Tuesday, 26 March 2019

BREXIT CONSIDERED by Vernon Bogdanor

ON June 23, 2016, British voters decided by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent that the United Kingdom should leave the European Union.  Since then, British politics has been convulsed by the referendum’s repercussions. Some Remainers do not accept the finality of the vote.  The margin, they argue, was too narrow to provide a mandate for fundamental change, while some of the arguments that persuaded voters to support Leave were mendacious.  The hope that Britain could, in the words of then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have its cake and eat it has proved misplaced.
The hope that Britain could, in the words of then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, have its cake and eat it has proved misplaced.
If, to alter the metaphor, one leaves a tennis club because one does not wish to pay the subscription and does not like the rules, one will not be able to continue to use the tennis courts on the same basis as the members. Therefore, some Remainers conclude, there should be a second referendum, to discover whether the British people still wish to leave the European Union.

The European issue is difficult for Parliament to resolve for two reasons. The first is that May’s government holds only a minority of seats—317 out of the 650—in the House of Commons, meaning it must rely for its narrow majority on the 10 members of parliament from the vehemently pro-Brexit Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland. But, perhaps even more important, both the Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party are internally divided between Remainers and Brexiteers. That division reflects a geographical and cultural division in the country.

The large cities, together with Scotland and Northern Ireland, welcome globalization and are relaxed about the EU’s principle of freedom of movement. They voted to remain. But smaller towns and older manufacturing areas, in which many feel left behind, are hostile to globalization and freedom of movement, which, they argue, have kept wages down and put undue pressure on public services. These areas supported the Leave campaign.

Parliament has enacted that Britain will leave the EU on March 29. After long and tortuous negotiations, Prime Minister Theresa May in November 2018 secured a deal with the EU. That deal comprises a legally binding withdrawal agreement providing for a transition period until December 2020, during which Britain will remain bound by EU rules while negotiating the final relationship. The pattern of that relationship is outlined in a nonbinding political declaration that hints at an outcome in which Britain could negotiate independent trade agreements, while also providing it with some degree of frictionless trade with the EU.

May’s cabinet, despite internal tensions between Remainers and Brexiteers, accepted the deal. But the Tories’ DUP allies were fiercely opposed to it, as they claimed that it might separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom by preventing a hard border with the Irish Republic and potentially creating a customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom. The deal was also opposed both by Brexiteers in the Conservative Party, who claimed that it tied Britain too closely to the EU, and by Remainers—primarily Labour, but also Liberal Democrats and Scottish Nationalists—who argued that it allowed for too many barriers to the export of goods and services to the EU. This coalition of incompatibles imposed a crushing defeat on the government motion to accept the deal on Jan. 15. Just 202 MPs supported it, while 432 rejected it.

A defeat of this magnitude is unparalleled in Britain’s parliamentary history. No fewer than 118 Conservatives, mostly hard Brexiteers, voted against the deal, with just 196 Conservatives supporting it. And many of those who voted for it had no choice.  (Because approximately 100 Conservative MPs are ministers or on the government payroll, they were duty-bound to support May or resign.  This means that a majority of Conservative backbenchers were opposed to the deal.) May’s defeat, in what was arguably the most important parliamentary vote in Britain since World War II, creates a moment of acute danger for the prime minister, the government, the Conservative Party, and the country.

A harder Brexit to placate Conservative rebels would alienate Conservative Remainers. Conversely, a softer Brexit to win support from the opposition parties would increase the number of Conservative rebels.

The hope was that the deal could unite Brexiteers and Remainers. Instead it has driven them further apart. A harder Brexit to placate Conservative rebels would alienate Conservative Remainers. Conversely, a softer Brexit to win support from the opposition parties would increase the number of Conservative rebels. Indeed, there may be no deal that could hold the Conservative Party together; an alternative could end the cabinet truce and possibly lead to the disintegration of the minority government, with a general election to follow.

It has happened before. In 1979, the Labour minority government led by James Callaghan disintegrated in this way, in part because Labour was internally divided on the issue of devolving power to Scotland. Then, in 1951, Clement Attlee’s Labour government, which enjoyed a majority of only five, disintegrated because the party was internally divided between left and right. In both cases, long periods in the opposition followed.

The vote also creates a moment of danger for the country. Since Parliament has already approved a bill stating Brexit will occur on March 29, that is the default position. The exit date can, admittedly, be extended with the agreement of the other 27 members of the European Union. But those countries may be unwilling to agree if the only reason for extension is that MPs, 30 months after the referendum, still cannot make up their minds. In any case, an extension would only postpone the dilemma. It would not resolve it.

Unless Parliament passes new legislation—and there are now fewer than 40 sitting days before March 29—Britain will leave the EU without a deal.  That is regarded by most commentators as disastrous, since it would mean that EU customs duties and, even more disadvantageously, an intimidating host of EU regulations would be imposed on British exports.  It would no longer be as easy to send goods from London to Paris or Frankfurt as it is to send goods from London to Edinburgh.

The Jan. 15 vote showed what MPs are against. But there seems to be little agreement on what they are for. Theresa May is now seeking consensus through all-party talks, although she has not yet budged on her so-called red lines, namely that Britain should leave both the European customs union (in order to pursue an independent trade policy) and the single market (to avoid allowing free movement of people and the jurisdiction of EU courts).   And the opposition parties see no reason to help her. Labour is unwilling to allow its deep internal divisions to be publicly exposed by articulating a clear alternative policy. It seeks not consensus but a general election to remove the Conservatives from power.   The Liberal Democrats seek a second referendum, while the Scottish nationalists seek to exploit the government’s difficulties to further the case for independence.
There is no obvious resolution of the problem that could secure majority support.

There is no obvious resolution of the problem that could secure majority support.  Were Britain to remain in the EU’s customs union, it would be unable to sign independent trade agreements.  Were it to remain in the EU’s internal market, it would have to accept freedom of movement.  Yet control of immigration from the European Union was one of the main motivations behind the Brexit vote.
At this point, there seem to be just three alternatives. The first is May’s deal, perhaps in a slightly modified form.  The second is for Britain to leave the EU without a deal; even though most MPs are against a no-deal Brexit, they find themselves unable to agree on an alternative.  The third is for Parliament throw the issue back to the people in a second referendum, even though the prime minister has so far opposed such a move, and its advocates cannot agree on the question to be asked.  Finally, given that the country remains almost evenly divided, a second referendum would not necessarily resolve the conflict.

