Monday, 30 September 2013

Continued cover-up and denial about Smith in Rochdale

MORE sanctimonious piffle pours out of Rochdale, and self-delusion abounds, following the excellent Dispatches programme: "Paedophile MP: How Cyril Smith got away with it", a couple of weeks ago.

The town's establishment and local newspaper, the Rochdale Observer, continue to avoid uncomfortable truths, or face their complicity in his prolonged sexual abuse of children.

The late night TV documentary guided viewers through the years of Smith's predatory behaviour, in which he systematically took advantage of his positions of authority, to prey on vulnerable boys in care homes and special schools, and others, who were over-awed by his public standing.  Victims gave moving testimony to their humiliation and suffering at Smith's hands.

Rochdale's public authorities and local newspaper were, and remain, culpable of neglect and complicity in this sorry Smith saga. 

As the programme showed, many in power knew, or were highly suspicious of, Smith's predatory behaviour - during his reign of paedophilia in the town -  and turned a blind eye, or did not intervene, - to permit his prolonged and damaging abuse to continue.

Cambridge House, scene of his first known wave of child abuse, was closed down in the mid 1960's, following concerns expressed by some in Rochdale Council's children's services department about his inappropriate activities with its young residents.

Yet, months later, the same public authority permitted the same paedophile to use his position as chair of the education committee to establish a "Special school", for vulnerable boys, with which he was closely associated for the 25 years of its existence. His sexual advances to damaged youngsters continued - and those in authority, with a responsibility to protect the young and defenceless, looked the other way as the monster carried on harming and destroying vulnerable lives.

When suspicions and firm testimony of sexual abuse at Knowl View emerged, in the mid 1990's, rather than pursue the perpetrators - Smith among them - Rochdale Council moved against those drawing attention to them, closed the school down and ensured that all files about the school were to hidden from public scrutiny for 100 years!

Doesn't say too much for the Council's duty of care to the vulnerable, does it?

What did the authorities have to hide in going to such lengths to make the records so inaccessible, apart from their own shame, guilt and acknowledgement of their betrayal of those in their care?

This head in the sand, look the other way, attitude by Rochdale Council continues to this day. A week after the Dispatches programme, the culpable local authority hosted BBC's Question Time in "The Cyril Smith Room" of the Town Hall, and film cameras breezed past a photograph of the paedophile, as they swept into action!

Is there no shame in that Town Hall?

How disgraceful does Smith's behaviour have to demonstrated to have been before these flattering references and his freemanship of the borough become expunged?

How stomach-churning for the abused to continue see the monster lauded by those who were paid to protect them from his predatory behaviour? The suffering of the defenceless and the voiceless are still drowned out by the bluster of the now deceased domineering bully, who still casts a long dark shadow over Rochdale.

As readers of this blog will recall, Rochdale's Alternative Paper, of which I was co-editor in the 1970's, published a well-sourced, considered and authoritative 2,000 word article, cleared by three sets of highly reputable lawyers, in May 1979, outlining Smith's abuse at Cambridge House - with harrowing sworn testimony quotes from some of the victims.

It was read by everyone in a position of authority in Rochdale, at the time. And ignored. Emboldened, Smith continued to abuse.

Among those who ignored the story were the cheerleaders of the Cyril Smith fan club, the Rochdale Observer, under its awe-struck editor Norman "Nifty" Thornton. Not only did the Ob ignore the story, it went out of its way to deny the very existence of the paper which published it - for the dozen or so years of its existence.

Their failure to publish, or even investigate, the cast iron story of Smith's sexual exploits, would have further encouraged Smith in his abuse of the vulnerable, and was probably responsible for the damage done to dozens more  young victims - he was fire-proof. Had they chased the story, they could have stopped him in his tracks and ended, or at least very seriously disrupted, the reign of tyranny of the defenceless.

But they sat on their hands.  They did nothing, except continue to lead the Smith cheer-leading pack. In short, they were a disgrace to anything that could call itself a free press, with public interest at its core.

And now? Rather than apologise to the victims whom Smith damaged, after they turned a blind eye, last week's Rochdale Observer sought to bask in the sunshine of their "disclosures and investigations", last year - 35 years after they knew of the story!!

Such unctuous self delusion! 

The ownership of the newspaper may have changed in the last 35 years, but their ability to spout cant clearly hasn't.

At last, the abused have had their suffering publicly exposed, and the Smith nailed for his crimes. 

It's such a shame that Rochdale's establishment and local rag have yet to come to terms with their own complicity in this story, which still shames the whole town.

They could start with a very firm public apology to Smith's victims, as a first step in acknowledging their negligence and culpability in his later crimes.

But, don't hold your breath.

