Thursday, 28 February 2013

Police Commissioner at Rochdale Council

IF we didn't already know that New Labour had made the word 'Community' fashionable, last night, after listening to Tony Lloyd the Manchester Police Commissioner addressing Rochdale Council, we would now; for he flogged the word to death along with 'building bridges' between the police and the citizens, co-operation between the criminal justice system and the public. Policing, we learned, required expertise in the areas of terrorism, organised crime and child sexual exploitation. And we mustn't forget domestic violence, for 'a woman is at the greatest risk in her own home'. He didn't say where a man is at the greatest risk, perhaps at work on a building site, but that is not a fashionable thing to say. When it comes to general current catchwords, Mr Lloyd is a master at the art. 

When the Rochdale councillors came to ask him questions it was about specific points of concern such as the closure of the old Heywood Police Station. But Mr Lloyd knew how to answer that one by saying 'The model of policing is about the community not the buildings'. A woman councillor asked about the number of 'not guilty pleas' in domestic violence cases, to which Tony said: 'Crime is about victims!' 'What about the loss of Rochdale Magistrates' Court?', asked another councillor. Tony responded by going on about the cost of the administration of justice and witnesses not turning up at trials. Coun. Richard Farnell worried about the invasion of a group of travellers on Kingsway Business Park and the consequent problem of people being attacked by wild dogs. To which the local police have said that they don't have the resources to deal with this problem. To which Mr Lloyd said: 'I do recognise the problem!'

The Rochdale Council Budget:

PERHAPS the most controversial item in the amendments to the Labour Council's Budget proposals was that in the Liberal Democrat proposal of cutting the number of Councillors from 60 to 40 and a consequent reduction in the number of local elections. This was met with derision from the Labour benches. To Labour Councillor, Liam O'Rourke, this was undemocratic in so far as less councillors would mean 'less democracy'. Yet the Mayor had earlier in this full council meeting complained about 'the decrease in public interest in local democracy' despite the number of councillors lolling on the benches in the Town Hall. There were less than half a dozen observers in the public gallery at last night's full council meeting. Councillor Alan Brett made sneering references to the Lib-Dem Party saying that with their numbers they could easily meet in a telephone box. 

The issue of payment the removal of 'Council funding for Trade Union posts' (Lib-Dem) and 'withdrawal of funding provided to Trade Unions' (Tory), was raised in both the Lib-Dem and Tory Party amendments. Councillor Farnell spoke of the help from the trade unions in putting through the current cuts, and Coun. Liam O'Rourke said: 'The implementation of decisions to make redundancies were helped by our relationship to the trade unions' 

Now there's a thought!

The trouble is that both the Tories and Lib-Dems point to the absurdity of the Council paying money to the trade unions to attack the council and defend their members. The reality, it seems, if we are to believe the Labour councilors, Coun. O'Rourke and Coun. Farnell, is the opposite, is that the Council-paid union bosses, presumably Unison in this case, actually seduces their own membership to accept the bitter pill of redundancies without a murmur. The issue is not perhaps that the council is foolish for paying the union bosses, so as that the council is wise in that the trade unions by taking the bosses' money are undermined in objectively pursuing the interests of their own members.

In the end the Budget proposed by the governing Labour Council was accepted, and both the Tory and Lib-Dem amendments were decisively rejected.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

New Royal Exchange Northern Award


Details have today been announced of The Royal Exchange Theatre Hodgkiss Award - a new award for emerging theatre directors providing those with a passion for new work a significant platform to develop it.

The award is the only scheme of its kind in the north that celebrates the unique collaboration between a writer and director.  It offers a theatre maker of outstanding promise the chance to direct a new piece of work – by a writer of their choice – in a production fully supported by the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester in 2014. 

Actor Christopher Eccleston and award-winning playwright, Rona Munro will be joined by Bush Theatre Artistic Director, Madani Younis and Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre, Sarah Frankcom on the judging panel. Also on the panel will be Sue Hodgkiss, local business woman and philanthropist, whose support has made this inaugural award possible. 

Applications can be submitted online from Monday 8 April until Saturday 18 May. Five candidates will be shortlisted and will be asked to attend an interview and work-sharing day on Saturday 29th June at the Royal Exchange Theatre. The successful Director will be announced at 7pm that evening.

Royal Exchange Theatre Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom said: 'The creation of new work and the collaboration between the director and writer is at the heart of the theatre-making process. The Royal Exchange Theatre is excited by the potential of this award to introduce new voices, explore new ways of making work collaboratively and engage with the modern world.' 

Judging panel member Madani Younis said: “I’m delighted to have been asked to be one of the judges for the inaugural Royal Exchange Hodgkiss Emerging Directors Award.   The Award offers a unique opportunity for theatre-makers to be bold and imaginative and potentially to work with the Royal Exchange Theatre and I am looking forward to joining my fellow judges in discovering and supporting new theatre-makers.' 

Trade Union Activist Condemns libcom website

BECAUSE the readership of the NV Blog is a broad Church, with viewers from many different political persuasions, it may be necessary to explain who Dave Douglass is, and outline his standing with regard to the trade union and anarchist-left. His activist record in politics goes back to the 1960s and he played a major part in the Miners' Strikes both in the 1970s and 1980s. He has written extensively on these strikes and industrial matters in the last half of the 20th Century. He held positions in both the National Union of Miners (NUM) and later in the Transport & General Workers' Union (now Unite the Union). I have known him since the strikes of engineering apprentices in the 1960s. He has always described himself as an anarchist. 

Dave Douglass has historical knowledge of the attempts to blackball Northern Voices and the NAN, and he refused to accept an invite to attend the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair in 2011, when he found out that the organisers 'David' and Sally were banning both the NAN and Northern Voices. He also has had a first-hand account of what happened at the London Anarchist Bookfair in 2012, because one of closest mates was working on the next stall to the NAN/ Northern Voices stall when the members of the Anarchist Federation (AF) first threatened the stall-holder if he didn't clear off, and then half-an-hour later launched their attack to enforce departure.

Dave's comments below are a response to a thread/ post and series of comments published on the anarchist website, libcom, on the 21st, February. He forwarded this to Northern Voices because he fears that the editors at libcom may delete it. Last night, a member of the NV Editorial Panel examined the libcom site and could not find Dave's account. An AF groupie, Spiky Mike, had asked for the NAN thread to be taken down. 

"How a so called 'libetarian' website can host such vulgar proto-racialist anti working class spew is frankly beyond me. It reminds me of the young Conservative conference social during the miners strike of 84/5 when all those chinless upper class twits sat round singing about miners families having only 'half half a hamster' for our xmas dinners. The deeply felt hatred of the traditional working class in general and northern working class in particular engendered in these comments is palpable. Needless to say it is also factually totally incorrect. Members of the AF did not 'disassociate themselves' from comments made by Comrade Bamford in the Northern Voices mag, they physically attacked him, overturned the bookstall, and stole books . Prior to this they had brought about a ban on display and sale of NAN literature and bookstall at Manchester Anarchist Book fare and subsequently censored an individual member, abusing him and forcing him firstly not to be allowed to speak and secondly to leave the building. They campaigned against all radical bookshops selling NAN literature and attempted to stop the printers printing it. That is not' simply disassociating 'yourself a long anarchist tradition, that is sectarian violence, and silencing opposition, a long fascist tradition. AF must in fact disassociate itself from these sectarian attacks and allow freedom of thought and speech and publication for any section of the movement. What sort of vision for a future society does it present if we all have to conform to one particular view of the world and the people in it ?" 

Emergency Motion for North West TUC Conference in March 2013

Emergency Motion for North West TUC Conference 2013:
Title:  Blacklisting in the Construction industry 
IN March 2009, the offices of the Consulting Association were raided by staff acting on behalf of the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). Documentation discovered on the premises included a blacklist containing the names of over 3,000 construction workers. This illegal data base contained personal information about (inter alia) the trade union and political activities of building workers.

Conference notes that this data-base also included personal details of environmental activists, MPs, journalists and academics, as well as details about their families and other interests. Conference also notes, that information provided on these files was, according to David Clancy, Special Investigator for the ICO, provided by the police and security services. 
The Consulting Association was set up and run on behalf of at least 44 major construction companies; including Sir Robert McAlpine; Carillion; Balfour Beatty. Many of these companies paid both an affiliation fee, a fee for each name they requested to be monitored, and provided supplementary information on trade union activists and other workers in their employ. 

Though many of these companies have been exposed for their links to the Consulting Association, they continue to receive tax-payer funded public sector contracts: for example Tameside MBC has handed over lucrative contracts to Carillion to maintain and manage their properties.

Conversely in January 2013, Hull City Council took the decision to refuse to award public contracts to the 44 construction firms who were implicated with the secretive blacklisting organisation: The Consulting Association. More recently Knowsley MBC and Tower Hamlets MBC have done the same, and Harlow MBC are reported to be considering their position with this regard. 