The issue of Britain’s place in (or out of) Europe has arguably destroyed five of the last six Conservative prime ministers—Harold Macmillan, Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher, John Major, and David Cameron.  It may be about to bring down another.

Vernon Bogdanor is a professor of government at King’s College, London. His book Brexit and the Constitution will be published next year. In 2019, he will be giving the Stimson lecture at Yale University on the consequences of Brexit for Britain and the European Union.

Wednesday, 20 March 2019

Secret police document on Blacklisting

A SECRET police document has revealed how the Metropolitan Police's Special Branch helped the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists - preventing them from getting jobs because of their political views. 

In one case, detectives suggested one individual was a terrorist, despite the claim being wrong.
The illegal practice - exposed ten years ago - involved major construction firms accessing secret files on 3,000 workers and their union activities.

But until now, little has been known about the police's role, other than a Scotland Yard admission it had been involved.

Part of the secret report underpinning that admission has now been disclosed, after initially being classified as so secret it was for the Metropolitan Police Commissioner's eyes only.  The report - codenamed Operation Reuben - found "numerous areas of concern" with "inappropriate contact of Special Branch officers with private organisations", including with one of the two blacklisting groups, the Economic League and the Consulting Association.

Blacklisting: How it worked

  • Blacklisting began with the Economic League in 1919 which shared records on left-wing activists with industry to keep them out of the workplace
  • It was closed in 1993 after a Parliamentary inquiry. The Consulting Association sprang up to replace it
  • The Information Commissioner's Office raided The Consulting Association in 2009, revealing for the first time the scale of the operation - triggering legal action that continues to this day
  • In 2016 eight major construction firms offered settlements to end legal action: Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Keir, Lang O'Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska and Vinci 
  • The Reuben investigators found no systematic records of the relationships - but one sharing incident from 1978 had been recorded after a senior officer intervened.
    On that occasion, a trade union activist had applied for a job making educational videos with a company linked to the construction industry.  
    The company passed the individual's name to the Economic League to be checked - which in turn contacted the police for any further intelligence "due to the perceived risk of involvement in education".
    "The receiving officer's initial inquiries revealed a potential link to [redacted] which in his opinion had not been resolved satisfactorily... he returned to EL asking for any further information, stressing the matter's importance due to the possible link to terrorism.
    "This was recorded as fact by the EL representative."

    EL then passed this on to the prospective employer - ending the candidate's chance of getting a job.

    The applicant appears to have learned that they had been "blacked by the security people".
    One of their relatives was a retired senior police officer who demanded an investigation - and that appears to explain why the incident remained recorded.
    One major blacklisting allegation is that an officer called Mark Jenner collected information after he infiltrated the construction union UCATT between 1995 and 2000.
    The report says that Jenner, who used the alias Cassidy, provided information on 300 people - and 16 of those appeared in the illegal blacklist database.
    Operation Reuben said it found no evidence to prove that Jenner directly provided that intelligence - but it added it could not rule out other officers doing so.
    Roy Bentham, joint secretary of Blacklist Support Group, said that many questions remain unanswered.
    "The police are supposed to uphold law and order, not spy on perfectly democratic organisations such as trade unions," said Mr Bentham.
    "Blacklisting is a national scandal and confirmation that the police colluded with this shameful and unlawful activity is beyond the pale."
  • Police admit role in blacklisting workers
  • New action over construction 'blacklist'
Imran Khan QC, lawyer for the Blacklist Support Group, said that the onus was now on the undercover policing inquiry to dig deep.
A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said that the internal report into blacklisting had established that "certain conduct" amounted to improper sharing of information under the law as it stands today.
"Allegations about police involvement with the 'blacklist' will be fully explored during the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (UCPI)," said the spokesman.
"The Metropolitan Police Service will await the conclusions of the UCPI before considering any appropriate next steps."


Monday, 18 March 2019

Venue of Local Forum in Rochdale at risk?

A CHANGE of venue for the Spotland and Falinge Forum in an area of Rochdale is raising concerns that it will create problems for residents to participate safely.  Formerly the original venue was in a Methodist Hall close to a main road and easily accessible.

The new move into a building in the middle of Falinge Park is a curious choice for a meeting place.  It will make it more difficult to attend the Forum with transport links less easy, and some suspect that the move is part of a plan to phase out the practice of local Forums in which the local councillors become exposed to criticism and scrutiny.

It also seems that the change was pushed through without a full debate in the Forum.   Also the more remote site of the venue may place those with problems of mobility at risk, as well as creating a greater peril to those having to travel through the park in the late evening.

Mick Coats, a local resident, has asked for a 'risk assessment for people attending at the new venue, both for council employees and members of the public. (Under the Health and Safety at work Act sections 2, 3, 7 and 8, The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, etc.)'.

Mr. Coats is now awaiting a reply.

BREXIT – Another Anarchist’s Guide

                                                                      by Green Swiper

ANARCHISTS come in all shapes and sizes.   I for one salute Chris Draper for posting our alternative view.

I agree with everything in his section one: 'The EU is a bad thing'.  That title is correct but Chris is pulling his punches.  Free Movement just allows Big Business to use foreign-scab-labour.  Those scabs drive down wages and push up prices.  Anybody who objects gets called a racist.  That’s a neat trick: good old capitalism!  Send them all back: the dirty scabs. That’s what I say.

I agree with everything in Chris’ section two:  'BREXIT or BETRAYAL?'.   The answer is BETRAYAL!  A better title for this section might have been: 'BREXIT or BULLSHIT?'  Chris makes many pertinent points here.  Theresa May has spent over two years dragging her feet. She has pretended to be incompetent while her state sponsored broadcaster, the BBC, has slavishly relayed her laid down message:  'You idiot plebs have made a big mistake because you didn’t know what you were doing'.  We should reply to this by sending the police around to number ten to arrest May for treason. We haven’t been able to hang traitors since the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998 so we’ll have to settle for life imprisonment. Take her away.

