Monday, 30 April 2012

Pushy LSE Professor 'Pulls Rank'!:

Pro. Preston Shoves Critic Aside at GERNIKA 75 CONFERENCE

'I don't want to pull rank,' said historian Pro. Paul Preston, at the People's History Museum in Manchester last Saturday, 'but I have been researching the Spanish Civil War for 40 years.' He was speaking at the Gernika 75 Conference to promote his new book 'The Spanish Holocaust', after he had elbowed a critical questioner, Barry Woodling, aside. Mr Woodling, an anarchist, had just challenged Professor Preston's interpretation of some aspects of the Spanish Civil War, particularly his criticism of George Orwell, the role of the Spanish anarchists and the Professor's curious claim that the Spanish Civil War didn't begin on the 18th, July 1936, but really began later that year when the Republican Government had properly established its standing army. This last claim by Pro. Preston provoked Mr. Woodling, who asked if the Professor had heard of the militias, Durruti or the Durruti Column? After this the Professor pounced on the microphone shoving Mr. Woodling aside and delivering further retorts critical of Durruti, Orwell and the anarchists. Despite Professor Preston's brusque intervention Barry Woodling got significant applause when he was later able to finish his points, and a later speaker was to say to Pro. Preston:  your 40 years in the business of Spain and the Spanish Civil War doesn't give you the right to shove a speaker aside.

This issue of backdating the start of the Spanish Civil War to later in 1936 is interesting and perhaps not surprising given that Professor Preston, according to one of his former students, has 'his bread buttered by the Communist Party and the International Brigade Memorial Trust'. Perhaps this is unkind to Professor Preston, but no more so than those who go around accusing the historian Antony Beevor of being a 'Cold War warrior'. The real problem of these professional historians creating a gap to the start of the Spanish Civil War is that it presents us with an all too typical patronising analysis of the Spaniards and their own struggle against Fascism. Let's not forget that it was the Spaniards themselves who put up the first serious opposition to the march of Fascism in Europe before the International Brigade and foreign intervention was ever considered. Noam Chomsky in his essay 'Objectivity & liberal scholarship' (circa 1960s) had much to say about this arrogance of the earlier generations of professional historians with regard to the Spanish Civil War.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Miss Julie

IN THE current Northern Voices 13, now on sale at most of our outlets, Chris Draper judges his Six O' the Best Theatres of the North of England. The Royal Exchange, Manchester must figure in his thinking here as he ponders the architectural gems among his 'six superlative venues' of the North: up for consideration here must be such wonderful towns and cities as Leeds, Newcastle, Scarborough, Blackpool, York, Liverpool, Hull, and Keswick's Theatre on the Lake; which will come out top? Currently the Exchange must be a runner with northerner, Maxine Peake,now performing as 'Miss Julie' in August Strindberg's play of the same name. Of this play The Guardian reviewer of 'Miss Julie' at Manchester's Royal Exchange writes:
'Maxine Peake stated in a 2011 Guardian interview that the two things that make her most unhappy are 'misogyny and capitalism'. It's a fine sentiment, though it makes you wonder if she's finding much joy in the role of an aristocratic woman whose transgression below stairs earns her the contempt of her father's valet.'

While The Telegraph reviewer writes:
'This is a production that penetrates the heart of Strindberg’s disconcerting masterpiece, and one of the best productions I have ever seen at the Royal Exchange.'

Miss Julie by August Strindberg
Royal Exchange, Manchester: Until 12 May
Box office:
0161 833 9833 Venue website David Eldridge's new version sticks closely to Strindberg's original recipe of seduction and remorse. Though the language has been roughened up a bit (the Italian lake district is dismissed as 'a pisshole'), the location, a late-19th-century Swedish estate on midsummer eve, remains unaltered.
Northern Voices' leading cultural critic, Chris Draper, admits 'I'm biased against Manchester' arguing 'it's too big and boastful and we don't need another London in the North...', but what does he have to say about the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre? To find out send £2.50 (or £5 for the next two issues)cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' for a copy of the printed version of 'Northern Voices' to Northern Voices: c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH. Tel. 0161 793 5122. E-mail:

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Council candidate convicted of racial abuse of his next-door neighbour!

A 47 year old unemployed Dukinfield man, was found guilty last week at Tameside Magistrates Court of 'racially aggravated harassment' of his next door neighbour.

Kevin Roy West of Glenmore Grove, Dukinfield, who is standing as an independent candidate in the Tameside local elections in May, pleaded not guilty to the charge but offered no evidence and declined to challenge the prosecution evidence himself. He will appear for sentencing next month.

The court was told that West a former BNP candidate in the local Tameside elections, had put poppies and flags on Armistice Day outside the home of his German neighbour Mr. Bernd Kugow, a freelance photographer, and had then added to the display over the next four months. Tameside magistrates were told that when West had then been asked to remove part of the display from a shared wall, he had called Mr. Kugow a 'Kraut *******' and had told him to **** off back to Krautland.

This is the second occasion where West has been found guilty of the racial abuse of Mr. Kugow. In 2009, he pleaded guilty to racial abuse and was fined £125 and ordered to pay £200 costs and £50 compensation to Mr. Kugow. On that occasion, Tameside magistrates were told that West had become abusive when Mr. Kugow had objected to an attempt by West to attach a Union Jack flag to his shed. Mr. Kugow told the court that West 'flew into a rage' calling him Kraut ******* before adding 'kill some more Jews' and to 'remember Dunkirk'. Mr. Kugow told Tameside magistrates that West had later apologised over the incident and had sat crying in his kitchen as he admitted his guilt. Kevin Nicholas, defending West, said that his client: "deeply regretted his behaviour and found it hard to face up to his actions which happended at a time when he was under stress and not sleeping well."

Although the BNP as within its ranks people with serious criminal convictions, they told a local newspaper at the time that they would be reviewing the membership of Roy West adding, "because we don't like people having criminal convictions." After his conviction in 2009, West said that it was a 'politically motivated persecution'.

After last weeks hearing at Tameside magistrates court, Ms Susan Holt the partner of Mr. Kugow, told the local press: "Everything has been directed at us because Bernd is German....Strangely it isn't a guilty verdict which I'm pleased about - I just want the harassment to stop." Why West (a former BNP candidate) should have so much difficulty getting on with his German next-door neighbour is indeed strange and more so, since he has campaigned in past elections as a candidate who is "Helping the community all the year round" and a candidate, who "cares about making your community a better place." But as they say up North, 'there's nowt so queer as folk'

Monday, 23 April 2012

Anarchist Censorship

by Christopher Draper

SOVIET citizens said there was no real news in Izvestia (NEWS) and no truth in Pravda (TRUTH). Ironically, the editors of the leading organ of the British anarchist movement have shown there's also no freedom in 'FREEDOM'.

