Monday, 15 September 2014


The library services in Tameside seems  to be in a terrible state of disarray  despite the councils offer two-years ago, to provide "a modern and comprehensive service which meets people's needs..."

Following a public consultation exercise known as the 'Big Conversation', the council decided to close five libraries and talked of a new chapter for libraries where there would be free wifi and e-books for the technological smart set who can afford such gadgetry. Cllr. Gerald Cooney, head of Learning, Skills and Economic Growth, at Tameside Council, told the local press:

"The library service is a top priority for the council and we know how much it is valued within our community... I strongly believe this exciting new offer will provide a modern and comprehensive service which meets people's needs while also remaining affordable in these challenging times of unprecedented government budget cuts."

Despite the passing of two-years, the public as yet to see this 'modern and comprehensive' library service come to fruition. Most libraries are still without wifi even though it was installed in some libraries months ago. Several weeks ago, at Ashton central library, computers had to be removed from the computer room because rain was leaking in through the roof and there was concern that library users could be electrocuted.

The leaking roof has been a recurring problem at Ashton library for some time now. It is not unusual to see buckets placed throughout the library catching rain water which comes in through the roof. Problems with the boiler, also means that during winter, it can also be freezing throughout the library.  Since the construction company Carillion, took over the maintenance of council buildings several years ago, Ashton library has certainly deteriorated.

At Stalybridge, the library has now been commandeered by 'computer buddies' who are running courses for learners. During the week the public are being allowed access to two computers for half-hour sessions. The reading room is also being utilized as a job club for the unemployed.

As head of libraries, Cllr. Cooney says libraries "are about services not buildings." Under his leadership, library staff have been leaving in droves to work in other council jobs or have taken redundancy. The latest, to announce his departure, is Adam Allen, (pictured) head of Community and Neighbourhood Service, who is leaving the council to take up the job of Chief Executive, for the Police Commissioners. A geordie with a background in sport, Allen, has been responsible for spearheading  cut backs since he became head of libraries.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

ICO in "Contempt of Court" over blacklisting!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from the Blacklist Support Group (BSG). It is of interest to note that according to BSG, around 100 public bodies have now decided that contracts should not be awarded to blacklisting companies. Tameside Labour controlled council, in Greater Manchester, is not on this list and continues to outsource jobs and services to Carillion, a company that is currently facing legal action by workers in the High Court for alleged activites involving the blacklisting of trade unionists in the building trade.
1. Chuka Umunna pledges an inquiry into blacklisting in speech to the TUC Congress in Liverpool:
"I'm proud to say we will do what this Government has refused to: launch a full enquiry, held publically, into the inexcusable blacklisting of workers in the construction sector. Let me be clear. If am given the privilege of serving as Business Secretary in the next Labour Government we will deliver justice to those workers who lost their livelihoods and end blacklisting for once and for all."

BSG applaud Labour's pledge for a full enquiry for blacklisted workers.
Every stone needs to be turned to expose the full sordid details of this human rights conspiracy. bsg will continue to push for a full public inquiry to hear evidence from those who have been affected by the national scandal plus the directors of multinational construction firms and undercover police officers.
2. ICO in "Contempt of Court" over blacklisting.
GMB union has started enforcement proceedings accusing the ICO of being in contempt of court over their apparent favouring of the employers compensation scheme while still refusing to provide similar information to the trade unions.
3. Compensation scheme deadlines.
There are some deadlines that have been imposed by the firms blacklisting compensation scheme. BSG are not legally qualified to give advice, so we encourage any potential claimants to contact their trade union; UNITE, UCATT, GMB or RMT or Guney, Clark & Ryan solicitors. But if you have a Consulting Association blacklist file and are still considering whether to join the High Court claim or accept the pitiful offer from the firms, please email on return and we will give you some pointers

4. No public contracts for blacklisters
Around 100 public bodies have passed motions stating that no public contracts should be awarded to firms involved in blacklisting. Islington Council recently threw Kier off of the £16.5m a year Housing repairs contract because of the firm's involvement with the Consulting Association blacklist. Its a pity some of the other public bodies who have passed symbolic resolutions are are not prepared to take a similar stand.

5. Blacklist Support Group - established 2009
Blacklist Support Group is the justice campaign and support network for anyone caught up in UK construction industry blacklisting scandal. Trade unionists, safety campaigners, journalists, academics and environmental activists were all blacklisted by big business. Multinational building contractors have for decades compiled a secret database of union members in the UK construction industry. It was finally exposed in 2009 after a raid on the offices of the Consulting Association that operated the blacklist on behalf of the major companies. Union members were denied work over many years because they had been stewards or safety reps on previous building projects. Raising concerns about asbestos, poor toilet facilities or unpaid wages could result in a union member being added to this blacklist. Evidence has come out over the past five years that proves beyond any doubt that the police and the security services were involved in the blacklisting.
Blacklist Support Group have demanded since 2009:
  • A full public inquiry by the UK government
  • A public apology from the firms
  • A compensation fund
  • Jobs for blacklisted workers on major projects
  • NO public contracts for proven blacklisting companies
  • Criminal charges against the human rights abusers
We have fought them in the courts, in parliament plus civil disobedience and industrial action on building sites. Blacklisted workers are still waiting for justice.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Bury Petition! What Petition?

LAST night's Bury MBC full Council meeting turned out to be a bit of a damp squib when Daniel Barkness from Radcliffe, who was supposed to present an on-line petition of more than 2,500 signatures opposing the local authorities decision to reduce grey bin collections from every fortnight to every three weeks, failed to turn up.  Staff at Bury Town Hall were slightly upset at the non-appearance of anyone to present or argue the case for the petition, as the authorities had brought in extra security support to police the event.
Had Mr. Barkness or anyone else supporting the petition put in an appearance, the Leader of the Council would have been forced to respond, and that would have opened up a debate amongst councillors as to the wisdom of the Labour administration's proposed change.  While it was certain, given the Labour Party majority on Bury Council, that the measure would have been voted through by not showing up the campaigners against the change to three weekly collections of non-recyclable waste in grey bins let the Council bosses off the hook.
Had the case against the three weekly collections been put the Council members would have had the following options:
i)     To recommend to Cabinet that the request made in the petition be agreed to;
ii)    To not to agree to the request made in the petition;
iii)   To refer the matter to the Cabinet for further consideration;
iv)   To commission further investigation into the matter by the Overview & Scrutiny Committee.

