Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Rochdale MP's call to clear crimes of sexual grooming victims

IN a Parliamentary Criminal Justice System debate last week Simon Danczuk, Rochdale's MP, asked that the government quash any criminal convictions against girls who were raped in the recent sexual grooming case.  He requested that crimes which were committed by the victims as a consequence of being raped be overturned. 

Simon Danczuk had said that a victim known as Girl 'A' during the trial at Liverpool Crown Court, smashed up a vending machine in one of the Heywood takeaways in which she had been repeatably raped.  At the time she had been arrested and it was only during police questioning that she had described her sexual exploitation. 

Mr Danczuk explained:  'It became apparent that at least some of the victims had committed crimes that were clearly a response to the abuse that they had received - a cry for help.'  He continued:  'I press the minister to review the cases in which the victims were prosecuted, and possibly revoke some of the action against them... in such cases, children must always be treated as victims, never as willing participants, and certainly never as criminals.'

In an article by Simon Coyle in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer, Simon Danczuk added:  'I believe this is an area where a big miscarriage of justice is taking place.'  Since he became a Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, has stood out someone willing to raise awkward issues on behalf of victims like these.

Blacklist Support Group - Short Report:

1. A few snippets of recent press coverage:

Big article in the Scottish Sunday Herald
Steve Rotherham MP puts down an EDM in parliament calling for a public inquiry


Historical stuff from Economic League
Irish workers blacklist link to MI5 

2. Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation continues this week with UCATT giving evidence on Tuesday 30th October

3. Carillion Blacklisting protest @ NEC, Birmingham

Wed 31st October 4pm

Carillion are bidding for a £1.4billion publicly funded project in Brimingham - if you're from the midlands and can assist please get in touch asap.

4. Crossrail dispute is now in its 6th week.
There have been talks at ACAS and the consortium has said it will reinstate any of the dismissed workers exceprt the UNITE steward Frank Morris.
Frank Morris is being targeted and blacklisted because he is a union activist.
Picketing continues at Westbourne Park tube all this week - 7am til 12:30 every day.

5. Did you work of these projects?  If you have contact details for anyone who worked on the Jubilee Line, Royal Opera House, Pfizers or Connah Quays or were participated in any of the Joint Sites Committee activities then these people may also be possible claimants or witnesses - please ask them to get in contact with the BSG asap.  Anyone from Scotland who feels they may have been blacklisted or worked on the projects indicated above should consider attending the meeting to be held on:  10:30am Sat 17th November
STUC offices,  Glasgow

Keep the Faith,  Blacklist Support Group 
email: blacklistsg@gmail.com 
facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/blacklistSG/ 
video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRB9DjmhBHg 
blog: www.hazards.org/blacklistblog 

Falling over Five Leaves

The Doghouse is the spiritual home of Northern Voices!
Malcolm Muggeridge once described the job of an editor as that of 'a blind man with a stick'.  In other words an editor ought not to be a single-minded campaigner who knows everything, because monomania is not a luxury he can afford if he or she is to do the job properly.  On Northern Voices our editorial approach is to stumble forward as best we can nervously deciding how to deal with such tricky problems as that presented by the interview with Sophie Lancaster's mother, Sylvia Lancaster, and deciding on a sincere attitude in our leading article in NV13 to her call for an extension of the Hate Laws to deal with horrendous crimes like the murder of her daughter for being a 'New Romantic' or a 'Goth'.  I was much less anxious about Northern Voices' criticising someone I knew like Bob Miller, than I was at challenging the views of a stranger like Sylvia Lancaster, because I thought that someone who was within the libertarian and anarchist tradition would appreciate the need for criticism, and while accepting that there would be those who would spring to his defence I expected them to employ reasoned arguments.  How wrong can one be!  Sylvia Lancaster thanked Northern Voices for airing the issues surrounding her daughter's death and she said that she was in no way offended by our obvious differences over the matter of our opposition to her Hate Law campaign, while the friends and family of Bob Miller employed methods more commonly associated with right-wing organisations in this country:  the people involved would appear to have been associated with the national organisation called the Anarchist Federation (formerly the Anarchist Communist Federation), although it is understood that Nick Heath has described the attack as an 'unofficial action' by members of the Anarchist Federation.

Perhaps, if Northern Voices is to engage in the investigative and independent journalism commonly associated with Private Eye down South, we must expect that our spiritual home may come to be the Doghouse.  Last Saturday, at the London Anarchist Bookfair an incident occurred in which we were certainly were placed in the Doghouse and for the moment we leave it to a report on the Five Leaves Blog fiveleavespublications.blogspot.com/ (dated 28th, October 2012) below to describe what happened:

'Congratulations to the organisers for another great Bookfair.  But there was an unpleasant incident. Five Leaves stall was next to that of Northern Voices. Early in the day a small group from Manchester asked the one person at NV to leave. It was not clear to me at that moment why. It turned out that the magazine had some time ago written a rather unfavourable and, indeed, rather unpleasant obituary of the Manchester anarchist Bob Miller. Some time later in the morning a large group of people, from Manchester and elsewhere, returned to the stall, and when the stall holder refused to leave, wrecked it, stealing most of the material on display and covering the stall-holder and the stall (and one unrelated stall-holder behind NV) with salad cream. Though the stall-holder was uninjured, save for a bruised face when he fell and some irritation from the cream getting into his eyes, he was pretty shocked, as was anyone seeing the incident. I have no doubt that his original article was unwise and should not have been published - the best critique of it appears on NV's own rather good blog, October 4th at www.northernvoicesmag.blogspot.com  - but a dozen or so people attacking one person and his stall (with little heed for collateral damage) was bullying.  I've mentioned in a previous posting (about David Hoffman vs. Freedom magazine) that when negotiations between injured parties break down that people must find a way of resolving their difficulties without going to law or, in this case, force of numbers and salad cream - ideally by arbitration. Fortunately this incident took place at a quiet time, in a quiet corner of the Bookfair.'

Former A4e boss bungles interview on C4 news!

What a ghastly spectacle it was watching former A4e boss, Emma Harrison, trying to riddle off the hook as she was grilled by the channel 4 news presenter, Khrishnan Guru-Murthy, last week about A4e's abysmal performance running the government's Work Programme.

It seems that during the first year of the Work Programme, A4e have only been able to get four out of every one hundred (4.0%) of their clients into a job and have failed to meet their target of 5.5%. The government say that if no action was taken to help the unemployed into work, they would expect five out of every hundred (5.0%) to obtain a job.

Despite A4e's appalling performance, Emma Harrison, has become very wealthy due to her majority shareholding in the company. Earlier this year she was paid an £8m dividend and recently despite resigning as the Chairman and a Director of A4e, she received a further £250,000 payment. All the company's UK turnover is derived from government contracts and money from the British taxpayer. The government have given £46m to A4e to get people on the Work Programme back to work and are expected to publish their own figures on performance next month.