Recent reports in the national press and other media have disclosed that blacklisting had been taking place on Crossrail and Olympic projects. Conference consequently calls upon the TUC: 

i. To support demands for a full investigation/ public inquiry into blacklisting, both past and present, and into the intimate involvement of both the police and security services in these iniquitous practices.

ii. To draw up a list of local authorities who are awarding contracts to blacklisters like Carillion, and to try to get them to award publicly funded contracts to companies that are not among the 44 companies that were affiliated to the Consulting Association.

Produced by Tameside TUC & Greater Manchester Contracting Branch for Greater Manchester County Association TUCs' 'Emergency Motion'. 

Homage to Catalonia & George Orwell Lecture

International Brigade Memorial Trust.
Reg. Charity No: 1094928

Saturday 2nd March, 2013
George Orwell: Homage to Catalonia: 75 Years On

Venue: Manchester Conference Centre and Hotel 
Sackville Street, Manchester M1 3BB

Registration: 10 am – 10.30 am
Lectures: 11 am – 5 pm

Speakers: Dr Richard Baxell, Dr Tom Buchanan, Christopher Hall,
Professor Paul Preston, Chair: Professor Mary Vincent 


1.  (Please circle one of the four options and include appropriate fee)
Conference fee: £10
2. Conference fee/refreshments/lunch: £25 
3. Conference fee: £5 or £10 on the day 
4. Conference fee/refreshments/lunch: £20
Pre-booking for lunch is essential. Deadline: 31st January, 2013 
Payment: Cheques payable to: IBMT
Please send payment, together with this booking form to: 
Charles Jepson, Treasurer, Aysgaard, Beardwood Brow, Blackburn, BB2 7AT

For further information contact: 
Hilary Jones:  (0161 224 1747)
Dolores Long:  (0161 226 2013) 

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

What's on? Looking at the local music scene: Number 71 Bar, Stalybridge!

On Friday night, I called into the Number 71 Bar on Mottram Road, Stalybridge, to watch the Alex Mckown band. The venue was formerly the Mottram Road, No1 Conservative club. About two years ago, it was transformed into a snooker and sports lounge and there are live concerts every Friday, when admission is free. Concerts and functions also take place on Saturday's, but these are ticket events only.

Alex McKown's first gig was at "The Moon and Sixpence" in Glossop in 2008. The 17 year old, who comes from Glossop, first started to play the guitar when he was six years old but started guitar lessons at Tameside Music Academy, when he was eleven years of age.

Since his first gig in 2008, McKown has acquired something of a reputation for being a guitar prodigy and has performed with his own band at the 'Great British Rythm and Blues Festival' in Colne in 2009, the 'Newark Blues Festival' and the 'Ramsbottom Blues Festival'. In 2011, he was nominated for the British Blues Award.

Whether or not Mckown is a guitar prodigy, is questionable, but he's certainly a good blues guitarist. When watching him and his band perform on Friday night, I was not disappointed. Playing second lead guitar with McKown, was Tony Auton, of the Cheyenne social club.

The band played a set list which comprised their own songs from their CD's as well as covers including a song by Billy Preston and 'Texas Flood', by Stevie Ray Vaughan (SRV).  Many guitarist would have given this song a wide birth, simply because it is notoriously difficult to play well, because SRV was a guitar prodigy, and possibly one of the best blues guitarists of all time. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Mckown's version of it and enjoyed listening to the band. For  a lad aged 17 years old, he's got a lot of talent as a blues guitarist, and he's certainly worth watching.

In April, Steve Whalley, - who played with Slade II replacing Noddy Holder - will be performing at the same venue. Whalley originates from Stalybridge but moved down south many years ago. He was lead singer and guitarist with the Stalybridge band the Puritans and also played with Greasy Bear who were regular performers at the legendary 'Magic Village' in Manchester. For further details contact the Number 71 Bar.

Carillion Accused on Human Rights Violations

TROUBLED construction giant Carillion face more allegations of human rights violations as part of the construction industry blacklisting scandal in a court case to be heard at the Employment Appeal Tribunal in Blackfriars on 12:00 Tuesday 26th Feb. If successful, the case would significantly extend the of the influence of the Human Rights Act remit into the area of employment law.

Case Reference:  D.R. Smith v (1) Carillion, (2) Carillion (JM) Ltd. (3) Schal International Managemen Ltd.

The human rights claims are made by engineer Dave Smith who was repeatedly dismissed and refused work once his name appeared on the illegal Consulting Association blacklist after he had raised concerns about asbestos, poor toilet facilities and contaminated waste on London and Essex building sites controlled by companies in the Carilion Group. Mr Smith is one of thousands of blacklisted construction workers who discovered he was on the construction blacklist for being a member of a trade union. Mr. Smith's blacklist file runs to 36 pages and includes his name, address, date of birth, NI number, car registration full works history, photographs and copies of his safety reps accreditation with the Schal office stamp on it. 

Carillion are to be grilled by MPs when they are called to give evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting in employment. The Select Committee has already heard evidence that Frank Duggan (ex-Group Personell Director for CarillionPLC), Liz Keates (current Head of HR at Carillion Health) and John Ball (ex-Head of HR at Carillion PLC) were all at various times the “main contact” between Carillion and the Consulting Association.

Mr Smith's file is only one of hundreds of files with entries referring to firms in the Carillion group including John Mowlem now trading as Carillion (JM) Ltd and Carillion's in house employment agency Sky Blue. The GMB union estimate that from October 1999 to April 2004 that Carillion checked at least 14,724 names, making the firm one of the bigger users of the blacklist at the time. Invoices and salesbook records show that Carillion paid £37,814.72 to the Consulting Association between 1999 and 2006 and its managers were still attending at meetings as late as 2008.

Mr. Smith's test-case Employment Tribunal in January 2012 gained notoriety when the companies admitted in court to blacklisting him because he was a trade union safety representative on their building sites but he still lost the case on the legal technicality that he was not directly employed by the companies but via an employment agency.  

John Hendy QC will argue that case should be allowed to continue to the next stage of the legal process because the original ET decision is in violation of the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on Human Rights - Article 8 (the right to privacy) and Article 11 (the right to freedom of association). Human rights are supposed to apply to "everyone" but in UK employment law, apparently they only apply to direct employees. Mr Smith's legal team is arguing that existing UK law should be interpreted in such a way as to uphold human rights and therefore the tribunal should extend the legal protection to all "workers" and not just direct employees. 

Dave Smith said:
'I am taking this claim to highlight a major human rights scandal.  Honest trade union members were blacklisted for nothing more than raising concerns about safety issues or unpaid wages.  It is not illegal to be a member of a trade union - but it is illegal for big business to systematically breach an individuals human rights.  Carillion are a multi-national corporation and seem to think they are above the law.  For many years they played an active role in this secret conspiracy that MPs have described as a "National Scandal".  Blacklisted workers will continue to expose Carillion and the other blacklisting firms until we get the justice we deserve.' 

Carillion is already facing legal claims for corruption, bullying and racism by nearly 100 Swindon Hospital workers represented by the GMB union. It is believed that Carillion has lost publicly funded contracts with local authorities because of the fall-out from the blacklisting scandal.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Rochdale's Spodden Valley & Asbestos Threat

LAST Friday, the abandoned asbestos factory, formerly Turner Brothers, was set on fire in the early hours.  In tomorrows Rochdale Observer the head of planning on Rochdale Council said:  'The fire has now potentially made the site subject to action under thew Building Acts.'  It seems,according to Mr Rowlingson that because of the risk of asbestos polluting the surrounding area, the council 'could protect the building and could then seek to recover its costs from the owner.' 

The site is now owned by Renshaw Properties Ltd., a British Virgin Isles registered company, owned by two family trusts, for which the Jersey-based Hawksford acts as trustees.  The cost to clean up the site has been put at £17m.  

We are certainly missing Jason Addy now,  and his campaign organisation, the Spodden Valley group.  Mr. Addy who got married last year and moved to Clitheroe, had for over ten years led a campaign to clean up Spodden Valley where the Turners Brothers site is.

Met. Police Inquiry into building site Blacklist

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna

Shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna, who led a Commons debate on blacklisting last month, welcomed the Met's decision. Photograph: BBC/PA
Move reverses earlier decision not investigate claims of Met police involvement in compiling 3,200-name blacklist
THE Metropolitan police have launched an investigation into allegations of collusion in the blacklisting of construction workers. Officers are alleged to have handed information on individual workers to the blacklist, keeping thousands of builders and electricians out of work and driving some into long-term destitution.  This month it emerged that the Met had dismissed a complaint from the Blacklisting Support Group which claimed police involvement in compiling the 3,200-name list that came to light in 2009.  After growing concern among politicians and union leaders, however, the decision has been overturned and the force confirmed on Thursday that an inquiry was under way.   
'An investigation is now being carried out under the supervision of the Independent Police Complaints Commission,'  the Met said, and 'it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time.'
The information commissioner's office said last year that some of the content on the blacklist could only have come from the police or security services.  The files were collected by the Consulting Association, a clandestine organisation funded by major names in the construction industry. 

