Thursday, 27 February 2014

Armed Seizure of Parliament in Crimea

(Reuters) - Armed men seized the parliament in Ukraine's Crimea region on today and raised the Russian flag, alarming Kiev's new rulers, who urged Moscow not move troops out of its navy base on the peninsula.

Crimea, the only Ukrainian region with an ethnic Russian majority, is the last big bastion of opposition to the new leadership in Kiev since President Viktor Yanukovich was ousted at the weekend and provides a base for Russia's Black Sea fleet.

'I am appealing to the military leadership of the Russian Black Sea fleet,' said Oleksander Turchinov, Ukraine's acting president.  'Any military movements, the more so if they are with weapons, beyond the boundaries of this territory (the base) will be seen by us as military aggression,' he said, a day after 150,000 troops in western Russia were put on high alert.

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry summoned Russia's acting ambassador in Kiev for consultations as the face-off between Moscow and the West revived memories of the Cold War.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Political Credentials & Northern Voices

Avoiding the lunatic fringe!

DAVID Goodway, in his book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow:  Left-Libertarian Thought & British Writers from William Morris to Colin Ward' (2006), wrote in an introduction:
'This book was strongly recommended to the commissioning editor of one of Britain's best-known firms by a reputable historian whose latest work he was publishing...', the editor reluctantly refused. 

Mr. Goodway believes it was to do with the subject matter of 'anarchism' because he writes: 
'...anarchism [in Britain] continues to engender at the beginning of the twenty-first century the passionate opposition it aroused at the end of the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries when it became irretrievable associated with bomb-throwing and violence, a violence that has re-erupted in recent years with the widely publized activities of self-professed anarchists in anti-globalization and similar movements.'

Herbert Read, the art critic and poet, relates how he found himself at a diner party sitting next to 'a lady well known in the political world, a member of the Conservative party', who 'at once asked me what my politics were, and on my replying "I am an anarchist"... cried, "How absurd!", and did not address another word to me during the whole meal' [see 'Anarchy & Order:  Essays in politics'].

In her history of 19th century slums in London's East End (see 'The Blackest Streets' [2008]), Sarah Wise writes on this demotion of 'anarchism' in this country to a political 'lunatic fringe':
'The fiery invocations being published in the Commonweal (in 1893) were relegating Anarchy to the lunatic fringe of British politics - an exile from which it has yet to return.'

Despite this bad press for British anarchism, Northern Voices still identifies itself as 'anarchistic', and we do this because we consider that good journalists should avoid a party-line by being spiritually anarchist, agnostic and sceptical.  That is why we avoid identifying even with affiliated anarchist organisations such as the 'Anarchist Federation' (A.F.) because that would commit us to a party-line.  

George Orwell in his review of Mairin Mitchell's book 'Storm Over Spain'  about the Spanish Civil War wrote:
'The Anarchists and Syndicalists have been persistently misrepresented in England, and the average English person still retains his eighteen-ninetyish notion that Anarchism is the same thing as anarchy.'
Orwell then points out that in Spain, in December 1937, 'the pity is that so much of what the Anarchists achieved (in Spain, especially in Catalonia) has already been undone...

In England anarchism, as David Goodway notes, has never had anything like the status it had in Spain or even in much of Europe.  The insignificance of the anarchists as a political force in this country is related to a lack of maturity and the insistence of many English anarchists in behaving as if they were a caricature or the inmates of comic strip.  Some of this may be traced back to the 19th Century as Sarah Wise suggests above, and Gerald Brenan in his book has something to say about why the Spanish anarchists were different from the English and others in northern Europe in his book 'The Spanish Labyrinth':
'The assassination of the Czar in March 1881 by Russian Social Revolutionaries caused a profound sensation all over Europe.  The Anarchist Congress which met in London four months later debated under its shadow.  Many of its delegates were, in Stekloff's words, "isolated desperadoes, lone wolves, infuriated by persecution and out of touch with the masses"Others, the most violent of all in their proposals, were police spies.  Others again represented the new theories of "anarchist communism".  But resolutions were passed accepting "propaganda by deed" as a useful method ...' 

The Spanish delegate returned to Madrid, but Brenan writes that the violent methods proposed in London were not suited to Spain:
'Spaniards lived then at a great distance from the rest of Europe.  Besides, anarchism had still a large following.  Under such conditions terrorist  action was madness and would not find any encouragement among the workers.  The new Regional Federation had in any case no need to appeal for violent methods.  Its progress during the first year or two of its existence was rapid.  A Congress held in Seville in 1882 represented some 50,000 workers, of whom 30,000 came from Andalusia and most of the rest from Catalonia.'

Compared to the Spanish anarchist movement from the 19th century onwards to the present day, the movement in this country appears as an half-baked hole-in-the-corner affair that has little or no popular support.  There was a brief flowering of interest in the 1960s; during the time that the peace movement was growing there was a knock-on effect on the anarchists and those who identified with left-wing libertarianism.  This had an impact and the publication 'Anarchy', edited by Colin Ward, gained some influence among academics and intellectuals.  The peaceful direct action of the Committee of 100 also suited the libertarian left and it briefly entered the life-blood of British culture before it was submerged again by the activities of the Angry Brigade in the 1970s.

