Friday, 28 August 2015

Harvey Proctor & Extra Judicial Tactics

NORTHERN Voices, ever since 2012, has been in the forefront of exposing issues surrounding Cyril Smith and child sex exploitation.  However, we are concerned about the recent practices of some politicians and certain media outlets with regard to their use of parliamentary privilege and the use of trial by media to potentially influence the process and administration of justice.
On Wednesday in the Daily Telegraph, Mathew Scott wrote:
'In a year's time Harvey Proctor's news conference will be seen either as a chilling display of hypocrisy or as the moment a brave man finally took on the combined might of a misguided Metropolitan Police and a small, nasty and highly influential section of the press and internet.'

Harvey Procter, is a former Conservative MP who was very publicly implicated in 1987, in what was then regarded as a 'gay sex' scandal, when he stood down from his parliamentary seat.   He left the House of Commons – after pleading guilty and being fined for gross indecency charges.  At present the campaign against certain so-called 'VIP paedophiles' , including Sir Edward Heath, Leon Brittain, and others, has been promoted by the online news organisation Exaro News.  Exaro's editor in chief is Mark Watts, a highly experienced journalist who, before setting up Exaro, had contributed stories to the Daily Telegraph.

Mathew Scott writes:
'In an internet trial there are no rules of evidence, no right to insist on answers to questions or even to know the identity of the accuser.  “Nick” is anonymous and as a result almost beyond criticism.  Why did he contact Exaro in the first place?  Did he seek them out, or did they go out and find him?  If the latter, why and how? Has he been paid for his story?  Exaro has not revealed.  Why did he wait until 2014 before contacting the police?  Why, for example, did he not do so in 1987 when Mr Proctor was very publicly implicated in what was then regarded as a “gay sex” scandal?  Why, as Mr Proctor asked, was a representative from Exaro permitted to be present when he was interviewed by the police?   Exaro, again, has not revealed.'

This short-circuiting of the legal process seems to be becoming all too common, in a letter in tomorrow's Rochdale Observer, a critic of the Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, Les May questions the politician's involvement with officers from the Leicester Police force who Mr. Danczuk in a speech to the House of Commons reported to be 'furious' at a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not to prosecute Lord Janner.  Mr. May who resides in the Rochdale area writes:
'On July 25, 2015, Mr Danczuk received a payment of £10,000 from the owners of The Sun for an article he had contributed to... [and] he declined to say which article the cash related to.'

Les May further points out that 'Mr Danczuk is MP for Rochdale, not a constituency that is within the Leicester Police area.' 
And he asks:
'Was the intention to use an extra judicial method of bring pressure on the DPP ...?'

In the case of Harvey Proctor last December the police officer leading the investigation, detective superintendent Kenny McDonald even announced on the BBC that he believed that the victim 'Nicks' allegations to be 'credible and true'

The journalist, Mathew Scott in the Telegraph, rightly questions this statement from a police officer:
'It was a disgraceful statement. McDonald's job is to investigate, not to judge and most certainly not to broadcast his opinion.  Expressing any opinion about the truthfulness of a witness would – as he knows perfectly well – be inadmissible and improper even in the controlled environment of a trial.  To announce on national television that you believe a suspect is guilty of multiple rape and murder, before a single body has been found, and months before speaking to Mr Proctor, suggests a mind-boggling level of prejudice and foolishness.'

While no laws may have been broken in either of these cases, and in the case of Mr Proctor there has been no technical breach because he has not been charged, but the spirit of fairness and justice is being damaged.  

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Nick Robinson & reporting politics