Dave Smith, the leader of the Blacklist Support Group, welcomed the announcement, telling Building magazine:   'There are entries on some blacklist files that are surveillance reports about anti-racism demonstrations that took place nowhere near a building site. We have other evidence to suggest that this information was compiled by undercover police officers.  There are entries on other blacklist files that contain private, sensitive information that has never been in the public domain and that no manager or director of a building firm would ever have access to.' 

The shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, who last month led a debate in the Commons on blacklisting, welcomed the police investigation as a positive step in getting to the 'full truth'.

He said:  'Serious allegations that some information on blacklist files came from members of the police and security services … need to be looked into fully as part of getting to the bottom of the blacklisting scandal.' 

Sarah McSherry, a partner at Christian Khan solicitors, the firm representing the Blacklist Support Group, called for the investigation to be handled entirely by the IPCC given the Met's decision to "non-record" the original complaint last November.    She said:  'We will be making further representations to the IPCC that, given their deplorable lack of knowledge of the Police Reform Act and the seriousness of the allegations of widespread corruption and criminal behaviour on the part of Metropolitan police officers, the [Met's Directorate of Professional Standards] DPS should have no involvement in the investigation of this complaint, which should be the subject of an independent investigation by the IPCC.' 

Unite welcomed the news of the IPCC investigation into blacklisting. Unite's assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said:   'What more evidence does Vince Cable and this government need that there needs to be a full "Leveson"style inquiry into blacklisting. There needs to be a full and transparent investigation, backed by statutory powers, into all the allegations associated with the sordid spying enterprise called the Consulting Association (CA).  The Business Secretary must immediately make plans to put in law genuine protections against blacklisting conspiracies. This should include making blacklisting a criminal offence up to and including imprisonment for the culprits.'  
From The Guardian, Thursday 21 February 2013 17.28 GMT 
Blacklist Support Group:



Blacklisting & Special Branch

Claims by blacklisted workers that information on some of the Consulting Association blacklist files emanate from undercover police officers are to be investigated as part of Operation Herne, an ongoing investigation into the activities of the Special Demonstration Squad, a deep undercover section of Special Branch. The investigation into police collusion with blacklisting has been set up after a complaint was submitted by the Blacklist Support Group (BSG). The Metropolitan Police originally refused to investigate the BSG complaint but was forced into a U-turn after a successful appeal to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) by Christian Khan solicitors. 

Sarah McSherry - partner at Christian Khan said: 
'The IPCC’s decision to uphold our clients’ appeal and require the Metropolitan Police Service Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) to record their complaint is in stark contrast to the DPS’ original view that “the complaints process is not the correct vehicle to forward their concerns or allegations. We will be making further representations to the IPCC that, given the seriousness of the allegations of widespread corruption and criminal behaviour on the part of Metropolitan Police officers, the DPS should have no involvement in the investigation of this complaint which should be the subject of an independent investigation.'

The issue first came to light in January 2012 when David Clancy (head of investigations at the ICO and himself an ex-police officer) gave evidence to an Employment Tribunal that 'information on some of the blacklist files could only have come from the police or the security services.' Mr. Clancy repeated the assertion when giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting. 

The involvement of police or security services in the blacklisting of trade unionists has been raised in parliament by shadow Employment Minister Ian Murray MP and Labour's John McDonnell MP and Michael Meacher MP have both demanded a full Leverson style Public Inquiry, a call which is supported by the TUC and all the major trade unions. 
In addition, Ian Kerr (the now deceased Chief Executive of the Consulting Association) told The Times about a meeting in 2008 where 8 construction industry directors were addressed by a "key officer" of a police organization - the National Extremism Tactical Co-Ordination Unit (NETCU) and agreed a two way sharing of information. 
Only this week it was disclosed that the names of over 200 environmental activists also appear on the Consulting Association blacklist - which make claims about the involvement of undercover police officers even more credible. 
Dave Smith - Blacklist Support Group: 
'There are entries on some blacklist files that are detailed surveillance reports about anti-racism demonstrations that took place nowhere near a building site. We already have other evidence to suggest that this information was compiled by undercover police officers. There are entries on other blacklist files that contain private sensitive information that has never been in the public domain and that no manager or Director of a building firm would ever have access to. It is difficult to conceive of any possible way this information could appear on the construction blacklist without the police, security services or some other arm of the state being the original source.  Undercover police and big business spying on trade unionists and anti-racism campaigners - where are we living: Nazi Germany? Apartheid South Africa? We want to know why information collected by the police has ended up on a secret blacklist of trade unionists operated by multi-national companies. If police collusion is proven, at best it is individual corruption. At worst it is systematic state involvement in a major human rights conspiracy.'

Plus Sarah McSherry and Roy Bentham just did a great interview on Radio 5 Live with Sarah Derbyshire 

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Tory Boy James Purnell, lands plumb job with 'Aunty'!

Last week the BBC announced that James Purnell, the former Labour Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, has been appointed as director of strategy and digital on a salary of £295,000. This is not the first time that Purnell has worked for the BBC. Before entering frontline politics, he worked as head of corporate planning for the corporation between 1995-97.

Although once tipped as a future Labour Prime Minister, Purnell was remarkably gaffe prone. He often lacked political judgement and seemed to like controversy. One two separate occasions he lost both his ministerial red box as well as his wallet. He resigned from the government in June 2009 after criticising Gordon Brown's leadership and after trying to precipitate a revolt, against his leadership, by disgruntled Blairites. In 2010, just before the general election, he announced that he was standing down as the MP for the constituency of Stalybridge and Hyde, a seat that he'd inherited in 2001, from Tom Pendry (Lab) which had a 14,000 majority. He left his successor, Jonathan Reynolds (Lab), defending a marginal with a 2,744 majority.

As the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (2006-07), he was responsible for introducing both modern-day slavery to Britain with his work-for-your-dole schemes and also the discredited Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), with its stricter work capability assessments. He also signed off a proposal to charge benefit claimants 27.8 % APR on a social fund loan which had been interest free. At the time, Purnell said that it would help the poor to budget. The proposal failed to get adopted because of cross-party opposition to it in Parliament.

The Unite sponsored MP, also became embroiled in the parliamentary expenses scandal. It was revealed in the press that while drawing a ministerial salary of over £144,000, Purnell had been claiming the maximum food allowance of £400 p.m. He also claimed from the taxpayer, expenses for flowers, fridge magnets, books, camera equipment, rates, rent, and advice from tax advisers. He also avoided paying capital gains tax by switching homes.

Since leaving Parliament, Purnell has been employed as a senior adviser with the Boston Consulting Group and he's the Chairman of the Trustees for Public Policy Research. In 2011, the unmarried former MP,  applied for, but failed to get, the job  as Chairman of  Save the Children UK.

Some people have criticised the BBC and the incoming director general, Tony Hall, for appointing Purnell in what they see as a politically contrived appointment. Although some would argue that Purnell has been a political failure, there is no doubt, that he continues to retain influential political friends and it is this, which makes Purnell, marketable. No doubt the BBC, are also betting that the next government will be a Labour one.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013


The following report has been sent to NV by Boycott Workfare.

Last week saw workfare suffer another massive blow. The High Court ruled that nearly every back-to-work every scheme introduced under this government was unlawful and quashed them.

Whilst the judgment did not affect Mandatory Work Activity (MWA), the government was dealt a further blow by campaigners when two more charities- Sense and the Children's Society - said they will join the boycott of the scheme. High Street retailer Wilkinson's has also confirmed it will nolonger take part in workfare.


The implication of the High Court ruling is that all sanctions on the unlawful schemes should be immediately stopped, and that all sanctions on these schemes were unlawful. In effect this means the government could be forced to repay all the money it illegally withheld from those on JSA. Needless to say, the DWP are refusing to pay until they have tried to appeal this judgement, but they are not expected to be successful. It also has to issue new letters to those currently on workfare schemes informing them of these facts.

Oddly two workfare schemes 'CAP and WorkExperience' appear to be missing from the latest regulations. Which could actually mean the government has abandoned them. Find out more about what this means here:


Iain Duncan Smith rushed through new regulations last Wednesday to try and make workfare legal. Until you get a new letter about the scheme you are on (apart from MWA), then you should not be obliged to take part. Sadly the letters are starting to arrive on people's doorsteps. But its not over yet. Workfare is wobbling and now is the time to keep pushing. You can help with a warm up by pressing your MP to sign a motionwhich could see workfare put to a vote. Yeah, we know, we have little faith in politicians either, but this is a key time to make your MP show their allegiances. Please also email us your MP's response for our future reference.