I suppose I agree with everything in Chris’ section three:  'Fooling all the People all the Time?'. They don’t fool all the people.  We know that all the main political parties, which sadly includes the Green Party led by Labour Party stooge Caroline Lucas, are in the conspiracy.  They think that British people are as witless as sheep and that they will accept anything.  It’s not true.  British people just lack leadership.  It’s a pity that the Green Party is unable to provide it.

Anonymous said: 'A bit of an oversimplification to say the least'.  Anonymous then goes off on one and starts talking about 'imaginary nation states' and racists.  Anonymous, please could you be more patronizing, condescending and insulting?   Your dismissive slap-down wasn’t offensive enough.


Sunday, 17 March 2019

BREXIT – an anarchist guide

 by Christopher Draper

1 THE EU is a bad thing
  • Only Guardian readers regard the EU as a kindly club linking the lives of European citizens. In reality the EU is a profoundly undemocratic instrument of multinational corporations organised to overwhelm the defences of local communities against predation by untrammelled capitalism.
  • Like all advanced capitalist enterprises the EU offers an array of “incentives” to complicit politicians, lecturers, news agencies and other assorted pipers who play their tune.
  • It is not a federation as EU laws do not pass UPWARDS to Brussels from local or national assemblies but DOWN from Brussels to be rubber-stamped into UK law.
  • EU policies redeploy workers around Europe in service of a single multinational market with no concern to create or maintain sustainable local communities. Post-Communist Romanian industry and agriculture was considered “overmanned” by the EU so Romania was invited in and a third of its workforce lured abroad, driving down local wages elsewhere and leaving behind “lean” farms and factories as rich pickings for EU “investors”.
  • Politics shouldn’t be run by remote bodies and individuals living lives far removed from those they adversely affect. The EU is anathema to anyone who values localism. “EU Regional Policy” is a fig leaf, a distraction from the glaring effects of EU economics – cash galore for capitalist hubs like London, Paris, Brussels, Frankfurt etc and the transport links between – whilst most of our local economies and communities are devastated.

  • Parliament claims to represents the people. Anarchists believe Parliament is a mere distraction device, diverting fundamental opposition down harmless channels.
  • To contain increasing opposition to the EU, on 9th June 2015 Parliament voted by 544 to 53 to hold a National Referendum.
  • Government spent £9,300,000 publishing a glossy 16-page pro-EU propaganda booklet delivered to every household in the UK. This gave dire warnings against voting for Brexit; “Voting to leave the EU would create years of uncertainty and potential economic disruption. This would reduce investment and cost jobs. The Government judges it could result in 10 years or more of uncertainty…” (pg. 8).
  • The booklet advised voters, “The EU referendum is a once in a generation decision” (pg.16) and assured us, “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide” (pg.14).
  • The referendum held on 23rd June 2016 offered a simple, stark alternative, either – “Remain a member of the European Union” ( ) or “Leave the European Union” ( )
  • Thirty-three and a half million people took part, the largest ever vote and more than double the usual turnout for UK Euro elections. Most voted “Leave the European Union” (16m stay, 17.5m leave).
  • On the 29th March 2017 Parliament voted by 498 to 114 to trigger “Article 50” and exit the EU by 29th March 2019. It was a dishonest act of utter hypocrisy.
  • MP’s are almost without exception wedded to the Corporate Capitalist system of which the EU is a cornerstone, a system rejected by voters yet most MP’s are determined to subvert the referendum result and continue business as usual.
  • It truly is the “Hotel California” syndrome. At best, Theresa May’s pitiful “Agreement” means we nominally check out but can never leave without the permission of the EU!

3 Fooling all the People all the Time?
  • Back in 1884 William Morris and his anarchist chums parted company with erstwhile comrades who insisted there really is a Parliamentary road to socialism. Morris and his newly founded Socialist League warned that Parliament offers nothing more than a career ladder for fake socialists and a smokescreen for the rich and powerful. Plus ca change.


Greater Manchester's Buses

A call for regulation of Greater Manchester's Bus Services.
 by John Wilkins
BOLD # (Building Our Local Democracy) members and an associate met with Rochdale Council Leader, Allen Brett, to obtain a firm commitment from him to support the motion proposed by colleague, Phil Burke, to support the Better Buses for Greater Manchester Campaign for a form of regulation of our bus services. We were joined by campaign organiser, Pascale Robinson, MEN reporter Nick Statham and Clr. Burke (Lead for Transport).
We had arranged the meeting to publicise the Campaign's 'Week of Action' and staged it in Rochdale Bus Station. The initial part of our meeting turned into a photo opportunity and publicity for Clr. Brett. Whilst he committed himself to fully supporting the motion in support of the motion from Clr. Burke based on the model one supplied by the campaign coordinator, Pascale Robinson, he seemed keen to promote himself also. Clr. Brett, who was a director of the old Greater Manchester Buses prior to privatisation, stated “This is something I’m passionate about 100 per cent, and will argue for behind the scenes.” We photographed both councillors along with Pascale and group members in front of a 17A bus and around the bus station. The Council Leader also had members of his own publicity team photographing and recording the meeting before he left to return to his council office.
Our group then joined Clr. Burke in the Council's offices in Number 1 Riverside for further productive discussions on the need for better regulated buses. He was extremely enthusiastic about the subject and listened and responded to all our comments. He stated that “We need to get bus services back to local people for local people, to use them when they want to use them.”  He said Mayor Andy Burnham needs to listen to council leaders that this is what residents want ie. “reliable, clean bus services that will take them from A to B with no issues.”
This echoes comments we received when collecting petition signatures in Middleton a couple of weeks earlier. We collected nearly 100 on the day and almost 200 in total. It is an issue that affects all age groups. We were told about youngsters getting detentions for lateness because of buses, the cost for many workers to the elderly who are being made to feel more isolated with the cutbacks to local routes, whilst companies 'cherry picked' the busier routes. Concerns have been raised throughout the 10 Greater Manchester Local Authorities, with over 200 people attending a meeting organised by Better Buses recently in Manchester Art Gallery.
The response from Onebus (a collective representing GM bus operators) claimed that Better Buses are misleading the public, and driven by a pro-nationalisation political agenda. Clr. Burke rejected these this saying the campaign represents public concerns and “There is no hidden agenda. Our agenda is to provide a good reliable bus service for the people of the north west”.
As well as cost, unreliability of services, the group and Clr. Burke felt there needed to be improvements in accessibility for disabled users, greater cleanliness, public safety and emissions reduced.
If you are reading this and have not signed the petition yet please go to: www.betterbusesgm.org.uk and get your councillors to support the campaign.
    Some Facts & Figures:
    2 x more spending per head in London than greater Manchester.
    Bus use in Manchester has gone down by 40% since deregulation 30 years ago, whilst bus use in London (with regulation) has doubled.
    Drivers on same routes different rates of pay, different conditions of service including pensions.
    Fairs not standardised a single ticket can cost more than£4 whereas a journey of up to one hour in London could cost as little as £1.50.
    Health: Air pollution = 1,000 premature deaths. Highest admissions in Manchester for asthma and higher rates of dementia and respiratory problems.