From Media Lens
THE BBC's Nick Robinson has made a career out of telling the public what leading politicians say and do; sometimes even what they 'think'. This stenography plays a key role in 'the mainstream media', given that a vital part of statecraft is to keep the public suitably cowed and fearful of threats from which governments must protect us. The 'free press' requires compliant journalists willing to disseminate elite-friendly messages about global 'peace', 'security' and 'prosperity', uphold Western ideology that 'we are the good guys', and not question power deeply, if at all.
But when a senior journalist complains of 'intimidation and bullying' by the public, making comparison's to 'Vladimir Putin's Russia', the mind really boggles at the distortion of reality. Those were claims made by Robinson, the BBC's outgoing political editor, using an appearance at the Edinburgh international book festival to settle a few scores.
As we noted on the eve of last year's referendum on Scottish independence, Robinson was guilty of media manipulation in reporting remarks made by Alex Salmond, then Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party. During a press conference, Robinson had asked Salmond a two-part question about supposedly solid claims made by company bosses and bankers - 'men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits' - that independence would damage the Scottish economy. Not only did the full version of the encounter demonstrate that Salmond responded comprehensively, but he turned the tables on Robinson by calling into question the BBC's role as an 'impartial' public broadcaster. The self-serving report that was broadcast that night by Robinson on BBC News at Ten did not accurately reflect the encounter. Instead, the political editor summed it all up misleadingly as:
'He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting.'
But the public was able to compare Robinson's highly selective editing of Salmond's press conference with what had actually taken place. The episode sparked huge discussion across social media. It even led to public protests outside the BBC headquarters in Glasgow. Some called for Robinson to resign.The protests involved thousands of pro-independence campaigners, although Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond's then deputy and now leader of the SNP, distanced her party from the demonstration outside the BBC when she 'emphasised it was not organised by the official Yes Scotland campaign'. The Glasgow protest was but one episode in a bigger picture of considerable public dissent against BBC News; indeed, against corporate news bias generally.
The outcome of the September 2014 referendum, following frantic propaganda campaigns to block Scottish independence by the main political parties, big business and corporate media - akin to what we are seeing today with the establishment targetting Jeremy Corbyn - was 55 per cent 'No' and 45 per cent 'Yes'.
Now Robinson, promoting his latest book 'Election Diary', has spoken out about what happened when his reporting was exposed for what it was:
'Alex Salmond was using me to change the subject. Alex Salmond was using me as a symbol. A symbol of the wicked, metropolitan, Westminster classes sent from England, sent from London, in order to tell the Scots what they ought to do.
'As it happens I fell for it. I shouldn't have had the row with him which I did, and I chose a particular phrase ["He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting."] we might explore badly in terms of my reporting and that is genuinely a sense of regret.'
So Robinson's distorted reporting, caught and exposed in public, led merely to 'a sense of regret' which 'we might explore badly'.
He then launched a bizarre attack on the public:
'But as a serious thought I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs.'
The hyperbole continued:
'We should not live with journalists who are intimidated, or bullied, or fearful in any way.'
And yet, in June, Robinson had played down the alleged bullying as ineffectual:
'In reality I never felt under threat at all'.
Given that the protest was triggered by Robinson's propaganda, one wonders to what extent the 'young men and women who are new to journalism' at the BBC were 'intimidated, or bullied, or fearful', or whether this was more tragicomic bias from Robinson. Needless to say, Robinson was silent about how the corporate media routinely acts as an echo chamber for government propaganda, scaremongering the public about foreign 'enemies' and security 'threats'.
A couple of days later, Salmond responded to Robinson.  He told the Dundee-based Courier newspaper: 
'The BBC's coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace.
'It can be shown to be so, as was Nick's own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed.'
Salmond continued:
'To compare, as Nick did last week, 4000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin's Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting.
'It is also heavily ironic given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union.'
The Guardian then gave ample space to Robinson to respond to Salmond with an ill-posed defence of the BBC's slanted coverage of the independence debate. This was amplified by a news piece by Jane Martinson, head of media at the Guardian, about the 'row' between the two.
'The BBC', declaimed Robinson, 'must resist Alex Salmond's attempt to control its coverage'.  In fact, Salmond had rightly pointed out that the BBC's broadcasting had been biased and 'a disgrace'; a view held by many people in Scotland and beyond. Robinson's pompous response was that, all too often, politicians 'simply do not understand why the nation's broadcaster doesn't see the world exactly as they do.'  Case dismissed.
The BBC political editor then fell back on the old canard that complaints from both sides implied that reporting had been balanced: 
'There were many complaints about our coverage of the Scottish referendum – although interestingly just as many came from the No side as the Yes.'
Deploying this fallacious argument means that the strong evidence of bias against 'Yes' need not be examined (see, for example, this book and short film by Professor John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland). In its place, Robinson paints a heroic picture of himself and the BBC rejecting demands from 'politicians' to 'control' news reporting. Robinson declared his unshakeable confidence in: 
'the BBC's high journalistic standards, which are recognised around the world'.
This is precisely the attitude one would expect from someone who is rewarded handsomely for thinking the right thoughts about their employer.
 Submitted by Trevor Hoyle

Jeremy Corbyn & 'Women Only'

by Les May
THE suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn will back the introduction of 'women only' carriages at night suggests he isn't the vehicle to a different kind of Labour party that his supporters have been eager to believe.  This is just the kind of 'shopping list' politics we have been hearing from Labour for years where some bright spark thinks that announcements favouring one interest group or other will secure votes.


I want to be able to vote for a Labour candidate who understands that its people of both sexes, all skin colours, all religious affiliation or none, of any sexual orientation or none, who are affected by problems of inequality, low wages, zero hours contracts and unaffordable housing, who want to be protected by a union, who can fall ill or become disabled, who will become old and need care, and who are frustrated by a lousy railway system.  I hoped Corbyn might offer this.


But now I come to think of it the writing was on the wall in his leaflet to members which promised 'Straight talking, honest politics'.  The endorsement from Cat Smith MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood focused entirely on issues related to women who make up just 50% of the population.  That from Mike Jackson, founding member, 'Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners' included his belief that Corbyn was a supporter of LGBT rights, a group that make up a much smaller percentage of the population.


You cannot build a progressive party based upon the politics of identity.  Our identity is what divides us from other people.  To weld us together we each have to submerge it a little to make room for the identity of others.


By comparison with Yvette Cooper, Corbyn is a lucky man.  In the 'i' for 19 August Sarah Solemani endorsed Cooper because her policies included 'implementing buffer zones around abortion clinics where violence and intimidation are rife... '.  So which country would this be Sarah?

Monday, 24 August 2015

Shameside Labour exposed over links to 'Blacklisting' construction companies!

Unapologetic - Kieran Quinn

REPORTS have reached Northern Voices that all is not well with the contract cleaners who have recently been sacked, following the closure of the council offices in Ashton-under-Lyne.  It seems that some of the cleaners who were working for the agency 'Sky Blue', have been dismissed without receiving notice and holiday pay, which they say, is owing to them.

The hideous and monstrous looking building, which is situated on Wellington Street, has been closed and is awaiting demolition as part of a remodernization plan by Tameside Council, aimed at cutting jobs and services to save money.

