Monday, 30 January 2017

Unite Community branch opts for Len McCluskey

IN a tight vote last week the Unite Greater Manchester Community branch nominated Len McCluskey for the General secretary on Britain's biggest union; Unite the Union.  The figures given to Northern Voices were:
Len McCluskey : 14; Ian Allinson : 13; Gerard Coyne : 0

Our contact in the Manchester Community Branch says that 'according to this this week's Weekly Worker, (Ian) Allinson has 7 nominating branches so far. He has until 17 February to get another 43 - it looks like a tall order!'
Candidates need 50 nominating branches to get onto the ballot paper for the election. 
NV has taken the position that it is vital that as many names as possible are on the ballot and that a 'coronation' of Len McCluskey would be an unhealthy result for Unite and democracy.  Because the suggestion is that the election was called for selfish reasons to extend his term in office.
In our opinion some elements appear to be moving heaven and earth to keep Ian Allinson off the ballot by blustering about splitting the vote of the left.  If this is the case and the Unite bureaucracy is determined to keep Mr. Allinson out of the race, it will create much bad blood in the labour movement.
Today, we calculate that according to Ian Allinson's Twitter account there are some 24 nominating branches opting for Mr. Allison*, but some of these may not yet have registered their nominations officially.
*  NV spoke to Ian Allison last night and he said that he had only 22 branches that had confirmed their nominations to him.

Zero Tolerance and Simon Danczuk

By Les May

SIMON Danczuk’s remarks about beggars in Rochdale town centre, or as he would have it 'aggressive’ beggars, has predictably provoked quite a lot of moral outrage.

But to what extent can they be regarded merely as ‘alternative facts’?  Fortunately we don’t have to look far to get a picture of the reality of life for those who drink and/or beg in our streets.  And who better to provide it for us than Simon himself? 

Simon sees himself as something of an ‘expert’, because he was involved in research which was published by the homelessness charity ‘Crisis’ in 2000.  Now I have read his research, and I don’t think his recent comments can be said to follow from the data he collected.

In particular he seems to be promoting a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to begging, to be downplaying the lack of both overnight accommodation and the support needed to get people off the streets, and overemphasising the role of drug addiction. A dangerous ploy for someone who has admitted to the use of Ecstasy and Cannabis, and seems to have significant knowledge of the effects of alcohol.   

A memorandum submitted to the Home Affairs Committee by ‘Crisis’ in 2005 said:
‘Begging and street homelessness constitute two overlapping parts of a broader homelessness problem, "research from across England—including Manchester, Brighton, Leeds, Blackpool, Bristol, Chester, Leicester, Westminster, Woolwich and Luton has consistently found that the vast majority people begging are homeless".'

So what did Crisis have to say about Simon’s report?
'It is the contention of the report that reliance upon police enforcement policies such as zero tolerance schemes are an inappropriate response to a complex problem' and 'Of all those surveyed, just over half had slept rough the previous night and four in five where vulnerably housed.'
Do I detect a shift to the right?  Or is it just that Simon’s own addiction is to self publicity?
You can find both the original report and the summary at the links below:

Manchester Housing Plan or 'Social Cleansing'

One Man Liberal Democrat Opposition: Cllr. John Leech
MANCHESTER Council has been accused of social cleansing* as it refuses to guarantee affordable homes in a development involving up to 2,500 houses.
Today (20th, Jan. 2017), in another of Manchester's heated council meetings, the sole opposition member, Liberal Democrat John Leech, unravelled the council's plans to build 2,500 homes in the city centre, not a single one of which is guaranteed to be affordable.
The Manchester North development, recently approved without a single Labour councillor questioning the lack of affordable homes, is one of several large developments in the city.  Yet not a single one of the proposed homes is certain to be affordable.  This plan has now been labeled 'Labour-style social cleansing.'
When the sole opposition councilor, Lib Dem. John Leech asked Councillor Bernard Priest if he could guarantee that any of the 2,500 homes would be affordable.  Mr Priest said he 'could not give that guarantee'.
Councillor Priest added that he 'anticipated the council would continue to be led by Labour politicians for a considerable number of years', but still wouldn't commit to making any of the 2,500 new homes affordable.
The Liberal Democrat councillor John Leech, has challenged the proposals, accusing the council of 'Labour-style social cleansing based on who can afford to live in the most desirable parts of the city.'
He said:  'This council continues to put profit before people. It is unacceptable that so many people have got their life on hold while this council continues to prioritise expensive houses for sale and making profit from land instead of genuinely affordable homes.'
As South Manchester's MP of ten years, John Leech, criticised decisions in 2013 when plots in Chorlton on Darley Avenue for 86 homes were sold off by the council to private companies for profit, rather than saved for affordable housing.

Councilor Leech then added: 
'This city is in desperate need of good quality, genuinely affordable family homes near existing public transport links and infrastructure, and we need to start taking this seriously. To build 2,500 new unaffordable houses is an insult to the 14,000 people currently on waiting lists across the city.
'If this council is committed to building genuinely affordable homes then why are they refusing to guarantee even one of these 2,500 houses will be affordable?
'This council put effort into help for first-time buyers but has shown little interest in affordable homes to rent. Why, in a development as large as these in West Didsbury and the City Centre, should not a single home, not one, be up for affordable rent?
'We need a balance of affordable homes to rent and buy across all of our communities in the whole of this city, not a Labour-style social cleansing based on who can afford to live in the most desirable parts.'
 The councillor, who was on fierce form despite receiving a barrage of personal comments and mocking from the 95 strong Labour group, also criticised the council for recently approving a housing development on Cavendish Road, West Didsbury without insisting on any houses being available for affordable rent.
Social cleansing (Spanish: limpieza social) is class-based killing that consists of elimination of members of society considered "undesirable," including but not limited to the homeless, criminals, street children, the elderly, sex workers, and sexual minorities[clarification needed].[1][2][3] This phenomenon is caused by a combination of economic and social factors, but killings are notably present in regions with high levels of poverty and disparities of wealth.[1][4] Perpetrators are usually of the same community as the victims and are often motivated by the idea that the victims are a drain on the resources of society.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Best Selling Book: George Orwell's '1984'

FOLLOWING President Donald Trump's inauguration, George Orwell's '1984' is the best-selling book on
Today, on the MailOnline Johne Broich wrote: 
'The hearts of a thousand English teachers must be warmed as people flock to a novel published in 1949 for ways to think about their present moment.'