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Carillion Banned from Labour Conference

1. Carillion booted out of the Labour Party conference after a decision taken by the Labour Party NEC to refuse a stall to the blacklisting firm.
Well done Steve Rotherham MP and Jim Kennedy (UCATT) for moving it on the LP NEC.
2. Blacklisting discussed at the Conference floor and pledge from Labour front bench:
Chuka Umunna MP (Shadow Business Secretary) said in his speech that if the current government wont hold an inquiry into blacklisting - the next Labour government will. He got a big round of applause from delegates.
This is a big boost to our call for a public inquiry but don't get too carried away yet: Chuka is a front bench politician and an ex-lawyer, he uses language very precisely and said an 'inquiry' not a 'public inquiry'. Blacklisted workers applaud his speech but demand a full public inquiry with a wide enough remit to expose everyone who was involved in the blacklisting conspiracy. 
Paul Mooney UCATT told conference that companies who've been involved in blacklisting trade unionists must be banned from getting any public sector contracts.
Len McCluskey, Paul Kenny, Steve Murphy all raised either blacklisting or the Shrewsbury campaign in their speeches to the full conference floor.
3. GMB fringe meeting on 'Blacklisting the blacklisters' was standing room only, with over 100 people in attendance mainly councillors but also MPs and MSPs and people turned away at the door. Two representatives of Carillion were there taking notes.
Chaired by Shami Chakrabarti - Director of Liberty - who called for a full scale public inquiry into blacklisting.
Ian Davidson MP - chair of the Select Committee investigation into blacklisting - said we have not got the same publicity as phone hacking because we are working class victoms not the chattering classes.
Justin Bowden - GMB national officer - called for a big turn out on the TUC Day of Action on blacklisting
Michael Newman - Leigh Day solicitors explained that denying blacklisting firms from public contracts was perfectly legal and gave an explanation and even agreed to host a workshop for local authorities to alleviate fears being expressed by council legal teams - this is a political decision not a legal one. (Legal brief attached)
Dave Smith - Blacklist Support Group - exposed the recently documents that prove that the police were involved in blacklisting, stated that we have no faith in the police investigating the police and called for a full public inquiry.
Blacklist Support Group

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale at all our usual outlets in the North of England and beyond - see below. This issue N.V.14 has a Tameside Eye story about how Tameside has a history of involvement in blacklisting, it also contains an interview by Barry Woodling with George Tapp  - the Salford electrician injured in May on an anti-blacklist picket.  The Voices has been in the forthfront of the campaign against the blacklist since 2003 and the DAF dispute at Manchester Piccadilly, its editor, an electrician, was on the blacklist of the Economic League in the 1960s, and there was an attempt to blacklist him while he was working in Gibraltar in both 1964 and 1967, but at the time this intervention by the Foreign Office was resisted by the Gibraltarian authorities, and the Gibraltar Transport & General Workers Union.
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

THE JAM at Holmfirth

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All Mod Cons – 35th Anniversary Tour
Saturday 5th October 2013
The Picture Dome, Holmfirth /
Following 2012’s ‘In The City’ tour, Bruce Foxton and From The Jam announce the ‘All Mod Cons’ 35th Anniversary Tour - September–December 2013.
On Saturday 5th October The Picture Dome, Holmfirth will be pounding with the sound of 1978 as The Jam bass player Bruce Foxton and his band From the Jam perform the classic album ‘All Mod Cons’ in its entirety. The gig is part of a 3 month tour that celebrates the 35th anniversary of All Mod Cons.
As well as ‘Down In The Tube Station At Midnight’ and ‘A Bomb In Wardour Street’ the band are also excited about playing ‘Billy Hunt’, ‘Mr Clean’ and the second single released from the album ‘David Watts’ originally penned by Ray Davies of The Kinks. “The energy in rehearsals is great and we’re really looking forward to getting back on the road!” says Foxton.

The Jam exploded onto the punk scene in 1977 delivering their ferocious mission statement - debut single ‘In The City’ – and in 1978 released their third album ‘All Mod Cons’. The Jam became the sound of The British youth and one of the greatest and biggest selling bands in British history. In 2000, Q magazine placed ‘All Mod Cons’ at Number 50 in its list of the 100 Greatest British Albums Ever.
From The Jam have gained a reputation for the kind of incendiary ‘live’ performances that sealed the reputation of The Jam all those years ago. From The Jam will be performing All Mod Cons in its entirety followed by a selection of the classic hits and great album tracks from across the fantastic catalogue produced by one of Britain’s’ seminal bands.
Talking about the tour singer and guitarist Russell Hasting says “Bruce has often commented on the general vibe in the studio and the feeling that "they were onto a good thing" as every track stood out and was fun to do!When we were recording his ‘Back In The Room’ album, the recording process was likened to that of All Mod Cons and we thought, why not play the album front to back as it had never been done before. Also tracks like ‘The Place I Love’ and ‘Fly’ were never in the live set.“
From The Jam ft. Bruce Foxton
Watch The Making Of All Mod Cons featuring interviews with Paul Weller,Bruce Foxton and Rick Buckler
New Bruce Foxton album, ‘Back In The Room’ is out now with special guests Paul Weller & Steve Cropper.
“There may never be a Jam reunion but it’s reassuring to see someone as talented and passionate as Bruce Foxton being able to take these wonderful old songs out on the road and communicate so successfully with this Modern World” LouderThanWar

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Appeal in Hovis Strike

THE workforce will return to the Picket at 6a.m. Wednesday 25th September, we are calling for mass solidarity by supporting the picket line throughout the third week of strike action.
We are calling for support from all trade unionists and community supporters for a 2 am picket every day from the 25th September until the 2nd, October.  Please make every sacrifice to support the workforce and the Bakers & Food Allied Workers Union, who are figthing on behalf of the Trade Union Movement against modern day slavery Zero Hours Contracts.
Terry Abbott Secretary Wigan TradesCouncil

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

New Charter Housing call on police to evict Bedroom Tax protestors!