Sky Blue, is owned by the construction company Carillion, who are now responsible for estate and management services involving the maintenance of council buildings, cleaning, and caretaking.  The construction company, which is classed as a 'partner' by the council, also sponsors two academy schools in Tameside and runs the cafe in Stamford Park, Ashton-under-Lyne.  They are also involved in the provision of school meals for children attending schools in the Tameside area.

Tameside's links to both Carillion and the construction company Kier, has proved to be controversial. Both construction companies were linked to a secretive and clandestine organisation known as the Consulting Association, that operated a 'blacklist' of known trade union activists working within the British building trade, on behalf of 44 construction companies.

In 2009, the offices of the Association were raided by officials working for the Information Commissioner, who discovered blacklisting files (an illegal database), containing the personal details of over 3,200 construction workers.  Both Carillion and Kier, are two of eight construction companies that are currently being sued in the High Court, for being part of an unlawful conspiracy to blacklist construction workers.  Blacklisting files also show that the Carillion-owned Sky Blue employment agency, was also involved in blacklisting.

Although it has been illegal for over 35-years to dismiss a worker for his or her trade union activities, blacklisting also contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to privacy and Article 11, which relates to freedom of association.

It is known that between October 1999 and April 2004, Carillion paid the Association, over £32,000 for vetting construction workers. In June 2012, the GMB trade union, published a report on blacklisting - 'BLACKLISTING - ILLEGAL CORPORATE BULLYING - ENDEMIC, SYSTEMATIC AND DEEP-ROOTED IN CARILLION AND OTHER COMPANIES'.  The report was sent to every Labour councillor in the country with a covering letter from GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny.  In 2013, the GMB union, started legal proceedings against Carillion for conspiracy and defamation.

Although Carillion claim that they ceased to use the services of the Association in 2004, they were still being sent invoices in 2009 and their main contact, Liz Keates, continued to receive mail outs. Crown House, part of the Carillion group, also maintained its subscription.

In evidence given in the case of Smith (Dave Smith) v Carillion in January 2012, at the Central London Employment Tribunal, Carillion admitted that two of its subsidiaries, John Mowlem and Schal International, had 'penalised' Smith for being a trades unionist.  He was victimized for highlighting safety hazards on sites including asbestos. Dave Smith has said that within a year of being put on the blacklist, his earnings fell from £36,000 a-year to £12,000 a-year, and his children finished up claiming milk tokens.

In evidence given to to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee(SASC), who launched an inquiry into blacklisting in June 2012, Alan Wainwright, a blacklister turned whistleblower, confirmed that Carillion had operated a blacklist and that he'd discussed the blacklist with Frank Duggan, the group personnel director for Carillion.  At the Labour Party conference held in Brighton in September 2013, Carillion was expelled from the conference after delegates objected to their presence because of their links to the Consulting Association and blacklisting.

In March 2014, the SASC, said that it was up to the state at a national, devolved or local level, to ensure that blacklisting did not recur by using its leverage as a contractor.  Firms, it argued, had to demonstrate they had 'self-cleansed' - 'cleaned-up, owned-up, and paid-up', before being awarded public contracts.

The Welsh government has told its public bodies that firms can be excluded from public contracts under the 'Public Contracts Regulations 2006', because blacklisting can amount to grave misconduct. The Scottish government has told its public bodies that they can end contracts if firms are found to be blacklisting or discriminating against trade union members.  In March 2014, the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed to similar rules.

Despite damning evidence linking Carillion with the odious practice of blacklisting, the Labour controlled council in Tameside, Greater Manchester, have refused to answer questions about their links with Carillion.  In August 2011, Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trades Council, wrote to Kieran Quinn, the Labour leader of the council, asking why the council was awarding public contracts to a company that had links to the Consulting Association. Blacklisted electricians, also picketed sites in Tameside being run by Carillion, which attracted the attention of the local press.  To date, neither Quinn or the council have responded to either the press or Trades Council about this matter.

Yet, in October 2011, (two months after Bamford's first letter and the protest action by blacklisted trades unionists), Quinn, as Chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), was proudly announcing that Carillion had won a £60m contract to build a mixed-use development in St Peter's Square, Manchester, as part of a development between 'Argent' and the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund, which is part of the GMPF. Quinn, (a former CWU union official), told the press:

'We underwent a vigorous and lengthy process to ensure that the right contractor was selected for the construction of One St Peter's square. Experience, reputation and ability to deliver, were of paramount importance, as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed within the projected time.'

As for Carillion's reputation, which Mr Quinn speaks so highly of, we would suggest that both the council leader and the disgruntled and unpaid cleaners from the Tameside council offices, might benefit from speaking to the GMB trade union about their experiences of Carillion.  GMB members working for Carillion at Swindon Hospital, low-paid ancillary workers, mainly from Goa in India, complained of racist bullying, corruption and bribery.  Ten of them found themselves disciplined and their union reps targeted.  The GMB workers went on strike for 21 days.  They were all employed by Carillion which built and runs Swindon Hospital under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  The blacklisting files show that Carillion blacklisted workers during the construction of Swindon Hospital.

TUC Slams Proposed Ban on Social Media

by Les May
FRANCES O'Grady General Secretary of the TUC recently told the BBC that plans drawn up alongside the Trade Union Bill could force unions to give two weeks notice if they plan to use Twitter and Facebook accounts to campaign while members are on strike.  A consultation document linked to the proposed Trade Union bill suggests unions taking industrial action must give notice of 'whether it will be using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, blogs, setting up websites and what those blogs and websites will set out'.  Ministers have said that any restrictions will not apply to posts by individuals.

