Thursday, 31 October 2019

The Axeman Cometh & Ludwig Wittgenstein

by Brian Bamford

Editorial Note:  Below I have tried to lay out
the editorial position of our NV Blog in the light of the 
axeman's attack on a team of tree surgeons after
a group of Asians in the Newbold area of Rochdale 
had trapped them, called them 'white bastards' and 
cut off one of their hands.

As I write these words Barack Obama, the former US 
president has  called out the cancel culture on the 
Internet, saying that it is not an effective form 
of activism.  

He said: “This idea of purity, and you’re never compromised, 
and you’re always politically woke and all that stuff, 
you should get over that quickly.  The world is messy. 

 We believe the case of the actions of axe man in Newbold 
Rochdale illustrates better than any form of words the
dilemma facing the liberal left and community relations.
The Newbold axeman case better than any clever intellectual 
argument clearly shows us the 'aspect blindness' of the 
current spirit of our age.  

For the relevant post on the story of the Newbold gang's assault on the tree surgeons go to: › blog › when-is-a-hate-crime-not-a-hat..    

“What can be shown cannot be said,” that is, what cannot be formulated in sayable (sensical) propositions can only be shown. - Ludwig Wittgenstein.

WHEN Northern Voices was established in the summer of 2003 at a meeting in The Buffet Bar on the Stalybridge Station in Greater Manchester, it was decided we would produce a regional publication dedicated to local news and cultural issues in the North of England.  The editorial in the first issue began with a quote from Ray Monk's biography of Ludwig Wittgenstein:
'We do not ... need to consider imaginary wild tribes to find examples of people with a world picture fundamentally different from our own.' 
Even among our neighbours we can find distinct differences as the curious Newbold axeman case shows so clearly here and Ray Monk no doubt had in mind what Wittgenstein had already said to one of his students: 'Hegel seems to me to be always wanting to say that things which look different are really the same ... Whereas my interest is in showing that things which look the same are really different.'

At that time we wrote: 'Northern Voices' editors seek to find variety and differences within our local northern communities at street-corner level.  We do not seek easy generalisations and simple minded explanations, which so often lead to hole-in-corner ideas and solutions.'

Since then we have tackled a wide variety of news stories, cultural events, political scandals, and items of interest to northerners.  In doing so we have built up a readership outside the narrow confines of what has been called the political left to embrace a more general northern constituency.

This blog aims to establish a web presence for Northern Voices. It will feature some current and past articles from the printed journal, as well as things that don't quite fit in the magazine - both for editorial and technological reasons.


Friday, 25 October 2019

Oborne calls on Britons to 'swallow their pride' and think again about Brexit!

In 2016, the right-wing Daily Mail columnist Peter Oborne, was an ardent Brexiter along with the 17.4 million people who voted to leave the E.U. in the referendum of June 2016. But in a 4,000 word article that was written for Open Democracy in April 2019, he called on Britons to think again and swallow their pride.

In the article Oborne argued that Brexit had paralysed the system and had turned Britain into a laughing stock. He asserts that Brexit is certain to make us poorer and to lead to lower incomes and lost jobs and says that Brexit, has led to the collapse of investment-led growth and the announcement of job losses at Nissan, Sony and Honda. Oborne points out that few of the 40 trade agreements that Liam Fox vowed to sign by March 2019, have been agreed and that prominent British backers of the Leave Campaign like James Dyson and Jim Ratcliffe, have already moved assets abroad.

Last year, that most prominent of Brexiteer's, Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group (ERG), who advocates a clean break with the E.U., was forced to answer embarrassing questions about why the city investment firm 'Somerset Capital Management' (SCM), a firm in which he is a partner (but does not make investment decisions), had relocated part of its business to Dublin. The firm's prospectus had warned that Brexit was a 'risk' that may cause 'considerable uncertainty.'

Much of what Oborne says about the economic consequences of Brexit have been borne out by even government analysis. Last November (2018), a government report stated that the UK would be poorer economically under any form of Brexit, compared with staying in the E.U. 'Operation Yellowhammer' the government's own assessment of what could happen if Britain left the E.U. without a deal, warned of fresh food supplies decreasing, key ingredients being in short supply, and prices increasing which could impact vulnerable groups, because of problems caused by disruption and the inability to trade efficiently.

