Friday, 31 January 2014

Salford Council close Civic Centre in knee jerk response to anti-fracking protest

FIVE Barton Moss Protectors took part in non-violent direct action today (Friday Jan 31st) in the reception area of Swinton Civic Centre.   Two  protectors locked their arms together within a tube and a 3rd was super glued to one of them.    Two other protectors super glued themselves to a window.   

This action drew attention to Salford Councils planning consent for the exploration and production of coalbed methane at Barton Moss.    It's probable that I-Gas who took over the planning consents from Nexen UK will also frack for shale gas at Barton Moss.  

The protectors also referred to Salford Council's pension funds being invested in I-Gas.    Another issue raised was the disproportionate force being used by the Tactical Aid Unit at Barton Moss which has resulted in a number of protectors suffering injuries.    

Salford Council  closed their offices and refused admission to members of the public against the wishes of the protectors, who were not blockikng the entrance and were prepared to engage with members of the public.     Police evidence gathers filmed the protectors and a recovery team eventually managed to free the protectors.    The five protectors were arrested and were released from Swinton Police Station at about 8.30pm.  

There have been over 100 arrests at Barton Moss since the protests but the resolve and determination of the protectors is as strong as ever.    Furthermore, there is evidence that the public are supporting the anti-fracking campaign in ever increasing numbers and Camerons government and the fracking companies are getting desperate in offering bribes to local councils and communities to agree to fracking.

Scarlett Johansson Sticks with SodaStream!

THE actress Scarlett Johansson has stepped down as an Ambassador for Oxfam because of her new job advertising SodaStream, a company which operates in the illegal settlement Ma’ale Adumim, in the Occupied West Bank.  Scarlett Johansson and Oxfam faced pressure from the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign who demanded that Scarlett Johansson cut her ties with SodaStream, or Oxfam cut their ties with Scarlett Johansson.

She will remain a brand ambassador for SodaStream, which has a factory in the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim.   The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

The Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Sarah Colborne, said:
'Scarlett Johansson's decision to represent SodaStream clearly violated Oxfam's policy of supporting human rights and justice.  By choosing to represent a company that operates in an illegal settlement on stolen Palestinian land, she has already suffered major reputational damage. And by prioritising SodaStream over Oxfam, she has decided to profit from occupation, rather than challenge global poverty.   We thank all our supporters who made it clear to Oxfam that they needed to break from Scarlett Johansson.  And we thank Oxfam for supporting the rights of Palestinians.'

Oxfam have issued a statement saying that 'Ms. Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam Global Ambassador.'

Channel 4’s new series The Jump is sponsored by SodaStream.  Protesters are saying Channel 4  should not accept sponsorship from SodaStream because of human rights and international law and calling for on people to support protests in Brighton and London against shops stocking SodaStream.

Jonathan Cook, a journalist based in the Middle East, writes that 'no one comes out of this affair looking good'.  

Cook says on his blog that:
'Oxfam’s dithering and its final efforts to allow Johansson to present this as a resignation rather than a dismissal reinforces the point I made yesterday about how money talks, even for Oxfam.'

According to Cook:
'The charity (Oxfam) needs pretty ambassadors to raise funds and to gain media attention. Treating Johansson harshly, even now when the relationship is over, might put off other Hollywood starlets who hope to burnish their humanitarian credentials – at least as long as the work doesn’t interfere with their opportunities to make money, even when it comes at the expense of other people’s freedom.'

See more at:

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Ukraine: People in the Street make progress

SIGNS of weakening by the regime in the Ukraine seem evident with President Viktor Yanukovych going on 'sick leave' and the opposition rejecting an amnesty bill to free activists and ease the crisis.

The President has made several concessions to the people in the street, including accepting the resignation of the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, but none of this satisfies the protesters. The demonstrators are calling for the President Yanukovych himself to stand down.

Meanwhile, Moscow has put on hold its release of a £15 billion bailout package for the Ukraine until the next government is formed. Analysts think Russia will pull out of the deal if it doesn't get what it wants, and if there ends up being a pro-European government in Kiev.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Russian union leaders arrested!

We have received this recent briefing from Eric Lee of LabourStart.

"We sent you this message last week -- but you don't seem to have responded.  It's very important that we each take 1 minute to send protest messages today.

Three leaders of the pilots union at Russian airline AEROFLOT -- Alexei Shlyapnokov, Valeriy Pimoshenko and Sergei Knyshov -- were arrested in October during a bitter fight to secure a collective bargaining agreement.

Their union believes that the three were framed as a retaliation for the union's recent success in a court battle.

The Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), a national trade union center affiliated with the International Trade Union Confederation, and the Sheremetevo Trade Union of Airline Pilots have called for an international campaign to demand that the company negotiate rather than try to jail union leaders.

Please take a moment to show your support - click here.

Thank you -- and please spread the word!"

Eric Lee

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Welfare Action Gathering - Saturday 15th February!

