Friday, 31 May 2019

You Gov shows LibDem in lead

YouGov poll released last night that has the Lib Dems first in
the polls
 THE latest YouGov poll shows the pro-EU Remain party in the lead ahead of the Brexit party with the Conservative and Labour in the joint third place.


Thursday, 30 May 2019

The People Have Spoken!

 But What Did They Say?

By Les May

WE live in a liberal democracy with representative government. What that means in practice is that every five years we elect an MP we think will best represent our views in Parliament.  That’s the democracy bit.  The liberal bit is that when laws are to be enacted it isn’t just that of the majority which are taken into account, our laws take into account the views of minorities.  We do not insist that Sikhs wear crash helmets and we tolerate ritual slaughter of animals which many people, including me, find an abomination in a civilised society.

It is our acceptance of the idea of liberal democracy which distinguishes us from totalitarian states in which only one view is tolerated and other viewpoints are ignored or suppressed.

Liberal democracy in Britain is under threat and it is under threat from those who should uphold it most strongly, some of our MPs, not a majority of them, but a significant and noisy minority.  They claim legitimacy for ignoring the views of anyone but those who think like them, by telling us that they are seeking to enact ‘the will of the British people’ as expressed in the 2016 referendum.

A week ago ‘the British people’ had another opportunity to express their will. Only 35% of votes were cast for parties which insist that they can ignore the views of the 48% of people who voted not to leave the EU in 2016.  Hardly a ringing endorsement for abandoning the basic principle of liberal democracy.

If we are to continue to live in a liberal democracy then we need to face down those who insist that they, and they alone, have a right to determine how we leave the European Union.   Unless we do this we are allowing them to take the first tentative steps to totalitarianism.  As the saying goes ‘Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.

From Outsourcing to Insourcing!

THE GUARDIAN today quotes a report by the Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) published today, shows that Stoke is far from unusual, with 77% of UK councils planning to bring services back in-house this year. And the report calculates that between 2016 and 2018, at least 220 local government contracts have been brought back into council control.

Outsourcing began under Margaret Thatcher with compulsory competitive tendering back in the 1980s and was embraced wholeheartely by New Labour. Now attitudes seem to be hardening against contracting out. “What we are seeing is a 40-year experiment in public service delivery being put under the microscope,” says Tom Sasse, a senior researcher at the Institute for Government.
The Labour party has pledged that under a Labour government all frontline services would be provided by the public sector, from railways to social care. Even the Conservative government has been forced to look again at outsourcing, renationalising probation services after outsourcing them disastrously failed. And in the NHS, the cervical cancer screening programme for England will be brought back into the health service later this year, after Capita failed to send more than 40,000 women screening invitations and reminder letters to have a smear test.

“A catalogue of failure has shown that private providers have struggled to generate profit and deliver services of the standards that the community expects,” says Paul Evans, director of NHS Support Federation.

“The rise in insourcing shows that commissioners are being forced to recognise this. Not all contracts display problems, but experience now shows that the risk is high.'
For many public sector bodies, bringing services back in-house is increasingly a pragmatic way to cut costs and improve quality. “On its own, it is not an absolute panacea, but there are significant advantages to bringing services back in-house,” says John Tizard, a former Capita executive and now a strategic adviser on public services.

According to today’s report, 78% of local authorities believe insourcing gives them more flexibility, two-thirds say it also saves money, and more than half say it has improved the quality of the service while simplifying how it is managed.

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Stockport Abandons Labour Party

 Forwarded by Joe Bailey
WHEN she resigned the Labour whip and left the party to serve as an independent in February, Stockport MP Ann Coffey cited Labour’s Brexit policy as a reason for her departure. The previous month she had conducted a poll of 4,500 households in her Greater Manchester constituency, asking for their views on Brexit.

Advocating a second vote, she said: “What is striking is that of those who responded 71% now feel ‘the people’ should have the final say on the Brexit deal and 72 % said that remaining in the EU should be an option in another referendum. Of those who replied to say they voted leave in 2016, 13% said they would now vote remain.”

