Wednesday, 30 January 2019

Is Rochdale Labour Party 'a disfunctional bubble'?

NV Editor:   Last week the Rochdale Labour councillor, Kathleen Nickson, defected to the local Liberal Democrats claiming that she had suffered bullying in the Labour Party under its current leader Cllr. Allen Brett.  Cllr. Brett doesn't recognise her account, but he has just been subject to a disciplinary inquiry over his own conduct.  Meanwhile, his Labour Party colleagues have taken to recording what he says at private meetings of the Labour group.  In the story below The Guardian reporter quotes a solicitor as accusing the party of Cllr. Brett of existing 'in its own dysfunctional bubble' and having 'a problem at the political leadership level'.  That was last April almost a year ago, but since then things haven't got any better with one councillor, Faisal Rana, having been cautioned by the police for the electoral fraud of multiple voting.  

Read Tony Lloyd MP for Rochdale on electoral fraud: 


ON the 15th, April 2018, The Guardian journalist, Josh Halliday, reported:  'Rochdale's "toxic" political leadership must be overhauled for the town to move on from decades of institutional failure on child sexual abuse, the lead solicitor for victims at the official inquiry has said.'

A solicitor Richard Scorer, who was representing victims at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IISCA), said Labour had allowed Rochdale’s political leaders to act in a “dysfunctional bubble”.  And he added:  “If Rochdale is going to be able to move forward there has to be changes at the political leadership level,”.

That was when Richard Farnell, the former leader of Rochdale Councill, had just been accused of lying under oath.

According to The Guardian story, Farnell was branded “shameless” for his refusal to take personal responsibility for the abuse, which happened during his first stint as town hall leader between 1986 and 1992.

This former Labour council leader, Farnell, who was recently suspended by the Labour party amid a possible police investigation into perjury, has denied lying to the inquiry and insisted he was not informed about abuse at Knowl View during his time as leader.
The Guardians journalist, Josh Halliday, then reported:
'However, Farnell’s successor, the former deputy leader, Allen Brett, has also been criticised by some fellow Labour councillors for representing “no change” to the political regime. His appointment triggered the resignation of Donna Martin, the deputy leader, and two councillors from the town hall cabinet.
'Brett, a long-serving councillor who has held a number of senior positions on Rochdale council, previously backed Farnell over his evidence to the IICSA.
'Speaking after his appointment in December, he said people “should believe what has been said” by Farnell and that he hoped the inquiry would show that “what Richard said was true”.'

But at that time Brett refused to discuss the Rochdale abuse inquiry, or say whether he stood by his remarks on Farnell, when contacted by The Guardian.

In a press release at that time, Brett said he realised 'it was wrong of me to pre-empty [sic?] the inquiry'.   He said Farnell “should now personally reflect on the report” and apologised to victims who had been 'let down by people who should have been protecting you'.

But the solicitor Mr. Scorer said Brett’s pre-empting of the inquiry, as well as the fact Farnell stayed in post for two months after his much-criticised evidence, 'confirms the problem of the political culture' in Rochdale.

Solicitor Scorer then tried to describe the culture of Rochdalian politics up to that date in April 2018:
'In the very recent past the social services and education teams have tried to make improvements but I think what’s apparent from this report is that Rochdale still has a very toxic culture among its political leadership,
'Labour are now the controlling party.  They’ve allowed Rochdale to operate in its own dysfunctional bubble and that now needs to come to an end. They still have a problem at the political leadership level.'


Asia Bibi offered Asylum by Canada!

Source: HuffPost 29-1-2019

Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who spent eight years on death row in Pakistan for blasphemy, is expected to soon arrive in  Canada after accepting an offer of asylum, says a source close to her family.

