Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Bristol Radical History Group

Two excellent historical writers from 'across the pond' visiting Bristol, the latter marking the beginning of nearly three weeks of events entitled Remembering the Real World War One. The full programme is here

The Commons or the True Commons

Venue: Hydra Bookshop, 34 Old Market St, Bristol, BS2 0EZ
With: Peter Linebaugh
Price: Donation

As part of his whistlestop tour of England, we are very pleased to have Peter Linebaugh visiting Bristol. His co-authored book (with Marcus Rediker) The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic both inspired BRHG and provided Hydra Bookshop with its name. His recently published Stop, Thief!: The Commons, Enclosures, and Resistance (PM Press, 2014) provides the basis of this talk.
Setting out to George's Hill in April 1649 Winstanley and a dozen others announced in their pamphlet The True Levellers Standard, a departure from the Levellers of Parliament, the franchise, and the Army, and their intention to level in practice without Parliament, voting, or armed force by collectively digging upon the commons. After a short historical pause of one hundred and fifty years, the debate resumed in England during the decade of the 1790s amidst famine, war, riot, insurrection, slavery, and enclosure. Where had the debate gone during the 'pause'? Thrown by a many-headed Hydra it boomeranged to the Caribbean and north America returning to Britain and Ireland with revolution. Commoners of the world neglect this experience at our peril. Nowadays, "the commons" is cried on every hand, and yet the true commons would turn the world upside down. The "particular proprietors" or the "grand possessioners," as the One Per Cent world-wide were called, must common or be commoned. There are no two ways about it.
1914-1918: The War within the War


Venue: MSHED, Princes Wharf, Wapping Road, Bristol BS1 4RN
With: Adam Hochschild
Price: £5/£3 Concessions
As we mark the centenary of the First World War, this epochal event is usually remembered as a bloody conflict between rival alliances of nations. But there was another struggle as well: between people who regarded the war as a noble and necessary crusade, and a brave minority who felt it was tragic madness and who refused to fight. Writer Adam Hochschild describes this battle in an illustrated talk, focusing on the country where that tension was sharpest, Great Britain.
Adam Hochschild's writing has usually focused on human rights and social justice, and as a magazine journalist he has reported on such issues from four continents. His seven books include King Leopold's Ghost: a Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, which won a J. Anthony Lukas award in the United States, the Duff Cooper Prize in England and the Lionel Gelber Prize in Canada. Bury the Chains is the story of the antislavery movement in the British Empire. To End All Wars, about the First World War, has been published in seven languages. His earlier books have included accounts of apartheid in South Africa and of Russians coming to terms with the legacy of Stalin. He teaches at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley.
See you there,
_______________________________________________ Brhmob mailing list Brhmob@brh.org.ukhttp://www.brh.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/brhmob

Monday, 20 October 2014

Masculinity in Cuba!

Masculinity in Cuba
Myths & Legends

Wednesday, 23 October 18:30
What is masculinity?, can we speak about different kinds of masculinity?, what is the difference between macho, male and masculine?, have the roles of masculinity changed in the last decade?

All these questions will be answered by Raúl Marchena Magadán, Manchester University and I.Cervantes teacher, based on his latest research proyect about this complex topic in modern Cuba (+)
Free event. Please book in advance on: Tel. 0161 6614200/1 secman@cervantes.es

Alternative World War I Day School

Alternative World War I Day School - Saturday 15th November 2014, Manchester
The programme and booking for the Alternative World War I Day School is confirmed and open- and they are the hottest tickets in town!
Further details, including booking information online at:
Please spread the word!
We hope to see you there!

Rochdale Council Boss Insists He Knew Nothing

RICHARD Farnell, Labour leader of Rochdale Council, in a letter in Rochdale Observer (11/10/14), insists that he 'knew nothing of abuse allegations' at Knowl View School in Norden, Rochdale during his term of office as leader of the Council up to May 1992.  In his letter in the Ob. Councillor Farnell writes:
'Although it is 22 years since I was previously Leader of the council, I have made clear that allegations made to health and council staff during the seven months towards the end of my leadership were not brought to my attention.  I ceased to be leader in May 1992.  I have spoken to all the leading councillors from that time and they were all unaware of allegations made at that time.'

This is slightly evasive because Councillor Farnell must know that the leader of the Rochdale Conservative Party at that time, Pamela Hawton, knew about it in her capacity as Chair of Rochdale Health Authority. 

Recently Rochdale lad, Les May, wrote to the Rochdale Observer:
'So far as I am aware only a heavily redacted version of the first report has been placed in the public domain. Evidence that this was also seen by Ian Davey, Acting Director of Social Services, and by Councillor Pamela Hawton, who at that time chaired Rochdale Health Authority, and that a second report written by a clinical psychologist, Valerie Mellor, was presented in February 1992, can readily be found on the World Wide Web.'