With Coffey abandoning Labour after 27 years an MP, it is perhaps little surprise that her constituents followed suit in the European elections. Labour attracted 10,738 in the borough, coming a distant third behind the local victors, the Liberal Democrats (23,135), and the Brexit party, which came a close second (22,462).

The Greens were fourth with 10,705 and the Conservatives fifth with 5,451: a particularly poor show for a party with two out of four of Stockport’s MPs (William Wragg in Hazel Grove and Mary Robinson in Cheadle, both Lib Dem/Tory marginals). Change UK, Coffey’s new party, were sixth, with 2,599.

Unite, Len McCluskey & Labour's Squabble

YESTERDAY Len McCluskey accused Labour'a deputy leader, Tom Watson, of being a 'poor imitation of Machiavelli' as alleged rumours were rife of another challenge against Jeremy Corbyn's leadership following Labour's poor showing in the EU elections.

McCluskey's remarks matter because his union is a major paymaster for the Labour Party.  Judging by what he had to say he seemed to suggest that Sir Keir Starmer was likely to be a challenger for the leader's job.

The Unite union's policy agreed by the union’s 2016 policy conference made it clear that the union accepted the result of the 2016 referendum on membership of the European Union.  It also set out our union’s priorities for dealing with the process of Brexit, which included protecting jobs, defending employment rights, and opposing the racist backlash that the referendum campaign unleashed.

In June 2018, Unite even joined the National Shop Steward's Network (NSSN) which has long been dominated by the Socialist Party (formerly Militant).  The ideology of this group has been bitterly anti-EU and has been rooted in a belief in the old-fashion concept of the 'British Road to Socialism'.
The recent affiliation of McCluskey's Unite seems to have been encouraged by a decision by the NSSN in 2018 not to field candidates against the Labour Party in elections. 

By linking up with the hole-in-the-corner anti-EU Trotskyist NSSN must now suggest that Unite, which formerly backed Remain, is stuck in the BREXIT trough.

Sir Keir Starmer has now said a second referendum is the 'only way' to break the Brexit deadlock, after Labour suffered a mauling from voters in the European elections.

 Meanwhile,three former ministers are now daring Corbyn to sack them in solidarity with Alastair Campbell who was expelled yesterday for saying that he voted LibDem in the European elections.

Mr Corbyn's office has thus far refused to say if the trio would be expelled


Monday, 27 May 2019

Politics of prediction: The EU & Brexit

 by Brian Bamford
TONY GREENSTEIN on his Blog last Saturday asked  'The Real Question is Why has Corbyn not Benefited from the Tory Crisis?  Commenting on the poll predictions for EU elections the writes:  

'The victors are, it is predicted the Brexit Party.  The second party is forecast to be the Liberal Democrats. Labour is forecast to be in third place. These are, of course predictions but if they are correct then a number of things need to be spelt out.'

He naturally issued his warning about these results being based on predictions, but now we know that the forcasts were largely spot on in terms of outcomes.  And as I write this, based on these outcomes people like both Nigel Farage and even Joanne Swinson of the Liberal Democrats, have made further predictions which are becoming more like what Karl Popper has called 'unconditional historical prophecies'.*

Tony Greenstein is clearly what is called a 'Remainer'  and on his Blogg he argues:
'Brexit, the desire to withdraw from Europe is not an anti-capitalist project.  People didn’t vote leave because they desired an independent socialist Britain. The primary force behind leave was the Right and far-Right. Euro scepticism of one variety or another is a Europe wide phenomenon.'

Mr. Greenstein warns that 'Corbyn has prevaricated and dodged for far too long' and he suggests on his Blogg is influenced by the old left-wing idea of the  'British Road to Socialism', or as he suggests is rooted in the concept that Tony Benn used to claim when he says Benn had said that 'the Common Market took away British sovereignty, as if workers and the poor had ever had control over their lives'.

I don't believe we can make unconditional historical prophecies about BREXIT or what will follow a 'No Deal Brexit'.  That kind of historism falls into the trap of vulgar Marxism.  Yet I believe we can make negative predictions like for example as when George Orwell suggested that the consequences of the 'Treaty of Versailles' would be bad but we couldn't predict that it would lead to the Third Reich and Adolf Hitler.  I would suggest that while I can't predict in detail what will happen with Brexit but I do believe that it will be bad for most of us.