On Saturday 21st September 2013 'Tameside Stop the Bedroom Tax & the Cuts' engaged in a peaceful protest demonstrating against the scandalous Bedroom Tax outside the Headquarters of New Charter Housing Trust Limited in Ashton-under-Lyne. The company are by far the biggest social landlord in Tameside, and being the biggest, they ought to be leading the fight against the Bedroom Tax, working alongside tenants in opposition to it which they have signally failed to do so far.
On  Saturday, New Charter held their annual 'jewel in the crown' Resident Showcase event. This was an ideal opportunity to reach out to tenants especially the 1,700 New Charter tenants that are affected by the Bedroom Tax. New Charter say they are opposed to the Bedroom Tax, but seem unwilling to join with tenants to oppose it? Actions speak louder than words!  New Charter haven't shown any real opposition to the Bedroom Tax even though housing boss, Ian Munro, declared it to be 'unfair and incompetent'. They have also declined to reclassify bedrooms to circumvent the tax in order to help tenants to remain in their homes and are pursuing legal action, against their tenants for Bedroom Tax arrears. 
The protestors  arrived outside the front entrance of New Charter H.Q. at 10:30 and set themselves up without obstructing entry. Shortly after tenants began to arrive, New Charter staff came out in force to form a  'cordon sanitaire', with three or four of them standing in a line with their backs towards the protestors trying to confine them to the wall area thereby blocking access to passing tenants. As tenants were guided into the building, they were told to ignore the protestors. 
New Charter staff initially refused to take any leaflets but one was seen to snatch a copy at the side entrance, which he tore in half as he angrily scrunched it up. As a protestor with his megaphone, called on New Charter to adopt a Bedroom Tax no evictions policy, a prominent New Charter tenant representative, Belinda Jeffrey, was seen to give  'the finger' to protestors from inside the building.  It is also understood that one female tenant, who was attending the event, asked if she could use the megaphone, then called  the protestors 'wankers'!  

An hour into the protest, the police arrived after being summoned by New Charter. The Bedroom Tax protestors were told that there had been a report that people had felt harassed and intimidated. After being reassured by protestors that this was  peaceful demonstration on the International Day of Peace,  the officer left, much to the chagrin of New Charter Housing staff.
The very purpose of the annual Residents Showcase event is for tenants to SHOWCASE what THEY are doing for tenants and the wider community as long as this doesn't involve campaigning against the Bedroom Tax, or treading on New Charter's big corns.
Steve (Starlord) Fisher, a protest organiser, told NV blog:  
"We had a very successful day and great fun was had by all. We had a wonderful time and would like to thank New Charter for the kindness they  have so far shown to everyone affected by this atrocious Bedroom Tax, brought-in by this wretched Tory-led government that is cutting taxes for the rich while introducing punitive taxation, for the most vulnerable people in society.
While it is excellent news to hear that Labour if elected, have pledged to repeal the Bedroom Tax, social landlords and council's, should in the meantime adopt a no evictions policy and cease pressuring tenants to leave their homes to move to smaller properties. We expect Tameside Labour to come off the fence and support the campaign against this iniquitous tax. We will also continue to protest and work in the best interests of tenants."  

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Cyril Smith & those who looked the other way!

Solicitors Seek Out Those Who Allowed Child Abuse To Continue
ALAN Collins of the firm of solicitors that is acting for seven of the alleged victims of Cyril Smith, the former MP for Rochdale, is now looking into how he got away with it, and why it was allowed to continue.  This case in which young lads were physically and sexually abused by Smith at Cambridge House and Knowl View in Rochdale, and includes one victim who was located by Northern Voices last year, is a civil case that is being run separately from the ongoing police investigation in the allegations of abuse. 
Mr. Collins who is one of the leading solicitors in the realm of child abuse law, and who has also acted in the Jimmy Savile case, told tomorrow's Rochdale Observer:
'We are acting on behalf of the Cyril Smith victims and we are now looking at those who might be responsible for knowing what Cyril Smith was up to and those who would have allowed him to have abused these children.  It is a civil case brought on behalf of the victims and is still at a quite an early stage.' 
Earlier this month a Dispatches program on Channel 4 revealed concerns that prosecutors had been leaned on and that a former friend of Cyril Smith, the then Labour MP for Rochdale, Jack McCann, may have intervened with the Director Public Prosecutions, when it was considering the evidence against Smith in 1970.  Another claim, also on the Dispatches program, was that the security agencies may have protected Smith at one stage. 
While insisting that the civil case is separate from the police investigation, a spokesman for Greater Manchester Police said:  'Greater Manchester Police's public protection division is continuing to investigate historic reports of physical and sexual abuse which occurred at Knowl View from the 1970s onwards.'
Smith died in September 2010 having been knighted in 1988, he was MP for Rochdale between 1972 and 1992. 

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Monday, 23 September 2013

History of World War I

Forget the poets, says veteran military historian Max Hastings. We should blame the Germans and celebrate the victory. First World War archaeologist Neil Faulkner takes up the arguments.

