Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Historian Antony Beevor Could Face Russian Jail

LAST week, the historian  Antony Beevor told  Kirsty Young on Desert Island Discs last week that he may face five years in a Russian prison for his account of the rape of millions of German women by Stalin’s armies at the end of World War Two.
His account, which stated that two million German women were raped, could land him behind bars after Russia made it illegal to criticise the Red Army. 
Interviewed on Desert Island Discs, which will be broadcast on Radio 4 today, Sir Beevor said: 'Technically, I am liable to five years’ imprisonment if I go back. 
'The ambassador explained that the (Russian) victory was scared and obviously the appalling accounts of the rapes undermined the sacred element of the victory.' 
The military historian, 70, incurred the wrath of the Russian government by writing in his 2002 book, 'Berlin: The Downfall 1945', about the mass rape committed by Red Army troops in a defeated Germany. 
The historian, who failed A-level English and history at Winchester College, chose Blondie song Union City Blue and Vivaldi’s Concerto in C Major as two of his discs and Fathers And Sons by Ivan Turgenev as his book.

Monday, 27 February 2017

'The Guardian' comment on Copeland

Published Tuesday, 28th Feb ‘17, The GUARDIAN

Copeland voters are most worried about jobs, their main employer is the nuclear industry. They could see it had no future when a Chinese company stopped negotiations for a local buy-out. That deal would have been bad for our energy bill payers because we would have no control over pricing such electricity. But it was the last hope of a Government that will not commit another penny to

Labour’s mistake: ignoring the job opportunities to replace that industry; wind and tidal power, solar energy, heat extracted from the ground and better use of methane. Also the thousands of long term jobs needed to de commission such plants. 

The nuclear industry is paid for by taxation. But all that public money is only going to in one direction, preventing “green economic growth” 

Private investment follows public money into industry. Present policy stops such progress.

Martin Gilbert, 

Insightful Baroness Blames 'Remotenes'

BARONESS Chakrabarti has identified the distant region of Copeland in Cumbria, saying 'It's remote from London'.  And the New York Times journalist, Kenan Malik tell us its 'near the Scottish border'.
The Baroness as the shadow attorney general, a key ally of Jeremy Corbyn, said:
''There was a low turnout in Copeland and having been to Copeland recently, I know that it's a very rural constituency, public transport is not great.'
She continued to excuse the Labour Party suggesting:  'Copeland could in-part be explained by other factors including bad weather, Labour voters being less likely to have a car, low turnout, Brexit divisions, false claims about Mr Corbyn’s views on nuclear power, and ill-treatment in the media.'
The metropolitan elite know it all!

Political Righteousness at the Oscars

Ryan Gosling star of La La Land elbowed out during upset at the Oscars
KEN Loach’s film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, against expectation in the UK, failed to get nominated for an Oscar.
I suspect that it was too plebian and didn’t fit-in with the current sub-prime politics or the now fashionable alphabetic soup: LTBQI or the requirement for what one of my fellow workmates in the local foundry use to call ‘a compulsory Coon’*.
The day before the Oscars were awarded, Damien Thompson in the Mail on Saturday predicted that ‘Moonlight’ ticks ‘every conceivable box, the story of a black child – living in Miami with his crack-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) – who grows up gay. Cue an examination of the difficulties of homosexuality in the ghetto.’
None-the-less, last year the Los Angeles Times reported:
Its another embarrassing Hollywood sequel: For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has nominated an all-white group of acting nominees.‘
In 2016, the civil rights film 12-years a Slave’ also failed to land a slot on the director list, spurring the social-media movement #OscarsSoWhite and a pledge from the academy to do better.
This year, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC), which has organised the Oscar balloting event for the last 83-years, has had to apologise for mixing up the envelopes:
We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred. We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.’
It is worth mentioning that during the Miner’s Strike of 1984-85, Price Waterhouse Cooper was the company of accountants which did work for the Thatcher government in tracking down the funds of the National Union of Miners (NUM). The Campaign for Press & Broadcasting Freedom has posted evidence from Cabinet papers about the links between the security services MI5 and Price Waterhouse in the pursuit of NUM funds during the Miner’s Strike:
Government-backed legal action to seize the £8.5 million that had been transferred to banks overseas was so successful that law officers had to advise that a case involving the sequestrators might have to be abandoned because of fears that the scale of the surveillance would be revealed in open court.
Assisted by highly-accurate intelligence about the NUM’s clandestine operation, chartered accountants Price Waterhouse managed to freeze secret accounts in Luxembourg, Zurich and Dublin without the union’s knowledge and before further withdrawals could be made.
When senior civil servants realised that evidence of widespread telephone taps had leaked out to lawyers, the Cabinet Secretary warned the Prime Minister that her government would have to be careful.’
'PwC' would seem to have better at pursuing the NUM than managing the Oscars.
*   A coon is a black actor or actress, who takes roles that stereotypically portrays black people. They think theyve made it but they are slaves to the same images.

Self-styled ‘Selfie Queen’ or Publicity Seeker?

by Les May
I live in Rochdale.  It’s not difficult to find people eager to give you their opinion about our very own self-styled ‘Selfie Queen’, Karen Danczuk formerly Karen Burke.  Older people, and especially older ladies, tend to be less than impressed by her past enthusiasm for flaunting her cleavage.  Those of a political bent use words like ‘deluded’ when talking about her pretensions to becoming an MP and point to her not altogether successful spell as a local councillor when she gained a reputation for being less than assiduous in attending to some of her duties.