Councillor Farnell couldn't now speak to former Councillor Hawton because she is dead, but it begs the question as to why, as the leader of Rochdale Council Richard Farnell didn't know about the events at Knowl View if the leader of the Conservative Party was aware of it in April 1991, over a year before he left office.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Farnell's letter is his reference to 'allegations'.  It seems the report by Phillip Shepherd definitely did not contain allegations about Cyril, and there is no reason to suppose the second report by Valerie Mellor did either.  So while it may be true to say that he didn't know of any 'abuse allegations' against Cyril Smith, it is still possible that he was aware of the report written by  Phil Shepherd although it is likely that he had no knowledge of the report by Valerie Mellor that came out after Councillor Farnell had ceased to be leader of Rochdale Council in May 1992. 

Friday, 17 October 2014

Report on policing at Barton Moss published

MORE robust planning and better engagement with protest groups will help improve public confidence and trust in Greater Manchester Police, says a report into the Barton Moss anti-fracking protest. It also found that protesters should do more to recognise their responsibilities when protesting.  
The report has been written by the independent panel set up by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd to examine the policing of protests and demonstrations. It was established amid public concerns about policing and other issues around the Barton Moss site and a need for independent scrutiny of related police operations.
Panellists visited the Barton Moss site to see the policing operation first hand, and reviewed social media content, video content, and media coverage.  They also spoke to police officers, protesters, local businesses and residents Salford Council, iGas and members of the media.
The panel found that although the majority of people at the site were there to protest peacefully, a small number wanted to antagonise police and cause trouble. This led to all protesters feeling they were treated as criminals because of the actions of a few and resulted in a breakdown of trust between police and protesters.
Claims of police brutality have not been substantiated and specific claims of alleged injuries found to be untrue.
Certain high-profile incidents at the site led to a breakdown in trust between the police and protesters. These included ‘flaregate’ where it was alleged a protester fired a flare at the police helicopter coming in to land at City Airport and the arrest of a member of the camp for alleged drink driving, an incident which was filmed and broadcast online and was later thrown out of court.
The report makes a number of recommendations for the police, protesters and other public bodies, including local authorities to take on board. These include:
·         The police should do more to engage with protest groups in the run up to and during  similar policing operations with  a senior officer  given the specific and sole role of engaging with protesters during complex protests.
·         Protesters must recognise their responsibilities during protests – while the majority acted lawfully there was a handful whose behaviour was unacceptable including abuse of police officers and social workers who were there to ensure the welfare of children at the site.
·         During major protests, GMP should consider inviting a nominated representative of the protesters into the police control room, on the same advisory status as other third party bodies. This should help build trust and confidence in the police operation.

Martin Miller, Chair of the Independent Panel, said
“Barton Moss attracted significant public and media attention. It was a complex and difficult operation which created a number of issues, and saw officers subjected to daily abuse as they carried out their job. We also found that some protestors were shoved and felt they were treated badly, although I want to stress that allegations of police brutality have not been substantiated.
“This  is not about finger-pointing or blame,  it’s about giving constructive, valuable feedback to the police, public bodies and also the protesters involved so that lessons can be learned and the management of future protests can be improved.
“Although there were many things that were done right, we found that many of the issues could have been mitigated or resolved by better pre-planning and more constructive communications and engagement with the protesters and wider public.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd said: 
“The police have a duty to ensure that people’s right to protest peacefully is facilitated and respected and although Greater Manchester Police has a good record in policing protests this is a frequent challenge.
“The Barton Moss protest was particularly complex and contentious and, amid the legitimate public concerns raised, it was clear that independent scrutiny of this operation was needed in order to build trust and public confidence in our police service.
“I want to thank the panel members for their observations and advice and for giving up their own time to produce this report. Now I’ll work with GMP and other public bodies to make sure these recommendations are put into practice.”
Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy said: 
"The policing of protests is often contentious and the Barton Moss protest put GMP between those wishing to obstruct the drilling process and a company and landowner wishing to carry out their lawful business.
“It is important that police action is independently scrutinised and we welcome the first report from the Protest Panel. All the recommendations are accepted by the Force. The Panel has highlighted the difficult issues of how to ensure all agencies preplan the response to protest, how the police communicate with protesters when some don’t want to engage with the police and how the police communicate information on a protest without introducing any bias.
“It is crucial in all its dealings with protest that GMP is seen as impartial, policing is not a popularity contest and the police are often stuck in the middle. The policing of this protest cost GMP £1.7m, money which could not then be spent on local policing.
“There is considerable frustration in the Force with the weaknesses of current legislation and the lack of clarity on such issues as obstruction which puts officers in very difficult position. We hope that as the Panel continues its work it can also examine these matters and provoke a wider public debate."
The report has been presented to Tony and Sir Peter Fahy, who will respond formally in the coming weeks.