otto dix wounded-soldierOtto Dix: Wounded Soldier. Dix volunteered enthusiastically for the German army but his experiences produced what has been called 'perhaps the most powerful as well as the most unpleasant anti-war statements in modern art'.
Max Hastings has his new book on 1914 out already (Catastrophe: Europe goes to war, 1914). In it he pulls no punches. Even the dustcover proclaims the forthright revisionist message.
'He [the author] finds the evidence overwhelming that Austria and Germany must accept the principal blame for the outbreak. While what followed was a vast tragedy, he argues passionately against the 'poets 'view' that the war was not worth winning. It was vital to the freedom of Europe, he says, that the Kaiser's Germany should be defeated.'
So there you have it. Just as the rulers of Britain and France argued at the time, it was all Germany's fault. Never mind that Britain had the largest empire in the world, ruling over one-fifth of the world's land mass and one-quarter of its people. Never mind that Britain's navy was almost the twice the size of Germany's. Never mind that Britain had formed a military alliance with Russia and France, leaving Germany's rulers feeling corralled and threatened in an arms race they were losing.
This is not to exonerate the Kaiser. It is simply to say that he was no worse than the rulers of Britain and France. All were imperialists and warmongers. All were prepared to plunge the world into an industrialised war for the power and profit of a few. The vast majority of humanity – the vast majority of the people these rulers were supposed to represent – had no interest in the war. The conscripted workers and peasants of Europe were the victims of a millionaires' war.
'No poet,' says Hastings, 'ever identified a route by which the British, French, and Belgian people could have escaped the conflict, save by accepting the Kaiser's domination of Europe.' This claim appears in a Daily Mail article in June this year headlined Sucking up to the Germans is no way to remember our Great War heroes, Mr Cameron'.

But this is nonsense. There was a Europe-wide movement against war. Just days before Germany's declaration of war there were 100,000 anti-war demonstrators on the streets of Berlin. Across Germany, during four days of mass protest in the final days of peace, there had been no fewer than 288 anti-war demonstrations involving up to three-quarters of a million people. 

Across Europe that last summer of peace, as millions of people took action against their own rulers, there was a widespread mood of internationalism and solidarity. But when the leaders of all the mainstream parties lined up in support of the war effort, they reinforced a tide of jingoism that the killed the anti-war movement and swept the people of Europe into internecine carnage.

But that mood would resurface, and when it did, beginning in 1917, it would be charged with bitterness at the slaughter and impoverishment, becoming a giant wave of revolution crashing across the continent, ending the war, toppling tyrants, and shaking the foundations of the entire social order.
'Far from dying in vain,' continues Hastings, 'those who perished ... between 1914 and 1918 made as important a contribution to our privileged, peaceful lives today as did their sons in World War II.'

This is an extraordinary claim. The British and the French used their victory in 1918 to re-divide the world, helping themselves to German colonies, hacking off chunks of German territory in Europe, and imposing crippling reparations payments on the German people. Meantime, to control their enlarged empires in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, they gunned down protestors demanding democracy and independence. This imperialist carve-up – 'a peace to end all peace' – created the preconditions for the Second World War two decades later. 

The cost of the First World War was 15 million dead. The cost of the sequel was 60 million dead. More human beings have been killed by war in the last century than in the whole of the rest of human history put together. The immense potential of industrial society to provide the goods and service we all need has, again and again, been turned into its opposite: means of destruction and waste on an unprecedented scale.

This is not something to be rationalised into a choice between 'good' empires and 'bad' empires; a choice between 'democratic' Britain and France as against 'autocratic' and 'expansionist' Germany. This is to trivialise historical events, reducing them to little more than a banal discussion about who sent the final ultimatum, who mobilised first, who fired the first shot.
Max Hastings wants us to side with one empire against another. He wants us to wave a Union Jack, celebrate a British victory, and promote the lie that the 15 million dead of the First World War were 'a necessary sacrifice'.

What is required is an analysis that roots tragedies like the First World War, and all the other imperialist conflicts of the last century, in the madness of a world divided into competing corporations and warring nation-states.
Neil Faulkner's pamphlet, No Glory - the real History of the First World War, will be published in October.

Open Letter: How should we remember the first world war in 2014?

2014 marks the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of the First World War. Far from being a 'war to end all wars' or a 'victory for democracy', this was a military disaster and a human catastrophe.  We are disturbed, therefore, to hear that David Cameron plans to spend £55,000,000 on 'truly national commemorations' to mark this anniversary. Mr. Cameron has quite inappropriately compared these to the 'Diamond Jubilee celebrations' and stated that their aim will be to stress our 'national spirit'.
That they will be run at least in part by former generals and ex-defence secretaries reveals just how misconceived these plans are.  Instead we believe it is important to remember that this was a war that was driven by big powers' competition for influence around the globe, and caused a degree of suffering all too clear in the statistical record of 16 million people dead and 20 million wounded.
In 2014, we and others across the world will be organising cultural, political and educational activities to mark the courage of many involved in the war but also to remember the almost unimaginable devastation caused.

In a time of international tension we call on writers, actors, musicians, teachers and campaigners to join with us to ensure that this anniversary is used to promote peace and international co-operation.
Jude Law • Simon Callow • Carol Ann Duffy • Antony Gormley • AL Kennedy • Brian Eno • Patrick Stewart • Lindsey German • Ken Loach • Dominic Cooke • Robert Montgomery • Vivienne Westwood • Caryl Churchill • Heathcote Williams • Terry Jones • Robert Wyatt • Tony Benn • Michael Morpurgo • Roger Lloyd Pack • Shirley Collins • Tim Pigott Smith • Samuel West • Timothy West • Vanessa Redgrave • Ralph Steadman • Dame Harriet Walter • Kika Markham • Susan Wooldridge• Mike Dibb • Colin Towns • Tony Haynes • Nic France • Barry Miles • Leon Rosselson • Leo Aylen • Jan Woolf • Ken Livingstone • Jeremy Corbyn MP • Duncan Heining • Chris Nineham • Danny Thompson • Neil Yates • Peter Kennard • Evan Parker • Chris Searle • Steve Berry • Lionel Shriver • Mike Westbrook • Kate Westbrook • John Surman • Pete Brown • Neil Faulkner • Janie Dee • Alan Rickman • Liane Aukin • Alistair Beaton • Kate Hudson • Andy de la Tour • Sophie Hardach • Jonathan Edwards MP • Coope Boyes & Simpson • Walter Wolfgang 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Legal Threat to Lib Dem Party

SOLICITORS for the abused victims have said they are considering taking action against the Liberal Democrats.  Nick Clegg has said that sexual abuse allegations against the former Lib Dem MP, Sir Cyril Smith, are shocking and must be investigated 'to the bitter end'.