* Conjectures and Refutations by Karl Popper (1963)

Sunday, 26 May 2019

John Ruskin Matters Exhibition

  'Joy For Ever' 
by Brian Bamford
YESTERDAY, I visited an exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester:   'This exhibition responds to the 200th birthday of artist, art critic and social reformer John Ruskin with a joyful look at how to use art for social change.'
Part of this exhibition draws on the work of Goya and Hogarth to illustrate a point about their work as 'outsiders to critique and reflect on dysfunctional European society of their time:  'the nationalism, warfare, poverty, homelessness, abuse, corruption,,, all subjects that come under their forensic scrutiny.'
This work is labelled according to the descriptive note 'as conceived as Britain propels towards exit from the European Union' and, it says, that 'this  timely exhibition activates the work of Goya and Hogarth to raise questions of a tortured mind-set of Britain on the eve of Brexit'.
One of the engravings by Hogarth shows his satirical critique of the South Sea Bubble.  This is relevant because the subtitle to the exhibition is 'How to use art to change the World and its Price in the Market'.  

Friday, 24 May 2019

Rochdale Councillor proposes cashless society . . .

  many locals  are there already!

by Anonymous 

IN the current edition of Manchester Confidential  the 'economist & Labour councillor' John Blundell argues with some conviction, (and no little irony I feel), that : 

'There is a whole industry involved in the printing, moving and securing of the nation’s cash and hundreds of millions of pounds will be saved by its eradication. Surely this money can be put to better use by helping those excluded from what should be a human right: access to a bank account and access to credit.

Further to this, strict privacy laws must be introduced to stop the government from peering into the accounts of people trying to obtain benefits. This is so that the long term unemployed, those in unstable employment or people without great means can have rainy day funds that aren’t eaten up by the benefits office when signing on, or for any other reason one might need a private cushion.'

A 'private cushion' indeed ?  For too many of our local citizens a hand to mouth existence is little more than soggy piece of cardboard to sit on as their only cushion for the economic reality of a cruel & brutal  economic system .  
'Some Groups', Blundell continues enthusiastically , 'mainly the very young and the old, will find it difficult to adapt and will need greater support. Sweden – that country famed for its uncaring laws and state – expects to go cashless by 2023 and is sorting out the ills of its society now so that the poor, the old and the disadvantaged don’t have to be at the sharp end of cash’s demise.' 
Councillor Blundell appears oblivious to the fact that for many in Rochdale the  'cashless society' is already a daily reality.  Particularly for those sanctioned by the DWP or in the midst of the interminable six week wait for Universal Credit.  As my contribution to the ongoing debate on the demonization and criminalisation of the Boroughs homeless & vulnerable by elements within Rochdale Labour Party who appear to have little or no clear understanding of the national homeless crisis could I take this opportunity to urge Councillor Blundell to open his eyes and urge his fellow Labour Councillors to affiliate to the national Labour Homeless Campaign an excellent and humane organisation who's web page proudly proclaims , that :
' Labour Homelessness Campaign have met and heard the stories of people on the streets across the country.  In Manchester, we met Jess – pregnant, homeless, and with no access to homeless services. Within 10 minutes we met four more people experiencing rough sleeping. They described being ‘harassed’ by the police and being fined and taken to court under the Vagrancy Act.
Labour Homelessness Campaign are calling for an end to this draconian policy and the criminalisation of homeless people. The mistreatment of homeless people is everywhere. As Labour members, we need to tackle this within our own party, first by working where Labour are already in power to ensure shelter for all.
An inhumane ‘move them along’ mentality is growing. In Westminster, rough sleepers have been moved on from the little warmth they have found, as it is suggested they disturb MPs getting to work. Two policies are in effect to this end: the Vagrancy Act, and Public Service Protection Orders (PSPO’s).
A study by the charity Crisis showed that 73% of rough sleepers experienced criminalisation in the last year. Between 2014 and 2017, 6,518 people were found guilty under the nearly 200-year-old Vagrancy Act and punishments can range from a fine to up to six months’ imprisonment. There is little that feels so blaringly idiotic as fining those who are homeless for being on the street.
Much like this outdated policy, PSPOs also allow councils to fine people. At least 60 councils have them in place. When Manchester City Council recently launched their PSPO consultation Andy Burnham claimed “it’s not about criminalising people who are sleeping rough or people who have got nowhere else to go.” Yet it explicitly identifies “putting up tents, seeking charity and other behaviour associated with rough sleeping” as reason to be served a PSPO – behaviour that is inevitable for many experiencing homelessness.
Slapping fines on people experiencing homelessness is never the answer. Rather than driving people out of city centres with PSPOs, Labour local authorities should be defending the rights of rough sleepers to exist in public spaces like anyone else. As the Labour Homelessness Campaign, we advocate for an approach of care, not criminalisation.
Empty properties serve no value to society. We should be helping lives, not landlords. Homeless people need homes and the right to exist in public spaces. What is really damaging society after all: a tent for temporary accommodation, or 597 homeless people dying on our streets whilst houses stay empty? 
Perhaps  John and his fellow 'socialists ' in Rochdale CLP can after listening to informed opinion finally show some solidarity with the  Borough's homeless & dispossessed victims of over a decade of Tory Austerity and add their names to the Labour Homeless Campaigns Open Letter ? Which states :