# BOLD is a non politically aligned campaign group based in Middleton. Find out about us on Facebook at BOLD=Building Our Local Democracy.
If there is a similar group in your area we would love to get in touch with you and work together on important issues.

Saturday, 16 March 2019

'Would you like a blow job?'.

                                            Rochdale – Vice Capital of the North
by Green Swiper
AFTER finishing my late shift at ten o’clock in the evening, I walked down to Rochdale town centre to catch my bus home.  It was not due for another twenty five minutes, so I decided to get something to eat from one of the nearby takeaways on Drake Street.

While viewing a menu in a shop window, I heard a woman’s voice that seemed to be calling to me.

I ignored it.

The voice persisted and it grew louder.  “Hello!”  Moments later, she was standing beside me.
I turned to look at her.  She was about thirty years old.  She was wearing an overcoat and a woolly hat.  She asked me to lend her a pound.

I told her to leave me alone and go away.

Then she said: “Would you like a blow-job?”

I said no.

She started to walk away.

I felt strangely guilty and impolite so I called to her.  I said:  “Thanks anyway.  I’m flattered.”She returned and asked me what I meant.

I told her that she was a pretty woman.  I then gave her a lecture on why she ought to take more care and that she ought get a proper job.

She said it wasn’t her job and she walked away.

I went inside the takeaway and I told the shopkeeper about my brief encounter.  He said: “They’re not whores.  They’re drug-addicts.  They’ve been there for years.”

I left the shop with a bag of chips.  I looked around.  The police were nowhere.

Why are the authorities allowing this lewdness to go on?   Can the Town Council do something about it or are they proud of their vice capital of the north?

These women need to be taken off the streets for their own safety.  They need proper help and support to free them from addiction, organized crime and pimpery.

Yes.  It can be done.  They could be rescued and led to normal lives.  Those of you who are reading this and chuckling ought to ponder that those women could be your daughters, your sisters or your mothers.  Maybe, they are!


Friday, 15 March 2019

What RAP Said About Smith in 1979

by Les May

IN his evidence to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) David Steel said:

'It is unfortunate that some sections of the media have chosen to extract certain passages of evidence and present them without the full context.

'The inquiry has a serious and sensitive job to undertake and spinning evidence to generate sensationalist headlines only serves to distract from panel's search of the truth.'

This is undoubtedly the case, but what Steel himself said seems to show a degree of confusion about what was published about Smith in 1979. In addition he claims that he found out about Smith from material in Private Eye. What he does not mention is that he was contacted by the joint editors of Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP) prior to this. He also seems to have been influenced in what he said by so called ‘evidence’ which has been spun to generate sensational headlines since 2012.

Today I listened to three people voice there opinion about Steel’s action (or lack of action) on the BBC2 Politics Live programme. They clearly knew nothing about what Steel knew or did not know in 1979, but it did not stop them holding forth.

In order to clarify what Steel would have known in 1979 about Smith’s antics I have appended below the material published in the May and June 1979 editions of RAP.

Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP)
May 1979 (Number 78)

RAP has obtained evidence that, during the 1960’s, Cyril Smith was using his position to get lads aged 15 – 18 to undress in front of him in order that he could get them to bend over his knee while he spanked their bare bottoms or let him hold their testicles in a bizarre ‘medical inspection’.
The evidence comes from the interviews conducted by RAP over the last six months and in the form of statements made on oath before a solicitor. The allegations are not new – some were originally made as long as 15 years ago, but they were made in statements to the police during their investigation of these allegations in 1969/1970.
There is also disturbing evidence to suggest that that police investigation may not have had its proper end.
RAP decided last September to investigate the allegations in order to determine the facts in an area dominated ever since by rumour. This was prompted partly by the stance Smith had adopted in the Thorpe affair. And partly by the fact that his position as M.P., like his election campaign, was totally based on his personal character of “Smith the Man” – there was part of that man which has to date been concealed and which we feel to be sufficiently disturbing for it to be made public.
Here we present the results of our investigation:

The investigation, carried out by Lancashire Constabulary’s Task Force, started some three years before Cyril Smith first became Rochdale’s MP. It lasted for around 6 months.
It was stimulated by allegations made by a young Rochdale man while he was being questioned by police in connection with charges of indecent behaviour, in Risley. In the course of his examination he claimed there was, in effect, one law for the powerful and another for the poor. He alleged that Cyril Smith had done similar things but got away with it.
Cyril Smith was then Alderman, Chairman of the Education Committee, and soon to be prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the local Liberal Party which he had not long ago rejoined .
The young man concerned had been a resident of the Cambridge House Boy’s Hostel, on Castlemere Street. That hostel then became the focus of the police investigation as they interviewed not only its residents but its committee members - including Bill Harding, Harry Halstead, Alan Lovick and Ron Watson, who were asked questions about the role of the committee members in discipline and medical examinations.
These committee members, while admitting with various degrees of reluctance that they had been interviewed by the police, all denied then, as they did again to RAP, any knowledge of improper activities within the hostel. Some of the residents however had clear and, both to us and to some of the police, convincing memories.