Through a series of five articles published in consecutive issues of FREEDOM Donald Rooum, one of the editorial collective, charted 'the turbulent history of the UK's longest running anarchist paper'. Although presented as an objective history it's really the view from Donald's own editorial chair and I think his editorial visor must have slipped over his eyes when he was composing it.

Regular readers of FREEDOM will appreciate how much its appearance and approach has altered over the years. Positive reports of small-scale political initiatives and social experiments were once commonplace but these are long gone, replaced by repetitious pictures of masked youths confronting various agents of a repressive state. Anarchism is thus visually and philosophically reduced to conflict, violence and confrontatiobn; a rather unpleasant and unthinking cross between Socialist Worker and the Sun.

The most obvious and dramatic change resulted from a 'palace coup' engineered by Donald that resulted in Toby Crowe replacing Charles Crute as the main editor. Under Charlie the paper had appeared old-fashioned and was often politically inconsistent but it remained unerringly libertarian, under the new Crowe regime it looked more modern and dynamic but promoted a rigid party-line exemplified by an editorial column headed, 'What We Say'!

I took issue with the editors at the time and when Toby began interfering with my own articles I resigned as a regular contributor yet nothing of this radical realignment was reflected in FREEDOM's recently published history of itself. I therefore wrote to FREEDOM in March submitting a short alternative account, along with a comradely personal letter to the editors. Neither were acknowledged and nothing of my account appeared in the April edition of the paper.

As a lifelong anarchist I've always considered FREEDOM a sort of newsletter of the movement, sadly it seems to have declined into the mere mouthpiece of a clique uninterested in the lives, views and opinions of others. I won't persevere with what now seems a lost cause but in the interests of open debate I've reproduced below my recent submission to FREEDOM that editors don't want you to read.

Chris Draper's letter to FREEDOM:


Like Alan Bennett, Donald Rooum is a national treasure but unlike his dramatic counterpart he makes a very unreliable 'History Boy'. Donald's concluding episode in his 'Short History of Freedom Press' (March 2012) was a rewriting of history more akin to the work of Joseph Stalin than Alan Bennett.

The appointment, a decade or so ago, of 'a big, energetic young man who had been General Secretay of the Socialist Party of Great Britain' as editor of 'FREEDOM' was far from being the 'rescue' that Donald claims, it was a disaster. Promoting Toby Crowe, a Marxist since reborn as an Anglican priest, drove many old libertarians like myself away from writing for the paper as Toby determined to create an 'anarchist' version of 'Socialist Worker'. The Crowe soon proved to be more of a cuckoo.

Prior to Toby's ascendancy, 'FREEDOM' reflected the diversity and inconsistency of the wider anarchist movement. Under Charlie Crute's editorship the paper was admittedly rather ragged and un-dynamic but crucially it was open-minded and characteristically libertarian. When Toby took over he imposed a visual and ideological uniformity on 'FREEDOM' that it has not entirely abandoned.

I wrote to Toby at the time challenging what he was doing but to no effect. Long-time readers might well recall Toby's notorious SWP-style, 'What We Say' column: as if anarchists are, or should be, of one hectoring opinion. Regrettably, Donald's role in recruiting and promoting Toby blinds him to the debititating effects of such unthinking agit-prop anarchism.

Donald is a good lad but he slipped up on this one. The pernicious influence of Commissar Crowe lives on with 'FREEDOM's' continuing overemphasis of the violent and confrontational aspects of anarchism. The positive, creative and often low-profile initiatives that delighted anarchists from Kropotkin to Colin Ward are all too often overlooked in favour of 'exciting' pictures and articles attacking agents of the State.

Come on Donald admit it, Toby has a new pulpit better suited to his Milleniarial beliefs, it's time for 'FREEDOM' to finally escape from his shadow. Drop the pretence that we are on the verge of revolution and rediscover the less sexy but more constructive aspects of anarchism.

Chistopher Draper,

Worker' Memorial Day

Workers' Memorial Day and TUC Day of Action to defend health and safety –
28 April 2012
North West
Assemble 13.00 at the Town Hall step for speeches. At 13.45 march to the Worker's Memorial Tree at Northgate led by lone piper. At 14.00 - Two minutes silence and laying of wreaths. For more information contact
To attend the rally in Chorley, meet at the Park Gates, Astley Park, at 5.45pm on 27 April 2012
There will be a rally at 12 noon on the South Piazza of Georges Dock Building
(Corner of Mann Island and the Strand) Pier Head, Liverpool L3 1DD. Speakers include Len McCluskey- General Secretary Unite and Simon Weller- National Organiser ASLEF. For more information contact John Sheridan on 07814 197734
Assemble at the UCATT Memorial, Hunter Street at 11.45 a.m. Speakers: Luciana Berger, MP; Councillor Frank Prendergast, Lord Mayor of Liverpool and Bill Parry, UCATT Regional Council Chairman. Contact UCATT Tel: 0151 228 8455
March and rally. Gather near CIS Building, Corporation Street /Miller Street at noon. The March will move off at 12.30 led by a band and march up Corporation Street, and Cross Street into Albert Square for a rally. At 13:00 there will be a minutes silence to 'Remember the Dead'
Speakers will include trade union safety reps, members of FACK and MPs who will speak on 'Fighting like hell for the Living' against the current government attacks on workers' health and safety. For more information contact the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre For more details contact
Gather at 11.30am in Flag Market, minutes silence at 12 noon, service and speakers, more information from
The link to the website is:

Saturday, 21 April 2012

May Day!

May Day 2012
International Workers Day
Monday 7th May 2012
11am Assemble Bexley Square, Salford
near Salford Crescent Station
Buses 10, 27, 93, 98, 110, 137, 138
Breakfast butties and speakers
12 noon March Departs
12.15 pm March joins people with disabilities
assemble outside Moon Under Water
Pub, Deansgate
1 pm Rally Cathedral Gardens
Speakers from local, national and
international campaigns
2.30pm Social Event
Friends Meeting House, Mount Street
Entertainment, Food and Activities for
Fight The Cuts
Build Trades Councils