End the criminalisation of the homeless

As Labour Party members, and supporters, we welcome the announcement by the Labour leadership that it will repeal the 1824 Vagrancy Act once the Labour party is in government, but more needs to be done to end criminalisation of homelessness. The Vagrancy Act makes it a crime to sleep 'in any deserted or unoccupied building, or in the open air, or under a tent, or in any cart of waggon, not having any visible means of subsistence'. People can be fined up to £1,000 and given a two-year criminal record under an act which specifically targets the most marginalised in our society, and thousands face arrest every year. 
The Vagrancy Act is just one segment of a system of criminalisation of people experiencing homelessness and rough sleeping. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) can make it illegal to beg or sleep rough within a given area. A raft of other ‘anti-social behaviour’ measures, from Criminal Behaviour Orders (CBOs) to dispersal orders, give police and councils powers to move rough sleepers on, or give them a hefty fine. A study by the charity Crisis showed that 73% of rough sleepers experienced some kind of criminalisation in the last year. People experiencing homelessness can be intensely vulnerable. Too often these measures trap people in a cycle, faced with fines they cannot pay and with a growing mistrust of those official council services they should be turning to for help. 
No more can we threaten to fine people who have nothing. No more can we accept legislation which targets rough sleepers as criminals, when they are far more likely to be victims of harassment, violence and abuse. We're calling for an end to the Vagrancy Act, and for councils and police forces to cease using all measures which ban begging and rough sleeping or target those experiencing homelessness. 

Homelessness is effectively a criminal offence. We’re demanding a different approach.'  

On the day that Britain's 'Plastic Thatcher' was forced from office the history books will recall no doubt less the crocodile tears of a failed PM but the shaming statistics published within hours of the Premiers resignation speech ,stating : 'child homelessness has increased by a staggering 80% since the Conservative Party came to power in 2010 ' (The Independent ) and that:

'Thirteen of the 15 local authorities worst affected by homelessness are run by Labour.

 'Labour councils are faced with an enormous challenge but also an opportunity for radical, empowering, socialist homelessness policies. This is an opportunity to show what socialism in power can mean.' (The Fabian ).  

