Thursday, 31 May 2012

'Bird-Brained' Tory minister does U-turn on buzzard cull!

The Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), announced yesterday (Wednesday) that it was abandoning its controversial plan to cull the common buzzard due to widespread opposition from wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists.

Although the buzzard is a fully protected bird of prey under wildlife laws, the Tory minister for wildlife, Richard Benyon, who the Independent newspaper has dubbed the 'Bird-Brained minister', gave approval to a Defra plan to destroy buzzards nests by blasting them with shotguns and trapping buzzards to relocate them to other areas to protect intensively bred pheasants, reared on pheasant shooting estates. The Independent said that the "climbdown bore all the hallmarks of having been ordered from above."

While this U-turn in government policy - the fourth policy change this week - will be welcomed by nature lovers and conservationists, questions are already being asked about this hairbrained scheme costing £400,000 that only benefited a tiny group of pheasant shooters who run commercial shoots. It is also well known that Benyon, a millionaire landowner and great-great grandson of Lord Salisbury, greatly enjoys shooting as does his leader, David Cameron.

In its research report to justify the cull, Defra claimed that "76% of gamekeepers believe that buzzards have a harmful effect on game birds." Yet research undertaken by the agricultural consultants Adas, on behalf of the British Association for Shooting and Conservation - which was not quoted by Defra - found that on average, the number of young pheasants (poults), taken by all birds of prey, was 1 to 2% with far more dying as a result of road collisions.

Martin Harper, the conservation director of the Royal Society for the Protection of birds (RSPB) told the Independent:

"We believe the public's support has been pivotal to this, and the extensive coverage of the issue in the Independent has driven a flurry of activity that has convinced ministers of the depth of public feeling and has encouraged him to take the right decision to drop the proposal. It's clear they don't want their taxes being spent on removing buzzards."

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Stuart Christie answers 'Nostromo' (see post below) & defends Pro. Preston

Some thoughts on the criticisms of The Spanish Holocaust
I certainly wouldn’t have responded to this review on the Stalinist-rump/Special Branch front that is the ‘Searchlight’ website (creating an atmosphere of trust within the anti-fascist movement indeed!), but as you have run with it on Indymedia UK I felt I should add my ha’penny worth to the discussion on Paul Preston’s excellent book ‘The Spanish Holocaust’.

As Nostromo says, some cenetistas and so-called ‘anarchists’ supported the Republican government wholeheartedly (at the expense of their so-called principles and flying in the face of the Confederation’s anti-statist, anti-capitalist and anti-party political and parliamentary ethos), others opposed governmental and party political alliances and pacts in the belief that the only way to defeat fascism was to pursue the social revolution. No argument there then; the question for anarchists should be how that process was de-stabilised. My personal belief is that it was derailed and destabilised precisely because of the actions and Machiavellian manoeuvres of these ‘strategically sophisticated pragmatists who were willing and able to pursue their ideals within the context of (relatively speaking) mainstream politics’.

As for the criticisms of Paul Preston’s new book ‘The Spanish Holocaust’ — that he somehow ‘toes the Popular Front party line’ and, as one person accused him of in the Middle Aged Working Class Anarchists Facebook page, ‘Preston trots out the same old slurs about anarchists (the incontrollables) doing all the killings of fascists in the republican zone that the commies and socialists were (falsely) claiming at the time . . .’ — I posted the following response:

Unfortunately, Lewis, what you refer to as Preston’s ‘slurs’ against the anarchists is true — at least to an extent — which is a theme explored in the third volume of Farquhar McHarg’s ‘Pistoleros!’. Membership of either the CNT or the FAI (or both) during the SCW (and subsequently) did not and does not automatically endow virtue; it did, however, sometimes — certainly in the period 1936-1939— provide protection and cover for criminals, lowlifes, and fascists caught in the Republican Zone. Additionally, the power it conferred on some militants (with previously impeccable records) soon exposed their essentially authoritarian – and, occasionally – psychopathic tendencies. Their behaviour during the SCW — and after, in exile – cannot or should not in any way be condoned or excused by the fact that they described themselves as anarchists or anarcho-syndicalists. I am referring here, specifically, to Dionisio Eroles y Battlle (CNT-FAI head of the Generalitat/Barcelona police and security service 1936-1937); Aurelio Fernández Sanchez (CNT-FAI head of the Control Patrols), Manuel Escorza del Val (CNT-FAI head of the CNT-FAI Intelligence and Security Service); Justo Bueno Pérez (one of del Val’s top hitmen); Felipe Sandoval (another assassin); Jaime Riera (FAI Investigation Service), to name but a few of the more prominent ones. These people and their acolytes didn’t just target fascists, they were the unquestioning creatures of both the Catalan Regional Committee of the CNT and the National Committee of the CNT in Madrid who were targeting for assassination their own so-called ‘uncontrollables’, i.e. militants such as Antonio Ortíz (leader of the second militia column out of Barcelona and later of the 25th Army Division) and Joaquín Ascaso (of the Council of Aragón), men and women who dared to challenge or question the collaborationist and anti-anarchist policies of the ‘prominent’ leaders of the CNT committees, particularly Mariano Rodríguez Vázquez and Federica Montseny, both of whom who bear ultimate responsibility for much of what happened on their watch.

Apart from provocateurs and plants such as Bernardino Alonso, the CNT-FAI head of the Republican Ministry of War’s ‘Special Services Counter-Intelligence Brigade, who was later exposed as a Soviet asset working for Alexander Orlov, there is also the largely unaddressed and sensitive question of the huge number of ‘false anarchists’ and false anarcho-syndicalists’, fascists and rightists who affiliated to the CNT and the FAI for protection after July 19 1936 after being unexpectedly caught in the Republican Zone. These included the famous ‘Fifth Columnists’. For example, a number of Melchior Rodríguez’s cabinet (MR – the ‘Red Angel’, an anarchist and a former bullfighter with an impeccable reputation who became Director General of Prisons during the SCW — and who saved the lives of thousands of fascist prisoners — and the last Republican Mayor of Madrid) turned out to be leading fascist fifth columnists, including his driver Rufo Rubio and his Chief of Services, Juan Batista.