But never have I come across anyone, nor do I expect to, who would suggest that vandalising her car, or indeed any of her property, is acceptable behaviour.

You do not have to be one of her Twitter followers to empathise with Karen over the problem of damage to her car. But that does not preclude us from taking a closer look at this story.

http:  //www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4257178/Vandals-target-Karen-Danczuk-s-car-trial.html

She is quoted as saying:
'Since trial I've had five attacks on car (slashed tyres, diesel, nails, paintwork) I'm sure its coincidence but remember, I travel with two boys.'

'These attacks are either linked to the trial or a sheer coincidence. They are clearly targeted at me for whatever reason and I can only speculate. 
'But these incidents are another example of why victims are too scared to come forward.  I want to remind these people that I travel with two young boys and it is putting their lives in danger as well as my own life.' 

Now no one can object to the last of these four statements.  It is manifestly true. But when I read the first three I began to wonder if we were not seeing here the beginnings of a narrative into which every subsequent happening could be fitted.   
Why mention ‘the trial’?  
Why mention a link to ‘the trial’?
Why write ‘these incidents are another example of why victims are too scared to come forward’?

I have seen this tactic adopted before.  It is what I complained about in 2014 in my Amazon review of her ex-husband’s now discredited book ‘Smile for the Camera’ where I wrote ‘The writing style adopted is to let the narrative drive the evidence not the evidence drive the narrative.’ 

The problems which arise when this approach to story telling is adopted are highlighted by the fact that when Northamptonshire police investigated one of the stories in ex-husband Simon’s book it was found to have no basis in fact.

A good story was enough to get it a place in the book because it fitted into the narrative the authors had constructed for Cyril Smith.

Adam Simmonds, Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner, ended up asking for an apology from Danczuk and said ‘Everything in that book's got to be evidence-led and -based, otherwise you are alerting people to the wrong information.’  


Until such time as the police arrest someone, he or she is convicted of damaging Karen’s car and shown to have done it because they were disgruntled about the outcome of ‘the trial’ I see no reason to fall in line with Karen’s narrative.

It’s not the first time she has tried to construct a narrative which suits the image of herself she is keen to project. She tried to pull off the same trick in January when on ‘Good Morning Britain’ the story was that her ‘prolific use of social media is 100% linked to being abused as a child’. Evidence for this? None! Just a bit of wishful thinking.


And how about the two year old story from February 2015, ‘Selfie-mad councillor Karen Danczuk is auctioning herself off this Valentine's day’?  What’s her excuse, sorry explanation, for this bit of self publicity? Or the story of a similar vintage which informs us that on first meeting her Harriet Harman told her 'You're too pretty to be interested in politics and should be in Girls Aloud' 

http://www.itv.com/news/granada/update/2015-02-11/a-valentines-date-with-danczuk/ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2950535/Harriet-Harman-told-Labour-MP-s-wife-Karen-Danczuk-pretty-interested-politics-Girls-Aloud.html

Karen’s attempts to construct a narrative to project a particular image of herself will not doubt continue.   But we don’t have to buy into it.  The findings of the court stand because they have been tested under our adversarial system of justice.  What Karen is quoted as saying in the media and what she posts on Twitter have not, so we are free to believe as much or as little as we like.

She seems to me not to have ‘waived her right to anonymity’, but to have massacred it.  A figure of about £20,000 was mentioned in court for a newspaper story from 2015 almost two years before the verdict. It was no doubt coincidence that this story came out at much the same time as the ‘Valentine dinner’ and the Harman story.  Whether the spate of post trial media stories have been a ‘nice little earner’ I don’t know, but I cannot help having noticed how often the images which accompany them are attributed to agencies which are not unknown to the Danczuk duo.


If Karen has any serious pretensions to a career in politics she will stop trying to be famous and aiming to be a celebrity, drop her smart phone in the canal and get a proper job.
I’m not holding my breath.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Mr. Danczuk's Misleading Us Again