History is as we know an unruly and at times unpredictable student. However their can be little doubt that the future - if there is to be one - will not look back with grace or particular favour on the outdated attitudes and actions of many within our local political class who will be held up to critical scrutiny & opprobrium for their inoffensive & insensitive views on the homeless in the same way we look in contempt with those in the past who were apologists for the hated means test , the Workhouse and the dumping of the poor or the infirm on the other side of the County Parish Boundary. It really is time Rochdale Council got with the programme and heeded calls from progressive voices such as Labour Councillor Shaista Aziz who wrote in the latest edition of The Fabian :  
'The Labour Homelessness Campaign is a grassroots group of Labour members who are acting in solidarity with people experiencing homelessness. We’ve seen the incredible work that’s being done on the ground by overstretched homelessness services. But we’ve also identified a problem: for many experiencing homelessness, there has been a breakdown of trust with officialdom.
As a Labour councillor, it has been saddening for me to speak to rough sleepers who do not believe their Labour council or official homelessness services are on their side.  It has been maddening to talk to grassroots homelessness campaigners around the country who have found themselves campaigning against the policies of their Labour council.  While I know as well as anyone the incredible pressure austerity has put on council budgets, it’s time for us to start listening to these voices.
People on the streets are often treated like criminals, all too often by Labour councils.  The 1824 Vagrancy Act means rough sleepers or those begging can be fined up to £1,000, imprisoned and given a criminal record.  Thousands of people are prosecuted under the act every year – most for ‘aggressive begging’.  The definition of ‘aggressive begging’ in some local authorities includes begging within 10 metres of an ATM.
In addition to this, a raft of antisocial behaviour legislation is used against people experiencing homelessness. Public space protection orders (PSPOs) can make it illegal to sleep rough or beg in certain areas.  We’ve worked with people handed community protection notices (CPNs) threatening £20,000 fines for sleeping rough.  Criminal behaviour orders (CBOs) and dispersal orders can also be used by councils and police to drive rough sleepers out of certain areas. Seventy per cent of criminalisation experienced by rough sleepers isn’t formal application of these criminal orders but rather informal ‘moving-on’ or threats of further action.  When we use these orders we are driving the very people who have nowhere else to go out of our public spaces.
This is why the Labour Homelessness Campaign is campaigning for an end to all forms of homelessness criminalisation.,
When we wonder will the penny finally ever drop with Rochdale Councillors like Blundell and those like him ?

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Comment on the importance of being a Blundell

 "What's picking a lock compared to buying shares?  
What's breaking into a bank 
compared to founding one?  
What's murdering a man 
compared to employing one?" 
From the 'Threepenny Opera' by Bertolt Brecht

Before red banner Cllr. Blundell is wearing glasses looking
adoringly at his bearded mate

AN Anonymous comment  on this NV Blog questions the arguments of Rochdale Councillor John Blundell with regard to his views on homeless beggars.  'Anonymous' cites the finding of the End Child Poverty Coalition that 'child poverty in Central Rochdale (After Housing Costs) at a staggering 57.04% and for Rochdalr as a whole at 45% (some 14,198 local children)'.
Then 'Anonymous' asks what is the opinionated Cllr. Blundell's view on this problem given that statistics are now suggesting that child poverty is so significant?  
'Anonymous' must know that Rochdale's Councillor Blundell holds the cabinet position for Regeneration, Business, Skills and Employment under the Labour administration of his leader Cllr. Allen Brett.  Cllr. Blundell has some ideas about how to discourage homeless beggars based on his economic theories, and in an article written in Manchester Confidential in December 2017 he announced some of his simple text book views:
'The fundamental principle of economics is that people, or agents as we like to call them, respond to incentives.'   

Then Cllr. Blundell tells us:
'Often money is the means of incentivising people to do things they wouldn't opt to do otherwise, like work. Conversely it is also used to disincentivise things we like to do but shouldn’t, like smoking, which is heavily taxed.'
Last week, sitting in the Flying Horse pub, I remembered these words by Blundell as I watched him ensconced at a table outside in Rochdale Town Hall square stuffing himself in the company of a woman I believe to be the new Kingsway Labour Cllr. Elsie Wraighte.  What, I wonder, would 'disincentivise' the already pleasingly plump Cllr. Blandell from eating too much?

Or what was it that was incentivising last January when he became a non-executive director of the Manchester Airport Group?  At the time Cllr. Blundell declared : "I am ecstatic that I have been chosen to join the board at Manchester Airport Group as a non-executive director and look forwarding to being part of the major growth the Airport is currently going through.”