Our free association with the NAN (Northern Anarchist Network) is based on a belief that it has been an open forum that seeks to include libertarians and applies its ideas to everyday life situations, rather than indulging in political panaceas and mixing with smelly little orthodoxies.   Many of the people who call themselves 'class struggle anarchists' can't comfortably talk to genuine working folk, and as Orwell said many who proclaim themselves for rural collectives wouldn't know a White Leghorn hen or Anglo-Nubian goat if they saw one:  The only time I saw such distinguished Manchester militants as Mr. and Mrs. Miller on a picket-line was in 2004 at the Manchester Arndale, when they wanted to pass through the blacklisted electricians to get their car.  But they are not unique in this the British left in general is a fag-end affair and not worth much serious consideration. 
Fortunately, as Jim Pinkerton once said 'anarchism doesn't depend on the "anarchists" anymore than Christianity depends on the Christians'

David Goodway in his book 'Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow', writing about art critic Herbert Read:
'After remarking that in coming out for anarchism he had "forfeited any claim to be taken seriously as a politician" and excluded himself from "the main current of socialist activity in England", Herbert Read continued:  "But I have often found sympathy and agreement in unexpected places, and there are many intellectuals who are fundamentally anarchist in their political outlook, but who do not dare to invite ridicule by confessing it".'

George Orwell's practical and political experiences during the Spanish Civil War persuaded him that at least the Spanish and Catalan anarchists were worth taking seriously though he seems to have been somewhat less impressed with the English anarchists and libertarian friends he knew.  Northern Voices annoys many people on the left in this country because it takes an independent line, and doesn't shy from attacking anarchists and socialists when we believe they behave badly.  Anyone decent person who doesn't agree with us can always write to us and complain as the brother of Cyril Smith did some years ago, and we will publish their complaint as we did with Norman Smith.  Otherwise the danger is, as Sarah Wise wrote, we will forever see the great British public forever 'relegating Anarchy to the lunatic fringe of British politics - an exile from which it has yet to return.'

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Lord Steel Nominated Shamed Rochdale MP for knighthood

Information Commissioner forces Government's hand in revelation of man behind Sir Cyril!

A Daily Star investigation has exposed that the former Liberal Party leader David Steel proposed Cyril Smith for a knighthood.  Smith, who was knighted in 1988 and who died in 2010, has now had his reputation become enmeshed in a a trail of child abuse scandals in Rochdale and beyond. 
The Liberal Democrat Party, that was formed out of the old Liberal Party, has said that it was not aware of Cyril Smith's crimes during his lifetime. 
Yet the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), which has now compelled the Government to publish who nominated Smith for a knighthood, has said that while the full extent of Smith's activities were not known at the time of his nomination in 1988, 'there was quite widespread knowledge at that time that he was the subject of allegations'
In the latest issue of Northern Voices (NV14 - Summer/ Autumn 2013) a former editor of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) John Walker has written how in 1978/79 his 'small community magazine... decided to investigate what lay behind the rumours of the "Smith story" that had circulated in political circles in the town (Rochdale) for a decade.'  Mr. Walker continues:
'In the course of the six month investigation, the paper (RAP) interviewed more than 30 people, including seven former residents of Cambridge House, senior local politicians and police officers and council officials, all on an "off the record" basis, about (Cyril's) activities at the hostel.  Having had every word of the story they published libel-read by three independent sets of lawyers, ..., RAP published a 2,000 word account of (Smith's) sexual and physical abuse of teenage boys at Cambridge House.'
The RAP editors in 1979 then  sought the views of then leader of the Liberal Party, David Steel, and reply came from Steel's press secretary:
'It is not a very friendly gesture publishing that.  All he seems to have done is spanked a few bare bottoms.'

Well there you go!  Last Sunday's Daily Star repeated this quote and its journalist Jonathan Corke wrote:
'... last month the Information Commissioner's Office ruled that Mr Steel's involvement in recommending him for a knighthood should be made public.  The Cabinet Office, whose ministers include Lib Dems Nick Clegg and David Laws, spent more than six months trying to hide the revelation from us.'

It had been claimed disclosure would breach data protection rules but the ICO found that there was a 'legitimate public interest' in it being disclosed.

Tomorrow's Rochdale Observer quotes a Lib Dem 'spokesperson' as saying  'they were unaware Smith was a child abuser during his lifetime', and that 'His actions were not known or condoned by anyone in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democrats'.  It is also alleged in the Rochdale Observer that 'Lord David Steel has always denied any knowledge of Smith's actions.'

Northern Voices has just received a response by e-mail to this above quote from John Walker, who together with David Bartlett in May 1979 edited the issue of RAP that broke the original story, and he now says:  'This is clearly misleading, at the very least.'

The blue plaque commemorating Cyril Smith was removed in 2012, but Rochdale Town Hall still apparently has a 'Cyril Smith room', and is it true that he is still a freeman of the borough of Rochdale?

A few copies of NORTHERN VOICES 14, are still on sale at some of our usual outlets with coverage of our role in the outing of Cyril Smith. John Walker, a former editor of RAP (the Rochdale Alternative Paper), in a leading feature documents the intimate story of Cyril Smith which was used as the basis of the Channel 4 documentary Dispatches last September on the eve of the Lib-Dem annual conference. Since he left RAP Mr. Walker has occasionally contributed to Private Eye, here he is flattering in his praise of N.V. and he writes of us 'being part of that long tradition of a radical press, that has never been afraid to call into question abuses of the powerful.' 


The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 14, may also be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Northern Voices' sent to
Jim Petty,
c/o 52, Todmorden Road,
Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

McAlpine' Thugees assault 'Blacklist' protester!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from the Blacklist Support Group (BSG).

Metropolitan Police officers this morning (Fri 21st Feb 2014) attended the London offices of Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd as an arrest warrant was served for Cullum McAlpine for his role in the Consulting Association scandal. This weekend if the 5th anniversary of the raid by the Information Commissioner's Office that discovered the illegal building industry blacklist.
The arrest warrant cited breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Data Protection Act.

When giving evidence to a Select Committee investigation into blacklisting Cullum McAlpine was forced to admit that the was the first chairman of the Consulting Association conspiracy (a post he held for 3 years) and that the first meetings of the shady organisation were actually held in his office at the the Sir Robert McAlpine Limited offices in Grosvenor Crescent, Victoria.