by Brian Bamford
THIS week, Simon Danczuk the current MP for Rochdale, claimed in the Daily Mail that he met John Walker only twice before Danczuk's book 'Smile for the Camera' was written and he said Mr. Walker had nothing to do with the book - and so did not receive a donation from him or his colleague and co-author, Mr. Matthew Baker.
As a former journalist, Mr Walker had previously worked for the Rochdale Alternative Paper (RAP), which first exposed the then LibDem Rochdale politician Cyril Smith back in May 1979.
It ought to be noted that when Walker and his joint-editor David Bartlett made their revelations in RAP in 1979, they did so at great risk to themselves:  their jobs were vulnerable, as they worked as lecturers for the local authority at a time when Cyril Smith had great local influence and he did take legal advice which produced a solicitor's letter but this only ultimately resulted in the threat of injunction against their paper RAP and some modest legal costs to them, which as anticipated frightened off the weak-kneed main-stream press.  Only Private Eye went on to publish the story based on the RAP revelations.
Last week, following the dedication of a toilet block at a school Mr Walker, in a tongue-in-cheek gesture told the Daily Mail that he and his wife, Sandra, of the London-based Sohm Schools Support had dubbed the facilities the 'Simon Danczuk Toilet Block' as part of their programme to improve two schools in a tiny village in Gambia.
In an attempt to justify the £250 to Mr Walker's Charity rung out of the publisher, Mr. Danczuk told the Daily Mail this week:
'... that Mr Walker was acknowledged in its foreword because of the part he played in helping uncover Smith's wrongdoing.'
But Mr Danczuk said:
'I am sorry for Mr Walker who is clearly confused about his involvement with authoring the book, which evidently has contributed an awful lot to raising the issue of child abuse and continues to help victims deal with their traumatic past.'
Some doubts have now been thrown upon this Danczuk's story after Northern Voices' has contacted John Walker, who is still out in Gambia until March working for the Charity.  It now seems that Mr. Walker had much more contact with Danczuk and Baker in to the run-up to the publication of their book.
Yesterday, John Walker confirmed 'I certainly met Danczuk 4 times'.
Mr. Walker then went on to detail the four occassions on which they met in the run-up to the publication of Danczuk's book:
1 - at my request, in the Strangers' Bar of the House of Commons, to discuss my idea of a book. He consumed rather a lot to drink over a couple of hours - so I can understand if this meeting slipped his memory. This would be Nov 2012.
2 - at his request, in his tax/payer funded Pimlico flat, in the week between Xmas and New Year, to discuss my draft outline for the book.
3 - at his request. 10 days later in Portcullis house, Westminster, to discus the book with the literary agent he found.
4 - at his request, and my cost, a meeting in his Rochdale office to discuss how "Matthew Baker" could line up local contacts to be interviewed for the book. (Brian, you will remember this, as we met for a meal and drink afterwards.) Basically, Danczuk and Baker had decided to go ahead without me, and effectively told me so. Thus wasting a day of my time and travel costs to Rochdale (unlike Danczuk, whose fares are met by the taxpayer, I footed my own bill).
This account would seem to be enough to discredit the Danczuk story in itself as Mr. Walker and  Rochdale's Alternative Paper is regarded with great respect in, but there is also evidence of indirect contact through the former Westminster blogger, Paul Waugh.  Two of the young  inmates from Cambridge House, Barry Fitton and Edward Sharrock, both complainants who Danczuk referred to by in his speech in the House of Commons when he first took up this cause in November 2012, were provided for him through the good offices of Mr Walker and Northern Voices.


The report below is taken directly from the whistle-blower, Alan Wainwright's Blog.  (Editor)
Thanks to Roy Bentham, Tony Seaman and the lads at Unite's Liverpool and Teeside branches for kick starting the fighting fund for the legal work to expose Paul Raby, Gerry Harvey and all the other blacklisters at Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited (BBESL).
I've just learned that the entire electrical workforce (some 400 plus) at BBESL's Capenhurst project have passed a motion to support my claim against their employer and collections will start this week. It is hoped that the mechanical (some 200 plus) will follow shortly.
Thank you to everyone who made this happen.

Alan Wainwright case against Balfour Beatty

The report below is taken from Alan Wainwright's Blog, which we publish without comment.  It suggests that a case brought by Alan Wainwright is having serious consequences for the Balfour Beatty high command, and that some of them are now jumping ship:


Key evidence on prolific blacklister, Gerry Harvey was specifically highlighted by Regional Employment Judge, Barry Clarke in his judgment.
Other very notable Balfour Beatty senior managers and directors involved are:
Vikki Skene - Leaves Balfour Beatty after ten years to join Galliford Try only a few months before the preliminary hearing.
Jemma Wilkinson - Also leaves Balfour Beatty after ten years to join Pricewaterhouse Coopers only a few months before the preliminary hearing.
Alastair Green - National Labour Manager also leaves Balfour Beatty after twenty two years to join Imtech only a few weeks before the preliminary hearing.
For more go to:

Saturday, 25 February 2017


ON Saturday 11 March 2017, 1pm at the Red Shed, Vicarage Street, Wakefield both Granville Williams and Bob Mitchell will be speaking about the Spanish Civil War at an event organised by Wakefield Socialist History Group.  Admission is free and all are welcome.  Below are some comments about the organisation POUM.

POUM was formed in 1935 by a fusion of the Trotskyist Communist Left of Spain (ICE) and the quasi-Trotskyist Workers and Peasants' Bloc (BOC).  It was led by Andreu Nin and Joaquin Maurin.
It took an independent communist position (it was anti-Stalinist) and was critical of the Popular Front strategy.  So much so that communists denounced it in the most vehement terms.  Santiago Carrillo for instance went "down the road of linking POUM to the Francoists" (Preston 2014).
Despite this POUM did participated in the Popular Front government initiated by Manuel Azana, leader of Accion Republicana, in the hope of advancing some of its' own policies.
In 1937 however POUM was repressed during the Barcelona May Days. It was outlawed by central government and its' leaders arrested.  Nin himself was detained, tortured and "disappeared" by NKVD agents.
Carrillo (1977) wrote that POUM and anarchists had launched a "putsch" which was "treason."  But Nin's death was an "abominable and unjustifiable act."
POUM remained proscribed during the Franco years but was legalised in 1977.  POUM then split but part of it stood as the Workers' Unity Front in elections, demanding the restoration of a republic.
It was finally wound up in 1980/81 although there is still an Andreu Nin Foundation.
Orwell famously joined the POUM militia and wrote of it in his book HOMAGE TO CATALONIA.
Alan Stewart (Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group)