The problem with the referendum vote in June 2016 was that people were given two choices i.e. leave or remain, but they were never told what Brexit meant or what it might entail. A majority of MP's in the British parliament do not want to leave the E.U. because they think it is folly and will be economically ruinous. In short,  Brexit means different things to different people.  Although I believe people were sold a pup with Brexit and that its not a simple right/left issue, I nevertheless,  believe it is essentially a right-wing project. For neo-liberal free-market types like Gove, Raab and Johnson, leaving the E.U. will be an opportunity to get shut of a host of regulatory powers and to bin such things as environmental and consumer protections along with workers rights, to give Britain a competitive edge against our European neighbours - a kind of race to the bottom to attract inward investment.

As Oborne points out in this video, Brexit is also likely to lead to the break-up of the Union. If Brexit ultimately leads to the reunification of Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland and the demise of the Tory Party, then in my view Brexit might have been worthwhile. A recent poll in Northern Ireland found that a majority of people who live in the region did not consider themselves either Unionists or Nationalists and 51% said they were in favour of reunification. This figure is likely to increase now Northern Ireland has been annexed by the Johnson Tory government. No wonder Sein Fein like Boris Johnson's Brexit Deal.

Celebrating the Work of Alf Morris

                                             by Joe Bailey

May, 6th 1970 marked the passage into Law of Alf Morris (MP for Wythenshawe Manchester) Bill -- Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act. (CSDPA)

This motion requests the UNITE Regional Committee and UNITE National Committee to support events and meetings celebrating the work of Alf Morris the disability campaigner and to explore the impact of the CSDPA over the succeeding fifty years, also to envisage how a future Labour government's legislative programme could improve the lives and employment prospects of people with disabilities.


Assange in Court: Judge refuses more time to prepare case.

Julian Assange - Denied Justice At Extradition Hearing

On Tuesday a remand hearing was held at Westminster Magistrates Court, concerning an application by the USA for the extradition of Julian Assange. A request by the defence for further time to prepare a case for Assange, was refused by the District Judge, Vanessa Baraitser.

The prosecution was conducted by James Lewis QC, who according to reports, was taking instructions from five members of the US Embassy who were present in court. It was reported that Julian Assange appeared to have shown signs of mental deterioration and struggled to give his name and address in open court. It was claimed that Assange had lost 15kg in weight and spends 23hours per day kept in isolation in Belmarsh prison and looked like  a "shambling and incoherent wreck."

The United States are seeking the extradition of Assange on the grounds that he conspired with Bradley Manning to publish the Iraq War logs, the Afghanistan War logs and the State Department cables. The prosecution argued that no consideration should be given to the claim by the defence that the charge was a political offence and therefore excluded by the treaty. A date for the extradition hearing was set for 25 February 2020 and will take place at Belmarsh prison where public access is strictly limited.

Among those present in the court on Tuesday, was Craig Murray, Britain's Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 2002-2004. Murray, a close friend of Assange, was dismissed from his job by the Foreign Office for highlighting the use of torture in that country. We are linking his report of the trial to this posting. Read More

Tuesday, 22 October 2019

BREXIT: The Lib Dem position!

 from Jo Swinson
IN the middle of this Brexit chaos, I want to be 100% clear about where we stand.

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has passed its first vote in the House of Commons, but make no mistake: this is not a done deal.

The United Kingdom is still in the European Union.

It’s with a heavy heart and immense disappointment that I say Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal has only passed because of Corbyn's Labour party.

Many Labour MPs voted for this deal, and Corbyn’s weakness on Brexit has passed this deal.

We are now on the path to Brexit – all because Jeremy Corbyn is not a Remainer and his Labour MPs have bailed out Boris Johnson.

This is a difficult night for our country, and I want you to hear this from me and from the Liberal Democrats: you are not alone.

You have a strong team of Liberal Democrat MPs fighting your corner in Parliament.
We are standing strong for our future.
We are growing the movement for a People’s Vote.
We’re doing absolutely everything we can to stop Brexit.

The vote in Parliament tonight is the first in a long series of votes that Boris Johnson has to win - and it does not mean that we have left the EU.
There are many opportunities left to stop Brexit. 


Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion protests Banned

London bans Extinction Rebellion protests

London has become the first city to prohibit the global environmental movement Extinction Rebellion from staging protests, in a move condemned by legal observers and campaigners as a massive "overreach."

Hong Kong is exporting its protest

 techniques around the world

by Mary Hui

The “Be Water” nature of Hong Kong’s protests—fluid, flexible, and fast-moving—has taken on a new form half way across the world in Catalonia: as a tsunami.

After a Spanish court on Monday (Oct. 14) handed down lengthy jail terms to nine Catalan leaders for their roles in a 2017 secession attempt, tens of thousands of Catalans took to the streets to protest against what they saw as heavy-handed political persecution and blatant repression of the region’s political rights.