The hostel had been set up by the Rochdale Hostel for Boys Association, a voluntary group formed late in 1960 under the joint inspiration of Probation Officer Bill Harding, its chairman, and Cyril Smith, its secretary. With the aid of Rotary Club money to guarantee its rent for the first two years, the assistance in renovations of the Round Table, and of other committee members like Alan Lovick who provided cost price furnishings, the doors of Cambridge House were opened as a hostel for working boys in February 1962.

[Clipping inserted within the main body of the article]...
“We earnestly hope that we have found for boys a home in which they can find the right moral character building influence.” Smith at the 1964 AGM of the hostel.

It had room for 20 boys, though it average less. The solid basis of its membership was a dozen lads who were apprentices with Whipp & Bourne. They had originally been employed in the firm’s Scottish works but were moved to Rochdale when that closed down. Increasingly, residents were also recruited from the ranks of those in care or from broken homes.
It closed at the end of 1965, primarily through lack of funds and, in particular, because after a lengthy debate, the council endorsed the decision of its Children’s Committee not to increase the grant it was giving to the hostel, by the additional £700 they were being asked to. Strangely, there is no mention of the hostel project in Smith’s autobiography ‘Big Cyril’ which was published in 1977.

[Clipping inserted within the main body of the article]...
“I believe there is a place for corporal punishment....there is a place in law for a good hiding.” Smith in the Rochdale Observer, 21 April 1979.

During the investigation the police took statements from 7 or 8 of the boys who had lived at the hostel and from at least one who had not. RAP has traced 10 ex-residents and one who, though never having been at Cambridge House, made a statement to the police.
Of the 10, three have nothing but praise for Cyril Smith. The other 7 have all made allegations which fall into one or both categories:
They have described to us Smith’s role in providing discipline. Two extracts from sworn statements given to us illustrate the procedure:
(1) From a man now married with 4 children and living in Rochdale, describes how, while at the hostel and aged about 16 he took a day off work from the job Smith had arranged for him. His absence from the job was reported to the hostel and he was interviewed by Smith:
“He gave me the choice between accepting his punishment and leaving the hostel. I said I would accept his punishment...He took me into the Quiet Room. He told me to take my trousers and pants down and bend over his knee. When I had done that he hit me four or five times with his bare hands on my bare buttocks.”
(2) From a man, single, living and working in Rochdale, then aged about 15, describes how after he had been reported for a minor offence:
“Cyril Smith found out that I had taken some money. He asked me if I would accept his punishment or be dealt with by the authorities. I said I would accept his punishment. He told me to take my trousers and pants down and bend over his knee. He trapped my hands between his legs. He hit me many times with his bare hand and I pleaded with him to stop because he was hurting me. This took place at the hostel. Afterwards he came to my bedroom and wiped by buttocks with a wet sponge.

We have been told by Dr Ian McKichan, then Rochdale’s Police Doctor, who provided medical services to the hostel and now lives in Rugby that Smith was often present at the medical examinations. Some of the ex-residents we interviewed have stated on oath that they had what they took to be medical inspections from Smith himself. For example, from the sworn statement of a man who lives locally in a new house:
“After a few days in the hostel I was given a kind of medical examination by Cyril Smith. He told me to take my trousers and pants down. He held my testicles and told me to cough.”
We have had similar experiences described to us by more than one other person.

Our investigation led us to someone who never was a resident of the hostel but who turned out to have also made a statement to the police. He still lives locally with his wife and family and holds a good job. He was one of the many young men Smith has helped over the years. In his case the help came about 1967, after the hostel had closed, in the form of an offer of a job at Smith’s Springs. He took it.
Increasingly, the lad’s parents – he was about 16 – turned to Smith for help in coping with his adolescent adventures. He still remembers Smith telling him that he would help him to sort himself out, but that he would do it his way. And that whenever he did something wrong, he would have his trousers taken down and receive a beating.
On three occasions, the now family man remembers, Smith took him into the front room of his parents’ house after they had reported his misbehaviour to him. On each occasion Smith endeavoured to remove his trousers and bend him over his knee, even to the extent of a wrestling match when met with resistance from the lad.

[Clipping inserted within the main body of the article]...
“Its not a very friendly gesture, publishing that, all he seems to have done is spank a few bare bottoms.” David Steel’s Press Office, 22 April 1979.

(5) Jack McCann M.P.
During the course of the police enquiry, in 1970’s early months, Smith sought help. He visited Dr McKichan in Rugby. He called at the house of a local man who had fostered one of the boys from the hostel . That lad had made a statement to the police and Smith’s visit appeared to have had the purpose of seeking ways of reducing the credibility of the statement.
He also turned to Jack McCann, the then labour M.P. for Rochdale. He had earlier turned to the same man for help in getting his M.B.E. award of 1966. We have had described to us a late night session between Smith and McCann who had been brought over to Rochdale from his home in Eccles for the purpose. The meeting ended with McCann offering offering to make representations on Smith’s behalf.
Jack McCann’s widow, Alice, remembers her husband being asked to help Smith. We know that McCann was concerned about the situation in which he found himself since, though a man of close confidence, he actually discussed it with one associate in the course of a train journey between London and Manchester. That confidant still vividly remembers the conversation and told RAP that McCann had said that he had taken the matter up with the Chief Constable.
Beyond that hint, we have not been able to find exactly what McCann did, or if anything he did had any bearing on the result. Certainly the Chief Constable concerned told RAP he has no memory of ever meeting him. But there is one disturbing discrepancy in the stands now being taken.

