Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ukip and Scrutiny in Political Life

YESTERDAY, Patrick McLoughlin, the Transport Secretary, said Ukip candidates were being put under the same scrutiny as those from other parties, and asked whether it was right to trawl through would-be councillors' social media accounts, he said:  'I don't know whether that's happened, I'm just saying it happens to all parties and candidates are put under scrutiny.'

This is interesting.  Years ago, Jim Pinkerton told me:  'Brian, we (the anarchists) must always be prepared for the floodlight of publicity to fall upon us!'

He ought to know; for Jim worked formerly for the Daily Herald, and later for the Sunday People in the Copy department, he had also in the 1960s been interviewed by Perigrine Worsthorne, then a journalist on the Sunday Telegraph about the radical and militant National Rank & File (trade union) Movement and its involvement in unofficial strikes at that time.   At the time Jim Pinkerton was the International Secretary of the Syndicalist Workers' Federation (SWF), one of the affiliated bodies attached to the National Rank & File Movement.

Anyone who involves themselves in politics or public life ought to anticipate that they may be exposed to publicity and have to answer for their actions.  This must be the case with Ukip in the forthcoming local elections as it must be for some tin-pot left-wing group like say the Anarchist Federation.  Any organisation that is grown-up and sets out to change society must expect to be put under a microscope and investigated.  That must go for Nigel Farage as it must for the leaders of some smelly little orthodoxy.  It may well be that as Ken Clarke has said about Ukip that some of their candidates are 'clowns', but all parties and candidates should be put under scrutiny. 

Northern Artist Harold Riley at Salford Art Gallery

Harold Riley Sun Over River Irwell copy
'Sun Over River Irwell' by Harold Riley

WHAT could be more appropriate than Salford Museum and Art Gallery showing a retrospective of Harold Riley's work?

Harold was born in Salford in 1934. His relationship with Salford Art Gallery started at an early ages when he sold his first painting to the gallery aged 11. He went to Salford Grammer School and at 17 won a scholarship to The Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London. Harold Riley has dedicated much of his career to capturing the everyday street life in Salford. 

This is an opportunity to see Harold Riley's work in the city he was born and city that inspired him. This exhibition will be in our semi-permanent space and will run from Saturday 4 May 2013 to Sunday 23 February 2014.
Contact for further information, images, quotes etc:
Kellie Brown, Marketing Officer, Salford Community Culture, 0161 778 0819, kellie.brown@scll.co.uk 
Amy Goodwin, Exhibitions Officer, Salford Community Culture, 0161 778 0883, amy.goodwin@scll.co.uk 

Ashton-under-Lyne: Universal Credit

YESTERDAY saw a small demonstration at mid-day outside Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall in Tameside, called by the PCS union against a pilot scheme which was just introduced to test the consequences of the Government's proposed new Universal credit to try to simplify a range of benefits into a single benefit:  the proposal is to combine JSA, ESA, IS, Housing Benefit and tax credits.  It is estimated that 8 million households will get this universal credit (UC).  Optimistically, the Government hopes this scheme will be implemented during the four years from 2013 to 2017.

The demo yesterday was sup[ported by Alec McFadden, the TUC-JCC representative for the North West and manager of Salford Unemployed Centre, supporters of Salford Against the Cuts, and delegates from Tameside Trade Council.  John Pearson and other members of the PCS union, Alec McFadden and Barry Woodling (Salford Against the Cuts and the Northern Anarchist Network[NAN]) addressed the gathering.

There are fears that this new benefit will lead to less benefits for claimants and to administrative problems within the benefit system.  Even the Government seems nervous as witnessed by the introduction of this small and cautious pilot in Ashton which only applies to a few postcodes in the tameside area.  Later some of the demonstrators led by delegates from Tameside TUC went to leaflet outside the local Job Centre, where many of the media had congregated.  There the press officer for the Dept. of Work & Pensions [DWP]/ Job Centre told Barry Woodling that the scheme was operating well so far.  Some leafleters were distributing a flyer criticising the 'Bedroom Tax'.

Ashton-under-Lyne and Tameside is an interesting as in the 1990s it was one of the areas that was foremost in challenging the Job Seeker's Allowance.

RAF Waddington: Ground the Drones Campaign

LAST Saturday saw hundreds march to RAF Waddington against the UK government's use of Drones in Afghanistan, now controlled from the military airbase near Lincoln. 

The largest demonstration against drones to date brought together Stop the War, War on Want, the Drone Campaign Network and CND and more than 600 members of the public to launch a national campaign against drones.

The pressure of our campaign has already been felt after the Ministry of Defence was forced to admit just two days before the protest that the Waddington control centre is now in operation. But much of the secrecy about how British drones are being used, and the threat of new interventions, remains.

A comment in January by the Secretary of State for Defence showed just how easy a new intervention might be when he had turned down a request from France to send drones to Mali because of the "unacceptable impact on our operations in Afghanistan". The question of whether or not British people want a new war in Mali was not even raised.

The widespread media coverage on drones that Saturday's demonstration has provoked has started an important debate about their use and showed just how important a strong anti-drones campaign will be in the coming months.

Stop the War would like to thank all those who participated in Saturday's successful demo.

Read the report from Common Dreams on the Ground the Drones demo, including TV reports from Sky and the BBC.
David Shariatmadari argues that drones might be changing more minds about war now that killing is conducted from our doorstep. 

Monday, 29 April 2013

Greater Manchester March and Rally for International Workers Day

Assemble: Bexley Square, Salford 10am
March from Bexley Square at ~11am

Rally: Friends Meeting House, Manchester 12:30pm
with Dot Gibson, National Pensioners Convention, Pete Middleman, PCS NW Regional Secretary, and Ryan Bradshaw, Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaigner and Member of Young Legal Aid Lawyers.

Save our NHS – No to Cuts and Privatisation
Defend All Jobs and Public Services
Axe the Bedroom Tax! Scrap Welfare Reforms!
Make the Rich Pay! Don’t Cut the Poor!
International Solidarity against Austerity

Richard Lighten
Secretary, Manchester Trades Union Council

Black Puddings & the Food Program

YESTERDAY Radio Four's Food Program broadcast Charles Campion's report from Normandy in France on the World Black Pudding Championships, which featured not only the classic Lancashire black pudding and the french bodin noir, but also entries from Japan, Austria and Ireland.  This year close on six hundred butchers from all over the world competed and celebrated this ancient dish which most of the great food cultures have created over the centuries in some form of blood sausage.

The program reported that though this dish has been made in this country since the arrival of the Romans, in many areas of Britian it has fallen out of favour.  In Bury, and Lancashire it still holds its own however, and every week Bury market is flooded with folk from other parts in search of the famous traditional Bury Black Pudding. 

It seems that the French version Boudin Noir is softer with a thinner skin and more like a Pâté in texture, while the typical Lancashire black pudding has lumps of fat in it and a thicker skin.  The advice given was that many English people tend to cook the pudding to death, and that it should take long to cook.  Up here in Lancashire it is recommended that we boil them for a brief period. On the program it was suggested that it could be combined with tomato ketchup or even piccalilli.

My view is that the best way I have found is the one suggested by Elizabeth David in her book French Provincial Cooking for grilled black pudding with apples:
'Boudin, black pudding, or blood pudding which, in France, is nearly always heavily flavoured with onion and much less insipid than the kind found in Engalnd, is cut into lengths of about 5 inches, painted with olive oil or pork fat and grilled about 5 minutes on each side.  Serve it on a bed of peeled, cored and sliced sweet apples, six to a pound of sausage, gentlly fried in pork fat.'

Third Post Office strike on Monday

POST Office staff in the country’s network of 373 Crown Post Offices will take a third round of strike action on Monday April 29 in a dispute over closures, franchising, jobs and pay. Management continue to refuse to negotiate, despite their financial arguments being proved wrong.

Strike action will start at 1pm on Monday April 29 and will affect up to 4,000 staff working in 373 Crown (main) post offices. Post Office staff voted by nine to one (88%) in favour of strike action and have already taken strike action on Easter Saturday and April 19.

CWU is opposed to Post Office plans to close or franchise 76 Crown offices – 20% of the network –which would affect over 800 jobs. The union is seeking protection for jobs and services, and wants to secure a fair pay rise for staff who have had no rise since April 2011. CWU believes the Post Office is trying to meet government targets by drastic cost-cutting.

Andy Furey, CWU national official, said: 'The Post Office has admitted that it’s got its sums wrong on the cost of our pay claim. They embellished the figure by over £6 million – effectively doubling the cost of what we’ve asked. Despite admitting this they still stubbornly refuse to negotiate. The Post Office’s mistakes in relation to our pay claim calls into question the accuracy of other Post Office numbers – including the alleged size of the losses in the Crown network. This part of the network handles 20% of all Post Office business and delivers 40% of financial services sales, despite making up only 3% of the whole network. It really is the driver and heart of the network which is why we are so concerned about the closure and franchise plans.   We can help the Post Office find a positive way forward for the network, but they must be prepared to listen to the concerns of their staff who voted by nine to one to back strike action. Without negotiation this dispute will continue.'