The protesters were answering the call to action from a group called Tsunami Democràtic, which launched in September (link in Spanish) urging mass peaceful and civil disobedience actions in order to safeguard Catalonia’s freedoms. Following the sentencing, protesters quickly gathered at plazas and on streets across the region, cutting off major thoroughfares and blocking traffic before heading en masse to their next target: Barcelona’s El Prat airport. As they set off from the city center, a group of youth shouted, “We’re going to do a Hong Kong!

Monday, 14 October 2019

Rochdale Market: Unnamed Benefactor Steps-in!

ROCHDALE's 768-year-old market that was due to close today has been saved at the last minute.
Rochdale Market has been run by the council for the last year and was going to shut today because of an alleged decline in business.

An unnamed trader has now stepped in to subsidise it according to an ITV report today.


Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Confessions of a Market User

by Les May

MY wife and I visit three markets every week.  Thursday is Todmorden for the ‘flea’ market. Today I spent the princely sum of 40p. But as usual we also bought meat, magazines, newspapers and coffee, either on the ‘inside’ market or in the town.  Total spend about £25-£30.   Friday is Heywood market for food for my pigeons, bread and cheese.  There’s also newspapers in one of the local shops and frequently a visit to a building society.  Total spend about £10 plus helping someone kept in employment at the building society.  Next stop each Friday is Bury market for fruit, vegetables, and usually fish and toiletries.  Add in coffee and a few odds and ends in the town, plus a supermarket visit and total spend is £35-£40+.  So every week we are taking £70-£80 out of the town which we could be spending in Rochdale, adding to the town’s prosperity and halting its decline.  So why don’t we?

The answer is simple.   There’s little or nothing to interest us in any longer visiting Rochdale town centre, unless we have to.  It wasn’t always like this.  In the past it was our regular Saturday destination.  For me the crunch came when the market stalls were kicked out of the site they had occupied since the mid 1970s.   Ironically the vegetable stall I use in Bury, moved there after that enforced move.  If you cannot attract people like me to visit the town centre I’m not going to be around to spend money in any of the new shops or indeed in the superabundance of old shops from the last ‘development’.

Would a six month reprieve for Rochdale market do any good?  Probably not and for a very good reason.  My brother ran a fruit and vegetable stall on Rochdale market for 35 years, first on the ‘old’ Yorkshire Street/Toad Lane site and then on the ‘new’ mid 1970s site.   For the first two years after the move business was slow. But once the ‘new’ market got established it gave him a very good living. What market traders need is the certainty that having put the effort into building up a regular trade it’s not going to be wasted by someone pulling to plug on them.

A town that cannot maintain a successful market is unlikely to be able to maintain a successful clutch of large stores.   It’s all about ‘footfall’ and too many people are voting with their feet.


Rochdale Market: Is there going to be a reprieve?

 Shy Councillor John Blundell & the Regeneration of the Town Centre
by Brian Bamford
EARLIER this week stall-holders on Rochdale Market were looking forward to a possible temporary reprieve after the Council had threatened closure of the Market next Monday, two days before the next full meeting of the Council. Since Councillor Blundell, the Cabinet member responsible for Regeneration, took the decision to give Rochdale's 178 year-old market the chop under this latest Council attempt at regenerating the Town Centre, the authorities seem to have been shocked by the local uproar among the public and in the media.
Following a slot on last week's consumer program 'You and Yours' on Radio Four, one local councillor told NV that Cllr. Blundell was under pressure and was now 'changing his tune'.

'Unlike you Brian I don’t fraternise with the opposition.'

NV contacted the good Councillor Blundell:
'as the Cabinet Member for Regeneration, can you tell me how you propose to use the former Santander Building which is now housing the current indoor market stalls. What does the council intend to do with the building after the stall-holders have departed?'
To which minutes later the e-mail reply from the Cabinet member for Regeneration & Business came back:
Councillor John Blundell:
Mon 30/09/2019 10:39
Dear Brian,

'There has been no attempt to fill that building until now due to it being occupied by the cafe and market. The council are now looking for alternative uses – I am all ears to anybody who wants to submit any proposal to the Council including a market. I will have officers look at this, to get a professional opinion, and I will then decide how to proceed.

'I will not be discussing these with you as these are private conversations that we will hold with businesses and other potential occupiers.

'I won’t be contacting Cllr Paolucci. Unlike you Brian I don’t fraternise with the opposition.'

Well! Well!  Does this not show how transparent, tribal and trite our politicians are these days?