Another small example is that of the Toledan village of Miguel Esteban in which, after the war, the Guardia Civil reported that membership of the local CNT unions ‘consisted mainly of right-wingers’ (elementos de derecha). Another indication that these were ‘false anarchists’ was the fact that after Franco’s victory they were neither arrested nor their property seized as happened with other Republicans. The village of Miguel Esteban wasn’t the only one in which fascists and rightists sought cover by affiliating to the CNT. Workers in the villages of La Mancha tended to be affiliated to the UGT, PSOE, PCE, FNTT or the FETT so it would have been easier for rightists to claim to have been harbouring CNT sympathies — if only to explain their previous lack of involvement in socialist or Communist Party activities.

As for Paul Preston’s so-called ‘toe-ing the Popular Front party line’, I certainly don’t believe that to be the case. He is a man of integrity — who tells it as he sees it — and an exceptionally meticulous and stimulating historian (whether one agrees with his analysis or not) who has dedicated his academic career and much of his personal life to exposing the brutal and vicious nature of Francoism, the Franco regime and its consequences. I should also add that it was Paul Preston who organised much of the funding for the publication, in English, of Peirats’s three volume ‘The CNT in the Spanish Revolution’. It was also Paul Preston who arranged the Spanish translation and publication of my own book, ‘We, the anarchists…’, into Spanish. Hardly the actions of someone who is obsessively ‘anti-anarchist’.


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.



Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Buzzards in danger from Tory toffs!

The recovery of the common buzzard in the last twenty years, is regarded by some wildlife enthusiasts as one of the great wildlife success stories of recent times. The bird - which has been described by some, as the 'poor man's eagle' - was almost persecuted to extinction in lowland England by Victorian gamekeepers and was mainly to be found, in the West Country, Wales and the Lake District.

Though the buzzzard is now the county's most common bird of prey, its future looks very bleak if this ghastly Con-Dem government - 'who know the price of everything and the value of nothing' - gets its own way. As from this Friday, Britain's multi-millionaire minister for wildlife, Richard Benyon, a landowner with a 20,000 acre estate in Berkshire who list his interests in 'Who's Who' as 'conservation and shooting', is sending men into the countryside to destroy the nests of wild buzzards by blasting them with shotguns, in order to protect the interests of pheasants which he himself likes to shoot occasionally.

The cull is likely to be opposed by wildlife enthusiasts and to be seen as yet again, as another political gaffe by a government of toffs and millionaires who are seen has being out of touch with the feelings and opinions of most people. Critics say that under Benyon's tenure, the Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA)has been favouring shooting interests over conservation. But what would you expect from a Tory landowner who likes shooting the birds!

Blacklist Fringe Meetings at Trade Union Conferences

Blacklisted workers will be speaking at fringe meetings during union conference season. If you want a speaker for your union branch or fringe event - please get in touch.

UCATT Conference (Scarborough)

Tues 29th May - Construction Safety Campaign fringe - Tony O'Brien, Steve Acheson & Roy Bentham

Wed 30th May - Justice for Shrewsbury Pickets fringe - Steve Acheson & Roy Bentham

NSSN Conference (Euston)

Sat 9th June - Construction workshop - Steve Kelly

GMB Conference (Brighton)

Wed 13th June - Official GMB Carillion blacklisting fringe - Dave Smith

UNITE Conference (Brighton)

Mon 25th June - Socialist Appeal fringe - Steve Kelly, Steve Acheson & Dave Smith

Wed 27th June - Official UNITE Construction fringe - Steve Acheson & Dave Smith

Trade Union Coordinating Group (Parliament)

Tues 10th July - Tollpuddle Seminar "Justice at Work"

'We need laws to break blacklists' - UCATT Conference Mon 28 May 2012

Construction union Ucatt vowed on Monday to find out who has been selling state surveillance to companies blacklisting workers.

The union, meeting in Scarborough for its annual conference, pledged to push for new laws criminalising blacklisting and compensating victims.

Northern delegate William Whalen of Carlisle urged delegates to put pressure on MPs for a "full public inquiry" into blacklisting, a call already led by Labour MP John McDonnell.

But Mr Whalen acknowledged that any campaign for legislation would be an uphill battle against a government "hell-bent" on destroying trade unions.

North-West delegate Lol Hunt said he had seen a database where entries on workers included "becoming an anarchist, ex-communist and a union safety rep - do not touch."

Blacklists literally destroyed entire families, he said.

"I'm not talking about getting sacked and looking for another job. I'm talking about never being able to work again, up and down the country.

"Then they fall onto another list - the credit list. It goes on and on and on."

The practice has been a long-term problem in the industry. A major investigation was begun by the Investigation Commissioner's Office in 2009 into the 3,200-name database held by the Consulting Association - a shadowy company which provided lists of workers who were active trade unionists or outspoken on issues like health and safety to subscribing firms.

One hundred victims of the blacklists have filed a class action in the High Court, while another case is pending in the European Court of Justice.

The scandal grew in March when the Information Commissioner revealed that it contained information that could only have come from the police or MI5.

The database is said to contain entries so detailed that investigations manager David Clancy has said: "They wouldn't have formed anything other than a police record."

Ucatt general secretary Steve Murphy said blacklisting was "a terrible crime.

"It will be a long and dire fight, but it's one we're absolutely committed to. The victims of blacklisting have a right to know how the state conspired to destroy people's lives."

The conference continues until Friday.


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.



'No threat to Touchstones' says Rochdale Council Boss Colin Lambert

Rochdale Council leader, Colin Lambert, assured me that there was no risk that Touchstones would be turned into a bookies or solicitors office, when I sat next to him on the 471 bus in the middle of May.   He said:  'I don't know how that story got about.'   I told him that I had an interest in this matter as a supporter of Touchstones Challenge.  He also promised me that the river in Rochdale town centre would be opened up by the end of this year and that we should be able to see the medieval bridges of Rochdale by Christmas.  He took a copy of Northern Voices No. 13 with Debbie Firth's critical article of the Link4Life management of Touchstones in it.  I neglected to tell Colin that the Link4Life bosses had banned the sales of this issue of Northern Voices in the Touchstones' bookshop on account of Debbie Firth's piece.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, covers 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.



Monday, 28 May 2012

Welfare-to-Work Scandal - whistleblower tells MPs of 'systemic fraud' and 'fictitious jobs'!

A former chief auditor of the welfare-to-work company A4e, who alleges that an 'unethical culture' within the company led to 'systemic fraud', was forced to give evidence in private last Tuesday to the Commons public accounts committee - from which the public was excluded - after objections were raised by Conservative members of the committee.