Friday, 27 January 2017

Is 'Stop War' misunderstanding Trump?

by Brian Bamford
'STOP the War' in a newsletter below issued yesterday* calling on Theresa May to end the 'Special Relationship' between the USA and the UK, declared:
'As Trump's aggressive foreign policy - which has led to further bombing in Syria and Iraq- becomes ever clearer it is urgent that we end the special relationship now.'
Most media pundits, other that 'Stop War', find Donald Trump's foreign policy anything but 'clear'
But last November, Thomas Wright, an expert on U.S. foreign policy at the Brooklings Institute said:  'No other election has had the capacity to completely overturn the international order - the global economy, geopolitics , etc.'
The conventional view is that President Trump is going to be an isolationist in so far as he is, according to Thomas Wright, 'opposed to America's alliance arrangements with other countries.'
What is fairly clear is that Trump is frustrated with the exiting alliance arrangements that mean that the U.S. has had to defend Japan, Saudi Arabia, and others such as the E.U. and does believe that the U.S. should keep coughing up so much. 
Referring to Hillary Clinton, Trump said:
'I would be slower to go to war than Hillary I would be very, very cautious. I think I'd be a lot slower.  She has a happy trigger.  You look, she votes for the wars, she goes in Libya.  I think it's a tremendous burden.  I think there is no greater burden that anybody could have.'
For pundits like Thomas Wright, what's not clear is if he means he just wants the others to pay a bit more, or whether he opposes the alliances overall,
If the latter is the case one would have thought that the Stop the War crowd  would be over the moon.
One would have thought that they would be even more over the moon, when he says NATO's original mission is 'obsolete', and that he doesn't believe that the U.S. (military) to be forwardly present.
* Help us to break the special relationship 'Today Theresa May goes to Washington. Any civilised or sensible government would be breaking links with President Trump but our PM is rushing to be the first foreign leader to meet him. As Trump's aggressive foreign policy - which has already led to further bombing in Syria and Iraq - becomes ever clearer it is urgent that we end the special relationship now. Stop the War Convenor Lindsey German said: 'Trump wants to increase military spending and the level of nuclear weapons. He also support torture. The special relationship has never benefited the people of Britain. With this president it will be positively harmful and should be ended.'

Fitness For Work - 'Cover Up'?

PRIVATE Eye No.1435 reported that the 'opposition parties are calling for an independent inquiry after it emerged that ministers apparently "hid" reports into the deaths of benefit claimants from the independent expert who was reviewing controversial "fitness for work" test.'
It seems that, according to the Eye, that 'seven confidential peer reviews into deaths linked to work capability assessment (WCA) were not passed to Professor Malcolm Harrington as he prepared his final report in 2012.'
It seems that the Professor had 'no recollection of seeing any of the reviews, and he says that 'such damning indictments of the system - if seen - should have triggered a response from me.'  And  'It didn't.'
This all became clear after a Freedom of Information request.  Private Eye reports:  'This is just the latest evidence to emerge implicating ministers in covering up links between WCA flaws and deaths of benefit claimants - particularly those with experience of significant mental distress.'
It seems that the work capability tests have been widely condemned for being too prescriptive, and leading to fatal errors and leaving claimants 'penniless and stressed'.
After the latest 'cover-up', the Eye says:
'Labour, the Lib Dems and Greens all called for an independent inquiry into the "hidden reports" and into the wider issue of deaths directly linked to government welfare reform.'

Thursday, 26 January 2017

'Musical Beggars' and one disreputable MP

by Brian Bamford
TODAY, Northern Voices' did a survey of Rochdale town centre looking for the beggars reported to have been infesting the area between the Rochdale Exchange part way up Yorkshire Street, and the Wheatsheaf Centre entrance.
During my unscientific investigation I didn't discover one beggar, and began to worry if the tribe of beggars had been intimidated by the local MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, who was whingeing in parliament last week, and in the media about the level of begging in Rochdale town centre.  He even castigated the Greater Manchester Police for not being more proactive in moving Rochdale's paupers on.
I spoke to one shopkeeper on The Walk, and she claimed the beggars come in shifts:  'it's like musical beggars, not musical chairs, round here,' she said. 
I said that I'd toured the area on Monday afternoon, and hadn't seen the lad who usually sits begging at the end of Yorkshire Street.  The shopkeeper insisted that the beggars didn't come until later, and that they kept away when the cops were around.  'The police do move them on!', she said.
But everyone was critical of the paupers and beggars, I approached a 'Busker' half way up Yorkshire Street, and I asked him where had all the beggars gone:  He told me they were still around and hadn't been frightened off my the belly-aching Mr. Danczuk.
I wondered if the good MP for Rochdale, who himself is down on his luck having been suspended from the Labour Party for disreputable behaviour, could possibly have mistaken Busking for begging when he took to counting the beggars on the short walk up Yorkshire Street to his office, where once he himself is reputed to have spent time bonking a lass on the office desk before breakfast?
The Busker said 'he can class me how he likes but I've got a license from the Council for what I do!'
He then told me how he 'felt guilty' when sometimes the local beggars throw money into his collecting tin, and he expressed surprise at how Mr. Danczuk had got away for so long in this town with his own disreputable conduct.
As I wandered off, the Busker began singing:  'I'll Do It My Way'
Meanwhile yesterday, when it comes to spare change Danczuk's former wife, Ms. Karen Danczuk, tweeted cheerfully about 'That moment when you find money in a coat you've not worn for a few weeks'.*

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Tameside union official slams MP's over ignorance on Benefit Sanctions!

MANY of Charles Dickens' characters, have become archetypal English types. This is no less true, when we look at English politics. The Pecksniff's and Podsnap's, Gradgrind's and Bounderby's, seem to be prolific in the Tory party and in the House of Commons. Some of these MP's, seem to have fallen straight out of the pages of a Dicken's novel.  The character of John Podsnap, who appears in 'Our Mutual Friend', has become a model for English middle-class pomposity, complacency, and condescension, and represents a person who cannot face up to unpleasant facts.  

