Thursday, 29 November 2018

Trump & Greater Manchester Police

by Les May

FORGIVE me for asking, but is it just possible that Donald Trump has taken control of the GMP City Centre Twitter page?   I ask this because yesterday the Rochdale Observer had a story which ran as follows;

Police say ‘99 percent’ of beggars arrested are addicted to drugs or alcohol - including one who ‘commuted’ from Rochdale to Manchester’s Christmas Markets to ‘earn up to £50 an hour.

The story was based on 3, yes that’s three, arrests last Saturday, which hardly seems like a large enough sample to make any kind of generalisation, so where do they get figures like 99% and £50 an hour from?

I thought the times when the police ‘knowing’ someone is guilty was enough to convince a magistrate were long past, at least as far as ‘respectable’ folk like you and I are concerned.  Such courtesies it seems do not extend to people who beg.

Perhaps in the future tweets from GMP can be confined to operational matters, like warning people about pickpockets, street thieves, traffic congestion etc. Opinions are not required and disseminating them via Twitter seems to me to be an improper use of police resources.

And by the way a lot of ‘respectable’ people take drugs and drink too much. 


Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Who Are We Bowing Down To?

by Les May

'THAT’s not my question.'   It’s what Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said when he told the BBC that there was concern among MPs that the Government appeared scared of the reaction of Pakistani mobs, adding that it must ask itself ‘very serious questions about who it was bowing down to’

Tugendhat has said that Asia Bibi was eligible for asylum in the UK ‘on every possible metric’.  He pointed out that the Government had willingly helped persecuted Muslims in the Balkans and defended the rights of homosexuals in countries where they are not tolerated, and added;  ’The idea that we shouldn’t change our policy in Pakistan simply because she is a Christian and simply because we are afraid of the mob strikes me as extremely odd’.

When the judge who freed her, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar, visited London last week he told MPs that she was not on an exit control list and was free to leave Pakistan with her family at any time.

Earlier this month Rehman Chishti the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, who is the son of an imam, quit as Party vice-chairman and trade envoy to Pakistan because of the Government’s refusal to offer refuge to Mrs Bibi and her family.

He has since said:  ‘She is free to leave but she needs a country to come forward, to morally and ethically do the right thing. I say this as clearly as I can – for the United Kingdom to say which other country would Asia Bibi like to go to is completely and utterly unacceptable, irrespective of what any other country may offer.  We have a moral obligation.  Why have we, in God’s name, not done the right thing to say – irrespective of what anyone else offers – we, the UK, will do the right thing in line with our great British values?  It was right for me to step down last week, when you try to get the Government to do the right thing and it would not do the right thing.'

He followed this up by pointing out that the Government willingly gave asylum to Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani Muslim shot by the Taliban for her work in campaigning for the education of girls, in spite of threats of reprisals.

When Asia Bibi’s husband, Ashiq Mashi, and her youngest daughter, Eisham Ashiq, who is 18, visited London in October, not a single British minister would meet the pair even in privateTo his great credit Rehman Chishti did meet them and has said that Eisham had tears in her eyes when he had to tell her that no one was interested in hearing her story.

The response of Theresa May and her government shames Britain.  It presents it as a weak nation unable to determine what happens within its own borders. Although I am happy to say I had a ‘good Sunday school education’, I am not a Christian, so in supporting Asia Bibi, I have no religious axe to grind.   But as an atheist I think I have something to fear from the feeble response from Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, the Prime Minister’s special envoy on freedom of religion and belief, who, speaking in the House of Lords during the launch of a report on global religious persecution defended the government in relation to the Asia Bibi case by saying ’It is entirely appropriate that maybe less is more’.  It was this which prompted Rehman Chishti to make the remarks I have quoted above.   It appears that some religions and (dis)beliefs are more equal than others to Lord Ahmed.

It’s not just this weak kneed government that deserves our censure.   The Labour party has been equally silent on this matter, as have the usually gobby women MPs, women journalists and professional feminists, who never miss any opportunity to parade their stance against ‘male oppression’Nor have we heard anything from those preening ‘activists’ who are always so ready to shout loudly about anything they can condemn as ‘Islamophobia’
How odd that apart from that by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, all the articles that I have read about the Bibi case seem to have been penned by men.