Blacklist FILM appeal

THANKS to all of you who have made a donation. For those that still plan to, there are 4 days to go.
Dear All,
I am having a final push for donations for the film Blacklist by Lucy Parker. If you are able to make a small donation or distribute this request, we would be really grateful. Sorry to ask!!
Kate (and Lucy)
0781 306 2595
City Projects
46 Brooksby’s Walk
London E9 6DA
Blacklist Film: Final push for donations
Lucy Parker and City Projects have been working on the film Blacklist for over two years. We have raised £28,000 towards production so far and we need a further £12,000 by the end of February to go into production, to make a work that will do justice to the research and that will be able to adequately draw attention to the blacklist case.
There will be a special screening for all donors with guest speakers, and so a £10 donation can be seen as a ticket to this event. Please donate today! Larger or smaller donations also welcome.
Follow the link at www.blacklistfilm.co.uk to make a donation, and please tick the gift aid section if you are an individual UK tax payer to give us an additional 25%. 
Whilst we would prefer that this film was publicly funded, we have exhausted art and film funds, as the former has few options and the subject matter is too political for the latter. The film has relevance to all of us, looking at the immediate effects and wider implications of the construction industry blacklist. It will introduce new audiences to the blacklist case and be made freely available to campaigning groups.
We have so far received funding from the Arts Council England, Barry Amiel & Norman Melburn Trust and from many Unite and Unison union branches, and individual donations. We have also received funding and support from Jerwood Space and Rhubaba Gallery during the research phase.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Looking for a lucrative story!

 'anything can happen in politics!!'
ASPIRING politician, Karen Danczuk, has just Tweeted:
'Since trial I've had 5 attacks on car (slashed tyres,diesel,nails,paintwork) I'm sure its coincidence but remember, I travel with 2 boysKD'
As a consequence The Sun has reported today:  
'Last year she bravely waived her right to anonymity to talk about being raped by her brother between the ages of nine and 11 to encourage other survivors of sexual abuse to speak out.
Burke, 38, was jailed in December after being convicted of eight counts of rape and one other serious sexual offence against Ms Danczuk and two other women following a trial.'
All this will help her to continue to create an image of an heroic public figure, and to counter those malcontents who have merely sought to present the lively lass as a trollop and a tart.
Everyone who has sat in the council chamber at Rochdale Town Hall while she was a councillor for Kingsway Ward, will have seen how fine a figure she cuts working-her-fingers-to-the-bone on her Twitter Account, while at the same time dealing with council business.
Talk about multi-tasking!
There's few better!
You never know Karen!
With the Labour Party in such a present state of disorientation, and now seems to be utterly frightened to death of even expelling her disorderly ex-husband Simon Danczuk for bringing the party in to disrepute.
It's just possible given the crazy world we live in that the party may even end up expelling Jeremy Corbyn and crowning Mr. Danczuk as its new leader.  In such circumstances Karen may get her wish to be an Honarable Member for somewhere or other.  In a Tweet today she says:  
'anything can happen in politics!!' .
14h14 hours ago
Never thought I'd be waking up to see Labour hold 😳😳 Just shows, anything can happen in politics!! KD

Labour Leadership Like Death Warmed-up!

REPORTS suggest that Jeremy Corb, the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn is coming under more pressure to pack it in, as the results of the defeat of Labour in Copeland in Cumbria began to circulate.  Meanwhile in Stoke Central in Staffordshire, Gareth Snell defeated Paul Nuttall by 7,853 votes to 5,233, giving him a majority of 2,620. 
Looking like death-warmed-up Jeremy Corbyn this morning told Sky News that Labour is in 'good heart' despite losing a safe seat ibn Cumbria to the Tories.  The Copeland constituency is an area held by the party since 1935.
Mr Corbyn told Sky when asked whether he would step down:  'I was elected to lead this party, to oppose austerity and oppose the redistribution of wealth in the wrong direction, which is what this Government is doing.'
Jeremy Corbyn has claimed Labour is in 'good heart' despite losing a safe seat to the Tories, in an area held by the party since 1935.
The Labour grassroots group Momentum this morning said the loss of Copeland was the 'result of 40 years of neglect by political establishment. Labour must win back the trust of those who have been left behind.'
Mr Corbyn said last night that the party needed to do more to reconnect with voters.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Blacklist Support Group Report

1. Blacklisting debate in Westminster parliament
Well done Chuka Umunna for using a Westminster debate in parliament to
call for a public inquiry into the blacklisting scandal

Blacklist Support Group hold their head in shame after being praised
by a Tory government minister

Full transcript: http://myparliament.info/Debates/Commons/2017-02-08/18857

ETUC calls for more legal protection on blacklisting:

2. Haringey council protests
Huge demonstrations organized by unions and community groups took
place last week in the London Borough of Haringey against the decision
by the council to work with the blacklisting firm Lend Lease
(previously Bovis) in a £2billion regeneration scheme. Blacklisted
bricklayer and Tottenham resident Keith Dobie spoke on behalf  the BSG
reminding councillors how their new corporate partner had a history of
blacklisting back as far as the Economic League but more recently in
Australia their anti-union antics saw trade unionists threatened with
jail for peaceful picketing, including the friend and comrade of the
BSG, Bob Carnegie

3. Spycops
Powerful new spycops film (very short):

Met Police destroy evidence and ask for further delays to Pitchford
public inquiry into undercover policing

Spycops in Ireland
Paul Murphy TD names UK spycops operating in the Republic during
debate in Irish parliament:
Video:  https://www.facebook.com/paulmurphytd/videos/1255015057920232/
Victory for campaigners in Northern Ireland court:

4. Shrewsbury Pickets & Grunwick
John Pilger documentary (1975) about UK conspiracy laws used to clamp
down on dissent especially in Shrewsbury trial.
Grunwick: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/undercover-with-paul-lewis-and-rob-evans/2017/feb/06/covert-infiltration-of-key-strike-to-be-examined-at-public-meeting-next-week?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Copy_to_clipboard

5. Employment rights legal victory

6. Blacklisted workers take on Paul Nutall in Stoke
Blacklist Support Group went on the campaign trail against the UKIP
fantasist Paul Nuttall in Stoke this week - Lee Fowler and Jimi Kindri
Roy Bentham interview

5. Dates for the diary where Blacklist Support Group will be attending
with our banners:
Save the NHS national demo - London
Sat 4th March

Orgreave - Make Some Noise demo (flyer attached)
2pm Monday 13th March

Durham TAs strike - Solidarity Day
Sat 25th March

Spycops protest - Royal Courts of Justice
Wed 5th April

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Danczuk Clan Crucified at Rochdale Labour HQ!