The illegal database held secret files on 3213 individuals which included information such as name, address, national insurance number, phone numbers, car registration and particularly recorded trade union membership and incidents where workers had complained about health & safety on building sites. Those workers that appeared on the blacklist suffered years of unemployment, repeated dismissals and financial hardship.

During the building of the Olympics Stadium in 2008-9, Sir Robert McAlpine was invoiced in excess of £28,000 for blacklisting name checks - which equates to 65 name checks a day, 7 days a week for the period.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating police involvement in blacklisting and has already confirmed that Special Branch "routinely provided information about prospective employees"

Six police vehicles from the Met Police Emergency Response Unit visited site at 10:45am, as the Citizens Arrest Warrant was being served by members of the Blacklist Support Group who had occupied the top floor of the construction company's office block.
Dave Smith, secretary of the Blacklist Support Group said:
"Blacklisted workers have lost their houses and our kids were on free school meals while Cullum McApline is the lord of the Manor in his £4.5million Grade 1 Listed Mansion in Cold Ashton.
In any civilized society, McAlpine and his co-conspirators would be behind bars .

We visited the birthplace of the Consulting Association to carry out a citizens arrest.
We were pleased when the Met Police arrived and assisted in our search for Cullum McAlpine.
It shows how seriously the authorities are taking corporate crime."

Blacklisted activist Helen Steele said,
"It has been 5 years since this conspiracy between big business and the police was discovered.
Trade unionists and environmental activists have had their human rights violated.
But 5 yeas later, no one has been brought to justice for the crimes they have committed.
Its about time Cullum McAlpine was in the dock"

Sir Robert McAlpine and seven other major construction firms involved in blacklisting are joint defendants in the High Court conspiracy case - next court date April.
The other companies in the High Court action are: Skanska, Costains, Laing O'Rourke, Kier, Vinci, Carillion and Balfour Beatty.

Press Photos:

Saturday, 22 February 2014

15 Year Old Girl Arrested At Barton Moss

A 15 year old girl was arrested at Barton Moss the other day and held by Greater Manchester Police for  6 hours.     The police tactics particularly those of the Tactical Aid Unit are excessively forceful and a number of peaceful protestors have been injured.    The remarkable fact is that the protectors are receiving more and more public support from the local community as the police behaviour is reported widely in the social media.  The number of arrests is well over 100 and an independent inquiry into the political policing at Barton Moss is called for.    The Greater Manchester Police must be held accountable for their actions.   The Anti -fracking movement is clearly winning "hearts and minds" of the people and Government bribes will not stop the momentum of a campaign which is defending the environment and health of all the theatened communities                   

Friday, 21 February 2014

Media Crackdown in Egypt

THE arrest last Christmas of three Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fadel Fahmy [a Canadian-Egyptian], Baher Mohamed [a young Edyptian producer] and Peter Greste [an Australian], by Egypt's state security is seen by Human Rights advocates as a political crackdown on the independent media.  This is only the latest threat to a free press in Egypt since the military government took power in a coup last summer. 

Among other charges, the journalists have been accused of meeting with sources from the Muslim Brotherhood, which was the legally elected Government and ruling party under President Mohamed Morsi until the military took over last year.  Curiously, the Egyptian regime is justifying its crackdown by comparing it to that of the Obama administeration's unpresidented crackdown on leakers in national security cases.  Something the Egyptian officials are cheerfully drawing attention to.

Other journalists with the English language service of Al Jazeera, which have taken an independent editorial line, have continued to work in Egypt.  But journalists, bloggers, academics and film-makers are being arrested in what human rights activists describe as a major clampdown on free expression in Egypt.  Human Rights Watch has said that the Egyptian authorities in recent months have 'demonstrated almost zero tolerance for any form of dissent.'

Monday, 17 February 2014

Tribute to Welsh fighters against Franco

Pit tribute to anti-Franco miners
Alun Menai Williams, on his first return to Spain after 70 years
Mr Williams, who nearly died at the Ebro battle, on a return to Spain
A ceremony marking the sacrifice of Welsh miner volunteers in the Spanish civil war has paid tribute to Wales' last survivor, only days after he died.  An estimated 300 people from Wales enlisted in the International Brigades, fighting Franco in Spain from 1936-39.

About a third were miners, and a plaque marking their struggle was unveiled at Big Pit, Blaenavon, on Sunday.

Alun Menai Williams, originally from Gilfach Goch, who died this month aged 93, would have been guest of honour.

The event marked the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war.
It is the latest in the campaign by the International Brigades Memorial Trust (IBMT) for more recognition of British volunteers in their fight against Franco's fascist movement in 1930s Spain.
At least a third of the volunteers from Wales were miners - for its size, Wales made a huge contribution to the effort
Wendy Lewis, South Wales IBMT
Mr Williams, who lived in Barry, and other Welsh-born volunteers were among the estimated 45,000 international volunteers from 54 countries, who signed up.
Around 35 Welshmen died in the fighting and Mr Williams was almost killed in fighting at the Ebro river.
Sunday's ceremony reflected on his role as a medic, and as the last man living in Wales who was able to recount the horrors and heroism of the conflict.

More than 500,000 people died in the civil war, about 200,000 of them in combat.
Wendy Lewis of the South Wales IBMT said the plaque unveiling and the exhibition aimed to highlight the support in Wales for the fledgling Spanish republic. 
Alun Menai Williams (right) and his Canadian friend, Billy, in Spain, c. 1937
Mr Williams (seated) with his friend, Billy Davies, who was later killed
She said:  'At least a third of the volunteers from Wales were miners. For its size, Wales made a huge contribution to the effort. Almost every mining community had an aid-for-Spain group.  When [American singer, actor and activist] Paul Robeson came to Britain, he addressed 7,000 people in Mountain Ash - the cause struck a huge chord in Welsh mining communities.  People saw Spain trying to build a better future which was something they were aspiring to, and also saw the rise of fascism.  Most of the volunteers were also actively involved in opposing Moseley's blackshirts.'