Indeed, the local beggars may wonder with the playwright Bertolt Brecht:  'Why be a homeless beggar when you can be a Labour Councillor and non-executive director like Councillor Blundell?'   After all, even when the councillor is an electoral fraud like Councillor Rana from Spotland and Falinge, or an unbelievable witness like Cllr. Richard Farnell, or a philanderer like the former disgraced Rochdale Labour MP, Simon Danczuk; a spirit of tolerance prevails rather than any attempts to 'disincentivise' their waywardness, and this  seems to have become very much part of the culture among the Rochdale councillors of all parties.  Indeed, recently  Cllr. Blundell even sort to defend the dalliances of Simon Danczuk saying what he did was 'Only Human!'.

Given their recent political history the Rochdale councillors, all of them, should really be asking themselves what kind of example they are setting to anyone?


Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Aspects of local begging & the homeless

   E-mail to Councillor X & a reply!
NV Editor:  
THE e-mail below from John Wilkins of BOLD (Build. Our Local Democracy Group) is addressed to a Rochdale Labour councillor.  This correspondence has been inspired by the recent posts on this NV Blog about Rochdale Cllr. Blundell views on homeless beggars.  The e-mail exchange below is self explanatory and addresses the concerns with regard to homelessness and the impact of local begging.  The name of Councillor X has been redacted by John Wilkins.  
We can ony speculate on why Mr. Wilkins thought it necessary to redact the Labour councillors name.  But we have decided to respect his decision and to publish the email exchange anyway.  One thought that occurs to us about the need to redact of Councillor X's name, is that Mr. Wilkins wishes to protect the Labour councillor from any possible backlash.  If this is the case then it seems to suggest that politics in Rochdale is somewhat unhealthy.

 Dear iiiiiiii
 Thank you for those reassurances. I hesitate to bring up a related issue because you have responded more times to my communications over a short period of time you have been in Council compared with all my local councillors collectively over the last 5 years. 

  In a rare visit to Rochdale I visited St. Mary in the Baum Church ostensibly to see the work of 'Caring and Sharing' only to find I was on the wrong day but I was able to see the good work being done by the Red Cross in Rochdale.  From there I walked up Yorkshire Street to do business in a couple of banks.  I passed a man sat outside the Halifax who although he do not ask for money, had a cup in front of him for money. Further up I passed a man offering to shine shoes for payment and someone else getting prepared to busk for money.  On my return from the top of Yorkshire Street I passed the the last two people I mentioned but hoping to give the first man some loose change I could not see him where he had been originally.  Whilst contemplating whether to visit the market I looked up Yorkshire Street to see the man I was looking for trudging down the road with his possessions.  I told him I had hoped to see him as I wanted to give him a couple of coins, which he fumbled, dropping one, before managing to find a pocket to put them in.  His dishevelled appearance made him look older than my 74 years but he could have been about 50.  His appearance was made worse by a raw wound to his forehead.  When asked how he got it he said he had been resting on a bench when a man came up to him and hit him without any provocation.  He said he had been moved on from where I had seen him previously by Enforcement Officers but philosophically he said I had not received much money because he felt Rochdale people were hard up themselves!!  He was on a waiting list for a shelter but in the meantime I told him about the Red Cross where he could get a hot drink and on that day a free haircut.

  OK. common story but having watched the last of a series on rough sleepless and homeless, this one in Glasgow,  I was like the undercover journalist, impressed by how pro-active the city was in dealing with the problem.  This in one of the poorest cities in Europe.  They were fast-tracking people into accommodation and although there were many people having to use shelters the number living rough was down to around 30.  The Enforcement Officers have a job to do but we need to be more humane in how we deal with this issue which, though I may be wrong, as big an issue here as in some other towns and cities.

  My question is are these rough sleepers being identified, supported and found a shelter quickly enough?  There will always be a minority who refuse help but many like the man I met are genuinely destitute and wanting help.

John Wilkins 
Reply from Rochdale councillor X:
Good afternoon John,
As a society we should not turn a blind eye to what we are seeing on the streets in our towns and cities and clearly John, you are one of the many compassionate people who do not 'walk on the other side of the road’.