Without places to send people to do workfare, the schemes must collapse.To this end join us for our upcoming week of action: look out forcall-outs for online action and plan an action in your area:

Faddy Folk & English Food

LAST Saturday in the Financial Times the food writer, Rowley Leigh, wrote:  'Although there may be concomitant healthy questions, the presence of horse meat is almost reassuring compared with some of the horror stories that circulate around meat production.'  The truth is we Brits, as Mr. Leigh writes:  'lurch from scandal to scandal, whether it be mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), avian flu blamed on Hungarian turkey meat or, now, Romanian horse meat.' 

The problem, according to Rowley Leigh, is that the British, despite all their fascination with celebrity chiefs on TV, tend to value food less than our neighbours in Europe, and are not prepared to spend as much for it.  It seems that the British spend 11.3% of their income on food, while the Spaniards and Germans are spending more than 20%.  It seems only the US and Canada spend less among the developed nations. 

When Chris Draper wrote a feature in Northern Voices No.11 about 'Six O' the Best Tea Time Treats', a member of the Northern Voices' editorial panel complained to me that there was too much coverage of food in the journal.  And in what I took to be a facetious comment, under a recipe for soup on the 5th, December, Galloping Gourmet said... 'This purely gastronomic blog is the best thing ... Stick to the recipes...'   Another regular writer in the printed version of Northern Voices said that 'I can't get worked up about the fact that eccles cakes are no longer produced in Eccles'.  It is like when George Orwell wrote about flowers in Tribune in the late 1940s, and one lady wrote in complaining to say that 'flowers are bourgeois'.  Flowers are bourgeois and food is merely fuel to many in the English working class.

But even among the English middle-classes ready made meals are fashionable, and even in the better class grocery stores the easy cook warm-up meals dominate.  I was in the Manchester branch of Marks & Spencer only last week for the special offer of a Valentine Dinner for £20 as the English lower middle-classes swarmed round the stall to buy their Beef Wellington.  I did mention about the risk of it including horse meat and the assistants laughed, but then he admitted that stranger things have happened.

As I write this the campaigner, Debbie Firth, is pondering what to say in an article on town centres for the next issue of Northern Voices, and only this morning a commentator on Today on Radio Four said that we have too many 'Centres', both Town Centres and shopping centres like the Trafford Centre, and some of these will have to go.  Some say 'Buy local!' from a trusted source - a local butcher, perhaps; but as Rowley Leigh writes:  'In reality, the friendly local butcher is already becoming somewhat folkloric.'  The butcher's decline just illustrates the daily death of all the high-street retail outlets.  And yet, the Continental Market in York's Town Centre was full of folk last Saturday, queueing up to buy the stuff, but when I asked the bloke on the Italian pasticciere stall when he would be back, he told me that he wouldn't be back until June because the Council charge them a lot to rent the stall; £1,200 for 5-days on the market. 

The problem is, and I think I see it in the comments of people who claim that Northern Voices has 'too much on food' in it, that English people are largely puritans who don't take food seriously or perhaps they take it so seriously that they are not relaxed at the table.  They enjoy viewing cooking as entertainment with celebrities on the telly, but they are either pompose about food and wine, or neurotic, or just plain uncomfortable and self-conscious.  Rowley Leigh claims 'many of us are unable even to cook a pancake, a Yorkshire pudding or a potatoe.'  There is too much attention to table manners in England, and they all tend to despise noisey eaters or people like the Italians who clearly enjoy their food. 

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES No.11 refered to above is still available on request, but NORTHERN VOICES No.14, will be available shortly 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, 19 February 2013

NAN Declaration to the Movement

The NAN declaration of December 8th which condemned the infamous attack on me at the Manchester Anarchist bookfair carried out by the organisers backed by the Anarchist  Federation has now 125 signatories.    The latter consist of socialists, anarchists, greens, trade union militants, community activists, Occupy supporters, across the UK and the world.     This declaration which called for an apology from the bookfair organisers and the Anarchist Federation and assurances that there would be no repetition has been met with an abject silence despite several efforts to elicit a response.    This is indicative of something rotten at the heart of the UK anarchist movement which embraces conspiratorial politics at the expense of transparency and accountability.   The Freedom newspaper is now complicit in a cover up by refusing to publish the declaration as a letter having originally agreed to do so.

To paraphrase Emile Zola   I accuse the Anarchist Federation   and the  bookfair organisers  of  bringing the anarchist movement into disrepute and compromising its very integrity by the attacks it has carried out against the NAN and its supporters.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Horse Meat for revolutionaries!!!

THE last time I knowingly ate horse meat was at the home of Germinal Garcia in the Parisian suburb of Republique, in August 1964.  Germinal Garcia was a Spanish exile of anarchist persuasion who use to put up people like me and the Scottish anarchist, Stuart Christie, who worked alongside Germinal and other young libertarians in an organisation entitled the FIJL (Federation of young Iberian Libertarians) against the dictatorship of General Franco, the then ruler of Spain.  If I've got my dates right, August 1964, Stuart Christie himself may well have shared the dish cooked by Germinal, together with me and my wife.  Stuart, then 18-years-old, was later that very month to be arrested in Madrid and sentenced to 20 years in jail for his part in an attempt to kill Franco.

Horse meat had gained wide acceptance in French cuisine during the later yearsd of the Second French Empire.  The high cost of living in Paris prevented many working-class citizens from buying meat such as pork or beef, so in 1866 the French government legalized the eating of horse meat and the first butcher's shop specializing in horse meat opened in eastern Paris, providing quality meat at lower prices.  During the siege of Paris (1870-1871), horse meat was eaten by anyone who could afford it, partly because of a shortage of fresh meat in the blockaded city, and also because horses were eating grain which was needed by the human populace. Many Parisians gained a taste for horse meat during the siege, and after the war ended, horse meat remained popular.  In France, specialized butcher shops (boucheries chevalines) sell horse meat, as ordinary butcher shops have been for a long time forbidden to deal in it. However, since the 1990s, it can be found in supermarket butcher shops and others.

Despite the general Anglophone taboo, horse and donkey meat was eaten in Britain, especially in Yorkshire, until the 1930s, and in times of post-war food shortage surged in popularity in the United States and was considered for use in hospitals.   A 2007 Time magazine article about horse meat brought in from Canada to the United States characterized the meat as sweet, rich, superlean, oddly soft meat, and closer to beef than venison.   In the United Kingdom, the slaughter, preparation and consumption of horses for food is not against the law, although in practice it has been out of fashion since the 1930s and it is not generally available. It was eaten when other meats were scarce, such as during times of war (as was whale meat, never popular and now also taboo). The sale of meat labelled as horse meat in supermarkets and butchers is minimal, and most of the properly described horse meat consumed in the UK is imported from Europe, predominantly the South of France, where it is more widely available.

In Italy, horse meat is especially popular in Lombardia, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol, Parma, Apulia and the Islands of Sardinia and Sicily.  Horse meat is used in a variety of recipes: as a stew called pastissada (typical of Verona), served as steaks, as carpaccio, or made into bresaola . Thin strips of horse meat called sfilacci are popular . Horse fat is used in recipes such as pezzetti di cavallo. Horse meat sausages and salamis are traditional in various places .  Chefs and consumers tend to prize its uniqueness by serving it as rare as possible.  Donkey is also cooked, for example as a stew called stracotto d'asino and as meat for sausages e.g. mortadella d'asino . The cuisine of Parma features a horsemeat tartare called pesto di cavallo, as well as various cooked dishes.
In Veneto the consumption of horse meat is dating back at least till the period 500-1000 B.C., when the Adriatic Veneti settled in the region inhabited by the Euganei. They were a people migrating from Asia Minor through the Balkans; also known and appreciated for being excellent horse breeders. They bred horses for any purpose: towing and transportation, farm work, military uses and human nutrition too. Through the centuries they were esteemed suppliers of horses for the cavalry and carriage of the Roman legions. Horse meat consumption is a deep rooted tradition in Venetian cuisine and almost a pride in various regional locations. This tradition has developed several specialties and recipes. Horse meat is widely on sale in butcheries, hypermarkets, supermakets and minimarkets throughout the region, at higher prices than other kinds of meat, as it 's regarded as the most valued in absolute: a sort of formula one, more priced and esteemed than beef or pork. Some ultra-specialised butcheries offer only selected cuts of equine meat (horse, donkey and mule).