Come to an info and skill-sharing day in London on 15 February, 10.45am-5.30pm, Maiden Lane Community Centre near Kings Cross. Directions here.

Getting your welfare rights is about a lot more than just knowing your welfare rights. Across the UK, people are getting together to support each other and pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, wrong decisions, and insecure housing.
Meet others from across the UK, hear inspiring stories, learn info about our rights and share tactics that work. This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s about people at the grassroots getting together and working out how we can support each other and throw even more spanners in the government’s plans!
If you are in a local group where people share mutual support on welfare or housing (or plan to start one), Boycott Workfare should be able to help with your travel costs. Please get in touch as soon as you can so we can sort it out.
Planning on coming? There’ll be tea, coffee and a free lunch! Please let us know you’re coming so we know how many people to cook for!
Want to know what to expect? Check out the agenda here. There’s an open space session in the afternoon if you’d like to offer a workshop too!

All aboard the Gravy Train. 'Poverty Pimps' seek to cash-in on welfare reform!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from 'Boycott Workfare'.

"Take action on Monday 27th January while poverty profiteers gather at Capita’s‘Welfare reform’ conference
While millions of people struggle to eat or heat their homes, and thousands of families face eviction, foodbanks and homelessness due to sanctions, bedroom tax and loss of disability benefits, Capita cashes in with conferences for Lord Freud (Minister for Dismantling Welfare) and his workfare collaborators.
You could pay £350 – £575 (plus VAT) to join all those snouts in the workfare trough at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel. Or you can let them know what you think via twitter, email, phone – follow the links below.

We’ll post the conference hash tag as soon as we have it so you can join in the discussions on the day (or you can check out @capitaconf and their inspiring #capitaconf hashtag to see for yourself). You could also use the DWP’s #job2014 hashtag. The DWP are making a big effort to improve their social media presence – the least we can do is increase their footfall @DWPgovuk

The aim of the conference is to get ‘partners’ who make money from it ready for the next stage of ‘benefit reform’, with a special focus on ‘shifting the culture’. Let’s shift it in another direction!
In addition to the DWP’s own Lord Freud, (one of the chief architects in paying the private sector to dismantle welfare rights aka the great welfare rip off) the organisations below are supporting the event.
Private and voluntary sector organisations making big money from the outsourcing of welfare – let them know (politely) what you think…
Papworth Trust
As they say ‘If disabled people are affected, it’s likely that we’ll have something to say about it.’
Text 07860 021210 and Papworth will contact you.
David Martin, Director of Strategy and Marketing will be speaking on the needs of job seekers with disabilities.  He’ll be covering self esteem and self awareness.  We’d like to know if he has anything to say about suicide, despair and plunging people with disabilities into poverty.
D: 01480 357208
M: 07772 197770
Sinead Butters CEO  of Aspire will be speaking on ‘achieving social and financial return on investment’ – and ‘delivering enhanced employment and skills interventions to tenants’. Let her know what you think about making money out of workfare and using housing as a route to coerce people into ‘skills interventions’.
A2Dominion – another housing association collaborating with the DWP’s benefits cuts agenda.  As part of the ‘digital deal pilot’, A2Dominion are ‘getting social tenants on line as part of preparation for universal credit’.
Fiona Cornell, Deputy Executive Director, will be talking about the digital deal pilot and how it helps the DWP to spy on and harass claimants
Tomorrow’s People  ‘making life (low pay/no pay) work’
TP are major players in the forcing young people to work for nothing industry.
Steve Swan, Tomorrow’s People Director of Welfare to Work will be holding forth on how to push those who are most vulnerable and disadvantaged into the new growth industry of low pay, no pay jobs
You can let them know what you think about their schemes for young people:
ATOS Healthcare
Gary Gear from ATOS will be speaking alongside Stephen Duckworth from Capita.
This is the ‘healthcare’ arm of the French IT firm ATOS, well known for making millions out of DWP contracts for ‘work capability assessments’ designed to strip people of out of work sickness and disability benefits.  They are also well known for earning hundreds of millions from WCA and payingno Corporation Tax in the UK.
Local Councils
Lewisham, Wigan and Southwark councils are also taking part.  If you live in these boroughs, why not let them know what you think:  Gerri Scott (Southwark Strategic Director of Housing), Peter Gadson (Lewisham Head of Customer Insight), Alison McKenzie-Folan (Wigan Director of Customer Transformation) and Graham Cadle (Croydon Director of Customer Services).
Lewisham Council
Wigan Council
Southwark Council
Croydon Council
Citizens Advice Bureaux
We’re sorry to see CAB taking part.  CAB workers across the country have seen first hand the impact of sanctions, forced unpaid labour, bedroom tax and other benefit cuts.  The evidence is set out in areport from Manchester CAB. So why is Katie Shaw, Head of CAB Welfare Policy chairing this event? Workfare and other attacks on social security and workers’ rights would collapse without the collusion of the voluntary sector."