Mail says Theresa May snubbed Asia Bibi

Asia Bibi - Refused asylum in UK by vicars daughter Theresa May

ACCORDING to the Mail Online Theresa May is alleged to be refusing asylum to the Christian mother, Asia Bibi, who having had a sentence for blasphemy lifted is now being hunted by lynch mobs in Pakistan. 

The fate of Asia Bibi has pitted Home Secretary Sajid Javid against the Prime Minister, with Mr Javid arguing passionately that she should be given refuge in the UK.

As the political row rages, The Mail on Sunday at the weekend revealed the full extent of the ordeal endured by Ms Bibi, a Roman Catholic from the Punjab province who was given the death sentence in 2010 after she was accused of defiling the name of the Prophet Mohammed.

The Mail on Sunday investigation reveals that on the day she was seized by villagers in 2009 and accused of blasphemy, she was paraded through her village with a leather noose around her neck, beaten with sticks by a baying mob during a ‘court’ hearing and told that her life would be spared only if she converted to Islam.

Bibi’s conviction was quashed last month following eight years in solitary confinement after Pakistan’s Supreme Court said the case was based on ‘inconsistent’ evidence.

Her acquittal prompted days of demonstrations by thousands of hardline Islamists who demanded she be hanged.  Ms Bibi is now in hiding after Imran Khan’s government agreed to allow a petition against the court’s decision as part of a deal to halt the protests.

So instead of being reunited with her five children she is being hunted across Pakistan, forced to scuttle under cover of darkness between safe houses.

Her supporters in the UK have lobbied the Government in vain to offer her asylum in Britain.
It is understood that Mr Javid was backed in his battle by Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, despite the fact his officials said allowing her to take sanctuary in the UK would endanger the security of British diplomats in Islamabad.

A senior Government source said: ‘Sajid was very sceptical about the official advice, and pushed hard for her to be given asylum here.  It eventually landed on the Prime Minister’s desk, but she just followed the advice of the officials’.

The problem began when Ms Bibi was harvesting berries in 2009 when her Muslim co-workers accused her of being unclean, prompting an argument and allegations Ms Bibi blasphemed against Islam, which she strongly denies.

This newspaper has pieced together the terrifying sequence of events which followed: she was taken to a makeshift sharia court and flung at the feet of an imam, who told her:  ‘You know what happens to people who insult the Prophet.  You can redeem yourself by accepting Islam.’

Asia declined as the crowd began jeering and spitting.  She was then whipped with sticks and sandals, leaving her bleeding and semi-conscious.  Her life was only saved when a teacher intervened, saying she should be handed over to police.

The Foreign Office said: ‘The UK’s primary concern is for the safety of Asia Bibi and her family.  A number of countries are in discussions to provide a safe destination’.

The Home Office declined to comment, while No 10 said:  ‘Bibi’s safety is the Prime Minister’s only concern.’ 

It is reported that Ms Bibi had been offered asylum by Australia.

Bread & Roses Song & Spoken Word Award

THE Communication Workers’ Union (CWU) and Culture Matters are pleased to announce the second edition of their successful Songwriting and Spoken Word Award.   The Musicians’ Union is also sponsoring and supporting the Award this time.

The Award is now open for submissions. The new Award is a practical example of cultural democracy, with the aim of encouraging musicians and performers to write material meaningful to working class people and communities, and to encourage those communities to develop and practice their creativity.

There is a £100 cash prize for each of the top five entries.  The judges will be drawn from practising performers, the CWU, the Musician's Union, and members of Culture Matters.

Dave Ward, General Secretary of the CWU, said:
I welcome this continuing partnership with Culture Matters. The arts and culture generally are vital to the labour movement, and working class communities across the country. We want to build on the grassroots DIY ethic started by punk music, celebrate the new opportunities for working class people to write songs, make music and perform spoken word, and encourage contributions from people who might otherwise not consider entering competitions.

We are sponsoring this Award because we want to encourage our members in the CWU, and working people everywhere, to express themselves creatively on themes that matter to them as workers and which help develop understanding of the cultural struggle for a better world.

So get writing and get performing, and send your entries in!

Attila the Stockbroker, one of the judges, said:
This new Award is a great idea. There’s a real need to encourage younger and emerging performers to write and perform songs and poetry that mean something to ordinary working- class people rather than the mind-numbingly bland rubbish force-fed us by the mainstream music business and media.