The news comes as Pakistan’s top court today rejected a challenge to the acquittal of the mother-of-five on blasphemy charges, after she was accused of insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
The Supreme Court upheld its decision to overturn Asia Bibi’s conviction and death sentence sparking fears of civil unrest which plagued her release last year.
Wilson Chowdhry of the British Pakistani Association told HuffPost UK: “I can confirm that Asia Bibi will be flown out to Canada very, very soon and be joined in Canada by the rest of her family in due time.”
He said Canadian diplomats are making the necessary arrangements and that Bibi “is looking forward to her new life in a new country.”
It is hoped Bibi will join two of her daughters, who have already been secretly transported to Canada, Chowdhry said.
Canada’s Global Affairs department would not confirm Chowdhry’s update, but said that Bibi’s case is a “priority” for the Canadian government.  
“Canada is prepared to do everything we can to ensure the safety of Asia Bibi,” Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brittany Fletcher said on Tuesday. “We urge the Government of Pakistan to take all necessary steps to keep her safe. Freedom of religion is a fundamental human right, and must be fully respected.”
Speaking on background, officials told HuffPost Canada they are actively working to secure her release but won’t confirm details due to safety concerns for Bibi and diplomats.
Chowdhry, a close friend of the Bibi family who travelled the world trying to secure her asylum, said Bibi was moving to a secret and “relatively remote” part of Canada.
“Security concerns are still paramount. Even in Canada, Asia’s life is in potential danger.”
Bibi, a farm labourer, was released from prison two months ago after Pakistan’s highest court acquitted her in a landmark decision.
Last month, a delegation from the British Pakistani Christian Association visited Canada and garnered support from MPs there, who said they would welcome Asia and her family to the country.
The Trudeau government has the support of the opposition Conservatives, who have urged him to “use every mechanism at his disposal to offer the Bibi family asylum.”
Last November, Trudeau told reporters, while in Paris: “There is a delicate domestic context that we respect which is why I don’t want to say any more about that, but I will remind people Canada is a welcoming country.”
Bibi spent years in solitary confinement after an argument with a group of Muslim women in June 2009, who accused her of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. But last fall, Pakistan’s Supreme Court overturned her conviction, saying the case against her was based on flimsy evidence.
Her acquittal sparked violent protests across the country, led by Islamic religious hardliners from the extremist group Tehreek-e-Labbaik, whose leaders were later arrested and detained on terrorism and sedition charges.
Days after her release, Bibi’s husband Ashiq Masih made an impassioned video plea to British Prime Minister Theresa May asking for asylum in the UK.
But her appeal for sanctuary was denied by the UK’s home office because of fears British embassies and diplomatic staff would be targeted by Islamic extremists.
Several countries have reportedly offered Bibi asylum, including: France, Spain, Holland, Germany, Italy and Australia.
Chowdhry told HuffPost that  Bibi and her family spent Christmas together in a “safe and secret location” with a core of “international diplomats” guarding her.
With reporting from HuffPost Canada’s Samantha Beattie and Althia Raj. 
CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this story reported that Asia Bibi had accepted an offer of asylum from the Canadian government. Officials say they are still “working” on the “priority” case. The story has been updated to reflect that.

Turning A Blind Eye

by Les May

TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL recently published it’s global rankings on public sector transparency. In the past the UK has been in eighth position.  Now we have dropped out of the top ten most transparent nations.  This fall suggests that we should not be complacent in tackling misconduct in public life.

Larger issues such as the suspension from Parliament of Ulster MP Ian Paisley for failing to declare two jaunts paid for by the Sri Lankan government reach the national press and are quickly stamped upon.  These are not the major problem. It’s the complacency about the ‘drip, drip, drip’ of seemingly minor issues of misconduct which leads to increasing distrust of institutions, officials and politicians, and ultimately to a decline in standards in public life.

In recent years Rochdale has had two issues of complacency with regard to somewhat dodgy goings on at the ballot box.  In 2016 a ‘marked register’ went missing under mysterious circumstances in the Spotland and Falinge ward.   I use the word ‘mysterious’ deliberately because no police investigation followed what might have been deliberate theft after a council officer simply declared it ‘lost’.  Other towns take matters like this seriously.

The second was a Rochdale Councillor for the same ward who admitted improperly soliciting a postal vote and then using it to vote twice in the May 2018 local election. Both of these are serious offences.  Again the two offences were treated with complacency. Instead of looking at the seriousness of the crime, which he should have done, Labour leader Allen Brett turned a blind eye to this and chose to look only at the nature of the punishment received; an admission of guilt, a police caution and no jail sentence.

In October 2018 Tory leader Ashley Dearnley raised this matter in a full Council meeting.   Unanimously Labour voted against the Dearnley motion, which is interesting.  Now I know that not all Labour councillors were so complacent as Brett about this example of electoral fraud.  The fact that the Labour vote was unanimous suggests to me that Labour councillors were instructed to vote in a particular way.  That such things do happen can be gleaned from the comment of the ex Labour councillor for Balderstone & Kirkholt who said, ‘I was being told how to vote, being threatened ...’ after resigning from Labour and joining the LibDems.

Allen Brett may have been able to brush this piece of misconduct under the carpet and keep his disgraced councillor onside in August 2018, but it may yet end in tears for Labour.

Last May the ward I live in came close to a serious upset for Labour.  Very unexpectedly the young Tory candidate came close to beating the Labour incumbent.   If he decides to stand again this year and chooses to make an issue of Allen Brett’s obvious willingness to support a Councillor who admitted electoral fraud who knows what might happen? 


Sunday, 27 January 2019

Falling-out leads to defection!

KATHLEEN Nickson, a Labour councillor for Balderstone & Kirkholt, on Rochdale Town Council, left the Labour Party and joined the local Liberal Democrats last week.

Party bulling was given as the reason for her departure.

She claimed:  'I simply could not go on working in an undemocratic party manner.  I was being told how to vote, being threatened and effectively blocked from being able to do my job as an elected member in the Labour Party.'

The Leader of Rochdale Labour Party, Cllr. Allen Brett, thanking Cllr. Nickson for her service, said:  'Her relationship with the [Labour?] Group executive was becoming increasingly untenable which was only ever going to end one way'.

It cannot have gone unnoticed that Cllr. Nickson lives up Newhey; an area where in an outburst only last year Cllr. Brett had threatened to withold funding from road repairs if he didn't get the election result he wanted.