There was a great deal of humbug and 'Podsnappery' on show during the debate on the 'Benefit Claimants Sanctions Bill', which took place in the House of Commons on 2 December 2016.  The level of ignorance that was displayed by some MP's and their refusal to face up to unpleasant facts, was quite astonishing.  While it was apparent that some Tory MP's swallow the official drivel about sanctions, others had clearly put their consciences in cold storage.  Not only have people been driven to hunger and food-banks because of unfair sanctions, they have also been driven to suicide.

Despite repeated assurances by Tory stooges that benefit sanctions have had a benign effect on claimants and have not driven people to suicide, in 2014, it was reported that the DWP had carried out '60 peer reviews following the death of a customer' since 2012. A 'peer-review' is triggered when suicide or alleged suicide is 'associated with DWP activity'.

In a letter sent to four MPs, including Angela Rayner, the MP for Ashton-under-Lyne, Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trades Union Council, condemned the appalling level of ignorance and indifference that was displayed by some MP's during the debate on Benefit Sanctions.  He wrote:

'I don't suppose that any of us should be surprised to hear this sort of thing. Even in the mid-1860's, when according to reports, people were dying of starvation in the streets of London at a rate of about two a week, there were plenty in the House of Commons, who denied it, or dismissed it, as the work of providence - the poor will always be with us.'  Read More...

Members of Tameside TUC have been protesting every Thursday against benefit sanctions outside Ashton Jobcentre since August 2014. For further information call Steve on 0161 338 8465 or email

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Parliament Gets Vote on Brexit!

THE Supreme Court has ruled today that Parliament must vote on whether the government can start the Brexit process.
This judgement means Theresa May cannot begin talks with the EU until MPs, and peers give their backing - although this is now expected to happen in time for the government's 31 March deadline.
But crucially, the court ruled the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies did not need a say.
During the Supreme Court hearing, campaigners argued that denying the UK Parliament a vote was undemocratic and a breach of long-standing constitutional principles.
They said that triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty - getting formal exit negotiations with the EU under way - would mean overturning existing UK law, so MPs and peers should decide.
The Decision of the Supreme Court
Reading out the judgement, Supreme Court President Lord Neuberger said:
'By a majority of eight to three, the Supreme Court today rules that the government cannot trigger Article 50 without an act of Parliament authorising it to do so.' 
He added:  'Withdrawal effects a fundamental change by cutting off the source of EU law, as well as changing legal rights.  The UK's constitutional arrangements require such changes to be clearly authorised by Parliament.'
The court also rejected, unanimously, arguments that the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Northern Ireland Assembly should get to vote on Article 50 before it is triggered. 
But Nicola Sturgeon has said that the Scottish government will propose legislation allowing Holyrood to have a say in the triggering of Article 50.
The Scottish Problem?
The justices held back from insisting that the devolved administrations would have a vote or a say on the process. That was, as described by a member of Team May, the "nightmare scenario".
The Scottish National Party has said it would not try to veto Brexit, but there is no question that having a vote on Article 50 in the Holyrood Parliament could have been politically troublesome for the government. After the judgement the BBC reported that it seems like an unexploded bomb.
And second, the Supreme Court also held back from telling the government explicitly what it has to do next. The judgement is clear that it was not for the courts but for politicians to decide how to proceed next.
That means, possibly as early as tomorrow, ministers will put forward what is expected to be an extremely short piece of legislation in the hope of getting MPs to approve it, perhaps within a fortnight.

Housing, People & Regionalism in the UK

by Brian Bamford  
AT the Green Gathering in the Methodist Hall Oldham Street in Manchester, last Saturday, Dr. Roz Fox from Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), a qualitative analyst, said: 
'The city of Manchester is the fastest growing city outside of London, and there have been interim talks about the city needing 200,000 homes by 2030.'  The academic  argued that 'housing is not just about bricks and mortar, but more importantly 'about people; the local labour market; land availability and social facilities.'   
This all has now to be accomplished in an era of public service cuts and an increasingly ageing population.  
This has to happen at a time when devolution is becoming fashionable.  According to Dr. Fox, the challenges now are what type of properties are required, and most important how do with involve people in the decision-making.   
Meanwhile, last Tuesday, in Haringey civic centre councillors were heckled while debating plans to rip communities apart, and hand control to a private entity.  Aditya Chakrabortty wrote about the Haringey case on Friday 20th, January 2017:  'At its heart is a programme that is among the most audacious I've ever seen.  Haringey wants to privatise huge swaths of public property: family homes, school buildings, its biggest library.  All of it will be stuck in a private fund worth £2bn.'  The fear is that areas of north Manchester between Bury, Rochdale and Oldham something rather similar is in danger of happening as armies of protesters gather to protect what they perceive as the threat to the Green Belt. 
In an article about anti-social behavior in the North East, Neil Tweedie in the Mail on Saturday last November, claimed that 'Grimsby is a long way from the oak-paneled conference rooms of the government departments in Whitehall...' but that 'Cameron's project to "cure" Broken Britain (started in 2011) ' had cost '£450m' and it had 'achieved nothing-apart from exposing Whitehall incompetence, deceitful councils, the vanity of politicians... and how they squander YOUR money'.

Regions of the UK

In England, the culture of centralism dominates in a strange way of a kind of surburban relationship and attachment to London.  In 1905, the novelist Henry James declared:  'All England is in suburban relation (to London).'  
Since the beginning of the 20th Century the south and particularly London have come to dominate the English economy and culture.  The historian, Tristram Hunt, in concluding his book 'Building Jerusalem' (2004) wrote:  'The corporate and financial stampede southward was quickly followed by the political parties, the media (including the Manchester Guardian), the professional establishment (from lawyers to doctors to accountants to architects), the cultural elite, even the representatives of organised labour.' 
Centralisation is the problem confronting this country.  One or two comments last week, on this NV Blog suggested that DevoManc, as it is now being presented, is a top-down phenomena.  
The regions and localities of the England, unlike Scotland, lack the self-confidence and imagination required to promote a bold self-identity that could compare with provinces in France or the regionalism on the Spanish peninsular.  Notions of federalism seem alien in the English regions. 
I think that in Northern Voices' we have identified a broad North-South dichotomy, but the various particular regions lack confidence and up to now have had a provincial insecurity in relation to the metropolis that is London. 
This has not always been the case, Tristram Hunt again in 'Building Jerusalem' wrote:  'In the Victorian era, that metropolitan imperialism appeared out-dated as the great northern civilisations established themselves as core components of the cultural firmament.' 
Neither the Green Gathering last Saturday nor the Andy Burnham Manifesto Meeting last Thursday tackled this problem of building an awareness of regional identity, although in the workshops of the Burnham meeting it was asked 'How do we change mind-sets?'.