'Humble man'

Mr Williams experienced street fighting against Moseley's blackshirts, Britain's home-grown fascist movement, before he volunteered for the International Brigades.

But he almost did not make it to Spain as the ship taking him to Barcelona was torpedoed.  He was rescued by fishermen and went on to serve as a medic in many of the major battles of the conflict.   He published his autobiography in 2004 and returned to Spain for the BBC Wales television documentary, Return Journey.

The Big Pit event included a screening of the programme as well as an appearance by the Spanish Civil War re-enactment group, La Columna as well an exhibition of Wales' support for the Spanish Republic.

Guests included Aberavon MP Hywel Francis, whose father Dai was general secretary of the South Wales National Union of Mineworkers, which helped organise aid to Spain throughout the coalfields.
A Big Pit spokeswoman said:  'The day was a tribute to Alun Menai Williams, recognising that he was the last surviving international brigader in Wales.  It's a very sad loss - he is recognised as a very humble man who did not see himself as a hero, he just did what he believed in.' 

Fate of Manchester City Council's Blacklist Ban?

What Did They Expect:  Not Guilty!  Never Did It!  Believe Me!
Letter to the unsuspecting, from the good bosses
who just want Council contracts
The correspondence below is between Manchester City Council, and the reaction of construction companies seeking contracts to the allegation that they are operating a blacklist of trade union activists in the city:

Dear Annette

Further to my email below of 6th November, I can now inform you that the 25 construction companies listed below were sent the following email, and have all now responded to say that they do not engage in such practices :-

----- Forwarded by Joanna Chomeniuk/CFSC/MCC on 20/12/2013 13:03 -----
Joanna Chomeniuk/CFSC/MCC20/12/2013 13:02
Re: Resolution on Blacklisting - Passed by Manchester City Council 9 October 2013
Dear Colin,
Re: Resolution on Blacklisting -Passed by Manchester City Council 9 October 2013:

'Manchester City Council is deeply concerned by revelations that major companies have been involved in “blacklisting” in order to deny employment to workers who
have engaged in trade union activity, such as reporting breaches of health and safety regulations.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) found that a blacklist of construction workers was maintained by an organisation called The Consulting Association who
traded for profit the personal information of over 3200 workers. This blacklist was used by over 40 companies and included information about workers’ personal
relationships, trade union activity and employment history.

The use of such blacklists is unacceptable and cannot be condoned, as it has a potentially negative impact on the employment rights of Manchester construction

This Council has constructive relationships with trade unions and upholds the right to freedom of association, and we expect all suppliers and partner organisations to do the same. Council calls on the Chief Executive to examine existing contracts with any of the companies listed by the ICO and ask for reassurances that the company uses no form of blacklisting to inform their employment decisions.' 

Could you please confirm that your company uses no form of blacklisting to inform your employment decisions.

The companies approached were Kier, Laing O'Rourke, Morgan Sindall, Wates, Lend Lease, Bramhall (Keepmoat), Cruden, Eric Wright, FMP, GB, Herbert T Forrest, ISG, Mansell, Seddon, Willmott Dixon, Askam, Conlon, Garside Laycock, Harry Fairclough, Lambert Gill, Manchester and Cheshire Construction, Morrison, Stobbarts, Strategic Team, Walter Carefoot & Sons.

You are very welcome to contact me again if you feel that I can be of any further help.


Cllr Nigel Murphy
Labour Member for Hulme Ward
Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration
Tel: 0161 234 3350 (Internal only 800 3350)


Report from Joe Bailey on Manchester Trade Union Council

'PESTS' at the Royal Exchange

THE world premiere of PESTS by Bruntwood Prize winning playwright Vivienne Franzmann is to open at The Studio, Royal Exchange Theatre from Wednesday 12 March to Saturday 22 March 2014.

PESTS follows the story of two sisters from the same nest, both trapped in a tiny rotting world. Both cuffed to a past that refuses to release them. One wants out. The other needs her in. Commissioned by celebrated theatre company Clean Break, PESTS is the searing new play from Vivienne Franzmann (winner of the 2008 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2008, George Devine Award 2010 and the Pearson Playwright Bursary for the Royal Court 2012). She developed the play during her time as Resident Playwright with the company, which included a number of residencies in women’s prisons, secure mental health and community settings.
The play is co-produced with Royal Exchange Theatre, which premiered Vivienne’s award-winning debut play MOGADISHU in 2008, and Royal Court Theatre, which commissioned and presented THE WITNESS in 2012.  
As Resident Playwright at Clean Break, Vivienne Franzmann’s work also included writing SOUNDS LIKE AN INSULT, a short play commissioned by Clean Break in association with National  Offender Management Service (NOMS) and the Department of Health. Performed by graduates of the company’s education programme, the production tours to criminal justice audiences, policy-makers and politicians. 
Lucy Morrison, Head of Artistic Programme for Clean Break, directs. For the company she has directed and developed BILLY THE GIRL by Katie Hims (Soho Theatre); LITTLE ON THE INSIDE by Alice Birch (Almeida Festival, Latitude 2013); IT FELT EMPTY WHEN THE HEART WENT AT FIRST BUT IT IS ALRIGHT NOW by Lucy Kirkwood (Arcola Theatre); THIS WIDE NIGHT by Chloë Moss (Soho Theatre / Theatre Live Newcastle / Plymouth Drum Theatre). Lucy originated and commissioned the Charged and Re-Charged seasons (Soho Theatre) in which she directed FATAL LIGHT by Chloë Moss and DORIS DAY by EV Crowe. Alongside heading up Clean Break’s Artistic Programme, Lucy was Artistic Director of the Almeida Festival 2013.