Saturday, 26 January 2019

Burnham says public will have to pay more for policing & transport!

Trendy Ancoats - Location for £300m housing fund money

Around seventy people turned  out last Thursday night to the 'Question Time - #AskAndy GM' event at the Clarendon College, in Ashton-under-Lyne.  The event was chaired by Hannah Miller, a political reporter from Granada TV. 

The Mayor of Greater Manchester, was there to answer questions from the public. The first question was about public transport in Greater Manchester.  The Mayor has stated his intention to reorganise public transport in Greater Manchester and to make bus travel cheaper, regular, and more convenient, with fewer operators and fares.

Burnham pointed out that there was a an urgent need to change the way buses work in Greater Manchester. There had been 32 million fewer journey's over the last decade and he said that the current bus system was holding us back in Greater Manchester. He told the audience: "We need a London style system...but this can't be provided the Act (Bus Services Act 2017) rules this out...We've got to get people using buses."

Although he said it would take the next three to five years to get the bus system that was wanted in Greater Manchester, he also said "I can't use the powers without funding... unless we invest we can't have a London style system...we don't get the subsidy London get.

When asked by Hannah Miller if it was going to cost people in Greater Manchester more money, he said it would.  Burnham had initially pledged that the free bus passes for 16 to 18-year old's would be self-financing -funded by local education colleges, sponsorship, and the bus companies themselves. Now,  a £9 Mayoral precept, is to be added to council tax bills to pay for the reorganisation of the regions bus network and the free bus passes for young people. Every household in Greater Manchester already pay around £10 for the Mayor and his office. The extra money raised would total between £12m and £13m, all of which, would go on bus services.

A speaker from the floor queried whether people would realistically cease using cars in preference to public transport in Greater Manchester, given that it was inordinately expensive and often inconvenient.  He said he'd recently travelled one-and-a-half miles by bus which had cost him £2.50. Over the Christmas period there had been no buses after 6.00 pm on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Years Eve, and an hourly service on Boxing Day.  He compared this with Transport for London (TfL), that had a standard single fare of £1.50 for every journey and ran a full bus services over the Christmas period.  He said as someone who relied on public transport, he'd had three options over the Christmas period - stop in, rely on Shanks's pony or pay an arm an a leg for a taxi.  He said this wasn't good enough and what was needed with public transport in Greater Manchester, was a radical shake up. 

Burnham replied that London had quality buses compared with Greater Manchester and that it was often cheaper for a group of people to use an Uber taxi, than a get a bus in Greater Manchester. He said that the standard single fare in London of £1.50 applied to all bus journey's even when you changed buses within the hour - "There are gradual improvements taking place", he added. 

What the Mayor omitted to mention is that everyone who resides in Greater London is also entitled to a free bus pass when they reach 60. This also applies if you live in Scotland, Wales or Norther Ireland. Before 2010, residents in Greater Manchester were also entitled to a free bus at 60, but the age was increased incrementally, in line with the state pension age. Some people living in greater Manchester will now have to wait until they are 66-years old to get a free bus pass. Although the Mayor wants to give 16 - 18-year old's a free bus pass, he says that reinstating free bus passes for people aged 60, would not be affordable.

Andy Burnham told the audience that young people are his priority for investment as in his opinion, they have "shouldered the cuts." He said that many children living in the region, have said they feel they have no future when they are asked "Do you have hope for the future?" He pointed out that mental health issues among children are increasing and that a free bus pass would allow young people to access jobs and training. 

A questioner asked about homelessness and if the Mayor did a walkabout in areas other than Manchester. He replied that he had been to Bolton and was confident that figures out next week on rough sleeping, would see a fall in rough sleeping across Greater Manchester. He referred to the 'Bed Every Night Scheme' and said that 901 people had been through the scheme since it was launched last November and 285 had moved to a fixed address from the scheme. He also referred to the 'Night Stop' service that offered a young person a room. The Mayor said that it cost £11,000 to put someone in a bed every night whereas, it cost £20,000 to keep them homeless. 

One speaker referred to a scheme in Croydon where homeowners were being encouraged to offer a room to the homeless. Another speaker, said no one was approaching supermarkets for food that could be donated to food banks that had been designated for landfill. 

In response to a question about the cuts in police numbers, Burnham said: 

"I struggle to understand cuts in police numbers since 2010. The Government isn't increasing our central government grant (80%), of money comes from this. they want us to rely on raising council tax to fund services. I want the Greater Manchester public to pay £24 for policing in greater Manchester."

Ian Hopkins a police officer, told the audience that the police don't investigate street crime anymore because of a lack of officers (the scroats will be pleased to hear this), "We're seeking to recruit 500 special constables, specials are a vital part of policing." He said there was a problem with fireworks in Tameside and that he wanted the sales of fireworks banned to reduce anti-social behaviour. He thought that fireworks should only be sold for licensed events. The Mayor responded by saying that if youths are prosecuted for anti-social behaviour, they should lose their free bus pass as it was a contract with the young and the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (G.M.C.A). 

