Saturday, 30 September 2017

Councillor Furlong may be praying for rain!

YESTERDAY, after appearing before an independent panel, the Middleton Labour Councillor Chris Furlong  confirmed that he has not been reselected to stand in the May 2018 local election.
 
Councillor Furlong has said:  'I will not be standing anywhere next year.  I will continue as Labour councillor until May 2018 for the people of North Middleton.  I will continue to work hard and stand up for the people of North Middleton as best as I can, which I have done since 2014.'

The councillor continued to say:
'There has been speculation regards the reason of why I did not appeal the decision not to allow me on the Labour selection panel for next year’s local election.  I did originally appeal, and it was an appeal I thought that I would be successful with.  However, I decided to withdraw that appeal.'

All of the above was reported on Rochdale online, but what was not reported was Councillor Furlong's final paragraph:
'I have been informed that there may be information that may be made public during the forthcoming Cambridge House/Knowl View Inquiry about an individual.  I would like to point out that the individual in question is not me or anyone actually connected with me and this information was not even provided by me, however, this information has helped me come to the decision to withdraw my appeal.  I cannot say any more until after the inquiry when I will expand further on why this information helped me decide not to appeal and I will not be making any further comment until then.'

Given the continuing dire speculation surrounding the position of the Labour leader of Rochdale Council, Richard Farnell, with regard to what may come out of the forthcoming enquiry into Knowl View school, it may be that Councillor Furlong is being a trifle tactical here, and even, dare one say it, praying for rain?
******

Friday, 29 September 2017

Problems of Selection in Rochdale Labour Party?

Editorial remarks:

THE statement of appeal below was sent to N.V. a few days 
ago by Stefan Cholewka, Secretary GMATUC and Secretary 
of  Rochdale TUC.  Both Mr. Cholewka, and Middleton Councillor Chris Furlong, both who haven't been selected for the 2018 Rochdale MBC elections, were critical of the municipal gravy train established under the leadership of the current Labour Party council boss Richard Farnell earlier this year.  
We could not possible comment as to whether this has anything to do with them failing  to get selected to stand in next year's local elections.  Hence, we have decided to produce Stefan's introduction and appeal statement below without comment.

******
ALONG with Cllr. Chris Furlong from Heywood & Middleton CLP I have been rejected from the panel to stand in the LA elections in 2018.  I have formally appealed the decision to Andy Smith at NW Labour. An appeal panel will be held on Monday 2nd October.
I am posting my Appeal Statement see below
If comrades from Rochdale CLP support my statement / my candidature to be included on the panel please will you agree to sign the statement in order to support my appeal process.
You can email your support to: stefan.cholewka@btinternet.com. 

 Please include which  TUC / CLP ward you are in if applicable.

APPEAL STATEMENT
Stefan Cholewka: written submission for the Appeal that will take place on Monday 2nd October 2017 at 7.45pm
Venue will be: 45 York Street, Heywood, and Lancashire, OL10 4NN
On Sunday 17th September at 12.00 noon at Liz McInnes MP’s office at 45 York Street, Heywood, Lancashire, OL10 4NN I was told to go upstairs and await my panel interview as they were running late.  Three candidates were already in the upper office when I entered.  A further candidate arrived after me.
All four candidates preceded me in very quick succession.  I was the last candidate to be interviewed even though the fourth candidate turned up after I had arrived.  It seemed that I had been deliberately set up to be interviewed last.
Three Labour party members from Tameside council, one being the CLP secretary, interviewed me.  From the get-go I was subjected to hostile questioning that went on for nearly 50 mins.  This was in sharp contrast to the very short time it took to interview all the other candidates.
For every question I answered there were three to four hostile supplementary questions. It seems that being the secretary of GMATUC and local Rochdale TUC secretary can lead to a conflict of interest with LP policy.  I was asked specifically the question in different forms: What if TUC policy and Labour Party policy conflict?
These are extremely disquieting questions to be asked when it is Labour Party policy that all candidates and sitting Labour councillors have to be a member of a registered trade union to be eligible for office.
It seems that being a Co-operative Party member, more specifically: NW Regional Co-operative Party secretary and Rochdale Co-operative Party secretary can also lead to a conflict of interest with Labour Party policy.  I was asked specifically in different forms: What would I do if Co-operative Party policy conflicts with Labour Group policy?
I had already told the interview panel that I had already been included on the Greater Manchester Co-operative Party panel of candidates to be a Labour-Co-operative candidate for 2018.  I had also explained and that I had previously stood in Rochdale in the Spotland & Falinge ward, Balderstone ward and in West Littlleborough in 2016 as a Labour-Co-operative candidate in local government elections.
If there was not a conflict of interest then, why should there be a conflict of interest now? If I had been selected to stand on the panel at least seven times previously why was there no conflict of interest in all these instances?  I would like to know why questions concerning any conflict of interests - because I was a trade unionist and a co-operator - had not been raised in all previous occasions I had been interviewed accept this time?
Finally, being community activists can mean a conflict of interest with Labour Party policy as local residents may have different priorities from the Labour Group.  It seems that being Director Rochdale Community Energy CIC was an issue and that would conflict with Labour Group Policy.  This despite the fact that two serving Rochdale Labour Party councillors are also fellow directors.  Despite that fact that for two years a council environmental officer attended monthly meetings and reported back to the Council to develop joint collaborative projects.
I had already told the interview panel that I had already been included on the Greater Manchester Co-operative Party panel of candidates to be a Labour-Co-operative candidate for 2018.  I had also explained and that I had previously stood in Rochdale in the Spotland & Falinge ward, Balderstone ward and in West Littlleborough in 2016 as a Labour-Co-operative candidate in local government elections.
If there was not a conflict of interest then, why should there be a conflict of interest now? If I had been selected to stand on the panel at least seven times previously why was there no conflict of interest in all these instances?   I would like to know why questions concerning any conflict of interests - because I was a trade unionist and a co-operator - had not been raised in all previous occasions I had been interviewed accept this time?
Finally, being community activists can mean a conflict of interest with Labour Party policy as local residents may have different priorities from the Labour Group.  It seems that being Director Rochdale Community Energy CIC was an issue and that would conflict with Labour Group Policy.  This despite the fact that two serving Rochdale Labour Party councillors are also fellow directors.  Despite that fact that for two years a council environmental officer attended monthly meetings and reported back to the Council to develop joint collaborative projects.
So being trade unionists, a co-operator and a community activist far from making me an ideal candidate in the eyes of the panel interviewers was somehow perceived as negative attributes that cast suspicion upon myself.
It also seems that standing up to fascists marching in Rochdale is a bad thing as well.  The Tameside CLP secretary told me, immediately I had answered the very first question, that Rochdale MBC councillor's where banned from attending the two anti-fascist counter demos on two consecutive weekends in Rochdale.  So, I was asked why I had broken Labour Group policy, despite not being a councillor subject to the whip or even selected onto the panel at that stage.
They also did not like my campaigning on-line in support of the Palestinian people; specifically they did not like an on-line article I posted on the proposed changes to LP policy on Palestine coming before LP Conference.  I was told that I was attacking Labour Party policy.
Given that the article was discussing proposed changes to existing Labour Party policy and supporting the current policies I was rather puzzled as to why I should be accused of attacking Labour Party policy.
Clearly, these lines of hostile questioning had very little to do with answering the 20 prepared questions that were written down for the panel to ask me.
At the end of the interview process, or should I say inquisition, I asked the panel if they thought that I had actually broken Labour Party policy, and if so which ones, given that they seemed to be very strongly suggesting that I had already done so.  The answer I received was “NO”.