Get involved – and encourage people you know to get involved!

Submission Guidelines and Award Rules:

Entry is open to all, regardless of trade union membership. The submission guidelines are as follows:
Entries should broadly deal with any aspect of working-class life, communities, culture and concerns.

Entries can be from solo or duo artists/performers, and are actively encouraged from grassroots, younger and emerging performers.

Entries should consist of one song or performance of original material, in English, whether previously published or not.

Entries should be submitted as audio or live/pre-recorded video files (MP3/4 format or video) via email. All entries will be judged equally, but some video entries may be also selected to feature on the Culture Matters YouTube channel, which is currently in development.

Entry is free and is open to all residents of Great Britain, regardless of trade union membership.
Culture Matters will fund five prizes of £100 each.

All entries will remain the copyright of the entrant, but CWU and Culture Matters will have the right to publish them online and in other media.

The organisers accept no responsibility for entries that are incorrectly submitted or not delivered due to technical faults.

By entering the Award, entrants agree to accept and be bound by the rules of the Award and the decisions of the judges.

Due to the likely volume of entries, the organisers regret that they cannot enter into correspondence with individual entrants.

Entries should be sent via email to:

The deadline for receipt of submissions is midnight on March 2nd 2019. When emailing submissions, please provide your full name, postal address and phone number.


Sunday, 25 November 2018

Rochdale to be 'a plastic-free borough'!

The Town Hall's plastic cutlery

by Brian Bamford

Council Leader Councillor Allen Brett

ON January 25th, this year, on the back of all the publicity about plastics in the environment the Rochdale Council leader declared his intention to make Rochdale one of the first single use plastic-free (SUP-free) boroughs in the country.

Yesterday, visitors to the Christmas Fair in Rochdale Town Hall may have been surprised to find that their meals were being served with plastic knives and folks.

And this was in the week that a dead  sperm whale*  was washed ashore in eastern Indonesia had consumed a horrifying collection of plastic trash, including 115 drinking cups, 25 plastic bags, plastic bottles, two flip-flops and a bag containing more than 1,000 pieces of string.  In total, the plastic contents of the whale’s stomach weighed some 13.2 pound (six kilograms).
The rotting carcass of the 31-foot (9.5-meter) whale was last found Monday in shallow waters just off Kapota Island in the Wakatobi National Park, according to news reports.

I'm told by people who were at the Rochdale Town Hall special 'Xmas Do' that the cups available were plastic coated as well.  Thus the sperm whale in Indonesia won't have had chance to gourge itself on the this debre.

It seems that Indonesia, with a population of 263 million people and 34,000 miles (54,716 kilometers) of coastline, ranked second, behind China, on a list of the top 20 worst polluters of plastic trash to the world’s ocean, according to a 2015 study that found 192 coastal countries contribute a combined total of 8.5 million tons of plastic waste to the oceans every year.

Rochdale is not a coastal town, but it looks like the good Councillor Brett is not managing to keep to the 5-point plan to give the town the noble plastic-free status he put forward last January.

*   Sperm whales normally feed mostly on giant squid, supplemented with octopus, fish, shrimp, crab, and small sharks. They are found throughout all the world’s oceans and are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act and considered depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Speeding & Parked Cars in Rochdale

 Editorial note:  The e-mail below was sent to Steve Rumbelow.
Rochdale Chief Executive, when Mick Coats failed to get a
satisfactory explanation from his local councillors.  As yet he
hasn't had an answer from Mr. Rumbelow either.  This all
relates to the traffic survey threatened by the councillors. 
See post below this one.

Email to the Chief Executive
Actions of my local councillor for Spotland and Falinge 12/11/18
As a resident of Rooley Moor Road I have been concerned with the intended, and unintended consequences of the proposed survey.  The aims of the survey is to speed up traffic flow and to introduce more no parking and no waiting areas along the route of Rooley Moor Road from the Spotland mini roundabouts to Ings Lane.  It was commissioned by Councillor Biant earlier this year at a cost of £4,500.