My first thought when a trades union friend told me of this was, 'this is a boat that won't float'.

In 2011 social media were widely credited with being a decisive element in the 'Arab Spring'.  Even a Tory government is unlikely to want to be compared unfavourably with the then Tunisian and Egyptian governments. In the minds of  many people it will seem but a short step to a ban on unions advertising in newspapers or giving interviews to journalists when a strike is pending.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) doesn't only protect human rights it also protects fundamental freedoms. When it was drafted in 1950 by the newly formed Council of Europe (of which the UK is a member) social media weren't even a twinkle in someone's eye. But if unrestricted access to social media is considered to be one of those fundamental freedoms then the UK government could find itself arguing its case in the European Court of Human Rights.

Repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act, which some Tories would dearly like to do, will not help them here because ECHR came into force on 3 September 1953.

Much of the praise for the part played by social media in 2011 appeared to me both uncritical and shallow.  Reliance upon the anonymity of the Internet and World Wide Web is itself a two edged sword because it is easy to create fictitious accounts on Twitter and Facebook which are then used to post misleading information.  The Rochdale Online news site claims that during the 2010 election campaign Matthew Baker was exposed as having a number of accounts on internet forums and using those accounts to support Tory Lite MP Simon Danczuk and attack his opponents and critics.  (I just love the slang term for people who do this, 'sock puppet'.  It's so... appropriate.)

If the government 'consultation' results in legislation I doubt that anti-union campaigners will be able to resist the temptation to 'fit up' unions by concocting fake web sites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Wouldn't that make the government look silly in court!

Friday, 21 August 2015

'The Crucible' at Manchester Royal Exchange

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Caroline Steinbeis
Designed by Max Jones
Friday 18 Sept – Saturday 24 Oct

CAROLINE Steinbeis will make her main-stage debut at the Royal Exchange Theatre with her new production of Arthur Miller’s classic THE CRUCIBLE. This follows her critically acclaimed, MTA award-winning production in The Studio of BRILLIANT ADVENTURES, Alistair McDowall’s Bruntwood Prize-winning play. Jonjo O’Neill as John Proctor, Matti Houghton (who returns following her title role in ANTIGONE) as Elizabeth Proctor and Rachel Redford as Abigail Williams lead a cast of 19 in Steinbeis’ stripped-back version of this epic drama.  The production runs from 18 September24 October, during the Centenary year of Miller’s birth.
THE CRUCIBLE resonates strongly in 2015 and the echoes of Salem reverberate across our world today. The play puts on trial the notion of social and political paranoia in a world of dwindling stability and certainty. Today, in the throes of asylum crises, economic collapse, leadership debates and cuts to public spending, social structures continue to be questioned whilst people's sense of powerlessness is growing ever stronger, making Miller's drama troublingly relevant for 21st Century Britain.
Steinbeis comments….
It is with shock and awe that I realise how close we all stand to the abyss; how easily a group of people can turn on each other if their circumstance is desperate enough.
Betty Parris lies in a trance after a childish game spins out of control, and accusations of witchcraft are quickly manipulated by those with something to gain. However, when false allegations reach fever pitch, the devout community of Salem descends into a cauldron of hysteria it can never return from. THE CRUCIBLE is a devastating portrayal of the human cost of tyranny and vengeance.
Caroline Steinbeis was the recipient of the 2009 JMK Award. She has been on attachment at the National Theatre and participated in the Director's Course at the NT Studio. Caroline was International Associate at the Royal Court Theatre under Dominic Cooke. Recent credits include: WE WANT YOU TO WATCH (National Theatre), THE BROKEN HEART (Globe Theatre), SHOW 6 (Lyric Theatre), AND I DON'T CARE HOW YOU ARE DOING ANYMORE (Molody Theatre, Kiev, Ukraine), TALK SHOW by Alistair McDowell and MINT by Claire Lizzimore (Royal Court Theatre), A TIME TO REAP (Royal Court Upstairs) and EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON by Mike Bartlett (Headlong Theatre Co/National Theatre UK Tour).
Jonjo O’Neill has worked regularly at The Royal Court and the RSC, recent credits include THE GET OUT, TALKSHOW, COLLABORATIONS and THE PRESIDENT HAS COME TO SEE YOU all for The Royal Court, THE EFFECT (National Theatre), Richard in RICHARD III for the RSC, AHASVERUS (RSC), SILENCE (RSC/Filter) and ROMEO AND JULIET (RSC). Television credits include CONSTANTINE (NBC), THE FALL (SERIES 2, BBC) and FORTITUDE (Sky Atlantic).
The cast for THE CRUCIBLE is completed by Sarah Amankwah, Paul Brightwell, Christopher Chilton, David Collings, Grace Cordell, Sam Cox, Alastair Gillies, Peter Guinness returns to the Exchange following his role in THE PIANIST, Leah Haile, Stephen Kennedy, Pepter Lunkuse, Mary Jo Randle, Roy Sampson, Tim Steed, Marjorie Yates and Ria Zmitrowicz
 THE CRUCIBLE - Listings Information
A Royal Exchange Theatre production
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Caroline Steinbeis
Designed by Max Jones

Royal Exchange Theatre from 18 September – 24 October
Evening Performances
Tue - Sat 7pm
Thu & Sat 2pm
Extra MatineesTue 29 Sep & Tue 13 Oct 2pm
New Sunday Performances4, 11 & 18 Oct 2pm
Extra Performances
Mon 21 Sep 7pm, Wed 14 Oct 5pm

Rochdale Mental Health Campaign Open Letter

Dear Northern Voices,

We would be extremely grateful if you could help syndicate our open Mental Health Campaign Group Letter to local Rochdale politicians in the hope we can maximize publicity on this vital local issue to our service users and the wider mental health community in and around Rochdale , Heywood and Middleton ?