Last week the government said that it had no evidence of fraud in contracts that were held by A4e but this has been questioned by the National Audit Office (NAO), who say that the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), missed vital evidence during its asssessment of fraud. Though Employment Minister, Chris Grayling, told MPs that an internal inquiry had found no evidence of fraud involving A4e, the DWP withdrew one of its contracts from the company to provide 'work experience' placements, because of 'significant weaknesses in internal contracts.'

In his evidence Mr. Hutchinson says that inappropriate behaviour was driven by a bonus scheme paid by A4e and that staff acted in the belief that any irregularity, would go unpunished and that they could resign without further action being taken. He also says that when his concerns were brought to the attention of senior managers within A4e, little was done to address the widespread abuse of taxpayers money. He told MPs, 'In my professional view, it was systemic.'

In his evidence to the committee, Mr. Hutchinson, also referred to serious problems with another welfare-to-work provider known as 'Working Links' which runs three major contracts on the government's £5bn 'Work Programme'. As a former employee of Working Links, which is partly owned by the State, the private sector and a charity, he told MPs that the level of fraud at Working Links, had escalated to a "farcical situation" but at the time, he'd faced a 'stonewall' from management. In his evidence he says that in May 2008, he had compiled a list of 15 different frauds in excess of £250,000 relating to four different tax-payer funded programmes and had warned Working Links that fraud within the organisation was 'endemic'.

Although all of A4e's UK turnover is derived from government contracts, the company has been criticised for its 'abysmal' record of delivering government programmes. Earlier this year, it was also reported that the founder of A4e and majority shareholder, Emma Harrison, - who unlike many of her clients, enjoys a champagne lifestyle at the taxpayers expense - received an £8.6m dividend. Despite its 'abysmal' record and being subject of a police fraud investigation, in which eight of its employees have been arrested, A4e currently holds £438m of Work Programme government contracts.

A4e and Working Links deny the accusations of systemic fraud and say that many of the allegations relate to historic contracts and that any specific allegations that have been raised, have been addressed. Although A4e has been investigated nine times by the DWP and has repaid public funds on five separate occasions, after government inquiries into alleged fraud, the company says that it has a 'zero-tolerance approach to fraud.'

Searchlight Supports Smears

Searchlight smearing Anarchists - Paul Preston & 'The Spanish Holocaust'

The Hope Not Hate website run by Anti-Fascist campaign group Searchlight has published a review by Sam King of historian Paul Preston's new book "The Spanish Holocaust". Sam King states that "Preston makes it clear that the Anarchist CNT were as anti the Republic as the Fascists", and that claim is historically false...

The Hope Not Hate website run by Anti-Fascist campaign group Searchlight has published a review by Sam King of historian Paul Preston's new book "The Spanish Holocaust". The review states that Paul Preston's earlier book "The Spanish Civil War" has "eloquently portrayed the sacrifices that men and women from across the world made to fight Franco's brutal Fascist regime and the shadowy and sinister support he received from Hitler and Mussolini". The review goes on to say that Preston's new book is a "tour de force", which recounts "the tragic tales of men and women who took up arms against a military machine that wanted to crush all vestiges of democracy, humanity and secularism". While most people in the UK are disgusted by the thousands, sometimes tens of thousands murdered by the Fascist regimes of post-war South America, perhaps most importantly this book agrees with the many historians who estimate the number of Anti-Fascists that Franco butchered as being around 200,000. Even today Spanish people are struggling to obtain permissions to open Franco's mass graves and to identify the remains of their murdered relatives and loved-ones, while few people in the UK seem to have much idea of the sheer scale of the Fascist violence that occurred, with the connivance of our own government, so close to Britain.

So far so good. The problem occurs however when Sam King states that, referring to the democratically elected Republican government that was overthrown by General Franco's Fascist uprising, "Preston makes it clear that the Anarchist CNT" (the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo, which is still active today) "were as anti the Republic as the Fascists, viewing it as a bourgeoisie government". Whether this claim is one made by Paul Preston, or is a claim rehashed and not checked by Hope Not Hate, it's still false. Certainly elements within the Anarchist movement opposed alliances with Communist and liberal Republicans, preferring instead to pursue immediate and decisive social revolution, and arguably that did "destabilise the Republic" and "played right into the hands of the right wing", however brutal Communist oppression of Anarchists also played into the hands of the Fascists, with equally catastrophic results. Differences of historical interpretation aside however, the CNT helped form a Republican government in 1931, and even after the revolution of 1936, the CNT worked with other Republican groups, with Anarchist Federica Montseny becoming Minister of Health (and in fact Spain's first woman cabinet Minister), Anarchist Joan Peiró becoming Minister of Industry, Anarchist Segundo Blanco becoming Minister of Education, and militant Anarchist Juan García Oliver becoming Minister of Justice, in the very same Republican government the Hope Not Hate review says the CNT opposed.

This response is written to remind Searchlight / Hope Not Hate that their intermittent smear campaigns against Anarchists aren't appreciated and won't go unchallenged, and to remind them that if they want to create an atmosphere of trust within the Anti-Fascist movement they need to stick to telling the truth. This response is not written from the point-of-view that Anarchist mistakes should go unchallenged however - it is for instance fashionable in Anarchist circles to lionise strong-arm men like militia leader Buenaventura Durruti, but somewhat less fashionable to admit that part of the reason the CNT was the largest and most successful Anarchist organisation EVER was because it contained strategically sophisticated pragmatists who were willing and able to pursue their ideals within the context of (relatively speaking) mainstream politics.


Sunday, 27 May 2012

Conference on unemployment in Manchester

On Saturday I attended  a conference on 'Changing unemployment in Greater Manchester'  supported by GMATUC, Salford, Manchester , and Rochdale Trade Union Councils and union branches.    There was a long list of speakers and facilitators according to the blurb on the promotional leaflet.     The cast included Alec McFadden President Greater Manchester OFFA, Ron Marsden , Volunteer Salford  Unemployed Centre, Alex Halligan Unite the Union and Stephen Hall President Greater Manchester TUC.
Unfortunately the unemployed were manifestly uninterested.   The main hall at the Friends Meeting House was virtually empty for the morning plenary.   One workshop for youth and students had no takers.   The other 2 were poorly attended.   The conference was a resounding flop although the buffet lunch was excellent.