The cast includes Sinéad Matthews and Ellie Kendrick. Sinéad’s recent theatre credits include A TIME TO REAP at the Royal Court and BLURRED LINES at the National Theatre. Television credits include IDEAL (BBC 3) and BLACK MIRROR (Channel 4). Ellie’s recent theatre credits include THE LOW ROAD and IN THE REPUBLIC OF HAPPINESS at the Royal Court and ROMEO AND JULIET at Shakespeare’s Globe. Her film and television credits include AN EDUCATION and GAME OF THRONES (HBO).

The production is designed by Joanna Scotcher, sound by Emma Laxton, lighting by Fabiana Piccioli and video design by Kim Beveridge.

PESTS will transfer to the Royal Court Theatre before commencing on a UK tour. See listing information for details. 



Longtown Tenants in Cumbria get support!

THE distressed tenants of Longtown (Cumbria), huddled into one room to both eat and sleep - they cannot afford to heat other rooms in the house - have at last found a champion to speak up and fight for them. 
The tenants tell us they had no one to turn to, and their landlord Riverside Housing Association, was doing nothing to help them except threaten eviction to those who complained. So the tenants contacted Carlisle Tenants' and Residents' Federation. 

Now the Federation is pressing the tenants’ desperate case to local councillors, Ray Bloxham and Val Tarbitt and to Rory Stewart M.P. (Penrith and the Border) all of whom are very concerned and are giving total support to the tenants. 
Mr Stewart told the Federation:
'It is unacceptable that many residents are still afraid to turn on their heating because of the cost.'
A series of meetings is now underway to help the 80 tenants who for nearly two years – covering two winters - have been suffering from unheated homes and astronomical fuel bills up to 400 per cent more than normal. One elderly woman is faced with a bill of £3,500.  The disastrous story started when a Riverside scheme to install solar panels in 175 houses went wrong.  A Federation spokesman explained: 'That bungled operation disrupted heating in about 8o homes and the tenants have been suffering ever since, they have no proper heating and also have the added burden of energy bills which are up to 400 per cent bigger than usual.' 
He added:  'It is a total disgrace, particularly as those tenants who complained have been threatened with eviction. It is also a disgrace that Riverside has no tenants' organisation in place for them to turn to.' 
So the tenants have no voice.  In desperation they turned to the Federation.  We are pleased we have been able to help! 
For Further Information Please Ring 01228 522277
Issued By Carlisle Tenants' And Residents’ Federation

High Court Planning Decision

A Judicial Review is took place at the High Court, London on the 12th, February, at which SAVE Britain’s Heritage challenged Gateshead Council over plans to demolish 300 houses in Saltwell and Bensham in a blatant continuation of the destructive Pathfinder policy.

SAVE is challenging Gateshead Council over retrospective planning permission that they granted themselves last summer for the demolition of 115 houses two years previously without the requisite documents, and for permission to demolish a further 180 houses, some of which are still occupied. In order to secure retrospective planning permission, the Environmental Impact Assessment dictates that ‘exceptional circumstances’ must be proved.

In addition Richard Harwood QC has argued that Gateshead council failed to consider the views of English Heritage, is in breach of regulations and the EIA directive. Gateshead consulted English Heritage after it had decided to grant planning permission and did not consider EH’s reply. EH indicated that the information provided by Gateshead on the significance of the housing to be demolished was inadequate in planning policy and EIA terms and that the housing in question has heritage significance. Gateshead Council also failed to take into consideration conservation advice from their own officers.

Despite Judicial Review proceedings being underway the Council proceeded to commence demolition last November, following which SAVE secured an injunction, that it was necessary to renew following more demolition activity on one of the streets. The Council said they were making the buildings sound following the storm and blamed SAVE for being unable to do so.

1,240 houses in the area were to have been demolished under Pathfinder, which sought to address alleged ‘market failure’ in housing in certain parts of Northern cities. The housing targeted has been predominantly Victorian and Edwardian terraced housing. The issue was not one of vacancy or of uninhabitable homes – prior to the announcement of these schemes, occupation levels were normal, homes were perfectly habitable and the cost of repairs and updating would be modest. The claim of market failure was essentially that house prices were lower than elsewhere. Of the 1,240 earmarked for demolition only 115 have been demolished.

The houses in question are handsome rows of terraced houses built on a hill with an attractive vista opening out towards Newcastle. The repetitive terraces create an atmosphere of order and calm. The area is low-rise and of a human scale. The entire area is made up these houses, most of them ‘Tyneside flats’ and have two main entrances leading to two separate flats. Some residents in non-threatened areas have chosen to knock them through two-into-one. The area, apart from the condemned terraces, are fully occupied and popular homes.

The area of 115 demolished homes is beside Saltwell Road. Residents say that businesses have suffered following the loss of 115 houses. Many shops on Saltwell Road are now boarded up due to the blight. The blight is ongoing on the two other blocks of housing that the council has earmarked for demolition.

SAVE's position is clear: refurbished, the terraces still standing would make handsome homes, as can be found in the rest of the area. This would be in line with the government's line on empty homes and in line with the advice from the Ambassador of Empty Homes, native of Gateshead George Clarke, who clearly states in his 12 recommendation to the government:
'Refurbishing and upgrading existing homes should always be the first and preferred option rather than demolition.'

Planning permission was granted in August 2013. SAVE requested a public inquiry but it was refused, despite the fact that an application of similar scale for the Welsh Streets was ‘called in’ in Liverpool at the same time.

SAVE Britain’s Heritage is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Saltwell and Bensham Residents’Association.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

'Was Shakespeare a capitalist?'