Many residents of Greater Manchester may well wonder why they should have to pay more for policing when you hardly ever see a copper nowadays. Residents in Dukinfield, where there has been a recent spike in house burglaries have complained that the police have failed to investigate many burglaries and thefts in the area. It may well be that the police have other priorities now, such as investigating what is now called "hate crime" or telling pub landlords to take down Cuban flags with images of the revolutionary, Ernesto 'Che' Guevara on them, as happened at one pub in Hyde. The victims of crime, these days, are just given a crime number so they can claim on their insurance.

Andy Burnham told the audience that there had been a radical rewrite of the 'Spatial Framework' and that GMCA had listened to the public. The greenbelt take in Tameside had come down drastically by around 80% - "We've made a switch back to brownfield", he said. When asked how many homes would be affordable homes, the audience were told by Paul, the Mayor's housing expert, that 50,000 would be affordable and 30,000 would be social housing. He pointed out that 92,000 homes had been lost since 1980 due to the right-to-buy legislation and that a lot of council homes that were bought, finished up in the private sector.

Andy Burnham, said that £300 million of the 'housing fund' given to the GMCA by Chancellor George Osborne, had been spent on providing housing in Manchester City Centre. It will be clear to anybody who takes a tram journey through trendy Ancoats, in Manchester, where all the money went. The area is now a sprawling mass of high rise flats and mill conversions occupied typically, by 18 to 30-year old in-migrant Yuppies and Hipster's. Unfortunately, most of the benefits of this regeneration failed to spill over into the surrounding areas of Manchester, which are considered to be, some of the poorest parts of the country. 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

WHAT If the court refuses to allow the appeal?


 If the court refuses to allow the appeal, it will remove the last legal hurdle facing Asia Bibi.

PAKISTAN's Supreme Court will decide on January 29 whether to allow an appeal against its acquittal of a Christian woman at the centre of a blasphemy row, a lawyer involved in the case said on Thursday.
If the court refuses to allow the appeal, it will remove the last legal hurdle facing Asia Bibi, who is a prime target in Pakistan and remains in protective custody.
Bibi was on death row for eight years for blasphemy, a hugely sensitive charge.
The Supreme Court's decision in October last year to overturn her conviction ignited days of violent demonstrations, with enraged militants calling for her beheading, mutiny within the powerful military and the assassination of the country's top judges.
The government has since launched a crackdown on the Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP) party - the militant group driving the violent protests - charging its leaders with sedition and terrorism.
But authorities also struck a deal with the protesters to end the violence, forming an agreement which included allowing a final review of the Supreme Court's judgement.
On January 29, "the court will determine if our appeal against her acquittal is admitted", Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry, the lawyer who filed the petition seeking an appeal, told AFP.
"Usually the court decides on the same day if the appeal is admitted or not," he added.
Under Pakistan's legal system any private citizen can petition the courts on any matter of public interest or human rights, as in the Bibi case.
However legal experts said it would be highly unusual for the Supreme Court to overturn its own decision, especially one that as carefully drafted as the Bibi ruling.
"It is very rare," lawyer Saad Rasool told AFP.
The three-member bench that will hear the petition will be headed by new Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, considered the country's top expert in criminal law and who helped draft the decision to acquit Bibi.
Approximately 40 people are believed to be on death row or serving a life sentence for blasphemy, according to a 2018 report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Speculation has been rife since Bibi's acquittal that an asylum deal with a European or North American country may be in the works.


Wednesday, 23 January 2019

The Burnham and Lansman Roadshow hitsTameside!

The Andy Burnham roadshow, is in Ashton-under-Lyne tonight. The Mayor for Greater Manchester, will be speaking at the Clarendon College, on Camp Street, in the town centre - a five minute walk from Ashton bus station and a short walk from the train station. The ticket only event, begins at 7.00pm.

ritics of the Mayor, who was elected in May 2017 on a 28% turnout, say that he's not giving value for money and that he's a bit of a damp squib, for a 'Northern Powerhouse'. On being elected, Burnham, promised to eradicate rough sleeping on the streets of Manchester by 2020. Yet rough sleeping and homelessness, are still a major problem in Manchester, and seem to be increasing. He also promised to reform public transport, making bus fares cheaper and bus journey's more reliable and convenient. Yet, as critics point out, very little seems to have been done despite the Mayor being handed powers under the 'Bus Services Act'. 

While the Mayor, who says he believes in equality, has ruled out reinstating free bus passes for people aged 60, resident in Greater Manchester - which they were entitled to before 2010 - on the grounds of affordability, he has committed to giving healthy and strapping, 16 to 18- year olds, a free bus pass. Initially, he said that this would be self-financing funded by local education colleges, sponsorship and the bus companies themselves. But it was announced recently that council tax bills, across Greater Manchester, will be increased this April to re-organise the regions bus network and to pay for Burnham's promised free bus passes for 16 to 18-year olds. A proposed increase to the mayor's annual precept, a standalone part of council tax bills, ring-fenced for certain uses, would add £9 onto the average  annual Band D bill.