Stefan Cholewka
Secretary GMATUC - Secretary Rochdale TUC
Secretary NW Region Co-operative Party Secretary Rochdale Co-operative Party
Director Rochdale Community Energy CIC

Rochdale Chief Executive & the Abuse Scandal

LAST week, Steve Rumbelow the Chief Executive of Rochdale Council apologised for 'the events that took place at Cambridge House and Knowl View and other establishments in Rochdale' decades ago from the early 1960s.  
Mr Rumbelow said:
'The council acknowledges that there were significant failings, both in the way that Knowl View School was managed, and in the council’s response to concerns about sexual abuse within and outside the school.'
Rumbelow declares:
'That was, frankly, unforgivable. On behalf of Rochdale Borough Council, I would like to apologise sincerely to anyone who was failed by the council during those years.'
He then concludes:
'We cannot turn the clock back. But as the current chief executive of the council, working with the director of children’s services and partner agencies such as the police, and through the Rochdale Safeguarding Children’s Board, I can make sure that we continue do our level best to safeguard our children and young people now and in the future.
'The council is doing everything it can to support and work with the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) in its task and I hope that it can help us fully understand what happened in Rochdale all those years ago.'

This tearful, contrite apology by the Rochdale Chief Exec. Rumbelow comes on the eve of the IICSA hearing into evidence about Rochdale for three weeks, beginning on the 9 October.  Yet one can't help but think of it as an attempt at damage limitation, in order to draw the poison that may be expose on the body politic of Rochdale, when and if, all the evidence comes out in the near future.

Since 2012, and all the revelations about Cyril Smith promoted by the former Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, it has been the fashion owing to the Danczuk book, to blame the old Liberal Party for what happened at Cambridge House and what is alleged to have happened at Knowl View.  Sources inside the Labour are now suggesting that the findings of the current inquiry will be uncomfortable for the Rochdale Labour Party.

Afterall, Cyril Smith was a leading Labour Party councillor at the time he is said to have abused the lads at Cambridge House.

Over a year ago, a participant in the Operation Clifton told N.V. that the current leader of the Rochdale Council, Richard Farnell, had reason to be concerned if the evidence came out about his awareness of what was happening at Knowl View in the early 1990s.  Souces close to the Rochdale Labour Party are now confirming that he could well have had access to a report expressing concern about conditions at Knowl View during his term in office as leader of the Labour Party in the 1990s.

Knowl View residential school was what is called a total institution by sociologists:  prisons, hospitals, asylums, holiday camps and private schools are all forms of total institution.  Yet, Paul Rowen, another former leader of Rochdale MBC, has admitted to seeing a report on conditions at Cambridge House, and has told N.V. that it was really only a part-time total institution in so far as the lads went home at weekends.  We need to understand the context of the institution in which the abuse is alleged to have occurred.
******

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Charles Mowbray - anarchist revolutionary &

  Forest Gate-unemployed champion
by John Walker
CHARLES Mowbray (1856 - 1910) can lay claim to fame to be one of Forest Gate's most controversial political figures. He was an anarchist, who mixed with the Who's Who of the British political left in the last two decades of the nineteenth century and married the daughter of a Paris communard. 

He was imprisoned for inciting riots and spent some time politically agitating in America, from where he was deported.  He ended up in Forest Gate, with his third wife and children, working on Tariff Reform for the Tory party. This is his story.

Charles Wilfred Mowbray was born at Bishop Auckland, Co. Durham in  late 1856 and as a young man served in the Durham Light Infantry. He worked most of his life as a tailor. He married Mary, with whom he had five children (Charles, John, Richard, Grace and Frederick) in 1878.  Mary Mowbray turns out to be a minor political celebrity, being the daughter of the French Communist Joseph Benoit, who'd been active in both the 1848 revolution and the 1871 Paris Commune. She ended up with a huge funeral, locally at Manor Park cemetery - see later.