Strike action on Easter Saturday and Friday April 19 was overwhelmingly supported by CWU members.
The pay numbers
A pay rise was due in April 2012 for Crown Post Office staff but is still outstanding. Other staff employed by the Post Office – in areas such as supply chain and administration – have received pay rises of 3.5% and 3.25% in this period (2012-13 and 2013-14) without strings attached. This is exactly the same as what CWU is seeking for Crown staff. Postmasters have also received a pay agreement totalling £11 million for one year. But the counter staff in Crown offices have had nothing since April 2011.

The Post Office claimed in internal communications to staff that the CWU pay claim would cost the company £12 million. In fact, the CWU’s claim for 3.5% and 3.25% would cost just over £5m. In a meeting with the company a fortnight ago, CWU negotiators challenged the figures and the Post Office subsequently admitted their figures were wrong and misleading and confirmed this in a communication to staff.
In February the Post Office announced its intention to close or franchise 76 Crown offices – 20 per cent of the remaining network. This has raised fears over job security for over 800 people working in those offices and uncertainty for the future of other Crown offices. If the closures go ahead, hundreds of staff would never see some of the money being dangled by the Post Office as a ‘pay offer’ because they would no longer work for the company. 

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ground the drones demo hits the headlines.

This is an eye witness account of the Ground the Drones protest last Saturday at RAF Waddington organised jointly by CND and Stop the War Coalition.    The remarkable aspect of a comparatively small demonstration was the degree of media interest which was intense judging from the TV crews on the ground and subsequent news bulletins.   There was prominent reportage on the main BBC news.    An interesting departure for official news outlets which have consistently blanked out news coverage of many anti nuclear and anti war protests over the last few years.    So why the sudden media concern?    This can best be answered by describing what drones are

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles and are aircraft either controlled by "pilots" on the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission  they are either used for reconnaissance purposes or armed with missiles and bombs.   Armed drones were first used in the Balkans War and then in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan by the United States.    In June 2008 the MoD confirmed that a British Reaper UAV had fired its weapons for the first time.    In May 2012 MoD reported  that British Reapers had undertaken 281 armed attacks in Afghanistan since 2008.   In July 2011 the MoD  was forced to admit that Afghan civilians had been killed in a British drone strike.

British Reaper drones will be controlled from RAF Waddington and it is likely that yesterdays march and rally will be a prelude to further such protests.   Will the British media sustain its interest as the obscenity of drone warfare in the coming months as their use filters through into the public consciousness.    What is also disturbing is the probable use of drones for domestic surveillance and thus a dramatic expansion of the power of the state  and a further erosion  of human rights.

The protest was conspicuous by the absence of young people and most of those present were either veteran peace campaigners or politicos from groups such as Counterfire, SWP, Socialist Resistance.and a small group of Marxist Leninists.    Trade Union banners and anarchist flags were nowhere to be scene.   Overall it was a pleasant afternoon out in the Lincolnshire sunshine but the rally on waste ground near the base was fairly perfunctory.    In a way the day was saved by the presence of the news media and hopefully future direct action will challenge the legitimacy of these pernicious war machines.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Rochdale Council Sued for Saying Too Much About Care Homes

ROCHDALE Council and its leader, Colin Lambert, are being sued for over £400,000 over remarks made in the heat of the sexual grooming scandal last year.  At that time Colin Lambert said that Rochdale was the 'wrong' place to bring vulnerable children into care homes after a gang of local sexual molesters were sent to prison.  He also claimed that the private care homes were doing the 'opposite' of protecting and rehabilitating youngsters.

Now two firms, Meadows Care and Pathfinders Childcare, which between them manage 16 Rochdale homes, have filed a libel writ at the High Court against both Labour Councillor Lambert and the Rochdale Council.  They claim eight councils have pulled out of their homes as a consequence of Councillor Lambert's comments leaving them with £416,000 of lost business as a result.  They also claim the loss to their reputation is greater still.

Councillor Lambert made his remarks after a public meeting last May, following the conviction of nine men for abusing more than 40 vulnerable young lasses in Rochdale over a long period. 

The writ says that Councillor Lambert, a long time campaigner for tighter care home regulation, claimed the council had no control over private homes or the children in them, and after criticising the care system as a whole, he said:  'Rochdale borough, at the moment, is the wrong place to send these children.'

It seems that Lancashire, Doncaster, Kirklees, Calderdale, St. Helen's, North Yorkshire, Rotherham and Ealing councils were all to stop placing children in the care homes of the Rochdale firms shortly afterwards.

For Rochdale Council its deputy chief executive Linda Fisher said:  'The Council is taking the matter seriously and the action will be defended.'

Blacklist in Bristol

The Fight against Blacklisting
Date: Monday 29th April, 2013
Time: 7:30 pm
Place: Tony Benn House, 92 Victoria Street, Redcliffe, Bristol BS1 6AY
Price: Donation
With: Di Parkin

Di Parkin has been a left activist since the 1960s. She is a historian and published '60 years of struggle' a history of Betteshanger, a militant Kent pit. She will be speaking about the actions of the Economic League in the 1970s, providing blacklisting information to employers and the impact on militants in places such as Cowley car works and Kent coal field.

An electrician who has worked in the construction industry for 40 years will talk about his experiences of victimisation and the campaign against blacklisting. He is an active member of Unite, shop steward on a number of jobs and the Welsh rep on the Rank and File National committee.

Followed by a discussion on how we can organise to prevent further victimisation and blacklisting.
Organised by Bristol and District Hazards Group and Bristol Radical History Group

Royal Exchange Winter Season 2013-14: Arthur Miller, Sondheim & Victoria Wood


A co-production of a landmark play by Arthur Miller, a major revival of a Stephen Sondheim classic (in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse), a new production of a Victoria Wood play with songs and the world premiere of the latest Simon Stephens play are among the highlights of the newly-announced Royal Exchange Theatre Autumn-Winter 2013 / 14 Season. 

The season kicks off with Miller’s masterpiece ALL MY SONS - a co-production with Talawa Theatre Company - which runs from Wednesday 25 September to Saturday 26 October 2013. 

Set in 1947, the play centres on Joe and Kate Keller, an all-American couple who have the ghosts of World War II living in their own backyard.  Joe is a successful, self-made businessman, a loving family man and a pillar of the community. He is a partner in a machine shop building fighter plane parts. One thing overshadows Joe and Kate’s happiness - their son is missing in action, presumed dead by all but his mother.

A searing investigation of honesty, guilt and the corrupting power of greed, the play was Arthur Miller’s first success, establishing him as a leading voice in theatre.

This collaboration features Don Warrington, who first rose to TV fame as Phillip Smith in RISING DAMP. The cast also includes Doña Croll, whose many television credits include long-running roles in CASUALTY and DOCTORS.

The production is directed by Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company. His previous credits for the Royal Exchange include the multi award-winning A RAISIN IN THE SUN and PRIVATE LIVES. Talawa Theatre Company is Britain’s primary Black-led theatre company, producing work that has had a major impact on the British theatrical landscape since 1987. 

AUTUMN – WINTER 2013 / 14 SEASON / 2

The season continues with the Royal Exchange joining forces with West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds to present a new production of Stephen Sondheim’s musical theatre classic SWEENEY TODD – The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street. 

Packed with Sondheim’s characteristic wit and dark humour, SWEENEY TODD is a heart-poundingly entertaining musical thriller about a man driven mad by injustice. Widely acknowledged as Stephen Sondheim’s masterpiece, it is a razor sharp tale of vengeance and true love - featuring some of the finest music ever written for the theatre.

This spine-chilling contemporary version will be directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining. It will be his first production since joining the WYP and will mark the beginning of a creative partnership with the Royal Exchange. 

The show will open in Leeds from Thursday 26 September to Saturday 26 October before being re-worked for the Royal Exchange, where it will run from Friday 1 November to Saturday 30 November 2013. Originally staged in Dundee in 2010, Brining will revisit his TMA Award-winning production for two very different and iconic theatre stages.

This is followed by THAT DAY WE SANG by Victoria Wood which runs from Thursday 5 December 2013 to Saturday 18 January 2014. 

Reinvented and re-orchestrated for the Royal Exchange’s unique space, THAT DAY WE SANG is a big-hearted and nostalgic Manchester love story for all the family, written by one of the country’s most distinctive and well-loved comedic voices.

Set in the summer of ‘69, insurance clerk Tubby and secretary Enid are back on stage at the Free Trade Hall. Granada Television are recording a documentary celebrating the forty years since they first stood there as children, singing their hearts out with fellow school pupils and accompanied by the Halle Orchestra. 

This is the humorous, warm and uplifting story of two people who are trying to reconnect with who they were then and who they could be now. The show was commissioned for the Manchester International Festival 2011 and was one of the must-see events that year.

