Monday, 28 November 2016

TUC Crown's Representative to TUC-JCC

AFTER it was decided that Alec McFadden was not eligible to stand for election as the new interim North West representative on the TUC-Joint Consultative Committee, Stephen Hall from Bolton Trade Union Council was appointed to serve in Mr McFadden's place.  This replacement follows a dispute over an internal complaint against McFadden by a member of the Unite union.*  Details of this story have already been published on this Blog.  Tameside TUC in Greater Manchester also submitted a nomination for the post but it was claimed that this arrived too late for consideration.
No-one it seems, least of all Stephen Hall, wanted a coronation, but it could be that the TUC preferred a coronation rather than an election because it is cheaper.

Rule 27 Investigations:
The Regional Secretary advised that with regard to the disciplinary of Mr. Alec McFadden, the Rule 27 Panel had decided that there was a case to answer.  Following Mr. McFadden's appeal in London, the appeal committee found that he had been found guilty of inappropriate behavior and that he be removed from office, with a bar on holding office both for the remainder of the present electoral period and for the next electoral period and that he be required to attend an Equalities Training Course.

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Rape Defendant Claims 'Conspiracy'!

PLEADING 'Not Guilty' at Manchester Crown Court to 15 charges of rape, one of attempted rape and one of indecent assault stretching back to the early 1990s, the defendant Michael Burke, 38, of College Bank, Rochdale, hit back at his accusers suggesting that there had been a 'conspiracy' in bringing the charges against him.
Two of the girls were of school age, reported the Manchester Evening News.
Fourteen of the charges are in relation to two girls, who were under 14 and under 16 at the time of the alleged assaults, with three related to a woman in her late 20s.
Cross-examined by Peter Wright QC for the prosecution, Mr Burke said claims that he made a complainant subject to his demands with the use and threat of violence were ‘part of the conspiracy’.
He added:  'These allegations are wholly made up against me'.
Mr Wright said:  'There’s no suggestion of any conspiracy.'
Mr Burke responded:  'Not in this courtroom, but if you look further into it that’s what this is.'
'The truth is that you committed these offences', Mr Wright said.  'The truth is I haven't committed any of these offences,' Mr Burke answered.
Mr Burke denies 15 charges of rape, one of attempted rape and one of indecent assault dating back to the early 1990s.
* Proceeding

Friday, 25 November 2016

Tony Lloyd PCC: Is there a conflict of interest?

by Les May
WHEN, following the Greater Manchester Police investigation into allegations of widespread sexual abuse at Knowl View special school, the Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was insufficient evidence to justify bringing a prosecution against anyone, Rochdale’s very own ‘loose cannon’, MP Simon Danczuk, fired off one of his usual ill considered broadsides saying ‘I believe that there has been a catalogue of failings by Greater Manchester Police during the investigation of these crimes.'  He went on to call for the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPPC) to investigate the handling of the inquiry.

This attack on the police service did not go down well with the Greater Manchester Police Federation and led to its chairman Chief Inspector Ian Hanson calling upon Mr Danczuk to ‘put up or shut up’.  Danczuk of course did not have any firm evidence to back up his claims of abuse and unable to ‘put up’ he has had to ‘shut up’.

Given the seriousness both of the initial allegations and Danczuk’s claim that the inability of the CPS to bring a prosecution resulted from GMP failings, one might have expected that the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC), Tony Lloyd, would have issued a statement to reassure the public that Operation Jaguar had been conducted properly or, if he agreed with Danczuk, that he was going to refer the matter to the IPCC.

If you were expecting this you would be disappointed.

On 11 November I wrote to Tony Lloyd asking ‘Could we have a single and unambiguous public statement from you either that you repudiate Mr Danczuk's assertions and that you consider that the GMP investigation was thorough and carried out to the highest standards or that you agree with Mr Danczuk's assessment of the investigation and believe that GMP failed in its responsibility to carry out a thorough investigation into these allegations.’

Having received an acknowledgement of my e-mail, but no response, I wrote again on 18 November.  Today, 24 November, I have still had no response from Mr Lloyd.

Quite why Tony Lloyd has chosen to bury his head in the sand in this way and hope that this little local difficulty will go away, I do not know.  The cynical amongst you might think that it is something to do with the fact that Lloyd was once a Labour MP and Danczuk, though suspended from the Labour party, still seems to think there is chance that he will be readmitted.  So it looks like its ‘the old pals act’.  The irony of Danczuk being ‘protected’ in this way will not be lost upon those of us who remember the unsubstantiated claims in his book that Cyril Smith was ‘protected’ by the security services.

By failing to repudiate Danczuk’s claim of police ‘failings’ Lloyd gives credence both to the initial allegations and to the notion that GMP have not done their job properly.  But there is another aspect of this which is important and should not be overlooked.

Police and Crime Commissioner is an elected office.  Those who hold it can be expected to behave in an even handed and impartial manner.  Even giving the appearance of acting in acting in a way that puts party allegiance before public duty, will bring the whole system of elected mayors and PCCs into disrepute.  It’s time for Tony Lloyd to ‘put up’ or ‘stand down’.  I for one have no faith in Tony Lloyd either as PCC or acting mayor.  And I don’t think I’m alone.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Tackling the Trump Phenomena?

How the liberal left fails to get it!
by Brian Bamford

ON the morning of the US presidential election the New York Times ran a leading article by a team of its journalists entitled 'With Trump, a storm below the calm' in which it was claimed ''Donald J. Trump is not sleeping much these days'.  As the US voters were turning out this New York Times' leading story reported:

'In the final days of the presidential campaign, Mr Trump's candidacy is a jarring split screen:  the choreographed show of calm and confidence orchestrated by his staff, and the neediness and vulnerability of the once-boastful candidate now uncertain of victory.'

This crack team of reporters then tell us under a headline 'FALLING INTO DESPAIR' that:

'The closing phase of Mr. Trump's campaign has been punctuated by swaying poll numbers and dizzying mood swings.  It started on Oct. 7 with the release of a recording in which Mr.Trump was caught bragging about forcibly kissing women and grabbing their genitals.  Many Republicans decided that Mr. Trump's already shaky campaign was over.  Some despondent young staff members at the Republican National Committee on Capital Hill.... took to leaving their desks early, in time for happy hour at bars.  They complained that Mr. Trump had not just lost the election but was dragging down House and Senate candidates, dooming the entire party.'  

After Mr. Trump won, one political pundit sympathetic to M. Trump seeking to make sense of the Trump phenomena urged us to re-read George Orwell's essay 'Wells, Hitler and the World State'  in Horizon in August 1941 .  What Orwell wrote of H.G. Wells in 1941 was that 'He was, and still is, quite incapable of understanding that nationalism, religious bigotry and feudal loyalty are far more powerful forces than what he himself would describe as sanity.'

What we could call the Anglo-Saxon liberal left in the UK and the USA today, in the main, suffers from what Orwell had to say about H.G. Wells.  On this NV Blog we published a post-election report from the Avaaz team: a global campaign network that claims it 'works to ensure that the views and values of the world's people shape global decision making'. 

The Avaaz team says it is a '44-million-person global campaign network' and that 'Avaaz members live in every nation in the world; our team is spread across 18 countries on 6 continents and operates in 17 languages.' 