Charles Mowbray  didn't leave much record of his first contacts with revolutionary ideas, although his obituary in the Shoreditch Observer in December 1910 sheds some light. It described him as:

Once a sinewy, athletic black-haired determined man with the blazing eyes of a fanatic and a tempestuous eloquence that stirred many an open-air meeting. He became a socialist nearly thirty years ago, and joined the Socialist League.
He read widely and moved to London, living in the notorious Boundary Street (the Old Nicol) slum in Whitechapel, in the 1880's.  It is there his revolutionary politics began to flourish, as he came into contact with socialists, anarchists and communists living in the area, greatly politicised by many of the Jewish immigrants who had fled the pogroms in Russia and were determined to organise politically - from afar.

 As his obituary mentions, he joined the Socialist League at its foundation in 1884 - the organisation most closely associated with Walthamstow-born William Morris - and he described himself as an "anarchist/communist".  He became a prominent street corner speaker/political agitator, calling for rent strikes and fairer treatment of workers. He was popular with fellow tailors in the area, and has been called: "One of the greatest working class orators who ever spoke in public".


Walthamstow's William Morris, with
 whom Mowbray joined political
 forces with in the 1880's
When the police began to harass open-air meetings in 1885, he was one of those involved in a major agitation in Dod Street and Burdett Road in Limehouse in September of that year. 

On 20 September, following this meeting, he was beaten by the police there and arrested for obstruction along with other speakers.

William Morris felt that Mowbray "had done the most" but he was set free.  The publicity and outrage created by the arrests meant that 50,000 people turned out in support at Dod Street the following Sunday.


A court sketch of Mowbray,
 at one of his trials
He was again arrested at a free speech rally in Trafalgar Square on 14 June 1886 and was fined £1 with costs.

For more go to:   www.E7-NowAndThen.org, @E7_NowAndThen 

Computer Fraud, Sunday Post & The Bank

by Les May
YOU do not expect to find the most penetrating and insightful journalism in a newspaper published by a company which also produces ‘Oor Wullie’, ‘The Broons’, ‘My Weekly’ and ‘The Peoples Friend’.  But yesterday ‘The Sunday Post’ carried a detailed article about a computer fraud which needs to be more widely known.

Briefly, one of the paper’s columnists, Donald MacLeod, had had what he described as a ‘six figure sum’ filched from his account in the space of a few hours and his bank had not considered it ‘unusual activity’ and halted further transactions..

MacLeod had received a phone call from his mortgage provider.  Or at least he thought it was his mortgage provider because the caller knew his roll number, monthly payment, type of mortgage and term left.  Fairly convincing stuff.  On the basis of what the caller said MacLeod decided to take up a cheaper mortgage option.  To set things in motion a copy of his driving licence was requested.

Because his bank had insisted having his driving licence number as a ‘third level’ security check MacLeod had unwittingly given the fraudster the key to emptying not only his account but the savings accounts of two of his children.  All it required was for the fraudster to apply for online banking facilities using the ‘third level’ security check and then use this facility to make a series of electronic funds transfers to…  No one knows where.

I’d probably have just mentally filed the article had a security conscious friend not shown me a letter they had just received from their bank, HSBC.  This requested that certified copies of two separate documents be sent to a PO Box Number.   One was to prove the recipient’s identity, the other to prove their place of residence.  Plenty here for a determined fraudster to steal someone’s identity.

The icing on the cake was that for ‘speed and convenience’, you could do it online with their ‘Jumio’ tool, (at least they didn’t call it an app).   And the information would go precisely where exactly?

The ostensible reason for asking for this information is to protect customers’ accounts. But it’s not clear how this offers any protection to people who bank with HSBC.   The only beneficiary is the HSBC.   It’s the bank’s way of protecting itself from further accusations that it has a sloppy attitude to the prevention of money laundering.  In 2012 it had to pay £1.2 billion because it had inadequate controls against money laundering.  Type the words money laundering hsbcinto Google or any other search engine, and see watch the hits roll up.

If HSBC was serious about protecting customers’ accounts it would go about this exercise in a different way.  First it would be honest about why it wants the information.  Second it would use what remains of its branch network to process this information for all its customers, not just the few who spot the danger in sending identification to a PO Box or over the Internet.   Determined fraudsters with access to a colour printer can easily produce fraudulent copies of letters purporting to come from HSBC and then harvest the identification documents which flow in.  They are unlikely to go to the trouble of opening a fake bank branch.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Birmingham Bin Strike Suspended

WHEN the Unite union took the Birmingham council to the High Court, claiming the move to make workers redundant was unlawful, it resulted in a judge granting an interim injunction against the council's actions.  As a consequence Unite suspended its strike action immediately from last Thursday.

A trial will now take place in November to determine if the council has acted against the law, yet Mr. Justice Fraser urged all parties to come to an agreement before the prospect of an expensive court case.
Council Leader Quit

Former council leader John Clancy resigned following criticism of his handling of the action, which came after Labour councillors proposed a no-confidence motion in their leader.
After workers had been on strike for seven weeks, Mr Clancy struck a deal with them saying no jobs would be lost and the action was suspended.
But two weeks later a council report said the deal was 'unaffordable', and redundancy notices were issued - sending workers back to the picket lines.
Mr Clancy said a deal had never been fully agreed with the union, but days later resigned from his position saying he accepted he had made mistakes 'for which he is sorry' and took 'full responsibility'.
Reasons why the Council is making people redundant
Basically, it's all about saving money.  The council says it faces 'significant financial challenges' and needs a 'high-quality, value-for-money and reliable refuse service'.
Due to government funding cuts, the authority says spending on waste management has reduced from £71m in 2011 to £65m in 2017, and it says if it does nothing the overspend will be £5.2m in future years.
It also says that compared to other councils, Birmingham is not meeting national productivity levels and it needs to improve.  Failing to improve productivity and efficiency is 'not an option', according to the local authority.

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

MPs demand blacklisting mastermind be stripped of Big Ben public contract!