Tuesday, 17 April 2012


by D.W. Randal (Manchester Metropolitan University) published in Northern Voices No.2 in the Winter 2003/4 issue
We are republishing this old review from Northern Voices No.2 by the sociologist Dave Randal, because of the recent difficulties experienced by the linguist, Dr. Daniel Everett, and others doing controversial research among the Pirahã people in Brazil (see the 'Whatever Happened to Chomsky's Critics' posting below), which appears to undermine Chomsky's dominant theory of language. With a research team from M.I.T., led by Ted Gibson, a professor of cognitive science scheduled to run a documentary on the Smithsonian Channel next month, we want to recall the trouble we had in examining Chomsky's ideas. In 2001, those of us who later became associated with Northern Voices were involved with some Manchester academics in the publishing of 'an Alternative Raven' dealing with the subject 'Chomsky & his Critics'. It had originally been intended that Freedom Press (the anarchist publishers)would bring this series of essays out in their publication The Raven. In the end this was not to be, and we brought it out independently. Later in 2002, a schoolmaster, Toby Crowe, took over the editorship of Freedom and he agreed to publish a review of 'Chomsky & his Critics' , if we could find someone who had not contributed to the original publication. Thus, Dave Randal from the Department of Sociology at Manchester Metropolitan University, agreed to write the review below. But, before it was submitted Toby Crowe withdrew his offer to publish the review in Freedom and we were forced to publish it in Northern Voices No.2. The comments by Toby Crowe in the Canadian anarchist publication 'Any Time Now', accusing one of our leading contributors denouncing 'Chomsky's theory as unscientific' because 'it doesn't conform to the Stalin/ Lysenko doctrine that everything in biology is decided solely by the environment' is absurd and suggests that the writer, Mr Crowe, hadn't read a word of either Chomsky or Wittgenstein's linguistics.
READERS of the 'Alternative Raven' on 'Chomsky & His Critics' may well have asked themselves what the fuss was about when first Chomsky and then various others took exception to some of its contributions. As someone who was a more or less disinterested observer (although I know many of these contributors well and share their doubts about Chomsky's linguistic claims) I was taken aback when I read that the decision not to publish its contents was apparently taken because 'we were unimpressed by the quality of some of the material it contains, not to mention the political orientation behind it.' The main article, Toby Crowe (Editor of Freedom at that time) claims: 'denounces Chomsky's theory as unscientific, for example, on the grounds that it doesn't conform to the Stalin/ Lysenko doctrine that everything in biology is decided solely by the environment.'*

I would normally defend, like Toby Crowe, the rights of publishers to make publishing decisions but I would add a caveat. Publishing decisions, in my view, are best made from a position other than that of ignorance. It is easy to be unimpressed by something if you do not consider that it might be necessary to read and understand it before forming an opinion. To be sure, anyone with even the vaguest understanding of the discussion at hand would not mistake any of the participants as being involved in some peculiar attempt to recapitulate environmental determinism in biology. The issues have nothing to do with this at all. Stated simply, they are about a theory which lays out a particular causal connection between 'brain states' and behaviour, much as most cognitive science does. Objections to this kind of theory are usually along the lines of a contrasting view of behaviour which is that it is normally 'social', involves 'shared understanding' in some way and thus cannot be down to simple causal links between brain states and behaviour.

In the case of Chomsky specifically, the argument is about a 'language organ' and its relationship, if it exists at all, with our ability to speak and write.

Chomsky, without question, did the world a favour in demolishing the pretensions of behaviourism all those years ago. He was instrumental in providing the foundations for an alternative - cognitive science or cognitive psychology - for which we should be less grateful. There can be no doubt that cognitive science today holds a dominant position in intellectual life. It is committed to a view which holds that the human mind/ brain is computer-like. This has many complex ramifications, but include the idea that the mind/ brain is a piece of hardware, organised on modular lines and in which each part has a specific purpose or function. Contained in this is the view that the storage, recall and transformation of 'information' is what is going on in our heads, and thus that the human mind/ brain is engaged in something which we can term 'information processing'.

To believe Chomsky, you are more or less committed to a view of language which says that language is best understood as a form of information stored in our heads. This is not information about the meanings of words, but about their structuring. That is, Chomsky requires us to believe that we best understand language by analysing grammar/ syntax rather that semantics/ meaning; that the grammar in question is 'universal', or at some deep level the same across all languages, and that the acquisition of language is not, in important ways, learned but given genetically.

This bears repeating, for it implies that our ability to use a language is independent of our experience of the world. Two initial points, then. Firstly, the critics of Chomsky writing in the Alternative Raven are not offering and alternative biological viewpoint at all, but a sociological alternative (albeit a sociological alternative of a very specific kind). They are not suggesting that there cannot be a connection of some kind between brains and speech, no more than they would argue there is no connection between legs and walking. They are suggesting that Chomsky's specific causal model of language acquisition doesn't stack up precisely because it is a naive biological account.

Previous critics have emphasised the lack of empirical confirmation for his theories, noting that we have very little actual evidence to support the idea of 'deep structures'. Moreover, the actual grammatical structures of different world languages seem to vary most when they share least heritage, supporting the idea that something like history rather than biology is what drives their similarity. The contributors to the Alternative Raven (Chomsky & his Critics), however, are arguing that the problems go deeper, for they are based on a confusion between empirical and conceptual matters. Wil Coleman, in particular, is asking us to think carefully about what a language is and whether it is useful or right to think about languages as grammatical structures a la Chomsky at all. Whether one agrees with these authors or not, the force of their argument is clear. They are offering a competing account based on Wittgenstein's later philosophy, and in which it is argued that language is best understood in and through the way it is used rather than through any structure it might (putatively) have. They are, in other words, taking the debate about the plausibility of Chomsky's view of language a stage further.

Chomsky's political arguments have a different status, insofar as they are largely untheoretical polemics. There is no claim, in other words, that any science is being done. I would disagree with Rupert Read, another of Chomsky's critics here, where he claims to see connections between Chomsky's linguistic work and his political commitments, for I see none of any consequence. For what it is worth, Chomsky's political views (although he is evidently on the side of the angels) always seem to me to trade on a weak and unarticulated view of 'ideology'.

In this, the interests of Corporate America dominate police through its handmaiden, the media. Well, they almost certainly do, at least much of the time. Much better political theorists than Chomsky, however, have argued the link between capitalism and the State through interest theories of ideology. Althusser and Gramsci spring to mind. It never seems to me that Chomsky adds anything to this kind of argument apart from a certain passion.

Overall, the fact that Chomsky and others hold to an information-theoretic view of language and thinking has powerful consequences, and debates about their merits or otherwise very much need to take place. It seems to me that the dominant view has had, for instance, major ramifications in our education system, (see Roszak, 'The Cult of Information'). I discern no lack of quality

*Letter from Toby Crowe (Freedom's Editor in 2003/ 04) in the Canadian anarchist-decentralist newspaper 'Any Time Now'.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Blogger faces gaol for calling councillor a c**t on Twitter!

Olly Cromwell (pictured), a London-based blogger is fast becoming a celebrity after Greenwich magistrates court found him guilty on Friday for calling a Bexley councillor a 'c***' on Twitter.

Cromwell whose real name is John Graham Kerlen, was charged with "grossly offensive malicious Communications" after the councillor who sits on Bexley council in south east London complained to the police last December.

After being found guilty of improper use of the 'public electronic communications network, under section 127 offences of the Communications Act 2003' the prosecution called for Kerlen to be imprisoned for up to six months for the offence. Kerlen who uses the name 'Chaos Is Order' and '@ Sir Olly C' to tweet, is due to be sentenced on May 9. Apart from the charge for which he was convicted, Kerlen was also initially charged with harassment, but this was later dropped.