Friday, 25 May 2012

'No Fault Dismissal' & Labour Law Reform

YESTERDAY, The Daily Telgraph ran a leader declaring that 'There is no excuse for economic timidity' and in the same issue on the facing page Peter Oborne wrote a column entitled:  'Leave Cable alone - he's the moral centre of this Coalition'.  Adrian Beecroft, a Tory donor and private equity boss, had issued a report proposing 'no fault dismissal' for workers; so that they couldn't apply for justice in their cases at Employment Tribunals when they were sacked, even if they had been 'unfairly dismissed'.

What ought to be our position on labour law in these cases? 

In Manchester since 2003, and now elsewhere, campaigns have been fought by electricians against blacklisting by taking their former employers the multi-national construction companies to the Employment Tribunals.  It was the only way the electricians in the building trade could get justice.  A few years ago some British libertarians, like 'Spiky Mike' a fomer housing manager, at a Northern Anarchist meeting even sneered at these efforts.  Ought not the electricians to be fighting the blacklist using direct action and not in the courts of law, they would argue?  After all the Spanish anarchists in the 1930s would never have turned to the Courts.

The context we now find ourselves is different from Spain in the 1930s, and the electricians had only one option in 2003 to make their point and that was to force cases through the Employment Tribunals and even to be prepared to go to the European Courts.  This business of workers and trade unionists becoming barrack-room lawyers has not been an ideal process but it was the only way forward.

What will happen if that possibility of seeking justice at the Tribunals is taken away?  Peter Oborne writes:  'Mr Beecroft, along with his Conservative admirers, has taken a very dangerous wrong turning ... The kind of untrammelled free market capitalism which Mr Beecroft is advocating is inhumane, unedifying and unBritish ...'  Mr Oborne tells us of Mr Beecroft that 'he is very rich' and 'Apax, the company he helped to run, was one of a number of similar concerns which made vast fortunes for a tiny financial elite on the back of Gordon Brown's tax reforms at the turn of the century.' 

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, has dismissed this proposal saying that the Government doesn't want to 'frighten workers to death' with schemes like that of  Adrian Beecroft's 'no fault dismissal'.  He is right if we want English politics on the shopfloor and building sites to continue as they have been doing for the last generation or so with disputes often being argued out in the Employment Tribunals.  But what Mr Oborne, and perhaps Vince Cable may worry about more, not to mention Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, is that if the option of workers resorting to the Courts is withdrawn they may take to the streets more readily - as happened with certain other discontented elements in the August 2011 riots.


NRHN Agenda: Saturday, 30 June 2012, Town Hall Tavern, Tib Lane, Manchester

1100-1115 Arrivals

1115-1300 MORNING SESSION - Learning from each other

1115-1145 Round Table: introductions, reports, projects, news sharing by groups and individuals

1145-1215 Organisational Issues: website and email list administration; organisation of future meetings; future events and projects, AOB

1215-1300 Steve Higginson: Writing on the Wall and other Liverpool projects

1300-1400 LUNCH

1400-1600 AFTERNOON SESSION: Ideas and Arguments

1400-1500 Paul Salveson: Socialism with a Northern Accent

1500-1545 Martin Bashforth: Can Family History be Radical History?;

1545-1600 Meeting Review, Matters Arising, Future Activities

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Fighting government austerity cuts the Spanish way!

A miner stands in front of burning barricades on the A-66 motorway, on the first day of a strikes to protest against the government's spending cuts in the mining sector, in Pola de Lena, near Oviedo, northern Spain, on May 23.
'Eight thousand Spanish miners kicked off a four-day strike on Wednesday against the right-wing government's decision to slash subsidies to the sector.  The action is backed by the country's main union bodies, the Confederacion Sindical de Comisiones Obreras (CCOO) and Union General de Trabajadores (UGT), which warn that the subsidy reduction from €300 million (£240m) to €110m (£89m) will lead to the closure of the country's mines.'
Eight coal miners began an underground protest on Tuesday as part of the national strike action.
They started the underground sit-in two miles from a mine entrance in Santa Cruz del Sil. The miners have pledged to stay put until the full subsidy is restored.
The CCOO and UGT are planning a massive rally in support of the strikers' demands in Madrid on May 31.
'The unions are going to fight until the end to defend mines in the industrial landscape of our country," they said in a statement.'


Friday, 18 May 2012

Race & Sexual Grooming in Rochdale

THIS week, Iman Irfan Chishti, a Muslim cleric in Rochdale said:  'I acknowledge that race is a factor but it is one of many others in what is a very complex issue.'  He added:  'There are a number of other factors such as vulnerability, poor education and the night time economy, and ... what actually went through these men's minds to allow them to commit these crimes.'

Iman Chishti was speaking after Rochdale's Labour MP, Simon Danczuk, had spoken of the 'disturbing attitudes towards women shown by some in the Asian community' in Rochdale and following the comments of Judge Gerald Clifton, who last week jailed a gang of Asians from Rochdale and Oldham for exploiting underage white girls.  Judge Clifton, jailing the men, had said the men picked on the white girls because they were not of the same 'community or religion'

This is a touchy subject and one that requires further investigation both locally and nationally.  Anyone who has seen the film 'Slumdog Millionaire' will know that on the Indian subcontinent exploitation does not just involve young girls but can involve vulnerable young boys who can be exploited as beggars.  The publication Northern Voices intends to use its contacts in the Asian community to find out more about these matters.  We believe that Iman Irfan Chishti is right to say this is 'a very complex issue' and needs more research.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

British National Party at Rochdale Town Hall

LAST night arrests were made following a BNP demo outside Rochdale Town Hall, when some of the throng tried to force their way into a function held by the Mayor, and there was a smaller protest in nearby Heywood about the Asian arrests relating to 'sexual grooming' in the area. 

The BNP demonstration was reportedly using the slogan 'against Asian paedophiles'.  But they were also calling for the Labour Party to sack Councillor Aftab Hussain and for his removal from the Council following his support of one of the nine local men convicted of child sex exploitation.  Councillor Hussain has previously refused to answer questions regarding this support. 

Far right-groups organised protests in Greater Manchester over the grooming case and police accused the BNP activists of using diversionary tactics.