Monday, 27 January 2014

Demonstration in solidarity with Barton Moss Protectors Camp in oppostion to fracking by I-Gas

ANOTHER large demonstration and rally took place on Sunday 26th January against the I-Gas company which is planning to frack for shale gas.     Over 1000 people took part in a peaceful march along the A 57 main road to Barton Moss Road.    Protestors came from all over the country to emphasise the massive opposition which is developing to fracking.   Cuadrilla has run into serious difficulties on the Fylde due to major problems with the disposal of radioactive water from their site there and securing the necessary permits.    Clearly the fracking companies are on the defensive and the Barton Moss Protectors are waging a courageous but peaceful campaign notwithstanding the provocation and tactics of Greater Manchester Police.     At least 2 protectors have suffered facial injuries recently and the number of arrests at Barton Moss is increasing by the day and indicates the strength of opposition to fracking.

The meaning of unemployment?

IN last Saturday's Financial Times, Noel Whiteside, Professor of Comparative Public Policy at the University of Warwick wrote a letter in which he questioned the method of measuring the unemployment figures.  Mr. Whiteside asked in a letter:
'What, in this day and age, does unemployment mean?  According to the Labour Force Survey (the most common measure) anyone who undertakes one hour's work per week is not 'unemployed' (even if dependent on state support as a working tax credit claimant).  It follows that, the more employment is structured in 40-hour (or whatever) work weeks, the more likely the unemployment statistics to measure fluctuations in economic activity.  Conversely, the more disorganised and casualised the labour market, the less likely the unemployment rate to measure such changes with any accuracy.  As the UK now boasts one of the most 'flexible' labour markets in Europe, both the failure of unemployment to rise as much as expected following the 2008 crash and the recent bizarre movements of the rate over recent months become understandable...'

Strangeways at King's Arms Theatre Salford

Written and Directed by Joshua Val Martin.
The King’s Arms Theatre, Salford. 
Monday 24th - Thursday 27th February 2014, 8pm.
General purchase tickets:
The Cobbled Haze Club are excited to bring this ambitious restaging of STRANGEWAYS at the King’s Arms Theatre, Salford, running from 24, FEBRUARY - 27 FEBRUARY 2014.  It’s a wet Mancunian morning. Dot is unpacking into her new high-rise flat, with just her treasured tabby Tiptoes for company. That is until dead husband Vinnie makes an appearance. And whilst psychological worker Sam has Dot’s best interests at heart, when there’s talk that Tiptoes may have to be confiscated, we are catapulted into Dot’s dark, turbulent past. STRANGEWAYS is a darkly comic exploration of loneliness, loss and senility. 
STRANGEWAYS recently completed a hugely successful run at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013, billed as ‘touching and moving’ (ThreeWeeks), and a ‘powerfully emotional journey’ (EdFringe Review) and being named their Pick of the Fringe. Leading the cast is MTA best fringe performance nominee Stella Grundy, best known as lead singer of 90s rock band Intastella, fresh from touring her self-penned one-woman show ‘The Rise and Fall of a Northern Star’ which has also ran at the 2014 re:Play festival to 5* reviews. Alongside her is Oliver Hamilton, whose credits include a promenade production of the musical ‘Cabaret’. Completing the cast is Roisin Brehony, who has recently worked on an open-air tour of London with Shakespeare’s ‘The Comedy of Errors’, a Manchester tour of Puss in Boots and performed at Chicago’s Second City./ 