The Bexley councillor who is not named, complained after Kerlen criticised his local authority on Twitter. Annoyed, he allegedly posted a picture of a Bexley councillor's house with the caption: "Which c*** lives in a house like this. Answers on a postcard to # bexley council." Kerlen later added another Tweet saying: "It's silly posting a picture of a house on Twitter without an address, that will come later. Please feel free to post actual s**t."

After being charged, Bexley magistrates issued a 'restraining order' last December, that banned Kerlen from blogging about the conviction or mentioning Bexley council or its councillors, either directly or indirectly on any social media sites or blogs. Although Kerlen had not been convicted of any crime, the restraining order effectively denied him the right to free speech and the right to challenge the views and actions of his elected councillors on his local council.

Since his conviction last Friday, his case has become something of a cause celebre attracting the attention of social media sites such as the 'Huffington Post UK'. Offensive messages concerning Bexley council which have been left on Twitter, also seem to have increased, suggesting that the ruling may have backfired.

After Kerlen's conviction, Bexley Council issued a statement saying that though they were "totally supportive of freedom of expression and legitimate political debate", they believed that Kerlen's actions "went beyond the limits of what is both acceptable and reasonable in terms of freedom of expression." The council also said that councillors are entitled to know "that their families and their homes are not legitimate targets for abuse."

Morning Star report: Judge Issues Damning Verdict on Blacklisting

A tribunal judge has issued a damning verdict on construction giant Carillion's use of blacklisting - and the weak laws which denied its victims justice.

Details of the judgement, which had been reserved from January, were released to the Star over the weekend and reveal stark criticism of Carillion.

Judge Snelson criticised the lack of legal protection for Dave Smith, an engineer who took Carillion to an employment tribunal after he discovered his name was on the illegal Consulting Association blacklist.

Carillion admitted that its subsidiaries Carillion (JM) and Schal International Management had used the Consulting Association's blacklist.

It also admitted that its managers supplied damaging and false information to the blacklist about Mr Smith because he had raised concerns about safety when he was an accredited safety rep for builders' union Ucatt.

Mr Smith lost his tribunal case because he was not employed directly but via an employment agency.

But Judge Snelson said the tribunal had 'reached our conclusion with considerable reluctance.'
'It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy.

'We hope that he can take some comfort from the fact that the wrongdoing of which he complains has been exposed and punished and legislation passed designed to protect others from the misfortunes which he has experienced.'

Documents disclosed under court order by the Information Commissioner's Office show that Mr Smith's 36-page blacklist file contained detailed and sensitive information and entries relating to times when he had raised legitimate health and safety concerns.

Mr Smith, who is taking his case to Europe, said:
'The written judgement says that I have suffered a great injustice at the hands of big business.

'It is not just me but thousands of other workers who have suffered a grave injustice.

'The decision sums up by saying that, as an agency worker, I have no protection under UK law. In that case we need to change the law.'

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Demon Drink? Temperance & the Working Class.

Saturday 30 June 2012 – Sunday 24 February 2013:

The next changing exhibition at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, will be all about temperance. The Temperance Movement, in which people took the pledge not to drink alcohol, effectively began in the North West and temperance played an important part in the lives of many people in the region. Despite this, it is a little remembered aspect of our history.

Demon Drink? will focus on the everyday experiences and concerns of working people and their families regarding drink and abstinence. It will provide an opportunity to showcase some of the museum’s temperance collections and the University of Central Lancashire’s (UCLan) Livesey Collection, as well as drawing on local and national collections to uncover this history.

The exhibition is part of a Heritage Lottery Funded project led by Dr Annemarie McAllister from UCLan, who is working in partnership with the museum. The project will bring back to life a largely forgotten public movement which still influences our lives today. The displays will combine unique historical artefacts such as Joseph Livesey’s rattle, archive film footage of temperance processions and oral histories collected from local communities whose families were involved in the movement.

Thematic displays will explore the perceived need for the Temperance Movement, how society viewed it, its key messages and how people were encouraged to join. The exhibition will highlight the importance of children and social activities in promoting the movement’s message. It will look at alternatives to the public house such as temperance sporting events, parades, lessons, games, quizzes and children’s entertainments.

Visitors will be able to take part in a whole host of activities, play on a human-scale temperance-related snakes and ladders game and tell their own families’ stories. A fantastic range of public events will accompany the exhibition. These will include illustrated talks, themed City Centre Trails, craft and family activities, a temperance tea party and a Magic Lantern Show.

The exhibition will also be accompanied by a virtual exhibition that will be available for the public to access via the internet at

It`s a family affair as Tameside Labour prepare to fight local elections!

A third of Tameside councillor's are up for election this year as voters go to the polls on May 3rd.

Although Tameside Labour have led and dominated the council for the last 30 years, and are standing a candidate in each ward, the Lib Dems (who cannot even retain their deposit nowadays when fighting by-elections), are not standing any candidates in the borough's 19 wards. Last year they also failed to stand any candidates in the local Tameside elections. In contrast, the Green Party are fielding a candidate in each ward as are the Conservatives.

In Droylsden East and Hyde Newton, the British National Party (BNP) are standing two candidates. Although in 2009, the BNP received the third highest number of votes in Greater Manchester from Tameside voters during the European elections, their share of the vote in Tameside has been declining over the last five years. In Dukinfield, Roy West who in past elections stood as the BNP candidate, is now standing as an independent against the sitting Labour councillor, Brian Wilde. Another defector from the BNP, is John Shorrock, who is standing as the candidate for the English Democrats in Dukinfield/Stalybridge.

As we reported in January, Dorothy Cartwright a former Conservative councillor, was pushed out of her seat in the Dukinfield/Stalybridge ward to make way for Claire Reynolds, the wife of Jonny Reynolds, the MP for Stalybridge and Hyde. As a consolation prize, Cartwright, was nominated to fight the seat of Stalybridge South ward for Labour which is currently held by the Conservatives.

Labour Party politics in Tameside is gradually becoming a family affair. The leader of the council, Kieran Quinn, is married to Susan Quinn, the Mayor of Tameside who is also a Droylsden councillor like her husband. Other married couples on the council, include Barrie and Anne Holland and Jacqueline and Dawson Lane. In the forthcoming May elections, Janet Jackson has been nominated by Labour to fight the Stalybridge North ward. She is the partner of councillor Jim Fitzpatrick whose brother Philip, is also a Labour councillor. In nearby Audenshaw, the former Mayor Jean Brazil, was given a nudge using sharp elbows to make way for Teresa Smith, the wife of Labour councillor Mike Smith.