Yesterday, the Prime Minister David Cameron said that the Government needs to look carefully at what went wrong with the Rochdale sexual abuse cases.  He said:  'It's a truly shocking case and we need to look very carefully at what went wrong.'  He added:  'I think we need to look at why information wasn't passed more rapidly from children's homes to police, why action wasn't taken more rapidly.'

Labour MP for Heywood, Jim Dobbin said that racism is not a problem in Heywood and believes the scenes witnessed on the evening of February 23 this year, when around 200 youths took to the town's Bridge Street and targeted Asian businesses, were more out of excitement and curiosity than racism.  There is confusion at all levels as to what is going on with some like Jim Dobbin and the police trying to play down the racial aspects of the issue and others, even young Asians saying there is an ethnic element.  Clearly this whole matter needs a more thorough sociological investigation at a local level and ought not to be subject to snapshot explanations.

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.



Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Discussion Marr-ed by Deluded Historian and Sycophant

The ease with which Paul Preston, ably assisted by Andrew Marr, was allowed to dismiss the role played by anarchists during the Spanish Civil War on yesterday’s edition of Start the Week was infuriating but entirely predictable.

It seems that Professor Preston has carved himself a niche as the ‘expert of choice’ regarding this particular period of Spanish history but love him or loathe him, it surely goes without saying that one person cannot be the repository of all knowledge on any subject.  What’s more, whether Preston likes it or not, anarchism has a significant history in Spain, which cannot simply be dismissed or ignored because it does not fit with the narrative he wishes to construct.

Meanwhile, although the historian is duty bound to approach every source with a questioning eye, Professor Preston’s apparent vendetta against Orwell and Homage to Catalonia rather smacks of sour grapes.  Whatever his apparent gravitas on the subject of the Spanish Civil War, the fact remains that he was not there and, however briefly, Orwell was.  Even if his account of events is flawed, explain why, but don’t just dismiss it because you don’t like what it says or because you wish you’d written it.

Despite the suggestion in Preston’s narrative that the anarchists were all about chaos, destruction and murder (a rather tedious recurring stereotype in both his own version of events and the wider picture of this ideology painted by the BBC), what he fails to mention is that anarchists were often defending a grassroots libertarianism and self-sufficiency already established in many Spanish communities, urban and rural.  That there were atrocities committed is not in doubt but this was a conflict of atrocities on all sides, with the anarchists being perhaps only unique in that they were a target of choice for both Franco’s Nationalists, with their curiously Catholic brand of fascism AND the Republicans, whose desire to free Spain from authoritarianism propelled them into the open arms of the authoritarian’s authoritarian, good old Uncle Joe.

When she returned from her time in Spain during the Civil War, the Scottish anarchist, Ethel MacDonald, had witnessed first-hand the purges, imprisonments and murders of anarchists but struggled to get their story heard, as JT Caldwell recorded in his 1988 biography of Guy Aldred:
When Ethel returned to Glasgow she spoke in McLellan Galleries on ‘Spain: A Lost Horizon’.  She told the story of the Communists’ attack on the anarcho-syndicalists.  It was a very stormy meeting and there were several ejections.  The uninitiated were confused.  They did not know that, if the ghost of Marx haunted Central Europe, Bakunin and Proudhon had their own domain in the south of the continent, and the old authoritarian spirit was still afraid of them.
One thing Professor Preston cannot claim to be is ‘the uninitiated’ and probably has access to more resources on the Spanish Civil War that most of us.  All the more worrying, therefore, that he chooses to cherry-pick some over others to create his own version of events.  That Andrew Marr then chooses to sycophantically promulgate this view with tired stereotypes, instead of undertaking the job he is paid handsomely for and facilitating a balanced discussion, is irritating but sadly, no more than is expected from the BBC.

Could it be that the old authoritarian spirit is still afraid?

Professor Prestons appearance on "Start the Week"- Radio 4 programme presented by Andrew Marr.

Paul Preston is at it again. In response to a question from Andrew Marr about the anarchist split with the Stalinists described by Georg Orwell in 'Homage to Catalonia', Preston made further derogatory comments about Orwell. He claimed that Orwell's contribution to historiography was about as important as Spike Milligan's book 'Adolph Hitler, my part in his downfall' was to the history of the 2nd World War. Marr's response was 'ouch' and he quickly moved the discussion on. Preston cannot refrain from attacking Orwell who he disdainfully described as a foot soldier with no vision. No mention of Orwell's membership of the ILP  and joining the POUM.

James Keogh's politics?

THE New Year issue of the International Brigade Memorial Trust's (IBMT) Newsletter reports on last year's Blue Plaque unveiling for Ashton-under-Lyne's Spanish Civil War volunteer, James Keogh.  It says that  James Keogh's sister 'Joyce Harrison unveiled a plaque to her brother, James Keogh at Tameside Central Library, Ashton-under-Lyne on 25 November 2011.'  The author of the IBMT Newsletter piece then writes:  'Keogh, who died in Spain at the age of 22, was the eldest of 11 children and as a self-taught socialist spent many hours in the library before giving up his tailoring apprenticeship and heading for Spain in May 1937.'

Tameside TUC researched James Keogh's life and involvement in the Spanish Civil War over a number of years, and could find no evidence that he was affiliated to any party or trade union and this was confirmed by the family.  There was certainly nothing in his letters to suggest that he was a 'socialist' or an 'anarchist' or anything else.  There is much more evidence to show what he was not politically rather than what he was:  despite being dismissed as a 'commie' on one right-wing web site up North there is a strong support that James was not held in great esteem by the Communist Party during the Spanish conflict.  The booklet produced by Tameside TUC in memory of James Keogh states that  'James Keogh like the nurse Lillian Urmston from Stalybridge were both flattered by being mentioned in dispatches in the Russian Archives in Moscow:  Lillian was in these secret files to be denounced for being "too friendly with the Spaniards" and James was accused of going "absent without leave".'   These files were compiled by the trusted Communist Party officials like the middle-class woman, Winifred Bates, sympathetic to Russia and sent to Spain to spy on the volunteers.  The Tameside TUC booklet reports:  'Some of the utterances in the files of the spies who reported back to Moscow suggest a particularly spiteful frame of mind of the kind we might attributed to the classroom creep:  the reference to Lillian Urmstone being "too friendly" or the false claim of James having a "criminal conviction" seem to be typical of this.'  As the author of the booklet remarks:  'People who write this kind of thing don't, unlike James, end up in an unmarked grave.'