What must strike readers here is the impressive way in which an on-line petition can accumulate names in the thousands against a proposal like Bury Council's absurd 'zero waste' policy, but if this virtual world of electronic media can't turn up in person to finish the job the whole project becomes a damp squib.  Nobody expected a repeat of the Arab Spring at last night's full council meeting in Bury, but we did anticipate some reasoned arguments and debate on the issues.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Jim Dobbin MP, dies in the Saddle!

JIM Dobbin, Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton, died suddenly died in Slupsk whilst on a Parliamentary trip in Poland, aged 73.  Jim was first elected as MP for Heywood and Middleton in 1997 which includes Castleton and Bamford, having earlier contested and lost Bury North in the 1992 General Election.

He had been elected as a councillor in the Borough of Rochdale, becoming the Labour group leader in 1994, and then became the leader of the Rochdale Council in 1996.

Jim Dobbin was a member of the Transport Scrutiny Select Committee as well one of Britain’s representatives on the Council of Europe.  A Roman Catholic he chaired the all-party Pro-Life Group, and he was awarded and invested as a Knight of the Pontifical Order of St Gregory the Great from Pope Benedict XVI.  He married Patricia Russell in 1964; the couple had two sons and two daughters.

In his last Parliamentary Letter, in last Saturday's Rochdale Observer, he wrote:
'MPs have been back almost a week now in Parliament and colleagues are wondering what on earth is happening in Rochdale at the moment. The way in which Rochdale has been focused upon recently has dragged the town into disrepute and created a skewed perception of Rochdale.  I hope that people, including politicians, are mindful of the need for balance as well as transparancy in their communications about the community of Rochdale.'

Earlier this year Jim gave helpful advice to Northern Voices, when people associated with our publication presented written evidence to the Home Affairs Committee regarding material contained in the recently published book Smile for the Camera.  Being a regular reader of NV he recognised the contribution made by the publication in the outing of Cyril Smith in November 2012. 

After we contacted him about the existence of a blacklist in the British building trade he told me that he had supported Early Day Motions against the practise, and on January 13th, 2013 he spoke out on his website:
'Blacklisting is a national scandal which resulted in workers being denied employment and prevented from putting food on the table merely for exercising their human right to belong to a trade union, standing up for their colleagues or for raising legitimate health and safety concerns.'

And he concluded by saying:
'Allegations that the original intelligence for the blacklist came from police officers are especially chilling and need to be fully investigated as a matter of urgency. Sadly, we cannot say with confidence that blacklisting is no longer happening which is why we are urging ministers to act.'

Other MPs, ought to take notice of these sentiments by Jim Dobbin, and not just MPs, but councillors too:  Jim Dobbin warned that 'It is greatly concerning that blacklisting checks took place on high profile projects funded by taxpayers...’ 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Rough Justice on the Left!

ON the 8th, August the former Scottish correspondent of the Morning Star posted the following post on his Blog:

'My name’s Rory MacKinnon, and I’ve been a reporter for the Morning Star for three years now. It’s given me a lot of pride to see how readers and supporters believe so strongly in the paper, from donating what cash they can to hawking it in the streets on miserable Saturday afternoons. I was proud to represent a “broad paper of the left”, as my editor Richard Bagley always put it: a paper that saw feminism, LGBTQ issues, racial politics and the like as integral to its coverage of class struggle.

'It’s for this reason that I thought I would have my editor’s support in following up domestic violence allegations against the Rail, Maritime and Transport union’s assistant general secretary Steve Hedley. Instead the Morning Star’s management threatened me with the sack, hauled me through a disciplinary hearing and placed me on a final written warning.

'If you want to see my reasons for writing this, skip to the bottom. But I’m a reporter, and in my mind the most important thing is that you all know exactly what’s happened behind closed doors. So let’s get on with it.'

On the 30th, August Private Eye No.1373 published the following report on this matter by 'Blackleg' :

'LAST MONTH the Communist Morning Star gave space and prominence to a demand by Women’s Aid that Tory MP David Ruffley must face “strong disciplinary sanction” for assaulting his ex-partner. Short shrift was given to his claim that because the ex-partner had accepted his apology no more needed to be done. As readers were reminded: "Domestic violence is a criminal, not a private matter."

'Well, if it’s committed by a Tory MP, that is. When the alleged perpetrator is a senior trade union official, the Morning Star will discipline any of its hacks who has the temerity to pursue the story. That is what it did to Rory MacKinnon, its Scotland correspondent, who quit last week after three years on the paper.In March this year MacKinnon was sent to cover a women’s conference in Glasgow organised by the RMT transport union.

'For months, women he knew in the union had been talking about Caroline Leneghan, an RMT member who had written a blog-post about the violence allegedly inflicted on her by Steve Hedley, the RMT’s assistant general secretary, with whom she was in a relationship until last year. On one occasion, she wrote, he “threw me around by my hair and pinned me to the floor repeatedly punching me in the face”. She published photos taken at the time, showing her horrendously bruised and swollen face. Finding himself attending an RMT women’s conference – and one at which the RMT was launching its new policy on, er, domestic violence – MacKinnon thought it a good moment to ask if the union’s refusal to hold a proper investigation into the allegations against its assistant general secretary might affect female members’ perception of the union. He put the question at a Q&A session with the union’s national organising co-ordinator Alan Pottage, who declined to answer. Soon afterwards, however, the hack was forcibly ejected from the conference.