To date only Mark Holinrake has replied and pledged his support.

Further wider syndication and media coverage would be a real boost to our campaign objectives,. Thank you.

Yours in solidarity,

Andrew  (Wastling).

Simon Danczuk  MP , Liz Mc Innes MP ,
Councillor Richard Farnell , Head of Rochdale Labour Group ,
Councillor Andrew Kelly , Head of Rochdale Liberal Democrat Group
Mark Hollinrake Rochdale and Oldham Green Group
Councillor Ashley Dearnley Leader of Rochdale Conservative Group


Rochdale Borough Users Forum
142 Drake Street
OL16 1PU

Simon Danczuk  MP , Liz Mc Innes MP ,
Councillor Richard Farnell , Head of Rochdale Labour Group ,
Councillor Andrew Kelly , Head of Rochdale Liberal Democrat Group
Mark Hollinrake Rochdale and Oldham Green Group
Councillor Ashley Dearnley Leader of Rochdale Conservative Group
Dear Elected Representative [s],
Could we the undersigned please take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent ongoing support you have given to people with mental health issues in the past.
Today we would like to draw your attention, if we may, to two pressing issues relating to people with mental health issues in Rochdale, Middleton & Heywood in the hope that you can all pledge your continued support to members of our mental health Service Users community, many of whom face great distress and anxiety over some elements of the governments Welfare Reform process.
Foremost in our minds is our growing concern that the proposed £31 MILLION pounds in cuts to Public Services at Rochdale Council which will without doubt impact disproportionately on vulnerable people with mental health issues, as well as many others within the wider community, that such cuts will have a massive direct impact upon.
Secondly we are deeply concerned that 100 people days [1] with mental health problems are having their Welfare benefits” sanctioned “– stopped for periods of time - by the Department of Work & Pensions [DWP].These sanctions have a massive impact on people already struggling with periods of unemployment. But as I am sure you will all be very aware the impact on people already struggling with mental health issues can be catastrophic.
We’d like to draw your attention to latest report from New Economy that records the latest DWP sanctions figures made available for the period 22 October until the 31 December 2013. These statistics lists Rochdale Job Centre, Fleece Street as having the third highest rate for sanctioning benefit claimants in the whole of Greater Manchester. Of the 4,078 people being sanctioned at Rochdale Job Centre 40% were sanctioned without being told why these sanctioned were imposed by Claimant Advisers.
Locally the figures break down at:
Rochdale Job Centre Plus, Fleece Street - 4,078
Middleton Jobcentre Plus - 1,484
Heywood Job Centre Plus, Taylor Street – 972
A total of 6534 in all. Across the Greater Manchester, the Manchester East & West area had 24,072 “adverse” sanctions. Of these the majority by far were in the 18-24 year age group totalling 246, 592 individuals. With 91,603 in the 25-29 year old age group.
Most worryingly across the whole of the United Kingdom there were 49,827 disabled people who were sanctioned by the DWP.
We are also firmly of the belief that:
“Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping [2] as well as being deeply worried at the latest DWP proposals to class Sanctioned Jobseekers with mental health issues as NOT vulnerable unless they have an accompanying physical health problem, as described in Welfare Weekly, “Sanctioned Job Seekers with Mental Health Problems are not “vulnerable” says DWP” – Weekly Welfare, 06. VIII, 2015– please see link at: [3].
Currently people suffering the most severe mental illnesses are likely to receive Employment and Support Allowance [ESA] and it is estimated that 23% of JSA claimants have a mental health condition.
Could we urge you to make public representations on our behalf to Rochdale Council to express our profound concerns at the proposed levels of cuts to services as well as to please ask the Department of Works & Pensions directly what guidelines they have in place to safeguard claimants with mental health issues, and the exact definition they use to identify those local claimants with mental health issues.
Your help with this would be very much appreciated by all of us. We would also very much welcome the opportunity to send a delegation of our newly relaunched Mental Health Campaign Group members  to meet with you personally at your earliest convenience that suits you to discuss these serious issues of concern to us. Thank you.
Yours faithfully
RACHEL GINNELLY   - CEO, Rochdale Borough Users Forum Chief Executive Office

MICK AYRTON -   Voice Programme Coordinator

RYAN COWAN Chair, RBUF Board of Trustees

MIKE JONES - Vice Chair RBUF Board of Trustees

DANIEL - RBUF Technical Assistant
NISBA - Project Assistant for RBUF


PETER WILDMAN – RBUF Mental Health Trainer / RBUF Rep

SARAH HARPER – RBUF Office Volunteer

Larissa Marshall – RBUF Service User

ANDREW WASTLING - Chair, Mental Health Campaigns Group

YASMIN KENYON - RBUF Housing & Homeless Rep

PETER WILDMAN – RBUF Mental Health Trainer / RBUF Rep

RASHIDA JORDAN - RBUF Service User / Volunteer

DONNA HOMES - RBUF Service User / Blue Pits Band

RICHARD OUTRAM – Policy & Research Adviser Liberal Democrat Group




NATASHA KIRBY – Rochdale Solutions – OL16

KATHTYN RENNIE -Rochdale Possibilities







SUSAN TURNER – REAG/ Cornerstone – OL2 7PY



[1]. “More than 100 mentally ill people a day have their benefits sanctioned “, The Independent – please see link at:

[3]. “Sanctioned Job Seekers with Mental Health Problems are not “vulnerable” says DWP” – Weekly Welfare, August VIII, 2015 – please see link at:

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Danczuk Digs into Trough!