The Future of Federalism in the UK?

In France the French Revolution finished off the work of Louis XIV and gave France a powerful highly centralised state.  In Spain the Liberal Revolution imitated this development.  Then in both countries came a reaction to this centralisation with movements for greater local and municipal liberty. 
In France this reaction was best expressed by Pierre Joseph Proudhon, who put forward those ideas which, he believed, the French Revolution had come into existence to fulfil, but which had been diverted by the ruthless political action of the Jacobins. 
In Spain, with its intense provincial feelings and local patriotisms, one would have expected the movement towards decentralisation to be even greater,but because of the consequences for Spain after the Napoleonic Wars and the fact that Carlism drew into its ranks many of the forces of resistance to Liberal centralism, these feelings didn't for some time make their appearance among the parties of the Left.  Only as an result of the work of Pi y Margall, a Catalan, who knew and understood the social and political ideas of Proudhon, did he grasp that these ideas best suited the aspirations of his countrymen.  It was through the efforts of Pi y Margall that the Federal movement in Spain grew in the 1860s.  
Unlike France and Spain, no such popular radical movement to express the local and regional spirit in a federalist manner has yet developed in England.  This may be because as an island we have been isolated from the continental currents which are still prevalent in Europe.  It may be because anarchism and organised regionalism, have been half-baked traditions.  Marxism, even though the Communist Party itself has never caught on in Britain, has had a wider influence in the universities than anarchism or federalism.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Unite Union Machine Moves to Crown McCluskey

LAST week, with the start of nominations for the new General Secretary of Unite the Union, the Unite bureaucracy moved swiftly to back Leonard David  McCluskey (born 23 July 1950), who has been the General secretary of Unite since 2011.  According to his Wikipedia entry he previously spent some years working on the Liverpool Docks before to becoming a full-time union official.
On the 16th January 2017, Tim Lezard in Union News reported:
'Len McCluskey has swept the board in support from officers and reps in Unite in his bid to be re-election the union’s general secretary.
'McCluskey, who is standing against Gerard Coyne and Ian Allison, has won the backing of nine out of Unite’s ten regions as well as the vast majority of officers, sectoral and regional committee chairs and executive members.' 
Meanwhile, Guido Fawkes on December 22nd, 2016 wrote on his Blog that the 'Pro-Assad agitprop rag the Morning Star has endorsed Len McCluskey for the Unite leadership.'

Guido Fawkes added:  'Their floppy-haired, Oxford-educated editor Ben Chacko explains:  “Mr McCluskey’s support and advice has been of great value to us throughout his leadership”.'
Guido reminds us that 'Chacko’s (Morning Star) paper is in line to receive a good deal more than “advice” should Red Len be re-appointed General Secretary of Britain’s wealthiest union. During McCluskey’s current tenure “support” meant thousands of full-colour Morning Star subscription mail shots sent out to Unite branches across Britain at members’ expense.'
 It seems that in one leaflet Mr. McCluskey decreed:   'There is no substitute for reading the paper but you could also take out a shareholding in the Morning Star and send a regular monthly sum to the paper’s Fighting Fund.'
McCluskey became an officer of the TGWU on Merseyside in 1979, and was its campaign organiser throughout the 1980s, during that time he supported the Militant tendency, but was not a member of it.

McCluskey was elected as the National Secretary of the TGWU General Workers Group in 1990, and moved to London to work at the union headquarters.   In 2004 he became the TGWU's national organiser for the service industries.   In 2007, he was appointed as the Assistant General Secretary for Industrial Strategy of the newly merged Unite the Union.  He defines himself as being on the left of the union, and has been given the label of "Red Len" in the British press.

In 2010, McCluskey stood for election as General Secretary of Unite to replace joint-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, who had both announced their retirement.
On 21 November 2010, it was announced that McCluskey had won the election.[
McCluskey took office as the General Secretary on 1 January 2011.  In 2013, McCluskey announced that he would be running for re-election as General Secretary.[6] He was re-elected in 2013 with the following results posted. The full election results of those elections are as follows:
Len McCluskey: 144,570 votes.
Jerry Hicks: 79,819 votes.
Number of ballot papers found to be invalid: 1,412.
Total number of valid votes cast: 224,389.
Turnout: 15.2 per cent.
History of mishandling the Falkirk election & disaffiliation threat.
In July 2013, McCluskey accused the Labour Party of 'picking the wrong fight' over the selection of a prospective candidate in the Falkirk constituency.  He described Labour party headquarters' handling of the matter as 'nothing short of disgraceful'.[8]
In November 2013, McCluskey denied fresh claims that his Unite Union had tried to prevent a Labour Party investigation into alleged vote rigging in Falkirk.
In March 2015, McCluskey threatened to disaffiliate Unite from Labour and launch a new workers' party if Labour lost the 2015 General Election.
After moving to London as part of the T&GWU national operation in 1991 whilst still married, his partner Jennie Formby (née Sandle), gave birth to a child at Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.

In 1994, McCluskey made headlines after it was revealed that he had received a subsidized loan of £90,000 to buy a house with Formby in NW10, London.  Mr. McCluskey lives with his partner Paula Lace.   In 2013, Jennie Formby was appointed Unite's political director on £75,000, replacing Steve (Stephen) Hart, who was the son of Judith Hart, Baroness Hart of South Lanark.
 Clashes in the current Election for General Secretary
McCluskey and one of the other candidates Kevin Coyne have clashed over the airwaves.  Speaking on the BBC’s Pienaar’s Politics, McCluskey accused his challenger of being a 'puppet of Labour’s hard right'.  Coyne responded, saying:

'Absolutely I am not a puppet.  The reality is I have a vision and a change agenda for our union that is about putting in back in the hand of the members and making the union focus on the issues that are important to them.'