Furthermore it is noted in the Tameside booklet that 'The fact that James Keogh was not a member of the Communist Party or indeed any other party or trade union, would mark him down as "politically unreliable" in the eyes of the Communist Party.'  Those people on certain right-wing websites who dismiss James Keogh as a 'dupe of the Reds' would do well to remember this spirit of independence about James as would those on the left who are keen to categorise James as 'a self-taught socialist'.  The fact is, as Orwell perceived, few people in England grasped the nature of the conflict in the Spanish Civil War where as Gerald Brenan said 'words of which most of history is made - feudalism, autocracy, liberalism, Church, Army, Parliament, trade union and so forth - have quite other meanings there to what they have in France or England.'  James Keogh may not have fully understood that even when he died, but nor do many of those of the British Left and the Right who write today.  Listening to Professor Paul Preston yesterday on Andrew Marr's Radio 4 program 'Start the Week', going on about the Civil War and crudely dismissing George Orwell's ethnography 'Homage to Catalonia', as someone who worked, lived and even had a son born in Spain, I sometimes wonder how much  Professor Preston has really grasped about the culture and nature of the Spanish people, despite his proud boast last month at the People's History Museum that he has studied Spain for some 40 years.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 13, with our report on Tameside TUC's application for a Blue Plaque for James Keogh, covers 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.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

I would like to add a postscript to the report on the Paul Preston contretemps at the meeting on the Spanish Civil War.   The following anecdote is referred to by Alan Bullock  in his book "Hitler and Stalin".   Rykov a member of the Politburo reported to Lenin that an altercation had broken out in Ordzhonikidzes appartment and that a Georgian opposition leader was slapped in the face by Ordzhonikidze. Lenin found the latter behaviour intolerable.    Not even in Czarist Russia would a high official lay hands on a subordinate.   Lenin referred to both Stalin and Ordzhonikidze as "grubost"- Russian for rude and "khamstvo"- Russian for a mixture of brutality and boorishness.   If the cap fits!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

A Song to James Keogh

words and music by Michael Burns:  Feb 2012

Well his name was James Keogh, he was a son of Chartist Ashton,
a thoughtful lad, apprenticed to a tailor in the town.
As he studied in the library, read of better worlds and bolder, in many lands in Europe freedom’s light was being turned down.

So don’t forget the sacrifice of men like young James Keogh.
Over 60 men left Manchester for freedom’s fight in Spain.
They were English, they were Irish, some were communists, some Jewish. nearly forty died on Spanish soil, well did they die in vain?

He watched as Mussolini’s troops waged war in Ethiopia.
Read how Hitler dealt with gays and communists and Jews
when the newsreels showed the Condors raining death on Basque Guernica,
James packed his case to head for Spain, - was the path he had to choose.

So don’t forget the sacrifice of men like young James Keogh. 
Over 60 men left Manchester for freedom’s fight in Spain. 
They were English, they were Irish, some were communists, some Jewish.
nearly forty died on Spanish soil, well did they die in vain?

Well James sailed from Marseilles, in May of 1937
the Ciudad de Barcelona held 200 men or more
a Francoist torpedo took the ship and fifty comrades
but the Catalans looked after all the men who made the shore.

So don’t forget the sacrifice of men like young James Keogh. 
Over 60 men left Manchester for freedom’s fight in Spain.
They were English, they were Irish, some were communists, some Jewish.
nearly forty died on Spanish soil, well did they die in vain?

James was home for Christmas leave in 1937,
but he died on St Patrick’s Day at Calaciete,
a credit to his town and to north western working people,
shellfire from a fascist tank took his young life away.

So don’t forget the sacrifice of men like young James Keogh.
Over 60 men left Manchester for freedom’s fight in Spain.
They were English, they were Irish, some were communists, some Jewish.
nearly forty died on Spanish soil, well did they die in vain?

Clem Becket was a roughyed* and a top notch speedway rider,
George Brown of Kilkenny’s name is one we won’t forget
Sydney Fink and Victor Shammah are included in this number,
Michael Gallagher of Wigan yes and many others yet.

Well we’ve not forgot the sacrifice of men like young James Keogh
and the men who gave their lives to fight for freedom out in Spain
so speak out against injustice and stand up against oppression
and the men who lie in Spanish soil will not have died in vain.

*Someone from Oldham

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

'Boycott Workfare' campaign to end work-for-your-dole slavery!

Here's the latest from Boycott Workfare... take a look at our dates for the diary below and find out what else has been going on! Loads of people are taking creative and diverse action.

Across the UK people are finding creative and effective ways to bring downworkfare. Here's a flavour of some of the things that have happened recently: *

On 31st March, shops using workfare were targeted on high streets in over 20 locations across the UK: *

In Birmingham, guided “Workfare walk of shame” actions have put pressure on local store managers and engaged the public. Read their guide to organising a walk on your high street here: *

In Liverpool, there's been two actions in the last fortnight: *

After years of struggle, Edinburgh Claimants have won the right to be accompanied to meetings with A4E: *

Brighton Benefits Campaign have picketed their local A4E: *

In London, Chris Grayling had to find an alternative entrance (we suspect through the rubbish area) to an event entitled “Putting employers at the heart of the Work Programme”: *

On Mayday, high street stores who profit from workfare were again the target of protests: The campaign is gaining union support. Last month, NUT conference voted to condemn workfare and congratulate those campaigning against it. This follows national support from the PCS union and the Bakers Union, as well as loads of branches and trades councils. Read more: Some sanctions have been temporarily lifted from some of the schemes.

This month we finally saw written evidence that some of the sanctions have been temporarily lifted on three of the five workfare schemes. This shows our actions are having an impact but we won't stop until all sanctions are lifted from all five schemes permanently. More info and find out if this affects you: Dates for the diary...====================== /

26 May: National conference – How do we break workfare?/ A conference is being hosted by Brighton Benefits Campaign on the 26th May where campaigners and activists will meet to discuss How Do We BreakWorkfare? Full details at: /

This Tuesday: Boycott Workfare meeting in London/ 7pm, Tuesday 8th May, Italian Trade Union Centre, 124 Canonbury Road,London N1 2UT (just a few minutes walk from Highbury & Islington station). If you can’t make it, but would like to feed in ideas or thoughts beforehand, please email us: /

10 May strike/ Job centre staff union PCS and others from Unite and NIPSA will be on strike over pensions on 10th May. A good chance to talk to people onpicket lines about the threat that workfare poses to all. Download ourt rade union leaflet here: /Other dates?/ Let us know and we'll help spread the word on our blog /facebook and twitter. Have a look at more ideas for helping to stop workfare:

Sunday, 6 May 2012

SITEWORKER: Bosses Sabotaged Talks

JIB talks sabotaged by employers

First they offer a paltry 1.5% and then they try and pick our negotiating team!