The Cultural Banality of the British Left 
GILBERT Murray in the mid-20th Century once said somewhere that he had addressed a lecture on Shakespeare to a Socialist debating society, and in conclusion invited questions in the usual way, only to receive the sole question:  'Was Shakespeare a capitalist?'  The depressing thing about this comment is that it is probably a true story, and that some on the left would still consider that the answer to this question should govern how we regard Shakespeare as an artist, poet or playwright and even if it is worth going to see his plays.  One might equally ask 'Was Shakespeare a sexist?' or considering The Merchant of Venice and Shylock: 'Was Shakespeare an anti-Semite?'  
As Jonathan Swift once wrote: 
'When a man of true Genius appears in the World, you may know him by this infallible Sign, that all the Dunces are in Conspiracy against him.'  
Was Shakespeare a good writer?  George Orwell wrote in his essay 'Literature and the Left' (1943): 
'Most people would agree that he was [and] yet Shakespeare is, and perhaps was even by the standards of his own time, reactionary in tendency; and he is also a difficult writer, only doubtfully accessible to the common man.'  
Ought we therefore to gag Shakespeare and ban his plays; after all Leo Tolstoy declared him in a pamphlet to be an immoral writer?    
Since the defeat of the miners in 1984-85 there has been the development of a form of identity politics that dictates taste, style and even literary content according to certain standards in which you may discredit a writer or a publication by simply dragging out a set of 'correct' values imposed according to a mysterious political orthodoxy, and devised so as not to offend certain categories of people according to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or what-have-you.  Around 1930,  another change in the approach to literature occurred when literary content replaced technique, and a generation of writers tried to be actively useful to the left-wing movement and some joined the Communist Party but, as Orwell says, when 'it was found that they would not or could not turn themselves into gramophone records, they were thrown out on their ears.'  
Recently an anarchist historian told me that anarchist bookfairs depress him, and that he had ceased to attend the London Anarchist Bookfair, and when I then commented that they are very well managed and organised, he said: 
'Yes, but that is the only thing anarchists are able to organise!' 
The reason that anarchists are so passionate about bookfairs is that generally their publications are not fit for street or factory gate selling, and don't sell well commercially in bookshops and newsagents, thus they are happy to give them away to each other at their own bookfairs.  Fortunately, Northern Voices sells steadily in a wide range of outlets and doesn't need to depend on Anarchist bookfairs, although it is available at most across the country, excluding the Manchester bookfair of course which is controlled by a small political group or ghetto.
In 1943, Orwell wrote: 
'The illiteracy of politicians is a special feature of our age – as G. M. Trevelyan put it, “in the seventeenth century Members of Parliament quoted the Bible, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the classics, and in the twentieth century nothing” and its corollary is the political impotence of writers.'  
The illiteracy of the left in our age is perhaps best illustrated by the comment below which we recently received for the Northern Voices Blog
'It doesn't surprise me that Northern Voices nor the NAN are not allowed in to an Anarchist book fair [sic].  The publication has frequently been called out for homophobia, sexism, even bordering on paedophilia.'  
This writer, who is naturally anonymous, further writes:  'The publication itself lists people's names and addresses...'  Well yes, of course, one of the best known anarchists in the North West, Jim Petty, has both his name and address on each issue of NV, so people can write in their complaints and send their subs, and naturally 150 people gave their names on this Blog to condemn the conduct of the Manchester bookfair organisers in 2012 on the so-called Burnley declaration.   As many of our readers will by now understand that Northern Voices does not have a party line or conduct itself in the manner of a political gramophone for some tedious political orthodoxy, this will come as no surprise to anyone other than perhaps some strange sly and shifty Shakespearean modern-day Malvolio who, like our anonymous commentator above, is of such a serious disposition he cannot take anything light-hearted if it affects his dignity, and his dignity is always threatened unless there is someone to bow down to him.

Royal Exchange Artistic Director to step down

ROYAL Exchange Theatre Artistic Director, Greg Hersov has announced he will step down at the end of the Spring Summer season after 27 years.  
He says:
'I'm proud to have played a part in the Royal Exchange story for the past three decades. The Exchange is an amazing, magical space and is of huge importance to the theatre scene in this country. The Company is flourishing – full of fresh energy, new ideas; with a very exciting future.'
Hersov has been associated with the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester since 1980 when he joined as an Assistant Director. He became an Artistic Director for the theatre in 1987. He directed some of its most acclaimed productions including ALL MY SONS with John Thaw, LOOK BACK IN ANGER with Michael Sheen and THE TEMPEST with Pete Postlethwaite. His was awarded TMA Best Director for ROMEO AND JULIET and A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award for PALACE OF THE END.  

Fellow Artistic Director, Sarah Frankcom says:
'It's impossible to put into words the part that Greg has played in the Royal Exchange’s evolution as a theatre and as a company, and the legacy he leaves behind. His work on stage and his collaborations with actors have created unforgettable theatre for our audiences. He has a brilliant theatre mind and it has been a privilege to learn and work alongside him.' 

Chairman of the Board of Directors, Paul Lee says:
'I cannot remember a time at the Royal Exchange without Greg.  His influence on the Theatre – and his contribution to the Arts in this country – is enormous.  I value him as a director, an inspirational force and a friend.'

Monday, 10 February 2014

Opera North perform Puccini's 'La fanciulla del West' - The Lowry!

Although the Italian opera composer Giacomo Puccini, considered his opera 'La fanciulla del West' (The Girl of the Golden West), to be one of his greatest works, I wouldn't consider this opera to be one of my favourite Puccini operas even though it does contain some fine arias (see video - 'chella mi creda' by Jussi Bjorling).

Since first being premiered at the New York Metropolitan in 1910, this 'cowboy' opera has received a mixed reception from critics and opera buffs and has become one of the less popular opera's, within the composer's repertoire.