Some people might see this sort of thing (trying to get your Missus on the council), as nepotism or cronyism of the worst kind, but jobs are hard to get in Tameside these days. A recent report in the Manchester Evening News, claimed that Tameside was one of the toughest places in the country to find a job. Seemingly, Tameside is one of the 10 worst council areas in the north of England for employment prospects. Even the 'Experians' poverty map of England, ranks Tameside 55 out of 326 local authorities for the biggest risk of poverty and ranks it 78 for child poverty, and 45 for financial exclusion. It seems that if you want a job around here, your best hope lies in getting on the council gravy train.

Thursday, 5 April 2012


NORTHERN VOICES 13, - the printed / physical version of N.V. - deals with some of the issues that the others on the so-called British left won't touch. Starting with an interview with Sylvia Lancaster, mum of the murdered 'Goth Girl' / 'New Romantic' Sophie Lancaster, who was kicked to death up Bacup, in Lancashire, in August 2007. How do you feel about a new 'Hate Crime' on the statute book? Previously, Northern Voices has given you 'The Gangs of Manchester' dating back to an early 20th Century, but that was about lad's gangs: does the merciless killing of our sublime Sophie represent a step into a darker age? To be up-to-date and understand the way Northern Voices thinks and is different from other publications you should read the real and physical N.V..

Other stories include an apparent attack on the arts in Rochdale by the Link4Life organisation; 'The Strange Burnley story of Philip Morrell: the man who resisted Britain's participation in World War One' by Rev. Father Petty; an interview with a Libyan freedom fighter in Manchester by Barry Woodling; Tameside Eye & Salford Spy; Bribery & Corruption Column covering blacklisting; work-for-dole; allegations of bribery on Bury Council, 'environmental vandalism' at Chat Moss in Salford and  Les May on what he is now describing as 'Backdoor Privatisation' in Rochdale.

Do you think theatres and drama are Crap? Well, if you do or you don't, there's a review of Six O' the Best Northern Theatres by Chris Draper and with 'Miss Julie'* staring one of our northern actresses Maxine Peake, and starting at Manchester's Royal Exchange on the 12th, April, you can decide if it's worth a visit to Theatre -in-the-Round, based on what Chris has to say about the state of our local theatres up North. In our coloured centre-spread there is an image of an anarchist scarf that James Keogh, a volunteer in the Spanish Civil War 1936-39 and who last November was awarded a Blue Plaque by Tameside MBC, sent to his mum in Ashton-under-Lyne. Did James buy it on the Ramblas in Barcelona after he arrived in Spain in 1937? Then if you fancy a bit of culture you can have a look at our view of the Ford Madox Brown Exhibition, and the tricky business that led to his painting of the murals in Manchester Town Hall: our centre spread includes 'Bradshaw's Defence of Manchester A.D. 1642'.

Then there's history with 'Peterloo & the politics of Failure' by Dick Dutch and more of Chris Draper on the Sheffield outrages and sucking-up to the bosses by British trade union gaffers.

* 'MISS JULIE' by August Strindberg at the Royal Exchange Theatre Manchester:
a new version by David Eldridge, from a literal translation by Charlotte Barslund
'I can't run away, I can't stay. I can't live, I can't die. Help me'
MAXINE PEAKE plays Miss Julie. Known for her television appearances in SILK, the BAFTA nominated HANCOCK & JOAN and SHAMELESS, she is reunited with director Sarah Frankcom, whose recent successes at the Exchange include the award-winning PUNK ROCK and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE.
'Sweden, 1894. Midsummer night’s celebrations are in full swing but the Count’s daughter, the beautiful and imperious Miss Julie, feels trapped and alone. Downstairs in the servants’ kitchen, handsome and rebellious footman Jean is feeling restless. When they meet a passion is ignited that soon spirals out of control. Strindberg’s masterpiece caused a scandal when first produced – and has been hugely popular ever since – for its searingly honest portrait of the class system and human sexuality.'
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road,
Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Northern Radical History Network meeting:

Saturday, 31 March 2012, 11.00 to 16.30 at Town Hall Tavern, Tib Lane, Manchester
Chaired by Barry Woodling, there were ten people in attendance including latecomers, most from the general Manchester area. After introductions, Chris Draper from Llandudno, led the first session.
1100-1230 Chris Draper covered two topics (1) the idea of a Northern Radical History Network and (2) aspects of producing inexpensive, good quality publications.
He analysed the phrase 'Northern Radical History Network'. It should be 'northern' in order to set itself apart from southern and midland regional interests (for example), on the basis that localism represents the strongest basis for internationalism while providing roots and personality to set against the alienation of homogenised culture. It should be 'radical' in terms of its subject matter and in looking at the ordinary in a different way. In terms of 'history' it should emphasise the idea of stories, making the politics implicit to avoid 'turn-off' effect. It should be a 'network' because this is a non-hierarchical, libertarian form of association, loose in form, offering mutual help and 'fellowship'.
With regard to publications, using a variety of examples, some from his own production stable, he stressed the importance of good quality, good stories, local interest, offering something new in terms of research, having a light and humourous touch, and, above all, uncovering the previously forgotten or unrecognised.
Discussion followed, focussing mostly on the first part of the talk. There was general consensus on the value of history as an activity in the terms suggested, and on the idea of a loose network as the appropriate form of organisation. There was debate as to whether or not the formation of NRHN might be premature, when the only existing local groups in the north known to those present were in York, Nottingham and Newcastle, of which the two former were quite recent, while the other was a long-standing group in the 'Labour History' tradition. It was suggested that Manchester needed to get its own group organised before trying to launch a regional grouping, which, it was acknowledged, covered a potentially huge area within which there were already strong alternative regional identities (e.g. 'North-East', 'Yorkshire', 'Lancashire', 'Cumbria', 'North Midlands'). However it was also acknowledged that there were other individuals who could not make it to the meeting who could have added value from some of these localities and it was agreed that by strating such a network a deepening of activity in other localities could be stimulated. Meanwhile, there was value in co-operation around joint projects such as the Luddite Bicentenary.
Actions agreed: Martin to set up a blog on Wordpress and an email circulation list using Aktivix. Lynn to set up a Facebook identity that could be added as a link to the blog site. Provisionally a date of Saturday 30 June 2012 was set for a follow-up meeting, probably also in Manchester.
No actions or resolutions were made in terms of publishing at this stage.
1330-1430 Richard Holland on the comparative significance of the Luddites and Peterloo.
Richard noted that his efforts to set up a Luddite Bicentenary project had met a lukewarm reception outside of Yorkshire, despite its relevance to Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cheshire and Lancashire and that this seemed to be matched in 'official' circles. He outlined the very specific nature of Luddism in a short period from 1811-1816, though there were examples of machine breaking outside of this period that did not make reference to the mythical 'General Ned Ludd'. One of its key features was that, despite popular presentation (falsification) it was not an anti-technology movement. It originated in 1811 in the hosiery framework knitting industry of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire where enterpises were on a relatively small scale and activity focussed on opposition to the 'wide stocking frame' which created a poor quality substitute to those produced by the skilled workers. It spread among cotton weavers and related workers in the Cheshire and Lancashire area, where large scale enterprises were being set up using steam looms and allowing the employment of unskilled machine minders. There were strong links in terms of ideas and activities through immigrant Irish workers to the political events in Ireland since the 1798 rebellion. There was a major outbreak in a short period from February to April 1812 in the West Riding of Yorkshire (with outbreaks on the Lancashire side of the Pennines) among the 'croppers' and 'shearmen' (cloth finishers), a well paid and often well educated group of skilled workers holding a key position in the clothing industry. The main period of wrecking activity was over by the end of April 1812, though there continued to be mass meetings, arms raids and other 'subversive' activities for some time afterwards and clear links were built up with political radical elements among Jacobin groups. The authorities creacked down with military intervention, 'special commissions' that were essentially show trials, and the administration of an oath of allegiance to draw people away from the Luddite oath-taking.
The presence of political radicalism creates a link to the events of 'Peterloo' in Manchester 1819, which was essentially a single meeting. While Luddism has been rarely celebrated, sometimes actively shunned, by the left and by official 'public history', there was been a contrary heavy focus on Peterloo. There are specific reasons. It fits in with the dominant narrative of an evolution towards mass parliamentary democracy; it fits the agenda of those who see the working-classes as victims rather than makers of history; it supports the importance of 'leadership' (in this case Henry Hunt), where Luddism had no leadership; while 'radical' in its time it was certainly not associated with any revolutionary or insurrectionary intent.
Richard outlined, in conclusion, his group's intervention at the People's History Museum to 'insert' on the museum timeline the missing like to the Luddites, both as a 'stunt' and in the form of correspondence. The action demonstrates how radical history can become a radical activity in itself.
Debate was generally supportive of Richard's thesis, with some attempt to point out that there was more lying behind Peterloo in terms of movement activity than the event itself, though it was acknowledged that much of this was lost in the way it was publicly presented and officially interpreted.
1430-1630 Roger Ball on the Bristol Radical History Group
BRHG has been in existence for over six years. It emerged from a radical sports group with a core of between 2 and 5 people.
Key inspirations:
1. The South London Radical History Group 'Past Tense'. These were not historians as such and therefore not hidebound by any preconceptions, they did not follow the usual local history group format and were keen on history as activity. They intervened in a Blake Exhibition against its corporate sponsorship; they organised very successful history walks drawing on the underbelly of South London.
2. The book 'The Many-Headed Hydra: The hidden history of the Revolutionary Atlantic' by Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker - because it broke from the dominant historical narrative of the growth of the nation state, while placing at the heart of the story the activity of slaves, sailors and others in creating a new world which happened to have Bristol very much in its centre. It thus helped Bristolians see themselves in a different way. This idea of shining a new light on hidden corners was transferred to the BRHG's first event: the recreation of the forgotten Quaker James Naylor, his dramatic entry into Bristol during the 17th C Commonwealth and his subsequent torture.
3. Being fed up with the dominant narrative locally, dominated by the Merchant Venturers purely because they had loads of money and no opposition. BRHG wanted to intervene against this distorted vision of the past from a standpoint that understood the importance of Capital and Class. Amongst such developments was demonstrating that sailors had been key to the abolitionist movement against slavery, demolishing the idea of a native racism.
Key learning points:
When constructing events, draw in the local people, don’t worry about being too professional, care more about the spirit, ideas and culture of the event than some 'accuracy' fetish.
At meetings, discussions etc, don’t be afraid to make academics work for you (be persistent until they say 'no') and put them on the same stage as well-informed locals with their own knowledge and insights.
Good events are: public talks, discussions, bands and gigs (especially for publicity and fundraising), choral evenings, publishing (see pamphlets); regular events such as a Radical History Week.
Money is raised through a bookstall, bars and coffee events and donations - avoid grants like the plague and try to avoid charging entry fees.
Aims: to uncover hidden histories by drawing closer to primary sources in time; attacking distorted official history and false popular memory that relies on the dominant establishment narrative; also critique so-called 'radical history' and how it is presented; critically learn from past successes as well as failures, going away from the idea of victimhood; make links to contemporary issues such as 'the struggle for the global commons'; use elections as a vehicle to question the dominant presentation of 'democracy'; pick on items such as blacklisting
1. Lots of people are interested in history: break out of the political ghetto to reach them
2. Make activities central and accessible to newcomers, reaching out beyond the usual activists
3. Do something different
4. Use 'blagging' as a technique to get support: BRHG had no status to begin with but did things anyhow, used pester power and built up contacts through contacts
5. Division of labour within the group on a project by project basis (i.e. no formal structure) - not without its problems at times, but generally more flexible and sustainable
6. When you get popular do not get drawn into the attention zone of officialdom - do what you want to do not what they want you to free of charge when they are getting paid!
7. Grants are a nightmare, absorb too much energy, cause delays and problems - they are a dead end. Stick to self-reliance - in general time is more of an issue than cash
8. Don't be too pedantic about getting things exactly right, especially with 're-enactment'
9. Don't dismiss crazy ideas - history needs to become political
10. Use imagination - ideas are more important than facts: but record your meetings well so that ideas are preserved for future use
11. Avoid being labelled: even the term 'Radical' while vague can be generally scary to some - make sure you are difficult to categorize [this tends to be also the biggest internal problem for arguments over what is a valid activity]
Numbers involved: 2 to 5 at the beginning, but operated through building a network around this and actively involving others
Publications: use a local small printer who produces good quality results, usually an initial run of 300 but some run into thousands over time; distribution through local outlets, radical bookshops and distributors and book stalls
Use specialists: example of 'Just Seeds' [ ] an artists co-operative in America - did 'counter-recreation' intervening in a public Victoriana event with an 1890s steelworkers demo complete with police crackdown; on a radical preacher, they made a blow-up church which they put on the original site, now a car park
Build up credibility and links over a period; network with other local publishers; include events for children; develop resources: don’t be afraid of challenging subjects: e.g. gangs, riots: meanwhile 'labour' and 'worker' can be words that turn people off.

Whatever happened to Chomsky's Critics?

From Manchester to M.I.T.: How Dr. Rupert Read & Dr. Everett Challenged Professor Chomsky

OVER a decade ago some Manchester sociologists and northern anarchists tried to publish a booklet critical of Professor Noam Chomsky's linguistics, but praising his politics, through the anarchist publishing outfit Freedom Press*. It was going to be entitled 'Chomskys Critics' and had essays by Dr. Rupert Read, Dr. Wil Coleman, John Lawrence, Pro. Wesley Sharrock, Dr. David Francis, Derek Pattison and was edited by Brian Bamford; Harold Sculthorpe, then a member of Friends of Freedom Press, was also involved in the publication and Milan Rai, Chomsky's former political secretary, was asked to contribute; several of these profess to be anarchists of one form or another. The material sent in at first appeared to have been accepted to be published in the anarchist Raven journal by Charles Crute (then editor of Freedom) and an essay arrived from Milan Rai. In order to add interest Professor Chomsky was invited to read Rupert Read's critique and comment upon it, which he duly did in a 3-page letter to the editor Brian Bamford denouncing Dr. Read and the whole project.