AT an event at Danczuk's Deli last Autumn which included a book reading from Simon Danczuk's paper-back version of 'Smile for the Camera', I was politely asked to leave by his then wife Karen Danczuk, when I asked the Rochdale MP how much he had been paid by the Daily Mail for its serialisation of his and Matthew Baker's book on Cyril Smith.  Earlier Mr. Danczuk had refused to explain into which literary tradition the book belonged, when I suggested it didn't quite have the clarity of the crystal spirit of the eye witness accounts of someone like George Orwell in 'Down and Out in Paris and London' or 'Homage to Catalonia'.  Indeed, he point blank refused to tell me or the others present how he had done his research or by what methods he conducted his interviews with the victims Cyril Smith.

Of course, we now know that Mr. Danczuk didn't really write most of the book, but that most of it was written by his then aide Matthew Baker. 

Only last week, Simon Danczuk was berating one of his political opponents, Andy Kelly, the Liberal Democrat Councillor for  Milnrow & Newhey, for having what the Councillor called 'a war chest'

Meanwhile yesterday, Rochdale Online reported:
'Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk received £10,000 for an article he "contributed" just five hours of his time too - £2,000 an hour. The payment was received by the Labour MP from the Murdoch owned News Group Newspapers, publisher of the Tory supporting newspaper, The Sun.'

This figure was revealed in the Register of Members’ Interests: 
•24 July 2015, received £10,000 for an article I contributed to. Hours: 5 hrs.
Thus far in 2015, Mr Danczuk has declared earnings of £17,960 from outside interests in addition to his MP salary, which including a recent 10% pay rise is now £74,000.

So far Simon Danczuk's expenses claim for the financial year 2014/15 have not yet been published, but in 2013/14 he claimed a total of £206,908.92.

Overall his media appearance earnings far outstrip those of any other Greater Manchester MP and bring his total for the year to around £35,000, according to parliament’s register of interests.
But Mr Danczuk is still somewhat shy and he told the Manchester Evening News that he was not prepared to comment on exactly what articles the payments related to.
But he said:
'I have raised a number of high-profile issues in recent years and have worked around the media for a long time.  One consequence of this is that I get asked to assist a wide range of publications and broadcast organisations.  I do enjoy media work, particularly writing and radio and it adds to my work as an MP.'
I'll bet he enjoys it and especially the money that goes with it.


THE Government and large sections of the press are scaremongering about unions again. Whilst current rules on balloting for a strike, a simple majority of those taking part in a ballot, needed reviewing, the proposed legislation is several steps too far. The Trade Union Bill would impose a minimum turnout of 50% and in the case of the public sector the backing of at least 40% of those eligible to vote. Using the same criteria for a General Election then only 56 0ut of the 330 Conservative MPs would have been elected. Turn out in many local elections are often less than 25% of the electorate!

  Why is there now such a pressing need for this legislation now? Well the present government was 'shackled' by coalition with the Liberal Democrats, so now they are free to implement this as one of a raft of 'true blue' Conservative policies. Their reasoning is the spike in days lost last year through industrial action. There are often spikes in these figures, with larger ones in recent history in 1996, 2002, and 2011. However if one analyses the trend over in 4 of the last 6 years the number of days lost was below the average for the last 25 years. The last 25 years averaged 520 days lost to strikes, whereas the average for the 20 years from 1970 to 1989 was 10,000 days per year.

  All this is happening when overwhelming evidence has been presented to the High Court just this month about  illegal use of data resulting in what appears to be blacklisting of workers in the construction industry by many of the major  firms. This at a time when there are allegations of 'undercover' spying by the police on unions and other organisations. However one has to be sympathetic to the plight of average police officers who have no right of strike but are facing cuts to the policing budget on a huge scale, reducing their ability to be pro-active. At the same time we are seeing solicitors and barristers protesting at the cuts to the Legal Aid Budget. And what about the rights of those on 'zero hours' contracts, whose numbers increased from 1.9% to 2.3% of the workforce from 2013 to 2014.

  For those of you who fear a return to the 70's when strikes were so prevalent this is not going to happen with or without this legislation. However our right to belong to a union, withdraw our labour, has been fought for over centuries. We cannot lose what those people, many from around here, John Bright and Sam Bamford to mention two, have worked for. Unions are imperfect like other organisations, but perform a vital service for the working man/woman. If you are not currently in one then please consider joining one, and even if you are not currently employed full time, UNITE have a Community Membership available for just 50p a week. Unions provide a voice for the people on a whole range of issues. Do not allow yourself to be brainwashed by the negativity in the media.

J. Wilkins (August 2015)

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Media Silence on Libyan Connection!

Posted by The Editors on August 14, 2015, 10:31 am
Lexis finds 2,040 articles mentioning Yvette Cooper in the last month. Not one of these mentions her support for the war that wrecked Libya.

Lexis finds 2,453 articles mentioning Andy Burnham in the last month. Not one of these mentions his support for the war that wrecked Libya.

Lexis finds 1,855 articles mentioning Liz Kendall in the last month. Not one of these mentions her support for the war that wrecked Libya.