The production is directed by Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom. Her recent RET successes include PUNK ROCK, WINTERLONG, THE LADY FROM THE SEA, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, MISS JULIE, BLACK ROSES: THE KILLING OF SOPHIE LANCASTER and OPRHEUS DESCENDING. 

AUTUMN – WINTER 2013 / 14 SEASON / 3

The season concludes with the world premiere of BLINDSIDED by Simon Stephens, which runs from Thursday 23 January to Saturday 15 February 2014.

The drama centres on a girl growing up in a battered part of Stockport at the end of the seventies. She falls in love with the man who will break her heart into a thousand pieces. BLINDSIDED is an unexpected and romantic play about murder, spanning from the beginnings of the Thatcher Government in 1979 to the birth of New Labour in 1997.

Simon Stephens is one of the most prolific contemporary writers in the UK. His acclaimed adaptation of Mark Haddon’s novel THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT and his play PORT, which premiered at the Royal Exchange in 2002, have both recently enjoyed hugely successful runs at the National Theatre.

BLINDSIDED is the fourth play he has written specifically for the Royal Exchange and follows the success of PUNK ROCK in 2009. The production is directed by Sarah Frankcom.

The cast includes Katie West (PUNK ROCK) and Julie Hesmondhalgh, best known for playing Hayley Cropper in CORONATION STREET and who last appeared at the Exchange in BLACK ROSES: THE KILLING OF SOPHIE LANCASTER (for which she recently won a Manchester Theatre Award).

Full details of the new season in The Studio at The Royal Exchange Theatre are still to be announced but the highlights include THERE HAS POSSIBLY BEEN AN INCIDENT by Chris Thorpe, and the world premiere of EDMUND THE LEARNED PIG by Mike Kenny. 

THERE HAS POSSIBLY BEEN AN INCIDENT will premiere at this year’s Latitude Festival and play as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, before running in The Studio from Tuesday 3 September to Saturday 21 September 2013.

Chris Thorpe’s new piece tells a series of interlocking stories about the moments when life offers you a choice between heroism and compromise, and what happens after you choose.

EDMUND THE LEARNED PIG runs in The Studio from Wednesday 9 October to Saturday 26 October 2013.

This co-production between the Royal Exchange Theatre, Fittings Multimedia Arts and Krazy Kat Theatre Company fuses British Sign Language, puppetry, mime and music for audiences aged 8 and above.

AUTUMN – WINTER 2013 / 14 SEASON / 4

The play tells the story of Bonaparte's travelling circus show and marvellous menagerie. With just pigeons, an aerialist who won’t leave the ground, a chipped plate-spinning act and a Mr Memory who can hardly remember his own name, it is one its uppers. Then into their lives comes Edmund the Learned Pig!

Fittings Multimedia Arts is a disability led performance company who have been making work since 1995. EDMUND THE LEARNED PIG was written by Mike Kenny, an award-winning playwright, specialising in work for young people with songs and music by Martyn Jaques (The Tiger Lillies).

Tickets for the new season go on public sale Friday 3 May (Box Office: 0161 833 9833).

For further information, please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press Officer) on 0161 615 6783 / john.goodfellow@royalexchange.co.uk
* Please note – Press Nights in The Theatre have been moved to Tuesdays
Royal Exchange Theatre Autumn - Winter 2013 / 14 Season
Tickets go on sale Friday 3 May – Box Office: 0161 833 9833

By Chris Thorpe
Directed by Sam Pritchard

The Studio
Tuesday 3 September - Saturday 21 September 2013.

By Arthur Miller
Directed by Michael Buffong

A Royal Exchange Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company co-production. 
The Theatre
Wednesday 25 September - Saturday 26 October 2013.

World Premiere
By Mike Kenny

Music and songs by Martyn Jaques of The Tiger Lillies
From an orginal idea by Garry Robson and Kinny Gardner

A Royal Exchange Theatre, Fittings Multimedia Arts and Krazy Kat Theatre Company co-production
The Studio
Wednesday 9 October - Saturday 26 October 2013.


The Royal Exchange Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse present:
A Musical Thriller
Music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Book by Hugh Wheeler
From an adaptation by Christopher Bond
Directed by James Brining 

The Theatre
Friday 1 November - Saturday 30 November 2013.

By Victoria Wood

Directed by Sarah Frankcom
The Theatre
Thursday 5 December 2013 - Saturday 18 January 2014.

World Premiere:
By Simon Stephens

Directed by Sarah Frankcom
The Theatre
Thursday 23 January - Saturday 15 February.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Danczuk Now Says He Is Satisfied!

'I am confident,' says Simon Danczuk MP for Rochdale, 'every effort is being made to get these (sexual) predators off our streets'.  Furthermore, he said:  'There's no complacency on the part of police about these horrific crimes'.  This represents something of a turnaround for the Rochdale MP, who has long been critical of the way things have been done by the Greater Manchester Police and other local agencies over the years with regard to sexual grooming and the historical investigations of various bodies into the allegations of abuse against the former Liberal Democrat MP, Sir Cyril Smith.

His latest comments in which he told the Rochdale Observer that he had been reassured by police chiefs that 'lessons had been learned' may come as a surprise to some who have listened to his earlier criticisms.  These latest remarks come on the heals of revelations that the Greater Manchester Police have been reviewing their original investigations into child sex abuse in Rochdale taken five years ago.  This report we now know was submitted last month and is now being considered.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has said:
'Following through consideration of the (Greater Manchester Police) report (into sexual grooming in Rochdale) and information supplied by the Greater Manchester Police, the IPCC asked that additional investigative work be done and a revised investigation report supplied.  A revised report has been received now and is being assessed.'

A Greater Manchester Police spokesman confirming this, said:
'The issues were mainly around the terms of reference.'

Blacklisting Update - April 2013:

1. Crossrail: 
The campaign against blacklisting on Crossrail goes up a gear now UNITE have allocated resources - good luck frank Morris - well done to everyone who has been on the protests.
Video footage of National Housing Awards, National Building Awards and Westbourne Park picket https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hSNMKjdtzGA

2. Protest against blacklisting by Royal BAM at their AGM in Holland: 
BAM are part of the BFK consortium that sacked Frank Morris - UNITE sent a delegation of blacklisted workers to Holland to protest and discuss with Dutch unions. Steve Acheson, Frank Morris and Gail Cartmail represented - well done people (photo attached). 



3. International Workers Memorial Day - Sunday 28th April 2013:
Remember the Dead - Fight for the Living.

Blacklisted workers are speaking at the following events:
London: 10.30 am at Building Worker Statue, Tower Hill organised by London Hazards Centre - Speakers include Tony O'Brien - Construction Safety Campaign.

Chelmsford: Admirals Park 12.30pm - Speakers include Steve Kelly - organised by Chelmsford TUC.

Bristol: 1 to 2pm - Bristol Cathedral - speakers include Dave Smith & Nigel Costley SWTUC organised by SWTUC. 

Liverpool: 1pm at South Piazza of Georges Dock - Speakers include Len McCluskey, Steve Rotherham MP, Tony Kearns -CWU, Linzi Herbertson FACK.

Manchester: Albert Square for 10.30am music form FBU Band - Speakers including families of people killed by work (FACK), G.M. Asbestos Victims Support Group. 

There are 100s of IWMD events taking place - there will be one near you.

4. Labour Party Policy Review:
Blacklisted workers have held a 90 minute private discussion with Jon Cruddas MP, the man charged by Ed Milliband to run the Labour Party Policy Review which will determine the party's Election Manifesto commitments and called for a full Leverson style public inquiry into the scandal. The MP for Dagenham met representatives from the Blacklist Support Group and the GMB union at Portcullis House as part of the formal consultation process for the policy review which is expected to form the basis of the next Labour Party General Election Manifesto.

The delegation including blacklisted worker Dave Smith and GMB union Dagenham branch secretary Penny Robinson called for the existing Blacklisting Regulations introduced by the previous Labour government to be strengthened to make blacklisting a criminal offence punishable by punitive fines and custodial sentences.

Gary Doolan, Islington Labour Councillor explained how local authorities across the country were now passing motions calling for blacklisted firms to be denied publicly funded contracts until such time that they fully compensated those they have blacklisted.

Dave Smith - Blacklist Support Group secretary said:
'It was an open and honest exchange of views but we made it crystal clear that the victims of this systematic human rights abuse will judge the Labour Party not by what it says but by whether it delivers justice'

John Cruddas MP said:
'I have profound concerns about the allegations of state involvement in blacklisting and as the coordinator of the Labour Party Policy Review, I give my commitment that the issues raised at the meeting will feed into the Policy Review'. 
The demand for a public inquiry and criminal sanctions for blacklisting is supported by TUC, GMB, UNITE, UCATT and every major union in the UK. Another meeting is planned for later in the year.
5. Steve Rotheram MP Meeting with blacklisted workers
Roy Bentham and John Flanagan met Liverpool MP Steve Rotheram on 19th April to discuss the EDM and Councils excluding. Good work fellas.