Meanwhile, Ian Allinson in December criticised McCluskey for suggesting that workers could benefit from reforms to the free movement of people when Britain leaves the European Union.

 Princess Anne Hospital in Southampton.[1][3][11] In 1994, McCluskey made headlines after it was revealed that he had received a subsidized loan of £90,000 to buy a house with Formby in NW10, London.[12] McCluskey lives with his partner Paula Lace. In 2013, Jennie Formby was appointed Unite's political director on £75,000, replacing Steve (Stephen) Hart, who was the son of Judith Hart, Baroness Hart of South Lanark

TGWU General Workers Group in 1990, and moved to London to work in the union's national headquarters.[1][3]
TGWU in Merseyside in 1979 and was its campaign organiser throughout the 1980s,[3][5] during which he supported Militant tendency, but was not a member of it.[1]

McCluskey was elected as the National Secretary of the TGWU General Workers Group in 1990, and moved to London to work in the union's national headquarters.[1][3] In 2004 he became the TGWU's national organiser for the service industries.[3] In 2007, he was appointed as the Assistant General Secretary for Industrial Strategy of the newly merged Unite the Union.[3] He defines himself as being on the left of the union, and has been given the label of "Red Len" in the British press because of his involvement in Unite's dispute with British Airways.[5]
In 2010, McCluskey stood for election as General Secretary of Unite to replace joint-General Secretaries Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley, who had both announced their retirement. On 21 November 2010, it was announced that McCluskey had won the election.[3] Derek Simpson retired a few weeks later, in December 2010, and Tony Woodley followed shortly after that, leaving McCluskey to take office as the General Secretary on 1 January 2011.[5] In 2013, McCluskey announced that he would be running for re-election as General Secretary.[6] He was re-elected in 2013 with the following results posted. The full election results are as follows:
Len McCluskey: 144,570 votes.
Jerry Hicks: 79,819 votes.
Number of ballot papers found to be invalid: 1,412.
Total number of valid votes cast: 224,389.
Turnout: 15.2 per cent.

'Pro-Assad agitprop rag the Morning Star has endorsed Len McCluskey for the Unite leadership. Their floppy-haired, Oxford-educated editor Ben Chacko explains:
“Mr McCluskey’s support and advice has been of great value to us throughout his leadership.”
Guido concluded his critique:  'Len’s “support” has indeed been of “great value” to the Morning Star, least they can do is repay the favour…'

“We’re backing Len” – McCluskey sweeps board with endorsements from officers and reps
16th January 2017 Tim Lezard   News   No comments
An advert in the Morning Star, showing the nominations received by Len McCluskey
An advert in the Morning Star, showing the nominations received by Len McCluskey
An advert in the Morning Star, showing the nominations received by Len McCluskey
Len McCluskey has swept the board in support from officers and reps in Unite in his bid to be re-election the union’s general secretary.
McCluskey, who is standing against Gerard Coyne and Ian Allison, has won the backing of nine out of Unite’s ten regions as well as the vast majority of officers, sectoral and regional committee chairs and executive members.
He said: “I am deeply honoured to have received the over-whelming support of the people who give their time to build this great union and defend our members.
“Their vote of confidence in me is phenomenal.  It sends a signal to our members that despite what one of my opponents may say, this union has gone from strength to strength under my leadership.
“This sends a clear signal to Unite members that their union is stable and united, determined to deliver for them in our workplaces – and wants to stay on this course.
“I hope now that this will persuade one general secretary candidate to desist from the nonsense claims he is making about our union, assisted all too eagerly by parts of the media who are openly hostile to this movement.
“The truth about Unite is that it is proudly united, democratic, progressive and will never, as long as I lead it, ever turn its back on its members.”
Meanwhile, McCluskey and Coyne clashed yesterday over the airwaves. Speaking on the BBC’s Pienaar’s Politics, McCluskey accused his challenger of being a “puppet of Labour’s hard right”. Coyne responded, saying: “Absolutely I am not a puppet. The reality is I have a vision and a change agenda for our union that is about putting in back in the hand of the members and making the union focus on the issues that are important to them.”

Cut the Crap of a Unite Coronation!

No to elitism & top-down trade unionism!
from an Ian Allinson e-mail - headline & sub-title northern voices
THE shortened nomination period, along with the unexpected election, is a key part of how this was intended to be a coronation rather than a contest.  We've now had one week of the five weeks for nominations.
Our arguments are being very well received in workplaces and at hustings. I've posted some tips if your branch or workplace wants to organise a hustings.
Thanks to London GEMS, South Croydon Arriva bus, Tyneside Engineering, Coventry & Warwickshire Tom Mann, Bury commercial and SCA Prudhoe branches that have told me they have nominated me so far.
Six is a good start, but we'll need to up the pace if we're to be sure of being on the ballot paper.  We have to assume that the union will find ways to rule out a fair proportion of our nominations, so have to aim well above the 50.  The other candidates have lavishly funded campaign machines - we're relying on ourselves to fight for every nomination and to ensure members can decide the future of our union based on the issues, not on who has rich and powerful backers.
If you win a nomination at your meeting, please let me know right away and make sure all the paperwork is sent off accurately and promptly.  Branches can do this online, which goes directly to ERS and avoids the possibility of Unite mislaying your nomination.
Bury Commercial branch contacted local press following their nomination and got some coverage, which all helps make members aware of the campaign.  The Tom Mann branch decided to donate to the costs campaign.
Don't forget that as well as branch nominations, every workplace can also make a nomination, unless it is in a branch covering just that one workplace.  Full details of how to nominate me are here. Nominations at workplaces are just as important as branches.  They may not be able to contribute financially, but workplace meetings often involve more / different members than branch meetings.
Please let me know:
  • Where and when your nominating meeting is
  • If you'd like me or a representative to come and speak at your meeting or to visit your workplace - please give me as much detail as possible
  • If you'd like some leaflets, how many you'd like and where to send them to
If you support the campaign, please make sure you've left your details here. Let me know what you're doing and how it's going.
This week I've posted new material on on sexism, bullying and harassment in Unite, and on the arguments around Trident, partnership and diversification - I'm the only candidate clearly opposed to Trident. The web site also carries my campaign pledges, many of which link to articles with a more detailed explanation. These are copied below.
There's no let up in the pressure from employers and government, so we can afford no let up in our campaign. More of the same isn't good enough!