Since my election in May, the issue of Enforcement Officers moving people on in Rochdale, who they perceive to be begging, has been highlighted by elected members on at least two occasions, who took the same view as you, that these vulnerable people need help and support, in order to persuade them that there are alternatives available. I do know that the Enforcement Officers have been made aware about our concerns.

From September I’ve been working Monday mornings at the Lighthouse Project foodbank, doing the ‘meet and greet’.  I’ve met several rough sleepers, who have been helped with permanent housing or temporary accommodation in hostels.  The majority, as you would imagine, do accept the help, but I know of at least one, who is unwilling to engage.

I can reassure you that officers and elected members, take the issue of rough sleepers, very seriously and they are being pro-active in their efforts to help and support, those who are clearly in need.
A motion was passed in the Council recently, that called upon the Chief Executive to write to the Government, asking for powers to be extended to Andy Burnham, to enable him to raise a local tax from people who stay in hotels, which would then be used to fund more projects to help with rough sleeping.  Although it’s very unlikely the Government will agree to this,  I think it does send out a message that concerns are growing about the ongoing problem, which is being made even more acute by the government’s austerity programme.
Kind regards,


All right councillor, any spare change comrade?

 by a Rochdale Campaigner for the Homeless
PROVERBs 28:27:  'Who-so-ever gives to the poor will lack nothing, 
but those who close their eyes to poverty 
will be cursed';  

THIS proverb has I feel some particular relevance here to the historical comments made by the Rochdale Councillor Blundell in 2017 in Manchester Confidential and elsewhere online.  One wonders if he really believes what he has had to say in these publications or if he is merely playing to the gallery in the hope of deriving some perceived public advantage.

Is it all about political opportunism on his part?  Surely he must be aware that in reality local services are collapsing?  Surely he must be aware of the self evident human tragedies playing out daily on the stage of our town centre?

Our town centre regeneration is a calamity of epic proportions, creating not an Urban Utopia for the vast majority of our citizens despite the endless millions poured down what appears to be a bottomless pit but a confused of expensive high end bespoke tailors and obscure  independent shops few but our local councillor class can afford to shop in.  Excellently renovated but prohibitively priced hostelry's which the locals cannot afford and will not drink in.  And let us not forget a continuously newly re-launched 'market' in a former Market Town which  is now a public embarrassment across the entire North of England.

It's clear that Cllr. Blundell's position is embarrassingly - and glaringly - so far out of step with that of the Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham's recent rough sleeping initiatives that even John's found it politically expedient to 'photo bomb' a May Day march to desperately manufacture some much needed street cred with respect to homelessness .  Such political opportunism comes with the mentality of an ideological chameleon which may play well  with some folk but the rest of us really aren't that stupid.
Away from the cosy illusion of Rochdale Labour fraternalism and comradeship we see recent research by University College London (UCL), shows that homeless people are much more likely to die from certain conditions than even the poorest people who have a place to live.

The findings come as the final count from our Dying Homeless project shows an average of 11 homeless people a week have died in the UK in the last 18 months.  We have been collecting data dating back to October 2017 and telling the stories of those who have died on the streets or in temporary accommodation; our tally now stands at 796 people.  Of those people we know the age of, more than a quarter were under 40 when then they died.

Advocates of 'Public Space Protction Orders' such as Cllr. Blundell, regard them as a useful tool to address localised problems with anti-social behaviour and ensure the safe-guarding of the wider community and public spaces.  The rest of us know they are not working, even by our  councils back of the beer mat criteria they have failed miserably.  Since the  introduction of Rochdale Council's PSPO within the exclusion 'zone ' we have witnessed the closure of The Wellington Drake Street,      (incidentally they never did get their outside seating approved despite many promises from a certain Councillor) was nice while it lasted but few knew their  much heralded opening only a few months ago would result in such a speedy demise?
One conclusion that may be drawn is that Cllr. Blundell is attempting to demonise what he calls 'aggressive begging', and the council are attempting to criminalise it by the use of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPO) as a scapegoating exercise to escape blame for their own shortcomings in the management of Rochdale town centre.