The Avaaz team in their analysis say:  'We wanted to write from the heart about what just happened in the US, and what's happening around the world', and of Mr. Trump they write '..... the most powerful nation in the world will be led by a breathtakingly ignorant, bigoted, violent, pathologically lying, sexually predatory, vengeful, authoritarian, corrupt reality TV star.'

The Avaaz team conclude in their study:

 'It's the Media Stupid -  Despite ALL the evidence to the contrary, the American public overwhelmingly sees Hillary Clinton as MORE dishonest and corrupt than Donald Trump.  This, by itself, is the reason why Trump is president.  And it's the media's fault.  ....  On the one side, we have ruthlessly sophisticated partisan propaganda media pushing Trump, and on the other an 2impartial” media that chases fake scandals and ratings and suggests false equivalence between the sides in the name of appearing balanced.  This is the dynamic that gave us Brexit as well.  We desperately need a smarter media...'

That is not something I can recognise from my own reading of the New York Times in the run-up to the US presidential election, consider the quotes above which were very typical of that newspaper's attitude to Donald Trump before the election.  It does seem to be true that there are similarities between the Trump victory and Brexit.  There seems to be a strong reaction against a kind of global mentality which has existed on both the left and the right.  The nationalistic spirit of our times as expressed by Trump and Brexit may not be a sane and sensible development, but it represents a powerful cultural force which the liberal left often underestimates.  The reason the left fails to grasp the importance of Trump and Brexit is that the left is too optimistic and too locked-up in the kind of mind-set that comes from the kind of Whig Theory of History that claims that things are always improving. 

The Avaaz team analysis falls back on :

'This (situation) is a HUGE opportunity, let's rise to it – change doesn't happen in a steady, linear way.  We human beings learn best from crisis and calamity.  Our brightest lights emerge from our deepest darknesses.  World War II gave us human rights and the United Nations.  And the darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity,....'

It is a quote that perhaps best illustrates the clear gulf that lies between the mind-set of the working-classes and the politically-minded classes in this country and seemingly the USA.  The Avaaz team idea is that 'the darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, to not only beat back Trumps in each of our countries, but to do so with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.' 

In a curious way the above analysis is a more optimistic version of how George Orwell in his essay on 'Catastrophic Gradualism', describe how some left-wing intellectuals explained away the crimes of the Stalin regime in the USSR thus:

'History necessarily proceeds by calamities, but each succeeding age will be as bad, or nearly as bad, as the last.  One must not protest against purges, deportations, secret police forces and so forth, because these are the price that one has to be paid for progress: but on the other hand “human nature” will always see to it that progress is slow or even imperceptible.'
(Common Wealth Review, November 1945)
Orwell in his correspondence with Dwight MacDonald in 1946, wrote 'If people think I am defending the status quo, that is..... because they have grown pessimistic and assume there is no alternative except dictatorship or laissez-faire capitalism.'  
Today, in the November issue of 'The Word - The People's Paper' - we can read the pessimistic thoughts of Tariq Ali and his verdict on the Trump victory: 
'A huge defeat for the liberal extreme centre establishment.  Read Friedman, Krugman in the NYT and Freedland in the Guardian for virtually identical grief:  it makes comic reading.... Many White workers who voted Obama did not vote for Clinton.  He failed them and she offered nothing new.  Nothing.  Unliked and untrusted, all she wanted was power.... The US Left has lacked a political party since Eugene Debs's time... '
Despite the best efforts of those on the left it is hard to see much to cheer about so long as the progressives fail to appreciate the nature of social change among working people in both the USA and the UK.

Avaaz team analysis of 'Trumpism'

WE wanted to write from the heart about what just happened in the US, and what's happening around the world.

 The shock is justified - the most powerful nation in the world will be led by a breathtakingly ignorant, bigoted, violent, pathologically lying, sexually predatory, vengeful, authoritarian, corrupt reality TV star. Those aren't insults, they're facts.

 How is democracy coming to this? How do we deal with it? We want to offer 5 points:

1.Acceptance - we can't wisely change anything about the world or ourselves if we don't first accept it. So take a deep breath, and let's face it. President Trump. And Trumpism striving for power in many of our countries.

2.Holistic Evaluation - I can't find a better phrase for this idea, but our brains have a deep negativity bias. We are easily overwhelmed by fearful focus on the negative, and we make awful judgments when we are. This is how demagogues rise. We can't let it happen to us. So looking at the situation holistically, here's some reassuring points: ◦He's not all-powerful - The US President faces many checks and balances from Congress, the constitution, the courts, his own party, and foreign leaders.

◦He was recently a liberal! - Trump is dangerous, but not a maniac. He has praised Hillary Clinton and donated to her campaigns and many of his positions are more reasonable when you scrutinize them. "Building a wall" is just saying he will physically police the US border. It's distasteful, but not crazy. Much of his party opposed him because he wasn't conservative enough!

◦He's tapped into legitimate concerns - Trump's supporters are not simply a racist ignorant mob. Polls show at least half are people who are well aware of his faults but are desperate for change, hate Hillary Clinton, and are willing to gamble on him.

◦The "people" are not with him - Trump lost the popular vote in the election (he just won through the US's quirky 'electoral college' system). So don't think this was a landslide.

3.Focused Alarm - now that acceptance and holistic evaluation ensure we're not freaking out unproductively, let's focus our concern where it most needs to be: ◦Climate Change- Trump says it's a hoax and wants to tear up the Paris climate agreement. Climate Change threatens our species and we're running out of time - but IF we can make sure that world leaders don't slow down, but speed up, the US alone can't destroy us. The rest of the world will drive a clean energy revolution that will make renewable energy much cheaper than fossil fuels - the US will be forced to switch by simple economics.

◦Fascism - we just don't know what kind of leader Trump is. Is he a Berlusconi, the Trump-like Italian billionaire Prime Minister who was outrageously corrupt and ridiculous but not a fascist? Or is he a Mussolini? We will have to watch like hawks and respond fast to the tell-tale signs of eroding the rule of law, rigging the electoral system, intimidating the media, or promoting hatred of some minorities.

◦Terrorism and War - Trump's instincts in the campaign were to call for things like murdering the families of suspected terrorists and introducing widespread torture. This direction is a gift to ISIS and will fuel the global conflict with militant Islam. His ideas are mostly illegal, but we'll have to watch closely and push back hard - domestically and through US allies - if this erratic man-child uses the US military brutally.

4.It's the Media Stupid - Despite ALL evidence to the contrary, the American public overwhelmingly sees Hillary Clinton as MORE dishonest and corrupt than Donald Trump. This, by itself, is the reason why Trump is president. And it's the media's fault. US network news devoted more time to coverage of Clinton's totally BS email scandal than TO ALL POLICY ISSUES COMBINED. One the one side, we have ruthlessly sophisticated partisan propaganda media pushing Trump, and on the other an 'impartial' media that chases fake scandals and ratings and suggests false equivalence between the sides in the name of appearing balanced. This is the dynamic that gave us Brexit as well. We desperately need a smarter media. Very few organizations campaign on this, and Avaaz needs to.

5.This is a HUGE opportunity, let's rise to it - change doesn't happen in a steady, linear way. We human beings learn best from crisis and calamity. Our brightest lights emerge from our deepest darknesses. World War II gave us human rights and the United Nations. And the darknesses of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, to not only beat back the Trumps in each of our countries, but to do so with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo. Let's get to work on it :).