'The next day, Morning Star editor Richard Bagley told MacKinnon he was being suspended while his bosses investigated allegations of “gross misconduct” and “bringing the paper into disrepute”. A month later he was summoned to London for a disciplinary hearing, with the company secretary Tony Briscoe acting as prosecution counsel and Bagley sitting as judge. Briscoe told MacKinnon the question he’d put to the RMT official “feels more like something a Daily Mail reporter would ask than someone from the Morning Star. You should have known better. This indicates a lack of journalistic etiquette and has damaged our relationship with the trade union movement.” The public had “no right to know” about whatever occurred between Hedley and Leneghan...'

On the 26th, July, Rory MacKinnon had handed in his resignation to the Morning Star and went public with his story claiming the public had a right to know.  The two men who had castigated him at the Morning Star, Bagley and Bristoe, were not far behind stepping down days later:  Bagley resigned the editorship for 'family reasons', and Briscoe retired.

Since then Steve Hedley wrote the following letter protesting his innocence in last Thursday's issue of Private Eye No. 1374 (5th, September):
'I was very disappointed that you published  TUC News in Eye 1373 without contacting me to check this story out.  It refers to allegations of domestic violence made against me two years ago, about an incident that happened three years ago, by a lady with whom I was previously in a relationship. 

'I have never been guity of violent behaviour.  These allegations were investigated by the RMT union, which found that I had "no case to answer"; they were also considered by the police, who likewise decided to take no action.

'On the matter of Rory MacKinnon, the Morning Star reporter, he asked his question at a conference to someone who had no knowledge of the investigation and couldn't provide an answer.  Had he contacted me, which he didn't, I would have provided him with the correct information.

'Believe it or not I am a big fan of Private Eye and usually your work is much better researched than this.  I now wish you to publish this reply in the interests of fairness and to clear my name.'

It is unlikely that Comrade Hedley will live this down despite his protestations, and it is understood that he has already resigned from the Socialist Party over this issue.  





Friday, 5 September 2014

Events at Working Class Movement Library

1. A reminder that our first free event of the autumn takes place on Wednesday 10 September at 2pm.
In What happened to political theatre? A personal view, script writer and director Mike Harris explores the relationship (if any) between his own work in touring theatre, radio drama, community theatre, and theatre in education from the late 1970s to the present, and ‘The Great Tradition' of committed political theatre in this country which took a recognisably modern form in the 1920s and '30s.

2. The Library will be open to mark the Heritage Open Days weekend on Saturday 13 September from 11am to 4pm.
Free 'behind the scenes' tours of the Library will take place at 11.30, 12.30, 1.30, 2.30 - pre-booking advised
For ideas of other places to visit go to

3. The 4th Wigan Diggers' Festival takes place on Saturday 13 September, from 11.00am to 9.30pm at The Wiend, Wigan, to commemorate Wigan-born Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) and the 17th Century "Diggers" (True Leveller) movement. It features live music, poetry and comedy, plus 40 or more food, book and other stalls and the "Occu-pie Wigan" beer tent.
More information at

4. On Saturday 20 September the 2014 peace history lecture takes place at the Friends' Meeting House, Manchester. In No Glory in War: noble cause or capitalist adventure? John Westmoreland, Head of History, York College, will propose alternative views to challenge the inevitability of was as the means to resolve conflict.
The lecture begins at 2pm, with stalls to browse and refreshments from 1.30pm; there is also the option of a guided tour of Manchester Peace and Social Justice Trail 10.30am-12 noon. Tickets price £5 in advance, £8 on the door - email or phone 0161 273 8283.

5. A talk by Nick Mansfield, 'The buildings of rural co-operation 1830-1945', takes place at Rochdale Pioneers Museum on Wednesday 24 September at 6.30pm. Price £2.50 including refreshments - book via 01706 524920/
Rochdale Pioneers Museum, 31 Toad Lane, Rochdale OL12 0NU.

6. The Mary Quaile Club holds regular events about working class history and its relevance to contemporary politics.
Their next event will be on Saturday 27 September. This will be a rare screening of United Kingdom, written by Jim Allen. The event will begin at 1pm with an introductory talk by Andy Willis, lecturer in Film Studies at the University of Salford, followed by the screening. There will then be a discussion on the issues raised in the play.
The venue is Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 35-39 Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JG. Tel 0161 834 4517. Entrance is £3, payable on the door. To reserve places, please email

7. Truce tours at IWM North - Mondays, Tuesdays and Sundays in September at 3.30pm
Join a free 20 minute Closer Look tour around the Museum reflecting on individual stories, including those who were Conscientious Objectors in the First and Second World Wars, and the idea of truce and conflict resolution and the causes and consequences of conflict.
IWM North, The Quays, Trafford Wharf Road, Manchester M17 1TZ. Admission free.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Blacklisting campaign comes to Liverpool for TUC Congress!

We are publishing below the latest briefing from the Blacklist Support Group (BSG):

Friday 5th - Saturday 6th 
Campaigns for Justice Conference - organised by GMB 
John Moores University.
Dave Smith - secretary BSG is speaking along with Ricky Tomlinson (Shrewsbury Pickets) Margaret Aspinall (Hillsborough family Support Group), Andy Burnham MP, Tom Watson MP and many others

Sunday 7th 
2pm - National Shop Stewards Network TUC Rally
Jury's Inn 
Albert Dock
Roy Bentham - BSG national committee is speaking alongside Mark Serwotka, Ronnie Draper, Steve Gillan and many others

7pm - Institute of Employment Rights / Campaign for Trade Union Freedom TUC Fringe
85-89 Duke Street
L1 5AP
Len McCluskey
Professor Keith Ewing
John Hendy QC
Carolyn Jones 
IER are massive supporters of the blacklisting campaign 
Social after the Fringe meeting at Ricky Tomlinson's club (tickets only available to people who attend the fringe meeting)

Any blacklisted workers attending on the Sunday - please wear BLACKLISTED T-shirts which makes it more likely to get photos in the press. 