Jon Lansman

Tomorrow night, (Thursday 24 January 2019 @ 7.30) at 'The New Labour Club', Acres Lane, Stalybridge, the founder of 'Momentum', Jon Lansman, will speaking at a ticket only event. It is understood that Lansman has been invited to re-launch 'Momentum' in Tameside. Although  a close friend of Socialist Jeremy Corbyn, the Daily Express in 2017, disclosed that Capitalist Lansman, had a £500,000 investment in a  company called 'Ortonovo', which speculates on the property market and manages a portfolio of McDonald's restaurants. Ortonovo also runs Corbyn-supporting 'Left Futures'. The embarrassing revelations, emerged just weeks after Momentum launched a mass campaign against the "appalling working conditions" in the fast food giant. 

CARILLION: Tale of Two Towns

LAST January, when it collapsed CARILLION had an ongoing contract with Rochdale council to provide around £17m in facilities management in a contract which required them to build a further 12 new schools.

At that time in a statement, Rochdale Council said: “We have been in discussions with key organisations since late in 2017, following the profits warning issued by Carillion. We have been preparing for such a possibility through the development of contingency plans.
"We are working closely with relevant schools to make sure disruption is avoided and we welcome the reassurance offered by the government today that public services will be protected.
"We recognise that this is a difficult and unsettling time for organisations working with the company and in particular for the employees of Carillion and offer our thanks for their continued commitment.”

Tameside schools

At the same time Tameside MBC which under its Labour controlled council had long been up the backside of the now disgraced company, Carillion, was involved in building five secondary schools - Isca, St Peters, St Lukes, St James and West Exe and all were completed by 2006.

But up to stage Carillion had also provided services including cleaning, catering, building and grounds maintenance for the PFI scheme.

A spokesman from Tameside council said:  
“At present we are in the business continuity phase and it is reassuring to be able to report that services provided by Carillion staff are operating as normal – all buildings are open for staff and the public, all school catering is in place and all ancillary services such as cleaning are operating.

“Tameside council and its partners in the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) are drawing up plans to ensure this remains the case going forward.


Ruskin’s and Turner’s influence on later artists

Refuge:  The Art of Belonging (15 February-29 June 2019, at Abbot Hall Gallery) 

IN showing Ruskins and Turners influence today among contemporary artists, the
exhibition will also display a series of large monochrome drawings by Emma Stibbon.
In June 2018, Royal Academician Stibbon retraced the steps of Turner and Ruskin
visiting the Alps.  She took the route made by Ruskin in June 1854 when he produced
a series of daguerreotypes (early photographs) of Alpine scenery, to see what remains
of the glaciers today.  Her work shows how geography has been impacted by climate
change over the last two centuries. Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud will also be
shown at York Art Gallery from March 29 to June 23 2019.

The exhibition book, bringing together a collection of new essays by artists, climate
change scientists, art historians and curators, will be published in March 2019.  More
Lakeland Artsexhibitions during 2019: 
Refuge, The Art of Belonging (15 February-29 June 2019, Abbot Hall) tells the story
of artists who entered Britain as a result of Nazi occupation alongside a community
project exploring the lives of refugees living in Cumbria. The exhibition examines
displacement within artistswork and the adoption of new landscapes.

The show features works from Lakeland ArtsCollection including Hilde Goldschmidt,
Hans Coper, Lucie Rie, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Kurt Schwitters. Schwitters
(1887-1948) the first multi-media artist, settled in Ambleside, Cumbria, after coming
to Britain as a refugee. Anne, Countess of Pembroke (Lady Anne Clifford) (22 March-
22 June 2019, Abbot Hall) sees an unsung campaigner return home.

Abbot Hall takes part in the National Portrait Gallerys Coming Home project which is
loaning portraits of iconic individuals to places across the country that they are most
closely associated with. This means Abbot Hall is able to show off the finest portrait
of Lady Anne Clifford, which is in the National Portrait Gallerys collection. Lady Anne
Clifford (1590-1676) spent much of her life in a long and complex legal battle to obtain
the rights of her inheritance.

This portrait of her, by William Larkin, (c1618), is an excellent example of those commissioned by members of the Court of Charles I. Her fascinating fight is known
through her diaries and the magnificent

The Great Picture, painted in 1646 and on permanent show at Abbot Hall. The Lady
Anne Clifford portrait, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, will be hung alongside
the portrait of her mother, Lady Margaret Russell, Countess of Cumberland, which was
also painted by William Larkin. Annes mother was the only person who supported her

The arrival of this important portrait sees mother and daughter reunited in Cumbria.



Lakeland Arts’ exhibitions for 2019:

Turner, Ruskin, Scottish Colourists, The Art of Belonging and more 

'In 1884 Ruskin wrote about an encroaching Storm Cloud
a darkening of the skies
that he attributed to the belching chimneys of the modern world.'

Lakeland Arts has revealed key highlights from its exciting 2019 programme of exhibitions.
Helen Watson, Lakeland ArtsDirector of Programming, said:  

'Lakeland Arts has a fabulous and fascinating year ahead. We will be showing off great works from our own collections as well as major loans from across the UK.

'We will be exhibiting more than 450 years of art history as well as contemporary work from artists of today.'