 With hope, and apologies for the long memo,

 Ricken and the Avaaz team. 

Media Lens: Filtering The Election

18 November 2016


WHEN the likes of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Assad, and now Donald Trump, are declared the latest 'New Hitler', we learn little except that they are enemies of the establishment.  It means the 'On' button has been pressed on a propaganda machine designed for maximal demonisation, leaving no room for public doubt.  This inevitably drives comparisons in the direction of Hitler and the Nazis.

The rationale is well-understood by the public relations community.  Phil Lesley, author of a handbook on PR and communications, explained the spectacularly successful strategy for obstructing action on environmental issues:

'People generally do not favour action on a non-alarming situation when arguments seem to be balanced on both sides and there is a clear doubt... Nurturing public doubts by demonstrating that this is not a clear-cut situation in support of the opponents usually is all that is necessary.' (Lesly, 'Coping with Opposition Groups,' Public Relations Review 18, 1992, p.331)

Conversely, when action is required, the issue must be presented as one-sided, clear-cut, black-and-white.

This doesn't mean that Saddam Hussein wasn't a tyrant, and it doesn't mean that Trump isn't a grave threat to uncivilisation; it means that establishment enemies are described as 'New Hitlers' for reasons that have little or nothing to do with any threat they might pose.

In Trump's case, the public was not being softened up for invasion, bombing and murder, although his liberal opponents have often 'joked', with complete unawareness of the irony, about assaulting and assassinating him.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal Declares:

The idea that journalism should offer a neutral 'spectrum' of views was unceremoniously dumped during the US presidential election. Hillary Clinton was endorsed by the 500 largest US newspapers and magazines; Trump by 20 of the smallest, with the most significant of these – something called the Las Vegas Review-Journal - reaching some 100,000 readers.

As with Jeremy Corbyn, from the moment Trump became a genuine contender, he was drenched in vitriol by virtually the entire US-UK corporate press. The smear campaign was epitomised by the baseless, Ian Fleming-like suggestion that Trump was in cahoots with the establishment's other great bête noire, Putin – a propaganda-perfect marriage of Evil and Pure Evil.

Ironically, Trump may well turn out to be the final nail in the coffin of the manifestly stalled human attempt to become civilised. As leading climate scientist Michael Mann has noted, Trump's stance on climate stability may mean 'game over' for it and us. 

But elite media did not oppose Trump because of his climate views – no question was raised on the issue during the presidential debates and, as Noam Chomsky observes (below), the issue was of no interest to journalists. On the other hand, Edward Herman comments, a declared lack of enthusiasm for foreign conflict, notably with Russia, 'may help explain the intensity of media hostility to Trump'.

Inevitably, our drawing attention to the awesome level of media bias drew accusations that Media Lens was an unlikely 'apologist' for Trump's far-right declarations promoting racism, misogyny and climate denial. When we asked Guardian commentator Hadley Freeman why, in comparing Trump and Clinton, she mentioned Clinton's email server scandal but not her war crimes, she interpreted this as an endorsement of Trump: 

'You're right:  the racist, war-endorsing misogynist multiply accused of sexual assault was the better option.  Thanks for clarity.'

Telegraph columnist Helena Horton dismissed discussion of Clinton's devastating wars as 'whataboutery': 

'your whataboutery is detracting from the fact there is a far-right misogynist racist in the White House.'

She added:

'im shocked idiot men who pushed a fascist into power because HRC not perfect enough haven't shut up... and gosh they're foul aren't they'

Comedian Robert Webb of Peep Show fame agreed, describing us as 'pricks'.

Again, there is much irony in ostensible anti-fascists insisting that a tiny website should 'shut up' and leave Big Media to steamroll their candidate into the White House.

To be fair to our abusers, it is of course true that criticising Clinton risked, to a microscopically tiny degree in our case, supplying ammunition for the Trump cause.  But in reality Trump is only part of the problem.  Chomsky comments on the Republican Party's stance on climate change:

'And notice it's not Trump; it's 100 percent of the Republican candidates taking essentially the same position. What they're saying... "It's all a joke. It's a liberal hoax."'

Chomsky is talking about the imminent breakdown of climate stability:

'It is hard to find words to capture the fact that humans are facing the most important question in their history – whether organized human life will survive in anything like the form we know – and are answering it by accelerating the race to disaster...

'It is no less difficult to find words to capture the utterly astonishing fact that in all of the massive coverage of the electoral extravaganza, none of this receives more than passing mention. At least I am at a loss to find appropriate words.'

As this makes very clear, the problem does not begin and end with Trump.  The roots of the Clinton-Trump fiasco lie in decades of 'liberal' media refusal to challenge the increasing venality, violence and suicidal climate indifference at the supposedly rational end of the political spectrum. Virtually the entire 'liberal' journalistic community saw great hope in Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, while treating genuinely honest and compassionate political commentators like Chomsky, Edward Herman, John Pilger, Howard Zinn, Harold Pinter, Chris Hedges, Jonathan Cook and many others as quixotic freaks who may be mentioned in passing, published once in a supermoon, but otherwise ignored.

As Slavoj Zizek observed: 'The real catastrophe is the status quo.'  When liberal journalism slams the door on reasoned arguments and authentic compassion, other doors swing wide for the likes of Trump.

The default corporate media excuse for ignoring 'our' crimes is that elected politicians have been chosen to serve by the people, and it is the task of journalism to support, not subvert, democracy. But of course democracy is profoundly subverted by a lack of honest media scrutiny. Structural media distortion is so extreme that, despite bombing seven countries, Barack Obama continues to be depicted and perceived as an almost saintly figure.

Which is why it was important to challenge the notion that Hillary Clinton was a benevolent force for democracy, justice and the climate before she attained power.  And after all, as Secretary of State, she had held one of the most important positions within the US regime. 

The risk of boosting Trump was thus balanced by the need to take advantage of a limited period when mass media are, or ought to be, obliged to honestly compare the words and deeds of the leading candidates.  In other words, despite Trump's awfulness, there was a strong moral case for drawing attention to Clinton's record of reducing Libya to a ruin – a war crime known in Washington as 'Hillary's war' – of fuelling a hideous war in Syria, supporting the overthrow of the Honduran government, and so on.

As author Frank Morgan noted, pretty much the entire media system depicted Clinton as 'a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice'.

Morgan added: 

'With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station.'

It was difficult to imagine these words appearing in a national newspaper before the vote, and ironic indeed that they appeared in the Guardian. Happily for Britain's 'leading liberal-left newspaper', the linked examples of media bias embedded in Morgan's piece led to the New York Times rather than to equivalent or better examples on the website hosting his article.

In fact, Morgan's piece mocking media performance is part of a trend indicating that filters suppressing media honesty have been partially lifted now that a clear-cut, black-and-white version of reality is no longer so crucial.

Two further examples should help clarify this intriguing phenomenon.

Nick Bryant And The Lear Jet Liberals

On November 8, the BBC's New York correspondent, Nick Bryant, published a last comment on the election before voting began.  On November 9, in the aftermath of the result, he published a second piece.