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Bury Bin's Debate over 'Zero Waste'

AT the next full council meeting of Bury Council on September 10th, the issue of 'zero waste' and the planned reduction of collections of grey bins from fortnightly to every three weeks from this coming October will now be debated.  This was forced upon the Bury Labour Council owing to the 3,318-signature petition opposing the switch collected by the Radcliffe lad Daniel Barkess.  This was far more than the 2,500 signatures needed to trigger a debate.

The Bury Branch of Unite that represents most of the Bury bin men has questioned the bin collection changes as wrongheaded, believing that it will lead to increasing amounts of 'side-waste' beside over filled bins, presenting potential safety issues for operatives.  The local Green Party has suggested that the non-recyclable rubbish is largely down to the creation of extra packaging by supermarkets, and that it 'is Green Party policy to set strict targets for supermarkets and food processors to reduce all food packaging and to phase out ... packaging that can't be composted or recycled'.

It would seem that local councils like Bury are seemingly afraid to take on the supermarkets.  The Green Party joint co-ordinator, John Southworth, argued in a letter in the Bury Times (24th, July 2014):
'Making supermarkets pay for the cost of recycling their unwanted plastic tubs is the only way they will change their ways.'

It would seem that the current problems with waste and the difficulties of recycling some rubbish are largely the responsibility of the era of the supermarket culture in which we now live.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Protesters target Ashton Jobcentre for sanctioning pregnant girl!

A two-day protest against benefit sanctions took place outside Ashton-under-Lyne, Jobcentre, on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. The demonstration was called after Eleanor Coulthard, a 19-year-old girl from Ashton-under-Lyne was sanctioned after telling her placement provider B&Q, that she was 23-weeks pregnant.

By all accounts, the DIY firm had offered her a placement working unpaid and had said that her pregnancy was not a problem as they would give her light duty work to undertake. She then discovered  that they had changed tack and contacted the Jobcentre in Ashton-under-Lyne to say they didn't require her services because she was pregnant. The Jobcentre then told her she was being sanctioned because she should not have declared her pregnancy.

Having first claimed claim Jobseekers Allowance (JSA) three months ago, this was her third sanction by the Jobcentre. On the first two occasions, she was told that she was not doing enough to find work although she was looking and applying for work.

Although the Department of Work & Pensions (DWP), deny that they target people for sanctions, there have been reports that vulnerable people have been targeted and that DWP staff, are being forced to hit sanction targets or face disciplinary action. One Jobcentre Plus office is reported to have offered Easter egg prizes to staff who sanctioned the most customers.

Eleanor's mother, Charlotte Hughes, who attended the demonstration with her daughter, told Northern Voices:

" This was an unfair and unjust sanction of a pregnant young woman which left her with no money to eat or live. My daughter was sent to B&Q in Ashton-under-Lyne, for an interview for unpaid work while she was already sanctioned. She had to walk from Dukinfield to the Snipe Retail Park on the outskirts of Ashton-under-Lyne, because she couldn't afford the bus fare to get to the interview. When my daughter told Jobcentre staff that she had been left with no money to feed herself and her child, they told her - "you're pregnant, not ill, and you shouldn't have told B&Q that you were pregnant." As for B&Q, I think they should hang their head in shame."

The Demonstration which was organised by 'Tameside Against the Bedroom Tax and Cuts', 'Tameside Unemployed Workers' Alliance', 'Tameside Trades Union Council' and the 'Green Party' attracted local media interest. The protesters say that they intend to continue with further protests against unfair sanctions and intend to target businesses in Tameside that are participating in the government's unpaid forced labour schemes for the unemployed.For further details of future demonstrations contact:

Rotherham: Those who looked the other way?

THE Home Secretary, Theresa May, has said that social workers, council bosses and police chiefs who failed to act to prevent the Rotherham sex abuse scandal ought to resign.  This follows a damning report produced by Professor Alexis Jay. 

Mrs May has said:
'I’ve seen the horrific cases they have looked into where young girls were the victims of the most appalling sexual exploitation and threats of violence, grooming and abuse and yet their calls for help went unheeded by the council or the police. I think everybody needs to look at the role they played in this and their position.'

Among those identified for failing in their responsibilities are Shaun Wright, South Yorkshire’s police and crime commissioner, who has so far refused to resign despite holding responsibility for children’s services on Rotherham council, and Joyce Thacker, head of the council’s children’s services.  Mr. Wright has resigned from the Labour Party after leading figures in the party told him he ought to give up his current job, but he has so far refused to resign his current position as police and crime commissioner.

Mr Wright, who was elected to the £85,000-a-year commissioner’s post in 2012, having previously served as a Labour councillor with responsibility for children’s services, said on Wednesday that he had no idea about the   'industrial scale' of the abuse that had taken place.

Prof Jay, for her part has insisted that, given her findings that 'nobody could say "I didn’t know".'

Others who will be challenged for their alleged roles in the scandal include:
Paul Laker, a Labour councillor; Jahangir Akhtar, the former deputy leader of Rotherham council; Dr Sonia Sharp, the director of children’s services between 2005 and 2008; and Diane Billups, the council’s director of education and head of children’s services between 2001 and 2005.

Mr. Laker, a former steel-worker, a cabinet member for children's services since 2010 and deputy council leader is claiming that he had only recently grasped the 'depth and breadth' of the sex abuse problem in Rotherham.  Mr. Akhtar, another former deputy leader of the council, was temporarily forced out of office after claims that he was aware of a relationship between one of his own relatives and a 14-year-old girl.  The police cleared him of any wrongdoing after an investigation, and he lost his seat on the council last May.  Mrs. Billups has since retired, and Dr. Sharp now works in a department of education in Austrialia.  Joyce Thacker, 56, is currently on £115,000-a-year as director of children and young people's services; she was in charge four years ago when five Asian men were convicted of raping three girls as young as 12. 

Ms. Thacker has said by way of explanation and justification:
'I would put the responsibility back on the parents. It is their duty to protect their children and keep them safe.  We couldn't be with them 24-hours a day.'