SINCE the infamous case of the “Rochdale Seven” - the expulsion of seven Labour members over their complaints about Danczuk’s suitability as a candidate which was triggered by his then girlfriend Karen Burke being dumped at Alicante Airport with no money and two small children to look after - Danczuk has had the backing of his local Labour party, duly rubber-stamped by the national organisation.
But after he was suspended following the revelation of his “sexting” a 17-year-old girl just over a year ago, the cracks started to appear. When it came to nominating a Labour candidate for the new post of Metro Mayor for Manchester, Danczuk’s backers tried to keep front-runner Andy Burnham out of the constituency. They failed: Burnham got to address local party members, and Rochdale CLP then backed him.
So it should have surprised no-one last week, at Rochdale CLP’s AGM, that Simon Danczuk’s friends and apologists got what the Norwegian football commentator memorably called “One hell of a beating”. Apart from the position of treasurer, which none of Spanker Si’s detractors wanted to contest, every other post up for grabs was secured by someone who wants Danczuk out of Rochdale Labour politics.
Every last post on the CLP taken away from what is referred to in a tone more serious than outsiders might imagine as “The Danczuk mafia”. Another prop kicked away from an MP who still fantasises about being let back into a party which gives every sign of not wanting anything more to do with him. And it gets worse - a lot worse.  
For more go to:
Zelo Street: Simon Danczuk's Pals VOTED OUTzelo-street.blogspot.com/2017/02/simon-danczuks-pals-voted-out.htm   

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Richard Blair on Legacy of George Orwell

In February 1937, an idealistic and ungainly Englishman in his thirties traveled to Spain to take his place in the trenches at the Aragón front to defend the Republic. His name was Eric Arthur Blair, remembered by history as George Orwell. This month, 80 years after the start of that adventure, Richard Blair, the writer’s only son, now a 72-year-old retired agricultural engineer, visited Huesca to take part in the opening of a major exhibition about his father.
TALKING to EL PAÍS during his brief stopover in Madrid on his way back to London, Richard Blair evoked the figure of Orwell and commented on the relevance of his legacy and the enormous interest in his final novel, 1984, which has become an international best-seller since Donald Trump became US president.
“It’s true that in recent weeks, with the references in the United States to ‘alternative facts’ [cited by Kellyanne Conway, one of the president’s top advisors], there has been increased interest in his book. But my father has never gone out of fashion.” The book was not so much a prophecy as a fable about Nazi and Stalinist totalitarianism, says Blair, although as he points out, some details from the novel that once seemed like science fiction have been part of our everyday life for some time, such as security cameras that watch our movements, or what some companies know about us from our internet activity, or how we use our credit cards. “Society has evolved toward what he saw. The world is becoming Orwellian,” he says.
Blair is patron of the Orwell society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to spreading knowledge about the life and work of the writer, as well as debate about ideas, and that remains scrupulously neutral about politics. Which might explain why he is so careful in choosing his words when talking about Trump.
“I think that there is a lot of tension and compression in the White House right now. It is true that Trump is attacking the press, but he is a complete enigma, they are all maneuvering and learning to live with each other,” he says.
Nevertheless, he says he cannot help but be happy at the hike in sales of his father’s books, particularly as he inherited the publishing rights (“which expire in 2020,” he points out). But he recognizes concerns that this has been due to the public finding parallels between the current situation and the dystopia Orwell described.
Orwell and his wife Eileen adopted Richard in 1944. Ten months later, Eileen died on the operating table. Some of the friends of the tuberculous-stricken writer suggested that he give up custody of the child but he ruled out the possibility. The relationship between Orwell and his adopted son became closer when the two of them moved to the Scottish island of Jura, chosen because it was a healthier location for Orwell to overcome his illness and where it was so cold that “if you move six feet away from the fireplace, you freeze.”
Blair’s memories from those days are of a loving father who made wooden toys, who had a strange sense of humor, and whose parenting style had none of the political correctness of modern upbringings. On one occasion he allowed the three-year-old Richard to smoke from a pipe filled with tobacco collected from his cigarette butts. The result, aside from a vomiting fit, was that the child saw himself temporarily vaccinated against the vice of smoking.
It was on Jura that Orwell finished 1984, writing in his room during the day and spending the evenings with the child. One of their favorite activities was fishing, especially for the lobsters that filled out a diet otherwise made frugal by post-war rationing. One weekend in August 1947, however, on a journey back from a weekend of relaxation on the west side of Jura, their boat sank and they almost drowned. Blair says Orwell’s health suffered as a result. David Astor, owner of The Observer newspaper, which published the writer’s work, asked to be allowed import the newly discovered antibiotic streptomycin from the United States, with which he was treated between December 1947 and July 1948 in a hospital near Glasgow. But his efforts were in vain: Orwell developed an allergy to the medication. “His nails fell out and blisters appeared on his lips,” Richard recalls. The writer died in January 1950 at age of 46, when his son was about to celebrate his sixth birthday.
What is the most important lesson that Orwell taught us? For journalists, says Blair, there are many. “To be honest. The most important things are facts which can be corroborated, not reality as you want it to be. Journalists today do not have time to check facts, and errors are perpetuated and multiplied on the internet until they become true.” The writer’s son also recalls Orwell’s six rules for clear writing from his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language. “Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech that you are used to seeing in print; Never use a long word where a short one will do; If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out; Never use the passive where you can use the active; Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent; Break any of these rules sooner than say anything barbarous.”
Blair finished up with his father’s definition of liberty: “If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
Blair is particularly concerned about the lack of dialogue in contemporary society. “All people do is shout at one another, without actually listening.” And he is surprised to see young people who, instead of speaking face to face, spend all day staring into their smartphones. “Even couples in restaurants! Are they communicating with each other via text messages?!” he jokes. And what would Orwell make of the 21st century, the era of the internet, great scientific advances and post-truth?
“Ah, now that’s the million-dollar question. But it’s impossible to get into anyone’s head. Nor to come up with the answer by reading his books. If he were still alive he would be 113, and would have had a lot of new influences… There’s no point in speculating.” As such, we don’t know, and we can’t know. But he does go as far as to assume one thing: whatever his thoughts, they would be characterized by common sense.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Bids for Shaun Greenhalgh art hit record on day