6. Steve Acheson video

The Defence Fund set up to save Steve Acheson's house: Cheques made payable to Fiddlers Ferry Hardship Fund c/o 6 Red Gables, Pepper Street, Warrington WA4 4SB.

7. Blacklisting Debate in the Scottish Parliament

Thursday, 2 May 2013 - Scottish Parliament, EH99 1SP Edinburgh, 

Neil Findlay MSP is moving a motion in the Scottish Parliament to ban blacklisting firms from all publicly funded contracts in Scotland.

8. Random Press coverage from Sweden and Devon


9. Bristol Blacklisting meeting
7.30pm Monday 29th April
Tony Benn House, 92 Victoria Street, Redcliffe, Bristol

10. Reel News - Film Night - Thursday 25th April

If you like the videos - support the indy-media collective that makes them.

Is you union branch affiliated?

Welfare Week 29 April- 5 May:

PCS is spearheading a united campaign against welfare cuts alongside other trade unions and charities. 

PCS will have a week of activities around welfare. It will start with a protest in Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall (near the Jobcentre Pathfinder) from 12.30pm on 29 April. This Pathfinder is the first trial of Universal Credit (UC). 
Throughout the campaign week our members will be able hand out a variety of leaflets to colleagues and the public highlighting the problems of UC and busting myths about welfare.
Our core campaign objectives: 
Set out an alternative vision for welfare

Protect public service delivery

Defend members’ jobs from cuts and privatisation

Defend claimants’ rights and entitlements

Bust welfare myths

Coordinate a united campaign.

Join the protest

Join the protest to defend welfare at Ashton town hall steps, Market Place, Ashton-Under-Lyne OL6, on 29 April from 12:30–1:30pm. Please see flyer and circulate wide..

For information and to sign up to the campaign, email welfare@pcs.org.uk

Read and share our pamphlet Welfare: an alternative vision 

Find out more about the campaign at pcs.org.uk/welfare 

Red Ken counts the reddies

'KEN Livingstone was given much air-time by the BBC to decry Baroness Thatcher’s legacy, but capitalism is treating him kindly.  The former mayor of London and his wife, Emma, were paid a dividend of £195,000 last year, according to the latest accounts of Silveta, the firm which he denied using to minimise his tax bill. It was an increase of 34 per cent on 2011.'  (Richard Eden in The Telegraph)

Spies for Peace: 50 Years On

ON the 23rd, April 1963 the Prime Minister Harold Macmillian told the House of Commons that British agents are taking 'vigorous steps' to run down the authors of a 'Spies for Peace' pamphlet.  The pamphlet, he said, contained secret data, but the information 'was not seriously damaging to the national interest.'  The pamphlet, according to the Herald Tribune at the time, 'was distributed to ban-the-bomb marchers during the Easter weekend', and 'it contained information about a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation exercise and details about buildings to be used as administerative centres in the event of an atomic war.'

In his book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow' (2006), David Goodway writes of this incident: 
'The long, harsh winter of 1962-3, one of the twentieth century's worst, saw renewed crisis acted out within the London Committee of 100 (a ban-the-bomb civil disobedience organisation) ... the radicals, mainly from or close to Solidarity, circulated the arrestingly titled discussion document, "Beyond Counting Arses", advocating radical subversive action... (t)he Spies for Peace were essentially this group, locating and entering the Regional Seat of Government (RSG) at Warren Row, Berkshire, and circulating the pamphlet, "Danger!  Official Secret: RSG-6".  Thereby many of us on the Aldermaston March of Easter 1963 were diverted to explore the sinister surface buildings of the subterranean bunker.' 

This was a strange moment on the British left and I was shocked when I picked up my copy of The Times, a day or so later in the fishing village of Denia in Spain where I was then living, and it had a headline report entitled 'Anarchist Take Over'.  The historian of the nuclear disarmament movement Richard Taylor  recorded the climate of the time thus:
'there can be no doubt that the programme, the policy, the assumptions, and the priories of the Committee (of 100) became more and more closely attuned to anarchism through 1962 and 1963, although the influence of "formal Anarchism" remained small....  Nevertheless, both the practice and ideology of the Committee (of 100) in 1962-3 were strongly anarchist in flavour, and in underlying ideological assumptions.'

This contrasts with the lack of influence of anarchism, either 'formal' or 'informal' on the politics of our own time, as the British left as a whole feebly retreats into 'marching together' and reacting to the agenda set by the establishment.

The next issue of the printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, will soon be available for sale with a with a review of one of Dave Goodway's books 'The Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow: from William Morris to Colin Ward', Northern Voices can be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' sent to c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com

Tony Blair’s tangled web: The Quartet Representative and the peace process

From Journal of Palestine Studies – Winter 2013 

TONY Blair stepped down as British prime minister in 2007 and immediately assumed the position of representative to the Quartet, the international body overseeing the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Against the background of mounting criticism at home over his role in the 2003 Iraq War, this profile examines the record of Blair’s activities in the Middle East over the past five years. The picture that emerges is one of rapid self-enrichment through murky consultancies and opaque business deals with Middle East dictators, and an official role (formally dedicated to Palestinian state-building) whose main results appear to be an unhappy Palestinian Authority and the perpetuation of the status quo. 

On 27 June 2007, Tony Blair resigned as Britain’s prime minister after ten years in office. That very same day, he was appointed to the vaguely defined and unsalaried role of representative to the Quartet, the international body comprising the United States, European Union (EU), United Nations (UN), and Russia that was established in 2002 to oversee the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Blair had won three elections in a row in the United Kingdom, a record equaled in the modern era only by Margaret Thatcher. But by the time of his departure, his Labour Party was beset by internal divisions and rocked by scandals, and his popularity was waning. Blair’s talent for “media spin” had begun to grate on much of the British electorate, which found it increasingly hard to believe that their prime minister really was the man of principle he claimed to be.[1] Blair could not shake off a public perception both that he had used deception in promoting the case for war against Iraq in 2003 and that, in relation to those same events, his government had subordinated its foreign policy priorities to the goals of the U.S. administration of George W. Bush. 

Turning Point Strike This Friday

WORKERS Turning Point, a charity offering health and social care services, are on strike this Friday 26th April. Management have threatened 2,600 staff with dismissal if they refuse to sign new contracts that slash terms and conditions. 

Staff will be demonstrating at Turning Point's Manchester offices on Friday. Please join the protest to support the striking workers.

8.30am - 1pm (rally at 12.30)  Outside Turning Point Offices,
The Exchange, 
3 New York Street, 

M1 4HN. 

In Solidarity, 
Richard Lighten

Secretary, Manchester Trades Union Council.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Protest Against Universal Credit Pilot Scheme - Ashton Town Hall, Monday 29 April.

"On 29 April, the Universal Credit Pilot starts at Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre. PCS believes the introduction of 'conditionality' for those in work, and stricter sanctions for those out of work at this time, are cruel, ineffective, unnecessary and discriminating; the governments preferred option of online claiming discriminates against those with disabilities and those on low incomes. The government target of 80% of Universal Credit being claimed online is unrealistic. We are calling on the government to rethink Universal Credit and develop an approach based on creating jobs as opposed to puishing them for not being able to find jobs."

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), who represent Jobcentre staff, have organised a protest to 'Defend Welfare' and are inviting people to join them on the steps of Ashton Town Hall on Monday 29 April between 12.30 - 1.30 pm. Speakers from PCS, Unite and community campaign groups.

PCS is spearheading a united campaign against welfare cuts alongside other trade unions and charities and will have a week of activities around welfare. It will start with a protest in Ashton-under-Lyne Town Hall (near the Jobcentre Pathfinder) from 12.30pm on 29 April. This Pathfinder is the first trial of Universal Credit (UC).

Throughout the campaign week our members will be able hand out a variety of leaflets to colleagues and the public highlighting the problems of UC and busting myths about welfare.

Our core campaign objectives:

Set out an alternative vision for welfare

Protect public service delivery

Defend members’ jobs from cuts and privatisation

Defend claimants’ rights and entitlements

Bust welfare myths

Coordinate a united campaign.

Join the protest to defend welfare at Ashton town hall steps, Market Place, Ashton-Under-Lyne OL6, on 29 April from 12:30–1:30pm. Please see flyer and circulate wide..

For information and to sign up to the campaign, email welfare@pcs.org.uk

Read and share our pamphlet Welfare: an alternative vision

Find out more about the campaign at pcs.org.uk/welfare

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Demystifying the financial crisis - Gillian Tett and Paul Mason!

Since the financial meltdown in 2008, there have been a number of books that have been written with a view to demystifying the reasons for the crisis and to countering some of the fraudulent explanations that have been put forward by vested interests aimed at creating obfuscation. Two  books which are well worth reading in my view, are Gillian Tett's 'Fool's Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe' and Paul Mason's, 'Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions'.