In the Province of Padua horse meat is a key element of the local cuisine; particularly in the area that extends south-east from the city, historically called Saccisica. Specialties based on horse meat constitute the main courses and best attractions of some typical restaurants in the zone. They are also offered among other regional delicacies at the food stands of many local festivals, related to civil and religious anniversaries. Most notable is the "Festa del Cavallo": a festival that is held annually in the small town of Legnaro, totally dedicated to horses, included their consumption for food.

Some traditional Italian dishes based on horse meat are:

• Sfilacci di cavallo: tiny frayings of horse meat, dried and seasoned; to be consumed raw, with some olive oil or lemon juice.

• Straéca: horse steak, variously cooked and dressed on the grill, pan or hot-plate.

• Bistecca di puledro. colt steak, similar to straéca, but generally softer.

• Spezzatino di cavallo. small chunks of horse meat, stewed with tomato sauce, onion, parsley and other herbs. Usually consumed with polenta.

• Prosciutto di cavallo: horse ham, served in very thin slices.

• Salame di cavallo: various kinds of salami, variously produced or seasoned, sometimes made of pure equine meat, sometimes mixed with others (bovine or swine).

• Bigoli al sugo di cavallo: a typical format of fresh pasta, similar to thick rough spaghetti, dressed with sauce like bolognese, but made with minced horse meat.

In Southern Italy, horse meat is common eaten everywhere - especially in the region of Apulia, where it is considered a delicacy.  It is often a vital part of the ragù barese in Bari.

Considering the traditional taste of the Yorkshire folk for horse up until the 1930s, only last Saturday I was up in York at the Jorvik Centre studying the Vikings.  It seems the Vikings grew wheat, barley and rye.  They made bread and porridge.  Sometimes they added peas to were fond of pork and beef but they also ate horsemeat and goat meat and they hunted deer for venison.  The Vikings also hunted whales and seals.  Perhaps it is not surprising that they should get a mention as one of the last places in England where horse had some popularity.

Link4Life Bosses under scrutiny!

Leisure bosses rapped for credit card use

An investigation found senior bosses at a charity which runs sports and arts services in Rochdale ‘inappropriately used’ company credit cards.

The leader of Rochdale Council, Colin Lambert, confirmed to the Rochdale Observer last Saturday, that Link4Life’s managing director Craig McAteer, his deputy managing director, Peter Kilkenny, and finance and business support manager David Weldon, were accused of serious misconduct following an independent probe.  The investigator concluded some of the breaches were ‘potentially disciplinary offences and many of the others arise from a failure of systems or judgement’

According to the Rochdale Observer, all three bosses have been reprimanded and apologised to the trust’s board.   But the council has now written to Link4Life demanding more serious sanctions are taken.  Councillor Colin Lambert, said:  'These are very serious allegations and I intend to call for an urgent meeting with the board to discuss them.' 

Link4Life said it was ‘not appropriate to make any comment’.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Garry Bradford: NAN supporter dies

GARRY Bradford, a loyal supporter of the Northern Anarchist Network in Wellington, Shropshire, died last week in the Princess Royal Hospital in Telford.  He attended almost all of the NAN conferences that were held in Wellington over the years, and often paid for the rental of the venue.  He came into contact with the local anarchist group through his involvement with OAP group in Wellington.

Latest News on Blacklist Support Activities etc

. Blacklist Support Group AGM:

Human rights abuse, multi-national corruption, parliamentary investigations, civil disobedience, political debate, union militancy and a rank & file justice campaign - and that's all before lunch.

10:30am - 4pm
Sat 23rd March 2013,
Faraday House,
Old Gloucester St,
WC1N 3AE. 
(nearest tube Holborn or Russell Square - immediately behind the UNITE offices)
confirmed speakers and more details to follow

2. Crossrail anti-blacklist flashmob closes Oxford Street - watch and share this Reel News video

3. BBC Radio 4 The Report - 30 minute documentary in blacklisting

4. Merseyside Blacklist Support Group meeting:
Saturday 23 February 2013 at 11am.
Jack Jones House (UNITE offices),
2 Churchill Way,
L3 8EF

Speakers: Steve Acheson (Manchester Blacklist Support Group), Roy Bentham (Merseyside Blacklist Support Group), Guney, Clark & Ryan solicitors (High Court case)

5. Dundee protest against Blacklisting:
10:30am Sat 9th March

Meadowside (Opp. High School of Dundee),

Speakers: Francie Graham, Steuart Mrchant, Neil Findlay MSP, Cllr Jim Harte

Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, balcklister in chief have a major project in the city--

Blacklist Support Group: 



Thursday, 14 February 2013

Mark Brook's Wife Stranded in Doha!

THE dismissal of Mark Brooks by Westmill Foods, last month (see 'Westmill Foods' Wedding Present!' post on 1st, Feb. 2013), may yet turn out much wider ramifications given the recent crisis regarding horse meat in burgers and raids by the Food standards Agency on a slaughter house in Todmorden.  Only the other day a Unite shop steward in the Bury Branch at Bury MBC, who had been at the branch meeting last Thursday at which Mark Brooks' case was discussed, pointed out that though Mark had been disciplined for making a mistake in the production process he had alleged that there was a fault in the system itself which made the error possible.   At present management seems reluctant to consider the possibility of a flaw in the system of production itself, which might in future lead to a more serious situation than some lamination coming apart in the artwork on some long-grain rice.

Meanwhile, as I write this, more tragedy unfolds for Mark Brooks' young wife, Puy, who while returning to Thailand missed her connecting flight at Doha in Qatar on Tuesday night and has been stranded in the airport, where the airport workers distressed by her plight have been giving her drinks and cigarettes.  Today, having missed several outgoing flights to Bangkok as she hadn't the money to pay a bribe, Mark using his credit card arranged her a flight to Oman from where she hopes to fly to Bangkok later tonight. 

Whether she will be allowed a visa to return to England to be with her husband of two weeks will depend upon Mark's job situation in the next few months.  The Border Agency has very strict rules regarding the awarding of visas to foreign spouses.  This matter was discussed at Tameside Trade Union Council last Tuesday, and the President, Derek Pattison, said the case of Mark Brooks would only become an issue for the Trades Council if his wife had problems with the Border Agency, the possibility that Mark Brooks was unfairly dismissed by Westmill Foods was purely a matter for his union, Unite.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Work-for-your-dole schemes declared illegal by Appeal Court!

Campaigners celebrated a significant victory against workfare outside the High Court today.

Today, the Court of Appeal quashed the government’s workfare schemes, which have seen tens of thousands of people put to work without pay and many more put at risk of destitution through sanctions.

Of the numerous workfare schemes introduced by this government, only Mandatory Work Activity remains lawful. With immediate effect, those on the controversial Work Programme, Sector Based Work Academies, Community Action Programme or other workfare schemes may leave without risk of sanction. Sanctions currently in place must immediately be brought to an end.

The government has however threatened to swiftly lay new regulations which may make the schemes mandatory and subject to sanctions. The impact of the ruling remains substantial, since unless the DWP wins the right to appeal in the Supreme Court and succeeds in that appeal, everyone who has been sanctioned on the schemes to date should be entitled to be paid back and all referrals to date will have been unlawful.

The viability of the remaining ‘lawful’ workfare scheme, MWA, is under question due to campaigners’ success in persuading charities and companies to withdraw. A DWP evaluation of Mandatory Work Activity in December 2012 noted that “The high profile withdrawal of placements from a number of larger charities meant a sharp reduction in placements.”

Joanna Long, a member of Boycott Workfare, has said:

“Today’s ruling is a victory of the people against a government which thought it could compel unemployed and sick people to work without pay, backed by a vicious regime of sanctions which made the poorest far poorer.

“We are confident the end is in sight for workfare in the UK. The only scheme found lawful is wobbling due to public pressure on the charities profiting from free labour. If Iain Duncan Smith attempts to put in place new workfare regulations, he should know that the public response will be outrage. Tens of businesses and charities are already boycotting his schemes, and today’s ruling shows that workfare is not only wrong, it is also unlawful.”

Boycott Workfare’s UK-wide week of action on 18th-24th March will go ahead with the aim of bringing Mandatory Work Activity to an end and ensuring the government don’t bring workfare back. The campaign will do all it can to ensure all those who have been sanctioned on the schemes are repaid, so watch this space.

See the full text of the ruling here.

Cyril Smith: Claims of more Abuse!

LAST week, a former direct of social services in Rochdale, Lyndon Price, told the Rochdale Observer that he had asked police in 1965 to look into claims that the former Rochdale MP, Cyril Smith, had interfered with young men at the Cambridge House boys hostel.  At the time Cyril Smith, then a Rochdale councillor in the Labour Party, was the secretary for the managing body at Cambridge House. 

The nature of the complaints were that Cyril Smith was taking it upon himself to administer disciplinary treatment on teenage boys at the residential hostel.  Mr. Price, now 79-year of age, said:  'The boy would be asked to take his trousers and pants down and he (Smith) would administer a smacking on his bare bottom.'