'Going to work' (1925) by L.S.Lowry
THREE paintings in the style of Lawrence Stephen Lowry by the Bolton artist Shaun Greehalgh, beat their reserve prices when they went on sale at the Bolton Auction Rooms today.  People at the auction rooms reported that the pictures were bought after a bitter series of telephone bids came in.
The reserve prices in the auction house catalogue was given as £1,000-£2,000 in the case of each painting.
On the day, a spkesman for the auction house told Northern Voices that one of the paintings went for £5,700, and the other two went for £5,100.
Shaun Greenhalgh was born in 1961, and became famous after the British Museum examined some of his work before two of his reliefs were submitted to Bonhams auction auction house in 2005, its antiquities consultant Richard Falkiner spotted 'an obvious fake'.  Then Bonhams consulted with the British Museum about various suspicious aspects, and the Museum then spotted several unlikely anomalies.
The Greenhalgh's family became known as the 'the garden shed gang'.  They built up an elaborate cottage industry at Shaun's parents' house in The Crescent, Bromley Cross, South Turton, which is  north of Bolton town centre.[
Shaun Greenhalgh had left school at 16 with no qualifications.   A self-taught artist, he had been influenced by his job as an antiques dealer, he worked up his forgeries from sketches, photographs, art books and catalogues.  He attempted a wide range of crafts, from painting in pastels and watercolours, to sketches, and sculpture, both modern and ancient, busts and statues, to bas-relief and metalwork.  He invested in a vast range of different materials - silver, stone, marble, rare stone, replica metal, and glass.  He also did meticulous research to authenticate his items with histories and provenance (for instance, faking letters from the supposed artists) in order to demonstrate his ownership.  Completed items were then stored about the house and garden shed. The latter probably served as a workshop as well.
Shaun's father, George Greenhalgh, who fronted as the sales operation of the fakes – produced by Shaun, died in October 2014 at the age of 91.
Since his Dad died, Shaun Greenhalgh has produced several paintings in the style of Lowry which went on sale in Bolton today, and bringing more than double their reserve price.
The three successful pictures at the auction included 'Going to work'; 'Coming from the mill'; and 'Before kick off', all framed oil on canvas after L.S.Lowry, and painted by Shaun Greenhalgh in 2015.

Spanish Civil War in Wakefield

Wakefield Socialist History Group are holding a SPANISH CIVIL WAR event on Saturday 11 March, 1-4pm at the Red Shed (Wakefield Labour Club), Vicarage Street, Wakefield WF1 1QX.
The speakers are:
*Granville Williams (Granville is the editor a  new book, THE FLAME STILL BURNS: THE CREATIVE POWER OF COAL.  He is on the National Committee of the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom).
*Bob Mitchell (Bob is a former councillor and former Mayor of Wakefield.  He has a particular interest in poetry and the Spanish Civil War).
Admission is free.  There will be free light snacks.  Plus there is a bar with excellent real ale.
Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group


Judge in Undercover Policing Inquiry to Quit

THE Judge, Sir Christopher Pitchford, involved in the Pitchford Inquiry into undercover policing used to infiltrate trade unions and left-wing groups in England since the 1960s, has revealed that he has been diagnosed with motor neurone disease.
This means he will eventually have to stand down from the complex and already-delayed probe.
It is said that this has not yet affected his running of the inquiry so far - although the judge's physical symptoms have been becoming apparent.
The home secretary has been asked to appoint another judge to work alongside Sir Christopher and succeed him when he ultimately stands down.
The inquiry is already well behind schedule because of a complex legal dispute with Scotland Yard over how many former officers from the controversial unit at the heart of some of the allegations ought to give evidence.
This fall-out is expected to come to a head in a public hearing later in the spring which is expected to still take place with Sir Christopher at the helm.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Ian Allinson now on Ballot for Unite Secretary Job

by Ian Allinson
IT's great news that I've now had notification from Unite that we have have passed the 50 nominations threshold - so I will be on the ballot paper. With this notification came a list of the nominations they have accepted. Your own was not on this list.