'Why would I share any of this information with you?'
LAST Tuesday, I again e-mailed Cllr. Blundell to confirm what was going on:
Dear John,

'Yesterday, I spoke to the stallholders on Rochdale Market and they said there is to be a reprieve for the local market for a period of 6-months? I was also told that you had been down. 'Furthermore, it was said that you are awaiting the completion of the new market centre?  Does this mean that once that is finished you will be relocating the current stall-holders to that location?  As you must be aware there has been some recent publicity about local markets, has this had some impact on your change of mind?'
Yours sincerely,

Brian Bamford

And Cllr. Blundell's further reply was:
Hi Brian,
'Why would I share any of this information with you?'

  Followed by yet another frantic e-mail from the noble councillor:
'I have asked you to stop emailing me several times.
'Please stop.'

As the Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Business, Councillor John Blundell, is a public figure paid by local citizens. Does he not feel he ought to answer questions from a member of the public or the press?  Or is he just shy by nature?


Sex Equality Means Just That,

 No Ifs No Buts

By Les May

IT’S A WEEK since, in giving a ruling brought by women attempting to have the pension age for them restored to 60, two judges of the High Court, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple, referred to ‘historic direct discrimination against men’.

Yet in the past seven days I have come across numerous extracts from newspaper columns and long ‘letters to the editor’ written by women continuing to complain that the pension age for them has been raised and trying to suggest that in some way this is ‘unfair’.

But it is also true that I have not seen any columns or letters written by men drawing attention to the fact that the pension rules prior to 2018 did amount to discrimination against men and that the judges also ruled ‘this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law.  Not only did women receive their pension earlier, but they were, and still are, likely to receive the pension for longer as on average women tend to outlive men.

Too many women claim that any comment by men about the way they are treated should be dismissed asbacklash’ or ‘mansplaining’.  Too many men seem to be unwilling to be assert that they too should be treated equally. I’m not one of them.  Are you?

Laughing All The Way To The Bank: Who Says Politics Doesn't Pay?

Les May makes some interesting points in his recent article about pension inequality in the UK. Unlike Les, I am a 65-year-old man who won't get a State Retirement Pension (S.R.P.) until I'm almost 66-years old in September 2020. There was of course, another way of eliminating sex discrimination in retirement ages. The state retirement age for men could have been reduced to 60 in line with women, but this wasn't likely to happen. The full state UK pension is currently £168.60 and one of the lowest paid pensions of all the EU member states. 

Compared to some of the pensions paid to British and EU politicians it is derisory. According to campaigners from Open Europe, Neil and Glenys Kinnock, amassed a total of five publicly funded pensions, worth £4.4m, allowing them to retire on £183,000 a year. The campaign group estimated that the Kinnock's, claimed around £10m in European earnings from allowances, wages, and pension entitlements over a 15-year period. 

It was the Conservative Prime Minister, John Major, who put Kinnock forward for the job as a European Commissioner, after stating publicly that Kinnock "wasn't fit to run a whelk stall." Kinnock's wife joined him later on the EU gravy train.

An article that appeared on WalesOnline in 2013, gives the full details:-
Laughing All The Way To The Bank

"NEIL and Glenys Kinnock came under fire from critics last night as details of their
estimated £10m European earnings were calculated by a pressure group."