'Boys on the Blacklist': OUT NOW!


  Tameside TUC's In-depth Report on Blacklisting

OUT today is Tameside TUC's study of blacklisting in the British building trade.  This unique 52-page A5 book concludes our research into blacklisting stretching back for over a decade of struggle by a group of Manchester contracting electricians.  This book illustrates a special investigation by two officers of Tameside TUC focusing on cover-ups, collaboration, and complicity by major British construction companies affiliated to the now defunct Consulting Association.  It also asks questions as to who else was involved besides:  what did the unions do to expose what was going on for decades; who were the whistle-blowers who helped to bring out the truth; what part did the police and special security services play in the history of blacklisting that goes back beyond the days of the Economic League?

Copies of 'Boys on the Blacklist' available by postal subscription:
£3.00 for one copy (post included).

Make cheque payable to 'Tameside TUC' and send to:
46, Kingsland Road, Rochdale, Lancs.  OL11  3HQ.

Bundles of 5 copies - £14.60p a package (post included).

Tel.:  01706 861793.
e-mail:  northernvoices@hotmail.com

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Rochdale Council: Politics in your Backyard

Selfies; New Chief Exec.is a rising Star; Adult Care; Foreign Policy   

COUNCIL leader, Richard Farnell, told Rochdale Full Council last night that he wouldn't be putting any pictures of himself on the Internet.   Meanwhile, Labour Councillor Karen Danczuk behind him sprawled like a lounge lizard sniggered from where I was in the public gallery I couldn't see any sign of cleavage but I could see she wasn't doing much tweeting last night.   

A motion on Gaza was moved by Councillor Farnell seeking to get Israel and Hamas to negotiate a permanent ceasefire.  The Conservative leader Councillor Dearnley moved an amendment which was lost.  The Conservatives considered that such foreign policy motions were futile and merely 'grandstanding'.  It is interesting that a Rochdale Labour Council should be so keen on foreign policy today, I understand that for much of the 1930s the Labour Party took the view that a future Labour Government wouldn't have a foreign policy no doubt as a reaction against historic British colonialism.  Today, far away issues like the Middle East are close to the heart of Labour politicians.   Indeed nowadays, almost the smallest of political enclaves seem to want to have a foreign policy position.

The appointment of Steve Rumbelow as the new Chief Executive for Rochdale was announced.  Councillor Farnell said he was 'universally recognised as a rising star' in local authority administration, and he came from Burnley which had similar difficulties to Rochdale.   

Gail Hopper, Director of Children's Services presented a glowing account of an ever improving service.  Ofsted having inspected Rochdale as well as Rotherham, Oldham, and Camden, was had yet to publish their report on Rochdale.  But Ms. Hopper said the signs were good. 

The Cabinet Member for Adult Care reported about the rise in requests for 'Deprivation of Liberty' assessments following a legal judgement that these must be taken in a 'wider number of care situations'.  The council has allocated more resources to Adult Care to assist in this. 

This week, the Daily Express reported that there had been a study by the Care Quality Commission that 'shows that the “variations of care” means sufferers (from dementia) are left for hours without food or drink'.  But perhaps old folk in Rochdale has no need to worry because Councillor Iftikar Ahmed, the Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care told the Council:

'Lyn Romero, the national lead professional social worker for adult care, ... (had visited Rochdale recently and) I am pleased to say that she was very impressed with our social workers, noting their commitment and positive spirit, and posted some very complimentary tweets!'  

Get away with you!  It's very reassuring to elderly people to know that  both Councillor Karen Danczuk and  the 'lead professional social worker' Lyn Romero are abreast with modern technology and know there stuff when it comes to twitter. 