Blacklist News: January 2014

1.       Scottish Affairs Select Committee: 
The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting is continuing with UCATT, GMB & UNITE giving evidence this week. A second Interim Report is expected to be published in March. Phil Whitehurt of the GMB and Steve Murphy both called for blacklisting to be made a criminal offence with prison sentences. Bernard McAulay attacked Crown House for their continued anti-union attitude.
2. Blacklist Compensation Scheme latest: 
At present there is no offer by the companies but the blacklisting firms have requested a meeting in February to discuss a possible compensation scheme. The Blacklist Support Group and Guney Clark & Ryan solicitors for the High Court claim will be at the meeting, alongside UNITE, UCATT and GMB and their legal teams. This is very early stages and there are no concrete proposals as yet.  
Any blacklisted worker wishing to join the GCR High Court claim should contact Liam Dunne:
3. Shrewsbury Pickets: 
The campaign to have the convictions of the Shrewsbury Pickets quashed got a boost on Thursday this week when MPs voted in favour of releasing all the documents currently held by the government relating to the miscarriage of justice. The vote is not binding but will place pressure on the documents that campaigners believe will expose a conspiracy between the police, the government at the highest levels, security services and the building companies. There is a 30 year rule for the release of government documents - the Shrewsbury documents are 41 years old - what have they got to hide?
 4. COPS meeting: 
Blacklist Support Group is working alongside lawyers other groups and individuals who have been spied on by undercover police including the Lawrence Family, female activists who were sexually abused by the police, environmental and anti-racist campaigners and left wing political groups. All those involved are calling for a fully independent public inquiry to expose the role of undercover police spying on campaigners. The first public meeting will be held on  Thursday 27th February 2014 
UNITE the Union HQ , 
5. Blacklist Support Group meetings: 
There have been 2 well attended BSG meetings held in London in November 2013, one in the House of Commons on the TUC Day of Action on 20th November and another on 29th November following the High Court case. 
BSG meeting (Liverpool) 
11am Saturday 22nd February 2014 
UNITE Offices, 
6. Alder Hey Hospital: 
Blacklist Support Group has organised a number of protests outside Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool about ongoing blacklisting by Laing O'Rourke.   This was raised in the Select Committee by Steve Murphy this week. Photo from the early morning protest attached. 
7. Balfour Beatty: 
Blacklisting firm Balfour Beatty is currently in dispute with building workers on their Shetland Gas Plant.
Date: 21/01/14 
'This afternoon at a Unite & GMB mass meeting of engineering construction workers at the Total’s new build Shetland Gas Plant, the union members voted unanimously to reject the offer tabled by the main contractor, Petrofac, concerning the dispute over travel time & shared accommodation in bunk beds. The workforce will now start industrial strike action on the Shetland Gas Plant with a 24 hour stoppage of work starting at midnight Thursday 23rd/ Friday 24th January. Petrofac have also been informed that there will be further strike action in the coming weeks, until an acceptable offer is made to the engineering construction workers on the Shetland Gas Plant.' 
 Note: Companies involved in the dispute are Petrofac, Balfour Beatty Engineering Services, Bilfinger Industrial Services (BIS) & Randridge. 
Balfour Beatty are also currently involved in a pensions, sick pay, holiday pay dispute known as the 3 COSAS campaign with the support staff at University of London. The workers are on official strike 3 days next week 27th-29th January 2013. 
BSG will be supporting the 3 COSAS campaign especially on Tuesday 28th January. 
Senate House,
Malet Street, WC1E 7HU (nearest tube: Russell Square). 
8. Smith v Carillion EAT judgement - agency workers not protected by UK law. 
Scottish Parliament Motion submitted by Neil Findlay MSP 
Motion Number: S4M-08824
Lodged By: Neil Findlay
Date Lodged: 22/01/2014
Title: Blacklisting, Smith v Carillion: 
That the Parliament notes the employment appeal tribunal judgement of Smith v Carillion (JM) Ltd, which, it understands, considered a high profile blacklisting case; recognises that, in her written judgement, Mrs Justice Slade identified human rights violations and expressed concern that the secretary of the Blacklist Support Group, Dave Smith, 'suffered an injustice from blacklisting'; understands that the ruling found in favour of Carillion because, as Mr Smith was not directly employed by the construction multinational but instead by an employment agency, he was not protected by employment law, and understands that Mr Smith is now considering how to take his case forward to the next stage. 
9. John Flavin ex-President of UCATT has made a submission to the Select Committee and makes accusations about police and union involvement with blacklisting.
10. Blacklisted Book:  
Later this year, Pluto Press are publishing a book on blacklisting by Phil Chamberlain and Dave Smith. The deadline for the manuscript is very soon. Anyone wishing to provide information useful to the book please get in touch asap.
Blacklist Support Group 

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Rochdale Touchstones Cafe to Re-open

Cafe Life 
Café Life at Touchstones Rochdale is a great place to relax in a friendly atmosphere.
The Café will be re-opening on Wednesday 29 January with food served from 11am. Link4Life is working in partnership with Pure Innovations who will operate the Café on our behalf.
Whether you are visiting our exhibitions, just passing by or meeting up with friends - why not come along and have a relaxing cup of coffee and sample our wholesome menu at Café Life.

Opening times:

Cafe: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-4pm
Touchstones Rochdale: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm
Did you know that Touchstones Rochdale have rooms to hire?

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Third Unofficial Histories Conference

THE details and appeal for Participation at the third Unofficial Histories conference, to be held on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th June 2014 in Huddersfield at the University of Huddersfield , UK., are as follows:
The Unofficial Histories conference aims to explore how society produces, presents, and consumes history beyond official and elite versions of the past. It seeks to bring together those who wish to consider the value and purpose of historical engagements and understandings that take place within, on the edges of, or outside “official” sites that produce and transmit historical knowledge and ideas.
The third Unofficial Histories conference will take place in Huddersfield over two days:
·        Saturday 7 June 2014 will be a day of papers, presentations and debate at University of Huddersfield, Queensgate, Huddersfield.
·        Sunday 8 June 2014 will be a relaxed day of informal activities in Huddersfield exploring the theme of ’Unofficial Histories’.
We now invite presentation proposals for the meeting on Saturday 7th June 2014 to be held at University of Huddersfield.
You can find the full Call for Participation at
Different approaches to communication are encouraged, and the deadline for proposals isWednesday 28 February 2014.
Please email proposals to
For more information about Unofficial Histories, please see the conference website .
For additional details contact:
Fiona Cosson, Ian Gwinn & UH Collective
Unofficial Histories