The route takes approxiately one minute and thirty seconds to travel.  It is not a main through route such as Edenfield Road or Bury Road.  Even with pausing at points where cars are parked, this figure never exceeds two minutes.  In addition there have been few accidents and none causing any physical harm. (Numbers over the last two years not reaching double figures, unlike the traffic problems of Spotland roundabout).  Questions have been asked at local Spotland Forums by myself and others as to why this survey was commissioned.
The main problem is the unintended consequences of clearing the road of stopped or parked cars.
Cars will be able to speed even more along the road.  Speeding cars is our biggest problem,.as was acknowledged at the last council meeting.  Parked cars help to limit car speeds.  A survey conducted in 2017 over one week found 600 plus cars travelling at over 40mph.

At a meeting with Councillor Rana, he agreed that the survey was a mistake for the reasons outlined above and was asked to look into cancelling the survey.  He agreed to do this.
In a subsequent email he said that the survey could not be cancelled as it was 'imminent'.  However a later email from Highways says that 'Due to current workload the scheme has yet to be assigned to an engineer.'   It does not sound to be particularly 'imminent'

I was hoping that Councillor Biant would realize that her email was inappropriate and for her to give me an apology.  It may be that she was distracted or confused as she failed to appreciate the danger of increasing car speeds along Rooley Moor Road.

Councillor Biant says she has received complaints about parked cars but gives no further information. If she spoke to residents she would see that the overwhelming problem is speeding cars. In the process associated with the traffic survey, residents are not consulted until ward councillors agree recommendations made by the survey.  A back to front process, wasteful and inefficient.  It does not fit with the councillors as representative of residents.

I would like you to give your consideration to this issue, rather than refer it to the complaints procedure (which, in the past, I have found to be flawed).  I would also appreciates an apology from councillor Biant and possibly a token payment to a local charity such as Petrus.


Mick Coats

Rush Hour & a Traffic Survey!

by Mick Coats
EARLIER this year we found out that a local councillor had commissioned a traffic survey (at a cost of £4,500) to specifically identify where parking and waiting restrictions could be introduced on Rooley Moor Road.  This was to increase traffic flow and visibility.  It takes one minute and 30 seconds to travel this route and there have been little or no problems of hold ups.   There have been very few (and no serious) accidents along this short stretch of residential road. Furthermore it is not the main through route to town.  The problem is that the introduction of these measures would result in speeding cars going even more quickly and making the road more dangerous.  This has been pointed out to councillors and the Chief Executive but has been ignored.

In October, two residents of Rooley Moor Road,  Carl Faulkner and Mick Coats, met with Councillor Rana to discuss the issue.  He agreed that the intended outcome of the survey would result with an increase in cars speeding along this road and said he would look into the possibility of stopping the survey.

He subsequently emailed that he could not stop the survey as it was 'imminent and will happen very soon (and) can not be stopped now '.  However an email from highways received shortly afterwards says that 'Due to current workload the scheme has yet to be assigned an engineer'.

Not what you would call 'imminent'.

In response to this Councillor Biant saw fit to insult the residents concerned and ignore the issues raised.

A subsequent email to Councillor Rana asking for clarification has been unanswered.
Why do these public servants show such contempt for the residents of Rochdale?  They appear to believe that they have a sense of entitlement to do as they wish.  The record of public servants in Rochdale is appalling.  The council leader is currently in front of the Standards committee, the previous leader being investigated by the police and an MP (fully supported by both of these people) fell from office after sex texting a 17 year old.

As described in Private Eye, Rochdale has certainly become a rotten borough.


Friday, 23 November 2018

Interserve & the 'living will'

by Brian Bamford
LAST February, the journalist for Forbes magazine Francis Coppola wrote: 
'Interserve is experiencing severe cash flow problems, mainly due to its waste management business on which it has been taking heavy losses for some time.  In 2016, it decided to exit from this business, and it is now taking on no more work in this sector.  But it is still running down a bunch of contracts on which cash outflows are significantly exceeding inflows.  Seeing these contracts through to completion is raising Interserve’s short-term borrowing requirement, forcing it to seek additional funding from banks.'
At that time there were suggestions that INTERSERVE may be another Carillion, which had collapsed in January.  Two days ago it was reported that Interserve has agreed to provide the government with a back-up plan or will to avoid a Carillion style carnage in event of it going under.

On Monday, David Lidington, minister for the Cabinet Office, announced that key government suppliers are being asked to draw up so-called 'living wills' to ensure public services continue without severe interruption after company failure.