Take action: Invite organisations to Keep Volunteering Voluntary!‏

We are publishing below a recent briefing from Boycott Workfare:

"All week we’ve been inviting people to take part in online action to challenge workfare. If you haven’t had a chance to do so yet, please take a minute to:
Today we’re supporting the Keep Volunteering Voluntary campaign’s call for people to contact the charities and voluntary organisations you support to invite them to pledge to shun workfare too. Read on for more info and a template letter, and follow Keep Volunteering Voluntary on twitter and facebook.
There are a lot of organisations who have said they won’t take workfare, but still a lot who do. We want all voluntary work to be freely chosen, not a means for private companies to make profits or Jobcentres to force people off benefits. Keep Volunteering Voluntary (KVV) have set up a pledge and already 430 organisations have signed!
You can help to encourage organisations to sign up to Keep Volunteering Voluntary in several ways. Firstly check whether they are already on the list of sign-ups.
  • If you use or support a charity, try to find out whether they use workfare, and in any case ask them to sign up to KVV.
  • If there is a local charity shop, go in and talk to the people there: find out whether there is anyone there on workfare, and ask the organisation to sign up to KVV.
  • If you work or volunteer at a voluntary organisation, try to get them to sign up.
  • If a place you work or volunteer at has any links with a voluntary organisation, try to contact them too.
Download this template letter you can take to a charity shop, or adapt as an email to send to a voluntary organization.
Some responses you may get and how to reply:
“We’ve already signed up.” – great, well done!
“We don’t have anyone on workfare.” – so you won’t mind signing up to KVV then.
“We’re helping the unemployed gain experience.” – that’s not of much value if they don’t want to be there.
“What’s wrong with (unpaid) volunteers.” – there’s no objection to genuine volunteers, but to compulsory schemes and coercion.
“The people on placement want to be here.” – that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be threatened with sanctions.
If you can get any kind of statement from an organisation, that’s always useful – a way in to further dialogue, or good publicity for the campaign. Let Boycott Workfare know and we’ll pass it on to KVV as well.
Some charities – such as Age UK – have a national office but each local area branch is ‘independent’ and may sign up separately. So if you see a local branch signed up but not your area, that’s an added incentive for your local to sign up too.
Without charity’s support, workfare schemes will collapse. That’s why every extra new organisation to sign up is so important – helping build consensus in the voluntary sector that workfare is completely at odds with its aims and values.
A massive thanks to everyone who has taken part online and organised demonstrations throughout the week of action! There are more protests in Amsterdam and Peckham today, and in Bristol, Haringey and Sheffield tomorrow! "

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Blacklisted workers assaulted during peaceful protest at Laing O'Rourke HQ‏ !

Blacklisted workers have made a complaint to Kent police after being assaulted during a peaceful protest at the Dartford headquarters of Laing O'Rourke. The incident happened at 1pm today (Wed 15th October) when 20 activists from the Blacklist Support Group attempted to distribute leaflets (attached) about the role of the construction giant in the Consulting Association blacklisting conspiracy. 

The attached photograph (credit: Reel News) shows the treatment of Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith ( pictured above) inside the Laing O'Rourke offices. Smith said afterwards:

"Workers have been victimized and blacklisted for standing up for their rights in the traditions of Jim Larkin. Laing O'Rourke were at the heart of this anti-union conspiracy. They can sack us, they can blacklist us, they can assault us: but we will keep coming back until we get justice." 

Laing O'Rourke were chosen for the protest because of the role of the company's head of global security, Anton Setchell. Prior to joining the company, Assistant Chief Constable Setchell was the head of the British secret police spying operations including undercover targeting of trade unionists and social justice campaigners. Senior police officers from the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NECTU), that was under Setchell's command, attended the secret meetings of the Consulting Association and shared information with the blacklisting organisation. 

Laing O'Rourke are one of 8 construction companies facing group litigation over the blacklisting scandal in the High Court tomorrow (Thursday 16th October). Full list of companies: Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Costain, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Sir Robert McAlpine, Skanska UK and VINCI PLC 

Press Photo-Opportunity
9am 16th October 2014
Royal Courts of Justice 
The Strand
(nearest tube: Holborn or Temple)


Blacklist Support Group

Liberty80: At Royal Exchange


The Mezzanine Gallery – Royal Exchange Theatre
St Anne’s Square
Tuesday 21 October 2014 -  Saturday 17 January 2015

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre is set to stage a free exhibition which marks the 80th anniversary of Liberty, the campaigning organisation for human rights.   

Liberty80 – The Anniversary Exhibition – which runs at the Exchange’s Mezzanine Gallery  from Tuesday 21 October to Saturday 17 January 2015 - celebrates eight decades of Liberty holding the powerful to account, showing battles fought and won for freedom, fairness, justice and equality – with some striking parallels between 1934 and the present day.  

Historic items on display range from a copy of the original Manchester Guardian letter announcing NCCL’s formation in 1934 to a whiteboard depicting Labour’s backbench rebellion on 42-day pre-charge detention during Liberty’s victorious Charge or Release campaign in 2008. There are also pieces from Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing OBE, Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE and photographer Mary McCartney.   

Admission is free to the exhibition and the Mezzanine Gallery is open on Monday to Friday, from 10am to 7.30pm; on Saturday from 10am to 8pm and on Sunday from 11am to 5.00pm.  