Monday, 20 May 2019

Double-dealing & union blackballs?

UCATT was the trade union that merged with Unite in January 2017.  It was also the union that had allegedly full-time union officers who according to the current Private Eye 'shopped their "comrades",' and 'Blackleg', in the same journal writes:  'Two years ago, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey and assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail promised an inquiry into union officials' collusion with the big building firms - but there's still no sign of it.'

In December 2016, an open letter signed by blacklisted construction workers was circulated:

'.... one issue threatens to cause internal friction: possible union collusion in blacklisting.
Some years ago, both UCATT and UNITE carried out internal investigations into possible union involvement in blacklisting. But that was at a time when barely any of the documentation was available.
'Since the High Court, all that has changed. The employers were forced to provide witness statements and disclose 40 years worth of documentary evidence. It is now in the public domain that officials in both unions were recorded as the source of information on Economic League and Consulting Association blacklist files. Some of those named, remain senior officials in UNITE and UCATT to this day. Every union activist in construction knows who the named officials are, as does every major employer.'

Gail Cartmail had called for a 'full public inquiry with judicial authority'.  

Now Private Eye reveals 'The joint head of Unite Construction, formed in January 2017 when Ucatt trade union merged with Unite, is Jerry Swain, who is also a Unite national officer.  Despite the tardiness of Unite, scores of blacklisted trade unionists have received compenstation, having taken their cases to the high court.  Among them was bricklayer Brian Higgins who presented evidence to the court in pre-hearings that union officials were the source of information given to construction firms about union activities in 1992, 2002 and 2003.'

Private Eye adds:   'Although the officials' names were redacted in pre-hearings of the high court case, Higgins subsequently obtained an unredacted copy of his file.  Among those who were said to have shopped their "comrades" was one, er, Jerry Swain, from 1991 to 2016 the London and South East regional secretary of Ucatt.  Just fancy that!'


Saturday, 18 May 2019

Culture, Coffee and Socialism

by Les May

I HAVE voted Labour all my life.  The reason is simple. Growing up in the 1940s and 50s I benefited directly from two things the 1945 Labour Government put in place; the NHS and the 1949 National Assistance Act which kept our family out of poverty when my father was hospitalised more or less permanently. It was policies like these and not headline grabbing policies like Public Ownership which had the biggest impact on peoples lives. What a Labour government had to do in 1945 was obvious and it did it.

But in my lifetime the Tories have re-invented themselves at least three times. The rejection of Churchill in the 1945 election was so complete that they had to accept and work with the changes Labour had made. The result was Butskellism, perhaps more properly called ‘The Post War Consensus’ (see ).

Then we had hard nosed Thatcherism which amongst other things saw unemployment as a useful policy lever and was a mix of economic and social conservatism. Remember her enthusiasm for Clause 28

The result was that the Tories became ‘The Nasty Party’. By sleight of hand David Cameron tried to shake off this tag with a mix of social liberalism, same sex marriage, and economic conservatism in the form of austerity and attacks on the poorest groups in society.

Labour’s attempt at re-invention gave us the Blair years. Now the search is on for how to re-invent Labour yet again. But things are more complicated now. There are those of us who see the Labour project as one of promoting economic and social justice, and there are those, I’m not one of them, who see being ‘of the Left’ as fighting, usual vicarious, battles against racism, sexism, homophobia, (add in your favourite -isms or -phobias here). If, like many newspaper columnists, you are of the latter persuasion remember how Cameron managed to hide the vicious policies of George Osborn behind a veneer of social liberalism.

I’ve told you where I stand but if you want to feel part of shaping Labour’s ‘soul’ and live in the area, you might like to visit ‘Seriously Red’, at Bury’s Socialist Cafe ‘Ground Up’. It’s hosted by Bury Momentum with Bury South Socialists, 7-9pm every third Tuesday of the month and promises debates, campaigns, culture and coffee.

You’ll find Ground Up at 8 Market Street, Bury, just opposite the Peel Monument.