When questioned by Guru-Murthy about the figures which were obtained by Jackie Long, the social affairs editor for C4, Harrison could only say the figures were wrong but was unable to provide any figures herself. She did however, claim that she had been caught up in a 'political maelstrom' and had been used for political reasons. She also added: "I have been bullied, my staff have been bullied, and because of your reporting my children were bullied. Bullying entrepreneurs like me, is not good for the UK."

Despite her protestations, Emma is laughing all the way to the bank. As one former A4e employee once told me, company employees used to joke that A4e really stood for 'All 4 Emma'.

Spanish Civil War Talk

· A talk on Spanish Civil War : - Thursday November 15th at 7pm - a free event at the Kitchen Cafe on Great Moor Street: Talk presented by Lisa Croft, who has researched her Grandfather's involvement in the Spanish Civil War including his capture at the bloody Battle of Jarama.  This will take place at The Kitchen, on Great Moor Street in Bolton town centre.

· Keep updated at www.boltonrepublic.org.uk

For other events contact Alan at Unit 4,
Commercial Union House,
Great Moor Street,
01204 770881

Friday, 26 October 2012

Holmfirth Picturedrome - "The North of England's finest intimate music venue?"

The small town of Holmfirth in West Yorkshire which lies in the Holme Valley in the Pennine hills, is probably best known for being the location for the BBC situation comedy, 'Last of the Summer Wine'. But this small town is rapidy becoming known for another feature, which is its much acclaimed music venue, the Holmfirth Picturedrome.

Earlier this year, both Fairport Convention and The Zombies played at Picturedrome and next month, the legendary rock band 'Wishbone Ash' are also doing a gig there with a supporting band.

Musicians who have previously performed here include: Alabama 3, Joan Armatrading, Fun Lovin Criminals, Walter Trout, Joe Bonamassa (featured in video). Next March (2013) the venue will be playing host to Robin Trower, and the following month, the blues legend Johnny Winter.

The picturedrome was originally known as the Home Valley Theatre and was opened in 1913. It still continues to function as a cinema and is equipped with two bars. The total capacity is 690 but this is standing only. There are around 100 unfixed seats which are apparently, available on request. Ticket prices for most gigs are around £20 and can be booked online on the official website. There is unfortunately, no train station in Holmfirth and access to the town, is mainly by car and public transport. However, car parking is easily available.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


After ceasing publication on 13th September, due to financial difficulties, the Tameside Reporter is to be re-launched today (Thursday) following a buy-out by the housing company, New Charter Housing Trust Ltd.  In a joint statement issued by both the newspaper and New Charter, both organisations have stated that as from tomorrow, 15,000 newspapers are to be delivered free and a further 10,000 are to go on sale to the public at a cost of 45p.

Although all previous staff were made redundant, Nigel Skinner the Editor, is to remain in charge of both the Tameside Reporter and the Glossop Chronicle with David Jones remaining as news editor for the Chronicle. The newspaper is also to recruit two new trainee reporters.

Although New Charter and the Tameside Reporter, say the newspaper will remain 'entirely independent' with its own editorial staff and will be 'community focused', this has been brought into question due to the intimate links that exist between New Charter and Tameside Council.  The Manchester and Salford branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), have even suggested that there is 'suspicion' that New Charter could  be acting as a 'proxy' for Tameside Council in buying the newspaper.

There are currently five Tameside Councillors who have declared their employment with New Charter in the register of council members interests. The Executive Leader of the council, Kieran Quinn, is listed as a Director of the New Charter Building Company. Cllr. Jim Middleton, is also a Director with the company as well as Cllr. Gerald Cooney, who is the Chairman of New Charter Housing. Cllr. Maria Bailey, is a board member of the New Charter Housing Trust and Cllr. Vincent Ricci, is a board member of the New Charter Building Company.

Apart from now owning a Tameside newspaper, New Charter also owns Tameside Community Radio Ltd and sponsors three Academy schools in Tameside - New Charter Academy (formerly Hartshead school), Silver Springs (formerly Ridgehill school), and Copley school in Stalybridge. In addition the C.E.O. of New Charter, Ian Munro - a former Tameside Council employee - sits on the board of school governors of Tameside College, New Charter Academy, Silver Springs, and the Tameside Sports Trust, that runs recreational facilities on behalf of Tameside Council.

Time will tell whether the Tameside Reporter continues to exercise editorial independence under its new owners. But will the paper be happy to print articles and readers letters that criticise the local council, New Charter or their various other business interests? Some poeople think not! One person who recently reponded to the Roy Greenslade, Guardian media blog, had this to say about the New Charter buy-out:

'We are in for lashings of corporate agenda and the banning of dissenting voices.'  If this is the future for local democracy in Tameside, then God help us!

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

First Hillsborough, now did South Yorks Police doctor evidence at Battle of Olgreave?

Today, the Yorkshire Post's political editor, Jack Blanchard, claimed that 'allegationws that Sir Norman Bettison privately boasted that South Yorkshire Police were "trying to concoct a story" blaming Liverpool fans for the Hillsborough disaster were revealed to Parliament by a senior MP last night.'  Merseyside Labour MP, Maria Eagle, gave an account of a letter from John Barry in which he outlined a conversation he had had with Sir Norman; Mr Barry wrote:  'Some weeks after the (Hillsborough) game, and after I had been interviewed by West Midlands Police, we were in a pub after our weekly evening class.  He (Norman Bettison) told me that he had been asked by his senior officers to put together the South Yorkshire Police evidence for the forthcoming inquiry.'  According to Mr Barry, Bettison, then a middle ranking police officer, had said:  'we are trying to concoct a story that all the Liverpool fans were drunk and we were afraid that they were going to break down the gates so we decided to open them'

Sir Norman Bettison, who is now chief constable of the West Yorkshire Police, and is facing two separate investigations over his conduct by the police watchdog, has always denied any part in the cover-up that followed the stadium disaster.  Sir Norman has announced that he will retire next March following the referral of his case to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over claims that he gave misleading information in the wake of the Hillsborough disaster and that he tried to influence West Yorkshire Police Authority's decision-making process in relation to the referral.

West Yorkshire Police has failed to make an immediate response to Maria Eagle's allegations.  But some are now calling for Sir Norman's immediate resignation.