Suranne Jones in Orlando at Royal Exchange

ACCLAIMED TV and stage actress Suranne Jones

From the novel by Virginia Woolf

Adaptation by Sarah Ruhl

Directed by Max Webster

Designed by Ti Green 

The Royal Exchange Theatre,

St Ann’s Square, Manchester

Thursday 20 February – Saturday 22 March 2014 

ACCLAIMED TV and stage actress Suranne Jones is to star in a stage version of Virginia Woolf’s time travelling, gender swapping comedy ORLANDO – the opening production of the new Spring – Summer 2014 Season at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre 
She takes the title role in Sarah Ruhl’s stage adaptation of Woolf’s ground-breaking novel which runs at the Exchange from Thursday 20 February to Saturday 22 March.   Jopnes is to star in a stage version of Virginia Woolf’s time travelling, gender swapping comedy ORLANDO – the opening production of the new Spring – Summer 2014 Season at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre
She takes the title role in Sarah Ruhl’s stage adaptation of Woolf’s ground-breaking novel which runs at the Exchange from Thursday 20 February to Saturday 22 March.    

Best known for playing Rachel Bailey in ITV police drama SCOTT AND BAILEY and her long-running role as Karen McDonald in CORONATION STREET, Suranne was last seen at the Royal Exchange in BLITHE SPIRIT in 2009.   

Woolf’s novel about sex, love, and history romps across continents and centuries, telling the story of young nobleman Orlando who woos and wins the hearts of grand and fallen women. Among his conquests are Russian royalty, Queen Elizabeth I and a Spanish dancer.   

Betrayed by his one true love and hounded out of England, he falls asleep for seven days, wakes up as a woman and has to find her way back home in a journey that takes almost four hundred years.   

The production is directed by Max Webster, (whose previous Royal Exchange credits include the hugely successful TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD earlier this year) and includes a strong emphasis on live music and visual elements. 

Talking about the production, he said:  'Orlando is one of the strangest and most beautiful books ever written and in this skilful and funny adaptation Virginia Woolf’s extraordinary story is brought to vibrant new life.'   

The production is designed by Ti Green, whose recent credits include HENRY V1 (The Globe) and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Royal and Derngate). 

The cast also includes Thomas Arnold, Molly Gromadzki, Richard Hope, Tunji Kasim and Hetti Price.   

The creative team is completed by Charles Balfour (lighting), Isobel Waller-Bridge (sound designer and composer), Liz Ranken (movement) and Vicki Amedume (aerial choreography).   

For further information please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager, Royal Exchange Theatre) on 0161 615 6783 /   
Production photos for ORLANDO will be available for download from the Royal Exchange Theatre Online Press Office from Friday 21 February at

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

EAT finds construction worker "Suffered an injustice from blacklisting!"

The Employment Appeal Tribunal judgement in the high profile blacklisting case of Smith v Carillion (JM) Ltd has been released (attached). 

The written judgement by Mrs. Justice Slade DBE identifies human rights violations and expresses concern that Dave Smith (secretary of Blacklist Support Group) "suffered an injustice from blacklisting" (para 70) but still finds in favour of Carillion because Mr Smith was not directly employed by the construction multinational but by an employment agency and UK employment law does not protect agency workers. 

Mr Smith was represented by John Hendy QC, David Renton (counsel) and Declan Owens (solicitor) via the Free Representation Unit (photo attached). John Hendy QC identified that blacklisting of Mr Smith breached Article 8 and Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. 

The case gained front page media coverage and was discussed in parliament, following the original Employment Tribunal hearing in 2012. The original Employment Tribunal decision found that managers for various companies within the Carillion group had been actively involved in blacklisting Mr. Smith in his role as a UCATT union safety rep who had raised safety concerns on a number of building sites in London and Essex. But Mr Smith lost his case because as as an agency worker he was not protected by UK law.  The original ET judgement states "We have reached our conclusions with considerable reluctance. It seems to us that he has suffered a genuine injustice and we greatly regret that the law provides him with no remedy." (para 71)

Finding of facts in the case are on Paragraph 4-11 of the EAT judgement

Dave Smith commented
"Being a union member is not against the law. Raising concerns about asbestos is not against the law. 
But despite mountains of documentary evidence proving that construction firms were systematically blacklisting union members who questioned safety standards, it seems that big business are above the law.
Blacklisting is a violation of human rights. We intend to fight this all the way to Europe until we achieve justice. My heroic legal team are already preparing our appeal".  