Maybe it's just us: illegal regime change, mass killing, ethnic cleansing, mass torture, disappearances, fragmented militia rule, near-complete economic and social chaos, 100,000s of refugees, many of them drowning in the Mediterranean - you'd think it would feature. Especially as Corbyn voted against. 

It says a lot about the fanatical discipline of the 'free press' that no-one has discussed it in any newspaper - it's a very recent war crime and the consequences ('migrants') have been covered heavily by the press this summer. 

But the unwritten media agreement with politics, as we know, is that no matter how many people our politicians kill abroad, the issue doesn't feature in domestic elections. Even though it matters hugely to many voters, and even though it has obvious implications for future killing. For example, the unwritten rule allows the Guardian and Telegraph to endorse Cooper in the full knowledge that she'll support more war crimes. They care so much about the 'responsibility to protect' - they could start by discussing political candidates' penchant for killing.

Check here for voting record: 

Sent in by Trevor Hoyle

Why Burnham, Cooper and Kendall should lose.

by Les May
THIS is not a paean of praise to Jeremy Corbyn.  If it were it would be headed 'Why Corbyn deserves to win', and it isn't.  I am delighted that Corbyn was nominated.  Not because I think he is a future prime minister, he is too old, but because the support he has received may re-energise younger and like minded MPs if there are still any left in the Labour party. 

Inevitably the present leadership contest is being presented as a battle between the 'Right' and 'Left' wings or the Labour party.  On second thoughts it's not. It is being presented as a battle between the 'Centre' and the 'Hard Left'

A battle for the 'soul' of the Labour party isn't a new phenomenon.  We've seen it all before.  We hear dire warnings that Corbyn will return Labour to the days of Tony Benn and Gerald Kaufman's comment that the 1983 manifesto was 'the longest suicide note in history'.  As we know that verdict was a bit premature and Labour survives to give a couple of hundred Labour MPs rather a good living, and they want to keep it that way, preferably without too much interference from the members and the unions. 

But those of us old enough to be a drain on the benefits system remember the late 1950s and early sixties.  Labour had just lost the third election in a row and it was argued that a fourth defeat would be terminal.  Unlike today there was little criticism of the leader, Hugh Gaitskell, who was generally thought to have performed well in the 1959 election. 

Gaitskell was rather bright and realised that Clause 4 confused ends (equitable distribution of the fruits of labour) and means (common ownership, a.k.a. nationalisation).  In other words a Labour government could achieve its aims without an explicit commitment to further nationalisation.  For younger readers I will mention that the three industries mentioned by Corbyn, railways, gas and electricity, were all publicly owned at the time. 

Although nationalisation has sometimes been seen just as an article of faith for some members of the Labour party, Gaitskell had a well thought out and more sophisticated view.  Recognising that the money to fund a social program has to come from somewhere he thought that the profits generated by publicly owned industries should go towards funding a Labour government's social program.  But a party can commit itself to an equitable distribution of the fruits of labour without explicitly committing itself to public ownership in which case it will have to fund its social program through taxation. 

The first of these I would call the 'socialist' model and the second the 'social democratic' model. 

Gaitskell was not alone in thinking that Clause 4, unchanged since it was drafted in 1918, was always going to provide a weapon for the Tories at election time because they could claim it meant Labour was intent on nationalising everything.  (That's different from today when it is nominally Labour MPs like Tory Lite Simon Danczuk who use the same tactic against Corbyn.)  Nye Bevan had explicitly rejected this in 1952 and suggested that a mixed economy was what most people would prefer.  He rejected it again in 1959. But whilst Bevan came to be seen as the darling of the 'Left', Gaitskell went down in Labour mythology as being on the 'Right' of the party. 

So what did Gaitskell see as appropriate aims for the Labour party?  At the 1959 party conference he set out seven basic principles: concern for the worst-off; social justice; a classless society; equality of all races and peoples; belief in human relations 'based on fellowship and cooperation'; precedence of public over private interest; freedom and democratic self government.

I believe these are just as relevant today as when Gaitskell set them out fifty six years ago. But how many of the present incumbents of the Labour benches would proclaim ALL of them.  How many of the leadership contenders would be willing to fight an election on them?  How many of them are willing to defend the last Labour government's record on spending to deliver its social program via the social democratic model.

With nearly five years to go before the next election and plenty of time both to formulate a coherent social program and for the Tories to fall over their own feet as they did under Macmillan in the early sixties and under Major in the mid nineties, I find the decision to abstain from voting on the Tories welfare bill incomprehensible.  I can only assume that the MPs who did are content to let the huge inequalities in our society continue forever. 

Personally I don't mind if Labour wants to follow the socialist model or the social democratic model, but for heavens sake choose one of them and stop trying to pretend that Tory policies represent the 'Centre' ground.  

Even for people who think Corbyn is too 'Left wing' or dislike his stance on Trident, there is a huge amount of ground to the 'Right' of him upon which Labour once stood and which has been abandoned. That is why Burnham, Cooper and Kendall deserve to lose. 

Postscript:  If you are thinking of calling me 'ageist' for saying Corbyn is too old don't bother for two reasons.  The first is I'll conclude you are an idiot, the second is that I'm a non-decrepit seventy three year old whose walked about 900 kilometres in each of the last six years, so I know what I'm talking about.       

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Agency blacklists scaffolder: short pay complaint!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from the Blacklist Support Group:

"1. High Court 

The High Court has chosen 20 blacklisted workers to be the 'lead cases' which are representative of the different blacklist files. 
If you are one of the 20 lead cases, please contact the Blacklist Support Group via this email, we would like to produce a short publicity piece on each person to give our story some more human interest.