Earlier this week the Unite negotiating team with stewards and Rank and File members headed to Scotland to sit down and maybe start talks on ‘a new deal’.

But the cheeky b*****ds objected to one of our team, well we could have said we object to all your team, but we are reasonable people. Anyway fair play to Unite, they stood their ground and the talks never went ahead. SEE BOTTOM OF THIS UPDATE FOR A REPORT

The next meeting is due to be held in London in early May, what will happen remains to be seen.............. so watch this space.

Please think about protesting in your areas similar to london over agencies even if it’s just a few people leafleting a site, it really winds them up! We can provide leaflets if you need some please email us on

The great agency rip off is not going away, in fact it’s getting worse. The 12 week rule is being ignored where you are meant to be taken on direct with same terms and conditions as company workers.

So next week’s demonstration/protest is very important. Tuesday 1st May at 6.45 at ‘The Shard’ London Bridge Station, Mace site entrance in the bus terminus.

This will be on ‘International Workers Day’ so let’s try and make it a big one. Please support this demo which we intend to repeat every week until further notice.

URGENT Information:One of our best stewards has been suspended from Ratcliffe on trumped up charges of bullying. We all know who the real bullies are and it’s not Unite stewards.

'An injury to one is an injury to all'.  We will keep you informed how that goes but we may be calling on your support soon we must stick together at times like this.

* Please find the article By Pete Murray Union News [25th April] On the JIB talks debacle.

‘Sparks pay talks suspended as employers refuse to talk to Rank and File reps’

UnionNews has learned that the first in-depth talks since the end of the so-called BESNA dispute last February have been suspended after the employers refused to negotiate with elected rank and file sparks representatives.

It is understood employers objected to the participation of a long-standing union activist who is known to have been blacklisted.

Unite targeted BESNA clients such as supermarkets in the campaign against pay cuts)

It comes as Unite officials have been attempting to negotiate an improvement on what is described as a ‘paltry’ 1.5% pay increase offered to construction electricians and other trades by one of the industry organisations.

Negotiators have so far rejected the offer, saying it would amount to a 15-month pay freeze for members.

Following the success of the seven month campaign against proposed cuts to pay, skills and safety levels by seven major construction industry employers, activists and Unite’s leadership insisted that rank-and-file reps should be part of the formal negotiating team in wide-ranging talks aimed at setting long-term agreements across the construction sector.

A frequent demand during the course of the dispute was that issues such as blacklisting, ‘bogus self-employment’ and the increasing use of agency workers and sub-contracting should be at the forefront of negotiations about the future of the construction industry.

In the face of forecasts of a fall in production of up to 3% across the sector this year, employers have continued to press for changes to working practices as well as cost-cutting.

The sector continues to account for some 7% of the UK’s overall economy, but has contracted by more than £20bn since the recession hit in 2008, according to industry figures.

Sources say talks on pay and other changes had reached a ‘crucial stage’ when the employers raised objections to the composition of the Unite delegation.

A further meeting is scheduled for early next week between Unite officials and executives from the construction companies.

Unite is insisting it will not accept any attempt by the employers to decide who makes up the delegation.

'These are elected branch officers and reps,' one official told UnionNews.

'They [the employers] have never objected before and we will not allow them to break up our team now.'

For more info please visit: Electricians Against The World http ://www . jibelectrician . blogspot . com/

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Saturday, 5 May 2012

Spanish Civil War meeting

There was a meeting on the Spanish Civil War at  the Peoples History Museum, Manchester on April 28th addressed by the "learned" professor Paul Preston a self proclaimed expert of 40 years standing on the Spanish  Civil War. Professsor Preston in his own inimitable style traduced the role of the anarchists linking them to bandits, murderers, and common criminals.     During questions I spoke from the microphone adjoining the top table.    At one point after I had heavily criticised the Professors decidedly biased narrative and vitriolic  attack on the anarcho-syndicalist role, he "lost the plot" completely, jumped up and pushed me aside from the microphone. Such behaviour was a sad commentary on the professors composure and inability to respond in a professional manner to  my critique of his quasi communist apologia for the Republican Governments repression of the most radical opponents of the direction of official policy. His quite disgraceful antics occasioned a significant degree of support for the libertarian arguments I was presenting to an audience of the IBMT trust which would not necessarily be especially sympathetic to an anarcho-syndicalist take on the Spanish Civil War.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Council candidate given a 3 month suspended sentence!

Kevin Roy West (47) a former BNP candidate of Glenmore Grove, Dukinfield, who is standing as an 'independent' candidate in the Tameside elections today, appeared before Tameside magistrates on Tuesday and was given a three-month gaol sentence suspended for 12 months after being convicted of 'racially aggravated harassment' of his next-door neighbour, Mr. Bernd Kugow.

West who pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing but offered no defence, was also put under curfew between the hours of 7.00 p.m. and 7.00 a.m., and electronically tagged. The court also ordered that West undertake 100 hours unpaid community work and pay costs of £250. A restraining order was also imposed which bars West from any contact with Mr. Kugow or his partner.

We understand that Mr. West is also facing further legal proceedings - which have been adjourned - involving a complaint of harassment against a prominent Tameside councillor. The rules on sub judice prevent us from reporting further on this case which is set to go to full trial next month.

Aggressive Academics

Preston's Elbow & Wittgenstein's Poker: the perils of visiting Professors

PROFESSOR PAUL PRESTON's performance in elbowing Barry Woodling away from the microphone  while he was speaking at the GERNIKA 75 Conference in Manchester's People's History Museum on the 28th, April 2012 (see post below entitled:  'Pro. Preston Shoves Critic Aside...'), was not unique as an act of aggression by a member of the community of scholars.  Far from it!  The more illustrious case of Ludwig Wittgenstein's poker and Karl Popper springs to mind, an occasion at which in 1945 the two great philosophers clashed.  In the Wittgenstein case a red hot poker was waved in front of Popper's face there was no direct physical contact, but with last Saturday's encounter over the Spanish Civil War between Professor Preston and Barry Woodling the historian's sharp elbow actually struck Woodling while he was trying to make a point.