Gillian Tett is an assistant editor at the Financial Times and was the deputy editor of the influential Lex Column. She has a PhD in social anthropology from Cambridge. In her book, Tett explains that 2008 financial crisis was not trigggered by a war, a widespread recession or any external economic shock. It was self-inflicted and was caused by 'hubris, greed, and regulatory failure', savings imbalances, as well as "excessively loose monetary policy, which stoked the credit bubble." She also makes the point that bankers like 'opacity' because it reduces scrutiny and confers power on the few with 'the ability to pierce the vail.'

At the beginning of her book, Tett explains the idea of 'derivatives' and how they work. She points out that though derivatives (a contract whose value derives from an asset - a bond, a stock, or a quantity of gold) are as old as the idea of finance itself, the modern era of derivative trading started in 1849 when the Chicago Board of Trade, allowed the buying and selling of 'futures' and 'options' on agricultural commodities. This allowed farmers to buy futures before the harvest, on the price their wheat would bring, in  order to hedge against low prices in the event of a bumper crop. It also allowed speculators to take on the risk of losses that farmers feared, in the hope of big pay offs. As she explains, derivatives are a 'dance with time' which allow investors to protect themselves against furture price swings or to make high-stake bets on price swings.

In the late 1970s, derivatives came into the world of finance after foreign currencies became free-floating following the collapse of the Bretton Woods system of credit controls which pegged the value of foreign currencies to the dollar. Accordingly, investors looked for ways in which to hedge against the impact of high interest rates and the fluctuation in exchange rates. One way of doing this, was to buy derivatives offering clients the right to purchase currencies at specific exchange rates in the future. This allowed investors and bankers to speculate on the level of rates in the future.

Tett also looks at the role played the firm J.P. Morgan who devised the 'credit derivatives' which were later dubbed 'weapons of financial mass destruction'. In June 1994, bankers from J.P. Morgan, met at the Boca Raton Hotel in Florida to discuss ways to develop new financial products. The idea of the credit derivative - 'Synthetic Collateralized Debt Obligations' (CDO's)  and 'Credit Default Swaps' (CDS), emerged from this meeting. It was claimed that credit derivatives could be used to control future risks or to allow banks to place bets on whether a loan or bond might default in the future. It was also claimed that credit derivates would make markets more efficient because they would disperse risk.

In her analysis of the U.S. sub-prime scandal, Tett says that after 2000, the Chairman of the U.S. Federal Bank, Alan Greenspan, cut interest rates rates from 6% in 2001, to 1% in 2003, following the collapse of the internet bubble in 2000. This led to an explosion of borrowing, but in the spring of 2004, the U.S. Fed raised interest rates to 4% by the end of 2005. She points out that in 2000 the amount of non-conforming mortgages (sub-prime loans) sold, was small at around $80bn dollars but by 2005, this had increased to $800bn dollars. Indeed, almost half of the mortgage-linked bonds in the U.S. were based on sub-prime loans. As higher interest rates started to kick in, defaults on risky mortgages started to increase in 2006, even though U.S. economy was growing strongly and there was low unemployment. As Tett points out, at the time, there was some confusion as to why the default rate was rising when the U.S. economy was doing reasonably well. Moreover, because house prices had been rising rapidly (average U.S. house prices at the peak of 2006, were double what the historic trend line said they should be), borrowers and lenders had not worried about the risk of default because it had been assumed that borrowers could refinance their loans as their homes increased in value or sell their homes at a profit, to pay off their loans. But as house prices stalled even in more proseperous areas, and as deafaults increased, borrowers abandoned their mortgages and their homes.

What is also highly significant, is that many lenders had taken out CDS contracts where the buyer pays a regular fee to the seller, in exchange for a guarantee that they will be compensated in the case of default on a stipulated piece of debt. As Tett observes: "The CDS market had turned into a vast, opaque spider's web, linking together banks and shadow banks and brokers alike, with unfathomable trades and fear." By mid 2005, there were $12 trillion dollars worth of CDS contracts in the market which were equivalent to the size of the U.S. economy.

If some people at the top of the banking system were bamboozled by what was going on, including treasury officials, not everbody was. When Ronden Barber, a statistical expert working for the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), expressed worries that the bank's financial models were 'significantly underpricing' the risk attached to 'super-senior' debt, he was asked to leave the bank.

Jim Chanos, founder of the hedge-fund group 'Kynikos', told a German official that it was not hedge-funds he should be concerned about but the banks. He told him that 'leverage' at the banks (the use of borrowed capital for an investment expecting the profits to be greater than the interest repayable) was surging because the banks were holding "huge piles of opaque credit assets on their books which no one understood.Also, strange CDO's and special investment vehicles were springing up with all manner of tentacles into the banks." He told the official that it was the "regulated bits of the system he should worry about" and told him that his own fund, had taken on numerous 'short positions'(the sale of borrowed stock/assets in the expectation its value will fall) on the share price of most large investment banks and insurers.

What should be particularly worrying for both investors and depositors, is Tett's observation that "Few managers sitting at the top of the investment banks had much idea what their traders were doing let alone whether their models were accurate enough." According to Tett, this was because people working within the banks, were working in what she calls 'Silos', which she defines as 'self contained realms of activity and knowledge that only experts in those areas can fully understand." She points out that credit derivatives had not dispersed risk but had concentrated it and concealed it and had become 'horribly complex'. Not only had the banks become "too big to fail" they had become "too interconnected to ignore." At the time the financial sector exploded, there were $60,000 billion in outstanding CDS's in the market as a whole. Also, a staggering proportion of mortgage based debt which had been given a AAA rating by credit rating agencies, was worthless junk - 'toxic debt'.  The U.S. treasury official, Robert Steel, told J.P.Morgan officials that the financial system had become infected with the banking equivalent of 'mad cow disease'. Yet in a speech given in March 1999, U.S. Fed Chairman, Alan Greenspan (a devotee of the cult of Ayn Rand), had told his audience:

"By far the most significant event in finance during the past decade has been the extraordinary development and expansion of financial derivatives."

Not only did Greenspan believe that credit derivatives would make the markets more efficient, he was a leading voice against the regulation of credit derivatives. As Tett says: "Freed from all external srutiny, bankers could do almost anything they wished."

Whereas Gillian Tett's book, takes a more mirco perspective on the financial crisis, looking at the role played by banks with a view to unravelling the intricacies of investment banking, Paul Mason's book, (Mason is the economics editor for BBC Newsnight), takes a more macro perspective of the financial meltdown and the reasons for the global unrest. Chapters in the book deal with the 'Arab Spring'; 'Syndicalism and the 'Great Unrest' of 1910-14'; the use of technology and social media in the explanations for social unrest in this country and abroad; the historical parallels of 1848, the Paris Commune of 1871; as well as the British student occupations, and the French collective, the 'Invisible Committee' and the pamphlet 'The Coming Insurrection'.

Mason's account for the reasons for the 2008 financial crisis, can be summarised as follows:

1) Between 1989-2009, the world's labour force doubled from 1.5bn to 3bn through migration and outsourcing as the labour market became global. The move from the farm to factory in China and the developing world, combined with the entry of the former Soviet bloc into the global economy, effectively doubled the amount of labour available to capital and halved the ratio of capital to labour. The impact on wages was startling. In the 2000s real wages fell in the U.S., Japan, Germany, and across many of the West's heartland countries. The shortfall between stagnating wages and consumption growth was met by credit.

2) There was an uncontrolled expansion of credit from 2000. Government's encouraged lending which became detached from reality.

3) The credit boom was caused by a mismatch between savings generated in export orientated countries, Japan, China, Germany, and the debt fueled consumption in Anglo-Saxon countries.

4) Excess credit fueled asset price inflation in housing, technology stocks, commodities, and financial assets.

5) Complex debt vehicles were created such as credit derivatives, a shadow banking system, and off balance sheet entities, which concealed toxic debts.

6) A massive rise in global imbalances, saw saving in the west dry up while savings in the east piled high. Why invest savings in home markets when capitalism is global? According to Mason, this is probaly the most single disrupting factor.

7) The collapse of Lehman Bros in 2008, unleashed toxic debts into the economic system. Credit dried up as well as output and trade and stock market values collapsed as well as exports. "A slump on the scale of the 1930s, was halted by the intervention of the state who quarantined trillion of dollars of bad loans inside the balance sheets of government's.

Although Mason acknowledges that greed, regulatory failure, and the investment decisions of some of the major banks, were in part responsible for the 2008 economic crisis, he believes that the root cause of the crisis was globalization and the monopolization of wealth by a global elite. However, he contends that what is needed, is a 'new and more sustainable form of globalization' rather than a retreat behind national barriers.  He argues that globalization did drag one billion people out of rural poverty into urban slums by creating an extra 1.5 billion extra workers, provided life changing technologies, and offset the decline in prosperity for rich workers in the developed world by providing unlimited access to credit. It also made the rich in every country richer, and inequality greater. According to Mason, as austerity bites, there is a danger of increased nationalism and protectionism and globalization being replaced by competing economic blocks, as it was in the 1930s, as well as a wave of resistance to wage cuts and austerity.