Yesterday, the former MP for Rotherham, Denise MacShane, was more straight-forward in accepting that he should have done more.  On BBC News Mr. MacShane said:
'I should have burrowed into this.  Perhaps, yes, as a true Guardian reader and a liberal leftie I suppose, I didn't want to rock the boat I didn't want to raise that too hard.'

It seems that Mr. MacShane has previously admitted that he, like other politicians, had feared losing Muslim votes if he aired 'the dirty secrets about bad practices in the Kashmiri Muslim community'.

We must wait to see if this mentality is more widespread among the politicians in our northern town halls.

Bolton Council's Suspension of Trade Unionists

YESTERDAY, Bolton Trade Union Council called off a demonstration set to be held at 6pm outside Bolton Town Hall in support of some leading trade union activists who have been suspended by the Labour Council, and are threatened with the loss of their jobs.  It was halted because Bolton's Labour Council is holding talks with the trade unions concerned in an endeavour to solve a dispute in which three leading trade union activists from Unison and the GMB have been suspended from work, and a further 19 trade unionists have been notified that they too could face disiplinary action. 

A leading local trade unionist from Bolton told Northern Voices:
'This all relates to events that took place in Bolton on the public sector's day of action.'

That public sector 'Day of Action' took place on Thursday the 10th, July, and involved Unison, the GMB, and Unite.  An informant from Bolton Trade Union Council has told N.V. that he believes:
'It is clear to us that the objective is to remove key activists prior to the £25 million cuts to be implemented next year.'

Many trade unionists in the region are disturbed that Bolton MBC, as a Labour Council, are using what they see as Tory anti-trade union legistlation to seemingly intimidate the local authority labour in their employ.


Manchester Royal Exchange presents Secret Theatre


 The Lyric Hammersmith Secret Theatre Company presents
The Studio at The Royal Exchange Theatre
St Ann’s Square
M2 7DH
Tuesday 21 October to Saturday 1 November

Fresh from the Lyric Hammersmith and the Edinburgh Festival, SECRET THEATRE – which features four new plays from four of the UK’s most exciting playwrights – arrives at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre from Tuesday 21 October to Saturday 1 November.   

Presented in The Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre by The Lyric Hammersmith Secret Theatre Company, all four pieces explore themes of love and loss, betrayal and revenge, failure and triumph and have been thrilling audiences with their brave, bold and inventive style.  

In 2013 the Lyric created the Secret Theatre Company – a 20-strong ensemble of actors, directors, writers and designers brought together to explore new ways of making theatre. Since their first provocative performance they have courted controversy and sparked debate across London. The Royal Exchange dates are part of a nationwide tour. 

CHAMBER PIECE (23 - 25 October) is a pitch-black comedy from up-and-coming writer Caroline Bird about power, lethal injection and the desperate need for a Twix. When an execution goes horribly wrong and the prisoner regains consciousness with no memory of his crimes the ruthlessly ambitious governor has 24-hours to prove his sanity before her death warrant expires.

GLITTERLAND (28 & 29 October) by Hayley Squires is a thrilling story of power, corruption and revenge inspired by John Webster’s THE WHITE DEVIL. The politicians and celebrities of the State of Glitterland collude to keep their people in a sedated stupor. The ruthless political advisor, Nemo, uses his starlet sister to manipulate those in power in a dangerous game of deception. As his enemies threaten to expose him, Nemo will stop at nothing in his quest for control.   

A SERIES OF INCREASINGLY IMPOSSIBLE ACTS (21 October - 1 November) is devised by the Secret Theatre Company. In this riotous and uplifting show the company try to complete a series of increasingly impossible acts. With the audience in charge of who performs each night, the show will be different every night.   

SHOW 6 (30 October - 1 November) is a new thriller by Mark Ravenhill which asks the question “Are you who you think you are?” The story weaves together a fatal car crash, a memory uncovered and a secret that leads to revolution.                                                                                                                                     
For further information please contact JOHN GOODFELLOW (Press & Communications Manager) on 0161 615 6783 /

Online information available at

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Liverpool Exhibition of Miner's Strike photos

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Liverpool Exhibition of Photographs on the 30th Anniversary of the 1984-1985 Miner's Strike by 
If you would like an additional image for your "Whats On" please email us with the size you require.

Note: The exhibition coincides with the annual TUC conference at the Liverpool Echo Arena.

Exhibition of Photographs on the 30th Anniversary of the 1984-1985 Miner's Strike by

Thirty years ago Margaret Thatcher hoped to transform Britain into a "Greed is Good" society, "The method is economics" proposed Thatcher "but the aim is to change the soul". To do so the Conservative government declared war on the trade unions. They implemented a secret plan to take on the unions one by one, until they came to the National Union of Mineworkers. In March 1984 the government provoked a strike - expecting victory in a few weeks. The strike lasted 12 months. They were to be demonised and discredited by the media. Isolated, beaten and starved back to work - yet despite desperate circumstances and in the face of everything that the government could throw at them, 150,000 miners and their families fought back and very nearly won. In the years that followed, the most productive and efficient coal industry in the world was closed and whole communities were destroyed, wages were widely repressed, industry, utilities and housing privatised and the City of London deregulated... creating the seeds of the crisis we now face.
A small group of photographers stood alongside the miners as they struggled for their jobs and communities and endeavoured to picture it from their point of view. This exhibition shows you some of the best of those pictures.
Monday 8th to Saturday 20th September, 2014
Open evenings: Monday 8th & Tues 9th September, until 9pm
TUC delegates very welcome
Opening hours on other days:
Monday -Friday: 11am-4:30pm
Saturday: 12 noon-4pm
Sunday: Closed
The Fallout Factory, 97 Dale Street, Liverpool, L2 2JD

Kind Regards

John Harris (NUJ)
Tel. +44 (0)1789 262151
Mobile: +44 (0)7831121483
Online photographic and video footage library at:

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Police to Interview Sir Cliff Richard

AFTER the search by police on Thursday of Sir Cliff Richard's Berkshire home, it is reported that they are planning to talk to him about an alleged sex crime against a young lad at an evangelist event in a Sheffield football stadium at Bramall Lane in 1985.  Sir Cliff now 73, is in Portugal right now, and he has described the allegation made against him as 'completely false'.