If you haven't yet sent off your nomination, please do so without delay - if they aren't received by Wednesday they won't count. For branches, the best way to submit the nomination is online - either using a link in the email sent to branch secretaries on 13 January, or the codes on the letter you received. Workplaces have to do it by post.

For nominations you need the following information:
  • Ian Allinson
  • Membership number 30439666
  • Branch NW/55

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Wigan Pier'& the Spanish Civil War

The Spanish Civil War and Wigan
Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 28th February
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)
  booking required
We mark the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Jarama when the International Brigades helped stop Franco’s advance on Madrid during the Spanish Civil War.  What made local people up sticks and fight for democracy and socialism in another country?  What was the background to this international conflict?  Find out more about the passion and sacrifice of the young volunteers of the International Brigades and their supporters both here and in Spain.
George Orwell – The Road to Wigan Pier at 80!
Stephen Armstrong
Museum of Wigan Life
Tuesday 7th March
12 noon – 1pm
Price: £2.50 per person (incl. tea/coffee)
 booking required
Stephen Armstrong, author of The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited, marks the 80th birthday of Orwell’s original book with this fascinating talk about Eric Blair (George Orwell) and his writing.  Orwell researched his book in the old reference library, now the Museum of Wigan Life, and his work has sometimes been controversial in the town.  Armstrong examines the context in which Orwell wrote and his approach to social reportage.  Come along and find out more about Wigan’s relationship with one of the 20th century’s most important writers.

Our thanks to Community History Manager Lynda Jackson in Wigan for the details.

Friday, 17 February 2017

'THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN' at Royal Exchange


Royal Exchange Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh present


By Aeschylus in a new version by David Greig
Directed by Ramin Gray; Composer John Browne; Choreographer Sasha Milavic Davies
10 March - 1 April - The Theatre
Press Night: Tuesday 14 March, 7.30pm
THIS spring the Royal Exchange Theatre sees one of the world’s oldest dramas play out on its unique stage. THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN by Aeschylus, in a new version by the multi award-winning writer David Greig, is an extraordinary theatrical event featuring, at its heart, a chorus of forty women and men from across Greater Manchester arguing for their lives. Reimagined for the Exchange by director Ramin Gray (Artistic Director of the Actors Touring Company) this production has been beautifully reworked for this in-the-round space and, following its original critically-acclaimed production in 2016, is remade for and with the people of Greater Manchester.

Written 2,500 years ago THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN has startling resonance for 2017, reflecting major issues of contemporary society. Suppliant means ‘asylum seeker’ and the play explores issues of migration and democracy, gender politics and political power. The Royal Exchange Theatre, Actors Touring Company and Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh 

 present 'THE SUPPLIANT WOMEN' from 10 March – 1 April.

A group of women leave everything behind to board a boat in North Africa and flee across the Mediterranean. They are escaping forced marriage in their homeland, hoping for protection and assistance, seeking asylum in Greece.
The forty-strong Chorus is a diverse mix of talented and passionate volunteers from across Greater Manchester who have been working with the company to create the power and energy of a Greek chorus. They perform alongside Oscar Batterham, Omar Ebrahim and Gemma May Rees.
The production features new music by composer John Browne who has used the ancient Greek instrument the aulos (likely to have been used in the original production 2,500 years ago) to create a beautiful and unique sound for the production, clashing ancient sounds with contemporary composition for a 2017 chorus and audience.

'I, Daniel Blake' Snubbed by US Oscars

KEN Loach's film 'I, Daniel' Blake'* was been overlooked  in the 2017 Oscar nominations.  The picture which was filmed in Newcastle, and starred the Geordie comedian, Dave Johns, had been expected to grab the attention of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science.
Since winning the Palme d’Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival, two awards at the British Independent Film Awards (Dave Johns for Best Actor and co-star Hayley Squires for Most Promising Newcomer), last Sunday the film got five Bafta nominations.
It got Best Film - where it will be up against the all singing, all dancing and very lovely La La Land among others - and Outstanding British Film, the list of Bafta possibilities also includes Best Director for Ken Loach, Best Original Screenplay for Paul Laverty and Best Supporting actress for the aforementioned Hayley Squires.
So, you can see why everyone expected the film, which tells the terrifying tale of two people thwarted by the bureaucractic British Benefit's system, to be among those read out during the big reveal of the nominations, which came direct from Los Angeles last Tuesday afternoon.
Jessica Cripps discussing  I, Daniel Blake‘s controversial exclusion from the Oscars on 'epigram' wrote:
 'Successful cinema leaves an impact on its audiences. I, Daniel Blake reached parliament when MP Jeremy Corbyn recommended Prime Minister May watch the film as an example of the government’s ‘institutionalised barbarity.'
She concludes by saying:
'The gritty realism may have failed to create a buzz in Hollywood, but the honesty has touched the hearts of audiences worldwide; it lives on in political ripples rather than in an Academy Award.'
*  The indie winner: I, Daniel Blake It won the Palme d’Or in Cannes, comes from a beloved British auteur and has garnered critical acclaim, but would Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake prove too tough a sell for cinema audiences? If UK distributor eOne had any qualms, they have surely evaporated now that I, Daniel Blake has opened with an impressive £404,000 from 94 cinemas, and £445,000 including previews. Stripping out the previews, site average is a very robust £4,298.