In his pre-vote piece, Bryant wrote blandly:

'The post-industrial wastelands of the rustbelt, with their skeletal remains and carcass-like old steel mills, are hardly a new feature of the topography in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. But to view them again was to look at the seedbeds of Trumpism - rubble-strewn but seedbeds nonetheless.'

After the vote, Bryant's tone had changed: 

'So many people I spoke to during this campaign - especially in the old steel towns of the Rust Belt - wanted a businessman in the White House rather than a career politician. Their hatred of Washington was palpable.

'So, too, was their hatred of her. It was visceral. I vividly remember talking to a middle-aged woman in Tennessee, who oozed southern charm, who could not have been more polite. But when the subject of Hillary Clinton came up her whole demeanour changed.'

Visceral hatred of Clinton, no less, with a woman's opinion offered as an example.  Remarkable.

Bryant's damning summation: 'few people personify the political establishment more than Hillary Clinton.  During this campaign, for millions of angry voters, she became the face of America's broken politics'.

Before the vote, Bryant commented:

'the rule of thumb in this election, in non-urban settings especially, was the more impoverished the landscape, the more likely its inhabitants were to support the billionaire.'

After the vote:

'Hillary Clinton has long had a trust problem, which is why the email scandal loomed so large. She had an authenticity problem. She was seen as the high priestess of an east coast elite that looked down, sneeringly, on working people.

'The vast riches that the Clintons accumulated since leaving the White House did not help. The former first couple were seen not just as limousine liberals but Lear Jet liberals.'

This was excoriating, unlike anything we'd seen from a BBC journalist during the election.

Before the vote, like virtually every other corporate media reporter, Bryant was casually damning of Trump:

'I have tried to learn more about narcissistic personality disorder.

'Many commentators from both sides believe having a basic grasp of the condition was important in making sense of the behaviour of Donald Trump.'

He also focused on the idea that Clinton's 'personality is endlessly intriguing. Why, for instance, does she struggle to convey the warmth and spontaneity in public that many of us have witnessed in private?'

Bryant's post-vote piece dispensed with such pleasantries:

'Hillary Clinton is not a natural campaigner. Her speeches are often flat and somewhat robotic. Her sound-bites sound like sound-bites - prefabricated and, to some ears, insincere.'

And consider that, as discussed, before the election numerous commentators compared Trump to Hitler, the United States to Germany in the 1930s, and so on. Despite these terrifying claims, we saw little or no discussion of just how much power a triumphant Trump would actually have. Some analysis arrived after the vote on November 15 with Anthony Zurcher's piece, 'Can Donald Trump get what he wants?'

Zurcher immediately notes that popular support, in fact, is not enough: Trump will require the backing of 'the Washington powers that populate Congress and [that] are necessary to successfully implement his agenda'.

What of Trump's infamous US-Mexico border wall? It would cost $20bn, for which the Mexican government is clearly unwilling to pay, and would in some parts be downgraded to a fence. But actually: 'Chances of a monumental Great Wall of Trump ever becoming a reality... seem slim.'

What about Trump's shocking plan to deport 11 million undocumented workers from the US?

'He's since walked back such sweeping pronouncements... In the face of reluctance from Congress and financial obstacles... it will be tough for him to make the numbers add up.'

What about dismantling Obamacare?

'Republicans likely lack the political will to fully pull the plug... in the end "reform" looks considerably more attractive than "repeal".'

And so on. Accurate or not, serious, high-profile attention is finally being paid to the existence of checks and balances that will likely prevent a Trump tyranny. This kind of rational discussion conflicted with the establishment need to block Trump by presenting him as a Saddam- or Gaddafi-like figure, a Hitlerian threat. The fact that Trump's stance on climate means he really is a serious threat to humanity may turn out to be an unhappy coincidence.


Hillary Clinton was indisputably the preferred establishment candidate, backed by virtually the entire US-UK corporate press.

'Mainstream' media did not merely support Clinton, they declared propaganda war on Trump. As we have seen in this brief sample, even BBC journalists thought nothing of ridiculing Trump's 'narcissistic personality disorder' – unthinkable language from a BBC reporter describing an Obama, a Cameron, or indeed a Clinton.

The intensity of establishment support for Clinton meant that journalistic performance was filtered by host media and self-censorship. As the former Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger told us in an interview: 

'[T]he whole thing works by a kind of osmosis.  If you ask anybody who works in newspapers, they will quite rightly say, "Rupert Murdoch," or whoever, "never tells me what to write", which is beside the point: they don't have to be told what to write. It's understood.'

The moment the vote was cast, pressures filtering out criticisms of Clinton and less hysterical coverage of Trump were lifted. The result is a semblance of balance that allows stunningly extreme 'mainstream' media to enhance their ill-deserved reputation for 'fairness' and 'impartiality'.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

A Great Injustice & Rules of Evidence

by Les May
AN apology to Mr Harvey Proctor from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police may be something of a moral victory for him, but it will do little to help him take up the threads of his life again.  The clock cannot be put back to a time before he was suddenly thrust into the limelight by what can only be described as somewhat bizarre allegations against him.  

But it is all too easy to simply blame the police for what happened and ignore the fact that to some degree we have all contributed to the context in which this kind of misguided approach to investigating serious allegations could happen.  It’s a context in which Harvey Proctor, Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and others, are seen as no more than ‘collateral damage’.

The ending of the 2015-2016 session of Parliament meant that Sir Keir Starmer’s Private Members Victims of Crime Etc (Rights, Entitlements and Related Matters) Bill never got further than its first reading.  Had it passed into law it would have further weakened the rights of an accused.  A victim would have been defined as a person who has suffered harm which was directly caused by a criminal offence or in some cases even a close relative would be treated as a victim.

‘As stipulated in the Bill, no complaint need be made or determination of guilt found in order for a “victim” to exist.  Most obviously, the question arises as to how a criminal offence can have occurred without the matter having been proved in court?  

Lord Macdonald, QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions from 2003 to 2008, took issue with the philosophy underpinning the Bill.  Speaking to the Today programme, he said:

'… the worst miscarriages of justice I have seen in my career have resulted from blinkered investigations in which the police [have] believed a theory at the start of the case and then gone on to 'prove' that theory.  This supposedly pro-victims' rights stance of saying we believe the victims at the outset is precisely what we don't want.  We don't want the police deciding what the truth is before the investigation starts …  Not everyone who tells the police that they have been a victim of crime is telling the truth, it leads to the police believing people who are telling lies.'

He went on to say: 'The victims’ rights movement was born from the best of reasons, but it is now leading to an imbalance in the justice system that threatens basic fairness.'

And ‘basic fairness’ is an issue in the Harvey Proctor case because Starmer had already issued guidelines in 2013 which were supposed ‘to be applied to all cases where a sexual offence has been committed against a child or young person’.  (Note this interesting distinction between a ‘child’ and a ‘young person’.)

These include, ‘Arrangements for early consultation and joint work between police and prosecutors to agree a case strategy and address evidential issues head on.’

Were these guidelines followed?  Did the police and prosecutors agree a case strategy?  Were evidential issues addressed head on?

If so why is it only the police that are ‘in the dock’?  Why are we not seeing a similar apology from the CPS?  Or is it that the police chose to ignore Starmer’s 2013 guidelines about consulting with prosecutors at an early stage and fell into the very trap which Lord Macdonald so clearly sees as a likely outcome of Starmer’s more recent intervention?