It has been a bad week so far for the police in Yorkshire, as it is not only their conduct in the Hillsborough disaster that is now being questioned, but pressure is building up for the police evidence to be examined after the case against 95 striking miners at the 'Battle of Olgreave' collapsed.  The prosecution withdrew after a Home Office handwriting expert gave evidence that a police officer's signature had been forged.  The South Yorkshire Police stated that these police statements 'amounted to inaccurate, perjured evidence at the very least, and called into credibility ... the chief constable'

Chris Kitchen, the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, who was at Orgreave as a 17-year-old on strike, said the miners have ever since maintained they were the victims of police malpractice including fabricating evidence to secure convictions.  Mr Kitchen said:  'We want an investigation into what the South Yorkshire police, and other forces, did during the strike, now we have seen the proven malpractice following Hillsborough exposed for what it was.'  The implications of the police propaganda following the Hillsborough disaster and the police conduct during the Olgreave operation and prosecutions, now seriously threatens the reputation and credibility of those involved.

Blacklist Support Committee latest report:

1. Scottish Affairs Select Committee & parliament: 
the Information Commissioner's Office gave evidence at the Select Committee on Tuesday and under questioning from MPs admitted that they had only seized 5-10% of the documents held by the Consulting Association. This obviously opens up the spectre of many thousands more workers actually being blacklisted and the documents still being in circulation.
Listen to a recording of the committee evidence.

More MPs are beginning to take an interest following the TUC call for a Public Inquiry and hopefully the case will soon be raised on the floor of the House of Commons. 

2. High Court claim: 
The full unredacted blacklist database has now been released to Guney Clark & Ryan solicitors as part of the High Court claim in conjunction with the Blacklist Support Group. Individual managers who supplied information can now be identified from across the 44 construction firms who participated in blacklisting.

The Blacklist Support group are making an appeal to managers who participated in blacklisting to salve their conscience, come forward and give witness statements which will expose the truth of how the Consulting Association worked. The alternative may be that people eventually end up being 'outed' in court.

3. Recent press coverage: 
Financial Times http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/ee37d03c-1948-11e2-9b3e-00144feabdc0.html#axzz29jQ3yEUg 

Mirror http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/information-commissioners-office-60000-blacklisted-1384925

4. Crossrail dispute:
the dispute over the dismissal of 28 UNITE members and the blacklisting of their reps on the Crossrail project is now in its 5th week. There is a daily picketline at Westbourne Park crossrail project and there have been flashmob protests at other Crossrail sites including Tottehnahm Court Road and Moorgate.

The union is asking people to protest by emailing the employers at helpdesk@crossrail.co.uk.
to contribute to the EIS hardship fund, make cheques payable to:
‘Joint Sites Committee’, send to: 70 Darnay Rise Chelmsford CM1 4XA.
5. Fiddlers Ferry
Steve Acheson is approaching his 4th year at Fiddlers Ferry.We need a big turn-out when the anniversary arrives and branches should consider making a donation.
"Fiddlers Ferry Hardship Fund",
c/o 13 Thompson Close,
Dane Bank,
M34 2PQ
or via bank transfer:
sort code: 07 00 93
Account number: 33333334
Acc # ref: 0712/703758789

6. Carillion -GMB - contracts:
The rumours floating around the construction industry are that Carillion has lost a number of major public sector funded projects including in Liverpool and possiblyin Birmingham because of the report produced by GMB about Carillion's role in blacklisting.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Demos policy wonk wants controls on how jobseekers spend their state benefits!

Busybody, Max Wind-Cowie, works as a social policy expert for the think-tank Demos and he loves to meddle, with the lives of others, especially the poor and downtrodden.  He runs the 'Progressive Conservatism Project' which identifies Conservative values and policies that have progressive ends.

At the recent Conservative Party conference held in Birmingham, Wind-Cowie, addressed a fringe meeting and spoke about a big idea that he would like the government to adopt. He believes that the state should be able to control how people in receipt of 'income based' Jobseekers Allowance, spend their money. He told the meeting:

"If it's my money you are spending I think we collectively should be free to lay down some ground rules on what you spend it on."

The Demos man explained to the meeting that technology such as pre-payment cards, like Mastercard, could be used to control the way in which people spent their state benefits. It was also possible he explained, for the system to distinguish between those who were on 'contribution based' Jobseekers Allowance and those on the means-tested 'income based' Jobseekers Allowance' who he believes, should have their spending controlled, because they are spending the state's money.

To support his case, Wind-Cowie, referred to a survey carried out by Demos which claims that of 2,000 people questioned, 60% said that the government should be able to control what people spend their universal credit on and 90%, said that some groups should have their expenditure controlled. It was also claimed that 68% of respondents think that people should be stopped from spending their benefits on gambling and 54% think, that people should be prevented from spending their benefits on things that are bad for their health, such as booze, cigarettes and pornography.

There were some Tories at the fringe meeting who were less enthusiastic about Wind-Cowie's big idea, believing that it might be all piss and wind. John Howell MP, felt that the idea that all people who were on benefits were scroungers, only applied to a minority, and that the vast majority of people were on benefits through no fault of their own. David Mowatt MP, felt that while the state had a legitimate interest in how people spent their benefits, people should be allowed to 'save up for a treat' if they wanted to.

Given the kind of negative press reports that the public are bombarded with on a daily basis about welfare scroungers, it is questionable whether surveys of this kind as carried out by Demos, have any real value. It is well known that public attitudes towards people on state benefits are often based on little knowledge or on misleading and biased reports that people read in the press.

Although it describes itself as an independent 'think-tank', Demos, which was founded in 1993 by the former Marxism Today editor Martin Jacques, and Geoff Mulgan, is closely linked to the Labour Party and was seen as central to New Labour's vision for Britain. Many think-tanks refuse to say who funds them but they are seen by the rich and powerful, as a way of exerting influence over government policy makers.

As the 'scrounger' caricature increases in popularity and people on benefits become demonised in the press, making it easier for the government to cut welfare spending, we should not be surprised that some people are now calling for controls on how people spend their benefit payments. But Max Wind-Cowie, can hardly take credit for launching this idea that as all the hallmarks of the 'nanny state'. Already, such a system is operating in Australia and it has had a mixed reception. Some people have complained that they feel stigmatised by having their spending controlled by means of a smart card while others, have said that the cards have helped them by controlling their spending.

It is unlikely that Wind-Cowie comes into contact with the unemployed very much, even though he's anxious to control their lives, but Demos say, that they are keen to have a debate on this "ethically difficult issue." If any of our readers feel inclined to join the debate and wish to tell Mr. Wind-Cowie how they feel about this issue, he can be contacted on:  020 7367 6311 or max.wind-cowie@demos.co.uk

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Will taxpayers fund Hillsborough Officer accused of using improper 'influence'?