Monday, 13 February 2017

ROCHDALE ONLINE & Operation Clifton

ASSISTANT Chief Constable Debbie Ford (Published on ROCHDALE ONLINE:  8/2/2017) said:  
“We launched Operation Clifton in July 2014 in response to a request by the Home Office to investigate allegations of a criminal cover up of non-recent sexual abuse at Knowl View School.
“GMP was asked to carry out this huge undertaking after a QC-led inquiry, on behalf of Rochdale Council, uncovered potential criminal offences.
“GMP undertook a two year investigation and committed a team of 15 staff led by a dedicated Senior Investigating Officer. Three independent advisory group members also oversaw the investigation to provide external scrutiny and challenge.
“Operation Clifton was a lengthy and detailed investigation which has been undertaken by dedicated staff who collated and examined a large volume of information to ensure that the right conclusions could be drawn. Having undertaken this work I can confirm that there will be no criminal charges brought under Operation Clifton.
“Furthermore the investigation concluded that there was no evidence of corruption or attempts to cover up the allegations to protect offenders or organisations’ reputation.
“I am grateful for the commitment and effort of the team involved.
“The documentation and findings of Operation Clifton have been submitted to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) who will now review them over the coming months.”

Joint Trade Union Statement on Police Spies

Joint Union Statement: 
We the undersigned are outraged at the news that despite court orders to the contrary, the Metropolitan Police Service has destroyed evidence required for use in the Undercover Policing Public Inquiry. State spying on trade unions and political campaigns is a human rights scandal that affects millions of British citizens.  
Despite continued reassurances, the Pitchford Inquiry has failed to secure the documents that will be central to the investigation. Trade union core participants are beginning to question whether the Inquiry team has the ability to stop the police from obstructing the pursuit of justice. Lord Justice Pitchford needs to act now to restore our faith.  
We are calling on Lord Justice Pitchford to announce an urgent Inquiry hearing to examine the destruction of evidence by the police. The Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe should be forced to give evidence under oath to explain why, how and under whose authority documents have been destroyed. 
Lord Justice Pitchford needs to take immediate measures to secure all documentation held by the police, in order to prevent future destruction and avoid the entire inquiry descending into a hugely expensive cover-up on the part of the Metropolitan Police.  
Len McCluskey (General Secretary) and Gail Cartmail (Acting General Secretary) UNITE the Union, incorporating UCATT 
Matt Wrack (General Secretary) Fire Brigades Union
Chris Kitchen (General Secretary) National Union of Mineworkers
Tim Roache (General Secretary) GMB union 
Mick Cash (General Secretary) Rail Maritime and Transport union 
Michelle Stanistreet (General Secretary) National Union of Journalists 
Dave Smith and Roy Bentham (joint secretaries) Blacklist Support Group

Shaming Saint Michael

Christopher Draper goes shopping…
by Chris Draper

ONCE upon a time I had a holiday job working in a Nottingham supermarket.  I fondly remember one particular day I did nothing but stick individual adhesive price labels on hundreds of boxes of Cornflakes. Nowadays shops programme prices into a computerised system that ultimately prints out individual bill-receipt at the till.  This Universal Product Coding (UPC) places a legal obligation on shops to ensure that the prices displayed on shelves are identical to those applied at the till.  As price alterations are almost invariably upwards staff must assiduously replace old shelf prices otherwise all customers at that store are systematically overcharged.  Overcharging continues until a customer finally notices and insists on rectification.  When items were individually priced it was simple to see if the price displayed on the till conformed with that on the item but UPC makes it much easier for shops to get away with overcharging and of course its in their financial interest to do so and my local, Llandudno, Marks & Spencer food department is a serial offender.

Over the last year I have been overcharged in this way on at least ten occasions, most recently yesterday (8.2.2017) and on the previous occasion just two weeks ago.  I also shop locally at ASDA and ALDI, the latter never overcharge and the former very, very seldom but Llandudno Marks & Spencer with deplorable regularity.  Even if you spot an overcharge you are required to go to another part of the store to a “Customer Service Counter” this is usually unmanned and you’re expected to wait until a passing assistant stops to help.  Usually I have to find someone myself to complain to.  Then you are required to empty out your shopping until the overcharged item(s) are located.  The assistant will then disappear to find the appropriate shelf price label before belatedly returning to admit that you have indeed been overcharged.  Then the overcharge will be dismissed as an isolated incident.  You are meant to feel grateful when you eventually get back the amount you were overcharged however if you paid by card then you are first required to produce it so the sum can be credited back on your account.  All the trouble and inconvenience is suffered by the customer whilst all illicit profit accrues to Marks & Spencer who, of course, have no system in place to recompense all those shoppers who previously paid the inflated price.

On every occasion I notice an overcharge I endure this tiresome ritual.  I’ve informed M&S HQ of this practice and on each occasion, always ask to speak a manager. I’ve also requested a “customer comment book” to formally record these incidents but I’ve been told none exists and each time I’m presented with a different “acting store manager”.  Invariably they claim ignorance and insist the store does not consciously overcharge but the regularity of such incidents evidences culpability. Utterly exasperated after the previous (January 2017) overcharge I left my contact details with “Craig” and requested that the store manager offer me an explanation of this continued discreditable performance.  The manager did not have the courtesy to reply. 

I could of course confine my shopping to Asda and Aldi but I’m now determined to challenge M&S overcharging.  Sometimes the store makes a gesture to deflect criticism (on the last occasion a bottle of wine) but this is not general practice.  I have now informed “Trading Standards” of this lamentable story but in truth UK law is predictably lax although both Tesco and Sainsburys have in the past been fined for overcharging.  In Connecticut customers overcharged are legally obliged to be given the item free not merely a refund of the excess charge.  Overcharging then costs the stores money whereas, perversely, M&S Llandudno profits by not giving this matter due care and attention.