The opera itself is set in the American Gold Rush of 1849. Minnie a " plucky, gun-toting, saloon owner plays surrogate mother to the rough crew of miners who frequent her bar, whilst batting back the affections of the local Sheriff. But when a mysterious stranger comes into her life, everything looks set to change... A tale of true love and second chances set in a world of gun fights, poker games and stagecoach robberies, La fanciulla del West combines the suspense and action of a great Western with the emotional punch of Italian opera."

Next month, (5-7 March 2014), Opera North are performing 'La fanciulla del West' at the Lowry in Salford. Adult tickets cost between £15 -£65 and performances start at 7.30 pm.

Lasts approximately 2 hours 30 mins
Sung in Italian with English titles
Supported by the Friends of Opera North

Friday, 7 February 2014

Gateshead homes under threat!


After 8 years of fighting the now discredited Pathfinder scheme Saltwell and Bensham Residents Association hope that lawyers acting for SAVE ENGLISH HERITAGE will succeed in halting the next phase of demolition.

Whilst other Labour Councils have halted demolition of homes since the Tory Government pulled the plug on the money, Gateshead says it still has enough in the kitty to continue?

Local residents want the houses renovated and THE RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION think that homesteading is the answer. Homesteading is buying a derelict house for a nominal sum and doing it up yourself.
David Ireland of the Empty Homes Agency has arrangements with a bank for purchasers to have access to funds.

Renovated homes face boarded up houses in Westminster Street
Contacts:- Nancy Bone Secretary, Saltwell and Bensham Residents Association tel: 0191 477 0036 or 07990760920 e-mail
Clem Cecil, Director Save Britains

Bristol play on 9/11

THE play 'SEVEN SECONDS' by Retep Yetaen focusses on the mysterious collapse of World Trade Center 7 on the afternoon of September 11th 2001 in New York.
The Government run 'National Institute for Standards and Technology' claim that fire brought down this 47 storey skyscaper. Fire has never before or after 9/11 caused a steel framed high rise to collapse.
A group of over 2000 Architects/Engineers/Physicists/Chemists/Explosive Experts suggest that this is impossible. Their counter claim is that the only soundly scientific explanation is 'Controlled Demolition'
The Play set in a lecture theatre introduces Bob Bernstein a freelance Investigative journalist determined to get to the bottom of the argument.
Various high profile British journalists have been invited.
They include:
Robert Fisk. [The Independent]
George Monbiot. [The Guardian]
Damien Thompson. [Daily Telegraph]
Nicholas Lezard. [The Independent]
David Aaronovitch. [National Geographic]
James Bone. [The Times] Who is played by ex MI5 Whistleblower David Shayler.
The play sees Bernstein take questions from this eminent group and illustrates his answers using film footage from the day and interviews with an array of Americans who are Experts in their respective fields. 
'SEVEN SECONDS' Plays in Bristol on Feb 21st and 22nd 2014.
2 Chandos Road, 
BS6 6PE.
Tickets from --- or 07957-391534.
"SEVEN SECONDS" by Retep Yetaen focusses on the mysterious collapse of World Trade Centre 7 on
the afternoon of September 11th 2001 in New York. 
The Government run "National Institute for Standards and Technology" claim that fire brought down

this 47 storey skyscraper. Fire has never before or after 9/11 caused a steel framed high rise to

A group of over 2000 Architects/Engineers/Physicists/Chemists/Explosive Experts suggest that this is
impossible. Their counter claim is that the only soundly scientific explanation is 'Controlled Demolition'

The Play set in a lecture theatre introduces Bob Bernstein a freelance Investigative journalist
determined to get to the bottom of the argument.

Various high profile British journalists have been invited. They include: 

Robert Fisk. [The Independent]

George Monbiot. [The Guardian]

Damien Thompson. [Daily Telegraph]

Nicholas Lezard. [The Independent]

David Aaronovitch. [National Geographic]

James Bone. [The Times] Who is played by ex MI5 Whistleblower David Shayler.

The play sees Bernstein take questions from this eminent group and illustrates his answers using 
film footage from the day and interviews with an array of Americans who are Experts in their
respective fields.

"SEVEN SECONDS" Plays in Bristol on Feb 21st and 22nd 2014.


2 Chandos Road.


BS6 6PE.

Tickets from ---- or 07957-391534.

Dramatic scenes at Barton Moss!

Anti Fracking Protest- Eye Witness Report
ON Thursday February 6th the peaceful protest at Barton Moss achieved a remarkable success which I witnessed.    A very large convoy of vehicles  going to the I-Gas site at Barton Moss, Irlam was held up for around 6 hours mainly as a result of a lock on in the middle of Barton Moss Road by 4 Barton Moss protectors.    There were probably 100 police present in total and several police vehicles.   The GMP had to call in a specialist team to cut the protectors free in the presence of the Press, Green Party Leader Natalie Bennet , and about 30 other protectors.    I then joined the line in a slow walk in front of the vehicles to the I Gas site.    A further arrest took place at this time.