"Campaigners from Open Europe, which argues for greater transparency, calculated the pair’s multi-million-pound earnings from allowances, wages and pension entitlements over a 15-year period.
It worked out their salaries and perks included:
A total of £775,000 in wages for Mrs Kinnock and £1.85m for her husband, adding up to £2,625,000;
Allowances for Mrs Kinnock’s staff and office costs of £2.9m;
A £64,564 “entertainment allowance” for Lord Kinnock;
A total of five publicly-funded pensions, worth £4.4m, allowing them to retire on £183,000 a year;
A housing allowance that allowed them both to claim accommodation costs even though, as a married couple, they lived in the same house in the Belgian capital between 1995 and 2004.
The TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign manager Susie Squire yesterday attacked the scale of the earnings.
She said: “It does seem an awful lot, but anyone who has experience of the Brussels gravy train will be able to believe these figures.
“There are lots of eurocrats on massive pensions and massive salaries living the five-star lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense.
“Brussels isn’t at all transparent. It’s very difficult to get information about money which is being spent in the first place.”
Ukip’s newly-elected Wales MEP John Bufton said he was “appalled” at the amounts paid.
“It’s quite incredible and unbelievable,” he added. “The Welsh public will see this as an absolute farce.
“And the thought that Gordon Brown is so desperate he has to bring in Glenys Kinnock shows the whole thing just stinks.”
Asked by the Western Mail what he wanted to say about yesterday’s revelations, former European Union Transport Commissioner Lord Kinnock, 67, replied: “Nothing, absolutely nothing.”
Quizzed as to whether the figures reported were accurate, the former MP for Islwyn, who led the Labour Party to two general election defeats before quitting in 1992 then spending 10 years in Brussels, said: “I’m not making any form of response.”
Earlier this month, Mrs Kinnock, 64, quit as an MEP after 15 years. Last Sunday Labour lost one of its two European Parliament seats in Wales to Ukip as Labour came second to the Conservatives in Wales, capping a disastrous election performance.
Mrs Kinnock is to be given a life peerage and appointed to succeed Caroline Flint who resigned as Europe Minister, saying she was not content to be Gordon Brown’s “female window dressing”.
Yesterday, a spokeswoman for the Kinnocks, whose property portfolio includes a £815,000 home in Islington, North London and a £700,000 house in Peterston- super-Ely, outside Cardiff, disputed just one of Open Europe’s figures – a “transition allowance” Lord Kinnock received when he left Brussels in 2004, worth £355,143 at today’s exchange rate. She said the true figure was lower, but refused to reveal it.
Open Europe estimated Mrs Kinnock’s travel costs based on MEPs’ average.
It estimated she spent £1,179,482 for travel between Britain and the Continent over 15 years, and £45,777 for travel outside the EU.
During 10 years in Brussels, Lord Kinnock automatically received residential allowances totalling £276,962.
On Lord Kinnock’s income and perks, the spokeswoman said: “All of these details are a matter of public record.”
Based on Open Europe’s calculations, they will receive a combined annual pension of about £183,000.
According to the Mail on Sunday, the think-tank said Mrs Kinnock can expect £67,835 a year from two pensions as an MEP: one a £19,370 basic pension and the other £48,465 from the European Parliament’s Additional Voluntary Pension Scheme which sees the taxpayer paying £2 for every £1 put into the pot by MEPs.
Her new ministerial pay package will be used to top up contributions to the basic MEP pension. She already claims a teacher’s pension.
Lord Kinnock receives an ex-MP’s pension, thought to be £32,000 a year.
He has a second pension as a former EU Commissioner, worth more than £80,000.
The Kinnocks have also built up a valuable property portfolio, with homes in London and Wales.
In 1992, they bought a house in Ealing, West London, for £445,000. They sold it in January 2007 for £1,515,000 and bought a smart three-storey property.
Other members of the family have also benefited from Europe. Son Stephen’s first job after Cambridge University was as a research assistant to an MEP.
His Danish wife Helle – tipped as a future prime minister of Denmark – sat as an MEP from 1999 to 2004, while the Kinnocks’ daughter Rachel was her mother’s research assistant at the European Parliament."

Tuesday, 8 October 2019

LIGHT FALLS at the Manchester Royal Exchange

A Royal Exchange Theatre Production - World Premiere


By Simon Stephens
Directed by Sarah Frankcom
With original music by Jarvis Cocker
24 October - 16 November

Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and the multi award-winning writer Simon Stephens have taken a journey across the North of England, shaping and developing their latest collaboration, Simon’s newest play LIGHT FALLS. In this extraordinary World Premiere a family is drawn back together following a single, devastating and unpredictable event. An intricate observation of people and places LIGHT FALLS is a powerful allegory to the North. This production features original music by Jarvis Cocker and can been seen in the Theatre from 24 October – 16 November.
A family finds themselves scattered across the north, each one searching for something to hold on to, to root them to a place, tie them to a person. A woman wakes up with a stranger beside her. A student argues with his lover. A single mother fights to feed her baby. A married man flirts with two younger women and one devastating event will change their lives forever.
LIGHT FALLS is performed by an impressive ensemble cast which includes Mercedes Assad, Freddie Gaminara, Carla Henry, Lloyd Hutchinson, Rebecca Manley, David Moorst, Tachia Newall, Jamie Samuel, Katie West and Witney White.
Sarah Frankcom is the Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre and the new Director of LAMDA. Her recent productions include: THE NICO PROJECT ( co-created with Maxine Peake for MIF 2019) WEST SIDE STORY, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, OUR TOWN (winner of Best Director at the UK Theatre Awards); HAPPY DAYS, THE LAST TESTAMENT OF LILLIAN BILOCCA (Hull City of Culture); A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, THE SKRIKER (co-commission with MIF15) and HAMLET (all with Maxine Peake), BLINDSIDED, THAT DAY WE SANG and the Royal Exchange and MIF13 co-production THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY. 