Detective Superintendent Matt Fenwick, of South Yorkshire Police, has said the investigation was at a very early stage and nobody had been arrested.   D.S. Fenwick said:  'A search warrant has been granted after police received an allegation of a sexual nature dating back to the 1980s. This involved a young boy under the age of 16 years.'

No arrest warrant has been issued and the police say that they have no plans to search other properties.  Sir Cliff's solicitors are already in touch with the South Yorkshire police, and there has been some disquiet about the presence of the BBC during Thursday's police search of the premises in Berkshire.

The evangelist event in 1985 that was led by the U.S. preacher Billy Graham attracted some 24,000 people to the first of eight nights of sermons at the Sheffield football stadium, according to reports at the time.  When Billy Graham invited people to come forward to show a commitment to Jesus, 2,000 people walked onto the pitch.

Sir Cliff Richard, OBE, was born in India, Harry Rodger Webb, in 1940, and  is the third-top-selling singles artist in the United Kingdom's history, with total sales of over 21 million units in the UK and he has reportedly sold an estimated 250 million records worldwide.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Blogger accuses council of North Korean censorship. As Tameside becomes a 'one-party state?

READERS of Northern Voices (NV) will be aware that in previous issues of NV magazine, we have reported on how some local authorities such as Tameside in Greater Manchester, have attempted to censor local news stories on the pretext of promoting ‘community cohesion’.

In 2009 (see NV issue No 10), we reported that Tameside Council were holding regular meetings with local newspaper editors to 'gather information and stop sensationalist reporting which might otherwise start or add to rising tensions.'  The source for this information (also reported in Private Eye 3/10/08), was a document entitled: ‘Guidance for local authorities on community cohesion planning and tension monitoring’ (page 40) produced by the Department of Communities and local Government (DOCLG).  

Although the council denied practicing censorship – 'The council does not gather information with a view to censoring media reports, it has no powers to do this…', DOCLG told us that the information contained in their document had been written and supplied by Tameside Council (see NV issue No 11).
Having been caught with their trousers down, so to speak, one would have thought that the council would have learned a salutary lesson. Yet a local blogger, who uses the name Curmudgeon, recently posted on his blog that Tameside council bosses had decreed that council employees were to be denied access to certain websites.   Curmudgeon says:

“Not to be outdone and in an effort not to deviate one iota from the controlling ways of the young Korean dictator, Tameside Council bosses, have adopted a strict political strategy, strikingly similar to that of Kim Jong-Un, and as a first strike have allegedly decreed that all civil servants working on Tameside Council computers, will be denied the right to access the thoughts of certain ‘political bloggers’ in an effort to subvert and control access to opposing political opinions and block access to legitimate bloggers who frequently engage in the questioning of the Labour dominated council decisions.'

Curmudgeon claims that both his own blog of the same name and the blog ‘Tameside Citizen’ are forbidden to council employees.

Korea’s ‘Supreme Leader’, Kim Jong-Un, is well known for purging ‘factional filth’: he recently had his own uncle executed. But while some might think that comparing Tameside Council with the hermetically sealed society of North Korea is somewhat ridiculous, the analogy might not be that inappropriate.

Last year (April 2013), the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), stated that many Labour dominated councils in the North West, were 'failing the basic test of democracy' because many Labour councils held a ‘super-majority’ of seats. The ERS claimed that councils such as Tameside ran the risk of becoming ‘one-party states’ like North Korea, China or Cuba.

Daren Hughes, director of research at the ERS, told the Manchester Evening News that 'one-party state’ councils could be more likely to be ‘complacent’ and 'hand themselves increases to their allowances and expenses.'

While Tameside to all intents and purposes already resembles a one-party state, the borough is not quite yet in the league of Pyongyang, even though its councillors are as keen as mustard, when it comes to giving themselves increases in their allowances and expenses. Yet as the blogger, Curmudgeon, rightly points out, censorship is always a sign of a weak and frightened government that has something to hide from the rest of us, and secrets to keep.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 10 or N.V.11, may be obtained as follows:
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Police Search Home of Cliff Richard

CLIFF Richards has had to deny an allegation of historic sexual abuse after police today searched his Berkshire home.  In a statement as South Yorkshire police searched his home in Berkshire Sir Cliff said:
'For many months I have been aware of allegations against me of historic impropriety which have been circulating online. The allegations are completely false.   Up until now I have chosen not to dignify the false allegations with a response, as it would just give them more oxygen.  However, the police attended my apartment in Berkshire today without notice, except it would appear to the press.  I am not presently in the UK but it goes without saying that I will co-operate fully should the police wish to speak to me.   Beyond stating that today's allegation is completely false it would not be appropriate to say anything further until the police investigation has concluded.'
 The police say they didn't have to break in as they were let in, perhaps by somebody who is looking after the house.   

Last week, the police claim Sir Cliff was at his home in Portugal where he held a concert at his wine estate.   He owns a vast property there with a vineyard where he produces wine.  The Cliff Richard's official website urges readers to buy his 'Vida Nova wine, jewellery and calendar, to say nothing of DVDs, CDs and official merchandise'.  It is not known in he is still at his home in Portugal, but he has said in the past that he spends his summers there and his winters in Barbados, where he owns another property.

This isn't part of Scotland Yard's investigation into historical sex crimes - Operation Yewtree - launched in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal.    It seems that the initial allegation was made to the Metropolitan Police and then passed on to South Yorkshire.  This is very much a South Yorkshire Police investigation. 


World War I & the job of the historian

Adam Hochschild's interview with Stephen Jackson:              

Adam_Hochschild.jpgRenowned author Adam Hochschild’s most recent work To End All Wars: A Story of Loyalty and Rebellion, 1914–1918 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011) presented a heartbreaking tale of the mass slaughter of the First World War and a sympathetic portrayal of those who opposed the conflict. In this Q&A, he gives his thoughts on the book and offers his perspective on the role of the publicly engaged historian. 

Stephen Jackson: What was it about the subject that inspired you to write it, and what would you argue was your most important contribution to the historical discussion on the First World War?

Adam Hochschild: I’ve always been deeply fascinated by those who resisted the First World War, ever since I read a biography of Bertrand Russell as a teenager, and then later Sheila Rowbotham’s work on Alice Wheeldon. To have had the courage to speak out so boldly when there was such jingoism in the air deeply impressed me.  I also found a very strong echo in those times of something I had been deeply involved in:  the movement against the Vietnam War here in the United States.  Then, too, a war divided members of families from each other; hence I was intrigued to see the divided families of Britain in 19141918, and used that as a narrative structure for my book.  In the Vietnam era, too, we had an epidemic of government spying on citizens—when much later, using the Freedom of Information Act, I was able to get the records of surveillance on me by the FBI, CIA and military intelligence, they amounted to more than 100 pages and I was a very small fish in that movement.  Hence it fascinated me to read the government surveillance records from Scotland Yard and military intelligence on the UK dissenters of 19141918.  I felt I was seeing at work the same mindset as that of the FBI agents who reported on me.
I’m by no means the first person to write about those brave British dissenters.  I certainly hope my book, and those of others, helps put them in the foreground as we remember the war. Paradoxically, most people today would agree that the First World War remade the world for the worse in almost every conceivable way, yet all our traditional ways of remembering it parades, monuments, museums, military cemeteries celebrate those who fought and not those who refused to fight.
Stephen Jackson: In the years since the publication of the work, what sort of feedback from the scholarly community and the general public did you receive?  How do you think that contemporary events, especially a decade of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, shaped the response to your work?

Adam Hochschild:  I’ve always believed that you can write for a general audience and at the same time meet the highest scholarly standards for accuracy and the documenting of sources. This book got good reviews and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; at the same time many university history departments have been kind to me.  I was writer-in-residence at the history department of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst this past spring and will be doing a speaking tour of some half dozen campuses in the US and Europe this fall, talking about the war.
I’ve also heard from several descendants of people mentioned in the book one of the great pleasures of writing history, I’ve found.  And sometimes, unexpectedly, I’ve heard from other people as well who are connected to this patch of history.  After the book came out, an American mining company official whom I’d met a few years before in a godforsaken village in eastern Congo, wrote me that in 1917 his grandfather, a conscientious objector, had been hanged in effigy in his home town in Iowa.
And yes, I think the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan show what tragic mistakes one can make by not studying history more closely.  How similar the illusion of President George W. Bush when he landed on that aircraft carrier in 2003 in front of the sign 'Mission Accomplished' to the illusion of Kaiser Wilhelm II when he told his troops in August, 1914:  'You will be home before the leaves fall from the trees.'
Stephen Jackson: This year marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.  What do you think is or should be the place of conscientious objectors and leftist anti-war activists in the public memory of World War I?

Adam Hochschild: None of these people were perfect, but on the central issue of their time, they were essentially right, and should be honored.  Harry Patch, the last British veteran of the war to die 5 years ago, at 111 said it best: the war 'was not worth it.  It was not worth one life, let alone all the millions.'
Stephen Jackson: How can scholars teaching undergraduate or graduate courses in British History or Modern European History incorporate non-traditional themes such as anti-war activism into lessons on the Great War?

Adam Hochschild: There are rich primary sources: the writings and speeches of outspoken war opponents, like Bertrand Russell and E.D. Morel in Britain, or Jane Addams and Eugene V. Debs in the United States.  Periodicals that these anti-war movements published. Letters and memoirs by war resisters who went to prison, not just in the U.S. and Britain, but in other countries as well. I hope someone is thinking of pulling a collection of material like this together into a reader!  And there are fine secondary sources as well. That list could be a long one, but I’ll just mention Jo Vellacott’s Bertrand Russell and the Pacifists in the First World War, a careful, well-written book I learned a lot from.
Stephen Jackson: The 19th century German historian Leopold von Ranke famously said historians can 'merely tell how it really was,' and should not judge the past nor attempt to give moral guidance for the present.   To End All Wars, and your work more generally, compellingly does just that. How would you describe your underlying philosophy for writing history?  What role do you think that the historian — as an historian — should play in engaging in contemporary political and ethical discussions?

Adam Hochschild:  Well, I’m certain in favor of telling it how it was and with the highest possible standards of accuracy. In real life, seldom are one’s heroes totally heroic or one’s villains totally villainous.  In To End All Wars, for instance, the fiery pacifist Charlotte Despard had a kind of knee-jerk far-left reaction to everything that would have made her difficult to talk to, although I agree with her about the war.  But her brother, Field Marshal Sir John French, though he exemplified the worst type of unthinking generalship in the field, seems to have been a warm-hearted person of great charm whom it would have been delightful to spend an evening with. One should enjoy such paradoxes and not try to deny them.
But beyond that, I think sometimes an historian can provide something that’s relevant to contemporary political discussions without having to hit people over the head with it. In my book, for example, I don’t talk about the Iraq or Afghanistan wars.  But whenever I give a talk about the First World War, the first question anybody asks is:  do you see an analogy?

Monday, 11 August 2014

Wigan Diggers' Festival 2014

Wigan Diggers' Festival
Celebrating the life and ideas of Wigan born and bred Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676)
Inspirational theorist and spokesperson of the World's first true Socialists known as 'The Diggers'


To all Socialist, Trades Union, Labour,
Co-operative & Other Supportive Organisations

Dear Brothers & Sisters

I am writing to you on behalf of the Wigan Diggers' Festival Committee to appeal for the financial support of your organisation in the staging of this year’s Festival. The FREE open air event, which last year again, attracted over 2,000 people, will take place in the Wiend area of Wigan town centre on Saturday 13th September 2014 between 11.00am and 9.30pm..

This year’s festival will be officially opened by Labour MP John McDonnell who will also talk about the lasting influence of Gerrard Winstanley and The Diggers on today’s working class movement.

The festival will consist of a wide range of activities including live music, poetry and comedy performances, audio visual presentations, an exhibition, town centre procession, beer tent, food, book and other stalls. There will also be a symbolic digging re-enactment in which actor John Graham Davies will play the role of the Diggers’ spokesperson. In addition to that, there will be performances by BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winners ‘The Lucy Ward Band’, Merry Hell, Shamus Oblivion & The Megadeath Morris Men, the Liverpool Socialist Singers & Bolton Clarion choir and more than 20 other live acts, plus educational talks by TV documentary maker and “Debt Generation” author David Malone, and Dr. John Gurney (health permitting) author of “Gerrard Winstanley: The Diggers’ Life & Legacy” about the historic Wiganer and his movement, also known as the “True Levellers”.

Although, many of our expenses have already been covered, and many of those taking part are providing their services either for free, or for little other than their travelling costs, as a result of our move to an outdoor location two years ago, the costs of staging the festival have risen considerably. This is not least as a result of our needing to hire professional security to comply with the Council’s licensing conditions (and free public liability insurance cover), the hire of Portaloos, a much larger outdoor PA system, a professional sound engineer, stage lighting, and the cost of various weather proofing measures (circa £3,500 combined cost).

In order to ensure we are able to cover these costs, which will also enable us to stage next year’s event, we are in vital need of the financial assistance of sympathetic organisations such as your own. If you can help us in any way then please send a cheque, made payable to the Gerrard Winstanley Society, to the address below. Your valuable support will be acknowledged in the festival programme.

Yours in solidarity

Stephen Hall
for and behalf of Wigan Diggers' Festival Committee
39 Spa Road, Atherton, Manchester M46 9NR

Tel: 01942 886645/07724 139278 or E-Mail:

Manchester TUC Meeting against anti-union laws


Manchester Trades Council has organised a public meeting on the eve of the Labour Party conference to campaign against the anti union laws. The meeting will be held on September 20th at 18:30 in the Mechanics Institute. The event will also be a fundraiser for the Manchester Unemployed Workers Centre. Speakers will include:
John Mcdonnell MP
Len Mcluskey - Unite General Secretary
Ian Hodson - President BFAWU
Lynn Collins - Secretary North West TUC
Angela Raynor - UNISON North West Regional Convenor
You can find the facebook event for this on the link below: 
Be sure to send this onto your members and contacts as this is a very important event.
In Solidarity, 
Alex (Alex Davidson)
Secretary - Manchester Trades Union Council

Maxine Peake as Hamlet at Royal Exchange


by William Shakespeare   

Directed by Sarah Frankcom

Designed by Amanda Stoodley 

The Royal Exchange Theatre,
St Ann’s Square, Manchester.
Thursday 11 September – Saturday 18 October  

PRESS NIGHT: Tuesday 16 September at 7.30pm

Acclaimed theatre and television actress Maxine Peake is set to star in a bold re-imagining of William Shakespeare’s HAMLET by William Shakespeare at the Royal Exchange Theatre - taking the title role in a new production which runs from Thursday 11 September to Saturday 18 October.   

Launching the theatre’s new Autumn Winter 14 / 15 Season – the production reunites her with Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom following the huge success of THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY at last year’s Manchester International Festival.   

BAFTA nominated for her performances in both THE VILLAGE and HANCOCK AND JOAN, Maxine’s many other TV credits include SILK, RED RIDING and Myra Hindley in SEE NO EVIL.

Previous theatre credits for the Royal Exchange include RUTHERFORD AND SON, THE CHILDREN’S HOUR and, most recently, MISS JULIE.   

In Shakespeare’s most iconic play, Hamlet’s father is dead and Denmark has crowned a new king. Consumed by grief, Hamlet struggles to exact revenge with devastating consequences. HAMLET explodes with big idea and is the ultimate play about loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness.  
This stripped back, fresh and fast-paced version, will see Maxine Peake create a Hamlet for now – a Hamlet for Manchester.  
She said: 'Sarah and I have looked for a project that would stretch and excite us and HAMLET just seemed the next natural step to challenge us both in so many ways. I am so excited at how gender swapping can affect and throw up new ways of looking at this theatrical masterpiece.'   

Sarah Frankcom’s other recent Royal Exchange credits include A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, MISS JULIE, ORPHEUS DESCENDING, THAT DAY WE SANG and BLINDSIDED.  

She said: 'Maxine started her acting career in our youth theatre. Her performances have thrilled our audiences and the Royal Exchange is her local theatre. HAMLET is a massively exciting challenge for any actor and director.' 

Also appearing are Claire Benedict as Player King and Marcella; Gillian Bevan as Polonia; Jodie McNee as Rosencrantz; Barbara Marten as Gertrude; John Shrapnel as Claudius and the Ghost; Katie West as Ophelia and Ashley Zhangazha as Laertes.   

The cast also includes Thomas Arnold, Michelle Butterly, Dean Gregory, Tachia Newall, Peter Singh and Ben Stott.   

Members of the Royal Exchange’s Young Company will also be appearing as the Young Players.   

The production is designed by Amanda Stoodley and music is composed by Alex Baranowski. The creative team is completed by Lee Curran (lighting), Peter Rice (sound), Imogen Knight (movement) and Kevin McCurdy (fights).  
  • Maxine Peake will also be joining the Exchange as an Associate Artist this autumn.  Her new role will draw on her considerable talents as one of the nation’s best-loved actors and also as a writer. It will include opportunities for her to get involved in the theatre’s pioneering work with community groups and young people - and work with young actors from across the city.