Sir Mervyn King, the previous governor of the Bank of England, may well have blamed the banks for causing the financial crisis which occurred on his watch, but it isn't the bankers that are paying for the financial meltdown that they helped to bring about. The rich have offloaded the costs of the financial crisis onto the backs of ordinary working people who have never heard of a credit default swap or a credit derivative. In the UK, 77% of the budget deficit is being recouped by public expenditure and benefit cuts and only 23% is being repaid by tax increases of which, more than half, is accounted for by the rise in VAT.  In the U.S., the deficit is being recouped by cutting healthcare for the poor, the pensions for the elderly and the minimum wage. In 2011, President Obama agreed to make $2.5 trillion in spending cuts mostly on infrastructure and welfare payments to the poor. In the UK, at a time when the Cameron Tory government have introduced their 'bedroom tax' and council's face the loss of a third of their budget by 2015, the rich are being given tax cuts. As from April, anyone earning over £1 million a year, will get an annual tax cut of at least £42,295.00.  As the Greek slave and fable author Aesop said : "We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office."

FACK Statement for International Workers' Memorial Day

International Workers' Memorial Day is an opportunity for us FACK families to tell the stories of our lives, which changed irrevocably and beyond measure when our loved ones’ lives were cut far too short.

These are loved ones like Cameron Minshull, a 16-year old lad, only a few weeks into his first job, killed in an incident involving an industrial lathe. The HSE Director whose desk this came across has said he thought he was reading a tale from Victorian times. But this was no tale of a bygone era, it is a modern day horror story.

For his family “it still does not seem real, it’s like a bad dream”. But this is no work of fiction. Because, once upon a time our loved ones left for work, and for them – and therefore us - there will be no living happily ever after.

Yet this ConDem government continues to push a narrative through which they attempt to convince the public that health and safety legislation amounts to a burden on business, or is a barrier to our young people gaining work experience.

The truth of it is that lack of good health and safety often proves an ultimate and deadly barrier to young people gaining work experience, just as it did for 17 year-old Steven Burke who fell 30ft to his death while working at a water treatment plant or 18 year-old Lewis Murphy who died after suffering 60% burns when he was engulfed in a massive fireball at the garage he started working at on leaving school. His mum and dad found out in court that, as their son was being taken to hospital, he had asked the paramedic if he was going to die. That is a real and enduring burden.

Those of us whose lives are far emptier for the loss of our parents, children, siblings or partners, we bear the burden.

But proactive, preventative inspections have been dramatically cut and are now banned in the majority of workplaces which are wrongly called "low risk" as over half of all recorded deaths occur in these sectors. Legislation is being slashed. Approved Codes of Practice are being scrapped and replaced with toothless guidance. Blacklisting for raising health and safety concerns is still rife and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is ordered by the government to consider the economy before safety and lives.

Well we FACKers will not have health and safety portrayed by politicians and the media as some sort of Jekyll and Hyde character: the villain of the piece in some quarters or the figure of fun deployed for comedic effect in others. Health and safety is not about the fun police, triangular flapjacks or bonkers conkers. It is about a young man who should have celebrated his 7th wedding anniversary this month who was robbed of the opportunity to walk up the aisle. It is about those who are robbed of the opportunity to see children grow up or grandchildren be born. It is about young boys like Samuel Adams, aged 6, who are robbed of the opportunity to even dream of what they might be when they grow up.

So it is no wonder we FACKers feel upset and angry at repeatedly reading that a death “could and should have been prevented had the employer ensured”: that proper risk assessments were undertaken; or that adequate training was provided; or that machinery was properly guarded; or that its own written procedures were adhered to; or that a safe system of work was being followed. But, because health and safety is portrayed as a meddlesome intrusion or tiresome impediment to getting the job done, these fundamentals are far too often ignored and loved ones pay the ultimate price. 

Understand that these are very rarely “accidents at work”, because an accident waiting to happen is no accident. And appreciate that deaths caused by work are far more common than HSE figures would have you believe. Do not be duped into thinking the HSE’s headline-grabbing 173 workers killed last year is anything like the whole story. The Hazards Campaign counts the real cost of work in death, injury and illness: around 1400 killed in work-related incidents (not accidents); and up to 50,000 who die as a result of work-related illness. That’s a total of around 140 work-related deaths a day, 6 an hour.

So we stand here today remembering all loved ones who die because of work. But at very heart of FACK's work is the desire to prevent others losing their lives or their loved ones in incidents which could and should have been prevented.

While FACK families bear the burden of poor health and safety regulation and enforcement, we also feel a tremendous sense of responsibility to you and yours. So join with us in renewing our commitment to take on the politicians and the enforcement authorities, fighting like hell for the living, and helping ensure that you or yours do not become the next chapter in this story!

FACK 0161 636 7557 or 079298 00240
FACK was established in July 2006, by and for families of people killed by the gross negligence of business employers, see www.fack.org.uk and Families Against Corporate Killers on Facebook. Please refer to us anyone who has experienced a work-related death for help and support and consider donating to keep us going!
Founder Members of FACK:
Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre,10th October 1998

Linzi Herbertson -husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in January 1998

Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work on 8th Nov 2001

Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work on 21st February 2004

Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work on 4th August 2005

Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work on 23rd May 2004

Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work on 13th April 2005

Workers Memorial Day

As the government atacks our health and safety we are fighting for our lives, please try to atted a WMD event near you, see below and Manchester Flyer attached.

There is also an exhibition on International Workers Memorial Day at the People's History Museum in Manchester until 29th April.

Scroll down for a statment from Families Against Corporate Killers.

Hilda Palmer

0161 636 7557


Events: Find one near you by checking TUC listing: http://www.tuc.org.uk/workplace/tuc-21912-f0.cfm
North West Events

Blackburn:  Blackburn and district Trades Union Council event on Friday 26th April

Assemble 12.30 at WMD Tree at Northgate 2 mins silence and laying of wreaths. Contact Sec. Ian Gallagher, ig@eyegal.demon.co.uk

Bolton Trades Council event Sunday 28th April Meet 11 am at Bolton UNISON, Howell Croft House, Bolton BL1 1QY for refreshment, 11,10am march led by piper to Victoria Square. Speakers, minutes silence and release of balloons. Contact Sec. Martin McMulkin : mmcmulkin@hotmail.com

Chorley: Chorley Trades Council event on Friday 26th of April, service & speakers, meet at Park Gates, Astley Park, Chorley 17.45, bring flags and banners. Contact Sec. Steve Turner, secretarycdtc@hotmail.co.uk

Liverpool: UCATT event Sunday, 28th April, at UCATT’s Memorial in Hunter Street, Liverpool. Assemble 11.45 a.m. Speakers include Lynn Collins, Reg. Sec. NWTUC and Bill Parry, UCATT Reg. Council Chairman.

Liverpool: Merseyside District joint union event Sunday 28th at 1pm at South Piazza of Georges Dock Building- corner of Mann Island and the Strand. Face painting, Fire Engine. Speakers include Len McCluskey, Steve Rotherham MP, Tony Kearns -CWU, Linzi Herbertson FACK.

Manchester: Exhibition at People’s History Museum from Friday 19th April to 28th April

Joint Union event on Sunday 28th April Assemble in Albert Square for 10.30am fire engine, music from FBU Band, and Claire Mooney. Rally begins at 11 am with minutes silence, speakers including Kevan Nelson Reg Sec NW UNISON, union safety representatives, families of people killed by work (FACK), G.M. Asbestos Victims Support Group, ending with a Shout out for Safety!

Walk to:
People’s History Museum 12.30: Short speeches, presentation of prizes for schools and refreshments

For more information Contact Hilda Palmer: mail@gmhazards.org.uk
Flyer: http://gmhazards.files.wordpress.com/2012/02/flyer-for-manchester-wmd-2103.pdf

Over 350 people attended last year’s march and rally, let’s make it even bigger this year!

Preston: WMD Committee event Saturday 27th April gather at 11.30am in Flag Market, minutes silence at 12 noon, service and speakers, more information from http:// www.lancashiretradeunions.org.uk

Wigan event is on Sunday 28th April at 12 noon at WMD tree in Mesnes Park; speakers Ian Hodson President BFAWU, Lisa Nandy MP.

Statement is at: http://www.fack.org.uk/news/wmd2013.html

c/o Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Windrush Millennium Centre,
70 Alexandra Road , Manchester M16 7WD Tel 0161 636 7557
mail@gmhazards.org.uk www.fack.org.uk 

Monday, 22 April 2013

'English Working Class': Made Up North!

The 4th Northern Radical History Network Conference in Bradford
LAST Saturday Dave Goodway, the social and cultural historian who worked in Continuing Education at the University of Leeds from 1969 to 2005, gave an illuminating rendering of the intellectual influences upon E.P. Thompson through William Morris and, perhaps more importantly, the necessary territorial environment in which Thompson found himself when he researched his significant book 'The Making of the Working Class' in 1963, in what is now West Yorkshire. This last point became clear when Mr. Goodway came to answer the question from Adam Gutteridge from Sheffield:
'How did the book come to be produced out of a specific geographical location?'