(6) THE D.P.P.
The police, at the conclusion of their investigation, appear to have taken the view that there was sufficient reason to warrant a court’s verdict. A file was certainly drawn up by the Officer in charge of the Task Force Team for submission to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
From that point the story becomes disturbingly confused over the issue of whether the file actually reached the D.P.P.
It has always been believed by those in the know that the file was indeed sent to the D.P.P. And that the D.P.P. returned it marked for no further action on the basis of insufficient evidence.
That was what the investigating team were told. That is also what associates of Smith and then the local leading political figures in the Town – who were officially informed of the proceedings – also believed. That was what Smith himself was told by the investigating officer.
An approach to the D.P.P. however failed to confirm that. On our first request for information, the D.P.P.’s press office agreed to answer the question of whether or not the file had been received by them. After making the appropriate search, we were told that they had failed to find such a file. A further approach brought the official statement from the Director: “The D.P.P. cannot trace such a case being referred to us, but cannot confirm or deny receiving it.”
The Director did confirm that, under the then applicable regulations the “Chief Office of Police shall report to the D.P.P. offences....which include indecent offences upon a number of....young persons.”
We also wrote to Sir Norman Skelhorn, the man who was the Director of Public Prosecutions at the time of the investigation. RAP’s letter was forwarded to him by one of his Club’s, the Athenaeum. On Wednesday 25th April we received a phone call from someone claiming to be Sir Norman, on holiday and from a coin box phone, who said that he could remember nothing at all about such a case.
RAP also interviewed Mr. Palfrey, the Chief Constable of Lancashire at the time. He agreed that such a file “should have been sent” but said “I can’t say for sure whether the file was sent or not.” He told us to approach Police HQ. Which we have done several times. Their final comment was “We decline to comment.”

[Clipping inserted within the main body of the article]...
“I believe that a politician’s private life is his own affair and should remain so unless private behaviour jeopardises his political role. I suspect that most men and women have a skeleton rattling round in their cupboard and I think it should be allowed to remain there unless it can be proved that its exposure can right some injustice done to another person.” ‘Big Cyril’ (1977) Smith’s Autobiography.

The file, kept since at Preston, the HQ of Lancashire Constabulary, came to the centre of national events in February/March 1974. Then there was discussion of a possible coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberals. The possibility, if that happened, of leading Liberals holding Ministerial posts, prompted the Special Branch to acquire a copy of the Preston file on Smith which was taken, with special security precautions, to London.

Throughout the police enquiry Smith asserted his innocence of the allegations. He told his friends at the time that it was a case of an attempt to damage him politically. He pointed to the home backgrounds and records of some of the ex-residents of the hostel as evidence of their lack of credibility. In his interview with the police, with his solicitor present, he denied all the allegations made against him. We have no reason to believe that he would do anything other than that today. RAP wrote to him asking for an interview to discuss the serious issues raised by our investigation, but he did not reply.

(9) WHY NOW?
This is not, though it will be suggested it is, a smear campaign in the middle of an election. Our investigation started, as our records show and those we talked to can confirm, last October when the election was still thought to be a year away. When we published our last issue – which announces the date of this one – we did not know that this issue would be just a few days before an election.
The fact is that our findings compel us to publish. Rochdale is being asked to elect a man as M.P. on a purely personal basis. His election material makes but passing reference to the Liberal Party. Smith himself has consistently and consciously personalised the issue. Once we became convinced that he had, over a period of years, interspersed his undoubted good work with a clear abuse of his position for personal ends, we felt had no choice but to make it that part of what Rochdale’s electors should be asked to take into account.
It had already been reported to us, before publication, that Smith intended to issue a libel writ. That did not alter our conviction that the men we had interviewed were telling the truth. Nor our view that they should not have been left with the indelible mark of their experiences at the hands of Smith. For too long, it is they who have effectively been branded as wrongdoers.

It is not RAP’s function to pronounce on guilt or innocence. We do however believe that the investigation of 1970 should have resulted in a court case. We cannot but believe, like many of the men we interviewed, that had the allegations involved a less prominent person, it would have had exactly that result.
We do find Smith guilty of the charge of hypocrisy, over his role in the Thorpe affair. At the very least he might have been expected to remain silent. He did not. We have established that Smith was a major source of the Press’s information on the Liberal Party’s affairs at the time. He was reporting, at his own initiative, the most confidential of conversations with his leader, direct to the Daily Mirror.
We accept that Smith may neither have committed or, even if the evidence gathered by the police investigation had led to prosecution, been found guilty of any criminal offence. But the practices described in the statements made to both the police and RAP must be condemned, not for any sexual content which may be read into them, but because they present a serious abuse of authority.
Private preferences are, and should remain, personal business. The use of public position for personal gratification at the cost of exploitation of others must be prevented.

There is also cause for concern in the question of whether the file in this case reached the D.P.P.’s office. RAP believes that this should be the subject of a full and impartial investigation.

Rochdale Alternative Press (RAP)
June 1979 (Number 79)

RAP’s revelations concerning Cyril Smith published in our last issue was a story in which the national press have been interested for a long time. What prevented them from publishing previously was the laws of libel – which still prevent them from publishing it now. RAP has not received a libel writ from Smith.
Once the story was out the media interest continued. Several taxis from Manchester offices of newspapers arrived at Rochdale newsagents to buy a dozen copies each. The People sent its representative, Harold Holborn, accompanied by a Rochdale Observer reporter! John Derricot of the Mail, Bill Jenkins of the Sun, Mike Nally of the Sunday Observer, Chris Bryer of Granada, Chris House the crime correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph, and the news editor of the Star have all had conversations with us about the story.
Libel of course remains the problem, as of course it has been ours. Clearly what we have said about Smith is defamatory. The only defence therefore against libel is that what we have said is true. Our London lawyer’s advice was simple: if you know it to be true, print it. We did.
The one national paper with enough courage to carry the story so far was Private Eye. It’s edition of May 9th ran a summary of the RAP story as its lead article. It repeated the allegations RAP had made and included the extracts from sworn affidavits made by the young men concerned. Private Eye has frequently received libel writs from politicians. It was not received one in this instance. ‘

David Steel: MP's assault on lads in Rochdale

by Brian Bamford
LORD Steel, the former leader of the Liberal Democrats, has today been suspended by the party owing to his admission made to a child abuse inquiry about how he handled allegations about the late Rochdale MP Cyril Smith in 1979.

Yesterday the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) heard that no formal inquiry was held by the Lib Dem party into the claims against Smith, which were investigated by the police in  1969 but no prosecution was ever brought.

Addressing the the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse on Wednesday (13 March), Lord Steel said he discussed the allegations with Smith in 1979, after reading a report claiming Smith had abused boys at Rochdale’s Cambridge House Hostel when he was a Labour MP.
Lord Steel said:  'What I said to him was, "What's all this about you in Private Eye?", and he said, rather to my surprise, "It is correct", that he had been in charge of - or had some supervisory role in a children's hostel, that he'd been investigated by the police, and that they had taken no further action, and that was the end of the story.'