The case of Wittgenstein's poker is famous and it happened at the Cambridge Moral Science Club, where a discussion group of the university's philosophers and their students met for a meeting on Friday October 25th, 1945 at 8.30pm.  The guest speaker was Dr. Karl Popper who was to deliver a paper on 'Are There Philosophical Problems?'  Professor Ludwig Wittgenstein, regarded as the most brilliant philosopher of his time, was chairman of the club and the philosopher Bertrand Russell was also present.  Popper, like Professor Preston was from the London School of Economics.  This was the only time these three great philosophers  were together.  Yet, to this day, no one can agree what precisely happened.

In Popper's account, found in his intellectual autobiography, Unended Quest, published in 1974, more than two decades after Wittgenstein's death, he put forward a series of what he insisted were real philosophical problems. Wittgenstein summarily dismissed them all. Popper recalled that Wittgenstein 'had been nervously playing with the poker', which he used 'like a conductor's baton to emphasise his assertions', and when a question came up about the status of ethics, Wittgenstein challenged him to give an example of a moral rule. 'I replied: "Not to threaten visiting lecturers with pokers."  Whereupon Wittgenstein, in a rage, threw the poker down and stormed out.'

In an article in The Guardian newspaper on 31st, March 2001, John Eidinow and David Edmonds wrote:  'Three years after Popper's death, a memoir published in the proceedings of one of Britain's most learned bodies, the British Academy, recounted essentially Popper's version of events. It brought down a storm of protest on the head of the author, Popper's successor at the LSE, Professor John Watkins, and sparked off an acerbic exchange of letters in the Times Literary Supplement. A fervent Wittgenstein supporter who had taken part in the meeting, Professor Peter Geach, denounced Popper's account of the meeting as "false from beginning to end". A robust correspondence followed as other witnesses or later supporters of the protagonists piled into the fray.'

We must await further speculation on the events of last Saturday between Prof. Paul Preston and Barry Woodling, but if it follows the case of Wittgenstein and Popper there will be much disputation as to what precisely happened at the GERNIKA 75 Conference in the Manchester's People's History Museum.
Mr. Eidinow and Edmonds in their Guardian article on crucial elements of the Wittgenstein's poker story concluded:
'the sequence of events, the atmosphere, how the antagonists behaved - there are clear memories equally clearly in conflict. The poker is red-hot or it is cool. Wittgenstein gesticulates with it angrily or uses it as a baton, as an example, as a tool. He raises it, uses it for emphasis, shakes it or fidgets with it. He leaves after words with Russell or he leaves after Popper has uttered the poker principle. He leaves quietly or abruptly, slamming the door. Russell speaks in a high-pitched voice or he roars. What really happened, and why?'

Tuesday, 1 May 2012


How many of our readers I wonder, remember that bloody awful game show 'Mr and Mrs' that used to be presented by that amiable northerner and former ventriloquist, Derek Batey?

As some of you might recall, each week contestants (all married couples), would be asked questions by Batey to see if they could second guess the answers their nearest and dearest had given previously. It was a kind of exercise in mental telepathy and lovey doveyness, as well as mind numbing idiocy.

Now after all these years, a similar show is doing the rounds in Tameside. This show isn't called Mr and Mrs but goes under the title of 'How to get your missus on the council.' Though the show as yet to play to packed audiences, it hasn't gone unnoticed in certain quarters.

As the local elections approach, Cllr. Clive Patrick a Conservative councillor in Tameside, has put out a leaflet attacking the local Labour Party for the number of couples who now sit on the council benches for Labour. Currently there are four couples who are all Labour councillors who have hit the jackpot. Kieran Quinn the leader of the council and his wife Susan, the Mayor; Denise Ward and David McNally; Jacqueline and Dawson Lane and Barrie and Ann Holland. But after the next local elections, this could increase to six couples.

In the Stalybridge North ward which is currently held by Cllr. Patrick, Labour is standing Janet Jackson the partner of Cllr. Jim Fitzpatrick, an executive cabinet member of Tameside Council. Jackson works as an administrative assistant for Jonothan Reynolds, the MP for Stalybridge & Hyde. His wife Claire, is also standing for Labour in Dukinfield/Stalybridge and if elected, will join Allison Gwynne, the wife of Andrew Gwynne the MP for Denton and Reddish, who is already on the council. Philip Fitzpatrick, the brother of Jim, is also a Labour councillor as was his father Joe. In Audenshaw, Labour are standing Teresa Smith, the wife of Labour councillor Mike Smith.

Although it's not illegal to sit with your nearest and dearest on the council, Cllr. Patrick evidently feels that there is something rather squalid about this. Others may share this view seeing it as some sort of racket or a way of augmenting the family income at the taxpayers expense. But Cllr. Jim Fitzpatrick who is also employed by Manchester City Council, believes that it is unfair to bring family into politics even when your partner, is standing for public office. Clearly annoyed by Cllr. Patricks criticism, he recently wrote on Twitter:

"Clive Patrick's latest leaflet in S/B north has a go at Jan Jackson and the man she lives with. (Himself). Jan has not mentioned the man he lives with."

Cllr. Fitzpatrick's remarks, have led to one blogger accusing him of homophobia. As the blog points out, Cllr. Partrick might well live with his civil partner who is a nurse, but there is no evidence that he's desirous of having his nearest and dearest sitting on the council with him or that his partner, is even involved in politics.

As councillors expenses have rocketed in recent years, it has become more financially advantageous to become a town councillor as jobs become more scarce and difficult to get. With average councillors expenses in Tameside of over £20,000 a year, it is little wonder that more people are now trying to jump on the bandwagon of town hall politics. In an area that is noted for low pay and poverty, many Tameside councillors now receive more in allowances than the wages paid to the average Tameside worker. Some council members such as Cllr. Fitzpatrick, claim even more in allowances. In 2010/11, he claimed £32,000 in allowances for being on Tameside Council. Perhaps this explains, as one of our readers recently pointed out, why so few Tameside councillors have full-time or part-time jobs outside of the council. With such generous allowances paid to councillors, why would one bother to seek employment?