The police were told of the allegation by Lyndon Price, but later, when Mr. Price asked the then chief constable of Rochdale, Patrick Ross, how the investigation was going, he was told that 'it had been decided not to proceed'.  Mr. Price said he distinctly remembered that Patrick Ross had said 'it' had been decided and not 'he' had decided.  After that, Mr. Price, who was later director of social services in Rochdale from 1971 to 1984, said Patrick Ross had rushed off to another meeting before he was able to ask further questions on the issue.  Mr. Price told the Rochdale Observer that 'At the time I was a new social worker, still wet behind the ears.'  He added:  'I was no private eye or super sleuth and I thought I was doing the right thing passing it on to the police.'

Today's Rochdale Observer reports that the police have interviewed a man about alleged further abuse committed by Cyril Smith while he was a member of the governing body there from 1989.   Smith was chairman of the governors at Knowl View, a residential school for pupils with behavioural difficulties.  The Rochdale Observer now refers to Smith as 'the disgraced former Rochdale MP', and it reports that he 'had a set of keys giving him 24 hour access to the four dormitories at Knowl View in Norden Road, Bamford.' 

How times have changed!

Ex-Director of Economic League & Caprim Gives his Evidence to Parliamentary Select Committee

Stan Hardy - ex-Director General of the Economic League and Director of Caprim Ltd gives the following evidence under oath:

'Blacklisting has operated since the pyramids. There is not a HR professional in the world that does not have a filing cabinet that says "do not employ".  The Services Group (construction) was the largest single item of income for the Economic League - in excess of 20%.  I met Cullum McAlpine in Sir Robert McAlpine's head office and was paid a £10,000 - (partly as a retainer, partly hush money).'

Caprim customers included: 
JCB;  Midland Bank; Barings Bank; AstraZeneca; Monsanto. 

'Caprim Ltd gave info to researchers from members of parliament.  What Caprim Ltd did is still going on today, it just much better resourced.  The Consulting Association operated for 20 years under the radar - it begs the question and suggests that its still going on.  Drivers involved in Tesco / Eddie Stobart dispute right now can't find jobs even with Employment Agencies and saying they are still being blacklisted.  It's still going on today.  The question of morals never came into it.'
Above is a paraphrase of evidence to the Select Committee investigation into blacklisting for full hearing:

Blacklist Support Group




Monday, 11 February 2013

Cameron calls for investigation into Tameside Hospital!

Shortly after publication of Sir Robert Francis's report into the scandal at Mid Staffordshire Hospital Trust, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, announced that an immediate investigation is to be carried out by health chief, Sir Bruce Keogh, into five other hospital's which ministers believe could have similar underlying problems to Mid Staffordshire hospital. The five hospital's are - Blackpool, Basildon, Colchester, Burnley and Tameside Hospital.

Data which has been collated by the health and social care information centre, revealed that all these hospital's had higher that expected death rates than would normally be expected for the sort of population the hospital serves. Using the 'summary hospital-level mortality indicator' (SHMI), mortality rates are calculated by comparing the number of patients who die at each hospital and those who die within 30 days of discharge, with the number of patients who would be expected to die, given the sort of population it serves.

The investigation into Tameside Hospital is one of a number which have been undertaken into standards of care and clinical governance at the hospital. In 2006, the local cornoner, John Pollard, branded care at the hospital 'chaotic and despicable' after hearing four inquests into the deaths of elderly patients in one day. In 2007, hospital management blamed high death rates at the hospital on what they called the 'Shipman Factor'. Last year, the hospital was forced to apologise to the family of Emma Stones, a 12-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, who was left to die from blood poisoning, 16 hours after being admitted. Rigor mortis had set in,when she'd been found dead.

Although Tameside Hospital has, according to these findings, the second highest rate of 'excess deaths' in the country, the Chief Executive of the hospital, Christine Green, told the press that she "welcomed the chance to work with Sir Bruce to improve death rates - adding figures were better according to a different measure the HSMR."

Paul Connellan (pictured), who was appointed the Chairman of Tameside Hospital Trust in October 2011, said at the time of his appointment that he believed he had the right skills and experience (30 years experience in the travel industry), to root out problems at the hospital, such as high death rates. Only last week, he praised the hospital's success in driving down death rates and cases of C. difficile and said patient confidence in the hospital had improved.

If previous investigations at Tameside Hospital are anything to go by, then it is highly unlikely that it will lead to any sackings of senior hospital managers, like Mrs. Green or the Chairman of the hospital board. Critics of the Francis report, have pointed out that although the report says that hundreds of patients died needlessly at Mid Staffordshire hospital between 2005-2009, not one person has lost their job at the hospital. Instead, senior hospital managers have been paid-off, promoted or moved sideways.

Danger on East Coast Mainline

RAIL UNION RMT today released a shocking new picture which shows six inches of rail head crumbled away to nothing leaving a potentially lethal gap in the track on the InterCity East Coast Mainline at Hambleton South Junction near Selby where normal running speeds are 125mph. The picture, taken last Friday (1st February), follows the publication by RMT of a similar damning photo taken at Colton Junction on the ECML just a few miles away back in December last year. 

RMT believes that due to renewals and staffing cuts, an initial crack had crumbled away to a six inch gap in the rail head over a period of two weeks in a mirror image of the incident at Colton Junction, leaving trains, passengers and staff at risk of a serious and potentially lethal incident. A train could have derailed, jumped the tracks and collided with an on-coming service. Fortunately, the gap was spotted by on-track teams and the section of track has since been replaced but it raises serious questions about the impact of wear and tear on rail infrastructure, with high-speed trains running on tracks that should have been renewed, in a climate of cuts and sub-contracting.

RMT understands that there is massive pressure to keep the ECML running from the government and the Department of Transport as they look to re-privatise the service. There are also persistent demands on Network Rail from the budget-holder, the Office of Rail Regulation, to cut back on rail renewals work despite the potentially-lethal consequences as exposed in graphic detail by RMT today.

However, pressure from RMT and a high-profile media campaign by the union, has forced RAIB (Rail Accident Investigation Branch) to now launch a full investigation into the condition of the track on the ECML, the latest shocking RMT pictures will fuel the urgency of that investigation which the union says must focus in on the impact of cuts to staffing and renewals and the consequences of sub-contracting core functions.

RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said:
'This shocking new picture highlights the reality on Britain's railways today - staffing, inspections and track renewals have been cut in the dash to save money and there is massive pressure right from the top of Government to keep services running at all costs regardless of the potential human cost. If we don’t reverse the cuts on Britain’s railways another major tragedy is inevitable.

'We are now facing exactly the same set of poisonous conditions that lead us to the Hatfield disaster and as this picture, following on from similar evidence exposed by RMT late last year, shows we are dicing with death and risking another major rail tragedy. RMT is demanding action before it is too late and the RAIB investigation must look at the poisonous impact of cuts to staffing and renewals work and the sub-contracting of jobs that should be undertaken in-house.

'RMT has made it crystal clear that we want all cuts to staffing, maintenance and renewals reversed and all track works brought back in house rather than subbed-out to contractors. The current contractor staff should be transferred over to direct Network Rail employment. We also want the pressure from the centre to run services at any costs lifted to enable safety-critical works to take place immediately.

'Finally, we want an end to the further cuts proposed by the Government in its McNulty Rail Review before we end up with another rail tragedy on Britain's tracks with ministers paraded on our screens with blood on their hands. Those ministers have to take responsibility right now for the rail scandal that is unfolding on their watch'.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Bury Unite Back Jerry Hicks

YESTERDAY, the Bury Unite Branch voted to nominate Jerry Hicks for General Secretary of Unite the Union.  This branch gave Mr. Hicks their full support, and considered it important that there ought to be an election for the post, and the Len McCluskey should not go through unopposed.

Bury Unite & Press Freedom

LAST night, Bury Unite the Union NW/353 Branch recorded its concern about the attacks on Northern Voices and people involved in its production.  It was pointed out that not only had two individuals connected with the publication Northern Voices been pressurised to leave bookfairs in both Manchester and London, but people associated with the organisation called the Anarchist Federation, had approached outlets selling the journal in Manchester, Liverpool and London seeking to get the outlets to remove the publication from sale on their premises.  In London, it is understood that the anarchist bookshop, Freedom Press, has taken Northern Voices Number 13 (NV13) off its shelves, following a complaint from Nick Heath, a founder member of the Anarchist Federation, and now a member of the Freedom Press Collective.  Another complainant, Sally Miller/ Hyman, has approached the independent printers of Northern Voices in Manchester, with unclear intentions.  Ron Marsden, who has worked closely with the Anarchist Federation over this matter, has also visited the NV printers on a number of occasions with threats of solicitor's letters.  A cinema bookshop in Manchester was challenged last August for selling the journal with critical content of an deceased anarchist, and in Liverpool a left-wing bookshop was also urged to take the publication off its shelves in the same month.  In the last case, the Liverpool bookshop refused to act on the grounds that NV13, carried a leading story and interview with the mother of Sophie Lancaster, the 'Goth Girl' from Bacup murdered in 2007. 