For further information please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 / john.goodfellow@royalexchange.co.uk

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Instituto Cervantes & Manchester Literature Festival


Ada Parellada

Vanilla Salt

Wednesday 15th October, 6.30pm
Instituto Cervantes

This intimate event at Instituto Cervantes offers audiences a rare chance to hear Catalan chef and restaurateur Ada Parellada wax lyrical about her debut novel Vanilla Salt. A richly sensual exploration of the kitchen and the human heart, it’s a Catalan love story in which an eccentric chef and a beautiful Canadian woman discover that, despite their different backgrounds, they share a painful past.
Parellada made a name for herself with the innovative restaurant Semproniana in Barcelona, and now also owns Coses de Menjar and Acontecimiento in Lisbon.
An ideal evening for lovers of Catalan culture, food and romance
more info...Free event: Bookings on: secman@cervantes.es and 0161 6614201

Monday, 13 October 2014

Take action: No grounds for green-washing workfare‏!

We are publishing below a recent briefing from Boycott Workfare:

"Take online action today against Groundwork, the green charity using unpaid labour. Branches of Groundwork up and down the country openly advertise their involvement in all kinds of workfare, including the latest and most exploitative programmes.

Charities and voluntary organisations should know the value of volunteering. Instead Groundwork is taking thousands of unemployed people on workfare placements with no pay and putting people at risk of sanctions. According to their own statistics they forced 4,500 people through workfare last year alone. They trade on the goodwill of their ‘volunteering’ projects to secure government money for unpaid labour schemes.

Groundwork is also taking part in the latest draconian scheme, Community Work Placements (CWP), as a sub-contractor of G4S in Merseyside, Lancashire and Cumbria. CWP is a six month long placement – twice the length of the maximum community service sentence for committing a crime.  Workfare criminalises unemployed people and then punishes them more harshly than other people who are forced to work for free. It does this without even the appearance of judicial process: people are punished just because they’re unemployed. More than 400 charities and 22 councils have rejected CWP and other workfare schemes by signing the Keep Volunteering Voluntary pledge. They understand that workfare is punitive and that it doesn’t help people find jobs.

Following the latest attacks from the government on unemployed people, in which the Tories are promising to cut benefits and roll out more of the harsh schemes like the ones Groundwork provides, we need to show those involved in workfare just how unacceptable it is.

A lot of green charities and recycling companies are involved in workfare schemes. The environment is a useful alibi for forcing people to work for free, because it makes it easy to claim that the work unemployed people are doing is for “community benefit” – which it is supposed to be, if the scheme is one that people can be directly forced to do, like CWP or Mandatory Work Activity.  This is why there’s so many environmental charities, city farms, and recycling firms on our list of workfare exploiters.

Workfare schemes cannot operate without charities that are willing to take on unpaid workers, but Groundwork’s involvement is deeper: they help organise the schemes as well. Groundwork say they recognise that Jobcentre Plus is enforcing a “stricter application…of conditions and sanctions”, but they continue to help to run this punitive system anyway. 

Let them know about the hardship and destitution that benefit sanctions are causing. Let them know that forcing people to work under threat of destitution for no pay is wrong.
Groundwork are on Twitter @groundworkuk and on Facebook here.
Or you could contact them through their website, or on the phone (0121 236 8565).  They have local branches throughout the UK.  To find contact details for the nearest one to you, look here."

Grounded at Royal Exchange Manchester

Beckie Darlington presents the Gate Theatre's production


By George Brant

Directed by Christopher Haydon


The Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre

St Ann’s Square, Manchester

Tuesday 4 November – Saturday 8 November


George Brandt’s gripping and compulsive new play GROUNDED – which targets our assumptions about war, family, and what it is to be a woman – arrives in The Studio at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Tuesday 4 November to Saturday 8 November as part of a national tour.


Lucy Ellinson (* see Notes for Editors) plays the central character, a hot-rod F16 fighter pilot. She’s pregnant and her career in the sky is over. Now she sits in an air-conditioned trailer in Las Vegas flying remote-controlled drones over the Middle East.


She struggles through surreal 12-hour shifts far from the battlefield, hunting terrorists by day and being a wife and mother by night.


A Gate Theatre production presented by independent producer Beckie Darlington, the play is directed by The Gate’s Artistic Director Christopher Gayden (* see Notes for Editors). The tour follows sell-out runs at both the Edinburgh Festival and Gate Theatre, and a run at Studio Theatre in Washington DC.


He said: “This is one the finest plays I have ever directed. It's an extraordinary, caustic exploration of one of the most important issues of our time and it packs a multitude of ideas in to a single, brilliantly compelling character.