YESTERDAY, the Yorkshire Post in an editorial comment wrote:     '(T)here will be dismay that Sir Norman (Bettison), the West Yorkshire police chief who plans to take early retirement next March unless his departure is brought forward after he lost the confidence of his own police authority, will be able to call upon this (special) fund which can potentially provide individual officers with up to £1m for legal expenses.'  Sir Norman Bettison stands accused that he tried to improperly 'influence' his own police authority's position in the Hillsborough investigations in 1989. 

It was revealed yesterday that Sir Norman will be able to call upon a taxpayer-funded 'war chest' that helps chief police officers with up to £1m in legal expenses should he face a legal action in the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster.  Sir Norman has been well blessed with a salary of £225,000 as West Yorkshire's Chief Constable and previously got a tax-free lump sum of £328,000 after he retired as Merseyside chief officer.

The Yorkshire Post is saying Sir Norman should be put on 'gardening leave' while the investigation is being held into his behaviour, if he won't step down immediately. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Unite: anti-union claims flare up

UNITE, the country’s largest union, is calling for urgent talks with Crossrail to thrash out claims that trade union victimisation has taken place and an anti-union bias exists across the project.

Unite has been seeking a project agreement for over a year from Crossrail - which could benefit the thousands of workers employed on the largest construction project in Europe – but to no avail.

Unite wants an agreement delivering direct employment under the terms of the relevant existing national agreements - this would mean workers engaged on the cross London rail project being directly employed and the full terms of recognised construction agreements applied, where applicable.

There is a concern that 'self employment' practices are prevalent and undermining the safety of the project going forward.

Such a deal would also provide the recognised construction union shop stewards a structure to raise issues such as health and safety (H&S) without any fear of being discriminated.

Unite has highlighted two separate cases at Westbourne Park in west London and Chatham where companies completing work for Crossrail have adopted aggressive anti-union tactics.

Deputy regional secretary for Unite’s London & Eastern region, Vince Passfield, said:
'Unite at a Crossrail site at Westbourne Park successfully organised the workforce and appointed a site steward and H&S rep for Eis Ltd, which is a contractor working under BFK (Bam-Ferrovial-Kiers).  Having raised serious H&S concerns, the H&S rep was himself unnecessarily suspended on a minor infringement and five weeks later transferred off site.

'Two workers, who took photos of serious H&S concerns and raised them with management, were also transferred off site under the instruction of BFK.  The shop steward then raised further concerns and was then isolated from other workers.  Unite raised these concerns direct with Crossrail. Two weeks later BFK cancelled the Eis Ltd contract (which was previously extended to September 2013) citing that the work was now complete. This action effectively dismissed 28 workers without good reason.

'Unite has serious concerns about the underlying motives of BFK and Crossrail for allowing such suspicion to be present.  We are urgently seeking a resolution to re-engage the dismissed workers. However, if our suspicions and concerns are confirmed with regard to trade union victimisation, then Crossrail needs to be warned that this union will not tolerate our members or, in particular, our representatives, suffering any form of victimisation or discrimination.  Unless a suitable resolution is reached it could be a long hard winter for Crossrail and, indeed, we fear for the industrial relations stability of the project.'

Thursday, 11 October 2012

BMA calls for government fitness for work test to be suspended!

The last Labour government under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, can take credit for laying the foundations for much of the welfare reform that is currently being pursued by the Tory/Lib Dem coalition government. It was the disgraced former Work and Pension Secretary, James Purnell, who was responsible for introducing modern-day slavery to Britain with his work-for-your-dole schemes and who was responsible, for introducing the much discredited fitness-for-work test, the 'work capability assessment' (WCA).

Since the introduction of Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) in October 2008, which replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support paid on incapacity grounds, there has been considerable criticism about the work assessments carried out by Atos, the French information technology company. Evidence such as that provided by Citizens Advice, has highlighted numerous cases where people with serious health conditions such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, terminal cancer, bipolar disorder, heart failure, and severe depression, have been found fit for work.

Last week, the case of 27-year-old Ruth Anim, was reported in the Guardian newspaper. Ruth was born with complex medical needs that include learning disabilities, epilepsy and heart problems. She needs constant one-to-one care and is currently attending life skills' classes to learn how to make a sandwich and a cup of tea. In addition, she cannot cross the road on her own and has no concept of danger. Cecilia Anim, Ruth's mother, who is the deputy president of the Royal College of Nursing, told the newspaper: "She (Ruth) doesn't know that if a car hits you it will kill you; she has no concept of danger."

Despite Ruth's medical and learning problems, she was found fit for work when she attended a medical assessment carried out by a doctor working for Atos. Ruth was assigned to the 'work-related activity group' and is now required to attend regular meetings at the jobcentre to begin "mandatory preparations for going to work."

Describing the 45-minute medical assessment as "chaotic from start to finish", Cecilia Anim, says that because Ruth was very anxious, she was unable to sit still and repeatedly got on and off the medical couch while the doctor was talking to her. However, the medical report says: "Client was able to sit on a chair with a back for 45-minutes." Anim also says that during the medical assessment, Ruth, "went to the tap to wash her hands and started spraying water everywhere." The doctor then shouted at her and said: "Stop doing that!" Anim says she responded to this by saying: "No, no, don't speak to her like that. She's got learning difficulties; she doesn't understand."

Cecilia Anim, says that the medical report that Ruth received about the work capability assessment, was riddled with factual errors. In his report, the doctor described Ruth as a 'male client' and said that Ruth's speech was normal although her mother did most of the speaking. When asked how old she was, Ruth, told the doctor she was 18-years-old although she is 27- years-old. Anim says that when she told her daughter's consultant neurologist that Ruth had been declared fit for work, he "was beside himself with fury" and said to her "Have they done a risk assessment?"

Several months after attending the Atos medical assessment, Ruth was called into the jobcentre to discuss getting back to work. Anim also attended this interview with her daughter and says that she said to the jobcentre adviser, "Are you having a laugh?". When made aware of Ruth's medical and learning disabilities, Anim says: "She asked Ruth, 'what day is it?' Ruthie said Thursday, but it was Tuesday. She asked 'what time is it?' She said 5.30pm but it was 2.30pm." Although the adviser told Anim that Ruth could appeal the decision, she also advised her that she must attend the jobcentre each week and show that she is actively seeking work.

This case prompted one Guardian reader to write to the newspaper describing its report on Ruth Anim as "an affront to a civilised society." But it seems that some people in Tory Britain, think that to show compassion nowadays to those less fortunate than themselves, is something that is positively indecent. Yet opinion polls show that a majority of people want to see more benefit cuts and believe the government pays out too much in benefits and that welfare levels overall, should be reduced to what they see as 'congenital dependents'.

