked the Bevanites for being communist fellow travellers. He told the House that most of the Labour Party hated the speech and he hoped that the party would remember the lessons of those events adding: "there should be no place in our party for talk of counter-insurrections or coups; nor should we forget the importance of unity of purpose that got us where we are today". It seems that Purnell could never learn that lesson for himself and was always prepared to put his own interests first.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Did Unite legal team contact Information Commissioner's Office?

Recently, sources close to the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) suggest that people claiming to be from the Unite union legal team have asked that the ICO only present 'semi-unredacted files', when the Information Commissioner appears before the Employment Tribunal. It must be emphasised that this has not yet been confirmed, but, if true, it would mean that any reference to the names of union officers in the files found at the officers of the 'blacklister', Ian Kerr, would be blacked out.

If true, then the legal reasoning may be that as the cases of the union members are directed against the companies alleged to have been paying Mr Kerr, operating the blacklist and perpetuating victimisation's, then any reference in the files to the involvement of the union or its officers would not be relevant to the proceedings. This can only be true in the narrowest sense, because some of the evidence seems to show, as in the DAF case, that the presence of a union official at management deliberations about the suitability of employees lent an air of respectability to what was happening and thus a sub-contractor, like the managers of DAF, could be influenced to act against their better judgement.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Protest Picket at Fiddler's Ferry - Terrorism Act threat to Northern Voices Photographer

'If you want to be done under the Terrorism Act just keep taking photographs!' exclaimed a Security Guard at the Fiddler's Ferry Protest Picket today. This exchange, between an anxious security official and an NV photographer, occurred as some 30 supporters of blacklisted electrician Steve Acheson assembled beneath the cooling towers of Scottish & Southern Power Station just off the M62 near Widnes. The company representatives seemed taken aback as dawn broke and the multi-coloured banners of the demonstrators began to decorate the wire fences facing the plant.

It was special turn out because a week or so previously the company's security guards had seized the banners denouncing the blacklisting of construction workers on grounds that they were defamitory. On that occassion the female police officer on duty had looked on while a female head of security had ordered the removal of the banners. Those reporting the event of that morning suggest that both the police officer and the Company boss of security addressed each other using their own Christian names as if they were pals.

Today the male police officers who presented themselves were very diplomatic and reasonable, even suggesting how the protesters might seek to regain their banners from the company. Today their were dozens of banners including Warrington Trade Union Council; the RMT union of railway workers; the Right to Roam ramblers; Unite the Union; the Socialist Party and loads of independent and do-it-yourself flags manufactured by the blacklisted electricians themselves. Later a company representative asked Steve Acheson to take down a couple of banners on their fence: one saying 'Scottish & Southern sold our banners' and the other an elaborate flag calling for 'Justice for the Shrewsbury Pickets'. Following this the protesters took the banners outside the gates were they gave out leaflets explaining their case.

It seems clear that Scottish & Southern PLC are determined to collect evidence to go to the County Court to get some kind of restraining order against these recurring protest pickets. Today, the Security Guards were themselves taking photos of the demonstrators as the sun shone on the nothing new.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Fiddler's Ferry Rally to support Steve Acheson

Following the mugging of Steve Acheson's banners by company security guards last week, with police looking on, a rally has been planned to take place at Fiddler's Ferry Power Station on Tuesday 16th, February at 7am.
The Power Station is situated between Widnes & Warrington just off the A49.

To Warrington Trades Council contacts:
Dear All,

Manchester Campaign Agaist Blacklisting have called for a peaceful protest at Fiddlers Ferry next Tuesday morning from 7 a.m. to support Steve Acheson against the latest (probably illegal) actions from the power station security in taking down Steve's banners, then taking them from him - all under police protection. We now have legal advice from a lawyer specialising in human rights law that they had no right to take down the banners; as they were tied on the fence there was no criminal damage, and although the power station Head of Security said they were defamatory, that is a civil not a criminal matter. Also to take someone's property like that is a form of theft, even if supervised by a police officer. So 7 a.m. at Fiddlers Ferry, Tuesday 16th Feb. Best to park in the pub car park rather than the lay by.

AndyWarrington: Trades Council

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

County Court Writ served & banners snatched at Fiddler's Ferry picket

Editorial comment: Steve Acheson has been on picket at Fiddler's Ferry since he was made redundant in dodgy circumstances almost two years ago. In an attempt to stop this picket last October, the Power & Energy Company at Fiddler's, issued a writ for him to appear the Royal High Court of Justices in London. This was what is called a 'super injunction' and is normally only used in extreme circumstances: it was rejected by the High Court Judge as an application by the company 'bordering on the edge of paranoia'. Now, it seems, the company is again trying to return to the Courts: below Andy from Warrington TUC reports on the events of Monday the 8th, February:

Steve's [Acheson] banners taken by security at Fiddlers Ferry. Police in support of security guards. Had a phone call from Steve today - a police officer came down to the protest today, went into the power station for 2 minutes, then came out with 4 security, one with a video camera, and the Head of Security as well. They told Steve to take down his banners, when he refused they said that they would remove them from the fences. As Steve told them to leave his property alone, the police officer told him that if he stopped them, he would be arrested for a breach of the peace. Security proceeded to remove the banners, and take them inside the power station. Steve asked where they were going with his property, Head of Security said if he writes to them to ask they will see. Steve asked the police officer what was she going to do as this was theft, however she took no action. They also served Steve with a writ for the County Court, again no date, time or place is on the court papers. The whole time apparently they were filming, must have been hoping to provoke him and get an arrest.

Andy: Warrington Trades Council

Monday, 1 February 2010

Syndicalists Speak at Right to Work Rally

Manchester is a city with one cathedral; two serious socialist parties - the Socialist Workers' Party and the Socialist Party; three universities - Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan and Salford University; a handful of veteran anarchist adherents to the Solidarity Federation, the Anarchist Federation and the Northern Anarchist Network; not to mention umpteen local anarcho-climate activists. So many worthy, well meaning people, it is the ideal spot to stage a Right to Work rally like that held last weekend on Oldham Street, Manchester.

Some 600 folk gathered in 'resistance & solidarity' to protect us from all manner of wickedness in this world. A Rag-Bag Rally of remarkable pretension and proportions endeavouring to gee-up those of us who're still either very young, ideologically drunk or incurably naive. A Conference 'of Resistance & Solidarity': proclaiming 'The Only Solution is Revolution' with minor celebrities on the platform and undergraduates in the audience all loaded with more than a little vain expectations.

Jerry Hicks, unemployed since he was sacked 4 years ago, ran a workshop labelled 'Stopping the Jobs Massacre' which might help him advance his campaign for the General Secretary's job in our biggest trade union: Unite the Union. Will he get it? If he does will he change the union or will the union change him? We must wait and see. In the meantime Jerry offers us a few syndicalist amendments to the status quo: 'all union officers must be elected'; 'the union must serve the members not the other way round'; 'union leaders must lead from the front, as I did on the Staythorpe power station picket last year, when the police broke my leg' or 'the solution is workers' control and revolution'. Stirring stuff delivered in a strained, strangled, shouting bellow to a roomful of about 30. Colin Trousdale, a Manchester electrician and typical English syndicalist, spoke about the blacklist in the building trade and the way the Unite union bosses were dragging their feet rather than fighting the victimisations.

The SWP bosses, who were running the rally, don't much like Jerry Hicks since he left their party - hence this workshop was in the equivalent of outer-Mongolia at the Mechanics Institute, well away from the main conference venue on Oldham Street. Because of this I missed the 7 minute speech delivered by Dave Chapple, who alongside Dave Douglass, is probably the most important revolutionary syndicalist in the country. Dave Chapple who was on the platform as President of the National Shop Stewards' Network and according to reports hammered home an attacked on ballot box politics referring to Wobblies of the American IWW like Bill Heywood, and dismissing the left-wing giddiness associated with the coming General Election; telling the Conference that these days he only bothered to vote in union elections.

The rally produced a 'wish-list' and voted to set up a 'Rank & File' movement, which will stand in contrast to the NSSN that is based in the existing unions. In the end it is likely that the 'rank & file' project will render itself to be little more than a fart in a bottle. The SWP organisers are good at rallies but not so clever when it comes to following through: soon the novelty will wear off and they will be off on some other campaign or venture. We should note the headline in the current Socialist Worker: 'Be Part of the New Wave of Resistance'. Well it's part of the DNA of the British left to be always 'in resistance' and never to make serious practical proposals for change. The Government and the bosses set the agenda and the trade unions and the left react to it as best they can. This more than anything displays the primitive and immature [if not feeble-minded] state we are in as a political movement.