“Since opening in Edinburgh last year, it has been hugely exciting to see how thousands of people have connected with it and so I am thrilled at the opportunity to take it on tour and allow it to reach an even wider audience.


The creative team is completed by Oliver Townsend (design), Mark Howland (lighting),

Tom Gibbons (sound) and Benjamin Walden (video design). 

The production is supported by Arts Council England and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation (Jerwood Young Designers Programme).  


For further information, images, or for interview / press review ticket requests, please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 / john.goodfellow@royalexchange.co.uk

Karen Danczuk & Liz McInnes:

With Chests Expanded to the Ball

  The item immediately below is taken from the Guido Fawkes' Blog:

Guido’s favourite Labour councillor Karen Danczuk was given a tough time during her appearance on Loose Women, coming in for some particularly unfair criticism about her allegedly provocative Twitter selfies. This blog has always been at the cutting edge of agenda setting data journalism, so Guido decided to investigate and put Karen’s defence to the test. The evidence presented below shows that Mrs D is right, despite what the Loose Women said more often than not her selfies are just good, clean fun:
In light of this indisputable new evidence perhaps Karen’s critics should start talking about some of her other assets…

SOMEWHERE George Orwell writes that it was by being somewhat stupid that saved the English people and England up until about the Second World War, but that he doubted that faculty was something we could continue to rely upon in future.  None-the-less, I suspect that there is still in this country a genuine suspicion of intellectuals and clever people.  I suspect that John Bickley, the Ukip candidate in the Heywood and Middleton By-election, was brighter and more intelligent than the trade union hack, Liz McInnes, put up by the Labour Party, just as Janet Street-Porter on the program 'Loose Women' is an intellectual giant compared to Rochdale Councillor Karen Danczuk and wife of Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk. 

And yet, Ms. McInnes beat John Bickley in the election in Heywood if only by 600-and-odd votes, and Ms. Danczuk found her followers on Twitter flocking to support her after she was badly mauled for baring her cleavage by Ms. Street-Porter on the program 'Loose Women' last week.  This may of course, have something to do with an Anglo-Saxon sympathy for the underdog, but it may also represent an underlying English distaste for the Smart Alec and clever dick.

Karen Danczuk with chest expanded to the ball seems to uphold a brand of feminism which is which is quite feisty compared with the usual middle-class version of the feminist type.  Ms. Danczuk is what we could call the genuine voice of the under-class to middle-class feminism.  Her's is the voice of the Northern Bumpkin and her's is the Good Soldier Švejk's answer to the snobbery of the English left-wing politics.  Just as Wyndam Lewis once said the English working-man's idea of a good time is so very different from that of the left-wing intellectual, so a lower-class feminist like Karen Danczuk's  perception of empowerment is very different from that of say Germaine Greer or the lasses at the News from Nowhere bookshop in Liverpool.

Ms. Danczuk articulates a feminism more in keeping with say Mistress Quigley  in a pub in Shakespeare's Henry IV:  a down to earth 'arse and tits' feminism of the lower orders of English society that still exists in the North of England.  This is a long way from the bookish lasses I knew at University, but perhaps not so far from the lasses I knew at Secondary Modern School.  And she seems in her endeavours not only to have the support of much of the great British public, but of her husband Simon Danczuk, MP for Rochdale, who has admitted to taking drugs, and who has said of Karen that he is happy that 'she has beauty as well as brains'.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Met. Police Refuse to confirm or deny spying

CAMPAIGNERS against the construction industry blacklist have reacted with anger after the Metropolitan Police (MPS) refused to 'neither confirm no deny' (NCND) whether the Blacklist Support Group is under surveillance by undercover police units including Special Branch. The statement from the MPS came in a response to a Freedom of Information request on 9th October 2014 sent to investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain. The Metropolitan Police Service chose to justify their stance by quoting Section 24(2) claiming that it was in the 'public interest' for them to refuse to 'confirm or deny in order to safeguard national security'.
It was been confirmed in a Select Committee investigation that the undercover police unit known as the National Extremism Tactical Coordination Unit (NETCU) attended and gave Powerpoint presentations to meetings of the Consulting Association blacklisting organisation. The MPS letter identifies the guidance on this issue as follows:
'IF ASKED: is it true that NETCU shared information with the Consulting Association?
We do not discuss matters of intelligence'.
Supt Steve Pearl, who ran NECTU, is now a director at Agenda Security Services, which provides employment vetting services. His former boss, ex-Assistant chief Constable Anton Setchell was the senior police officer in charge of the entire UK police’s domestic extremism machinery between 2004 and 2010 is currently head of global security at Laing O’Rourke – one of the construction companies which was a Consulting Association member.
The Police are under no legal obligation to adopt a NCND defence, as the Freedom of Information Act allows for statement confirming or denying for public interest reasons, where it may:
'inform issues that are currently the subject of public debate in relation to government surveillance and improve the quality and accuracy of public debate, which may otherwise be steeped in rumour and speculation'

Given the huge public interest in the undercover police surveillance of women activists deliberately targeted by officers from the Special Demonstration Squad and other secret political police units, it seems a difficult decision to justify. The NCND defence adopted by the MPS in relation to the women activists was defeated in the High Court in September. Some of the women activists currently suing the Metropolitan Police themselves appear on the Consulting Association blacklist.