But ranged against Lord Macdonald’s careful assessment we have assorted pressure groups determined to resist any change away from the present ‘believe the victim’ mentality and even hitch a ride on the bandwagon, though their link with the substantive issue of sexual abuse of children is tenuous.

A month ago Paul Gambaccini and Sir Cliff Richard went to the House of Lords to lobby for a change in the law so that those who are accused of sexual abuse are guaranteed anonymity until and unless they are charged.  Lord Paddick, who was previously the Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, backs this change.

Two days later the writer Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote an article arguing against this change.  She quoted the lawyer Richard Scorer as saying ‘We have seen countless times how perpetrators isolate their victims and make them feel no one will believe them’.  But this is just an anecdote, an assertion which he feels no need to substantiate with quantitative evidence.  It’s  ‘Believe me I’m a lawyer!’

Alibhai-Brown describes him as a ‘specialist in this area’.  But if you probe just a little deeper you find that Scorer works at Pannones, part of Slater & Gordon, and co-authored the book ‘Child Abuse Compensation Claims’.  In other words his specialism is, broadly defined, in personal injury claims, which isn’t quite the same as being a specialist in preparing criminal proceedings against people accused of child abuse.

What Scorer does not mention is whether anonymity for people accused, but not charged, would have any impact upon his business as it would prevent lawyers signing up the people who made the allegation, as a client in a civil compensation case and prevent them ‘trawling’ for further clients who had not yet made a complaint.  Put this way it suggests that the present system is open to abuse by people seeking financial compensation.

Incidentally, if you check out the Slater and Gordon website you’ll find they are still running their April 2014 advert touting for business arising from claims of abuse at Knowl View school even though when these were investigated by the Greater Manchester Police in Operation Jaguar there was insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution.

In arguing that naming people accused but not charged ensures that those claiming to have been abused have the confidence to come forward Alibhai-Brown ignores the 2013 guidance from the CPS about how such cases should be handled, which was designed to ensure that the police would take seriously every complaint of abuse.

For Alibhai-Brown, Harvey Proctor, Paul Gambaccini, Cliff Richard and others are just ‘collateral damage’.  As she puts it ‘We should be far more concerned about those who never dare tell than about the small number falsely accused.’  In other words she wants to prioritise the unknown and unknowable number of people who might be inhibited from coming forward, over people who we know will suffer greatly from being falsely accused.  Should people like Alibhai-Brown be allowed to have the last word on the question of naming suspects or is someone else going to speak out?

Is it possible that what we have seen in Operation Midland is what some people call ‘The Law of  Unintended Consequences’?  The 2013 guidelines were intended to reassure those who complained about abuse that their allegations would be taken seriously and properly investigated.  There is no obligation to call complainants ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’.  Did the journalists and pressure groups simply appropriate the terms because it suited their agenda to do so?   Did the police simply follow suit in an effort to appear ‘victim friendly’?  If they did the this lack of judgement has spectacularly backfired with Hogan-Howe’s apology.

Harvey Proctor's reply to Hogan-Howe

ON the 8 November 2016 at 15:31 Mr. K Harvey Proctor issued the statement below to several media outlets including Northern Voices.  The content clearly lays out the difficulties he and other have had to face owing to certain practices adopted by the Metropolitan Police Service in their investigation entitled Operation Midland.  Mr. Proctor, it seems, attaches some blame to the former Home Secretary, Theresa May, who said 'VIP abuse was the tip of the iceberg', and also to the 'MPs [who] used parliamentary privilege to stir the pot including Tom Watson and Zac Goldsmith [and] who refused to apologise'.
'Today, without prejudice, I accepted an unreserved apology from Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, the MPS Commissioner, in respect of Operation Midland. However, I have informed him the detrimental impact of the investigation on the life of my family, friends and myself was irreversible
'This apology does not detract from the adverse effect and hurt of Operation Midland on my life and me personally. I hope the police in such cases in future will always test the credibility of a complainant before someone is thrust into the public limelight.
'I believe that the police should not be making statements such as they believe the complainant is "Credible and True" whilst the investigation is ongoing.
'My efforts in challenging the Metropolitan Police Service from the beginning over 18 months ago have not been for selfish reasons but in the hope that anybody now and in the future can be spared the trauma that I have experienced . I regret that it has taken someone in a high profile position, albeit unwanted, to make an impact, but it is a moral victory for ALL potential defendants from all walks of life. I am proud of the little role I have played.

'I hope the police will learn from this so the glaring mistakes identified from Operation Midland will not be repeated.

'I have always had huge respect for the policing of our country, and admiration for the work police officers do. This is undiminished.

'I hope the Home Office will look at these matters carefully and bring forward proposals to amend the current system where a complainant, even a fantasist and liar, can be given life long anonymity and financially benefit  while the alleged suspect is routinely fingered and named by the police and in my case left destitute.

'The former Home Secretary said VIP abuse was the tip of the iceberg, it has proved to be the tip of an ice cube. She too should consider apologising for her crass remark at a very difficult time in my life.

'There was no Westminster Paedophile ring.

'MPs used parliamentary privilege to stir the pot including Tom Watson and Zac Goldsmith who refused to apologise. I was surprised Mr Speaker failed to act.

'A now defunct news agency Exaro used the police "credible and true" label as cover to defame me and others with impunity.

'In conclusion,

'Lessons must be learnt to the advantage of the innocent and the "genuine" victims of historical child sexual abuse.

'I am grateful to my family, friends and colleagues without whom I would have been incapable of  dealing with this truly kafa-esque experience.'
K Harvey Proctor Date: 8 November 2016 at 15:31

Police Apology to Harvey Proctor

A copy of the letter below was sent to Northern Voices and other news outlets
over a week ago.  The content is self-explanatory and demonstrates the dangers
which may develop in police investigations.

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe QPM, MBA, MA (Oxon)
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis
4-5 Buckingham Gate
Mr. Harvey Proctor

Via e-mail

8 November 2016

Dear Mr. Proctor,

The Independent Review of the Metropolitan Police Service's handling on non-recent sexual offence investigation alleged against persons of public prominence

Now that we have received the final version of Sir Richard Henriques' report I am writing to you formally to convey my apologies for the failings by the Metropolitan Police Service that Sir Richard has identified in the way in which we handled Operation Midland in which you were a suspect.

Sir Richard has concluded, and I accept, that there were significant failings in the way that the Operation Midland investigation was conducted.  In particular, I accept the following points:
  •  The approach adopted in believing the complaint at the outset was wrong;
  •  Insufficient attempts were made to test the credibility of the complainant;
  •  While it was right that the allegations had to be investigated, the effect of the approach adopted was to unnecessarily prolong the length of the investigation;
  •  It was wrong to have searched your property.
For these failings by the MPS I would like to offer you now an unreserved apology.

Yours sincerely

Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe
Commissioner of Police of the Metropolis

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Pitchford uncovers undercover police!