The Bury Unite Branch now follows in the footsteps of the Tyne & Wear IWW Branch, which has expressed its concern earlier, and condemned both the attack in London on the editor of Northern Voices and also on supporters of the Northern Anarchist Network by members of the Anarchist Federation.  The Bury Unite Branch last night, was particularly concerned about the consequences of these attacks in relation to the issue of the Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom.  It was thought that such attacks could be seen as censorship through the backdoor.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Blacklisted Manchester Electricians Opt for Jerry Hicks

ON Monday, the North West 1400/ 7 Manchester Contracting Branch of electricians at its February Branch meeting nominated Jerry Hicks for the Unite General Secretary in the coming election. It seems that there are only two candidates with sufficient nominations at the moment. There was no seconder at the meeting for Len McCluskey.

Len McCluskey, is the current Unite General Secretary, and is the other candidate, and it was him who sought the renewal of his mandate after serving just 2-years in office, when he had 3 years still to serve. Jerry Hicks insists that in order to keep the Unite union untainted there ought to be an election.  In his letter seeking the nomination he writes:
'Unless there is another candidate, Mr McCluskey will be "elected" unopposed, efectively extending his term of office without members actually voting until 2018 by which time he will be 67.' 
He then asks:  'Perhaps this is why the election was brought forward 3 years instead of 1 or 2 years.'

On the far left the Socialist Party and the Broad Left is supporting Len McCluskey, and the election of Mr McCluskey will mean that Unite will continue to give financial backing to the Labour Party.  Jerry Hicks has been less supportive, but as yet to say definately that he will withdraw backing if he is elected.

'The Libertarian Communist' Makes a Stand!

A.F's Conspiratorial Cancer spreads to Solidarity Federation 

LAST year, someone close to the Anarchist Federation in Manchester wrote to the editor of 'The Libertarian Communist', a small left-wing journal published in Poole, Dorset, berating Northern Voices for publishing the obituary on Bob Miller. The Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) was blamed by the implication that some of its supporters had relations with Northern Voices and its editor. Thus, the editor of 'The Libertarian Communist' removed the NAN from its directory of contacts.

In the latest issue of 'The Libertarian Communist', the editor has excluded both the Anarchist Federation (AF) and the Solidarity Federation (Sol. Fed.) from its directory on the grounds of their unacceptable behaviour at the book fairs (in London and Manchester). Both the AF and the Sol. Fed. are membership organisations attached to what is loosely called the anarchist movement in the UK, each probably has an active membership of under one hundred. What is interesting here is that the Solidarity Federation has for the first time been punished alongside the AF.

Is this more evidence of collateral damage in the growing problems effecting the British anarchists? In the report of last year's London Anarchist Bookfair on the Five Leaves Blog on the 28th, Oct. 2012, it was announced that not only the editor of Northern Voices got covered in salad cream, but a neighbouring stall-holder, Trevor Bark, was also a victim of the AF and Sally Miller's scatter-gun attack.

Why has the Solidarity Federation, an anarcho-syndicalist body with decent trade union members, now become implicated in the actions of another organisation? Unlike the AF, which is a conspiratorial group with, it seems, few moral side-constraints, the Sol. Fed. has a proper constitution and clearly stated aims and principles. The problem is that sadly the Sol. Fed. has allowed itself to be implicated owing to the actions of one of its members in Manchester, Ron Marsden, who has incited Sally Miller/ Hymen and other members of AF to attack people associated with the NAN for his own reasons over several years. According to Barry Woodling, Ron Marsden of the Sol. Fed. was alongside Nick Heath berating Barry, when he was removed from the Manchester Bookfair, last December.

Many of the people supporting Barry Woodling and the Burnley Declaration (see the post below), have never thus far heard of the body called the 'Anarchist Federation': for all they know, they think Nick Heath & the AF is a kind of pop band. The problem for the anarchists now, today, is that they cannot deal with the issues of this culture of conspiracy and violence within its midst or get the leaders of the AF to disassociate themselves from these elements that are bringing the anarchist movement into disrepute.

Former Economic League Chief Gives Evidence

JACK Winder - ex Economic League and Director of Caprim Ltd from 1994-2009, gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting.  Winder told MPs he was officially invited to meet Jim Prior MP - first Employment Minister in the Thatcher government.  Main Caprim sectors: Agro-chemicals, Arms Industry, Pharmecutical.  Caprim clients included: Monsanto, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Rhone Poluenc, Rio-Tinto, JP Morgan. 

Winder denied that Caprim were a blacklisting organisation because they kept files on organisations such as campaign against the Arms Trade or Greenpeace - not individuals.  Winder told MPs that the League had good relations with certain trade union leaders who felt they had problems with the far left:

Leif Mills, ex-General Secretary of the banking union who became TUC president in the mid 1990s,

Eric Hammond ex-General Secretary of the electricians union - expelled by the TUC because of his collusion with Murdoch over Wapping.

Dennis Mills, from the midlands region of TGWU

Kate Losinska, who was head of the Civil and Public Services Association. 

Winder admitted having contacts and holding regular meetings with Metropolitan Police, West Midlands and Scottish Special Branch at least up to 1994. Some meetings took place in a pub next to Scotland Yard. The Anti-Apartheid Movement were considered communists. 
The Economic League was toxic but Sir Robert McAlpine paid £10,000 to set up 2 separate off-shoot companies in secret, led by people who previously worked for the League to carry on the same work as the League.  Sir Henry Saxon Tate (of the Tate & Lyle sugar dynasty), previous Chair of the Economic League was a Director of Caprim.

Co-founder Stan Hardy gave up Caprim Ltd Directorship to go to Institute of Directors.

Jack Bramwell - security specialist for Caprim did work investigating GM Crops activists.

Web link to evidence:

Blacklist Support Group




Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Freedom Damage Estimate

YESTERDAY, Freedom Bookshop opened with the electricity restored for the first time since the fire attack last Friday.  Reports suggest that there was serious damage to the ceiling in the bookshop that may have damaged the joists.  This is now being investigated.  Other damage was done to the window where the fire was started and some external doors may have to be replaced after the fire brigade broke in and applied their hose pipes.  The loss of stock in the bookshop is estimated at £10,000 but this may be on the low side.  The fire took several hours to put out completely.  There has been wide support from within the movement.

Over One Hundred Up!

As the left condemns Anarchist Federation  
THIS Northern Anarchist Statement to the Movement is here update with extra names adding their support, as the Anarchist Federation, which has turned a blind-eye to the irresponsible actions of its own members and constantly failed to disassociate itself from behaviour that is likely to bring the anarchist movement into disrepute.  The statement below is the original Burnley Declaration approved by the Northern Anarchist Network, last December, and now includes blacklisted electricians, trade unionists, supporters of the Occupy Movement, members of the peace movement, libertarians, socialists as well as anarchists:

The Northern Anarchist Network (NAN) meeting in Burnley on the 8th, December, unreservedly condemns the treatment handed out to NAN supporter, Barry Woodling, at the Manchester Anarchist Bookfair on the 1st, December, 2012. He was subjected to intimidation, threats, and verbal abuse at the hands of one of the organisers called 'Veg' assisted by Anarchist Federation members, including Nick Heath. In addition to being harangued as an 'imbecile', a 'dullard', and a 'fucking disgrace', he was accused of being an 'anti-semite'. Barry was subsequently thrown out of the bookfair. Such a monstrous charge beggar's belief in view of his Jewish roots, and the murder of a member of his family in the Nazi Gas Chambers in the 1940s.

We thus call upon the organisers of the bookfair, and the Anarchist Federation to unreservedly apologise for their authoritarian actions, and to offer a guarantee that there will be no repetition of this in future. It seems that the Anarchist Federation and the Bookfair organisers are doing the State's work for them by attacking the NAN and its supporters.