Trouble Times Outsourcing by Wigan Council

Wigan Trades Council Press Release:

‘Unison Workers at Addaction will be on the picket lines again in Wigan and Leigh this coming Wednesday 9th, Thursday 10th and Friday 11th October and Wigan Trades Council is calling upon trade unionists to show their support by visiting picket lines, inviting strikers to their meetings, and holding collections for their hardship fund.

‘The strikes this week are a significant escalation of the dispute in the face of an intransigent employer which portrays itself as a charity but behaves in a way that is anything but charitable. And the support now being shown to strikers indicates that the Trades Council is not alone in this opinion.

‘Wigan is a working-class town that as such has suffered disproportionally under the Tory and Lib Dem heel of austerity, producing a range of terrible consequences for which workers at Addaction are picking up the pieces.  Their work in the rehabilitation of adults and young people who have drug and alcohol misuse and related problems, is a vital service that was once under the NHS. Its privatisation has resulted in more pressure on workers and the service, and the going back on promises made on wages and conditions by Addaction.

‘Wigan Council commissioned Addaction to undertake work that should always have been performed by our NHS. In awarding contracts all privatised services are required to sign up to Wigan Council’s ‘Deal’. This ‘Deal’ clearly doesn’t require companies to honour agreements on pay and conditions and neither it seems does the ‘Deal’ require Addaction to honour recognition agreements with trade unions. To date, Addaction doesn’t recognise unions anywhere in the country. Clearly the ‘Deal’ is designed to benefit employers over Wigan’s labouring classes.

‘Wigan Trades Council will be supporting the strikers for as long as the dispute lasts and we will support all initiatives that give justice and respect to Addaction workers for the important and vital role they play in our communities.

‘Picket lines will be on from 8.00 am at Coops Building, Dorning Street, Wigan and Kennedy House, Brunswick Avenue, Leigh.’


Monday, 7 October 2019

Historic Direct Discrimination Against Men

by Les May

A FEW MONTHS before my wife reached the age of 60 the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) wrote to her with all the necessary paperwork to allow her to claim her State Retirement Pension (SRP), which she received the week following her birthday. When I was 65 I received no paperwork from the DWP and had to ask for it. The week following my birthday I got nothing, so I wrote again and got an apology, but still no pension.  I wrote again asking for my pension and for the interest I had lost due to the late payments. I eventually got the pension, but was asked to prove that it would have been into an interest bearing account. It was and I received a £30 payment for the trouble I had been caused.  I estimate that I ‘lost’ about £35,000 by having to wait until I was 65.  My experience of dealing with the DWP suggest that it can reasonably be said to be guilty of institutional sexism.

You will perhaps understand that I have zero sympathy for the women behind the Backto60 campaign who are complaining that the State Pension Age (SPA) for women should still be 60 as it was from the 1940s until April 2010.  The Pensions Act 1995 provided for the SPA for women to increase from 60 to 65 over the period April 2010 to 2020.  These changes were announced in 1995 i.e. 15 years before they were to be implemented.  Don’t confuse these women with the so called Waspi women who are complaining that this process of raising the SPA for women has been accelerated for the period after 2016 when it was 63.

Last week two judges of the High Court, Lord Justice Irwin and Mrs Justice Whipple, dismissed a case brought by two women ‘on all grounds’ saying: ‘There was no direct discrimination on grounds of sex, because this legislation does not treat women less favourably than men in law. Rather it equalises a historic asymmetry between men and women, and thereby corrects historic direct discrimination against men’. (my emphasis)

Oh dear!  Oh dear!  This isn’t how equality between men and women is supposed to work is it?

However things are not quite what they seem and having to work longer may have its compensations after all.  Men born before 6 April 1951 and women born before 6 April 1953 receive a SRP of £129.20. To get the full basic State Pension a total of 30 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions or credits are needed.  Men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953 receive a SRP of £168.60, i.e. £39.40 more!   The downside that to get the full basic State Pension a total of 35 qualifying years of National Insurance contributions or credits are needed, but some SRP is payable to people with 10 qualifying years.

The fact that even though the changes were announced 15 years before they were implemented, some women are claiming that they knew nothing about them, illustrates that in general people do not understand the benefits system they support through their taxes and at sometime in their life may be beneficiaries of.  But ignorance does not seem to deter some people from seeing anyone who is ‘on benefits’ as a ‘scrounger’.


Sunday, 6 October 2019

A Rat’s Nest of Contradictions

by Les May

SOMETIME this month draft guidelines drawn up by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) are expected to be sent to English and Welsh schools.  The Scottish government cancelled what are assumed to be similar guidelines in June.