Atos, who were awarded the assessment contract in 2005, claim that its reports are "evidenced based, clearly presented, legible and fully justified." But a report published by Citizens Advice earlier this year, found a "worryingly low" level of accuracy in the WCA's. Published statistics of the 600,000 new claims for ESA from October 2008 to May 2010, showed that 39% were assessed as fit for work. Around a third of these people appealed the decision, of which, 40% were successful.

Earlier this year, the British Medical Association (BMA) conference passed a motion stating that the "inadequate computer-based assessment" performed by Atos, had "little regard for the nature or complexity of the needs of long-term sick and disabled persons" and passed a motion calling for the WCA to be suspended "with immediate effect."

Diary of a Chambermaid: Grooming Geriatrics

Is Colin Lambert Taking His Eye Off The Ball Again?

WHEN the report by the Rochdale Borough Safeguarding Children Board was published last month into the exploitation of children in Rochdale, a local MP Jim Dobbin said that owing to the shock of the Peter Connolly case, a toddler who died after suffering terrible abuse in London, social services in Rochdale 'took their eye off the ball' by concentrating on small children and neglecting the plight of vulnerable teenagers.  Mr Dobbin said:  'After the Baby P scandal social services across the country, including Rochdale, became too focused on younger children and younger families.'  At the time, Rochdale Council's leader, Colin Lambert, who works closely with Jim Dobbin in Heywood, Rochdale, seemed to echo these sentiments.  It sounded nice then as a comment to make to the media, but if we now start to focus on vulnerable teenagers might not adult care suffer?

Yesterday, it was announced in the Rochdale Observer that 'high-level talks have already begun between council leaders and Link4Life to thrash out how the new organisation [to outsource adult social care services] would work'.  Chris Jones in the Rochdale Observer (Wednesday 10th, Oct.) writes:  'Town hall chiefs want to out-source adult social care services as they bid to slash £45m from their budget over the next two years' and that 'their preferred partner is Link4Life - the organisation which currently runs Rochdale Leisure Centre and Touchstones Museum, but which has no background in adult care.'  Link4Life has already had a colourful and controversial history in the management of some of its operations in the town, particularly with regard to arts and heritage.

Sheila Downey, Rochdale council's director of adult care services, told the Rochdale Observer'This could be in partnership with an already existing social enterprise and we are working with Link4Life about a possible partnership.'  Ms. Downey added:  'If the council does decide to enter into a partnership with Link4Life there would be a distinct social care arm of the organisation, and staff already working in adult social care would continue to provide services.' 

Saving are expected to be in the area of about £500,000, out of the £45m the Council hopes to save by April 2015.

But what of the risks involved?  As I write, Councillor Lambert is being threatened by Meadows Care, the biggest private care firm in Rochdale, which has instructed barristers and is considering issuing a writ against Councillor Lambert.  Colin Lambert has criticised independent private children's homes after the conviction of nine men for abusing young girls earlier in the year.  Meadows Care were not involved in the scandal and it has since lost several placements, it claims, as a result of Councillor Lambert's comments.  This legal threat comes as it was announced that Steve Garner, Rochdale's head of children's services, has resigned.

Now imagine, if you will, a situation in an Edwardian terrace-house context in the North of England rather similar to that portrayed by Octave Mirbeau in his book The Diary of a Chambermaid, only placed among the modern English working-class rather than in French high society.   In the French novel the Chambermaid, Mademoiselle Célestine works for a man who fetishizes her boots, and she later discovers the old man dead, with one of her boots stuffed in his mouth. Now in the North of England one mustn't expect such a sophisticated drama but consider the possibility of an elderly man who encourages young lasses from the local school to enjoy the comforts of his home while they tart themselves up in readiness for the youth club; perhaps the man is merely a voyeur who likes to be close to and to watch the young lasses dress and make themselves up. A decade may pass and the school girls grow up and are gradually replaced by other younger generations until the man himself becomes very old, weak and vulnerable. Yes, perhaps one of these girls is different from the others, senses some weakness in the old man and is able to turn the situation around; as Mademoiselle Célestine did in Octave Mirbeau's novel by becoming a bourgeois cafe hostess, who mistreats her servants in turn. Perhaps one of the girls will start to dominate the old man and gain control of his possessions so it becomes like a kind of geriatric grooming: are the politicians and civil servants, who run our towns so lacking in imagination that they cannot grasp that the tables can be turned so that we could end up with old vulnerable people being manipulated. In The Diary of a Chambermaid, Mademoiselle Célestine draws the conclusion which the reader is also invited to draw: 'However much riffraff are vile, they are never as vile as decent people'.

Councillor Lambert and other council bosses may well be playing with fire as they ponder the possibility of out-sourcing adult care to Link4Life.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Jim Savile & Cyril Smith: Dead Men Tell No Lies!

'Have Private Eye got nothing better to do than attack a person who's dead and can't answer back?,' that was the question Norman Smith put to the Rochdale Observer in September 2010,  after his brother,  Sir Cyril Smith, the famous Rochdale MP died.  Private Eye had just run a story about Sir Cyril in which some allegations of impropriety at Cambridge House boy's hostel in Rochdale were aired again.  Cyril Smith had originally been accused by the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in May 1979, of inappropriate behaviour and abuse of a sexual nature to boys in his care while he was managing Cambridge House in Rochdale.  In September 2010, Norman Smith further claimed:  'These allegations were disproved at the time.'

Because the article in the Rochdale Observer seemed to exonerate Sir Cyril, Northern Voices then contacted a former editor of RAP who told us:  'Norman (Smith) is wrong, although I accept ... that he may not know it and Cyril may not have told him the whole story or the final outcome.' (see Northern Voices No.12: 'Big Cyril & his Kid Brother').  The allegations were never tested in an English Court because as the former editor of RAP told us:  'Cyril slapped a writ on us 3 hours after publication ... (this) would be regarded by lawyers as a "gagging writ".' 

Today, the allegations of rape and sexual assault by the DJ Jimmy Savile are being claimed to have taken place 'on a national scale' for over 40 years.  Esther Addley and Dan Sabbagh write a leading article in The Guardian today, which says:  'The earliest allegation dates from 1959' according to the head of serious crime investigations at the Metropolitan police, and when asked as to whether it was now possible to say if Savile, who died in October 2010 at the age of 84, was a serial abuser of women, Commander Peter Spindler tole The Guardian'I think the facts speak for themselves around the number of women who have come forward and spoken about his behaviour [and] his predilection for teenage girls ... It's a pattern of behaviour that is being presented to us.'