Book Review - by Derek Pattison
Blacklisted: The Full Story The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists
Author: Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain
This is the second edition of Blacklisted with the full story to date including the 
historic High Court victory and new revelations. Now with photographs.
* Buy print version:
 New Internationalist
The Old Music Hall
106-108 Cowley Rd
Oxford, OX4 1JE  UK
01865 403345

IT’s now over two-years ago since I first reviewed ‘Blacklisted – The Secret War Between Big Business and Union Activists’ by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain.  This new, second edition, ‘The Full Story’, deals with two major developments in the 18-months since the first edition of ‘Blacklisted’ was published.   One is the outcome of proceedings in the High Court against the so-called MacFarlanes Defendants and the other, is the ‘Pitchford Public Inquiry’, which is investigating undercover policing.  During the High Court proceedings, further evidence of blacklisting was disclosed and some of this has now been used in this book.

For people who are unfamiliar with this story of blacklisting of workers in the construction industry, which involved collusion between the state and the construction industry, it is perhaps necessary to say something about how this grossly illegal operation was discovered and exposed.

On 11 May 2016, in the High Court, in London, a public apology was made and an agreed joint statement was read out on behalf of a group of major British construction companies including – Balfour Beatty companies, Carillion, Costain, Kier Ltd, Laing companies, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, Skanska UK, Vinci and Taylor Woodrow, and various individual defendants including, Cullum McAlpine, Danny O’Sullivan, David Cochrane and Stephen Quant. 

All these companies and individuals, known as the ‘MacFarlanes Defendants’ were apologising for having set up a secret and unlawful ‘Vetting Operation’ and database, also known as a ‘Blacklist’, to vet particular workers applying for jobs in the construction industry. 

We now know that the in-house lawyer for Laing O’Rourke, Paul Field, resigned his job on 9 March 2009 shortly after the discovery of the blacklist describing the operation as ‘Orwellian’ and ‘third-rate McCarthyism’.  In a witness statement, Field said that “he found the idea that people were denied work simply because they had joined a safety committee ‘repugnant’.

A large number of construction workers, in a group litigation, who were members of the trade unions UCATT, GMB, or clients of the law firm, Guney, Clark & Ryan, brought claims against them for “breach of confidence, misuse of private information, defamation, conspiracy and breach of the Data Protection Act 1998.” 

Although liability had been initially denied by the Defendants, they admitted to having set up a secret scheme for vetting construction workers who were seeking employment in the industry between the early 1970s and 2009.  The secret operation went under the name of the ‘Services Group’, which was part of the notorious ‘Economic League’ and later, it became known as the “The Consulting Association.”   The database included details on individuals such as:


“Names, dates of birth, addresses, NI numbers, trade, employers’ names, alleged employment history, suspected political affiliations or sympathies or perceived militancy, trade union affiliation and activities, and complaints about health-and-safety or breaches of employment rights. "

This database was seized following a raid on the offices of The Consulting Association (TCA) in February 2009, by officers working for the Information Commissioners Office (ICO). Over 3,000 files were confiscated which included details of construction workers and other individuals, including academics, lawyers, politicians and environmental activists.  These files represented only around 5 to 10 per cent of the information held by TCA at their office in Droitwich, Worcestershire.  In July 2009, the ‘data controller’, Ian Kerr, was fined £5,000 by Knutsford Crown Court, for operating an illegal database.  Kerr’s fine and legal costs were all paid by the construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine, who had set up this blacklisting operation. 

We now know that British Telecom (BT) had provided details about the location of Kerr’s address, only after being threatened with legal action by the ICO.  The ICO had previously raided the offices of Hayden Young – part of the Balfour Beatty group - in Watford in August 2008 and had obtained a fax number. When, following the raid at the offices of TCA,  Kerr’s wife, Mary Kerr, had asked why her husband had not been tipped off about the raid at Hayden Young, six months previously, she received a solicitor’s letter asking her to desist in her questioning. 

In a witness statement that was submitted to the High Court by Gerry Harvey, HR director for Balfour Beatty and a TCA contact for the firm, he disclosed that both he and his colleague, Armar Johnston – another TCA contact at Balfour Beatty – had been ordered not to disclose details of the raid at Hayden Young to Ian Kerr, by the Group Human Resources Director, Paul Raby, because he feared legal repercussions.  Both Harvey and Johnston were told to have no further involvement with TCA.

Gail Cartmail, a trade union officer with Unite the Union, told MPs at a Select Committee of the House of Commons that Gerry Harvey “has form on blacklisting.”   Despite being a TCA contact at Balfour Beatty, Harvey wrote to an Employment Tribunal in 2008, denying there was a ‘blacklist’ and suggested that the litigant, Colin Trousdale, was “paranoid.” Never the less, on the first page of Trousdale’s blacklisting TCA file, it was noted: “Trousdale is taking us to the Tribunal.”  Outside the offices of Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (BBES), in Glasgow, Trousdale told protestors: “Being a trade union member is not a crime: perjury is.”


An email found on Gerry Harvey’s laptop (exhibit in High Court), from Elaine Gallagher of Balfour Kilpatrick, dated 16/3/2009, a month after the ICO raid on TCA, says: 
'The email includes attached list of workers recorded as Not Required or code 11 ‘do not employ’ and an internal database kept by Balfour Beatty.'
In his witness statement, Harvey went on to name:  
'Andrew Alison, Michael Shortall, Colin Trousdale, Danny Regan, Steve Acheson, Graham Bowker, Tony Jones, Sean Keaveney, Robert McKechan and Howard Nolan, as workers who appear on the internal database as unsuitable for employment.   
'They are also all blacklisted by TCA for their union activities… Harvey does reassure the court that ‘regardless of the Consulting Association checking service neither I nor my staff would have employed Acheson, Bowker or  Jones, given their very high profile’.'
(Exhibit for High Court – see also “Boys on the Blacklist” by Derek Pattison and Brian Bamford).