The party's leader said victims needed to feel 'justice is on their side'.

After Cyril Smith died in 2010, Nick Clegg, deputy Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrat party declared:
'Cyril Smith was a larger-than-life character and one of the most recognisable and likeable politicians of his day. I am deeply saddened to hear the news of his death today, and offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends. Everybody in Rochdale knew him not only as their MP but also as a friend. He was a true Liberal, dedicated to his constituency, always showing great passion and determination. Cyril was a colourful politician who kept the flame of Liberalism alive when the party was much smaller than it is today. Rochdale and Britain have sadly lost one of their great MPs, and I think we can safely say there will never be an MP quite like Cyril Smith again.'
Police have now said young boys were abused by the late MP at a children's home he opened in the 1960s. He was never prosecuted.

Concerns have been raised that a dossier of evidence against him went missing in 1970.

Channel 4's Dispatches programme last week revealed details from the file and made allegations of security services involvement.

Mr Clegg told BBC Radio 5 live:
'I'm shocked and appalled by the allegations I've seen.  I would like to see the police and the long arm of justice, even after all these long years, finally pursue this to the bitter end.'

Smith was first a Liberal councillor for Rochdale and then the MP. He was knighted in 1988 and died in September 2010.

Crossrail Blacklist Victory Party

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We spent a year fighting for Frank Morris to get his job back on Crossrail - now its our chance to have a party.
Come along and celebrate the stunning victory against the blacklist.
Bring your dancing shoes - Live music & DJs
Sat 12th October 2013
7:30pm til 12:30pm 
Bread & Roses
68 Clapham Manor Street
London SW4 6DZ

Nearest tubes: Clapham Common or Clapham North

Evidence of Police Blacklist Involvement

The police were involved with the illegal Consulting Association blacklist of trade unionists in the construction industry. There is not a shred of doubt about this and documentary evidence has now come to light to back up repeated claims made by blacklist campaigners over the past 2 years.
1. Special Branch:
In a recent Guardian front page article, undercover police officer Peter Francis, from the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS) section within Special Branch admitted spying on a number of union activists who were involved in an anti-racist group that he had infiltrated. He says that specific information on their blacklist files almost certainly originated from his evidence gathering.
Brand new confirmation that police colluded with blacklisting trade unionists has now come to light. The Blacklist Support Group submitted a complaint to the IPCC in 2012. The IPCC and Met Police initially refused to even register the complaint but after an Appeal by Christian Khan solicitors the IPCC passed the complaint over to Operation Herne (the ongoing police investigation looking into the conduct of undercover police units).
In a recent letter about the Blacklist Support Group complaint, the IPCC update progress in the investigation and admit: 
'initial scoping by the Operation Herne team identified that the Consulting Association was an organisation that had developed from a number of other organisations dating back to 1917. The scoping also identified that it was likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information about potential employees'
This is an absolute admission by the police that Special Branch colluded with the blacklisting conspiracy which has been described as 'the worst human rights abuse against workers in the UK since the war' by Michael Meacher MP during a debate in the House of Commons.
Another undercover SDS officer called Mark Jenner (aka Cassidy) spied on activists in London in the late 1990s. Jenner used a cover story that he was a building worker and attended picket lines about unpaid wages and even chaired meetings of rank and file building workers campaigns. Information about those picket lines and about the campaign that the undercover SDS officer chaired appear on a number of Consulting Association blacklist files.
One of the blacklisted union activists that was spied on by Mark Jenner is Steve Hedley, current RMT Assistant General Secretary, who even invited the undercover SDS officer to stay in his family home in Derry during a trip to Ireland at the time of the peace process.
Steve Hedley said:
'I feel utterly violated by a police officer befriending me, then spying on me and passing information on to the blacklist which resulted in me being unemployed for a year.This man stayed at my family home as a guest. Are we now living in a police state?'

2. National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit:
Brand new documentary evidence has now come to light that proves beyond doubt that senior officers from the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) attended secret Consulting Association meetings. NETCU was set up in 2005 after lobbying by big corporations.
Last week the Information Commissioners Office responded to a Freedom of Information request which requested 'a copy of any minutes/notes/powerpoint presentations in relation to and the list of attendees of the meeting between the NETCU and the Consulting Association in November 2008 held by the ICO.'