In a comment on the post below 'Jim'll F**k it,' a writer argues that:  '(He) would add that both of them [Jimmy & Cyril] took advantage of their public positions and abused the very disadvantaged youngsters whom they claimed to be championing, safe in the knowledge that nobody would believe the kids, hence doubly increasing the disadvantage the children suffered. Firstly, because of the abuse and secondly by the silencing, and further reducing the self esteem of vulnerable youngsters. Interesting, too, that two self righteous national institutions, the BBC and then Liberal Party knew of rumours and turned a blind eye. They then became prominent cheer leaders when the abusers were knighted. Establishment hypocrisy at its most blatant.'

As I write, Commander Spindler has said the Met is in dialogue with Leeds General Infirmary and Stoke Mandeville hospital, both which had close relations with Savile, adding:  'His pattern of behaviour does appear to be on a national scale.'  Police are said to be pursuing 120 separate lines of inquiry involving the DJ.  It is also believed that ITV is planning a follow-up Exposure program on Savile by Mark Williams-Thomas, the child protection expert who led the investigation broadcast last week.

It makes you wonder why these people were never properly held to account in their lifetimes.  Both Sir Jimmy Savile and Sir Cyril Smith lived long lives to well into their 80s, and yet their was no serious tenacious investigations into their conduct.  Perhaps it is because we are a class-ridden society in which the powerful are always believed, and the plebs are disregarded, or perhaps it says something about our libel laws that protects the powerful.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch. NORTHERN VOICES No.12 with the Cyril Smith 'Instead of an Obituary' is also still available 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.
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Manchester's Liberal Myth & Liverpool's Hidden History

3rd Northern Radical History Meeting

York, Nottingham, Bradford, Liverpool and Greater Manchester were represented at the 3rd meeting of NRHN:  participant interests and research included syndicalism; Chaplin and clog dancing in Liverpool; the Luddites and next year's anniversary of their executions in York; the election riots of the 1830s; the endgame of the Indian Empire; Jews and other foreigners in Manchester and the Wigan Diggers.

Bill Williams in his talk, asked the question as to what extent is Manchester justified in calling itself a 'liberal city' or indeed, how strong is England's claim to be a tolerant society?  He began by examining the history of immigration in the 1930s and the impact of British immigration laws between 1933 and 1938:  capital and skills useful to Britain were permitted to be imported, and jobs were available to immigrants so long as they could not be taken by British workers, Jews who could find a guarantor who was willing to put up £50 were enabled to enter and there were a few industrial trainee-ships available to foreigners.  Following Kristalnacht, or Night of Broken Glass in November 1938, when the Nazi SA attacked Jewish shops in Germany and Austria, the immigration policy in Britain was relaxed somewhat, but it was still not easy for the  less educated  Ostjuden from eastern Europe who were resident in Germany and Austria to access or grasp the intricacies of these laws.

Bill Williams has been able to trace the development of this phenomena of the Ostjuden in microcosm through his access to a hundred or so letters from the parents of a Ostjuden girl, who had herself been allowed to come to Manchester as a refugee through the program of 'Kinder transport' that prevailed while her parents were left to fend for themselves in Austria.  Her parents later moved illegally from Austria to what they regarded as the relative safety of Zagreb in what is now Croatia, but as the political situation developed they were later shot in the street by Croatian Fascists.  Yet, in the same way that the Ostjuden failed to appreciate the international situation in Europe, so the island people of England demonstrated both institutional blindness and anti-Semitism as Roman Catholics, Quakers, and even some leading Jews resisted the immigration of Jews into this country, in some cases owing to the fear that it would lead to more local anti-Semitism.  Bill concluded his lecture by saying that the claim to a liberal tradition in Manchester was really largely 'empty rhetoric'.

Steve Higginson, a former Liverpool postal worker and union official, described what was meant by 'Writing on the Wall' in Liverpool as being hidden history from below.  He explained how it had developed out of the Liverpool Docker's Dispute in the 1990s, and through the involvement of the playwright Jimmy McGovern.  He said that he had been influenced by E.P. Thompson's essay 'Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism', published in 1967, about the imposition of the time discipline on the English working class through the changes brought in by the industrial revolution.  Steve argued that Liverpool as a port city, had escaped to some degree this time neurosis owing to it being dominated more by nature rather than the factor of time, and as a consequence he felt that the culture there was distinct and different from that of the industrial inland towns and cities in the UK.  The appreciation of this distinction was leading the 'Writing on the Wall' group to reassess and reinterpret the 1911 Great Transport Strike; to reconsider the origins of the shop steward's movement and to examine ideas about anarchist influences in Liverpool on the 1911 dispute in the light of this.  He seemed to be saying that a kind of unconscious 'anarchism' was at work here which 'chimed' with the local workforce and was particularly best represented among the dockers.  He referred to a sympathetic strike that had taken place in Liverpool at the time of the execution of the anarchist educationalist, Francisco Ferrer, in Barcelona following the riots there that became known as the 'Semana Tragica' (Tragic Week).  A play is now understood to be a work in progress dealing with these events. 

Steve Higginson said that he had been influenced by Tom Nairn's book 'The Break-up of Britain' (1977), and saw in it a reflection of the 19th Century 'Council of the North', he felt that this should lead to a 'Northern Parliament'.   He argued that the North/ South Divide was now a significant reality and would have to be tackled.  This would seem to chime with the comments of Paul Salvison, a speaker at the previous Northern Radical History Network meeting in June.  It was reported that this coming Thursday, at the Adephi Hotel in Liverpool, there will be a meeting entitled 'Austerity!  My arse!' which will be addressed by Len McClusky and Ricky Tomlinson.

The next meeting of the NRHN is expected to be in January 2013, the venue is likely to be Bradford.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Crossrail Project: 28 EIS Workers Victimised?

...So we fight back!

28 workers including 2 reps have been sacked at the Westbourne Park site for daring to join a Trade union! One of those sacked was a safety rep. Shortly after the sacking there was potentially a very serious accident at the site, when an earth moving conveyor [hopper] collapsed, luckily though no one was injured, this time anyway!

Since the sackings, and for the last 3 weeks there have been daily pickets at the Westbourne Park site. Please get to the picket anytime between 7am to 1pm. The nearest tube is ‘Westbourne Park’ and the site is opposite the station. 4 or 5 pickets can cause havoc at the Crossrail site, just imagine what 40 or 400 could do!  Remarkably there are those that still say blacklisting is a thing of the past?! But its going on right here right now! So as well as the daily pickets we have had a some great protests over blacklisting and EIS sackings with our comrades in Blacklisted Supporters Group [BSG].

BAM the main contractor at Westbourne Park are one of the biggest ‘Blacklisters’ going. There has been plenty of coverage in the press lately on ‘Blaklisting’. Massive thanks to BSG. When employers break the law our response has to be ‘CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE ALL THE WAY’.

Combine meeting? What Combine meeting?