Despite three separate instructions to retain potentially relevant documents in March 2009, March 2013 and April 2013, Dinah Rose QC, told the High Court in January 2016, that the defendants were responsible for the deliberate destruction, non-provision and concealment of evidence.

“We can show that the defendants have destroyed documents systematically from the date of the ICO raid onwards in an effort to conceal their guilt.”

In a note of a telephone conversation he’d had with David Cochrane, Chairman of TCA at the time of the raid, Kerr records that he was instructed to: “Ring everyone, cease trading, close down. We don’t exist anymore, destroy data, stop processing.”

Although a multi-million pound compensation settlement was shared between 771 workers - Unite £10.5m, UCATT, £8.9m, GMB £5.4m and GC Ryan £6.6m, with costs paid by the companies estimated at between £75m and £250m, many blacklisted construction workers do not feel that they ever received justice.  There was no trial and none of the construction bosses was ever put in the dock or cross-examined.  To this day, not one of the construction bosses or so-called HR professionals who engaged in a prolonged period of illegal activity in running a secret blacklisting operation, have ever been prosecuted  for their squalid activities.  The only person to be prosecuted was Ian Kerr, who told the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in November 2012 – “I took the flak so they wouldn’t be drawn into all of this. They would remain hidden if you like…”  Nor has there been much appetite on the part of the Conservative government, for a public inquiry into this matter.  Many of these construction companies are major financial backers of the Tory Party.  Only five blacklist cases ever reached a full employment tribunal and only three won their claims.  Most cases were dismissed as being ‘out-of-time’ or on the grounds of employment status such as agency workers.

Likewise, many people who found themselves ‘blacklisted’, remain convinced that blacklisting is still going on. Since the TCA raid in February 2009, there has been evidence of blacklisting taking place at Crossrail and the Olympics and workers like the electrician Dan Collins, continue to get sacked for raising concerns about health and safety. In December 2016, Elizabeth Denham, the Information Commissioner, re-opened the file on the construction industry stating that she feared that the 'malpractice' (blacklisting) was still taking place. She said her staff and been put on a 'watching brief.'

In July 2015, the Home Secretary announced the terms of the ‘Pitchford Inquiry’ into undercover policing and the ‘Blacklist Support Group’ (BSG), have been given ‘core participant’ status.   In March 2012, David Clancy, investigation’s manager for the ICO and a former police officer, told The Observer that some of the information held in the TCA files could only have come from the police or security services. The police watchdog, the IPCC, have already told the BSG that Special Branch had “routinely provided information about prospective employees” and that, “It is likely that all Special Branches were involved in providing information that kept certain individuals out of work.”  This was denied by the police inquiry ‘Operation Herne’, who said there was no such evidence.

In October 2014, John McDonnell MP, named detective chief inspector Gordon Mills, head of police liaison at the ‘National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit’ (NECTU), as a senior officer who had given a power point presentation at a meeting of TCA held in Oxford in 2008.  Although Mills admitted his attendance and presentation, he said it was a ‘misunderstanding’ and that he hadn’t realized it was a meeting of TCA.  Following a newspaper article in the ‘London Evening Standard’, Mills: 


“sent letters via his lawyers, Slater and Gordon, who represent the Police Federation, threatening to sue McDonnell, the Guardian, the GMB union (*) and two small websites, Union Solidarity International and Northern Voices. None of those who received threatening letters apologized for linking DCI Mills with the blacklisting meeting or paid him any money. All legal actions subsequently ran out of time.”

If Mr. Kerr was the monkey behind the Consulting Association, then, Cullum McAlpine was the organ grinder.   The Association was run under his leadership and guidance to “provide a blacklisting service” (Scottish Affairs Select Committee – Blacklisting in Employment, sixth report). In January 2016, Dinah Rose QC told the High Court:
“Cullum McAlpine is a very senior, very important man. It is very important that he should not be seen to have got away with what was clearly a protracted period of unlawful activity which it is plain that Mr. Cochrane was seeking to cover up.”

This is why some MPs and blacklisted construction workers are now demanding that Sir Robert McAlpine be stripped of the £29m four year prestigious refurbishment contract of the Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. Shadow minister for labour, Jack Dromey, said: 


“There has to be consequences for historic blacklisting, it is scandal that the iconic Big Ben contract has been given to that company (Sir Robert McAlpine).” 

(*) Editors note: since publishing this book review we have been made aware of the following:
'In August 2017, GMB posted a clarification on their website stating that union "did not intend to suggest that Mr Mills was directly responsible for the Consulting Association's blacklisting" accepting that "he was not knowingly involved in" information passing between the police and the Consulting Association used to blacklist workers'. http://www.gmb.org.uk/newsroom/newsroom/gordon-mills-crocodile-tears.html


Thursday, 14 September 2017

“Alternative Libertaire”

 by Anna Jeffery

AS the centenary of the Somme and the Soviet have been marked in the media I’ve been struck by how much the role of women has been ignored.  Not so by the French magazine “Alternative Libertaire” whose current issue prominently features the activities of Ukrainian anarchist Maria Nikiforova (1885-1919).

“Banditka Maroussia”
During the Russian revolution Maria proved an irrepressible insurrectionary organiser but at the outbreak of the Great War she backed the Allies, along with Peter Kropotkin, against the overwhelming tide of international anarchist opinion.
What especially interests me about her, as the magazine explicitly recognises is that Nikiforova was, “an anarchist, orator, indomitable fighter, tossed about by the contrary winds which blew in the Russian revolution”.  So much anarchist “history” purports to eschew heroes whilst in reality erecting alternative plaster saints.  Nikiforova is an outstanding revolutionary character with feet of clay who held fast to libertarian principles whilst navigating her way through the treacherous waters of revolutionary warfare.  Sometimes she fought in alliance with the Bolsheviks, sometimes against.