It is worth noting that Interserve has offices in Tameside and in Rochdale on Livsey Street, where it manages healthcare appointments. 

Lasr week 'Building magazine' reported:  'Worries that Interserve could be facing more losses on another botched energy-from-waste scheme have sent its stock plummeting 30% since Friday.'

Construction Inquirer is now reporting that faced with the current problems a recent plan from Interserve is expected to include a debt for equity swap or rights issue, although the latter would be a challenge after recent share price falls.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 18 November 2018

Don’t Lecture Me on Islamophobia

by Les May
Asia Bibi - Sentenced to Death for Drinking Water

NEXT Tuesday the Home Affairs Select Committee is to take evidence on the prevalence and growth of far-right extremism in the UK. This seems like a monumental piece of humbug considering that the Foreign Office seems to be willing to placate a murderous far-right group in Pakistan by urging that the British Government refuses asylum to Asia Bibi who they wish to hang.

The Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald told the Foreign Affairs Select Committee that he did not wish to give evidence in public and was allowed to give it in private after the committee went into closed session. So decisions are being made in our name that we know nothing about. The chairman of the committee, Tom Tugendhat, has himself backed the Bibi family.

I strongly believe that Asia Bibi ought to have been offered asylum in this country and as a lifetime Labour voter I am dismayed that I find myself at odds with the Labour party which seems to have been silent on this matter. If the reason that Labour has held back is out of fear that it will alienate Muslim voters in this country then it shames our pretence of being a liberal democracy. Frankly I would rather not have a Labour government if it is unwilling to act with common human decency out of a desire to gain political advantage. If Labour has a position on this matter I have yet to hear it.

Individual MPs have made their position clear. Thirty four of them have signed an early day motion which reads:

That this House condemns the threats made to Asia Bibi and her family's lives following her acquittal by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a blasphemy trial; recognises that Britain's commitment to freedom of religious expression, for those of all faiths and none, is one of our most important values; notes that it is essential that there is strong international pressure to ensure the Pakistani Government allows Asia Bibi to leave for a place of safety; and calls on the Government to immediately extend an offer of unconditional asylum to her and her family.’

The silence of so many Muslims in Britain is counterproductive. Far from being reassuring it promotes Islamophobia because it suggests that we do have something to fear from Islam, unless we are careful in what we say. Certainly I do not intend to be lectured by anyone on the evils of Islamophobia if they have not shown their willingness to support the right to life of Asia Bibi, a woman who is described by The Spectator as ‘among the most wronged people on the planet’.

This silence is not universal. A number of prominent Muslims have put there names to a letter sent to the Home Secretary.

The letter reads:

Asia Bibi’s life is in danger in Pakistan, where violent mobs are calling for her execution following her acquittal by the Supreme Court in a blasphemy trial.
Britain’s commitment to freedom of religious expression is one of our most important values. This is especially valued by minority faiths in our society. Its foundation is respect for the beliefs of others, of all faiths and none. This country has a long tradition of offering protection, stretching back to the Huguenots. We should seek to act in this case too.
It is essential that there is strong international pressure to ensure the Pakistani government allows Ms Bibi to leave for a place of safety if she wishes to do so. We call on you to make a clear and proactive statement, that Britain would welcome a request for sanctuary here. Many other governments may wish to make a similar offer: we wish to see our government step up and show leadership.
We are confident that action to ensure Asia Bibi and her family are safe would be very widely welcomed by most people in Britain, across every faith in our society. If there are intolerant fringe voices who would object, they must be robustly challenged, not indulged.
The real threat to good community relationships in Britain would arise from a failure to stand for and act upon the values we should all share.’

The last two sentences of this letter are a blueprint for how to tackle the far right in this country in whatever guise it presents itself.
Another Muslim voice raised in defence of Asia Bibi is Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. I rarely find myself in agreement with what she writes but in this case I admire her willingness to tell it as it is:
These are Christians for God’s sake.  Two and a half million of them live in Pakistan – poor, despised, disenfranchised, vulnerable and violently attacked.  Churches have been bombed, and hundreds have been killed. Vocal egalatarians seemingly never get agitated when non-Muslims are victimised by the followers of Allah.  Tribal loyalties drive their activism.  The rest can go hang.’