Main summer exhibition:
The main summer show at Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal, is Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud (12 July – 5 October 2019).
The exhibition will include more than 100 works and stretch across five rooms.  It is one
of the biggest exhibitions in the UK during the 200th anniversary of John Ruskins birth.
Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud will be the first in – depth examination of the relationship between both men, their work, and the impact Ruskin had in highlighting climate
change. In addition to Ruskins paintings and writings, the exhibition will feature an
introductory film along with a new publication incorporating fresh research on Ruskin
and Turners work.

Abbot Hall is partnering with York Art Gallery and University of York on Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud. Works from both partners go on show alongside substantial loans
from national and regional collections. Ruskin (1819- 1900) was the leading English
art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, water colourist,
prominent social thinker and philanthropist.

JMW Turner (1775-1881) was a landscape painter, traveller, poet and teacher. Many
people consider him the first modern painter. Ruskin said of Turner he was the
greatest of the ageand was a lifelong supporter.  The exhibition will feature watercolours,
drawings and a haunting portrait of Ruskin from the National Portrait Gallery, made in
the aftermath of his first serious mental illness.

In 1884 Ruskin wrote about an encroaching Storm Cloud - a darkening of the skies
that he attributed to the belching chimneys of the modern world.  The imagery also
allowed him to articulate his ongoing mental struggles.   Bringing together Victorian
and contemporary works of art, the exhibition will demonstrate the unsettling messages
underpinning Ruskins eye for beauty in the natural world.

Ruskins anxiety about darkening skies and polluted storm clouds is contrasted with
his early interest in Turners luminous pictures. 

The exhibition contains a substantial display of Turners watercolours, demonstrating
his evolving style, and his creation of highly-finished sample studies of British and
alpine landscapes. Lakeland Arts’  The Passage of Mount St Gothard (1804) by
Turner will be a key painting on show.   Cultural organisations in Cumbria including
Ruskin Museum and Brantwood in Coniston will also be marking the anniversary of
Ruskins birth with a series of exhibitions and events in 2019, making the county the
place to visit for everything Ruskin related.
The Ruskin Museum holds the most comprehensive display in the Lake District about
the life and work of John Ruskin. Brantwood is Ruskins former home where he spent
the last 28 years of his life. Helen Watson said:
Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud will be one of our biggest shows ever. If you havean interest in Ruskin and Turner this is a must-see exhibition.
Next year is hugely significant in celebrating Ruskin and we are delighted to have this landmark exhibition at Abbot Hall during the 200th anniversary of his birth. Its particularly apt that the exhibition takes place in Cumbria – the home of Ruskin and the place he found most inspiration.


Thursday, 17 January 2019

The Aspiring Rotten Borough of Rochdale

by Mick Coats
THE rotten borough of Rochdale has brought the antics of the councillors of Musborough up to date, or rather back to the future.  At the recent meeting of our good councillors, the matter of the transgressions of one of their number was discussed, or rather not discussed.

Observing from the gallery, we expected the leader of the opposition to express severe criticism of the recently elected councillor for voting twice in the recent election.

However, he proceeded to take the transgressing councillor to task with all the vigour and effectiveness of a caterpillar eating a wet lettuce.  Going through the motions, he gave the impression of not wanting to be at the meeting, fearful of upsetting the class bully.

He was not alone acting in a lackluster way, all the councillors seemed to have been told to say nothing.  They obsequiously complied and behaved like good little boys and girls.  The guilty person himself said nothing, not even sorry for his criminal actions.

What a sorry lot of people, who do they represent; certainly not the electorate!


Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Cllr. Rowbotham, Big Cyril & Single Issue Politics

by Brian Bamford

ON the 5th, December Carl Faulkner, an independent analyst and investigator concerned about the decline of common decency in local political life, published a video skillfully outlining the attitude of most Rochdale councillors to the importance of democratic procedures in local politics.  The video entitled 'Birds of a feather:  Protecting the Guilty' * and commenting on the Rochdale  full council meeting of Oct. 2018, that  describes in detail how councillors of a Labour complexion gave spirited support to one of their brethren who is a self-confessed fraudster using postal ballots to vote more than once in the last municipal elections in Rochdale.

This artfully designed video superbly captures the depth to which Rochdale politics has sunk, with the now disgraced Council leader Allen Brett calling on the Council to let the culprit fraudster, councillor Faisal Rana, be 'allowed to continue his good work'.  Councillor Brett was responding to a formal motion from the Tory leader of the opposition inviting Councillor Rana to 'just reflect on the positon that he's in and the position that he's put the Borough in'.

The Rochdale Labour councillors are by now well immune to controversy and scandal having endured pantomime politics for decades under the tutelage of such tacticians as Simon Danczuk, Richard Farnell, and now Allen Brett.  Perhaps we ought to mention that at the time the tragedy of Cambridge House was in being as a going concern in the 1960s, Cyril Smith was a big noise in the Rochdale Labour Party.