Attached pix taken inside the EAT building (L-R) Declan Owens, David Renton, Dave Smith, John Hendy QC:


Widespread Public Anger at Politicians

Only 12% of the young will vote!

DAVID Blunket hit out today at the number of young people who intend to vote (according to the Hansard Society), and speaking on BBC Radio Four's Today program, he challenged Will Self, the author, for being negative about politicians.  Mr. Self said that  it didn't require critics of politicians, such as himself, to put people off politics as the politicians created a repugnance of political life through their own greedy and selfish actions.

Self had criticised Blunkett for taking many thousands of pounds doing work for Rupert Murdoch's news empire and involvement in two political scandals that contributed to his resignations as a minister under the last government.  And Mr Blunkett tried to identify himself with good causes, saying : "People, thousands of them, day in, day out, give their time voluntarily to work within political parties and campaigns such as Make Poverty History, to try and make the world a better place.'
These remarks come after the Guardian last month published ICM research showing that nearly half of Britons say they are angry with politics and politicians, in a survey analysing the disconnection between British people and their democracy.  The research found anger with the political class and broken promises made by high-profile figures that most rile voters, rather than boredom with Westminster. 

Lord Ashdown, the former Lib Dem leader, warned last month that voter trust in institutions is 'crumbling into dust' and raised the problem of disaffection.   He said:
'I cannot exclude the possibility that we'll see people who don't believe they can make their point within the political system making their point on the street instead.'
Ashdown has said voter disaffection could have a radical impact on the general election 2015:
'We are all proceeding on the basis that the next election will be a conventional election.  I'm not entirely certain that if the leviathan lying below the surface decides to swish its tail, that's necessarily the case.' 
Sarah Teather, the Lib Dem former children's minister, has also spoken about some of the reasons for declining trust in politicians.  She said ministers have become caught up in a 'cycle of democratic self-harm'

Pity the British anarchist movement is in such a poor state; indeed it's in a worse state even than that of the British politicians at Westminister, or it could to take advantage of this situation. 

Council Call-in Barrister in Knowl View Sex Case

Probe into Cyril Smith and others at former special school
Back cover of Northern Voices 14
ROCHDALE council has asked Andrew Warnock QC to 'independently review all council decision making' related to Knowl View boys home in Bamford, Rochdale, from the end of the 1980s up to the mid-1990s.  This decision is long overdue given that there have been about a dozen allegations by lads, former pupils of the school and some only eight at the time, of extreme and wicked sexual abuse.
Tomorrow's Rochdale Observer has interviewed Martin Digan a former head of care at the residential school for lads with behavioural difficulties; the school was closed in 1994 when Mr. Digan gave a dossier detailing the abuse to the authorities.  Now Mr. Digan has told the Observer:
'It's been a long time coming, but I absolutely welcome this...  A massive cover-up of sexual abuse took place at Knowl View and it's about time people were held accountable for what happened.  Let's hope this is a proper independent investigation that gets to the bottom of what went on.'
In the report on 'Cyril Smith's Spanking Memoirs' in the printed version of Northern Voices No.14 last year, we itemised and imagined what might have been a diary entry for 1994 by Cyril Smith himself:
'Martin Digan, head of care at Knowl View, became suspicious when he established that I had keys made, giving me 24-hour access to the school (as I had done previously at Cambridge House, and as Savile had done in a number of institutions).  Digan handed a dossier alleging sexual abuse of about a quarter of the school's residents to education and police officials.  No apparent action was taken, although Digan was made redundant the following year.'
Chris Marshall, an ex-pupil at Knowl View, has consistently claimed the disgraced former Rochdale MP, Cyril Smith, when chairman of the school, abused him at Knowl View.
Now the leader of Rochdale Council, Colin Lambert, has said;
'It is important for me as leader of the council to be able to reassure members of the public that we are treating this matter seriously and to ensure that no stone is left unturned.  Anyone with new information should contact Greater Manchester Police.'
The investigator, Mr. Warnock is from the London based One Chancery Lane Chambers, specialising in child abuse, public sector, and social service claims.

Four out of five landlords snub tenants on housing Benefits

Nearly four in five landlords are unwilling to rent to tenants on housing benefit, a survey has revealed.
Just 18 per cent of landlords had tenants with housing benefit in one or more of their properties, the survey by property listings website showed.
This compares with a third two years ago.

A total of 57 per cent said they refused explicitily refused to rent to tenants on housing benefit, stating ‘no housing benefit’ in advertisements, the research carried out for the Guardian revealed.
More than half of those willing to take on tenants on housing benefit said they would not take any more following the roll out of universal credit.

Matt Hutchinson, director of SpareRoom, told the Guardian:
‘The 2008 [introduction of local housing allowance] to stop landlords receiving rent payments direct [unless requested] – designed to give those on benefits greater responsibility for their finances – has had overwhelmingly negative and lasting repercussions for tenants on housing benefit.  With rents rising and the welfare budget suffering from continued government cuts, the outlook for tenants reliant on housing benefit is getting bleaker.’