2. Agency workers deserve full employment protection from blacklisting and unfair dismissal 
Two electricians were dismissed earlier in the month immediately after they were elected as stewards on building sites in Canary Wharf and Oxford Circus. There is absolutely no legal protection for them because they were both employed via an employment agency and these workers have no legal rights in respect of unfair dismissal. . Only a solid picket line and the threat of continued industrial action won any kind of justice for the 2 blacklisted union reps. A judgement from the Supreme Court says if agency workers suffer blacklisting - they also have no legal protection in UK law. This abuse needs to stop. 
This week an agency told a scaffolder he was blacklisted after he complained about his pay being short - not over the phone but on an online jobs forum. The employment agency Atlanco Rimec has been exposed on TV for blacklisting workers if they join the union and in Australia workers have been accused of blacklisting construction workers who make compensation claims after suffering accidents at work. BSG are helping to collate information about blacklisting by agencies - if you have any stories of being blacklisted by agencies after standing up for your rights or for being a member of a trade union (in any sector) please contact us asap. 
4. Peter Farrell 

Peter Farrell, founder member of the Blacklist Support Group and the Construction Safety Campaign and currently chair of the London Hazards Centre is not well at the moment. We wish him a swift and full recovery and send best wishes to him and Julia. 

5. Sparks in Ireland in dispute on construction site run by blacklisting firm BAM

6. Oh yes, and that bloke Jeremy Corbyn 
During the standing room only meeting at the iconic Adelphi hotel in Liverpool, Roy Bentham, Blacklist Support Group executive member told the audience: 
"Jeremy is the only candidate to officially endorse the Blacklist campaign along with the Orgreave and the Shrewsbury picket struggles in his speeches and literature. And blacklisted workers are proud to fully endorse him for leader of the Labour Party". 
(Flyer attached). 

7. Blacklist Support Group send solidarity greetings to victimised union reps Candy Udwin at National Gallery and Alan Brown at Bromley Council. 
Plus the ongoing Teeside #PayTheRate dispute about undercutting the national collective agreements -

8. Dates for the diary

Sat 22 August - Construction Rank and File national meeting (1-4pm), Unite HQ, 128 Theobalds Rd, Holborn - all construction workers welcome. 
4 Sep (6:30am) - BSG & union protest against ongoing blacklisting at Royal Liverpool Hospital 
4-5 September - Social Justice Conference (organised by GMB) Manchester - speakers include Tom Watson, Helen Steel and Dave Smith 
4-6 September - Hazards Campaign National Conference -
7 Sep - Liberty Human Rights Awards -
10 Sept (7:30pm) - Croydon TUC - Blacklisted book event with Dave Smith
13 Sept - Direct against blacklisting firm Carillion in London - joint action  with 'BP or Not BP' campaign  a Facebook event for the action - anyone interested, please contact us ASAP. 
13 Sept - Kill The Bil - National Shop Stewards Network at TUC Congress Brighton 
15 Sep - Spycops Fringe Meeting at TUC Congress Brighton - speakers: Matt Wrack (FBU), John McDonnell MP, Helen Steel, Dave Smith, Shamik Dutta
16 Sep - Blacklisted book events in Brighton with Phil Chamberlain & Dave Smith   
17 Sep - University of Liverpool - Policing & Democracy in the 21st Century conference (flyer attached) 
Coming in November 
United We Stand, Townsend Productions play about the Shrewsbury Pickets - Bussy Building Peckham - with Blacklist Support Group (flyer attached)
Unite the Resistance conference 

9. World Cup in Qatar

The scandal of the World Cup being held in Qatar in 2022 can no longer go unchallenged. So far, over 1400 workers have died in the construction of stadiums, mostly migrant workers. But FIFA’s response has been to keep calm and confirm that Qatar won’t lose the tournament. Germany’s member of the FIFA executive board, Theo Zwanzinger, feigns helplessness in the face of worker abuses. "This feudal system existed before the World Cup," he said. "What do you expect of a football organization? FIFA is not the lawmaker in Qatar." No but FIFA chose to hand them the biggest football show on the planet and should take more responsibility. Sepp Blatter stated in April 2014 that "We cannot interfere with the rights of workers".

Analysts projected that more than 4,000 migrant construction workers will die before the official launch of the World Cup in 2022 if the Qatari government will not improve its labour standards and strictly enforce it to all construction companies doing business the country. This simply cannot be allowed to happen. We can take part in and encourage fellow trade union activists and friends to email or use social media objecting to the FIFA Elections, along with the following demands for all constructions workers involved in constructing the new World Cup Stadiums, especially in Qatar, by emailing the following motion / bullet four points:-

We call upon the Football Association to demand the 2022 World Cup is either relocated or that the Qatar authorities immediately end the Kafala sponsorship system that restrict workers.
  • Adopt the principles of the ILO Core Conventions, United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the OCED  guidelines for Multinational Enterprises and included them in the criteria for bid by countries wishing to host the World Cup
  • Adopt mandatory policy of “Decent Work Stadium and Infrastructure Standards” for contracts throughout the supply chain related to World Cup
  • Include respect workers’ rights, decent work and binding on safety  provisions on safety and health in the FIFA law
  • Contact joint labour inspections with BWI to ensure international labour rights and standards are adhered to in Qatar."
Blacklist Support Group