A leak of the new guidelines suggests that schools would be advised and sometimes required to open areas of school life that have previously been treated as separate on the basis of sex to children who identify as that gender.  A boy who identifies as a female would be allowed to use girls’ changing rooms and on school trips could legally be placed in the same bedroom as a girl, and vice versa.

A women’s advocacy group, Fair Play for Women, has argued that whilst the EHRC guidelines consistently protect children who identify as ‘trans-gender’ equal weight has not been given to protecting girls. They go on to say it must be made explicit that sex and gender identity are different, and that it is important that girls to be able to recognise and name the male sex as otherwise the right of girls to assert their boundaries, e.g. with regard to touching, is taken away.

See also:

Under the guidelines if a girl feels uncomfortable that a child she identifies as a boy, but who self identifies as a girl, is using a girls’ changing room then it is the girl who feels awkward who must go and change elsewhere, not the boy.

In 2018-19 the number of children, some as young as three (3), identifying as ‘trans-gender’ was 2,590 according to the Gender Identity Development Service (GIDS) of the NHS.   This is 30 times (3000%) more than ten years ago. A governor of the NHS trust under which GIDS operates resigned this year concerned about the ‘affirmative model’ used by GIDS too quickly leads to the prescription of puberty blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones.  He also suggested that in some cases the difficulties which some children have, and which become identified as being about gender identification, may in fact be because they have become aware of their sexual orientation. In common parlance ‘they are gay’. This suggestion deserves serious consideration.

When the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee took evidence for their report, Enforcing the Equality Act: the law and the role of the Equality and Human Rights Commission it received submissions from members of the public. Two of these were:

We desperately need legal clarity on the terms ‘transgender’ ‘transsexual’,
and ‘gender reassignment’—I think [the] way they are currently being
used, and the way the [Equality Act] interacts with the GRA 2004, is being
abused, misused, misapplied and misrepresented.’

The combined effect of the [Gender Recognition
Act] and the [Equality Act] is to conflate sex and gender irretrievably, and what remains is a rat’s nest of contradictions, where sex-based rights cannot be properly invoked.’ (My emphasis)

I agree entirely with the two submissions quoted above. The media use the word ‘trans’ and ‘trans-gender’ interchangeably and with no clarity about what is meant when they are used. Ditto when ‘non-binary’ and ‘gender fluid’ are used. This makes the situation more opaque when clarity is what is needed.

As the law stands schools have to provide lunchtime meals suitable for Muslim children. If the guidelines soon to be issued by the EHRC are enacted Muslim girls could find themselves sharing a bedroom with someone they, and their and other parents, identify as a boy.   Expect trouble!

My apologies to rats everywhere for dragging them into the ‘trans’ argument. You deserve better.


Forger Shaun Greenhalgh gives interview at Bolton Museum

 By Saiqa Chaudhari Education Reporter
HE fooled the world's art experts with his incredible talent and gained international notoriety after it was revealed an "Egyptian Relic" he sold to Bolton Museum was a fake ­— created in a garden shed.
Now master forger Sean Greenhalgh is returning to Bolton Museum for a rare public interview to coincide with the airing of a new BBC series.

Mr Greenhalgh said: "Bolton Museum is the place that inspired my love and interest in art.
“I am sorry for what I did and so grateful for this opportunity to give something back.
“I hope the pieces I have made will bring in even more people to my hometown museum, which is a fantastic place that everyone should come and visit." 

He will be talking exclusively to Museum Collections Manager Sam Elliott about his past ­— which led to him being locked up ­— and forthcoming BBC Four series "Handmade in Bolton".

He created four historical objects for the programme using traditional methods and materials.
All four items ­— a jewelled eagle brooch, an alabaster carving, a ceramic plate, and a rock crystal bottle ­— will be on display in Bolton Museum’s foyer from October 7.

It is only the third time Mr Greenhalgh has set foot inside the museum, following his release from prison in 2010.

He created several hundred forgeries, which were sold to many museums as well as royalty and even an American president.

Among his forgeries was the infamous ‘Amarna Princess’, which was acquired by Bolton Council for £440,000. A British Museum report authenticated the figure as 3,300 years old.

In July this year, Mr Greenhalgh visited the museum with a film crew and director Waldemar Janusczak to get inspiration for the ceramic plate he was making for the BBC show.

The BBC Four series will air October 7, 9, 10, and 13 at 7.30pm.

Mr Greenhalgh’s question and answer session will take place on Friday, October 11 from 7pm to 8.30pm, in Bolton Library.

Tickets for the interview are £5 and all proceeds will go to the Mayor’s charities.

To reserve a seat visit or book in at Bolton Central Library. Places are limited.