[Editor:  Lord Steel is wrong in describing Cambridge House as a 'children's hostel'; it was in fact hostel for teenage lads of working age]

At the time he was abusing his powers over the lads at Cambridge House, Cyril Smith had also been serving as a prominent and influential Labour councillor in Rochdale in the 1960s before later becoming the Liberal and then Liberal Democrat MP for the town between 1972 and 1992.

Labour Councilor assaulted lads at Cambridge House

The claims that Smith had abused his powers by inflicting corporal punishment upon some teenage lads at Cambridge House Hostel in the 1960s innitially appeared in the monthly paper Rochdale's Alternative Paper in May 1979, and these claims were later given national prominence in Private Eye.  In 2012, these allegations  got extensive media coverage after Northern Voices and John Walker former editor of RAP, and Paul Waugh of the Politics Home website, prevailed upon the then Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk to include Smith's activities at Cambridge House in his planned parliamentary speech on the sexual grooming of young girls.

Lord Steel also described how he recommended Smith for a knighthood in 1988 and said that he did not pass on any allegations about the sexual abuse of children because 'I was not aware of any such allegations other than the matter referred to…which appeared to have been fully investigated'.
And he said it had not occurred to him that children could still have been at risk from Smith.

'He admitted to me that the report was correct in that he had been investigated by the police at the time and no action taken against him.
'I had already told the inquiry in writing that in my opinion he had been abusing his position in Rochdale Council [that is to gain access to council-run children's homes], but that had been properly a matter for the police and the council, and not for me as he was neither an MP nor even a member of the Liberal Party at the time.
'I was in no position to re-open the investigation.'

 Lord Steel also described recommending Smith for a knighthood in 1988 and said he did not pass on any allegations about the sexual abuse of children because 'I was not aware of any such allegations other than the matter referred to…which appeared to have been fully investigated.'

The allegations that appeared in RAP and Private Eye in 1979, to which Lord Steel appears to be refering to, focused on claims of assault against the lads at Cambridge House rarther than the sexual matters that have been more recently developed in relation to Knowl View.

Lord Steel's nomination of Cyril Smith for Knighthood

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon commenting on the media reporting of the Inquiry, Lord Steel said::  'I am reinforced in my view by reading the previous report of the inquiry sent to me today, which says inter alia 'the Crown Prosecution Service found that the advice which had previously been given could not be faulted (given the law and guidance in place at the time)' and that the honours scrutiny committee had seriously considered his nomination for a knighthood and sent a 'warning of risk' letter to Margaret Thatcher as PM, and that 'clearly she took a similar view' as he was granted the knighthood.
'It is unfortunate that some sections of the media have chosen to extract certain passages of evidence and present them without the full context.
'The inquiry has a serious and sensitive job to undertake and spinning evidence to generate sensationalist headlines only serves to distract from panel's search of the truth.'
Lord Steel became the Liberal MP for Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles in 1965, and became the party's leader in 1976 after the resignation of Jeremy Thorpe, who later stood trial on charges of conspiracy and incitement to murder.

He was elected as an MSP when the Scottish Parliament opened in 1999, and was appointed as the parliament's first presiding officer.  He has been a life peer in the House of Lords since 1997.


Thursday, 14 March 2019

Knowl View School: A mother complains

ON Tuesday the 12th, March, the mother of a lad who was resident at Knowl View School, commented on a post entitled 'Midsummer Murders & Knowl View School'.

She wrote: 
'I AM that mother and I can guarantee that story is TRUE.the names of the 2 staff members are available on request. I have minutes of a meeting on 8/5/1992 which clearly states "ASHWORTH JUNIOR UNIT INVOLVED IN SMITH STREET TOILETS " and at the side of this sentence is the comment "KEEP QUIET" the IICSA report found no cover up in Rochdale.
'Of that's not a cover up I'll eat my hat..or yours' 

 On the 13th, March, she followed up by drawing Les May's attention to an error in his account and today Mr May's original report was ammended:
'Plus an incorrect part of the comment by Les May ( who I have never met) is where he states the second member of staff backed up the perpetrator..  I never said this, and the man was never involved in any discussion I had with the school about the incident.
'So any information Les May has about me or my son is relayed to him through another person..chinese whispers.  He has never contacted me directly to hear the story or look at my documental evidence...  I guess it's easy to come to the wrong conclusion when you're hell bent on putting forward your own agenda.  Has he ever thought why I would continue my fight for justice for the knowl view boys for 25 years if what I say isn't true?  If he thinks it's about financial compensation that path could have been trodden 25 years ago, that has never been a consideration in my fight.'

Les May gives his reply to the mother concerned below:

MANY of the claims about what happened at Knowl View school are based upon assertions by individuals with no good evidence to back them up. The 2014 book by Danczuk and Baker is a prime example of this.   As I had no intention of falling into the same trap I made clear in my article that the account I gave had been relayed to me by third parties.  I also made it clear that I was not asserting that it was incontrovertibly true.

It would appear that my caution in doing this was justified as the accuracy of the account I gave of what I understood had been said has now been disputed. Nothing in what I wrote could possibly lead anyone to believe that I was suggesting that there was any financial motivation behind this story.

Had I not believed that the story recounted to me was essentially true I would not have gone to the trouble of writing a piece pointing out that when the word abuse is mentioned there is an immediate assumption that it should always have the word ‘sexual’ in front of it, and that this assumption is not always correct. There are other things which constitute abuse.

I will repeat what I said in my piece:  If this story is true and if it is typical of what was going on at the school, then this is the real scandal of what happened at Knowl View, not some vague innuendo about Cyril Smith being involved in sexual abuse at the school.   We will never know whether events like this were commonplace, or even if they happened, unless men now in their later thirties are willing to break their silence.  If they feel they want justice it will be too late when the perpetrators are dead. (my emphasis)


Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Midsummer Murders & Knowl View School

by Les May

THE TV land of Midsummer is a fictional place of pretty villages and dark deeds. People who always like to grab the moral high ground may complain there aren’t enough non-white faces, but no-one can complain that the stories are not intricate with a wealth of suspects.