In an email response dated 3rd September 2013, the ICO have now stated:
'We can confirm that we do hold information in the scope of your request. Within the seized information we do hold notes of a NETCU meeting which are dated November 2008. It is unclear whether this is a formal minutes or just notes taken by an attendee at the time or afterwards.' 
This is documentary evidence that senior police officers attended secret meetings of the Consulting Association blacklist. The ICO have refused to hand over this documentary evidence claiming it would be a breach of the Data Protection Act. The IPCC are investigating police involvement with an illegal blacklisting conspiracy - the ICO have the documents that prove this and they are refusing to hand it over to the lawyers of the blacklisted workers. A similar FOI request to the police has also resulted in no documents being disclosed. This smacks of a cover up.
To make matters worse, when the ICO gave evidence to MPs as part of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting they were asked specifically about possible police involvement in the Consulting Association blacklist and completely failed to mention that they had documents in their possession that proved that the police attended CA meetings. 
Blacklisting campaigners believe that the police officer who gave the power point presentation at the CA meeting in November 2008 was previous head of NETCU, Superintendent Steve Pearl, currently director of a firm which provides employment vetting 
3. Subject Access Requests: 
The law allows anyone to apply to the police for a copy of their own police file: this is known as a Subject Access Request. This is not just for criminal convictions but any data kept by the police including information about attendance at protests by activists. Since the police involvement with the blacklist has come to light, a number of blacklisted workers have applied for their own files and the police have refused to provide the files.
The identical letter being sent to blacklisted workers and environmental activists states that 'disclosing such data would be likely to prejudice the prevention and detection of crime and / or the apprehension or prosecution of offenders'
As we have committed no crime as part of our trade union activity - we can only assume that this means that the police are still spying on us.
Is the reason for the refusal to disclose documents because the Blacklist Support Group has been infiltrated by an undercover police officer and disclosing documents would make it possible for us to identify the spy? 
4. Quotes from blacklisted workers who have information on their files from police:
Brian Higgins - grandfather and retired bricklayer:
'As a target of this undercover police operation I can only hope, with other victims, that Jenner and his co conspirators and those behind this utterly obscene and extremely sinister practice are called and held to account by any public inquiry into all aspects of the Consulting Association and those organisations and individuals who aided and abetted it. Justice cries out for and demands this.'
Blacklist Support Group statement on police involvement: 
Blacklisting is no longer an industrial relations issue; it is a conspiracy between multinational construction firms, the police and the security services. The parallels with phone hacking are obvious. There is, however, a significant difference from phone hacking, where the police involvement was supposedly due to individual corruption.
The police collusion in blacklisting is not one or two rogue officers, but standard operating procedure by the state to target campaigners under the guise of "domestic extremism", routinely sharing information with big business.
We are not terrorists: we are trade unionists and campaigners participating in perfectly legal activities in a democratic society.
The Blacklist Support Group has no faith in the police investigating the police under the auspices of Operation Herne. All of our requests for information so far have been met by denial and obstruction. This smacks of a cover up. Only a full public inquiry with a wide enough remit to unravel all the institutions responsible for blacklisting is going to get to the truth of this ongoing human rights scandal.  
Blacklist Support Group

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale at all our usual outlets in the North of England and beyond - see below. This issue N.V.14 has a Tameside Eye story about how Tameside has a history of involvement in blacklisting, it also contains an interview by Barry Woodling with George Tapp - the Salford electrician injured in May on an anti-blacklist picket. The Voices has been in the forthfront of the campaign against the blacklist since 2003 and the DAF dispute at Manchester Piccadilly, its editor, an electrician, was on the blacklist of the Economic League in the 1960s, and there was an attempt to blacklist him while he was working in Gibraltar in both 1964 and 1967, but at the time this intervention by the Foreign Office was resisted by the Gibraltarian authorities, and the Gibraltar Transport & General Workers Union.
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Friday, 20 September 2013

'Plebgate': The political class protect their own

YESTERDAY, a former Home Secretary Jack Straw got stuck in and criticised the police investigation into the case of Andrew Mitchell, who was alleged to have used the term 'pleb' while addressing the police in an altercation in Downing Street a year ago.  Mr. Straw complained of 'inordinate and unjustified delays' and has written  to the present home secretary, Theresa May, exactly one year after Andrew Mitchell, whom he describes as a personal friend, found himself at the centre of allegations that ultimately led to his resignation as Tory chief whip. 

Straw's letter comes shortly after the former director of public prosecutions, Lord Macdonald, said it was outrageous that Scotland Yard had yet to publish its conclusions about the  the 45-second incident in Downing Street on the 19th, September.

Jack Straw has said:  'No one, whatever their position, should have to suffer the toll which all this has taken on Andrew and his family. It's high time these delays were brought to an end.'  And he urged the Home Secretary to seek answers to a number of questions, urging Theresa May to find out what was causing the delays in the investigation, when it was expected to finish and how the initial police account was provided to the Sun newspaper.
The row took off last year after Mitchell was accused of launching a foul-mouthed rant at officers guarding Downing Street who refused to allow him to cycle through the main gates. Pressure intensified after the Daily Telegraph published a police log of the incident, which claimed he called officers 'plebs' and swore at them repeatedly for making him walk through a side gate.  Mitchell insisted he did not use the words attributed to him, and later said he was the victim of a deliberate attempt to 'toxify' the Tories and ruin his career.

The trouble with all this it looks rather like the political class protecting one of their own. 

It was noticeable in the recent Dispatches program that when the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was investigating the now disgraced Rochdale MP, Cyril Smith, that Cyril, then no longer a member of the Labour Party, called upon his friends in the Labour Party Eileen and Jack Kershaw to approach the then Rochdale Labour MP, Jack McCann, to intervene in the DPP investigation into Cyril's conduct with young boys and to get it stopped.  Eileen Kershaw told Dispatches 'I don't know what he (Jack McCann) said but the case was dropped', in that case the file came back from the DPP's office marked 'NFA' (NO FURTHER ACTION) on the 19th, March 1970.  We now know that that was an opportunity missed.