Ian's pledges

Communication, participation and a bottom-up union

  • Champion lay member democracy and participation, don't undermine it.
  • Fortnightly email bulletins direct to all activists, not filtered through officers and committees.
  • Support members being able to elect the officers who represent us. Not only would this increase accountability, it would reduce the power of patronage and the climate of fear in the union.
  • Tackle the non-functioning branches that deny members a voice and access to resources.
  • Oppose the exclusion of community and retired members from participation in Unite structures.
  • I'd keep my current wage, not the inflated General Secretary salary, to avoid giving the hostile media ammunition against us.

A stronger union, fit for the future

  • Involve members, officers and staff in a major review of Unite's structures to make them fit for purpose in the 21st century. Shift resources and power away from regions to better support the vast majority of Unite workplaces that are in employers spanning multiple regions. Improve support for company and sub-sector combine committees.
  • Encourage a spirit of experimentation in organising. Documents and publicise case studies of lessons from members’ organising and campaigning efforts and successes. We spend too much effort trying to reinvent the wheel.
  • A flexible facility for levies for strike funds etc, not restricted to where all members are in workplace branches.
  • Access to a Dispute Unit for all disputes from an early stage. All members in dispute should feel like they have a million members behind them, not be left to fend for themselves.
  • Expand the lay companion scheme to involve more members (including those not in paid work) and free up officer time from casework.
  • Overhaul education, which is essential for organising and changing the union's culture, in the light of funding cuts, and ensure fair treatment for our tutors.
  • Build on our organising success by increasing lay member involvement.

 Equality and young members' issues in our industrial agenda, not an optional extra

 Campaign now: backing Corbyn shouldn't mean waiting for him

  • Extend Unite's support for Jeremy Corbyn, not only through Unite's role inside the Labour Party, but by grass roots campaigning and action which can win people over. Stop undermining him on key policies and calling his leadership into question.

 Fight for workers' rights, don't tail our employers' agendas

  • Organise regional conferences bringing together campaigns for civil liberties and against state repression, so that our opposition to anti-union legislation stops being isolated and ineffective.
  • Challenge the culture of partnership - we are not "all in it together". Post-Brexit Unite should be prioritising defence of workers' rights, not tailing employers' demands for free trade or protectionism.
  • Support a million climate jobs, not costly and destructive vanity projects like Trident, HS2, Heathrow expansion and Hinkley Point. Proactively fight for diversification to protect members whose jobs will be affected by changes such as climate change, changes in defence policy and automation. Call a conference of defence workers, the defence teams from Labour and the SNP, and experts on diversification.
  • Investigate the role of union officials in blacklisting members. Officially extend every assistance to the Blacklist Support Group in rooting out collusion and backdoor deals with the employers.


Lies, damn lies and newspapers!

by Les May

TODAY, Saturday 21 January, 'The "i"’ newspaper deliberately printed a lie about Jeremy Corbyn.  How do I know it is a lie?  Because the day before they printed the truth.

On Friday the paper reported that with reference to triggering Article 50 Corbyn had said;

'It’s very clear, the referendum made a decision that Britain is to leave the EU. It wasn’t to destroy jobs or living standards or communities, but it was to leave the EU and have a different relationship in the future.  I’ve made it very clear, the Labour party accepts and respects the decision of the British people.' and ‘Asked if that meant a three-line whip to force Labour MPs into line, Mr Corbyn replied; It means Labour MPs will be asked to vote in that direction.’

Today, in the same newspaper, that had become ‘Jeremy Corbyn orders Labour MPs to vote in favour of exiting the EU.’

And it didn’t stop there.  On Friday Rob Merrick wrote in the his article ‘About five have said they will vote against Article 50 and four Shadow Cabinet members are rumoured to be considering a revolt.’  So by my reckoning that makes between five and nine who are unhappy with the policy.

By Saturday political editor Nigel Morris had discovered a ‘rebellion’ amongst Labour MPs with ‘Dozens of MPs could rebel…’ and ‘According to one report, as many as 80 could defy the leader’.  Or it could all be Morris flying a kite.

I doubt that anyone in Corbyn’s team will bother to complain.  

When a complaint about a Corbyn interview with Laura Kuenssberg shown in BBC 1’s News at Six in November 2015 was made it took 14 months to get an adjudication.  Even though the BBC Trust upheld complaints about lack of truth and lack of impartiality in the report the director of news James Harding declined to accept the censure.

The truth matters.  Printing speculation and quoting unknown sources influences what we believe, reinforces prejudices and leaves us open to manipulation.  The truth, however unpalatable to our personal prejudices, leaves us free to make our own choices.

Labour MPs saw the News at Six report, believed it to be a true account of what Corbyn had said and used it to attack him in a later meeting.  That’s why the truth matters.  The BBC trust rejected claims from the BBC that this was evidence that the report was an accurate reflection of what Corbyn had said, pointing out that this was a circular argument.  It beggars belief that anyone claiming to have integrity would try such a ploy.

In recent months every newspaper has tried to solicit the support of its readers in attacking Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013. To judge from the stories they have been putting out triggering the implementation of Section 40 means an end to a ‘free press’.

Now I readily accept that a ‘free press’, that is a press free from government control, is a necessary condition for living in a liberal democracy.  That is ‘necessary’ but not ‘sufficient’.  A liberal democracy also needs a press which is ‘honest’; that is does not lie outright or by implication, ‘fair’; that is reports the activities of all the agents involved in social and political debate and ‘diverse’; that is it is not in the hands of a few proprietors and represents a wide spectrum of political views.

To put it bluntly; in spite its pretensions to be guardians of our freedoms, and holders to account of the mighty and the powerful, the British press is ‘piss poor’.  And the BBC is increasingly going that way.