“Bezmotivnii”
The daughter of an army officer, Maria became a revolutionary at the age of 16. Although generally claimed as an anarchist-communist Nikiforova practised the “propaganda of the deed”, committing indiscriminate acts of violence against the rich attributed to the “Bezmotvnii” (Motiveless).
In 1908 Maria was sentenced to 20 years hard labour for murdering a state official but escaped from prison the following year.  For almost a decade she travelled from country to country evading the authorities and in 1913 attended the London Conference of Russian Anarchist-Communists. Returning to Russia in 1917 she organised anarchist militias forces to liberate the Ukraine from all authorities of whatever colour.  Often she fought alongside the forces of the better known anarchist insurrectionary, Nestor Mahkno but even this alliance didn’t always run smooth.

“Joan of Arc of Anarchism”
Nikiforova was twice put on trial by the Bolsheviks but it was the “Whites” that finally did for her. Captured by Deniken’s army in August 1919 she was tried and shot a month later.  With recent access to previously closed Russian files, Maria Nikiforva’s full story is still being unearthed and much remains shrouded in mystery.  Masters of black propaganda the Bolsheviks subsequently disparaged Maria’s politics and even her appearance and sexuality in a systematic and determined campaign to diminish the revolutionary contribution of all but the Party.
The magazine concedes, Maria Nikiforova, “wasn’t the harpy caricatured by Soviet propaganda, she wasn’t the Joan of Arc of Anarchism of her English biographer” yet she emerges an inspiring figure and a reminder of countless un-recorded female activists who struggle alongside more celebrated male comrades.

Anna Jeffery (Especial thanks to my friend Martin Gilbert of Ulverston for drawing my attention to this edition - no. 234, July/August 2017 – of “Alternative Libertaire”)

Bill Christopher: A radical born on Bastille Day

From South Africa to West Yorkshire

Brian Bamford peruses the politics of the 1960s, 

as he talks to Joan Christopher about her husband, Bill

THE early 1960s was a time of great expectations in radical left-wing politics.  There had just been the Campaign to Boycott South African Goods, called by the Anti-Apartheid Movement.  The boycott attracted widespread support from students, trade unions and the Labour, Liberal and the then Communist Party.  The Anti-Apartheid Movement had begun as the Boycott Movement, set up in 1959 to persuade shoppers to boycott apartheid goods.

The Campaign to Boycott South African Goods had been preceded by another single issue social movement the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which was founded in 1957 in the wake of widespread fear of nuclear conflict and the effects of nuclear tests.  In the early 1950s, Britain had become the third atomic power, after the USA and the USSR had recently tested an H-bomb.

 Joan and Bill Christopher on holiday in France
Politically this was the atmosphere of the early 1960s, especially in London where Bill and Joan Christopher were to be activist members of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) for most of their adult lives.  However, there were unofficial strikes and industrial struggles going on at that time, and in 1960 Bill had left the I.L.P. to join the Worker's Party [1] formed by Brian Behan [2], when Brian and others had broken away from the Trotskyist Socialist Labour League in 1960.  The Worker’s Party later merged with the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF).

Later together with the Freedom Press anarcho-syndicalist carpenter Peter Turner, Bill Christopher was to become joint-secretary of the Industrial Sub-committee of Committee of 100 [3], that was a time of great conflict and activity during the national campaign against nuclear weapons and the Bomb.  It was to be out of this Committee of 100 London Industrial Sub-Committee that the industrially based National Rank & File Movement (N.R&F.M)[4], an organisation of militant trade unionists and shop-floor syndicalists, developed and was founded at a conference in London in January 1961.

An article in Freedom newspaper covering this National Rank & File founding conference, of which Bill Christopher was an active member,announced:
 
'This week-end there is to be held in London the first Conference of the newly-formed Rank and File Movement.  Much work has been put into the preparation of this conference by liaison committees; discussion meetings have been going on in London, resolutions and amendments have been drawn up, and it may well be that this event will be a significant one for militants among the industrial workers at least.' 
(FREEDOM: January 28, 1961)


Joan Christopher speaking to N.V. in Todmorden, West Yorkshire

  Introduction to the interview by Brian Bamford

These were the days before Spies for Peace and before my own trip to Spain in February 1963 on behalf of the young libertarians of F.I.J.L in France, before the arrest of Stuart Christie in Madrid in 1964, well before the student sit-ins at the L.S.E. in 1967 and before the French events in 1968 and the 'Donovan Report' into the trade unions .  Back then I and my then compañera, Joan Matthews, who were staying with the S.W.F. national secretary Ken Hawkes at his home on Parliament Hill, attended this London national rank and file conference of perhaps 200 workers and activists; we were both employed at that time at the same engineering firm in the North West. At this conference we were sat in front of the Freedom Press anarchists Colin Ward, Philip Sanson and his compañera.  It was the first time that I’d met people like

Bill Christopher, Brian Behan, Ken Weller of Solidarity, and Peter Turner of Freedom Press, with whom I became a close friend for the rest of his life.  

In a pamphlet authored by Bill Christopher entitled 'SMASH THE WAGE FREEZE!' (1960s), and published by the Syndicalist Worker's Federation, Bill wrote:

'It is obvious that today only a Labour Government would dare to implement a wage-freeze policy and arm it with heavy penalties for non-implementation...  The opening attack on workers' wages and conditions came with George Brown's Joint Statement of Intent on Productivity, Prices and Incomes.... shop stewards wishing to improve wages and / or conditions in their plant, are subject to the penalties of the Act.  The officials of their respective unions can also be penalised.'
 