The Mitchell affair is far less serious than the Smith scandal, but it shows how the political class can gang up across party lines and seek to protect themselves.

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

HOVIS workers strike against zero hours contracts. Three arrested on picket line!

We are publishing below a statement we have received about the strike at Hovis in Wigan:

"Strikers who work for Wigan Hovis,  have called for a mass protest at 2 to 2.30 am tonight ( on the night of Sunday into Monday ) as the lorries leave the depot at Cale Lane, Wigan. WN2 1HB.

The strike by members of  the Bakers, Food and Allied workers Union (BFAWU)  is
against the use of zero hours contracts and for security of employment.

We attach pictures from Saturday's excellent march and rally in the town.

We call on all trade unionists to support these workers in there struggle against no hours contracts. Three of them were arrested on the picket line at 4am this morning two of them women. One of these was
assaulted by the police protecting scab labour.

They need your physical and financial support, but most of all they
request every body to boycott all HOVIS products and pass this on to
all contacts across the UK."

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Now Rochdale Observer Exposes Cyril Smith!

After being constipated for over three decades
WHAT a relief the Rochdale Observer after 34 years of constipated agony can now reveal the 'horrors faced by children and young teenages at the hands of former MP Cyril Smith.'   We learn that the paper is about to make this heroic move in fearless modern journalism in a front page leader in tomorrow's issue of the Rochdale Observer entitled 'NOW THE WHOLE WORLD KNOWS'
It's boldness knows no bounds as tomorrow's story goes even further to claim  in a subheading that the 'Observer investigation hits TV screens'.  Here by implication claiming credit for 'A Channel 4 TV documentary broadcast (that) broadcast the horrific story last week.'  That would be the Channel 4 Dispatches program we have reviewed below, no doubt.  The Rochdale Ob can now reveal that it was 'Our investigation (by, would you believe it the Rochdale Observer) revealed the full extent of sexual abuse at Smith's hands at two children's homes, both now closed - Cambridge House and Knowl View, a residential special school.'
 But what did the Rochdale Observer do in May 1979 when the story first broke in the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP)?  In RAP's June 1979 (No. 79) issue the RAP editors comment on the press then was:
'RAP’s revelations concerning Cyril Smith published in our last issue was a story in which the national press have been interested for a long time. What prevented them from publishing previously was the laws of libel – which still prevent them from publishing it now. RAP has not received a libel writ from Smith.'
At that time we know that the Rochdale Observer had the full story because the Rochdale Ob. is mentioned in dispatches in RAP's editorial comment at the time:
'Once the story was out the media interest continued. Several taxis from Manchester offices of newspapers arrived at Rochdale newsagents to buy a dozen copies each. The People sent its representative, Harold Holborn, accompanied by a Rochdale Observer reporter!  John Derricot of the Mail, Bill Jenkins of the Sun, Mike Nally of the Sunday Observer, Chris Bryer of Granada, Chris House the crime correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, and the news editor of the Star have all had conversations with us about the story.'

All those years digesting the story of Cyril and now the Rochdale Ob. claims credit for the recent exposure? 

An unsigned article in tomorrow's Rochdale Ob. quotes Andy Rhodes, Assistant Chief Constable of Lancashire Constabulary, as telling a child exploitation conference:
'The reason Cyril Smith, Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall got away with what they got away with, which was serious, seriously prolonged sexual exploitation of young people, was because leaders who had responsibility to do something, did not do it.'

What did the great British media do about it when they had chance in 1979?  What indeed did the Rochdale Observer do all those years ago?

The one national paper with enough courage to carry the story was Private Eye. It’s edition of May 9th, 1979 ran a summary of the RAP story as its lead article.  It repeated the allegations RAP had made and included the extracts from sworn affidavits made by the young men concerned.  Private Eye has frequently received libel writs from politicians. It was not to received one in the case of Cyril Smith.

The editors of RAP in 1979 stated
'Libel of course remains the problem, as of course it has been ours.  Clearly what we have said about Smith is defamatory.  The only defence therefore against libel is that what we have said is true.  Our London lawyer’s advice was simple:  if you know it to be true, print it.  We did.'

At that time RAP concluded:
'But we must again repeat, most disturbing is not what Smith did.  It is the fact that he never had to answer for himself through the normal processes of law or face the publicity that would have involved.'

The British media failed to put the finger on Smith and to expose him, just as much as the police fell down in their efforts.

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Street of Shame Shit-house Rats Smell a Story

LAST Thursday, Dispatches on Channel Four ran a hour long program entitled 'The Paedophile MP: How Cyril Smith Got Away With It'; since the story of Sir Cyril Smith the former Rochdale M.P. (1972-1992) broke last November some in the media with eyes like shit-house rats have suddenly spied a story and are now busily trying to grab the credit.  The latest claim came from the Daily Mail's Richard Littlejohn who said in his column that 'when the police launched the Jimmty Savile inquiry a year ago, I suggested they might just as well re-open the case of another novelty Northern nonce, Cyril Smith.'
Talk about being wise after the event and jumping on the bandwagon.  As John Walker, who was interviewed on last Thursday's Dispatches program, in a leading article in the current Summer/ Autumn issue of Northern Voices (NV14) observes:
'The Rochdale Observer “discovered” a story, a story they had been sitting on for 30 years, as did the Manchester Evening News.  Granada TV and the BBC followed suit and even the Daily Mail, claimed credit for “investigating” the story, towards the end of November (2012).'
Mr. Walker was an editor of RAP (the Rochdale Alternative Paper) the journal which first outed Smith back in May 1979.  At that time RAP published the allegations of some of Smith's victims while he was secretary at the Rochdale hostel for boys at Cambridge House.  Following publication Smith slapped an injunction on Mr. Walker and RAP, and John Walker writes:
'There was not a serious national news outlet that did not have a copy (of RAP), and knew that we had a compelling, legally cleared, material to back our claims... Smith bullied them into inaction.'