Mr Greenhalgh will also be signing copies of his book, A Forger’s Tale: Confessions of the Bolton Forger, which will be available to purchase after the interview.


Loose talk by Job Centre DWP staff!

 Manchester LibDem Cllr. John Leech* reports:
Responding to the shocking comments made by DWP staff about Universal Credit claimants, the Liberal Democrats have blamed "Boris Johnson’s hateful Tory Government" for promoting hateful language.

Benefits managers have been caught on tape making horrifying comments about claimants including blowing them up with a grenade and “faking it", according to the Mirror on Sunday.
In one conversation a manager says: “The police sometimes have sting operations where they gather people together. We should nominate one person to throw a grenade in.”

One said they “have absolutely no time” for claimants with depression and anxiety.

The Liberal Democrats have blamed "Boris Johnson’s hateful Tory Government" for "actively promoting cruel language."

Liberal Democrat John Leech voted against the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and was the very first MP in the House of Commons to speak out against key parts of the Act including the Under Occupancy Penalty (‘Bedroom Tax’) and Universal Credit.

*  John Leech was one of two Lib Dem MPs to vote against entering Coalition in 2010 and the very first MP to speak out against the under-occupancy penalty (commonly called the 'bedroom tax') in Parliament.


Friday, 4 October 2019

The lady doth protest too much, methinks

By Les May

TODAY I listened to the Labour MP Stella Creasey on the BBC2 Politics Live programme complaining that she is being harassed.  She based this upon the fact that an American group called the Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform (CBRUK) posted billboards showing a foetus, said to be at nine weeks gestation, around her constituency.  The foetus is clearly much older than 9 weeks at which time it would be only about 25mm long, though this is much larger than Creasey’s claim that it would be ‘poppy seed sized’.

Quite why this group have singled out Creasey I don’t know.  Many other MP’s voted in the same way she did on her amendment to extend abortion rights to Northern IrelandIt passed 332 votes to 99. Certainly it must be a source of annoyance to her and if it happened to me I would not like it. But does it constitute harassment?

Home Office circular 018/2012 (A change to the Protection from Harassment Act 1997) gives some guidance to the police on what constitutes harassment. One thing is clear that the behaviour must occur on at least two occasions.  Does a poster do this? Is a poster sufficiently similar to any of the examples of what constitutes stalking to be construed as harassment?

This seems to me to be an extreme reaction and if we are going to express concern about the language MPs use and how its effect is to polarise opinions, we need to be concerned with how supposed ‘victims’ react. Creasey has form on this kind of exaggeration.

When Labour MP Clive Lewis made a joking comment at a Momentum event hosted by Novara Media at which Creasey was not present, she complained “It’s not OK.  Even if it’s meant as a joke, reinforces menace that men have the physical power to force compliance.” (Just to be clear the remark was addressed at another man and was in the context of a light hearted game.)

This is how the Guardian reported what someone who was there said:

Novara’s Ash Sarkar, who was compering the event, said:

I asked the audience for a volunteer to keep score in a gameshow section we were doing. The guy who came up is well-known to us, he’s doing a podcast with us. I gave him the notebook to keep score, and asked him to kneel down so the audience and cameras could see the stage. He made a little face, and then Clive jokingly said ‘on your knees, bitch’, to him.
The joke was delivered in a spirit of campy humour. It certainly wasn’t this kind of macho expression of sexual domination. It got forgotten as the gameshow went on.”
Sarkar said there was “a rich tradition of leftist, subversive counter-culture, which often has relied on treading lines between the politically correct, the puerile, the extravagant, flamboyant energy that comes with causing a bit of a stir, while also at the same time being inclusive, loving and affectionate”.
Lewis’s comment, she added, “was an expression of a boozy, raucous, party celebration, which was something which at the time made people feel quite close to the people who were on stage, that they weren’t these distant political or commentariat-type figures.
It was part of an endearing, informal vibe. Had it been used in a way that had made either our audience members, or the volunteer in question, or anyone else on the stage uncomfortable, then I’d be like yeah, let’s have a conversation about its appropriateness. But we can’t mistake puritanism for meaningful action on oppression.
There’s a certain irony in Guido Fawkes pushing this, when they’ve been one of the chief orchestrators of harassment against Diane Abbott, the most prominent black female politician in the UK.”

For an alternative take on it see:

In her own way Creasey is an extremist even though she always tries to grab the moral high ground. Policing other people’s speech is not a pleasant trait. It’s po-faced and puritanical. It may get praise from people who think like her, but does anyone think that Labour voters give a tinker’s cuss?