Mr.Goodway responded thus:
'He didn't teach local history, his background was in English literature, but E.P. Thompson's “The Making of the Working Class” is a national history with in-depth local research in the West Riding of Yorkshire that goes beyond the London-centric history, and he made an active choice to live in an industrial area.'
or as E.P. Thompson has it in his Preface dated Halifax August 1963:
'This book was written in Yorkshire, and is coloured at times by West Riding sources.' 

Thompson had gone to Cambridge in 1941 to study English literature and social history in Elizabethan England, going to Leeds University as a staff teacher still in English literature in 1948, and had in the 1950s still regarded himself as a poet and had been elected to the District Committee of the Communist Party around this time. He later came to write a 908-page book on William Morris 'Prophet of a New Order', and claimed 'Morris came to seize me by the throat', and Goodway said this book led him to 'reclaim Morris for a socialism that is revolutionary'. It was Thompson's work on this book that was, according to Mr. Goodway, crucial in beginning a transformation in Thompson's thinking that was accelerated in 1956 when he left the Communist Party, during what became 'the most important year for Thompson': following the Hungarian Revolution E.P. Thompson had written about the folly of 'leaving error unrefuted'

Goodway pointed to the distinction that Thompson found in his study of William Morris between 'Desire and necessity' or between morality, human will and conscience on the one hand, and Marxist determinism on the other. Derek Pattison told me that the historian Eric Hobsbawn regarded E.P. Thompson's 'The Making of the English Working Class' as too 'romantic'; Hobsbawn stayed in the Communist Party up to his death, long after Thompson left in 1956, and Hobsbawm deftly continued to juggle his grand historical ideas about society and with a straight poker-face, and an apparently clear conscience as the mountains of corpses piled up across the planet.

E.P. Thompson is not, like Hobsbawm seems to be, studying a topic to pour scorn on some social element like 'Primitive Rebels' or 'Bandits' in order to show that they are immature or backwards stages in a linear progression to the present. Thompson writes in his Preface:
'I am seeking to rescue the poor stockinger, the Luddite cropper, the "obsolete" hand-loom weaver, the 'utopian' artisan, and even the deluded follower of Joanna Southcott, from the enormous condescension of posterity. Their crafts and traditions may have been dying. Their hostility to the new industrialism may have been backward-looking. Their communitarian ideals may have been foolhardy. But they lived through these times of acute social disturbance, and we did not.'

One senses a smug, supercilious condescending attitude in Hobsbawm, that is lacking in the Englishman, E.P. Thompson. George Orwell's portrayal of 'Catastrophic Gradualism' would not trouble the hardened Marxist Professor Hobsbawm, as I suspect it would E.P. Thompson. The publishers Gollanz asked the historian John Saville for a text book on the English working-class and he referred them to Thompson, then what started as a social and political history of the West Riding ended up by being what Dave Goodway describes as 'the most important history book in England'. For Goodway the word 'Making' in the title of 'The Making of the Working Class' is vital because it emphasises that 'man must and does create the conditions under which he lives'. 'Making' in this sense means 'agency and engagement' in people creating for themselves their own destiny. Goodway said that the key organising theme of this work was visible in Thompson as early as 1955 during his work on Morris, and the facilities for the study of the subject were present in the fact that Thompson was involved in giving adult education classes in the West Riding of Yorkshire; several of his students helping in the project from classes scattered across West Yorkshire from Todmorden to Northallerton.

Fiona Cosson from Littleborough in Lancashire, asked if Thompson was a 'public intellectual' and if this is something of a legacy that has now been abandoned by the Left? It was thought that historians today had bought into the 'consensus' and moved from the study of 'class' to research into consumption with research grants now awarded for contemporary concerns like consumption habits and perhaps issues of identity politics. Goodway said that there are pressures on academics to produce their results before they are really ready, and that he felt that there is little chance now that researchers and academics can create works like 'The Makings of the the Working Class' or 'William Morris'.

There was some discussion as to if Thompson was right in his central thesis that the working-class became a reality at the time of the Reform Act Bill in the 1832 the focus of his Chapter 16 on 'Class Consciousness', or as Hobsbawn has claimed, later in the 19th Century with the emergence of the popular press and cheap railway travel.  Hobsbawm had taught Goodway, and he said that Hobsbawn didn't address the issue that this late 19th Century rendering of the formation of the English working-class was an altogether more passive animal.  Something that was not tackled last Saturday was Thompson's stress in his Chapter 2 of the book on the London bias of many theorists of the English working-class.  At the end of that chapter, after giving a quote from Dr. Hobsbawm, he writes:
'Nearly all the theorists of the working-class movement are in that London tradition - or else, like Bray the Leeds printer they are analogues of the skilled London working men.'
He then argues:
'But the list itself reveals a dimension that is missing - the moral force of the Luddites, of Brandreth and young Bamford, of the Ten Hour men, of Northern Chartists and I.L.P. (and) South and North, intellect and enthusiasm, the arguments of secularism and rhetoric of love - the tension is perpetuated in the nineteenth century...  And each tradition seems enfeebled without the complement of the other.'

The next issueof the printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, will soon be available for sale with a with a review of one of Dave Goodway's books 'The Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow:  from William Morris to Colin Ward'Northern Voices can be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' sent to c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com

Bloody Monday in Iraq: 15 April 2013

WHILE the US and UK corporate media was awash with stories about the Boston Marathon bomb, in which three people were killed, this is what was happening on one day in Iraq, which the media ignored:  
Not really in the news:
1. At least 75 Iraqis were killed and 356 more were wounded in a series of attacks across the country. Only the far south and Iraqi Kurdistan were spared. Many of the attacks were apparently coordinated and occurred at about the same time this morning. They also came a few days ahead of local elections in most provinces. Nineva and Anbar province, both heavily Sunni, had their elections postponed by the Shi’ite-led government.

2. In Baghdad, the bombings left 30 dead and 92 wounded. Among them, a blast in the Kamaliya neighborhood left four dead and 13 injured; security forces then fired into the air to disperse crowds. Near the airport a pair of bombs killed three people and wounded 16 more. Four people were killed and 15 more were wounded in a bombing at a market and bus station in Umm al-Maalif. In Karrada, another bomb left two dead and 15 injured. A car bomb in Shurta killed two people and wounded nine more. A roadside bomb wounded five policemen in Baladiyat. Two people were killed and nine more were wounded in a blast in Habibiya.

3. In Kirkuk, at least nine people were killed and 79 more were wounded in a string of six car bombings. The downtown bombs exploded in three different ethnic neighborhoods, suggesting that no particular group was targeted. Those explosions took place in Arab, Kurdish, and Turkmen neighborhoods. The other three blasts hit neighborhoods outside of the city. One bombing targeted the home of a Shi’ite politician. Also, gunmen wounded a doctor last night.

4. Explosions in Tuz Khormato left six dead and 67 wounded.

5. In Mosul, gunmen killed a civilian. Two people were wounded in roadside bombings. Gunmen killed a married couple. Security forces killed a bomber. Another blast left no casualties. A soldier was killed in a clash. Three policemen were wounded in a bomb blast.

6. In Falluja, a suicide car bomber killed two policemen and wounded six more at a checkpoint. Acivilian was shot dead. A sticky bomb killed two civilians. Another bomb south of the city left no casualties.

7. A car bomb in Mussayab killed four people and wounded 13 more.

8. Four people were killed and three more were wounded in a Tikrit bombing at political office. Another bombing left 13 policemen wounded.

9. In Nasariya, a car bomb killed two people and wounded 14 more.

10. A policeman was killed in Buhriz when a sticky bomb exploded.

11. Near Ramadi, a bomb targeting a Sunni cleric and leader of anti-government protests killed two bodyguards and wounded at least one more. His cousin was killed in a sticky bomb blast in Falluja.

12. A policeman was shot dead in Tarmiya.

13. A bomb in Khalis killed one child and wounded eight more.

14. Nineteen people were wounded in bombings in Babil province.

15. In Dowr, 13 people were wounded in a blast there.

16. Bombs wounded seven people at a political candidate’s home in Salah ad Din province.

17. In Muqdadiya, a car bomb wounded seven people.

18. In Tal Abta, a blast killed a policeman and wounded two more.

19. In Baquba, two policemen were wounded during a bombing. Three people were wounded in a blast.

20. Gunmen in Sabeen killed a captain and wounded two soldiers.

21. A young man was gunned down in Shirqat.

22. On a rural road in Bani Saad, a bomb wounded a civilian.
Also in this edition of the weekly update, reflections on the Muslim Brotherhood's declining support from some states and groups, the implications for Khalid Meshaal and Hamas of being 'embedded' with the Emir of Qatar, and what Sergei Lavrov thinks of the 'Friends of Syria' who met in Istanbul yesterday..


