Wednesday, 16 January 2013

New Year 2013: A Decade of Northern Voices

Sir Cyril Smith, David Hoffman, Sophie Lancaster, the Bookfair Attacks, the Free Press & the Campaign Against the Blacklist

THIS has been probably been the most successful in the ten-year history of Northern Voices.  It has been a year in which Northern Voices made a serious breakthrough by being at the forefront and making inroads into some main stream media stories such as the Cyril Smith revelations last November.  In November 2012, the Northern Voices' Blog for the first time had a monthly page-viewing public that went well into five figures. Partly the reason for this was our exposure of the issues surrounding Sir Cyril Smith on the 13th, November, at 2.30 pm on the day in which the Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, gave his speech in the House of Commons at around 4 pm, in which we knew he would would accuse Sir Cyril of child sex abuse. Paul Waugh, a journalist from Rochdale, as agreed had run the story at 10.30 am on his own site at  . The Cyril Smith post of the 19th, September 2010, now has the largest number of page-viewings, and it was this post that triggered the events that ultimately led to the events in November 2012. Naturally Northern Voices was involved in some important spade work in this regard in so far as we helped to find two vital witnesses, who were abused as young lads in the 1960s, who were now for the first time willing to go on the record. On Monday, last week, one of these witnesses identified by Northern Voices had his first interview with the main solicitor dealing with the Cyril Smith abuse case.

Throughout the Autumn of 2012, after the exposure of Jimmy Savile in the main stream media, the Northern Voices' Blog linked the cases of Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith in several postings. All of these posts scored well in terms of page-views. And yet, when the Cyril Smith case is examined in depth historically there are so many loose ends that lead in political and sociological directions to issues of power; such as the relationship between institutions and elites that may be involved either directly or indirectly: our printed publication Northern Voices No.8 ran a story in 2007 entitled 'Was Cyril Smith Set Up?: Rochdale MP in Seventies Sex Scandal'. In Southern Europe political corruption is often more blatant and less furtive than it appears to be in England, but some aspects of the Cyril Smith case seem to suggest curious glimpses of political networking that operated beneath the surface of respectable political live.

In 2012, our N.V. page-views as whole almost tripled. The attack by the free-lance photographer, David Hoffman, on Freedom Press, in which he alleged the publisher had breach his copyright led to several posts that scored highly on the N.V. Blog. Our approach was to defend Freedom from the Hoffman claim for damages, because it seemed to us to threaten the freedom of minority publications to publish material and David Hoffman seemed to making a living out of demanding fees from publications that may have inadvertently used his photos.

The year had begun with a debate with Dave Douglass on the N.V. Blog about Libya and NATO involvement, which Barry Woodling had originally introduced by at the Northern Anarchist Network Conference in Newcastle in November 2011. Barry followed this up with an interview in NV13 with Azeldin-El-Sharif, the Chair of the British Libyan Solidarity Campaign. The NV13 issue included a piece in the Tameside Eye column about Kieran Quinn and the Labour controlled Tameside Council flagrant awarding of contracts to the company that blacklists building workers – Carillion. Since Hull MBC has now banned companies guilty of blacklisting from putting in tenders, MPs are being urged by Unite to sign the Early Day Motion on Blacklisting, and the likelihood that a motion will be on the agenda at the coming North West TUC Conference in Manchester in March, Northern Voices' feels that its decade-long campaign with the Manchester electricians has been entirely justified. Northern Voices No.13 reported on Tameside Trade Union Council's success in getting Tameside MBC to award a Blue Plaque to the local Spanish Civil War volunteer who died fighting Fascism in Spain in March 1938.  The interview with Sophie Lancaster's mother, Sylvia, as a leading article in N.V.13, gained the journal much support especially at the showing of the play 'Black Roses' at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, when we had to have a special reprint of the publication.  Sophie Lancaster was a 'Goth Girl' from Bacup in Lancashire, who was murdered in 2007 for dressing differently.

The attacks on Northern Voices' supporters at bookfairs in October in London and December in Manchester by members of a minority political body, the Anarchist Federation, has only served to stimulate interest in the N.V. publication and its Blog.  The journal is certainly better known now nationally than at any other time in its ten-years of life, and this is largely owing to the efforts of Sally Hymen/ Miller and her friend the Anarchist Federation groupie, Ron Marsden, who now does voluntary work for Alex McFadden at the Salford Unemployed Centre.  Northern Voices was also banned at Touchstones' Museum bookshop in Rochdale, because of an attack in the last issue by Debbie Firth, of the protest group Touchstones' Challenge, on the Link4Life company that runs the Museum.

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