In spite of what is being claimed Section 40 does not seem to be about government control of the press.  It’s about redressing the huge imbalance which exists between the people who have lies told about them in the press and the people who do the lying.

We already have draconian libel laws in this country.  But for ordinary people who have lies told about them they are just too costly to invoke.  The press has, and will always have, much deeper pockets than the rest of us.  Suing for libel, even if you have a very strong case and eventually win, is not for the faint hearted.  But look at the anti-Section 40 propaganda in the press and you will see that the little people do not figure.  

If Section 40 is implemented the judiciary is not going to allow frivolous and unreasonable cases to clog the courts.  All the press has to do to avoid falling foul of Section 40 is, a) get the facts right in the first place, and b) if a mistake is made, as it inevitably will be, print a proper correction with at least equal prominence.

Getting the facts right might mean nothing more than having more bodies in the office who have the task of checking pieces for factual accuracy and preventing speculation and opinion being passed off as fact.  Perhaps we should call them sub-editors.

For my part I mostly get my international news from Aljazeera on Freeview channel 108 and rely on the Irish press for European news.  No doubt these have there own prejudices which I have to filter out.  But Aljazeera’s news and documentary output, a bit like Heinken, reaches the parts the Beeb does not reach.   

Friday, 20 January 2017

'Fifty Shades of Grey' at Bury Unite Branch

ALLEGATIONS that 'pressure' was put on the Bury Unite Commercial Branch to nominate Len McCluskey, the current General Secretary of Unite the Union, for re-election in the forthcoming elections for Unite's top job have been rebutted by the local branch secretary Brian Bamford.   The claim was made on Twitter by one of the candidates that the presence of two Unite full-time organisers at last Monday's branch meeting was a failed attempt to influence the Bury branch to vote for Mr. McCluskey, a strong backer of Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Party leader.

The Unite union at present funds the Labour Party to the tune of many millions of pounds every year.

The row about the Bury branch being 'pressurised' to back McCluskey arose because of a Tweet on Ian Allinson's Twitter account after the branch meeting, implying that the organisers were there to influence the result.  Mr. Allinson is one of the three candidates standing for the top position of Unite General secretary. 

Since then, Mr. Bamford has insisted that 'the Bury Unite Branch blooms with binmen not shrinking violets and there is no way we could be leaned on by the union bosses'. 

The two organisers were allowed to participate in the discussion over the nomination, but not to dominate the discourse or to vote.

The organisers were permitted to speak but naturally not to vote, because the Bury Unite Branch  passionately believes in 'free speech' and 'lively debate'.

It was suggested during the discussions that the nomination of Ian Allinson to appear on the ballot paper would have the effect of 'splitting the left vote' between McCluskey and Allinson.  Gerard Coyne, who is a Unite full-time organiser in the Midlands, is the third candidate and is reputed to be a 'right-wing Blairite'.

This was contested by the branch secretary Mr. Bamford, who said that the membership should have 'the widest possible choice' between the different candidates, and he claimed that the critics of Allinson by using the 'split-vote' argument were seeking to shrink the choice before the membership.  In contrast 'we' the Unite Bury branch, wanted to 'open things up and not to narrow things down'.  Bamford claimed that even though he may possibly vote for Len McCluskey it was still vital to have someone like Ian Allinson on the ballot sheet.

To argue that there should be only two choices between 'left and right' is to create a thread-bare bipolar dichotomy of 'cowboys and Indians' or 'black and white'.  This is a thoroughly 20th century mentality, and in essence the Bury branch was preferring to embrace the spirit of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' in their approach; what they wanted, if I am interpreting the spirit of the meeting correctly, was the broadest possible discussion, debate and openness within the realm of liberty.

Those at the meeting who took the 'split vote' view then went on to say that we should look to the established experienced of experts like Mr. McCluskey from Liverpool, a professional official with many years of in the saddle of officialdom, rather than a new boy such as a shop-floor activist like Mr. Allinson from Blackley, Manchester. 

This faith in the expertise of the office-holder is as feeble-minded as the bipolar dichotomy, and is just another mediocre left-over of the old 20th century modernity.  It is so full of holes that the average bin-man can see through it without so much as looking up from his football results. 

The bin-men of Bradley Fold, and the others on the branch committee, eventually came to a carefully calibrated conclusion, and were in no way confused or overwhelmed by any hypothetical 'hierarchical pressures' from above.

This was demonstrated by the branch's clear unanimous vote to nominate the local Manchester lad, Ian Allinson, for the position as General Secretary of Unite the Union.  We must now await to see how many Unite members vote for him.

Green Party & Future of Housing

Future of Housing and remembering Deyika Nzeribe, Green Party Gathering

Date and Time

Sat 21 January 2017
14:00 – 16:00 GMT


Methodist Cental Buildings
Oldham Street
M1 1JQ
Open to all:
JOIN us for one of our regular Green Gatherings. Due to the sudden death of our Greater Manchester Mayoral candidate, Deyika Nzeribe, the event will combine a focus on housing with a chance to remember Deyika. After some thought we felt that this event should go ahead as Deyika was passionate about providing good quality housing for all.
We will be discussing the future of housing in Manchester and Greater Manchester. as well as celebrating the life of Deyika We want to hear ideas from you.
What will happen?
There will be speakers with a question and answer session on the topic of housing
Speakers include:
Dr Roz Fox
Roz is a Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University where she teaches on the undergraduate Public Service degree and Masters programme in Public Administration
Roz is also the academic lead of the university wide Social Housing Innovation, Research and Enterprise (SHIRE) network that provides research, consultancy and support to housing associations and their customers across the North West and Cheshire.
Charlotte Allen
Is a member of Steady State Manchester. She helped draw up Steady State's paper ‘Housing in the Viable Economy’ which will shortly be available on our website. She is also a member of Greater Manchester Housing Action.
She trained as an architect and town planner and worked in London and Lancashire before going to Mozambique, where she lived for nearly 30 years, working in urban and rural development.
Following this there will be a conversation around the life of Deyike Nzeribe. We will talk about the projects he was involved with, what he wanted to achieve and how we can pay tribute to him.
Expect: free flowing ideas, a relaxed open atomsphere, biscuits, a chance to have conversations about housing.
Don't expect: long speeches and quizzes on obscure policy points.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Andy Burnham Says 'I'll be a people's Mayor!'