Did you know that there was a Combine meeting on the 3rd October? No? Neither did many of those who did not receive notice of the meeting! So at the meeting on the 3rd Oct there were only 10 in attendance. If you were not informed about the meeting then please send emails/letters of complaint to: Bernard ‘moving forward’ Mcaulay. Email address: Bernard.McAulay@unitetheunion.org   

Note: Another combine meeting is planned for November, so make sure you are informed.

Play by the rules?  Crown House don’t!

We know that Crown House are still up to no good, so keep the ‘play by the rules’ forms going and also the weekly protests near you, if you can.  National TUC March on October 20th in London

Unite may be assembling at the Head Office in Holborn early on the day, to march to the Embankment. So get your banners out and show the Con-Dems what we think of their cuts!
Dig deep and give generously.

We are appealing to you all to contribute to the EIS hardship fund, make cheques payable to ‘Joint Sites Committee’ and send to: 70 Darnay Rise Chelmsford CM1 4XA. Please raise at your workplace/union branch/Trades Council/any meetings or wherever you can. Cheers.

Finally [and good news], we now have now got a few activists on Unite's [construction] Regional Industrial Sector Committees [RISC’s] and the National Industrial sector Committee’s [NISC’s]. Nice one, keep on keeping on eh!!

An injury to one is an injury to all: Solidarity forever. 

For more info please visit... Electricians Against The World http : //  www . jibelectrician . blogspot . com    / 
Get in touch with us by Email siteworkers@virginmedia.com 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

'Jim'll F**k It!': Larger Than Life Northern Figures

Knock-On Effect Of Jimmy Savile allegations

IT has been said the Northern men have too close a relationship with their mothers for their own good, and that was the interpretation put on the Jimmy Savile allegations that he had inappropriate relations with young girls, when, on Tuesday, I spoke to a lad I know from London who lived in Rochdale during the 1970s.  'I don't want to offer any kind of potted psychology,' he said, 'but both Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith were larger-than-life men who had strange relationships with their mothers'

Today, Mark Lawson, in a commentary entitled  'Exposure: The Other Side of Jimmy Savile-review' wrote in The Guardian:   'Savile would have considered a 23:10 ITV peak-time slot career death.  But it seems almost certain to be the case that his status as a cherished television personality died there  - posthumously - on Wednesday night, with the irony that one of the most talked-about shows of recent times had to be screened in this low-ratings zone because its stories about a children's TV presenter were so unsuitable for children.' 

Jimmy Savile's home town was Leeds, and though it is thought to be unfair by some to try a dead man for paedophilia when he can't defend himself, his accusers argue that Savile was so powerful at the BBC that he could never have been brought to court during his lifetime.  Last night's dossier by Williams-Thomas even suggests repeated assaults took place on BBC premises, which was enabled by the fact that Savile specialised in broadcast formats involving the young.  The program, 'Jim'll Fix It' was a long-running British television show, broadcast by the BBC between 1975 and 1994.  It was presented by Jimmy Savile and produced by Roger Ordish.  When Saville was knighted, the accompanying book for the 1991 series of the comedy sketch show carried a statement that in future 'Jim'll Fix It' would be known as:  Sir James will bring his influence to bear in arranging matters to your satisfaction.

It will not have been lost on some, that the Savile case has close resemblances to the allegations against Sir Cyril Smith, the former Rochdale MP, who died in September 2010, with regard to young boys in his care and one comment on a website runs as follows:  'Why? They didn't drag all the obvious scandal up when Cyril Smith died.  It was all "what a top bloke" and none of the spanking-little-boys-taking-money-from-asbestos-factory-in-constituency.'   Both Sir Cyril Smith and Jimmy Savile were larger than life Northern men, and great self publicists with massive egos and powerful friends; both seem to have been 'Mummies' Boys'.

On this Northern Voices' Blog it was noticeable that the posting entitled 'SEXUAL ABUSE: Cyril Smith's Family vs Private Eye', dated 19th, September 2010, got a sudden surge of page-views earlier this week; as did another more recent post entitled '"Pleb" Phenomena in Rochdale Sex Grooming'.  Today, Mark Lawson claims that 'by midnight (last night), the reputation of a peak-time legend had already been convincingly devastated in - appropriately - what broadcasters call the graveyard slot.'   The producers of last night's program, Williams-Thomas say that publicity for the film had caused other women to come forward.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch.  NORTHERN VOICES No.12 with the Cyril Smith 'Instead of an Obituary' is also still available 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. 
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Northern Radical History Network: Final details

Hi All,
Please find below details of the Northern Radical History Network meeting on Saturday 6th October 2012 at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Apologies if notice has been delayed, it seems some of you on the email network have not received an email I sent about 3 weeks ago with the programme for the day (below). Please remember you can always find out news and updates on the NRHN blog at http://northernradicalhistory.wordpress.com /

• Please email me with any business you would like to put on the agenda for the (brief) business meeting at the start of the day.

• For lunch, there are nearby cafes or you are welcome to bring your own sandwich etc.

• The John Dalton building is the MMU building building opposite the old BBC building. If you’re coming from Manchester city centre, it’s before you reach the Mancunian Way motorway flyover.

If you have any queries, please drop me a line.

Best wishes,


Tuesday, 2 October 2012

The Historian Eric Hobsbawm dies!

ERIC HOBSBAWM, who according to one account became 'regarded as influential in the birth of New Labour', was a distinguished Marxist historian.  Tony Blair in 1998, made him a Companion of Honour.  His fellow historian, Niall Ferguson described his four volume historical coverage from 'The Age of Revolution' to 1994's 'The Age of Extremes', as 'the best starting point I know for anyone who wishes to begin studying modern history'.

He was certainly good at glossing, damage limitation and slipping off the hook of responsibility for the crimes committed in the name of Marx and Marxism in the Soviet Union and elsewhere.  Hobsbawm remained in the British Communist Party all his life, even after the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956.

In a relatively recent essay 'Marx Today' (see his book 'How to change the World'), written after a Jewish Book Week in 2007, Hobsbawm writes:  'One cannot say Marx died a failure in 1883, because his writings had begun to make an impact in Germany and especially among intellectuals in Russia, and a movement led by his disciples was already on the way to capturing the German labour movement.'  Then Eric Hobsbawm invites us:  'Walk into Highgate cemetery, where a nineteenth-century Marx and Spencer - Karl Marx and Herbert Spencer - are buried, curiously enough within sight of each other's grave' and he continues triumphantly to add, 'When both were alive, Herbert was the acknowledged Aristotle of the age, Karl a guy who lived on the lower slopes of Hampstead on his friend's money' and yet, 'Today nobody even knows Spencer is there, while elderly pilgrims from Japan and India visit Karl Marx's grave and exiled Iranian and Iraqi communists insist on being buried in his shade.' 