The now disgraced Council leader Allen Brett is merely the ultimate conclusion of a rather bad bunch.  Alongside him Sara Rowbotham cuts a curious figure as his deputy, it was she who rose to fame when Maxine Peak portrayed her in the 'Three Girls' dramatisation on TV.  She is interesting because she has a following among a campaign group called 'Parents Against Grooming' or PAG.**

PAG supporters were out in force at the Council meeting at which Allen Brett defended the self-confessed fraud Faisal Rana.  But they were clearly less interest on electoral swindling than on the exploits of a dead man in the last century at Cambridge House etc.  Historical memory is not to be ignored, as we know that even today that Spaniards are anxious to unearth the bones of victims of General Franco in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.  If the supporters of PAG want to explore and campaign for what they call the 'survivors' of Cyril Smith they are entitled to do so.

What is worrying is that in doing so, and pursuing a single issue, the PAG campaigners  may be overlooking what is now under their own noses:  that is that they themselves may be being used as 'useful idiots' by an ambitious politician to feather her own nest.  I can't say this for certain, but their own heroine Sara Rowbotham has gone on record of making allegations against other Rochdale councillors, yet at the meeting PAG attended Sara had no qualms about joining the 'Roll of Shame' and backing the electoral fraud, Faisal Rana.

In this respect by getting carried away with the virtue signals and grandstanding of these half-baked ambitious politicians aren't you being a bit myopic?   Before you start to 'Look Back in Anger', just consider that I was one of those folding RAP in the cellar on Spotland Road, when in May 1979 the allegations against Cyril Smith at Cambridge House were first about to be put into the public domain.  Also, this Northern Voices Blog together with John Walker former joint editor of RAP; the Westminster Blogger, Paul Waugh; and the much lamented former Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk,   created the conditions for PAG to exist after Danczuk made his speech in Parliament in 2012 (see the excerpt from the Northern Voices Blog archive in November 2012 below).***


** See the video link in which Sara Rowbotham denounces Councillor Allen Brett entitled

***   Monday, 19 November 2012

It Was The Voices That Did It!

Cyril Smith - the Legend Falls

LAST WEEK, Northern Voices was party with others to the opening up of a story that has lied in the shadows for decades.   We cannot claim all the credit as we did not do the original research into Cyril Smith:  that was performed by the editors of the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) in May 1979, when they first published the story and were threatened by Cyril Smith's solicitors at the time with a 'gagging writ'Private Eye and the New Statesman followed through with reports but the case against 'Smith the Man' was killed before it reached the mainstream media.  Later attempts to resurrect the story also failed because those giving evidence against Sir Cyril Smith lacked the confidence to put their names in the public domain. 


Baffling Ballot Box Probe

Editorial Note:  IN May 2017, Northern Voice produced the piece of investigative journalism below in which we tried to shed light on the shady goings on in the Spotland and Falinge ward.  That was at a time when mysteriously a marked ballot register disappeared without adequate explanation.  Since then the voting irregularities of the new Councillor Faisal Rana has further damaged the image of Rochdale.


In Rochdale, a lack of curiosity at the top?

Written up by Les May based on research by Carl Faulkner and Brian Bamford

THERESA May’s ostensible reason for calling a General Election is that her slender majority of 12 was an obstacle to passing the legislation needed to cope with the fallout from the UK leaving the EU.  The cynical amongst you might wonder if it was not also an opportunity to distract attention from the fact that criminal charges are being considered by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) against at least 30 individuals in the Conservative party.  Some have been MPs in the 2015 parliament and contributing to Theresa’s slim majority, some will be candidates in this election and could be re-elected.   Electoral fraud isn’t just something that happens in other countries it happens here too. 

It’s not just the Tories who have played fast and loose with the rules on election expenditure.  In recent years Labour and the LibDems have both been fined by the Electoral Commission for breaking election expense rules.  What makes the Tory case different is that the CPS is investigating whether there is evidence that candidates and their agents may be guilty of filing false spending returns. If they are both could be charged with fraud.

This type of fraud is easy to detect once you are alerted to what is happening.   There’s always a ‘paper trail’.  In fact a year ago as part of its ‘Check a Tory’ campaign the Daily Mirror put the election expenses of Tory MPs on line and invited readers to scrutinise them.  What’s much harder to detect is when a small group, with or without the tacit agreement of local party bosses, exploit weaknesses in the system to rig the ballot.  Having a system which ‘on paper’ is foolproof, is fallible if the people who are supposed to implement it fall down on the job.

In August 2015, the government put out a press release announcing that, ‘Sir Eric Pickles, the Government’s Anti-Corruption Champion’, was to review the question of electoral fraud.

A year later it was published. 

So far so good.  But as I noted above any system is only as good as the people who implement it. This is what the Electoral Commission have to say about those people:

‘Local Electoral Registration Officers (EROs) and Returning Officers (ROs) manage elections, and are uniquely placed to detect and prevent electoral fraud.  They should have robust plans in place to identify any suspicious behaviour and should work with the police to investigate any potential electoral fraud.’  (my emphasis)

But what actually happens when something ‘suspicious’ does occur.   Just how easy is it to get anyone to take notice?  Things seem to have changed in Rochdale since 2011 when ex-council leader Colin Lambert was outspoken about what needed to be done. 