The intention of the then Labour government here would be to discourage unofficial strikes, that is strikes not supported and financed by the trade unions: in the 1950s and early 1960s unofficial strikes represented about 90% of all the industrial action taking place.  Historically shop stewards were intended to be simply 'union card checkers', in the 1896 rule book of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, that later became A.U.E.W., this was stated to be the sole role of the steward.  Yet, after the Second World War the shop steward had become a key figure on the shop-floor.  Bill Christopher during his involvement with the S.W.F. and in his writings as an industrial editor on Freedom, was anxious to extend the responsibilities of the shop stewards as was the rest of us involved in the National Rank & File Movement.

*******

Political Journey - wartime South Africa to West Yorkshire



Bill Christopher in the North of England

Bill Christopher was born on Bastille Day in July 1924, and died in January 1993.

Brian Bamford's Joan Christopher interview on Bill Christopher:
Began April 2015 and was finally completed in July 2017.

Brian Bamford: When did you and Bill first move up to Todmorden?

Joan Christopher: We came here in July 1986. I was born an Essex girl in a town called Woodford in 1928, but my family moved to Walthamstow from around 1930.

Brian:  How did you find living up here?

Joan:  We didn't know how things were going to work out. Of course, we had been up to visit Aileen and Bob (daughter and son in-law) several times. But I soon learned to drive after coming up and I began to go to college to do A-level art. Some dear friends of ours Eric and Joan Preston (in the Independent Labour Party) lived in Leeds

Brian:  Has Todmorden changed much since you came?

Joan:  There has not been a great deal of change. There is more of a hint of tourism – a bit like (nearby) Hebden Bridge, and it's more gentrified now. We use to meet people who had not been out of Todmorden all their lives.

Brian:  How does life up here compare with London?

Joan:  Bill use to reminisce about about London. He didn't seem to settle down as much as me. For me I’ve liked living up here and I find ‘Tod.’ people very friendly – I like somewhere a bit rural and countryfied.

Brian:  How did you meet Bill?

Joan:  I use to work with Bill's sister, Jean; sewing. I started working when I was 14-years-old at a dress-making factory cutting, finishing and re-drawing from the pattern book on Hudson Street, Walthamstow for about 4 months.   I then worked at Cannels Ltd dress-making. It was through his sister Jean that I met Bill and we first went out at Xmas 1942. Jean use to say Bill only liked me because I liked playing monopoly.  He had asked me to go to the pictures a week before he went into the RAF.   Bill was a volunteer and didn’t wait to be called-up, nor was he influenced by his mates at the time into his decision to join up.   At that time he was at first doing air-training in St. Johns Wood.
Later he was based in South Africa training to be a navigator, and didn't come home until 1944. After that he was in the Army in India until 1947.
While he was in India during the troubles there; that is during the Bombay riots, I remember him saying that he shot into the air,.rather risk hitting anyone.
He didn't talk much about South Africa! It was the war that influenced his later political views as well as his later (post war) experience in India (in the Army).  When he went to the war he had been a Christian and as a boy he wanted to be a missionary in the Church of England. My Mum too had been a strong believer before she met my Dad.
After he left the Army, Bill (Christopher) went back to working in the print (industry) in the 1940s up to the 1970s.  He was an Imperial Father of Chapel (Works Convenor) at the Daily Mail in NATSOPA and Sogat. After he left school he worked flat-bed printing on 'The Queen' magazine, which was a glossy.  He was doing White Chapel preparation though his grandfather had been a copy-taker.   He left the Daily Mail, went on to Teacher’s Training College, and later began teaching in the early 1970s.  He taught at Leyton County High School for Boys.  Bill was a member of the NUT (National Union of Teachers).   Bill came into teaching as a mature student and ended up teaching sociology as part of his teacher’s training certificate.

Brian:  Why did you both come up North?

Joan:   In July 1985, he decided to retire, because Bill didn't have a degree and he assumed that he wouldn't get a job in a 6th form College or High School. He was 61 (Bill was born in July 1924). We already had a daughter living in Cornholme in Todmorden. Our daughter, Aileen, has lived in the North longer than down in London. She originally lived in Cornholme, Todmorden, but is now over the border in Burnley.
When we got here Bill studied for a Master's degree (entitled) 'The women's role in the factories in World War II'. An oral history involving (research) doing interviews with workers (who had) worked in the mills and factories in the Tod(morden) area (in the War). It was a dissertation for his MA (Master's Degree), and I typed it up for him on a Word. Processor. He started studying for a Phd shortly before he died.

Brian:  What do you reckon of today's politicians?

Joan:  You can see that I am a Labour supporter (a Labour Party poster is in the window). Both me and Bill voted Labour in the 1945 and 1951 general elections: although I haven't got a lot of faith in any of them. Because they make promises and then can't deliver. I look on Labour as being the lesser evil. I always vote, because people died to get the vote. The trouble is that big business has more control, although you do get the odd MP who does a good job.

Brian:  But you were both in the Independent Labour Party (ILP)?


Joan:  (The I.L.P. merged with the Labour Party in 1975) when the I.L.P. stopped being the Independent Labour Party and became the 'Independent Labour Publications'.
Bob Galliers (Bill's son-in-law) intervene here to say that Bill had always been a syndicalist or anarcho-syndicalist, and that they (Bill and Joan) had been raided by the police in 1963 after the revelations in the Spies for Peace documents.
Joan Christopher then continued:
In the mid-1960s Bill wrote and edited industrial and labour reports for the Freedom newspaper with Peter Turner, who was a carpenter in the building trade.
I wrote for Freedom (the anarchist weekly newspaper) a piece about that raid after the 'Spies for Peace' [5] incident at Aldermaston at Easter in 1964. (At that time this 'subversive' document was being widely circulated by anarchists, independent socialists and pacifists and) at a Conference of the I.L.P. in Yorkshire [probably Scarborough] everyone were asked to reproduce the 'Spies for Peace' leaflet.  (At that time) Eric Preston, Bill’s friend in the I.L.P., was being followed by the police as he moved 'Spies for Peace' leaflets and other materials from Leeds to London, but when he his copies in the Left Luggage, the police moved in and took them. The organisation 'Solidarity'* (nothing to do with the current Solidarity Federation) started the 'Spies for Peace' campaign. (Bob then intervened to say the journalist Natasha Walter published a book on the 'Spies for Peace'): (her father was, Nicolas Walter the well-known anarchist writer, and the only member of the 'Spies for Peace' to go public on this matter).
We also duplicated a rank and file newsletter the ‘Seaman’s Voice’ in Cumberland Road, and as I recall one of the seamen ended-up stapling his own finger, but he was still enough of a gentleman to avoid swearing in front of a woman, although I’m sure that he wanted to.
Bill unsuccessfully fought the Walthamstow parliamentary seat (at different times) for both the ILP and CND.. He was a member of the (anarcho-syndicalist) Syndicalist Worker's Federation (SWF) and produced both 'Worker's Voice' (then the paper of the Worker's Party) and 'World Labour News'. Earlier in 1959, we were both involved in the 'Worker's Party'* with Brian Behan* (the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan and musician Dominic), but Brian was very mercurial.
Bill rejoined the I.L.P. around 1980ish, and the 'Friends of the ILP' are now part of the Labour Party.