Blood Will Out, which was episode 4 of season 2, involved an ex-military landowner, a bunch of Travellers led by another ex-military man who obviously had a grudge against the landowner who in turn was determined to drive the Travellers from the village and a man, who had in the past exchanged wives with the landowner.   His daughter had followed her mother.  When the landowner is found dead from the blast of a shotgun Barnaby and Troy have the task of sorting through the list of suspects.

We finally discover that it was landowner’s step daughter who had pulled the trigger. Her motive, she was being abused. But there was a twist in the tail. Barnaby assumed, as you probably did, that it was sexual abuse.  It wasn’t.  The victim got his way in the family by beating her with a leather belt.   He tried to do it once too often and got shot.

After the publication of the book Smile for the Camera by Simon Danczuk and Matthew Baker.  in April 2014 I devoted much of the next two and a half years to untangling the truth and falsehoods in stories about Cyril Smith that this pair were telling.   My basic concern was that they were conflating two separate issues.   Smith’s antics at Cambridge House hostel in the early 1960s with the goings on at Knowl View school in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Solid evidence of Smith’s antics at Cambridge House was published in 1979 in Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) when Smith was very much alive and able to sue if RAP got it wrong.  He never did.  The unsavoury events at Knowl View were sexual activity between the boys, some of it coercive.

These were detailed in a report to Education and Social Service officers, the ‘Shepherd report’ and confirmed in the ‘Mellor report’. The significant contents of the former were later published in an article which appeared in the Independent on Sunday in September 1995.

Danczuk and Baker muddied the waters about what really happened at Knowl View.   As a result any subsequent ‘evidence’ from individuals is tainted.  They did it by conflating two separate issues, Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House and the reports about what went on at Knowl View. Long before their book was published we had TV documentaries based on Danczuk’s unsubstantiated claims about Smith’s involvement at Knowl View, claims which were not made in the Independent on Sunday in September 1995, though in both cases the source seems to have been the same.   Without throwing in the Knowl View connection they had only the stories that we already knew about Smith’s antics at Cambridge House when he was a member of the Labour party.  This story, regurgitated from the May 1979 edition of RAP, would not have filled a book and without a book there would have been no lucrative contract.

We are seeing this same conflation again. It is happening in the local press where lazy journalists, who cannot be bothered to sort the fact from the fiction simply recycle the same old stuff ad nauseum, Cambridge House, Knowl View, Cyril Smith equals a story to fill a corner of the paper.

And it is happening again with a local parents group which are managing to conflate Cambridge House, the grooming and sexual abuse of girls by a group of asian men, and the unsavoury events at Knowl View.

Danczuk’s book muddied the waters about Knowl View. Has this led us into making the same mistake as Barnaby made in the Midsummer Murders drama? Have we been led along the path of assuming that any abuse by adults at Knowl View was sexual in nature?

I am prompted to ask this because of a story which was passed to me by two people I have known well for many years. It was recounted to them by the mother of a boy who had been a pupil at Knowl View.

He had run away from the school and made his way home.   She telephoned the school and said she would take him back in a little while.  Before she could do this two burly men appeared at her door. When she opened it her son ran upstairs. The men said they had come to take her son back.  One man went upstairs. The boy screamed.   When she looked her son was being held by his legs and dragged down the stairs.   She complained to the school.  Nothing was done about it.

If this story is true and if it is typical of what was going on at the school, then this is the real scandal of what happened at Knowl View, not some vague innuendo about Cyril Smith being involved in sexual abuse at the school.  We will never know whether events like this were commonplace, or even if they happened, unless men now in their later thirties are willing to break their silence. If they feel they want justice it will be too late when the perpetrators are dead.


Saturday, 9 March 2019

Blacklisting dispute averted on Crossrail

forwarded to NV by Joe Bailey
THE threat of industrial action on Crossrail was averted after Unite members secured the reinstatement of an electrician suspected of having faced fresh blacklisting. 

Workers had raised fears over the dismissal in late February 2019 of Martin Overy, a former Unite safety representative, who was sacked almost immediately after getting a job at London’s Paddington station (Risks 887).  Mr Overy, whose name was included on the Consulting Association’s blacklist, was sacked five hours after signing a contract with Site Operative Solutions Limited.  In 2016 he received compensation for having been blacklisted, but has struggled to find work since. The union-backed Blacklist Support Group was concerned that Skanska, the company that controls Paddington, may have sought to get rid of him.  However, following a March meeting with Unite official Guy Langston, Mr Overy was reinstated.  In 2016, Skanska was compelled to formally apologise for its role in blacklisting workers. 

Blacklist Support Group joint secretary and Unite executive council member Roy Bentham said:  'This demonstrates that this union can defend its blacklisted members.  In an industry with such an appalling fatality record, workers who are prepared to raise concerns about safety should be valued.  But instead, the treatment of Martin Overy seems a blatant case of blacklisting.'
He added:  'The willingness of the rank and file to take action was never in question, and was central to Martin’s reinstatement.'

Friday, 8 March 2019


Dear Brian,

The future of Britain’s bees hangs in the balance. Over the last few decades, we’ve lost 97% of our wildflower meadows. [1] Our bees' food supply is starting to run out. And if they’ve got less food, there’ll be fewer bees to pollinate our crops - which means we’ll have less food too. [2]

But that's where you come in, Brian. If tens of thousands of us come together over the next few weeks to plant flowers to help the bees, they’ll have enough food to survive and thrive this spring. And new evidence shows that planting bee-friendly flowers in our gardens could be the key to saving our bees. [3]

Brian, will you sign up now to get your very own packet of seeds to plant this spring - and chip in for others to get a packet too if you can?

Seeds will be limited to one packet per person so as many people as possible can take part.

Don’t want to plant seeds yourself? Why not chip in to pay for someone else's packet so we can send out even more seeds to help our bees?

 It doesn’t matter whether you’ve got a plant pot on a windowsill or a garden in the countryside, anyone can plant some seeds to help our bees.

Last year over 60,000 38 Degrees members, that’s people like you Brian, came together to sow seeds for our bees. And this year we can do even better, and fill our gardens with flower food to help our buzzy friends.

So Brian, will you give our bees a helping hand? The seeds will need to be planted in the next few weeks, so the more of us sign up now, the more flowers there’ll be(e).