Monday, 12 November 2018

The Silent Sisterhood

by Les May
Asia Bibi

THERE’s a pub in Slaithwaite, or ‘Slawit’ as the locals call it, by the name of ‘The Silent Woman’. I imagine it has done a roaring trade recently as all feminist journalists and politicians hide there in case someone should chance to raise with them the case of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who has fallen foul of Pakistan’s draconian, but vague, blasphemy laws.

A year ago the Twitterati were obsessing about the self promoting #MeToo movement; Harriet Harman was in full flow demanding anonymous ‘hot lines’ so that supposed male miscreants could be ‘outed’ and Clive Lewis was being pilloried by MPs Stella Creasy, Yvette Cooper, Jess Phillips, Mims Davies, Justine Greening and Guardian journalist Nadia Khomami, about something he said, which none of them actually witnessed.   More recently Boris Johnson was being accused of ‘Islamophobia’ for a comment about some women wearing burkas.

So what have this self righteous bunch had to say about the Asia Bibi case?  Not a lot it would seem.  Whilst they are keen to promote the idea that western women are living in fear of walking down the street in case some man wolf whistles at them, makes some tasteless remark or just says something they don’t like, a poor Pakistani woman who has just had her sentence overturned after eight years in jail with the prospect of death by hanging to look forward to, has been abandoned to her fate by these supposed liberals.

If anyone in this world is a victim it is Asia Bibi.  She picked up a drinking cup belonging to a Muslim woman and was accused of ‘polluting’ it simply by being a Christian woman and hence ‘unclean’.  An argument followed and lead to her being accused of blasphemy.   First she was beaten up by a mob which broke into her house, then she was charged with blasphemy, found guilty and sentenced to death.   This was upheld by a higher court.   Last week this sentence was overturned by the Pakistan Supreme Court which said the women who had made the accusations against her were lying.

What followed was that mobs demanding she be hanged rioted for several days doing what has been claimed to be £900 million of damage.  Imran Khan, the prime minister, struck a deal with the rioters that she would no be allowed to leave the country until the verdict had been ‘reviewed’Forcing her to stay in a country where tens of thousands of people want to kill her is inhumane.  Her lawyer has left the country in fear of his life.

I am normally very reluctant to resort to the word ‘racism’ to describe someone’s attitudes or beliefs, but I cannot help noticing that Asia Bibi is a poor, brown, ‘asian’ woman and the women who do the shouting about ‘misogyny’ are affluent, white and western.

The failure of these women to use their positions to draw the attention of the British public to Asia Bibi’s plight is difficult to explain unless they simply do not care, don’t think it will raise their profile in circles which will help them in their career or are afraid that they will be accused of ‘Islamophobia’.

There is one bit of good news. Heywood and Middleton MP Liz McInnes has written to the Minister of State, Mark Field, about this case and asked him to encourage his colleagues at the Home Office to consider the religious elements of this matter before making decisions on asylum.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

The Great War on Children

by Les May

I was brought up to believe that World War One, known until 1939 as the Great War, started in August 1914 and ended on 11 November 1918.  It didn’t, it ended on 28 June 1919 when the peace treaty was signed. The 1918 date refers to when an armistice was signed and the warring armies ceased shooting at each other.

This is not me being pedantic, it matters because the difference between the two date embraces a period when things happened which brings no credit to the British state and the politicians of the time.

At the battle of Jutland in 1916 the German High Seas Fleet came off rather better than the British ships sent to intercept it.  But the Kaiser was in no mood to risk his favourite toy in another encounter, so effectively ‘Britannia Ruled the Waves’ and the naval blockade of Germany, which had been in place since 1915, continued.  Unable to produce enough food and no longer able to import it, Germans slowly starved as their daily intake fell to less than 1600 calories in 1916/17. Food, or lack of it, had become a weapon of war.

The Armistice required the German’s to hand over to Britain and France their navy and their weapons, which they did.  With Germany effectively neutralised one might have expected that the British and French would agree to the German request that the naval blockade be lifted.  They refused.  Even after fighting stopped, the British government continued to blockade German ports, creating the conditions for famine.   The economic blockade of the Central Powers was to continue until a peace treaty was signed.

One woman who thought this was wrong was Eglantyne Jebb. She had leaflets printed showing the effect of the continuing blockade on children in Austria and Germany. One of these showed an Austrian child two and a half years old.   It weighed 12 pounds 2 ounces.   It should have weighed 16 pounds more. Another showed two children looking like the images we associate with the liberation of Belsen in 1945.  In her poster Eglantine asked ‘What does Britain stand for? Starving Babies; Torturing Women; Killing the Old?.’