Brian:  What did you do in the Miner’s Strike?

Joan:  We supported the miners! 
We had an ‘I.L.P. Miner’s Support Group’ through which we channelled our support. We were awarded a Miner’s Lamp for our efforts. I’ve still got that lamp here at the bottom of the stairs.

Brian:   I believe that William Morris was born in Walthamstow?

Joan.:  Yes, in the 1930s the house were he was born was turned into a clinic, and when I was a kid, I attended the clinic for treatment in about 1935.

Brian:  Many of those anarchists and syndicalists in London in the 1960s, I remember as having a wide variety of other interests as well as politics. Over the years from the 1960s I often stayed in London on the Peabody Estate behind Chelsea Town Hall on Kings Road with Bill’s old mate, the joiner Peter Turner and his then wife Gladys, and we often would talk about you and Bill. Peter loved cinema, the arts and above all music. As I recall from talking to Peter, he Bill and Jack Stevenson were all very enthusiastic about Jazz – I think Jack and Bill had disputes over their tastes in Jazz?

Joan:  Yes, we all had a passion for Jazz! But at first I was into the Classics, and Bill was into Jazz. When we were living on Cumberland Road we made it open-plan, and, on Jack Stevenson’s advice bought a Pye Black Box. We liked Bruck, Mendelssohn, Mahler, and Oscar Peterson. But it was through Jack Stevenson we came to know the track by Jack Teagarden ‘Tribute to Sydney Bechet’ (Joan at this point started to hum the tune). ‘I want that played at my funeral’, she said.

Brian:  Did you know many other people at Freedom besides Pete Turner? People like Vernon Richards, Colin Ward and Philip Sanson?

Joan:    Indeed, we were close to quite a few people at Freedom Press, and would go over for lunch on the odd Sunday to Philip Sansom and his partner’s house. We knew Tom Cowan and his Italian wife Gabrella. He was in the building trade. We were also close to Ken Hawkes, a sports journalist on the Reynolds News and the anacho-syndicalist editor of World Labour News – the journal of the Syndicalist Worker’s Federation (SWF) in the 1960s. Brian Behan, the brother of the play-write Brendan Behan, was another good friend who we knew Brian was a bit eccentric, he lived in a pre-fab with his wife and use to wear bicycle clips, and we asked him about this he turned his pockets out and showed us the holes. The bike-clips were there to catch the coins in.  His wife later went into teaching.  Brian was a carpenter in the building trade who was blacklisted and ended-up at university. I’m still in touch with Dave Picket who took over the S.W.F., when Ken Hawkes, who lived on Parliament Hill in Hampstead, left to go to work for the BBC.


Brian:  Thank you for that Joan, and please express my thanks to Aileen and Bob for all their help in producing this short rendering of the life of Bill Christopher.
******

[1] The Worker's Party was a breakaway from the Socialist Labour League in summer 1960.

[2] Brian Behan, the brother of the Irish play-write Brendan Behan, founded a short-lived 'Workers Party', which published Worker's Voice and was active in support of the Seaman's Strike.
In 1964, Behan wrote his first piece on his family life, With Breast Expanded. Forced to give up building work due to an arm injury, he moved to live on a boat in Shoreham-by-Sea and studied history and English at Sussex University. He then studied teaching, before in 1973 becoming a lecturer in media studies at the London College of Printing.[3] In 1972, he contested in a swearing match at the British Museum, to mark the republication of Robert Graves' Lars Porsena.[2]
[3] The Committee of 100 was set up after a difference in CND about the use of civil disobedience as a political weapon between Canon Collins and the philosopher Bertrand Russell,

[4] The National Rank & File Movement. Affiliates of SWF; the Worker’s Party; the ILP; Commonwealth; London Anarchists; Socialism Re-affirmed (publication Agitator - later Solidarity).
[5] The ‘Spies for Peace’ was a clandestine group of individuals including we now know the Freedom Press anarchist, Nicolas Walter, later admitted involvement: His Wikipeadia entry states: ‘Walter was a member of Spies for Peace, the only member to be publicly identified, only after his death. In March 1963, it broke into Regional Seat of Government No. 6
(RSG-6), copied documents relating to the Government's plans in the event of nuclear war and distributed 3,000 leaflets revealing their contents.’
In his book ‘Anarchist Seeds Beneath the Snow’ the historian David Goodway wrote:
The Spies for Peace were essentially this group (Solidarity), locating and entering the Regional Seat of Government (RSG) at Warren Pow, Berkshire, and circulating the pamphlet, Danger! Official Secret: RSG-6.
[6] ‘Solidarity' publication of the Socialism Re-affirmed Group edited by Christopher Pallis and Ken Weller, was originally entitled the 'The Agitator' until 1961.