THE Pitchford public inquiry into undercover policing has today issued a very short press release that admits that 'Carlo Neri' was an undercover officer. The 'Update on anonymity applications' reads:  The Inquiry has received confirmation that no restriction is sought over the undercover identity used by the police officer core participant known as N104, which was 'Carlo Neri'
The Blacklist Support Group, has been granted core participant status in the Pitchford inquiry issued the following statement: 
'Carlo Neri spied on blacklisted trade union members and anti-racist campaigners, while at the same time having long term sexual relationships with female activists he was keeping under surveillance. There are serious concerns about his conduct while undercover including allegations that he acted as an agent provocateur, inciting anti-fascist activists to commit an arson attack on a charity shop which was run by the Italian fascist Roberto Fiore.  
Neri was only exposed after collective efforts of activists ourselves working along side investigative journalists and researchers. Both Newsnight and The Guardian ran the original story. Photographic evidence from 2005 of Neri spying on an RMT picketline in Kings Cross were published in the "Blacklisted" book published last month.  
'The public statement by the Pitchford inquiry is a vindication of our campaign for justice but this admission has been dragged out of the police who have repeatedly adopted the line that they can 'neither confirm nor deny' (NCND) whether individuals named by activists in the media were police officers. The same NCND tactic used to obstruct the truth is also being applied to the hundreds of campaign groups targeted by the Special Demonstration Squad. While now being forced into admitting that 'Carlo Neri' was a police officer, the Met Police is still refusing to provide relevant police files to those that he targeted.   
'Now is the time for the Met Police to come clean and release the cover names of all the spycops and a list of the campaigns that were infiltrated by these undemocratic political policing units. The continued obstruction by the Met Police endangers the very integrity of the public inquiry. The police are supposed to be accountable to society: Its now reaching the point where parliament needs to step in and get a grip of these anti-democratic forces.'
'Andrea' (not her real name) is part of the Police Spies out of Lives campaign and is currently suing the Metropolitan Police for the emotional abuse caused by the activities of Carlo Neri.  During his deployment, the married undercover officer lived with and proposed marriage to the female activist he was targeting.  'Andrea' reacted to the Pitchford announcement:
'I am of course relieved to have finally received official confirmation that the person I believed to be my partner of more than two years - Carlo Neri - was in reality an undercover police officer. The fact that it has taken the police so long to acknowledge this has undoubtedly caused additional stress and uncertainty within an already difficult situation for myself and my family. MPS initially refused to comment on my complaint, stating that the UCPI would deal with my allegations, but have subsequently stated that they will not contest liability. My case is now in process. MPS do however continue with their inexplicable 'neither confirm nor deny' policy. This is quite simply a strategy to obfuscate, deny access to the truth and it has to stop. As survivors of their abuse, we demand that ALL spycops cover names are released.'
Kate Ellis, from Imran Khan and Partners, the solicitors representing the blacklisted trade union members and anti-racist campaigners targeted by Carlo Neri issued the following statement:
'We welcome the Inquiry’s confirmation of an undercover police officer’s cover name. This shows to our clients in fact how essential it was for there to be a Public Inquiry. To date, the Metropolitan Police’s ‘Operation Herne’ investigation has continued to maintain the absurd position of ‘neither confirming nor denying’ that Carlo Neri was an undercover police officer – despite the fact that everyone else knows and accepts that he was.   
'The Inquiry’s transparency in confirming undercover officers’ identities should not only be welcomed; it should be the default position. The stark difference in approach between the Metropolitan Police and the Inquiry shows that there is an even greater need for the police to open up their files for scrutiny.' 
Photographic evidence of Carlo Neri on the RMT picket line is available exclusively from freelance photographer Andrew Wiard (NUJ)

Blacklist Support Group

Monday, 14 November 2016

More dodgy goings on at Ashton Jobcentre!

LAST week, we heard a complaint from a 19-year-old girl (Stacy) from Ashton, who had gone to Ashton-under-Lyne Jobcentre to accompany her friend (Rebecca) to an interview. Although her friend suffers from epilepsy and severe depression, she was told she would not be allowed to attend  the interview to support her friend also aged 19. 

We understand that the Jobcentre told Stacy that it was impossible for her to attend the interview because it would breach 'confidentiality'.  Consequently, Stacy had to wait outside the building for just under an hour, while her friend was interviewed. 

We often hear complaints from people at Ashton Jobcentre that they have been refused permission by Jobcentre staff to accompany a friend to an interview.  This frequently occurs even when the DWP client is suffering, like Rebecca, from health/mental health issues.  Yet, guidance to staff working for the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), make it clear that: 

'Claimants accessing DWP benefits and services can have someone to accompany them to act on their behalf.'  And, 'Claimants can have a variety of people accompany them such as Representatives, Appointees, Corporate acting bodies or Personal acting bodies.'

As this sort of thing is happening on a regular basis at Ashton Jobcentre, the issue needs to be raised with the DWP and the local MP, Angela Rayner.

Jonathan Cook's view of US elections

sent to Northern Voices from Trevor Hoyle:
Jonathan Cook's perspective on the US elections:
American liberals unleashed the Trump monster
By Jonathan Cook, published on Jonathan Cook, Nov 9, 2016

The Earth has been shifting under our feet for a while, but all that
liberals want to do is desperately cling to the status quo like a life-raft.
Middle-class Britons are still hyper-ventiliating about Brexit, and now
middle-class America is trembling at the prospect of Donald Trump in the
White House.

And, of course, middle-class Americans are blaming everyone but themselves.
Typifying this blinkered self-righteousness was a column yesterday, written
before news of Trump's success, from Guardian journalist Jonathan Freedland,
Britain's unofficial stenographer to power and Washington fanboy. He blamed
everyone but Hillary Clinton for her difficult path to what he then assumed
was the White House.

Read more ...


Hillary voters: stop calling everyone a Nazi and start reading Wikileaks
My Facebook news feed is somehow still full of people trying to blame Trump's
election on a nationwide collusion of Klan members and male supremacists and
on the progressives who refused to fall in line and support Hillary Clinton.
This insane adamant refusal to confront the reality of what's happening in
this country will kill the Democratic party if it doesn't change

If you still believe that Donald Trump was elected because of racism, it is
because you have remained willfully ignorant of what has been happening in
your country. If you still believe that Trump's election is indicative of a
neo-fascist uprising in America, it is because you have not ventured outside
of your self-reinforcing validation loop of fellow Clinton voters and your
corporate media echo chamber. If you still, days later, think that Hillary
Clinton's loss is the fault of anyone other than Hillary Clinton, it's
because you haven't been reading WikiLeaks.

  Letter: It's ignorant to vote for Hillary Clinton without reading

  - Denver Post Opinion (@denveropinion) November 2, 2016

Read more ....:

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Sheffield Anarchist on Trial

by Christopher Draper
“At the Yorkshire Winter Assize, before Mr Justice Grantham, Robert Sykes Bingham, 40 years of age, provision merchant, a respectably-dressed and intelligent looking man, was indicted for having at Sheffield, on December 22, 1889, encouraged and persuaded divers persons to murder one James M’Loughlin.”

Nobbling the Nobsticks
BINGHAM was an anarchist whilst M’Loughlin, his alleged target, was a 'nobstick', the local term for a blackleg. Sheffield had a tradition of deterring blacklegging by violent direct action, frequently involving the use of explosives. Although 1889 was two decades since the end of the 'Sheffield Outrages' the authorities were determined to prevent a resurgence of militant unionism.

Robert’s Story
Born in 1849, Robert Bingham’s birthplace of Norton was still very rural although just five miles south-east of the smoke blackened centre of Sheffield. Small scale workshops had sprung up in the area, powered by the rivers and streams flowing down from the Peak District and this unique blend of small-scale workshops amidst sublime natural beauty persuaded John Ruskin to back a cooperative scheme enabling skilled craftsmen to continue to work the land.