Report from 'Inside Housing': 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Georges Picquart: The Dreyfus Whistle-blower

IT's a 100 years last Saturday since the whistle-blower in the French Dreyfus case, Georges Picquart, died.  Alfred Dreyfus was a Jewish artillery captain who became the only Jew on the general staff of the French army, and it came as no surprise to Picquart, who the author Robert Harris describes as 'casually anti-Semite', that Dreyfus fell under suspicion of passing secret intelligence to the Germans.  Picquart attended the Dreyfus conviction when his sword was broken and insignia torn from his uniform, and said to a fellow officer:  'He's a Jew, don't forget that.  He's thinking of the weight of the gold braid and how much it's worth.' 

On that day Jan. 5th, 1895, a crowd of 20,000 shouted 'Death to the Jew!'

Picquart, unlike modern whistle-blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, was a senior figure in the organisation he was about to expose and who had taught Alfred Dreyfus at the Ministry of War, and had even provided the sample of Dreyfus's handwriting to the investigators that appeared to confirm Dreyfus's guilt.  Later the Dreyfus affair was to divide French society, when Picquart at the age of 40, was made the youngest colonel in the French Army and put in charge of a small intelligence unit, known as the Statistical Section, and he placed Maj. Charles Esterhazy under surveilance after more evidence emerged.

Wikipedia reports:  'Little by little despite threats of arrest for complicity, machinations, and open traps by the military[94] he (Picquart) managed to convince various moderates. Thus the libertarian journalist Bernard Lazare looked into the shadows of the proceedings. In 1896 Lazare published the first dreyfusard booklet in Brussels.[95] This publication had little influence on the political and intellectual world but it contained so much detail that the General Staff suspected that the new head of SR Picquart was responsible.'

The nationalist press launched a violent campaign against the heart of the burgeoning dreyfusards. In counter-attack, the General Staff discovered and revealed the information, hitherto ignored, in the 'secret file'.[108] Doubt began to establish itself and figures in the artistic and political spheres asked questions.[Note 21] Picquart tried to convince his seniors to react in favour of Dreyfus but the General Staff seemed deaf. An investigation was started against him, he was monitored when he was in the east, then transferred to Tunisia 'in the interest of the service'.

At the end of 1897, the novelist Emile Zola was provided with the information and did his celebrated expose of the affair, 'J'Accuse...!'  Picquart, the whistle-blower, was dismissed from the army, framed as a forger and locked up in solitary confinement for over a year. 

The campaign for the review, relayed little by little into the leftist anti-military press,[96] triggered a return of a violent yet vague antisemitism. France was overwhelmingly anti-dreyfusard. Major Henry from the Statistics Section in turn was aware of the fragility of the prosecution case. At the request of his superiors, General Boisdeffre, Chief of the General Staff, and Major-General Gonse, he was charged with the task to grow the file to prevent any attempt at a review. Unable to find any evidence, he decided to build some after the fact.

In 1906, justice was done; the Dreyfus conviction was quashed, and Picquart was restored to the army with the rank of brigadier general.  In the Autumn of 1906, Picquart's friend and fellow Dreyfusard, George Clemenceau - owner of the newspaper that published 'J'Accuse...!'  became prime minister and made Picquart Minister of War, a post he held for three years.  Picquart died of edema of the face - effectively, suffocation - following a riding accident.  He was 59.  Having no family to preserve his memory:  a bachelor with a succession of married mistresses, he left no children.  A section of the army never forgave him for betraying his comrades, and some of Dreyfus's backers still accuse him of being 'anti-Semite'.  But Clemenceau oserved:  'Dreyfus was the victim, but Picquart was the hero.' 

Friday, 17 January 2014

At Celia Otter's Funeral

Celia Otter
SCORES of people, neighbours, family, friends, fellow ramblers and comrade anarchists  attended Celia Otter's funeral at Westhope Green Burial site at East Westhope in Shropshire yesterday.    She died on New Year's day at Lightmoor View Nursing Home after experiencing a recurring brain tumour.

The service was Humanist, but it was performed in a small medieval church.  The graveyard fell into disuse in the 13th Century, yet the Church continued to be in use until the 18th Century.   Both it and the nearby Westhope College are part of a Quaker charity, and the graveyard was opened up as a green cemetery around 20 years ago; when Celia bought a plot on the burial site.  Memorial donations given yesterday went to Celia's favourite Charity:  the International Animal Rescue.

First impressions at the nearby railway station of Craven Arms were that it was not a very romantic place, nor was it improved when I met Martin Gilbert from Cumbria in a cafe on the main road inside Tommy Tuffin's supermarket.  This all changed as our taxi sped into the green Shropshire countryside which Celia so loved, and we strode up to the small church were the door was opened by the celebrant, Sue Faulder. 