by Brian Bamford
TODAY at The Albert Halls in Bolton's Victoria Square the Labour candidate for the Greater Manchester Mayor's job told those who gathered to hear his manifesto for 'A safe, inclusive and diverse Greater Manchester' that he would be a 'People's Mayor' and a 'Grass-roots Mayor'
Mr. Burnham declared himself in favour of 'Safer Streets' and promised to work with the Chief Constable to start recruiting new police officers that reflect the diversity of Greater Manchester.  He promised to create 'a different relationship between the State and the Voluntary sector'
We were told that 'Crime is on the rise' and that 'Deep inequalities remain', and that 'we have seen an increasing amount of young people sleeping on the streets'.
The Labour candidate for Mayor worried about the cost of transport and bus fares, though he never said how often he used a bus, he spoke of housing problems and it was claimed that many young people will never be able to own their own house.  It was said that pensioners were made to feel guilty for claiming state pensions.  That scapegoating was prevalent in what was called the 'blame culture' of British society were everyone knows his or her place and fears the disruption that foreigners may bring:  it was said that one Polish nurse had been abused by people who she was treating in the Bolton community, telling her to 'Get back to Poland!'
Andy asked us 'Why has Mental Health shot up the social agenda?', and suggested that the 'voluntary sector' was 'person sensitive' while the 'Statutory sector' was much less inclined to address a 'personalised approach'
He claimed that he had in mind a new apprenticeship system which would draw upon the good things in the traditional apprenticeship and blend it with new concepts:  saying that he had had contact with the union UCATT. 
Regarding care in the community he said that he wanted to recruit the help of the Communication Worker's Union (CWU) to get the post-men to keep an eye on old and frail people in society.  This, he claimed, would reduce the isolation and insecurity people felt.
What was wanted was 'a young-people's cabinet to advise the Mayor on all areas of policy and ensure young peoples' voices are heard'.
Then in keeping with the latest fashion, Mr Burnham stated:  'I am proud that Greater Manchester has such a thriving LGTB community, rivalling London as the LGBT capital.'
Nothing was said about the Labour councillors in Rochdale who last month voted themselves a 34% increase, though one of the Rochdale Labour councillors at the Burnham manifesto meeting quietly told me that he was not going to take the rise, and when asked what the Rochdale Council leader, Richard Farnell, was thinking of by forcing the rise through on a whipped vote he said:  'He's Big Headed and doesn't care about UKIP!'
Nothing was said about the Labour Council leader of Manchester City Council, Richard Lees, who had addressed a meeting of Voluntary Organisations on Devo-Manc at which he said he wanted to see ward and hospital closures across Manchester, including Tameside because he believed that many people are in hospital who ought not to be, and could have their needs better met elsewhere.
Fear of the threat of UKIP was ever present in the workshops.

Tolerating Danczuk in the Labour Party?

by Les May
THE report in yesterday’s Evening Standard gossip column about Simon Danczuk’s continuing suspension from the Labour party should be taken with a pinch of salt.  Again Simon is telling us about his understanding what Labour party officials had decided.  We had the same sort of story just after New Year when he told the Manchester Evening News, the Daily Mirror and the Rochdale Observer that 'Labour has "no choice" but to accept him back into the party in the new year' and 'I’ve met with chief whip Nick Brown and he says there’s no case to answer.'
Clearly the NEC members thought they did have a choice.
It suits Danczuk to have someone write he’s ‘never been on good terms with the Corbyn gang’.  It lets him pose as the innocent victim of a stitch up by Corbyn and his supporters.  And it lets him elevate himself to the status of a man of ideas by being thought of as a ‘critic’.
Now it’s certainly true that there are Corbyn supporters, probably quite a lot, who were happy to see him suspended and would like to see him expelled from the party.  But, and it’s an important ‘but’, it wasn’t Corbyn who suspended him from the party it was the NEC and the events surrounding the 2016 leadership contest to not suggest that august body is packed out with Corbynites.
Far from Labour having ‘no choice’ but to reinstate him the truth is that Labour had ‘no choice’ but to suspend him over the sexting incident.
As I made very clear in my first comments about this incident in Northern Voices on 4 January 2016 I did not regard it as very shocking.  Sleazy Yes!  Stupid Yes! Shocking No!
The whole thing seemed to me like an extremely clumsy attempt at flirting by a lonely man with nothing better to do with his time.  But as one might expect the media reports saw his antics in a different light.  The text messages were 'vile'.  The young woman, who it turned out was a ‘financial dominatrix’, had become a 'young girl'.
Had Labour not suspended him it would appear that the party was condoning the sort of behaviour towards someone who was technically a ‘child’, which Danczuk had made his reputation condemning.  To save itself a mauling in the ‘holier than thou’ tabloids Labour had to suspend him.
But casting Simon in the role ‘collateral damage’ like this does not get him off the hook.  The public expect people in public life to have some sense of decency; some sense of how to behave.  In spite of what Danczuk would have us believe this is not about ‘morality’ or ones ‘moral’ view about what he gets up to.
In my professional life had I been found to be to have been exchanging sexually explicit texts with a young woman of 17, serious questions would have been asked about my suitability to remain in my post.  The same questions about my suitability to continue in my job would have been asked if I had kicked in a glass door which shattered and shards of which fell on my ex-wife causing her to have injuries needing more than 40 stitches.
Had I been found to be ‘bonking’ a young woman half my age it would no doubt have drawn adverse comment.  In which case I would have felt justified in suggesting that the speaker should mind their own business.  But, and it’s an another important ‘but’, had I been found to have been using my office for the assignation, I would have been sacked.
I would also have been sacked if I had claimed £11,000 in expenses to which I had no entitlement.  No one would have given me the benefit of the doubt if I had tried to claim that it was all down to poor wording of the rules about what could be claimed.  I would have been out, probably with my pension rights rescinded.
I expect Danczuk to be treated in the same way that other people in responsible positions would be treated.  And I am not alone.