Established in 1877, Ruskin’s 'St George’s Farm' colony attracted practical socialists. Although living nearby, the youthful Robert Sykes Bingham was initially more impressed by the republican ideas of the radical Liberal MP, Charles Dilkes.  In 1871, Bingham organised Dilkes’ security for a huge public meeting held at Leeds’ Victoria Hall.  When determined royalists tried to disrupt and wreck the meeting, in the words of the Sheffield Independent, 'He called on the Stewards to follow him into the crowd but they did not. He went alone. He was seriously manhandled.'  It was Robert Bingham’s baptism of fire.

No Hammer or Sickle
As a scythemaker, Robert’s dad was exactly the sort of skilled craft worker that Ruskin hoped to attract to his 'Guild of St George' social reform movement but Ruskin’s ideas proved more attractive to Robert and his siblings for both his brother John and sister Louisa, also became anarchists. Although all three shared advanced social ideas none was attracted to either making or wielding scythes, and all three settled for retailing groceries.

Robert was most entrepreneurial and at various times all three worked together at branches of a chain of grocery stores that he owned and managed.  Of course it wasn’t all plain sailing and in 1873 Robert was in trouble with the law and fined £10 and costs for selling adulterated lard. In 1876 he was back in court and forced to hand over another tenner, this time in damages to labourer William Ollerenshaw whom he’d carelessly run over in his horse drawn delivery cart.

In 1881 Robert’s grocery empire was in dire financial straits and he was pursued by creditors. Fortunately he found suitable backers, continued in business and remained a grocer for the rest of his life.

The Grocer and the Carpenter
Edward Carpenter, the pioneering gay libertarian, who lived nearby was a friend of Robert’s.  In 1885, the pair campaigned together for an independent radical candidate, Mervyn Hawkes, who stood for Irish Home Rule, free education and “root and branch land reform”.

The following year the nucleus of this group started the 'Sheffield Socialist Club' with a libertarian manifesto composed by Carpenter but with Robert as one of the original signatories. John and Louisa, by then married to a drunken bully named George Usher, joined soon after. 

Café Society
To promote the cause, Bingham and his comrades persuaded William Morris to visit Sheffield and deliver two lectures in the Secularist Hall, on Sunday 28th February 1886. Morris was pleased with the result though the Sheffield comrades resolved to remain independent and not affiliate to Morris’ 'Socialist League'. In March 1887 club members invited Kropotkin to Sheffield and he lectured, “to a considerable audience, which consisted mainly of the working classes”. 

Initially Robert and his chums met at the Wentworth Café in Holly Street and hired halls for public meetings but with Carpenter’s backing they were able to acquire their own spacious premises, the old debtors’ jail in Scotland Street.  They created a 'Commonwealth Café' on the ground floor and a meeting hall on the floor above.

Carpenter fondly recalled these early SSC years:
'We organized lectures, addresses, pamphlets, with a street-corner propaganda which soon brought us in amusing and exciting incidents in the way of wrangles with the police and the town-crowds… A dozen or twenty at most formed the moving and active element of our society - though its membership may have been a hundred or more; and these disposed themselves to their various functions.  Mrs. Usher, large-bosomed and large-hearted, would move on the outskirts of our open-air meetings, armed with a bundle of literature.  She was an excellent saleswoman and few could resist her hearty appeal "Buy this pamphlet, love, it will do you good!"  Even in the streets or the tramcars the most solemn and substantial old gentlemen fell a prey to her.  Her brothers, the two Binghams, were among our two speakers, and both of them pretty effective, the one in a logical, the other (Robert) in a more oratorical way.  They were provision merchants in the town; and their business suffered at first, but afterwards gained, by the connection.'

Anarchy in the Air
In those halcyon days the Sheffield comrades marched happily together towards common goals but as the decade advanced political paths began to diverge. As late as the summer of 1889 Robert’s own politics were still fluid, as fellow club member, George Hukin frustratedly observed “(Robert) first of all goes in strong on one thing – say the eight hour day – and just when you think the meeting is going to settle about what’s to be done, he suddenly remembers that after all the 8 hours is only a palliative and it’s doubtful whether it’s worth our while to bother about it.” 

Everywhere miltant unionism was advancing, the successful strike action of the London gas-workers was rapidly followed by that of the dockers, lifting the spirit and ambition of the whole working class. In June 1889 it was the turn of the Leeds gas-workers.  When Leeds Council brought in scabs and the military to break the strike, workers fought back attacking both blacklegs and local worthies.

Whilst Carpenter’s closest confidants were chastened by the workers’ militancy, Robert was exhilarated.  All three Binghams, Robert, John and Louisa, along with the majority of club members were moving ever closer to anarchism. As propaganda activities intensified, more strident speakers were invited.  In November 1889 the fiery London anarchist Charles Mowbray came to Sheffield but, as Commonweal reported, William Morris was also invited.

'Comrade Mowbray addressed large meetings on Saturday (16th Nov.) at Penistone Street, West Bar, Gower Street, the Monolith, assisted by Bulas, Bingham, Carpenter and Sketchley.  Mowbray also addressed a meeting at the Hall of Science. At the monolith a police inspector wanted his name and address.  On Sunday evening we had a tea and social meeting, after which Mowbray lectured on “Revolution and Reform”.  On Monday a meeting was held at Gower Street of the workmen at Cammel’s Ironworks and also at the Monolith, Fargate.  No police interruption. At 8pm William Morris lectured to a good audience at the Cambridge Hall.  Commonweal sold out; 7s worth of literature; good collections.'

A Comrade in Need
When Fred Charles, an unemployed anarchist arrived in Sheffield in the autumn of 1889 Robert offered him a clerking job in one of his grocery shops. Charles enthusiastically joined Bingham’s band of militants and submitted this ominously revealing report to December’s Commonweal: 'Things are moving splendidly in this district. In addition to several meetings held during the week we have good meetings on Sunday – at the Monolith in the morning, Gower Street in the afternoon and the Pump, Westbar, at night. This morning a reporter was specially sent down to report our speeches to the Watch Committee of the Corporation and several rumours are about of various impending prosecutions by the police authorities…'

A speech about a local strike recently delivered at the Monolith by Robert received particularly close attention.  Twenty-eight men had downed tools at 'John Brown and Company’s' Sheffield works and the management replaced them with blacklegs.  The strikers responded by resurrecting Sheffield’s traditional treatment of “nobsticks” and the scabs complained to the police of being beaten up.   The reporter Fred Charles mentioned claimed Bingham had incited the strikers’ violence by his incendiary speech.

Confounding the Constabulary
The following February the reporter’s notes were read out in court and there was no disputing their accuracy;
'There is a little strike going on at Brown’s. These men are making a very just fight…The men who prevent them from winning, who are making the fight a difficult and unequal fight are the “scabs”…They are traitors to the cause . Men who did this sort of thing in war…would be taken and shot…it is not murder, it is killing a traitor.'

Unfortunately for the authorities, the reporter fingered the wrong Bingham brother and the charges against John were formally dismissed after witnesses established that John Bingham did not make the claimed speech nor had he ever delivered any public speech at the Monolith! 