Without wishing to promote Herbert Spencer as a thinker of substance in the modern world, it is curious how Hobsbawm wants to portray Marx's grave almost as a shrine with tribes of pilgrims from far and wide worshiping at it.  Perhaps Hobsbawm was fixated on graves and the immortality of Karl Marx, because he himself was an old man when he wrote this late essay, and he wanted to reassure himself that his own life had not been in vain, and that 'the idea' would survive his own passing.  This anxiety is clearly profound where he writes that if you type Marx's name into Google 'he remains the largest of great intellectual presences, exceeded only by Darwin and Einstein, but well ahead of Adam Smith and Freud.'

It is this is an hierarchical view that the biggest is the best that did much to permeate and poison thinking in the 20th Century.  I suppose it had something to do with the influence of positivism on western thought:  positivism was based on the idea of Auguste Comte, the French philosopher, who called for a new social doctrine based on the natural sciences.  Crudely put, according to Comte's 'Religion of Humanity', mankind was developing out of darkness with the belief in magic being replaced by religion and thence onwards to the rationalist realm of secularism and science.  For Hobsbawm, the historian, the progress was social out of 'Primitive Rebels', through millenarian cults and anarchism, beyond the machine-breakers and Luddites of the early 19th Century to the Chartists, reaching parliamentary socialism, only to culminate, as we now know, with New Labour, and the preacher Ed Milliband going on this week at the Labour Party Conference about a 'One Nation' Britain.  This 'irresistable escalator' of progress is, in fact, not so different from the model proposed by Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx's neighbour lying in Highgate cemetery, who also had a view of Evolution as a principle of science that predicted the continued upward development of the human species.

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm, historian, born 9th, June 1917;  died 1st, October 2012.

The Ayatollahs & a Free Press!

Salman Rushdie & the Medieval Mind
EVERY job must have its own risk assessment!  Just as the miner risks being crushed; just as an electrician, like me, risks electrocution; so the writer must take his chances.  Salman Rushdie, in 1988, published his fourth novel 'The Satanic Verses', which on the 14th, February 1989 became the subject of a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, because it was alleged that it was mocking the Muslim faith and he was accused of blasphemy.  The book was burnt in Bradford, after an English solicitor told some of his Muslim clients that they would have little hope of bringing a case against the book in the English Courts, but had suggested that they may draw attention to their anger by burning the book in public.  It was after this that a chain reaction was set in force across the world amid accusations that it offended against Islam.

Political rivalry between Saudie Arabia and Iran for influence in the Islamic world, allowed Iran to get the edge over the Saudie regime, after Ayatoller Khomeini issued his fatwa against Salman Rushdie and the 'Satanic Verses'.  At that time, in the late 1980s, I was working closely with a group of Kashmiri Muslims, who were campaigning for an independent Kashmir; so I was very aware of what was happening.  In the book itself, Rushdie used magical realism and depended on contemporary events and people to create his characters; which is partly inspired by the life of Muhammad.  The fatwa issued by the Iranian leader, Ayatoller Khomeini, publicly condemned the book and declared what amounted to a death-bed fatwa against Rushdie, with a bounty for anyone who executed him. 

This month, Mr. Rushdie has published his latest book - a memoir entitled 'Joseph Anton' - which he describes as 'a non-fiction novel'.  The book is written in the third person, and the form and language is that of a novel except that it is true.  Joseph Anton was Rushdie's alias during his years in hiding before the fatwa was lifted.

Recently, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, there has been some optimism about some the possibility of change in the Arab world, but now, following the over-reaction to the anti-Islamic film 'Innocence of Muslims', which was posted on YouTube and triggered protests in the region, more concerns have arisen.  Salman Rushdie told Ginny Dougary in the FT Weekend Magazine, last Saturday, that:  'The trouble is that what's happening in those countries since the so-called Arab Spring is the rise of this very organised extremist group, which is Salafi Islam, and the Salafists are so fanatical that they frighten other Muslims'.

Rushdie added:  'It's easier for people to grasp what happened to me because it's not just my story now, it's everyone's story.  It's the story of our time, rather than of an individual.'   Interestingly Mr. Rushdie asserts:  'This odd idea that there is a right not to be offended is nonsense - None of us has that right - If  you're offended it's your probem'.

Salman Rushdie took a risk in 1988, and any decent writer should be willing to take a risk today, otherwise he or she would never be able to embrace the 'literary vitamin'.  Rushdie knows this and that is why he told Ginny Dougary:  '... it was very clear to me, almost from the beginning, that there were ... elephant traps that I really needed to avoid.  One was fear - as a writer, to end up writing frightened, timid little books that say, "Please don't be upset with me for doing this".'  Rushdie says, 'such books would probably be worthless and uninteresting for anyone to read'.  It is hard to believe that anyone from the fanatical Salafist Islam faction could ever write a novel that anyone would want to read. 
Sallying forth against a Free Press in Manchester
But we don't need to go to the Middle East to find the Medieval mentality, outlandish concepts and politically perverse ideas, which seem to rail against freedom.  In Manchester, on what describes itself as the left there are some rum folk:  these last few weeks a group that has been nick-named 'The Gang of Four' has been sallying forth bent upon damaging Northern Voices by interferring with our outlets for the publication.  Indeed, they are very nearly as dangerous as Dad's Army:  they have fancy nick-names like 'Madam Mao' (Schoolmistress), the 'Manchester Toad' (psychiatric social worker), Spikymike (retired civil servant & housing manager) and David (not Dave) under-the-Pavement (unknown profession).  Their justification for what they have been about is Northern Voices' publication of an obituary for Robert Miller; a former Oldham schoolmaster, who seemed to lead a double-life as a respectable figure of the community in his day job and as a 'class struggle anarchist' in his time off.  This obituary drew on the Mr. Miller's superb ability to have the strength to live a double-life by contrasting his efforts with those of Ken Keating, a colourful Mack-the-Knife figure from Salford, who who died in the same month as Mr. Miller in June 2011, and also claimed to be an anarchist:  my own contribution to this obituary, which had 'many hands' in its assembly and production, was to try to make sense of Mr. Miller's political double-life alongside Jean Paul Sartre's idea of authenticity and 'bad faith' - I made reference to Sartre's famous waiter doing his job at the pavement cafe while his 'real' thoughts are elsewhere.  This is the kind of comment that is liable to lead to trouble among lefties in England just as tormented as those that fanatical Muslims have for Salman Rushdie's  'Satanic Verses'

It just goes to show that there is nowt so queer as folk, comrades!.
The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.13, now on sale with all sorts of stuff others won't touch. NORTHERN VOICES No.12 with the Cyril Smith 'Instead of an Obituary' is also still available 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.
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com