The Met. Police Service letter admits:
'legitimate public interest in informing public debate in relation to issues surrounding surveillance tactics' and notes that 'the Blacklist Support Group and the wider issues regarding the practice of blacklisting'  but still adopted a NCND stance.
A number of blacklist activists, including Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith have been refused copies of their own personal police files made under Subject Access Requests on the basis that providing the documents may jeopardise ongoing criminal investigations.
Smith responded to the latest Met Police statement:
'It is without doubt that the police and security services are spying on trade unionists fighting for justice on the issue of blacklisting.  They have colluded with big business to deliberately target trade unionism over decades. Shrewsbury, Orgreave, Blacklisting; the list goes on and on.  The refusal to provide any information whatsoever smacks of an establishment cover-up.  Blacklisting is no longer an industrial relations issue: it is a human rights conspiracy.' 
Lawyers working for the Blacklist Support Group have submitted a complaint to the Internal Police Complaints Council about the role of the police in blacklisting. Despite accusations of an establishment cover-up, even the police were forced to admit the flow of information was not purely one way.
Sarah McSherry, solicitor from Imran Khan and Partners said:
'While correspondence from the police in relation to this complaint continually raises concerns about the quality of their investigation, it is interesting to note that they confirm that they have identified a potential “flow of information between Special Branch and the construction industry'.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Ukip run Labour close

Farage Hopes to be Kingmaker after General Election

AFTER a recount,  Labour held the Heywood and Middleton seat by just 617 votes.  Nigel Farage said Ukip was 'ripping lumps' out of the party in its northern heartlands.
The Labour Party had thrown a lot at this by-election with its minor celebrities like Jim Murphy, Harriet Harman and Ed Balls coming up North to give their support to Liz McInnes.  In the end Ms McInnes held off the challenge of John Bickley, with 11,633 votes to the Ukip candidate's 11,016 - a swing of 17.65 per cent swing from Labour to Ukip.
Ms. McInnes appeared tongue tied when Andrew Neil asked her on Sky News why Ukip was 'so attractive to voters'.  She said rather feebly:  'You will have to ask Ukip' why!
The leader of Ukip, Nigel Farage, was more smooth and he told Sky News
'We are ripping lumps out of the old Labour vote in the north of England. The truth of what has happened in the North today is that if you are anywhere north of Birmingham, if you vote Conservative you get Labour.'
This poll was brought about by the death of Labour MP Jim Dobbin, who had held the seat since 1997.

Ukip has been campaigning strongly in the Lancashire constituency, in an effort to make inroads into Labour's northern rump.  But Ukip still lacks something of a true northern image, with some of its supporters seeming a bit too much like smartly dressed southerners.  Earlier in the campaign Northern Voices did have an interview with John Bickley the Ukip candidate, and he impressed me as intelligent, thoughtful, forensic, and well mannered.  Unfortunately, when I rang the phone number on the Ukip leaflet I was put through to a well spoken lass who could well have been a Devonshire milkmaid's daughter who thought that Mr. Bickley was fighting his campaign in somewhere called 'Lancs.', and because I have a strong northern accent she proceeded to spell the word out for me letter by letter:  'L'-'a'-'n'-'c'-'s'.  Only someone from down South would assume their was a place called 'Lancs.'  Eventually I got her to understand that the election was in Heywood in Greater Manchester or the county of Lancashire.  Last week, I told John Bickley of my experience with the Devonshire lass from Ukip's head office on the phone and he grimaced. 
Liz McInnes is a natural Northern bumpkin and trade union functionary, and in some ways that may have given her the edge in parts of Heywood and Middleton.  But she will have to shape up better than she did on Television last night if she is to keep this seat in the General Election next May.  On the basis of her performance last night, I would have hated to see her in a confrontation with the much more acticulate Mr. Bickley.

This morning Nigel Farage suggest that on last night's performance Ukip could be as crucial as Nick Clegg and Lib-Dems were after the last General Election in 2010, in determining the complexion of the next government.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Slow start to Heywood & Middleton By-election

IN the first two hours of polling this morning in the Heywood and Middleton by-election caused by the sudden death of Jim Dobbin last month, only 45 voters had entered the polling booth at Castleton library.  Of these only 15 were women.  Most of the men appeared to be white working class, although one was clearly white-collar and middle-class.