None repeated the story except for Private Eye, who, like RAP, invited Cyril to sue.  Smith never did that and it was suggested on the Dispatches program by someone who was involved with Smith at the time that he feared being exposed if he had sued.  John Walker in his Northern Voices' story writes:
'I would argue that there is not a serious national political journalist in Britain over the age of 50 who has not been aware of the Smith story for 30 years.'
Mr. Walker insists: 
'The recent re-emergence of the 1979 RAP story owes its appearance to Northern Voices... [t]his magazine kept the Smith story running and led to Westminister political blogger, and former Rochdale lad, Paul Waugh picking it up, last November.'
On the Dispatches program John Walker poured scorn on the national press involvement, or lack of it, in the Smith case, and praised Private Eye, as he wrote in NV14:
'...none of this would have happened without an inquisitive and awkward independent press...  while the might and wealth of Murdoch, Trinity Mirror and other press empires have remained silent...  While Levenson has huffed and puffed about a responsible press, over recentmonths, it has been the determination of a free, independent and radical press that has finally exposed the behaviour of a hypocritical monster; while many of the more mighty power-broking media magnates have been restrained by big-boy bullying.' 

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below. This issue N.V.14 has an in-depth and exclusive report by John Walker, a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) on the full history of Cyril Smith's antics with young lads. RAP was the first publication to go public on this in May 1979. You can obtain a copy by writing or contacting the people whose details are below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Considering the Spanish Civil War

IN July 2011, I shared a platform with Lewis Mates and a local historian who was attached to the International Brigade Memorial Trust at an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Spanish Civil War in Newcastle.  Lewis has written a book about the volunteers from the North East who served in the International Brigade in Spain in the 1930s or fought in the Spanish Civil War in a militia, and has studied extensively that period of history.  Last week, in an e-mail responding to my review of  Professor Preston's book The Spanish Holocaust, he writes:  '... thanks for this Brian; interesting, but I'd have liked to see a closer examination of Preston's treatment of the anarchists; his account focuses heavily on the CNT-FAI killings in the republican zone and the Communists hardly get a mention...' 

The problem with what he is requesting here is that though Preston's treatment of the Spanish anarchists is probably skewed against both the CNT trade union and FAI political organisation, it is not Preston's central argument which is about the parallels between the Spanish right and the Great  dictators of Europe.  Another problem is that some Spaniish anarchists did behave badly in the Spanish Civil War, and that this has been acknowledged by Stuart Christie among others since Preston's book appeared.  
If one wanted to put the conduct of some Spanish anarchists into proportion we could do worse than turn to the sociologist Dr. Franz Borkenau's book The Spanish Cockpit to get a more balanced grasp of the nature of the Spanish war in  a Spanish context: often, it seems to me, that some writers demonstrate a degree of Hispanic-phobia when dealing with the Spanish Civil War.  Borkenau went to Spain with the intention of doing some 'field work' on a country in revolution; he made two trips, the first in August 1936, and the second in January 1937.  It may be of interest for Mr. Mates to consider the contrast between the two visits:  in August the Government was almost powerless, local collectives were functioning and factories had been taken over by their workers, and the Anarchists were the main revolutionary force; and as George Orwell writes in his review published in a French journal of Borkenau's book:
'as a result everything was in terrible chaos, the churches were still smouldering and suspected Fascists were being shot in large numbers, but there was everywhere a belief in the revolution, a feeling that the bondage of centuries had been broken'.   (The New Statesman had refused to publish this Orwell review as being against editorial policy).
Come January 1937, power had passed to a greater extent from the Anarchists to the Communists - though not so much as later in the war, and it seemed that the Communists were bringing back the pre-revolutionary police forces, and political espionage on the republican side was developing.  Borkenau himself was soon imprisoned, but luckily for him, unlike Orwell and others, he managed to to save his documents.   
Borkenau describes the position as Spain fell under Communist control in January/ February 1937 as follows:
'It is at present impossible … to discuss openly even the basic facts of the political situation.  The fight between the revolutionary and non-revolutionary principle, as embodied in Anarchists and Communists respectively, is inevitable, because fire and water cannot mix …  But as the Press is not even allowed to mention it, nobody is fully aware of the position, and the political antagonism breaks through, not in open fight to win over public opinion, but in backstairs intrigues, assassinations by Anarchist bravos, legal assassinations by Communist police, subdued allusions, rumours ….  The concealment of the main political facts from the public and the maintenance of this deception by means of censorship and terrorism carries with it far-reaching detrimental effects, which will be felt in the future even more than at present.' 
Mr. Borkenau is not a revolutionary and he may even welcome a more orderly regime, but what he objects to is the arrival of the police spies as the Communists begin to gain influence over the Spamish and Catalan Governments, the lack of transparency, the censorship and the concealment of what was going on on the republican side.  We can all recognise this even in the tin-pot politics of the British left, nay especially there in those hole-in-the-corner parties and what Orwell, in another context, called 'the smelly little orthodoxies'.