More Slapstick Anarchism?

From Salad Cream to Coffee!
A Cup of Coffee was poured over George Ferguson, City Mayor, at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair on Saturday last.  The irony is he was invited to the Anarchist Bookfair by one of the members of organising collective!!! (Correction to original post:  see comment requesting this amendment from Bookfair Organising Collective stressing that there was no formal invite issued)

George Ferguson is an Ex President of the Royal Institute of British Architects and was elected 'City Mayor' this year. His firm is Ferguson Mann/ Acanthus.  He is an Entrepreneur who has renovated various Bristol Heritage buildings. I have had minor dealings with him in respect of regeneration issues and he is an OK guy- sympathetic, practical and open-minded. 

Report from Kevin in Bristol

Friday, 19 April 2013

David & Goliath in 'The Journalist'

DOZENS of witnesses and victims were interviewed by David Bartlett, who had obtained five affidavits from abused boys and combed over his story with one of London’s foremost barristers.  But as the magazine carrying his biggest-ever story came back from the printers, his heart was still in his mouth. 'Everything that I owned, even my house, was at risk; it would have finished a less secure marriage than mine,' he remembers. 

It was May 1979 and on the eve of a general election. The story by Bartlett and John Walker accused Rochdale’s sitting MP Cyril Smith of abusing a succession of boys in a children’s home that the Liberal front bencher had helped to found.

Bartlett and Walker were not trained journalists – both earned their living lecturing at a local FE college – and the Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP) that they had founded eight years earlier held editorial meetings in a pub and was laid out in a cellar.

'When the magazines arrived, everything went crazy, taxis descended on us from all over Manchester with people looking for copies,' says Bartlett.

'We had already briefed a couple of national newspapers, so we were expecting the story to make waves. Reporters from all the major papers arrived in the Lancashire town in a frenzy.  And then Smith issued a writ.  It was the only writ we received in thirteen years of producing RAP, but it killed interest in the story stone dead.  Our barrister advised us that it was a gagging writ, and it certainly never went to court, but Smith’s majority at the next election increased by 4,000.  Rochdale’s voters loved a child abuser, is one interpretation of those events.'

It is a remarkable story and unusual in that only now, in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal, is it being followed up. But it is one of thousands that were being produced at the time by a burgeoning alternative media sector. By 1979, as many as 100 papers and magazines were being published by collectives, co-operatives and less formal groupings, all trying to provide a perspective on the news that differed from mainstream offerings.

From the Aberdeen People’s Press to the Exeter Flying Post, via the Hackney People’s Press and Alarm in Swansea, there wasn’t a major conurbation in the UK where have-ago journalists were not trying to produce a different kind of news. There were also a few titles like City Limits in London and Spare Rib that served an even broader constituency. And yet, despite the surge of imagination, enthusiasm and cow gum that drove this DIY publishing boom, by the mid-1990s, after a decade of attrition, the scene had almost entirely evaporated. It begs the question, what killed the alternative press, and does it have a modern counterpart?

Bartlett and Walker in Rochdale had set up RAP as an antidote to the boredom. 'We were loosely Marxist and wanted to do something about social change at a local level,' Bartlett remembers. 'We met once a week in a local pub and asked along anyone in Rochdale who was interested join us.'

Despite undertaking delivery to newsagents themselves as well as editing and managing the magazine, Barlett and Walker’s RAP sold as many as 8,000 copies an edition; pretty good going in a town of 95,000.  RAP’s bottom-up approach to news was one shared by much of the alternative press, says Tony Harcup, then a
mainstay of Leeds Other Paper (LOP), now senior lecturer in the University of Sheffield’s department of journalism studies and author of Alternative Journalism, Alternative Voices (Routledge £24.99). The ‘alternatives’ concentrated on going to housing estates and talking to people, writing down their comments and making articles from ordinary people’s lives. Some of the ‘ordinary people’ would even come along to
meetings and get involved in discussions.

Harcup evokes a heady atmosphere of idealism, ideology and the seemingly effortless potential of off-set litho printing. The editorial process was that they would discuss every article. 'Somebody would go out and get a few beers and we would then talk long into the night about what should go on the front page and what should go on the spike.'

Tim Dawson considers where Britain’s once powerful alternative press came from...and where it is going.
Does the alternative press of the sixties, seventies and eighties have a modern equivalent? Indymedia, the global network of more than 150 websites that grew out of anti-World Trade Organisation protests in Seattle in 1999 is an obvious candidate. Providing an open-access platform for native reporters, its staple fare of protests, boycotts and campaigns covers a similar beat to the inky magazines of thirty years ago. But Tony Harcup’s criticism that at times its content comes across as bordering on the hysterical is fair, and few
of its UK stories contain the kind of fontline reporting that he championed on LOP.

Manchester Mule, a north-west produced website mixes campaigning stories with an interest in the cultural life of the city and its built environment, it promotes a clear commitment to social justice and an anyone-canjoin-in ethos.

Some faint traces of the old alternative publishing culture do endure. The most impressive example is the West Highland Free Press. Founded on Skye in 1972 by five individuals, among them subsequent Blair minister Brian Wilson, it was clear in its commitment to social justice. In 2009 the weekly paper, which generally runs to 40 pages and costs 65p was bought by its ten employees. It thrives to this day beneath is famous Gaelic strapline: ‘An Tir, an Canan sna Daoine: The Land, the Language, the People’.

London’s Time Out, first published in 1968, long ago lost its alternative credentials, when owner Tony Elliot abandoned collective decision making and commitment to staff pay parity. The title was, however, inspired by the listings included at the back of International Times. A strike over Elliot’s changes came in 1981, followed by former Time Out staffers setting up City Limits as a radical alternative. That left-leaning listings tile continued to appear until 1993, although the struggle of its fi nal years did little for the quality of the magazine.

The greatest survivor is, of course, Private Eye. Now a couple of years past its fiftieth birthday, it was a child of the satire boom of the early 1960s. Its impeccable commitment to investigative reporting and comic send-ups is more popular now than ever before, selling nearly 230,000 copies a fortnight. Against a backdrop of struggling print media, and scant mainstream space for antiestablishment voices, the continuing
success of Ian Hislop’s title, is grounds for considerable cheer. 

It was not just the news agenda that was different to the mainstream press either. If LOP was covering a local strike, for example, they would rarely speak with either the employers or the union full-time staff.  'We would spend ages going out at unearthly hours of the day or night to talk to people on strike. Just by doing that you would get better quotes and a different perspective, as well as some of the shared humour of a workplace.'

Much of the radical press of the 1970s took at least some of its inspiration from a group of relatively short-lived publications that appeared in London during the late 1960s, among them International Times, Oz and Black Dwarf.

New technology also played a part. Cheap offset litho presses dramatically expanded the graphic possibilities of hot metal and could be operated by self-taught printers.  IBM golfball typewriters served as make-shift typesetting machines. In those days, when we talked about copy and pastes, we meant doing exactly that, remembers Nigel Fountain, a writer on Oz, sometime editor of City Limits and author of Underground, London’s Alternative Press 1966-74 (about to be republished as an eBook by Ink Monkey).

Quite why the alternative media scene disappeared so completely by the mid-1990s, just before the widespread arrival of the internet, is a matter of conjecture. Bartlett in Rochdale grew tired of sustaining a magazine largely by himself. Indeed, exhaustion and lack of resources probably accounts for a great many small titles giving up the ghost. Harcup cites the grind of Thatcherism and the related industrial defeats as extinguishing the last flame of radicalism among the ‘60s generation.

There are more prosaic possibilities, too. Paul Anderson, editor of the Labour newspaper Tribune in the early 1990s, and now a lecturer at Brunel university, suggests that the mainstream media sucked talent and ideas from its alternative counterparts. Listings were a mainstay of the alternative press, but were adopted wholesale by the conventional media. Newspaper weekend editions went from being thin and pointless, to being big reads, much of it written by people who had learned their stuff on tiny, noncommercial titles.

Daviid Bartlett, now 75, has retired to the Isle of Wight and is busy building a socialist alternative in the charming seaside town of Ventnor. He is wistful about the passing of the radical alternative press, but he hopes that at least some of RAP’s spirit is evident among today’s campaigning bloggers. He even has a story lead for any who choose to follow it up. During his time in Rochdale, Bartlett discovered that Lancashire police had, in 1970, prepared a case for Cyril Smith’s prosecution on child abuse charges. The file setting out the case mysteriously disappeared before the charges were brought, however. Bartlett believes that the order to drop the case came from the then Home Secretary James Callaghan. It’s a cover up that is still waiting to be uncovered, he says with a chuckle.

The next issueof the printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, will soon be available for sale with a blow-by-blow account of the rise and fall of Sir Cyril Smith written by John Walker, one of the former editors of the Rochdale Alternative Paper, it can be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' sent to c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.
email: northernvoices@hotmail.com