Over a year ago Northern Voices was sent the extremely well documented correspondence between a candidate in the Spotland and Falinge ward at last years Rochdale Council elections, and the various bodies which are supposed to deal with questions of electoral fraud.  It runs to some 22 pages.

At that election a 'marked register' went missing.   It should have been handed to the Returning Officer at the point at which the ballot box and other official documents were delivered by the Presiding Officer at the close of poll. It was either accidentally lost or deliberately stolen.  There can be no reason why one of these alternative explanations should be favoured over the other.   If we are to take the fight against electoral fraud seriously the ‘precautionary principle’ suggests that in the absence of evidence to the contrary it should be assumed that it was stolen, the police should be informed to that effect and a full investigation launched.   It did not happen.

What is clear from this correspondence is that, in spite of Pickles bluster in The Telegraph:
'We should never be frightened to look under the rock when what is crawling underneath threatens us all. It is time to take action to take on the electoral crooks and defend Britain’s free and fair elections', when a complaint is made, no one wants to shoulder the responsibility for making sure that a proper investigation is launched.  It seems that Pickles was right about one thing, ‘the authorities are in a “state of denial” and are “turning a blind eye” to election fraud.’

Equally worrying is that the complainant, Carl Faulkner, who stood as an independent candidate, claims that he was not informed of the loss of the missing register as he should have been and that he was told ‘all candidates were informed about the missing register'Northern Voices made an effort to contact the other candidates to find out if and when they were told about the missing register.

Mick Coates, the Green candidate, was quite clear that he had not been officially informed that the mark register was missing.

Enquires with the Lib-Dems suggested that this was also the case with their candidate Matthew Allen, and Ian Duckworth, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, was unable to confirm that their candidate, Steven Scholes, had been informed either.

Wendy Cox the Labour candidate did not answer the question directly but said:  
'Thank you for your email. I have passed this to the electoral officer.'  

Quite why she felt she had to ask the electoral officer whether she had been informed, is unclear at this point.  A week later she was asked if there had been any response and replied suggesting that NV should contact the electoral officer directly.  On the 10th April the joint editor of NV wrote to the RMBC Chief Executive, Steve Rumbelow for clarification.

(His reply to the NV joint editor, Brian Bamford, is printed below together with the response of the original complainant, Carl Faulkner.  Copies of the full correspondence between the complainant and the various bodies which are supposed to deal with questions of electoral fraud can be made available by e-mail from Northern Voices.  It shows clearly that it was the complainant who initiated the contact with the Cabinet Office, Electoral Commission and Police not RMBC.)

The possibility that the register was in fact stolen has been excluded from consideration a priori, even though at the time an exhaustive and unsuccessful search was made at the polling station, and even of people’s cars.   The consequence of deciding that a register was ‘definitely lost’ not ‘possibly stolen’ is that there is a convenient ‘fall guy’ in the form of whoever was in charge of that polling station. They are deemed to have ‘lost’ it and their reputation must suffer as a consequence.

In all this the one thing that is very clear is that whoever told the complainant that ‘all candidates were informed about the missing register' was telling a porky pie. And these are the people we have to trust when it comes to combating electoral fraud.  Robust plans to identify potential electoral fraud?   I think not.
Dear Mr Bamford
Thank you for your recent enquiry.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in response.
To clarify, the marked register is the copy of the electoral register used in polling stations. It serves as the record of who has voted in the election, and it is kept for a year after the election. The marked register does not indicate who electors voted for, nor does it contain ballot paper numbers. 

Legislation provides that a variety of parties are eligible to access copies of the marked register after an election. Anyone can inspect the marked register, but only certain people can purchase a copy. 

This includes individual candidates and political party representatives.  Usually, copies are requested by and provided to party representatives who would then disseminate the information to their colleagues, including candidates. 

All those who requested copies of the marked registers were informed that a register had not been returned following the close of poll and the steps that had been taken in an attempt to locate it, both immediately after the close of poll and in the days following the election. 

In addition, the Council has been in contact with the Cabinet Office, Electoral Commission and Police on the matter who were satisfied with the steps that had been taken and the measures put in place to prevent any future issues of a similar nature. 

Yours Sincerely
Steve Rumbelow

And here are Mr Faulkner’s observations:
1) Without him actually stating it, it is clear that people were only going to be informed if and when a copy of the register was requested. That is not the same as informing all candidates as a matter of course. It reiterates my position that there was a concerted attempt to conceal the incident by keeping quiet about it.

2) I feel he is attempting to downplay the importance of the marked register, by portraying it as nothing more than a post-election tool for political parties /candidates / interested persons.  This is not the case - it’s primary purpose is as an anti-fraud document - but one which can be utilised by political parties etc.

3) All contact with the police, Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission was initiated by me. They contacted RMBC - not the other way round as his response could be taken to mean.

4) What are the ‘steps’ put in place that did not exist before? The issue is not about how, who, why or exactly when the register went missing but that no candidates nor the police were informed at the time or during the following 21 days.