The following 143 people have now agreed to have their names added to the list supporting the above statement. Not all of these are anarchists, and most were not in attendance at the Northern Anarchist Network meeting at which the decision was made to make this declaration supporting Barry Woodling. It is a declaration that any decent person may sign. These are the signatures so far:

Colin Trousdale - blacklisted electrician (Bacup, Lancashire); Sean Keveney - blacklisted electrician (Manchester); George Tapp - electrician (Salford); Mark Brooks (Little Hulton, Salford); John Walker, former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper and now part-time correspondent on Private Eye (Forest Gate, London); David Dane (         ); Lee Brooks (Malborough in Derbyshire); Patricia Culpan (Rochdale); Paul Arnold (Manchester); Kevin Brenan (Bristol), Stacy Bluer (Salford), Mariam Shaw (Longsight), Donavan Pedelty (Wales); Trevor Bark (Northumbria); Grace Bamford (West Yorkshire); Basil Landau (Manchester); Neel Tiwana (Manchester); Sheilia Simpson (Manchester); Neil Donaldson (Shropshire); Diana Garcia (Manchester); Johnathan Davis (Manchester); Dan Hernandez (Manchester); Mingus (Manchester), Sal Choudhry (Manchester); Martin Hopwood (Manchester); Martin Gilbert (Cumbria); Barry Woodling (Swinton); John Simkin (Lancashire); Eileen Hall (Burnley); Deon Bamford (West Yorkshire); Duncan Ball (Shropshire); Ilyan Thomas (Wales); Jim Petty (Burnley); Laurens Otter (Shropshire); Brian Bamford (Rochdale); Chris Draper (York); Derek Pattison (Dukinfield, Greater Manchester); Joe O'Neil (Swinton South, Salford); Bob Crane (Bury); Yvonne Dodge (Radcliffe); Camilo Melara (Manchester); Johnathan Simcock (Derbyshire); Denise Bamford (Todmorden); Anna Jeffery (North Yorkshire); Adele Dodge (Radcliffe); Patrick Finnerty (Rochdale); Sean Dempsey (Bury); Dave Douglass (South Sheilds); Martin Bashford (York), Dave Chapple (Bridgewater), Chris Chilton (Bolton), Susan Reddington (Bolton), Elaine Cross (Bolton), Denis Pye (Bolton), Dameon Bamford (Todmorden); Dave Fogg (Manchester), Lydia Meryll (Manchester), Heike Gabernowitz (Manchester), David Hernandez (Manchester); Deyika Nzeribe (Manchester); Johnny Pratt (Manchester); Stefano Ba (Manchester); Carmen Perugia (Manchester); Jenny Longworth (Manchester); Joseph Stacey (Manchester); Herman St John (Manchester); Sarah Redman (Manchester); Nadja Redman (Manchester); Clifford C. Cawthorn (Manchester); Dr. Phoebe Moore (Manchester); Nicola Smith (Monton); Fred Coker (Manchester); Daniel Evans (Manchester); Page Cleasby (Manchester); Jean Compton (Bolton); Janette Cosgrove (Bolton); Steve Harrold (Bolton); Graham Marsden (Bolton); Barry Mills (Bolton); Roy Ratcliffe (Leigh); Heide Connell (Manchester); Mike Koefman (Manchester): Ann Papageorgiou (Stockport); Phillip Gilligan (Rochdale): Rae Street (Littleborough, Lancs.): Ann Jordan (Manchester): George Abenstern (Rochdale): Angela Trikic (Manchester); Maya Grana (Manchester): Natalia Grana (Manchester); Edward Egan (Hale Barns, Cheshire); Jacqui Burke (Oldham); Cath Tributsch (Bury); Pat Sanchez (Rochdale); Malcolm Pittock (Bolton); Chris Cole (Oxford); Maggie Smith (Salford); George Hayes (Bolton); Julia Simpkins (Bolton); Wendy Pye (Bolton); Phil McNally (Bolton); Sara Burn (Bolton); Trudy Chilton (Bolton); Ian McHugh (Bolton); Helen Dickson (Bolton); Liz Terry (Bolton); John Terry (Bolton); Eileen Murphy (Bolton); Paul Kelly (Manchester); Helen McHugh (Bolton); Moira Hill (Bolton); Carol Gordon (Bolton) Hilary Eastham (Bolton); Neil Duffield (Bolton); Stuart Murray (Bolton); Fiona Parr (Bolton); Tim Gillibrand (Manchester); Steve Duriant (Manchester); Rachel Stokes (Manchester); Michelle Lanaway (Manchester); Merlyn Taylor (Manchester); Usman Hamid (Manchester); Keith Dowshup (Manchester); Mauricemo Shaw (Manchester); Sabrina Rahman (Manchester); Howard Broadbent (Bolton); Stephen Moulton (Bolton); Martin McLoughin (Bolton); Dave Mann (Rugby), Coventry); Michael Hazell (Rochdale);

Carlos Beltran (Madrid); Melina Gonzalez Sanches (Madrid); CARLOS ANTONIO FIGUEROA LILLO (MADRID, Spain), John Lawrence (Oman), Seamus Cain (USA); Rachel Whittaker (Republic of Ireland); Kanjana Damrongsaksit (Thailand); Bitrous Yohanna (Nigeria); Adama Yussuf (Nigeria); Cyril Wosu (Nigeria); Prof. Peter Buse (CANADA); Ana Lucia (Guatemala).

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Freedom Press Fire-Bombed!

YESTERDAY morning, at about 5.30am the the fire alarm started ringing at Freedom Press, the anarchist Bookshop in Angel Alley, Whitechapel, next door to the Whitechapel Art Gallery.  It was later discovered that a window in the bookshop had been broken and then some kind of inflamable device had been inserted to cause a fire which is reported to have damaged some archive material, copies of back issues of Freedom, and other damage was done when the hose-pipes were used to put out the fire.  It seems that the electric cables may have suffered and there is at present no electricity in the premises.  No one was hurt fortunately, because there are some residential properties nearby. 

It is not known who the perpetrators were.

Unfortunately, it seems Freedom had no contents insurance when the fire occured, because the Freedom Collective had not reinsured the property, when recently the policy expired.  Northern Voices has been asked to put out an appeal for helpers to come to the Freedom Press Bookshop today to help with the clean-up at 1pm.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Blacklisting in your area etc.

1. The GMB has produced a map of the UK showing where all the blacklisted workers live. This is being used to generate publicity in local newspapers and also to get local Councillors to pass motions de-barring blacklisting firms from public contracts with the local authority.

So far Knowlsey, Hull, Tower Hamlets and a few other councils have passed motions banning blacklisting firms from any future council contracts. Harlow Council is discussing a similar motion at the February meeting.

This is a great opportunity for people to help the campaign at local level - look at a copy of the map (attached).

If there are blacklisted workers in your area, contact the local press about it and get a story in the paper. Then contact your local councillors and suggest they pass an anti-blacklisting motion.

2. Select Committee investigation into blacklisting continues:
Witness: Jack Winder - Director of CAPRIM Ltd

1:30pm Tuesday 5th Feb

Committee Room 6

Houses of parliament


CAPRIM Limited are the company set up after the demise of the Economic League by Jack Winder and Stan Hardy. As the Chief Exec and Head of Research of the League, they had possession of the entire Economic League database and sold the construction industry section of it to the Consulting Association to allow them to set-up an run the building industry blacklist. CAPRIM Limited went into voluntary liquidation a few weeks after the raid on the Consulting Association. The directors have never spoken in public before: this could be very interesting (or very dull, if they refuse to answer questions).

3. The following MPs who made positive contributions during the blacklisting debate in parliament:

Chuka Umunna, Bill Esterson (Sefton Central), Tom Greatrex (Rutherglen and Hamilton West), Dr Eilidh Whiteford (Banff and Buchan) (SNP), Jack Dromey (Birmingham, Erdington), Mr Jim Cunningham (Coventry South), Jim McGovern (Dundee West) (Lab), Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North) (Lab), John McDonnell (Hayes and Harlington) (Lab), Mark Tami (Alyn and Deeside) (Lab), Mr David Hamilton (Midlothian) (Lab), Rosie Cooper (West Lancashire) (Lab), Cathy Jamieson (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (Lab/Co-op), Mr Tom Clarke (Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill) (Lab), Dame Tessa Jowell (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab), Mr Michael Meacher (Oldham West and Royton) (Lab), Natascha Engel (North East Derbyshire) (Lab), Ian Lavery (Wansbeck) (Lab), John Mann (Bassetlaw) (Lab), Ian Mearns (Gateshead) (Lab), Steve Rotheram (Liverpool, Walton) (Lab), Mr David Anderson (Blaydon) (Lab), Grahame M. Morris (Easington) (Lab), Ian Murray (Edinburgh South) (Lab).
Plus, the members of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee:
Member Party

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair) Labour/Co-op

Mike Crockart Liberal Democrat

Mike Freer Conservative

Eleanor Laing Conservative

Jim McGovern Labour

Graeme Morrice Labour

Pamela Nash Labour

Simon Reevell Conservative

Mr Alan Reid Liberal Democrat

Lindsay Roy Labour

Dr Eilidh Whiteford Scottish National Party

If any of the above are your MP - make contact again and push for a Full Public Inquiry, blacklisting to be made a criminal offence, retrospective compensation - this is official TUC policy but not of the Labour Party (or any other Westminster Party)
Blacklist Support Group