When she put up her poster and handed out her leaflets she was arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act.  At her trial she conducted her own defence. The Crown Prosecutor, Sir Archibald Bodkin did not spare his condemnation of her; she was found guilty and fined £5.  Before the court was cleared Bodkin went over to her and pressed a £5 note into her hand.  Next day the story was on the front page of the Daily Herald complete with pictures of the offending leaflets and the poster. She may have lost the case but she had scored a moral victory.

Not everyone saw it like that.  At a meeting held in the Albert Hall many of the audience arrived with rotten fruit and vegetables to throw at the ‘traitor’ who wanted to give succour to 'the enemy’.   It did not happen. Eglantyne asked ‘Surely it is impossible for us, as normal human beings, to watch children starve to death without making an effort to save them’The crowd turned out to be ‘normal human beings’ and a spontaneous collection was taken.   It was enough for Eglantyne and her sister to invest in a herd of dairy cows to provide a sustainable source of nutrition to the children of Vienna.

Today we routinely see nations using the tactic of a blockade to enforce their will on others.   Ironically Eglantyne Jebb went on to found the organisation ‘Save the Children’ which runs the Health Facility in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah which came under attack a few days ago.  Yemen of course is blockaded by the Saudi and United Arab Emirate forces, and is a country where millions are in danger of famine.

Save the Children are also active in Gaza another place which is blockaded.

The continued blockade of German ports after the Armistice in November 1918 is not one of the most glorious events in our history.  But who are we to judge?  A hundred years on Eglantyne Jebb’s rhetorical question, ‘What does Britain stand for? Starving Babies; Torturing Women; Killing the Old?’, still lacks a convincing answer.

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Asia Bibi: The responsibility of us all!

 TODAY on Twitter Peter Tatchell tweeted:

'I am not holding British Pakistanis & Muslims responsible for the plight of Asia Bibi. I'm simply asking them to help her. They have more influence in Pakistan than white politicians. If they speak out, their voices will have more impact. They can help save her life.'

 He later tweeted:

'Pakistan govt has caved in to Islamist fanatics. Bid to stop Asia Bibi from seeking safe refuge overseas = death sentence. UK Muslim & Pakistani leaders have more influence in Pakistan than UK govt. If they speak out for #AsiaBibi they could help save her.'


More Whingeing from Alphabet Soup Brigade

By Les May

INSTEAD of standing her ground Jenni Murray, a presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, has spinelessly pulled out of a talk at Oxford University, following an accusation of transphobia.

The accusation came from the Oxford University LGBTQ Society, the Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign and the Oxford SU Women's Society, who have excavated an article from the Sunday Times Magazine which appeared in 2017 in which Murray had written "Be trans, be proud - but don't call yourself a 'real woman'."

Now as a man I might just take exception to her opening gambit "Can someone who has lived as a man, with all the privilege that entails, really lay claim to womanhood?" I might for example ask just what privileges most men actually have? When I see the jobs that many men do it is certainly not obvious to me that they are more privileged than Murray. It’s also the case that Murray seems to be more privileged than many women I know.

The Oxford SU LGBTQ Campaign wrote in a statement which has appeared on Facebook; “Her views, which clearly reflect a lack of engagement with the vast majority of actual trans people, and are in sum deeply harmful to trans women and trans feminine people, contributing to and exacerbating the harassment, marginalisation, discrimination, and violence that they already face.”

Quite how you engage with a bunch of people who have already decided that they are victims of harassment, marginalisation, discrimination and violence, I don’t know. Murray has simply expressed an opinion which is open to challenge. I’ve previously expressed the opinion that the crux of the matter for me is whether a man who decides to transition to being a woman is willing to lose his wedding tackle.

If what I have written offends you, feel free to be offended. But first you might like to scan the web pages at

which include the comment; ‘Terms are always changing in the LGBTQ+ community. This list will be updated as often as possible to keep up with the rapid proliferation of queer and trans language.’

These pages look like an exercise in narcissism, one aspect of which is an excessive desire to be admired and an excessive need for affirmation. You really know when you are accepted when people ignore you.