The prosecutors were unabashed. It was conceded that, unlike his brother, Robert Sykes Bingham did regularly speak at the Monolith so the authorities simply substituted his name on an identical charge sheet and proceeded with the prosecution.  The judge gave the jury no doubt that it was their duty to convict, 'Mr Justice Grantham in summing up characterised the speech as strong, clear and positive incentive to murder, observing that if it was not so he did not understand the English language.'  The jury defied the judge and declared Robert, 'Not Guilty!'

1891 –the Year of Living Dangerously
Sheffield was fast gaining a reputation for anarchist militancy and Robert Bingham was encouraged rather than quieted by his failed prosecution. On the 15th of November 1890 William Morris, utterly frustrated by the absurd revolutionary posturing of the anarchist-communist faction, abandoned the Socialist League, warning, 'Men absorbed in a movement are apt to surround themselves with a kind of artificial atmosphere which distorts the proportions of things outside, and prevents them from seeing what is really going on' but Robert Bingham and his anarchist comrades were in no mood to listen.

There had long been ideological tension between Sheffield comrades but the final straw arrived just before Morris’s announcement in the form of roving Irish adventurer and insurrectionary anarchist, Doctor John O’Dwyer Creaghe.  Although Creaghe had only landed in London on 15th October, en voyage from the River Plate, he was immediately installed in the Sheffield anarchist group. Creaghe’s name, alongside Robert Bingham, appears on printed handbills advertising a public commemoration of the Chicago Martyrs held at Hallamshire Hall on 11th November 1890.  His impact on Bingham and Sheffield was immediate. 

By the end of January 1891, exhorted by Creaghe, Robert Bingham’s anarchist faction boycotted their old clubrooms, denounced their former socialist comrades and started their own anarchist club at Creaghe’s Westbar premises. They held their fiery propaganda meetings at the Monolith beneath a banner declaring, 'NO GOD, NO MASTER!'

Prior to Creaghe’s arrival, Bingham’s brand of miltant anarchism resonated with local trade union direct action tradition and sustained practical comradely cooperation with fellow Sheffield socialists. Robert, along with his brother and sister, was well known and respected in Yorkshire – which explains why he was acquitted by a jury despite being condemned by a judge. Under the incendiary influence of Creaghe all that went up in smoke.  In 1891 Creaghe initiated a series of campaigns that although nominally anarchist demonstrated contempt for the everyday opinions and underlying political consciousness of local workers

Aided by two other anarchist incomers, Auguste Coulon and Cyril Bell, in 1891 Creaghe published eight editions of 'The Sheffield Anarchist' .  A propaganda sheet that makes 'Class War'  appear moderate and sensible.  Where Bingham’s incitement was focussed, purposeful and rooted in local conditions, Creaghe’s propaganda was sweeping, arrogant and ultimately authoritarian.  Unfortunately Bingham and his otherwise sensible comrades were swept along by Creaghe’s sincere but inappropriate, devil-may-care attitude and ineluctably drawn into an illegalist political net.

Within a year Creaghe was drummed out of town by local workers who in August 1891 physically attacked and besieged the Anarchist Club.  The incumbents embarrassingly relied on police protection to save them from a working class mob who had smashed every single window in the building. 

Creaghe returned to Argentina leaving Bingham to lick his wounds and repair relationships with local workers but Fred Charles was not so lucky. Encouraged by Coulon, now proved to have been a police spy and agent provocateur, he’d been drawn into a bomb plot and jailed for ten years.  My own research leads me to conclude that Cyril Bell was also a state agent who curiously also departed for Argentina before the end of 1891. 

Voice in the Wilderness
From 1885 until 1891 the British anarchist movement had developed and grown until hubris caused anarchist-communists like Robert Bingham to promote tactics devised by the State and served up by agents like Coulon and Bell.  After 1891 British workers distrusted anarchists and direct action and backed labourism and electioneering.

Robert’s immediate task was to liberate Fred Charles and his fellow 'conspirators' from jail.  He energetically campaigned in Walsall and other Midland and Northern towns on behalf of the imprisoned anarchists but despite gaining widespread support from the labour movement the authorities were unmoved.  Shamefully, Robert received little support from local Marxists who told the local paper:  'In our judgement the Walsall prisoners had been properly convicted and we the Sheffield branch of the Social Democratic Federation, have no sympathy with the conduct of the prisoners'!

Fred Charles remained inside for 7½ years before his eventual release.  When Robert travelled down to Portland Prison, Dorset in November 1894 to visit Fred, the authorities refused him admission. 

Bingham doggedly continued to argue for anarchism and was grudgingly recognised by the local press as 'Mr Anarchist Bingham'.  When anarchist journalist David Nicoll was released from prison, Robert offered him a home in Sheffield.  Nicoll was incarcerated for accusing the police of framing the 'Walsall Conspirators' and revealing Coulon’s role in the affair.  With Robert’s support David Nicoll was enabled to publish several invaluable anarchist pamphlets during the three years he lived in Sheffield.

Let them Eat Bacon!
As an anarchist grocer, Robert attracted mocking comments from critics who thought anarchists should only survive in the impoverished cracks and crevices of society.  In 1894, a correspondent to the Sheffield Daily Telegraph ridiculed Robert’s anarchist-communism by suggesting, “Mr Bingham, by way of example, begin the sharing-out system by distributing his stock of bacon, hams and other provisions among his comrades.”  The sarcasm was unwarranted as Robert showed when police prosecuted the manager of the Mexborough branch of his grocery chain after he absconded with money out of the till.   Apprehended by Sergeant Forman, the prisoner, who expressed his sorrow for the offence, said, “I have been horse racing and mixing up in bad company”…  As the prisoner admitted his guilt, Mr Bingham did not wish to press the case.”

Pillar of the Community
Robert’s last libertarian campaign came in 1898 when he organised the UK speaking tour of the American libertarian, William Francis Barnard. Reporting on Barnard’s Bradford engagement, at Laycock’s Coffee House Lecture Hall, the anarchist journal Freedom observed that, 'his lecture on Government proved that government per se is exploitation'.  Enquirers were directed to Robert’s shop premises at Lady’s Bridge Buildings, Wicker, Sheffield.

Anarchism in England and Sheffield was by then but a pale shadow of its former self. Fred Charles and David Nicoll had returned to London and Creaghe’s adventurism had alienated Edward Carpenter who’d shifted into the state socialist camp and started a new Sheffield Socialist Club free from of anarchist taint. 

Robert Bingham eschewed the political manoeuvrings of the Sheffield Labourites and instead worked with the 'Young Liberals'.  When Robert died in July 1934 he was granted an accolade given to few other English anarchists, a lengthy positive obituary in his local newspaper, of which this is but an extract;
“The death has occurred of Mr Robert Sykes Bingham, known as the father of the Sheffield provision trade, also known as an ardent enthusiastic and determined political worker.
In his early days he experienced a great deal of the rough and tumble of politics. He regularly stood near the Monolith in Town Hall Square and talked advanced views to the crowds until the Monolith actually became to be known as Bingham’s Monolith…
He was a friend of many prominent people including William Morris, the poet and Prince Kropotkin, the Russian social worker (sic)…”

Christopher Draper – November 2016
(The eleventh in a monthly series of “Northern Anarchist Lives.”)