There were people taking the election numbers from all of the parties except the Conservative Party.  Councillor Billy Sherrin, the Labour Party lad was there, and a lass from the Lib-Dems called 'Bev' at 7am when the polling booths opened, a few minutes later someone from the Green Party turned up, and a lad from Nottingham appeared around 8am to represent Ukip.

The Lib-Dem candidate Anthony Smith voted at Castleton early on in the morning.  There was some passionate debate about the issues of Europe, cheap-labour immigrants, and benefit claimants, but it was all conducted very politely.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

NHS or Immigration in Heywood & Middleton?

LABOUR is trying to make the NHS the core issue in the Heywood and Middleton by-election up here, but Ed Miliband has been accused of 'shying away' from immigration.  Some people regard the issue of immigration as what the Guardian this week described as the 'number one bugbear of many voters'.

In a café in Alkrington in Middleton on Tuesday, voters pledged support for Ukip as Farage toured the room shaking hands.  Tony Sheehan, a 41-year-old electrician, said he was a former Labour voter and had simply 'had enough – of immigration.  I want British jobs for British workers.'  Sharon Capps, 56, said: 'We want our country back.'

This week put Labour’s share slightly lower, on 47%, with Ukip second on 28%.  Some 49% of those who said they will vote for Ukip wanted to 'send a message that I’m unhappy with the party I usually support'.

Nigel Farage insisted a win remained possible:  'We’ve got terrific momentum. You’ve got to remember where we started from – 2.6% in the last election, and yet one of the  opinion polls had us in the 30s at the weekend.  I do think turnout will be key...'

Up here in Heywood it seems to be a toss up as to what will most excite the electorate between the NHS and immigration at the moment. 

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

TUC's support for workfare challenged!

On 1 August 2014, the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made a joint statement with Confederation of British Industries (CBI) to back Traineeships for 16-23 year olds and “show support” for the businesses that benefit from the unpaid labour on this scheme.

Traineeships involve training and “work placements” for up to six months – all unpaid. The TUC’s Assistant General Secretary Paul Nowak hails Traineeships as “an important first step towards the world of work”. But in giving a green light to a new layer of unpaid work in the economy, the TUC is in fact helping to shrink opportunities for young people, undermine the going rate, and replace paid work with workfare.

Traineeships mean that young people are now expected to work unpaid for six months before even qualifying for an interview for an apprenticeship. The lucky few who make it through the interview can look forward to a minimum wage of £2.73 an hour, as an apprentice. If a young person does not take part in the training, they face punitive sanctions. The work placement segment itself may not be backed with the direct threat of sanctions, but, between the economic coercion of a jobs market with so few footholds and the draconian job centre regime, few people will feel able to turn them down.

Instead of demanding decent wages, the TUC is supporting McDonalds, Toyota, Virgin Media, BT, Vodafone, Phones4U, Siemens, Capita, local councils and many more being supplied with unpaid staff for up to 6 months on benefits alone, without any obligations to hire them!

The TUC plans to march behind the slogan “Britain needs a payrise” on 18 October. It seems to have chosen to ignore the millions of us who do not have paid work and instead face workfare and sanctions.
Today as Kilburn Unemployed Workers protest this shoddy deal outside the TUC HQ in London, please contact the TUC via the details below, or through your union networks.  
When challenging their support for Traineeships, you might also like to point out that:
  • The TUC’s support for Labour’s Job Guarantee means undermining the going rate and minimum wage too.
  • The TUC’s support for benefit sanctions is totally unacceptable. It has recommended that ‘claimants who turn down a job guarantee job without good cause should face benefit sanctions’. Let the TUC know that punishing people by taking away their means to survival can never be okay.
Contact the Assistant General Secretary who issued the statement with CBI by email:pnowak@tuc.org.uk or send him a tweet: @nowak_paul
Tweet at Frances O’Grady, the General Secretary of the TUC @FrancesOGrady
Tweet at “Britain needs a Payrise” @Payrise4Britain or post on its Facebook
Post on the TUC’s Facebook page
Or get in touch with the TUC’s press officers who released the statement:
Rob Holdsworth    T: 020 7467 1372    M: 07717 531150     E: rholdsworth@tuc.org.uk
Tim Nichols   T: 020 7467 1337   M: 07876 452902   E: tnichols@tuc.org.uk
If you’re a member of a trade union, please download and adapt this motion to challenge the TUC’s support for sanctions and workfare.