The police tactics have clearly changed over the last week and the excessive force previously employed by the Tactical Aid Unit  has no longer been evident.   The Barton Moss Protectors through their commitment to peaceful protest in contrast to the police tactics  are proving an inspiration to the local community who are showing their support in ever greater numbers as the message is getting through that Fracking for shale gas is an environmental and health catastrophe waiting to happen.In the evening a well attended meeting organised by the Northern Police Monitoring Project was addressed by members of Justice for Barton Moss, Justice for Bolton, and the Anthony Grainger Campaign.   The issues of political policing and the tactics employed at Barton Moss with over 100 arrests were discussed with graphic details provided of the injuries sustained by peaceful protectors.
Further cooperation between these groups is planned.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Unite call to support Grangemouth Convenor

SPARE a moment to support a fellow trade union member under attack
Mark Lyon, dismissed after 25 years’ service, from Ineos
Urge your MP to sign EDM 1046
Urge your MSP to sign motion S4M-08956
This week Ineos, owners of the Grangemouth site, sacked Mark Lyon.
Mark has worked at the site for 25 years, and as unite convenor served his industry and supported thousands of people at work at their time of need.
Now we need to stand by Mark.
Mark has been on sick leave, under dreadful stress because of intolerable pressure at work. But despite medical advice that Mark was not fit to attend his disciplinary hearing, he was sacked.
He was dismissed in his absence. Unite firmly believes that this was because Ineos was determined to rush through a disciplinary process against Mark, denying his legal representatives the appropriate time to prepare his defence.
Unite will, of course, fight this disgraceful decision.
We will pursue justice, not just because Mark deserves it but because workers and trade unionist everywhere must be protected at work.
But we need you to speak out too. Please take one moment to help build support for Mark and for trade unionists everywhere and get your MP to support this EDM.
Michael Connarty MP has be tabled an Early Day Motion 1046 expressing serious concern at the anti-trade union behaviour of Ineos at its petrochemical plant in Grangemouth.
For Mark and for trade union members across this country, please show your support.

Please urge your MP to support EDM 1046.
Click here to find out who your MP is.
With thanks
Len McCluskey
Pat Rafferty

Inquiry into devolution of Northern Cities

ON Monday 10 February the Communities and Local Government Committee will visit Manchester as part of its inquiry into fiscal devolution for cities and city regions.   While in Manchester the Committee will hold an oral evidence session where it will hear from representatives of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Sunderland City Council, Staffordshire County Council and Leeds City Council.
Commenting on the visit, Clive Betts MP, Chair of the Communities and Local Government Committee, said:
'For an inquiry looking at the case for granting additional powers to English cities, not just London, it is perhaps even more important than usual to visit an area outside the capital.
“The Core Cities, England’s eight largest regional cities, suggest that if given greater powers to raise and spend money locally, they can become the beating heart of a thriving national economy. Monday’s visit will allow the Committee to question representatives from two of them – Leeds and Manchester – about this claim.
'It will also provide an opportunity to explore an issue that must be worked out before any devolution can take place – how devolved areas are defined. Staffordshire County Council, for example, has said that focusing solely on cities risks relegating surrounding areas to ‘some sort of hinterland status’.
'And in written evidence to us Sunderland City Council has claimed that without fiscal devolution it risks being squeezed between an increasingly independent Scotland and prosperous South East. Monday’s evidence session will allow us to explore this issue further.
“The visit will also allow us to see if there are lessons to be learned from the experience of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority about how councils in devolved areas can work together constructively to govern a devolved city region.
'The suggested benefits of fiscal devolution – increased prosperity, more jobs, improved housing – are enticing. But there remain issues to be worked out, especially the detail. How will the people given these powers be held to account? How do we ensure that low-growth areas don’t lose out? Monday’s visit to Manchester will help us in our search for answers to these questions and more.'
Full details of the oral evidence sessions are as follows:
Time: 13.30
Location: Scrutiny Room, Manchester Town Hall Extension
Witnesses: Cllr Philip Atkins, Staffordshire County Council (written submission 27)
Cllr Paul Watson, Sunderland City Council (written submission 22)
Cllr James Lewis, Leeds City Council (written submission 25)
At 14.30 [approx]
Sir Richard Leese, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Lord Smith of Leigh, Greater Manchester Combined Authority
Cllr Sue Derbyshire, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (written submission 6)
The session will be open to the public, however seating will be limited to a first come basis. See Manchester Town Hall visiting information.
The session will not be broadcast live, however a transcript and audio recording will be placed on the Committee’s website by the end of following day.

New Book: 'Double Life of Cyril Smith'

by Matthew Baker & Simon Danczuk
This title has not yet been published. You can buy it today and we'll
dispatch it to you as soon as it is released (due 15th Apr 2014).
Publisher:Biteback Publishing
What follows is the publisher's preamble:

NO politician pandered to the media’s appetite for personality more than Liberal MP Sir Cyril Smith during the 1970s and 1980s.  With his remarkable girth and regular appearances on the chat show circuit, blurring the lines between politics and show business, Smith was a larger-than-life character in a landscape of dull, grey men.  Yet ‘Big Cyril’ was anything but the gentle giant he sought to portray.

In November 2012, Rochdale’s current MP Simon Danczuk outed Smith in the House of Commons as a serial child abuser. In Smile for the Camera, Danczuk tells how Cyril Smith rose from poor beginnings to become a dominating political figure in the Northwest and nationally, and used his extraordinary profile to conceal a spectacular abuse of power: systematically grooming and sexually abusing young boys, often in care homes he helped to establish. Smith’s story begins as an illegitimate child in the grinding poverty of post-war Rochdale. This background kindled a ruthlessness that drove him on to eventually take over his home town, running it as his own personal fiefdom in which he could do as he pleased.

This is a story deeply rooted in time and place. Smith’s dark side was obscured by his overbearing personality and went unnoticed by the public at large. His victims, often troubled boys from broken homes, had no voice against the famous politician. And yet there were always rumours. Rochdale parents would threaten misbehaved children with a visit from ‘Uncle Cyril’. However, a charmer and a bully with an iron grip on his town, his misdemeanours were never prosecuted. Those who tried found their operations mysteriously shut down by higher authorities. Consequently, Smith retired from politics in 1992 and died in his sleep in 2010. Many of his victims later committed suicide or drifted into a life of drug abuse or prison.

Smile for the Camera is a deeply troubling story of a truly shocking abuse of power, and asks urgent questions of those who allowed Smith to get away with it.