Freedom Press was alerted to Chomsky's displeasure and withdrew from the project arguing that the material was 'too academic' and unsuitable for publication by Freedom Press a political publishing house: it is not known if any pressure was applied to Freedom and Professor Chomsky was ambivalent about Freedom's decision when asked. Later the material was published independently by the northern anarchists and Manchester academics as a booklet entitled 'Chomsky & his Critics'. This is now retailing on AMAZON at £45. Two years ago in a public confrontation at the London Anarchist Bookfair, Professor Chris Knight, the radical anthropologist, raised these issues before Milan Rai, along with other misgiving he has about the Chomsky project in linguistics. Northern Voices has been asked to agree to reproduce the original booklet which is under consideration.

Last month, The Global Edition of the New York Times published an article by Jennifer Schuessler entitled 'The linguist who took on Chomsky' about Dr. Daniel Everett a linguist who spent time with a group of people called the Pirahã**, whose members are an isolated group of hunter-gathers who he first visited as a Christian missionary in the late 1970s. Jennifer Schuessler writes: 'In 2005 Dr. Everett shot to international prominence with a paper claiming that he had identified some peculiar features of the Pirahã language that challenged Noam Chomsky's influential theory, first proposed in the 1950s, that human language is governed by "universal grammar," a genetically determined capacity that imposes the same fundamental shape on all the world's tongues.' Thus, Everett became a bit of a popular hero, and was portrayed in the press as a giant killer who felled the mighty Chomsky, after his paper on the Pirahã was published in the journal Current Anthropology.

Dr. Everett's paper, published in 2005, claims that the Pirahã language lacks recursion, along with colour terms, number terms, and other common properties of language. This claim flies in the face of Chomsky's much-cited 2002 paper that insisted that recursion is the crucial feature of universal grammar, and that it was the only thing separating human language from its evolutionary forerunners. Chomsky is an emeritus professor of linguistics at MIT, who wrote the paper with Marc D. Hauser and W.Tecumseh Fitch.

Dr. Everett says 'I'm a small fish in the sea, I do not put myself at Chomsky's level.' Yet, his most recent book, published in March 2012, is 'Language: The Cultural Tool' and he writes: 'I am going beyond my work with Pirahã and systematically dismantling the evidence in favor of a language instinct.' Now there have been even echos of what we experienced over a decade ago with our modest booklet 'Chomsky & his Critics', and now a documentary 'The Grammar of Happiness' accuses unnamed linguists of improperly influencing the Brazilian government to deny Dr. Everett's request to return to the Pirahã territory, either with a film crew or with a research team from M.I.T., led by Ted Gibson, a professor of cognitive science: this is scheduled to run on the Smithsonian Channel in May 2012.

Migual Oliveira, an associate professor of linguistics at the Federal University of Alagoas and the M.I.T. expedition's Brazilian sponsor, said in an interview that Dr. Everett was widely resented among scholars in Brazil for his missionary past, anti-Chomskian stance and ability to attract research money. Dr. Oliveira claimed: 'This is politics, everybody knows that.' Dr. Everett himself has said that he has no evidence of any intrigues against him.

Jennifer Schuessler in her Global New York Times essay writes:
'The debate remains stymied by a lack of fresh, independently gathered data. Three different research teams ... have published papers supporting Dr. Everett's claim that there are no numbers in the Pirahã language. But efforts to go recursion hunting in the jungle have so far yielded no published results.'

Our unsavoury experience in Manchester with a few local scholars and anarchists, around the start of the new millennium, to produce a modest critique in booklet form of Chomsky's theory of language, was so like what Dr. Everett and his colleagues are now experiencing over access to the Pirahã that it may well have been the tip of an iceberg.

* Freedom Press, an anarchist journal and publishing house believed to have been set up over 125 years ago by the famous anarchist and geographer Peter Kropotkin.

**Pirahã (also spelled Pirahá, Pirahán) is a language spoken by the Pirahã. The Pirahã are an indigenous people of Amazonas, Brazil, living along the Maici River, a tributary of the Amazon.

Pirahã is believed to be the only surviving member of the Mura language family, all other members having become extinct in the last few centuries. It is therefore a language isolate, without any known connection to other living languages. It is estimated to have between 250 and 380 speakers.[1] It is not in immediate danger of extinction, as its use is vigorous and the Pirahã community is mostly monolingual.

The Pirahã language is most notable as the subject of various controversial claims;[1] for example, that it provides evidence for the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis.[2] The controversy is compounded by the sheer difficulty of learning the language; the number of linguists with field experience in Pirahã is very small.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Book Review:

'Socialism with a Northern Accent:
Radical traditions for modern times'
Paul Salveson
Paul Salveson's new book will probably irritate quite a lot of people who like to think of themselves as forming the political left; 'old' Labour because he states bluntly that what he calls the 'Morrisonian' model of state ownership was long past its sell by date when Blair rejected it, 'new' Labour because he equally bluntly says that Blair was profoundly wrong to accept that the private sector was the only alternative and the libertarian left because he still sees an important role for the state.

His basic thesis is that in the north of England socialism (with a small 's') developed a distinct regional identity which owed very little to the Fabians or to Karl Marx and much more to that sadly overworked word 'community'. This he calls 'ethical' socialism which found its embodiment in the Independent Labour Party (ILP). But he also notes that around this were many peripheral groups which co-operated on local issues and often had shared membership.

Building on this history of diversity he maps out a possible future direction for socialism in the north which will take many Labour party members well outside their comfort zone.

Paul Salveson has agreed to be interviewed and this should appear in the next edition of Northern Voices.

Les May

'Socialism with a Northern Accent: Radical traditions for modern times' is available from Amazon at £14.24 post free.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road,
Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: northernvoices@

Monday, 2 April 2012

Sophie Lancaster in Stubbylee Park & now it's Ben Moores in a Waterfoot Kicking

The full Northern Voices interview 'SUBLIME SOPHIE, PRIDE OF OUR ALLEY' with Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie's mum, is now available in the printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, which may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' at
c/o 52, Todmorden Road,
Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.


LAST Friday, the Manchester Evening News reported an attack on teenage heavy metal fan Ben Moores behind the Co-op Supermarket in Waterfoot only two miles from Stubbylee Park in Bacup,Lancs, where in August 2007 Sophie Lancaster was murdered and her boyfriend Robert Maltby was left with life threatening injuries. Sophie was beaten to death because she was dressed in the style of a traditional Goth, and Ben was battered as he was reportably abused in the same way as a 'Mosher!' and a 'Freak!' Catherine Smyth, in her book 'Weirdo, Mosher, Freak: the murder of sophie lancaster' (2010) (available at Touchstones Musuem Bookshop, Rochdale) wrote: 'If only they'd stopped at name calling'.

The current printed issue of Northern Voices No.13, also on sale at Touchstones, has an interview with Sophie's mother Sylvia Lancaster. Sylvia told Northern Voices last October: 'For Sophie being a Goth was like being a "Traditional Goth" or "Punk Goth".' It was really about being different or sensitive with a love for the surface of the earth and all its creatures.

An editorial in last Friday's Manchester Evening News, detailing the similarities of the recent case of Ben Moores and the attack on Sophie in 2007, laments that 'if this teenager (Ben Moores) has been put through such an ordeal (as Sophie) at least in part because of the way he looks, then it would be a sad reflection on how little the world has been changed by Sophie's needless and so widely reported death.' It seems that the police are not treating Ben Moores case as a hate crime, and we must await more evidence before jumping to conclusions.

Ben's mum, Gale Moores has said: 'It was awful ... he had blood pouring from his ears and face and bald patches ... it scares me because of what happened to Sophie Lancaster.' Sylvia Lancaster, who as Sophie's mum has tirelessly campaigned for these kind of assaults to be classed as 'hate crimes', told the media that Ben's ordeal implied that the lessons of her daughter's death in Stubbylee Park had not been learned.

Northern Voices strongly believes that the cultural lessons about tolerance of differences of life style and dress have to be learned in our society, but that that will take much more than a change in the law however well meaning. Even some of the parents of the assailants of Sophie seemed to condone the actions of their kids; that suggests that there is a problem that runs deep in modern society. It needs uprooting, and there can't be any quick fix to such a crisis in nature of the human condition.

Blacklist Support Group in Parliament

Report of Blacklist Support Group (BSG) meeting was held in Parliament on Tues 27th March 2012 hosted by John McDonnell MP (start time was variable)

25 in attendance - Many apologies from far & wide

1. Public Inquiry
Following the article in The Observer exposing the collusion of the police and security services in the blacklisting operation, questions have been asked in the UK & Scottish Parliament.

John McDonnell MP has tabled an Early Day Motion calling for a Public Inquiry and has raised the issue of a Public Inquiry into blacklisting with David Cameron at Prime Minister's Question Time

John told the meeting that he will be pushing for an Adjournment Debate in the House of Commons sometime between Easter and the Summer break. This will potentially allow approx 30 - 60 mins full discussion on the floor of the Commons and is decided via a ballot of MPs

Meeting agreed:
1.1 Call upon the unions to circulate their sponsored MPs to sign up to the Early Day Motion and support the Adjournment Debate ballot
1.2 Blacklist Support Group members to contact their MPs on the same issue.
1.3.BSG to circulate a resolution to union branches / EC's calling for a Public Inquiry to be sent to union conferences and TUC.
1.4 For a lobby of parliament by blacklisted workers and supporters once the date of the Adjournment debate is known.

2. IPCC process
John McDonnell MP & Michael Meacher MP have both written parliamentary questions to Theresa May (Home Secretary) calling for a full Public Inquiry.
The written response has been that no public inquiry will be set up until the issue is at least initially raised with the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). We have effectively been instructed to go to the IPCC by the Home Secretary.

John McDonnell and Kat Kraig (Christian Khan solicitors / Haldane Society) explained the process and the likely hoops we will need to jump through.
To get the maximum out of the IPCC process it is necessary to submit a comprehensive witness statement. We have solicitors who are willing to assist in this process. To do it properly, it will need some funding.

Meeting agreed:
2.1 Lodge a complaint collectively by bringing together individuals who have information on their files which looks like it was supplied by the police or security services.
2.2 Anyone who feels there is information on their files that could not have been supplied by a manager on a building site should contact the BSG so that we can bring together to lodge the IPCC complaint (this will normally relate to attendance at political meetings/protests at evening or weekend or any criminal records)
2.3 Request that the unions provide financial assistance for this process - including RMT

3. Employment Tribunals
Nick Toms, David Renton and Declan Owens (lawyers representing the vast majority of the blacklisted ET cases) gave an update of the latest ET cases. The vast majority of cases have lost - mainly thrown out at the Pre-Hearing Review stage because theye were submitted "out of time". 2 cases (Nolan and Cullinaine) have been to the EAT but neither of these cases have progressed to full merits hearing.

Of the many ET claims initially taken only 3 cases have been successful - Willis, Tattersall and Acheson (all represented by Nick Toms supported by UNITE) with "Aggravated Damages" being awarded because of the use of the blacklist.

The Steve Acheson and Tony Jones cases from Manchester ET last week were both reserved judgements and we await the decision. The history of decisions from Judge Brain in Manchester has never been positive to date.

Dave Smith written ET judgement arrived that day and was circulated - David Renton explained that the judgement is very useful and allows for an appeal to the EAT and the European Court of Human Rights (now being prepared but will take time and cost money).

UNITE have stated that they have won an ET claim under the new Blacklisting Regs

There are a tiny handful of ET claims still "live" in the system including Roy Bentham (UCATT member from Liverpool). Roy is representing himself.

Meeting agreed:
3.1 Ask the unions to revisit their attitude to all the live ET claims with the hope that they will support the small number of claims still running (even if they lose, they may generate a few more ECHR cases)
3.2 Circulate the latest ET judgements

4. UNITE Data Protection claim
UNITE are advertising on their website for blacklisted members to contact the union who are intending to take individual stand alone data-protection claims. At least one claim has so far been lodged.

Meeting agreed:
4.1 Encourage UNITE members to contact the union.

5. Scottish Parliament
Phil Chamberlain explained that Drew Smith MSP (Labour Shadow Justice Secretary) has raised the issue of a public Inquiry in the Scottish parliament with similar non-committal responses from the Holyrood government.

Meeting agreed:
5.1 Anyone from Scotland or with Scottish connections (relatives or freinds) should contact their MSP

6. Europe
Glenis Wilmott MEP (Labour Leader in Europe) and Stephen Hughes MEP have managed to get an anti-blacklisting amendment inserted into a Report on Health & Safety which has been passed at the European parliament. The amendment is based upon information suggested by Professor Keith Ewing

Meeting agreed:
6.1 Pass on sincere thanks for work being done in Europe.

7. High Court claim
John Townsend and Liam Dunne from Guney Clark & Ryan solicitors held a private session with their clients to update them about progress in the High Court claim.

Meeting agreed:
7.1 To encourage blacklisted workers to contact GCR direct to discuss the case
7.2 BSG will provide updates when appropriate

8. AOB.
Lawyers to draw up a list of methods by which individuals may be able to access unredacted files. Once complied this will be circulated.