Tributes followed and the music of Bach's 'Sheep may safely graze' played as tears fell.  Celia taught in London, and later lived in Oxford where Celia and Laurens' daughter, Fiona, was born.  A schoolfriend, Anthea Nex, who knew Celia when she was at school when they were both 13-years-old, spoke first of their experiences in Portsmouth, and of their cycling trips to Europe.  Celia we were told was both popular and forthright.

It was in London that she met the man who was to become her husband, Laurens Otter, during their activities in the campaign against nuclear weapons at the beginning of the 1960s.  Celia was later to gain a prison record for these activities which included civil disobedience against the bomb.  Martin Gilbert told me that she and Laurens attended the founding of the new British Anarchist Federation in Bristol in 1963. 

Andrea Burden, who knew Celia as a teacher in Shropshire, had met her in 1978 and worked with her.  Andrea told us that Celia had a policy of never excluding a pupil.  In the 1990s, Celia taught a Brookside school in Wellington, where she was head of school for maladjusted children.  John Latter, a local man who walker who walked his dog near Celia's home of College Farm spoke movingly of her later years.  Then the celebrant asked for others in the packed church to give their own thoughts on Celia.  Friends of Celia like the anarchist and feminist Rachel Whitaker, Martin Gilbert, and many others spoke following the poem 'Finis' by Walter Savage Landor. 

I thought about it, but did not dare comment on the timing of Celia's death on New Year's Day, so close in fact to that of one of her favourite comedians, John Fortune, who died on New Year's Eve.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Francois Hollande having his croissants & eating them!

WHEN, in August 1964, my family and I were living in the Spanish exiles' FIJL safe house of Germinal Garcia in the suburb of Republique in Paris, we used to send Stuart Christie, then an 18-year-old Scottish anarchist out to buy the croissants while we made the chocolate for breakfast.  Stuart was later to serve a jail sentence in one of General Franco's prisons in Madrid after he was caught carrying explosives. 

The French president Hollande in his love nest near the Elysee Palace made sure that he got his croissants fresh by having them delivered at 8.03 in the morning.  But while President Hollande is eating his croissants or getting his leg over a French actress, he must now persuade the French people that France can't keep paying out for the lavish life that they have been leading over the previous decades.

The French may well react to their president's austerity measures as did the president of Tameside TUC, Derek Pattison, when he first tasted croissants on the Kings Road, Chelsea in the 1970s, and spit it out.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Scarborough Council pulls out of 'workfare' slave labour scheme!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from 'Boycott Workfare'.

Less than two weeks into 2014 and we’re already having an impact! Scarborough Council, one of the worst workfare-using councils in the UK, has cancelled its involvement. Volunteer centre Knowsley CVS has taken the principled stand to have nothing to do with workfare schemes. On Friday, the DWP’s social media strategists were forced to abandon use of their hashtag #takeoverday to promote ‘work experience’ when people literally took it over to campaign against sanctions and workfare!

Over Christmas, The Mirror and The Guardian published our research into UK councils using workfare. Scandalously, councils have benefited from at least half a million hours of workfare labour since 2011. We highlighted some particularly shocking examples, including Scarborough Borough Council, which had taken 120 Mandatory Work Activity placements in its Parks Department.

Apparently the Council didn’t appreciate the national publicity, and following its first meeting in the new year, the scheme appears to have been cancelled practically overnight [Warning: link contains embarrassing self-congratulation by members of the same political party which introduced workfare to the UK]. Cuts to the Parks Department were proposed in 2012. This success should mean jobs are now a little more secure.

This success is important: from April, the government intends to extend the average workfare stint to six months with its ‘Community Work Placement’ scheme. People who refuse to take part face destitution through benefit sanctions, but councils and charities can say no and make the scheme impossible. In recent weeks, Liverpool Volunteer Service and Knowsley CVS also followed the example of charities like Oxfam in refusing to be part of this sanctions machine.

Scarborough’s not the only council to be persuaded to pull out. Trade unionists in Brighton sabotaged the local council’s plans to sign a deal for free labour with Work Programme provider Avanta. This time last year, Newcastle City Council passed a motion saying it would have nothing to do with it (see bottom of this blog for the text). Norwich Council have also committed not to take part (see motion 9, page 2 here). Meanwhile, efforts by local people in Haringey ended the use of workfare on the borough’s council estates. Elsewhere in the public sector, we heard that trade unionists blocked workfare in the Home Office – something that looks necessary at the DWP, now that job centres are even mandating people to do workfare in job centres.

We know that when organisations pull out of workfare, it threatens workfare’s existencePlease do everything you can to make sure your council and local charities don’t take part. You can find out if your council replied to our research and what it said by downloading the spreadsheet here. If there’s nothing for your council, you could try your own Freedom of Information request as there’s now plenty of precedents that this is information they should share!
Also this week: