Wednesday, 2 September 2015

FT's Chris Giles on Hard Left Economics

CORBYNOMICS should not be as incoherent as it is.  Leftwing economic platforms need not be stupid, but proponents must understand their strengths and limitations.  So here are some suggestions for Jeremy Corbyn, the hard-left veteran likely to become UK Labour party leader next month.
There is no left-right dividing line in sensible economic policymaking.  Everyone needs to define their ambitions, understand how policy might achieve goals and recognise constraints.  Mr Corbyn’s ambition is clear: he wants a more equal and a more prosperous society.
Since this desire is shared across the political spectrum, the radical left must demonstrate its ability to act where other, more conservative forces, are constrained.  The left’s important freedom is its ability to worry less about preserving individual property rights than others.  Such rights are never absolute — any form of taxation is lawful extortion — and if they stand in the way of growth and greater equality, a leftwing government can remove them.  This surely should be the guiding theme of any practical economics of the hard left.
The constraints are sadly real, however.  You can tax the rich until the pips squeak, but if the pips are mobile, you will find the fruit you are squeezing is seedless.  Governments can also fail more regularly than markets.
With this in mind, an economically coherent leftwing platform would weaken the property rights that most impede prosperity, allowing these gains to offset damage from likely government failures and weaker incentives to work and to innovate.  Once you are clear about such essentials, it is not too difficult to devise sensible leftwing economic policies.
Abundant land is disastrously used in Britain, constrained by arbitrary planning constraints and not-in-my-back-yard attitudes of small “c” conservative residents.  Greenbelt restrictions protect wasteland around cities, preventing both growth and more affordable housing and ensuring older and richer people, especially around London, entrench their privileges.
Regulations could be substantially loosened, with the state appropriating most of the increase in land value of areas that currently cannot be developed.  Many parts of inner cities, often freehold land owned by the public sector, could be rebuilt at higher densities with widespread compulsory purchase.  A third runway at Heathrow — a pro-growth measure opposed by local property owners — should go ahead.
To be clear, this is a red policy, not a green one. Alongside higher property taxes on those who gained from buying in the right place at the right time, it would efficiently redistribute income and wealth, improving the lives of poorer people.
Few want a generation of lazy trust-fund children. So, other forms of overt redistribution should include heavier inheritance taxes.  These are justified on the twin principles that bequests damage beneficiaries’ work incentives and the dead find the taxman more difficult to avoid than the living.  The constraint here is to understand that people will seek to divest their wealth before they meet their maker and even a hard-left government will need to trade off higher revenues against inevitable avoidance.
In taxation, the left should understand that revenue raising is a collective activity and that to generate sufficient receipts to devote more of the nation’s resources to the poor, to education, to health or to other public services requires more than a raid on the rich. There are not enough of them.  Higher taxes for all, as in Nordic countries, is the solution.
All of this is economically literate, radical and left wing.   Little of this is Corbynomics.  For him, there are vast untapped pools of free money, to be accessed via setting up a national investment bank, attacking so-called “corporate welfare”, engaging in quantitative easing “for the people” or simply ending austerity.
That is not a coherent programme for the left, but just another form of populism.  And of course it comes with other popular fallacies such as saying the finances of the British state are regressive — when it is obvious that poor families receive their income from the state.  Slogans are easy to write if you wilfully confuse objectives with policy, making empty statements such as, “faster growth and higher wages must be key to bringing down the deficit”.
It is Mr Corbyn’s populism, not his being hard left, that destroys his economic credibility.  A smart hard-left stance could claim to boost both prosperity and equality.  It would be radical and coherent, but in undermining property rights, possibly not all that popular — one of the reasons why the hard left rarely wins office.

Failure to Prosecute Cyril Smith

Posted on
MY  Exaro colleagues Nick Fielding and Tim Wood deserve a big commendation for doggedly pursuing the Crown prosecution Service to force them to release a damning report revealing how the authorities missed their opportunity to prosecute  paedophile MP Cyril Smith while he was alive.
After using the Freedom of Information Act the CPS has finally  a year later released a police report showing the Rochdale authorities knew what Sir Cyril was up to – but  the Director of Public Prosecutions declined to prosecute,.
The police superintendent in charge of the investigation in 1970 wrote;
'It seems impossible to excuse his conduct. Over a considerable period of time, whilst sheltering beneath a veneer of respectability, he has used his unique position to indulge in a sordid series of indecent episodes with young boys towards whom he had a special responsibility.'
No action was taken, and the paedophile MP was free to continue sexually and physically abusing boys for many more years. The full report is on the Exaro website.
One can only say if they had acted a lot of people would have been spared suffering such predatory sordid practices and could have gone on to have had fulfilling lives and enjoyed the innocence of the rest of their childhood. The authorities have a lot to answer.

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Ricky Tomlinson & Northern Voices

Ricky Tomlinson at Baker's Union Conf. in Southport in June


NORTHERN VOICES 15 above is now on sale its usual outlets.  This issue of Northern Voices has an interview with the anti-establishment painter from Buxton, Jeff Perks.  He is a radical artist who has done exhibitions at Stockport Art Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, an exhibition titled 'Race Against Time' - Trades Union Congress House, and was Winner of the Friends of Buxton Museum Sculpture Award (3 times).  His art aims to make people feel uncomfortable.  Sales of Northern Voices in Ashton town centre shot up during a Green Party demo a couple of weeks ago when street sellers started shouting: 
'Kieran Quinn - Kieran Quinn - Look at the Rat in the Wheelie Bin!' 

Other articles include a piece on 'Who Owns the North' by the writer Chris Draper; a report on Fracking at Barton Moss Salford by the activist Barry Woodling; an account on the consequences of the Scottish referendum by the Labour councillor, Paul Salverson; a story on Northern Canals by Les May; a historical item 'Shoot the Conchies' also by Chris Draper; reviews on the radical touring play UNITED WE STAND and Dave Douglass's new book on 'A history of the Liverpool Waterfront 1850-1890'; a searching review on the book on Cyril Smith by Simon Danczuk M.P. by Les May;  Tameside Eye, and 'Six O' the Best Northern Bus Journeys'.

The printed version of NORTHERN VOICES 15, with all sorts of stuff others won't touch and may be obtained as follows:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included)
Cheques payable to 'Brian Bamford' at
c/o 46, Kingsland Road,
Rochdale, Lancs. OL11 3HQ.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

Explanations for Labour Party Defeat

by Les May
TONY Blair is an inspiration to all us aspiring millionaires.

According to that nice Mr Blair's piece for The Guardian the reasons Labour lost the election were '… because it was considered anti-business and too left; because people feared Ed in Downing Street with SNP support; and because he didn’t have a credible deficit reduction plan. They didn’t vote Tory because they thought he was “austerity-lite” but on the contrary because he didn’t seem committed enough to tough economic decisions'.

This may be the view of the pundits and the political nerds but I really do not see voters standing in the ballot box chewing the end of their pencil and pondering about Labour being 'anti-business' or whether its deficit reduction plan was 'credible'.

The recently published Ipsos-Mori study shows that people tended to vote in ways that reflected how well off they felt they were. Home owners and those with morgages tended to vote Tory, those in social or privately rented housing tended to vote Labour. The same trend could be seen in voting by different social classes. Better off people in higher status jobs tended to vote Tory. Less well off people in low status jobs tended to vote Labour as did non-white voters. So no surprises there!

Younger people in the 18-24 age group, lower status and non-white voters  were more likely to vote Labour, but were less likely to vote overall. This suggests to me that Labour would do well to target these groups and persuade them first to register to vote and then actually take part in the election.

Labour Party: 'What's it for?'

by Les May
THE starting point for Kenan Malik's piece 'What is the Labour Party for?' which appeared recently in the New York Times, is the surprise emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a serious contender for the Labour leadership. Malik assumes that some of those who sponsored him did so only to give an illusion of the possibility of real change in the Labour party. Corbyn's ignominious defeat would then signal once and for all that the so called 'modernisers' had won the argument.

But as Malik observes Corbyn's critics 'offer no alternative political vision that would engage voters looking for social change'. Implied, but not stated, is the assumption that there exists a body of voters dissatisfied with the present social arrangements. Corbyn's appeal to Labour members and to already committed voters would appear to make Malik's assumption correct.

Whether Malik is right that Corbyn wants to recreate a Labour Party rooted in the power of the unions is open to doubt. Not least because the voting arrangement which may bring Corbyn to the leadership was put in place precisely to limit the power of the unions to choose the leader. A genuinely popular movement rooted in party membership which saw the unions as partners with a role to play in defending their members may yet emerge.

Surprisingly given his diagnosis that Labour's 1997 victory was as much to do with the internal squabbles of the Tories as with Blair making the party 'electable' Malik does not draw attention to the fact that Labour's present problems stem from the fact that the Blairite Labour party concentrated on getting power without asking why it wanted it. Instead his critique is muted suggesting only that the Blair years failed to provide a long term solution to Labour's need 'to find a new constituency and a new role'.

Although Malik attributes Blair's strategy of 'triangulation', or stealing policies from one's opponents, as being borrowed from Clinton's 1996 re-election campaign it has a much longer and more informative history. The 'post war' consensus which he identifies with Keynesian policies and the use of the state as a lever for social change was based upon 'triangulation' between a 'One Nation' Tory party and Labour. In fact the consensus was also built around a mixed economy, full employment, strong but not overweening trades unions, the welfare state, decolonisation and the Atlantic alliance. Speaking recently on the Parliament Channel  Kenneth Clark described the final two years of the Heath government of the early 1970s as 'like a poor man's social democracy'.

So strongly was this the case that The Economist invented a fictitious figure 'Mr Butskell' when a moderate Tory, R. A. Butler (Rab), succeeded Labour's Hugh Gaitskell as chancellor in 1951. Today the equivalent figure would be 'Mr Camonblair', who may well turn out to be a hermaphrodite.

Butskell and Camonblair are where the two main parties have reached a kind of equilibrium. But those equilibria are poles apart and whether Mr Butskell and Mr
Camonblair would be on speaking terms I rather doubt, with Butskell far to the left in present day terms and Camonblair far to the right from a post war perspective. The emergence of Mr Camonblair may be what Malik means when he argues that the division between social democracy and conservatism has gone. If indeed this were the case then the Labour party has indeed outlived its usefulness.

An alternative view is that these two fictitious figures simply illustrate the futility of arguing about where the centre ground in politics lies. The effect of the Thatcher years was to shift 'the centre' far to the right around a new equilibrium. But it was the unravelling of the post war consensus which allowed Thatcherism to emerge. If, as argued earlier, part of that consensus was 'strong but not overweening trades unions', then union militancy in the late 1970s was as much a factor as changes within the Tory party. No one seems to have suggested that external factors played a role.

Thatcher did not take power with a fully worked out program for shifting the 'centre' of politics to the right. Privatisation was initially an ad hoc gamble which appeared to be popular. Part of the failure in the years preceding Blair was not to spell out why not all privatisations were equal. New capital would flood in for investment in BT because rapid technological changes meant it would return a substantial profit. As we have found, investment in new water pipes, new generating plant or new rolling stock would not unless prices were allowed to rise faster than was needed just to maintain a replacement program and keep up with inflation.

Malik argues that the post war political system has unravelled. But as the last example shows the companies running so called 'natural monopolies' like water are not allowed to raise prices willy nilly and energy companies are forced to invest in programs which are designed to reduce the demand for their product. In other words the mechanisms for state intervention are still in place. A Labour  government could still make use of these for its own programme.

He also claims that what he calls key elements of progressive politics have become unstitched; a belief in community and collective action, a progressive economic policy and a liberal view of individual rights. Of these I identify one as being distinctly socialist; a belief in collective action.

All too often the word 'community' is thrown about like Smarties at a children's party, a 'progressive' economic policy is so vague as to be meaningless and a liberal view of individual rights is not unique to a Labour party built on socialism or social democracy. By legislating for same sex marriage Cameron has come to be seen as liberal minded and progressive, whilst at the same time his Chancellor undermines any belief in collective action to reduce poverty.

I find it difficult to agree with Malik's generalisation that the left adopts a reactionary stance on rights and freedoms. Nor does it seem to me that one can generalise that the left is unwilling to defend free speech. The only Labour MP I know who has suggested limiting free speech is Simon Danczuk who did so in a 'tweet'. Some of the worst offenders in trying to limit free speech are individuals who see themselves as having a liberal view on things like sexual orientation.

If Malik's final paragraph is intended as an outline program for Labour to return to power only one of his three requirements seems to me unique to a socialist or social democratic party; the championing of collective action. Right wing parties can also champion individual rights, particularly when it means a right to exploit others. In the five years after 1945 Labour lived with austerity yet put in place the Welfare State. It did so by ensuring that those who could best afford it bore the heaviest burden.

Questions about purpose do not occur in vacuo. They have context and the questioner may have their own agenda. A marxist and a social democrat would have very different answers, drawn from their own preoccupations to fall back on.

Nor am I convinced of the relevance of questions like this to voters. The revulsion at the mere mention of Margaret Thatcher may owe more to the general impression she gave than from memories of the miner's strike. Ditto Blair, whose continuing continuing interventions merely remind us of a man keen to line his own pocket and rankle far more than the invasion of Iraq. Jeremy Corbyn please take note.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Harvey Proctor & Extra Judicial Tactics

NORTHERN Voices, ever since 2012, has been in the forefront of exposing issues surrounding Cyril Smith and child sex exploitation.  However, we are concerned about the recent practices of some politicians and certain media outlets with regard to their use of parliamentary privilege and the use of trial by media to potentially influence the process and administration of justice.
On Wednesday in the Daily Telegraph, Mathew Scott wrote:
'In a year's time Harvey Proctor's news conference will be seen either as a chilling display of hypocrisy or as the moment a brave man finally took on the combined might of a misguided Metropolitan Police and a small, nasty and highly influential section of the press and internet.'

Harvey Procter, is a former Conservative MP who was very publicly implicated in 1987, in what was then regarded as a 'gay sex' scandal, when he stood down from his parliamentary seat.   He left the House of Commons – after pleading guilty and being fined for gross indecency charges.  At present the campaign against certain so-called 'VIP paedophiles' , including Sir Edward Heath, Leon Brittain, and others, has been promoted by the online news organisation Exaro News.  Exaro's editor in chief is Mark Watts, a highly experienced journalist who, before setting up Exaro, had contributed stories to the Daily Telegraph.

Mathew Scott writes:
'In an internet trial there are no rules of evidence, no right to insist on answers to questions or even to know the identity of the accuser.  “Nick” is anonymous and as a result almost beyond criticism.  Why did he contact Exaro in the first place?  Did he seek them out, or did they go out and find him?  If the latter, why and how? Has he been paid for his story?  Exaro has not revealed.  Why did he wait until 2014 before contacting the police?  Why, for example, did he not do so in 1987 when Mr Proctor was very publicly implicated in what was then regarded as a “gay sex” scandal?  Why, as Mr Proctor asked, was a representative from Exaro permitted to be present when he was interviewed by the police?   Exaro, again, has not revealed.'

This short-circuiting of the legal process seems to be becoming all too common, in a letter in tomorrow's Rochdale Observer, a critic of the Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, Les May questions the politician's involvement with officers from the Leicester Police force who Mr. Danczuk in a speech to the House of Commons reported to be 'furious' at a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not to prosecute Lord Janner.  Mr. May who resides in the Rochdale area writes:
'On July 25, 2015, Mr Danczuk received a payment of £10,000 from the owners of The Sun for an article he had contributed to... [and] he declined to say which article the cash related to.'

Les May further points out that 'Mr Danczuk is MP for Rochdale, not a constituency that is within the Leicester Police area.' 
And he asks:
'Was the intention to use an extra judicial method of bring pressure on the DPP ...?'

In the case of Harvey Proctor last December the police officer leading the investigation, detective superintendent Kenny McDonald even announced on the BBC that he believed that the victim 'Nicks' allegations to be 'credible and true'

The journalist, Mathew Scott in the Telegraph, rightly questions this statement from a police officer:
'It was a disgraceful statement. McDonald's job is to investigate, not to judge and most certainly not to broadcast his opinion.  Expressing any opinion about the truthfulness of a witness would – as he knows perfectly well – be inadmissible and improper even in the controlled environment of a trial.  To announce on national television that you believe a suspect is guilty of multiple rape and murder, before a single body has been found, and months before speaking to Mr Proctor, suggests a mind-boggling level of prejudice and foolishness.'

While no laws may have been broken in either of these cases, and in the case of Mr Proctor there has been no technical breach because he has not been charged, but the spirit of fairness and justice is being damaged.  

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Nick Robinson & reporting politics

From Media Lens
THE BBC's Nick Robinson has made a career out of telling the public what leading politicians say and do; sometimes even what they 'think'. This stenography plays a key role in 'the mainstream media', given that a vital part of statecraft is to keep the public suitably cowed and fearful of threats from which governments must protect us. The 'free press' requires compliant journalists willing to disseminate elite-friendly messages about global 'peace', 'security' and 'prosperity', uphold Western ideology that 'we are the good guys', and not question power deeply, if at all.
But when a senior journalist complains of 'intimidation and bullying' by the public, making comparison's to 'Vladimir Putin's Russia', the mind really boggles at the distortion of reality. Those were claims made by Robinson, the BBC's outgoing political editor, using an appearance at the Edinburgh international book festival to settle a few scores.
As we noted on the eve of last year's referendum on Scottish independence, Robinson was guilty of media manipulation in reporting remarks made by Alex Salmond, then Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party. During a press conference, Robinson had asked Salmond a two-part question about supposedly solid claims made by company bosses and bankers - 'men who are responsible for billions of pounds of profits' - that independence would damage the Scottish economy. Not only did the full version of the encounter demonstrate that Salmond responded comprehensively, but he turned the tables on Robinson by calling into question the BBC's role as an 'impartial' public broadcaster. The self-serving report that was broadcast that night by Robinson on BBC News at Ten did not accurately reflect the encounter. Instead, the political editor summed it all up misleadingly as:
'He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting.'
But the public was able to compare Robinson's highly selective editing of Salmond's press conference with what had actually taken place. The episode sparked huge discussion across social media. It even led to public protests outside the BBC headquarters in Glasgow. Some called for Robinson to resign.The protests involved thousands of pro-independence campaigners, although Nicola Sturgeon, Salmond's then deputy and now leader of the SNP, distanced her party from the demonstration outside the BBC when she 'emphasised it was not organised by the official Yes Scotland campaign'. The Glasgow protest was but one episode in a bigger picture of considerable public dissent against BBC News; indeed, against corporate news bias generally.
The outcome of the September 2014 referendum, following frantic propaganda campaigns to block Scottish independence by the main political parties, big business and corporate media - akin to what we are seeing today with the establishment targetting Jeremy Corbyn - was 55 per cent 'No' and 45 per cent 'Yes'.
Now Robinson, promoting his latest book 'Election Diary', has spoken out about what happened when his reporting was exposed for what it was:
'Alex Salmond was using me to change the subject. Alex Salmond was using me as a symbol. A symbol of the wicked, metropolitan, Westminster classes sent from England, sent from London, in order to tell the Scots what they ought to do.
'As it happens I fell for it. I shouldn't have had the row with him which I did, and I chose a particular phrase ["He didn't answer, but he did attack the reporting."] we might explore badly in terms of my reporting and that is genuinely a sense of regret.'
So Robinson's distorted reporting, caught and exposed in public, led merely to 'a sense of regret' which 'we might explore badly'.
He then launched a bizarre attack on the public:
'But as a serious thought I don't think my offence was sufficient to justify 4,000 people marching on the BBC's headquarters, so that young men and women who are new to journalism have, like they do in Putin's Russia, to fight their way through crowds of protesters, frightened as to how they do their jobs.'
The hyperbole continued:
'We should not live with journalists who are intimidated, or bullied, or fearful in any way.'
And yet, in June, Robinson had played down the alleged bullying as ineffectual:
'In reality I never felt under threat at all'.
Given that the protest was triggered by Robinson's propaganda, one wonders to what extent the 'young men and women who are new to journalism' at the BBC were 'intimidated, or bullied, or fearful', or whether this was more tragicomic bias from Robinson. Needless to say, Robinson was silent about how the corporate media routinely acts as an echo chamber for government propaganda, scaremongering the public about foreign 'enemies' and security 'threats'.
A couple of days later, Salmond responded to Robinson.  He told the Dundee-based Courier newspaper: 
'The BBC's coverage of the Scottish referendum was a disgrace.
'It can be shown to be so, as was Nick's own reporting of which he should be both embarrassed and ashamed.'
Salmond continued:
'To compare, as Nick did last week, 4000 Scots peacefully protesting outside BBC Scotland as something akin to Putin's Russia is as ludicrous as it is insulting.
'It is also heavily ironic given that the most commonly used comparison with the BBC London treatment of the Scottish referendum story was with Pravda, the propaganda news agency in the old Soviet Union.'
The Guardian then gave ample space to Robinson to respond to Salmond with an ill-posed defence of the BBC's slanted coverage of the independence debate. This was amplified by a news piece by Jane Martinson, head of media at the Guardian, about the 'row' between the two.
'The BBC', declaimed Robinson, 'must resist Alex Salmond's attempt to control its coverage'.  In fact, Salmond had rightly pointed out that the BBC's broadcasting had been biased and 'a disgrace'; a view held by many people in Scotland and beyond. Robinson's pompous response was that, all too often, politicians 'simply do not understand why the nation's broadcaster doesn't see the world exactly as they do.'  Case dismissed.
The BBC political editor then fell back on the old canard that complaints from both sides implied that reporting had been balanced: 
'There were many complaints about our coverage of the Scottish referendum – although interestingly just as many came from the No side as the Yes.'
Deploying this fallacious argument means that the strong evidence of bias against 'Yes' need not be examined (see, for example, this book and short film by Professor John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland). In its place, Robinson paints a heroic picture of himself and the BBC rejecting demands from 'politicians' to 'control' news reporting. Robinson declared his unshakeable confidence in: 
'the BBC's high journalistic standards, which are recognised around the world'.
This is precisely the attitude one would expect from someone who is rewarded handsomely for thinking the right thoughts about their employer.
 Submitted by Trevor Hoyle

Jeremy Corbyn & 'Women Only'

by Les May
THE suggestion that Jeremy Corbyn will back the introduction of 'women only' carriages at night suggests he isn't the vehicle to a different kind of Labour party that his supporters have been eager to believe.  This is just the kind of 'shopping list' politics we have been hearing from Labour for years where some bright spark thinks that announcements favouring one interest group or other will secure votes.


I want to be able to vote for a Labour candidate who understands that its people of both sexes, all skin colours, all religious affiliation or none, of any sexual orientation or none, who are affected by problems of inequality, low wages, zero hours contracts and unaffordable housing, who want to be protected by a union, who can fall ill or become disabled, who will become old and need care, and who are frustrated by a lousy railway system.  I hoped Corbyn might offer this.


But now I come to think of it the writing was on the wall in his leaflet to members which promised 'Straight talking, honest politics'.  The endorsement from Cat Smith MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood focused entirely on issues related to women who make up just 50% of the population.  That from Mike Jackson, founding member, 'Lesbians and Gay Men Support the Miners' included his belief that Corbyn was a supporter of LGBT rights, a group that make up a much smaller percentage of the population.


You cannot build a progressive party based upon the politics of identity.  Our identity is what divides us from other people.  To weld us together we each have to submerge it a little to make room for the identity of others.


By comparison with Yvette Cooper, Corbyn is a lucky man.  In the 'i' for 19 August Sarah Solemani endorsed Cooper because her policies included 'implementing buffer zones around abortion clinics where violence and intimidation are rife... '.  So which country would this be Sarah?

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Nick Parnell's Pious Proposal

Blacklisting & Bury MBC: 'Get Me Mr. Toasty'
Councillor Nick Parnell
BURY Council as part of its mission to 'Raise Awareness of Affordable Warmth and Fuel Poverty' has contracted with Carillion, a company now facing charges of blacklisting building workers in the High Court, to roll out a program of providing winter warmth to the most needy areas of Bury.  This is all part of the Greater Manchester Green Deal that is currently developing.  The four high priority areas have been identified as Bury East, Moorside, Radcliffe East and West, Redvales.
Bury Council ranked first out of Carillion's three Local Authority partners:  Manchester City Council and Trafford Council are also involved with Carillion.  A report from Bury Council states that during 'Bury Light Night ... Mr Toast was wrapped in an energy efficient LED lighting to fit in the theme of the night [and] carried out doorknocking ... with the support of Groundwork, GMEAS (Greater Manchester Energy Advice Scheme) and [the blacklist company] Carillion.'
As all this exciting activity with Mr Toast and Carillion was going on at various Bury locations around Ramsbottom and beyond, the Labour controlled Bury Council was considering a proposal presented by the Labour Councillor Nick Parnell which notes:
'The practice of blacklisting is illegal, immoral and reprehensible.  In some cases this practice has led to long term unemployment for those who have been “blacklisted” for nothing more tha representing their fellow workers. [and that] More recently, companies who are known to have blacklisted trade unionists are now tendering for and procuring public contracts throughout councils in England.'
Councillor Parnell's proposal called upon Bury Council 'to take such steps as are lawful... and to refer this matter to the Leader and Director of Resources and Regulations to consider how best the objectives of the motion can be taken forward.'
So much for an ethical procurement policy in Bury when it comes to Mr Toast and Carillion.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Shameside Labour exposed over links to 'Blacklisting' construction companies!

Unapologetic - Kieran Quinn

REPORTS have reached Northern Voices that all is not well with the contract cleaners who have recently been sacked, following the closure of the council offices in Ashton-under-Lyne.  It seems that some of the cleaners who were working for the agency 'Sky Blue', have been dismissed without receiving notice and holiday pay, which they say, is owing to them.

The hideous and monstrous looking building, which is situated on Wellington Street, has been closed and is awaiting demolition as part of a remodernization plan by Tameside Council, aimed at cutting jobs and services to save money.

Sky Blue, is owned by the construction company Carillion, who are now responsible for estate and management services involving the maintenance of council buildings, cleaning, and caretaking.  The construction company, which is classed as a 'partner' by the council, also sponsors two academy schools in Tameside and runs the cafe in Stamford Park, Ashton-under-Lyne.  They are also involved in the provision of school meals for children attending schools in the Tameside area.

Tameside's links to both Carillion and the construction company Kier, has proved to be controversial. Both construction companies were linked to a secretive and clandestine organisation known as the Consulting Association, that operated a 'blacklist' of known trade union activists working within the British building trade, on behalf of 44 construction companies.

In 2009, the offices of the Association were raided by officials working for the Information Commissioner, who discovered blacklisting files (an illegal database), containing the personal details of over 3,200 construction workers.  Both Carillion and Kier, are two of eight construction companies that are currently being sued in the High Court, for being part of an unlawful conspiracy to blacklist construction workers.  Blacklisting files also show that the Carillion-owned Sky Blue employment agency, was also involved in blacklisting.

Although it has been illegal for over 35-years to dismiss a worker for his or her trade union activities, blacklisting also contravenes Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights which relates to privacy and Article 11, which relates to freedom of association.

It is known that between October 1999 and April 2004, Carillion paid the Association, over £32,000 for vetting construction workers. In June 2012, the GMB trade union, published a report on blacklisting - 'BLACKLISTING - ILLEGAL CORPORATE BULLYING - ENDEMIC, SYSTEMATIC AND DEEP-ROOTED IN CARILLION AND OTHER COMPANIES'.  The report was sent to every Labour councillor in the country with a covering letter from GMB General Secretary, Paul Kenny.  In 2013, the GMB union, started legal proceedings against Carillion for conspiracy and defamation.

Although Carillion claim that they ceased to use the services of the Association in 2004, they were still being sent invoices in 2009 and their main contact, Liz Keates, continued to receive mail outs. Crown House, part of the Carillion group, also maintained its subscription.

In evidence given in the case of Smith (Dave Smith) v Carillion in January 2012, at the Central London Employment Tribunal, Carillion admitted that two of its subsidiaries, John Mowlem and Schal International, had 'penalised' Smith for being a trades unionist.  He was victimized for highlighting safety hazards on sites including asbestos. Dave Smith has said that within a year of being put on the blacklist, his earnings fell from £36,000 a-year to £12,000 a-year, and his children finished up claiming milk tokens.

In evidence given to to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee(SASC), who launched an inquiry into blacklisting in June 2012, Alan Wainwright, a blacklister turned whistleblower, confirmed that Carillion had operated a blacklist and that he'd discussed the blacklist with Frank Duggan, the group personnel director for Carillion.  At the Labour Party conference held in Brighton in September 2013, Carillion was expelled from the conference after delegates objected to their presence because of their links to the Consulting Association and blacklisting.

In March 2014, the SASC, said that it was up to the state at a national, devolved or local level, to ensure that blacklisting did not recur by using its leverage as a contractor.  Firms, it argued, had to demonstrate they had 'self-cleansed' - 'cleaned-up, owned-up, and paid-up', before being awarded public contracts.

The Welsh government has told its public bodies that firms can be excluded from public contracts under the 'Public Contracts Regulations 2006', because blacklisting can amount to grave misconduct. The Scottish government has told its public bodies that they can end contracts if firms are found to be blacklisting or discriminating against trade union members.  In March 2014, the Northern Ireland Assembly agreed to similar rules.

Despite damning evidence linking Carillion with the odious practice of blacklisting, the Labour controlled council in Tameside, Greater Manchester, have refused to answer questions about their links with Carillion.  In August 2011, Brian Bamford, Secretary of Tameside Trades Council, wrote to Kieran Quinn, the Labour leader of the council, asking why the council was awarding public contracts to a company that had links to the Consulting Association. Blacklisted electricians, also picketed sites in Tameside being run by Carillion, which attracted the attention of the local press.  To date, neither Quinn or the council have responded to either the press or Trades Council about this matter.

Yet, in October 2011, (two months after Bamford's first letter and the protest action by blacklisted trades unionists), Quinn, as Chairman of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund (GMPF), was proudly announcing that Carillion had won a £60m contract to build a mixed-use development in St Peter's Square, Manchester, as part of a development between 'Argent' and the Greater Manchester Property Venture Fund, which is part of the GMPF. Quinn, (a former CWU union official), told the press:

'We underwent a vigorous and lengthy process to ensure that the right contractor was selected for the construction of One St Peter's square. Experience, reputation and ability to deliver, were of paramount importance, as we are committed to ensuring that this is a very high quality scheme and that it is completed within the projected time.'

As for Carillion's reputation, which Mr Quinn speaks so highly of, we would suggest that both the council leader and the disgruntled and unpaid cleaners from the Tameside council offices, might benefit from speaking to the GMB trade union about their experiences of Carillion.  GMB members working for Carillion at Swindon Hospital, low-paid ancillary workers, mainly from Goa in India, complained of racist bullying, corruption and bribery.  Ten of them found themselves disciplined and their union reps targeted.  The GMB workers went on strike for 21 days.  They were all employed by Carillion which built and runs Swindon Hospital under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).  The blacklisting files show that Carillion blacklisted workers during the construction of Swindon Hospital.

TUC Slams Proposed Ban on Social Media

by Les May
FRANCES O'Grady General Secretary of the TUC recently told the BBC that plans drawn up alongside the Trade Union Bill could force unions to give two weeks notice if they plan to use Twitter and Facebook accounts to campaign while members are on strike.  A consultation document linked to the proposed Trade Union bill suggests unions taking industrial action must give notice of 'whether it will be using social media, specifically Facebook, Twitter, blogs, setting up websites and what those blogs and websites will set out'.  Ministers have said that any restrictions will not apply to posts by individuals.

My first thought when a trades union friend told me of this was, 'this is a boat that won't float'.

In 2011 social media were widely credited with being a decisive element in the 'Arab Spring'.  Even a Tory government is unlikely to want to be compared unfavourably with the then Tunisian and Egyptian governments. In the minds of  many people it will seem but a short step to a ban on unions advertising in newspapers or giving interviews to journalists when a strike is pending.

The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) doesn't only protect human rights it also protects fundamental freedoms. When it was drafted in 1950 by the newly formed Council of Europe (of which the UK is a member) social media weren't even a twinkle in someone's eye. But if unrestricted access to social media is considered to be one of those fundamental freedoms then the UK government could find itself arguing its case in the European Court of Human Rights.

Repealing the 1998 Human Rights Act, which some Tories would dearly like to do, will not help them here because ECHR came into force on 3 September 1953.

Much of the praise for the part played by social media in 2011 appeared to me both uncritical and shallow.  Reliance upon the anonymity of the Internet and World Wide Web is itself a two edged sword because it is easy to create fictitious accounts on Twitter and Facebook which are then used to post misleading information.  The Rochdale Online news site claims that during the 2010 election campaign Matthew Baker was exposed as having a number of accounts on internet forums and using those accounts to support Tory Lite MP Simon Danczuk and attack his opponents and critics.  (I just love the slang term for people who do this, 'sock puppet'.  It's so... appropriate.)

If the government 'consultation' results in legislation I doubt that anti-union campaigners will be able to resist the temptation to 'fit up' unions by concocting fake web sites, blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Wouldn't that make the government look silly in court!

Friday, 21 August 2015

'The Crucible' at Manchester Royal Exchange

The Crucible
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Caroline Steinbeis
Designed by Max Jones
Friday 18 Sept – Saturday 24 Oct

CAROLINE Steinbeis will make her main-stage debut at the Royal Exchange Theatre with her new production of Arthur Miller’s classic THE CRUCIBLE. This follows her critically acclaimed, MTA award-winning production in The Studio of BRILLIANT ADVENTURES, Alistair McDowall’s Bruntwood Prize-winning play. Jonjo O’Neill as John Proctor, Matti Houghton (who returns following her title role in ANTIGONE) as Elizabeth Proctor and Rachel Redford as Abigail Williams lead a cast of 19 in Steinbeis’ stripped-back version of this epic drama.  The production runs from 18 September24 October, during the Centenary year of Miller’s birth.
THE CRUCIBLE resonates strongly in 2015 and the echoes of Salem reverberate across our world today. The play puts on trial the notion of social and political paranoia in a world of dwindling stability and certainty. Today, in the throes of asylum crises, economic collapse, leadership debates and cuts to public spending, social structures continue to be questioned whilst people's sense of powerlessness is growing ever stronger, making Miller's drama troublingly relevant for 21st Century Britain.
Steinbeis comments….
It is with shock and awe that I realise how close we all stand to the abyss; how easily a group of people can turn on each other if their circumstance is desperate enough.
Betty Parris lies in a trance after a childish game spins out of control, and accusations of witchcraft are quickly manipulated by those with something to gain. However, when false allegations reach fever pitch, the devout community of Salem descends into a cauldron of hysteria it can never return from. THE CRUCIBLE is a devastating portrayal of the human cost of tyranny and vengeance.
Caroline Steinbeis was the recipient of the 2009 JMK Award. She has been on attachment at the National Theatre and participated in the Director's Course at the NT Studio. Caroline was International Associate at the Royal Court Theatre under Dominic Cooke. Recent credits include: WE WANT YOU TO WATCH (National Theatre), THE BROKEN HEART (Globe Theatre), SHOW 6 (Lyric Theatre), AND I DON'T CARE HOW YOU ARE DOING ANYMORE (Molody Theatre, Kiev, Ukraine), TALK SHOW by Alistair McDowell and MINT by Claire Lizzimore (Royal Court Theatre), A TIME TO REAP (Royal Court Upstairs) and EARTHQUAKES IN LONDON by Mike Bartlett (Headlong Theatre Co/National Theatre UK Tour).
Jonjo O’Neill has worked regularly at The Royal Court and the RSC, recent credits include THE GET OUT, TALKSHOW, COLLABORATIONS and THE PRESIDENT HAS COME TO SEE YOU all for The Royal Court, THE EFFECT (National Theatre), Richard in RICHARD III for the RSC, AHASVERUS (RSC), SILENCE (RSC/Filter) and ROMEO AND JULIET (RSC). Television credits include CONSTANTINE (NBC), THE FALL (SERIES 2, BBC) and FORTITUDE (Sky Atlantic).
The cast for THE CRUCIBLE is completed by Sarah Amankwah, Paul Brightwell, Christopher Chilton, David Collings, Grace Cordell, Sam Cox, Alastair Gillies, Peter Guinness returns to the Exchange following his role in THE PIANIST, Leah Haile, Stephen Kennedy, Pepter Lunkuse, Mary Jo Randle, Roy Sampson, Tim Steed, Marjorie Yates and Ria Zmitrowicz
 THE CRUCIBLE - Listings Information
A Royal Exchange Theatre production
By Arthur Miller
Directed by Caroline Steinbeis
Designed by Max Jones

Royal Exchange Theatre from 18 September – 24 October
Evening Performances
Tue - Sat 7pm
Thu & Sat 2pm
Extra MatineesTue 29 Sep & Tue 13 Oct 2pm
New Sunday Performances4, 11 & 18 Oct 2pm
Extra Performances
Mon 21 Sep 7pm, Wed 14 Oct 5pm

Rochdale Mental Health Campaign Open Letter

Dear Northern Voices,

We would be extremely grateful if you could help syndicate our open Mental Health Campaign Group Letter to local Rochdale politicians in the hope we can maximize publicity on this vital local issue to our service users and the wider mental health community in and around Rochdale , Heywood and Middleton ?

To date only Mark Holinrake has replied and pledged his support.

Further wider syndication and media coverage would be a real boost to our campaign objectives,. Thank you.

Yours in solidarity,

Andrew  (Wastling).

Simon Danczuk  MP , Liz Mc Innes MP ,
Councillor Richard Farnell , Head of Rochdale Labour Group ,
Councillor Andrew Kelly , Head of Rochdale Liberal Democrat Group
Mark Hollinrake Rochdale and Oldham Green Group
Councillor Ashley Dearnley Leader of Rochdale Conservative Group


Rochdale Borough Users Forum
142 Drake Street
OL16 1PU

Simon Danczuk  MP , Liz Mc Innes MP ,
Councillor Richard Farnell , Head of Rochdale Labour Group ,
Councillor Andrew Kelly , Head of Rochdale Liberal Democrat Group
Mark Hollinrake Rochdale and Oldham Green Group
Councillor Ashley Dearnley Leader of Rochdale Conservative Group
Dear Elected Representative [s],
Could we the undersigned please take this opportunity to thank you for the excellent ongoing support you have given to people with mental health issues in the past.
Today we would like to draw your attention, if we may, to two pressing issues relating to people with mental health issues in Rochdale, Middleton & Heywood in the hope that you can all pledge your continued support to members of our mental health Service Users community, many of whom face great distress and anxiety over some elements of the governments Welfare Reform process.
Foremost in our minds is our growing concern that the proposed £31 MILLION pounds in cuts to Public Services at Rochdale Council which will without doubt impact disproportionately on vulnerable people with mental health issues, as well as many others within the wider community, that such cuts will have a massive direct impact upon.
Secondly we are deeply concerned that 100 people days [1] with mental health problems are having their Welfare benefits” sanctioned “– stopped for periods of time - by the Department of Work & Pensions [DWP].These sanctions have a massive impact on people already struggling with periods of unemployment. But as I am sure you will all be very aware the impact on people already struggling with mental health issues can be catastrophic.
We’d like to draw your attention to latest report from New Economy that records the latest DWP sanctions figures made available for the period 22 October until the 31 December 2013. These statistics lists Rochdale Job Centre, Fleece Street as having the third highest rate for sanctioning benefit claimants in the whole of Greater Manchester. Of the 4,078 people being sanctioned at Rochdale Job Centre 40% were sanctioned without being told why these sanctioned were imposed by Claimant Advisers.
Locally the figures break down at:
Rochdale Job Centre Plus, Fleece Street - 4,078
Middleton Jobcentre Plus - 1,484
Heywood Job Centre Plus, Taylor Street – 972
A total of 6534 in all. Across the Greater Manchester, the Manchester East & West area had 24,072 “adverse” sanctions. Of these the majority by far were in the 18-24 year age group totalling 246, 592 individuals. With 91,603 in the 25-29 year old age group.
Most worryingly across the whole of the United Kingdom there were 49,827 disabled people who were sanctioned by the DWP.
We are also firmly of the belief that:
“Sanctioning someone with a mental health problem for being late for a meeting is like sanctioning someone with a broken leg for limping [2] as well as being deeply worried at the latest DWP proposals to class Sanctioned Jobseekers with mental health issues as NOT vulnerable unless they have an accompanying physical health problem, as described in Welfare Weekly, “Sanctioned Job Seekers with Mental Health Problems are not “vulnerable” says DWP” – Weekly Welfare, 06. VIII, 2015– please see link at: [3].
Currently people suffering the most severe mental illnesses are likely to receive Employment and Support Allowance [ESA] and it is estimated that 23% of JSA claimants have a mental health condition.
Could we urge you to make public representations on our behalf to Rochdale Council to express our profound concerns at the proposed levels of cuts to services as well as to please ask the Department of Works & Pensions directly what guidelines they have in place to safeguard claimants with mental health issues, and the exact definition they use to identify those local claimants with mental health issues.
Your help with this would be very much appreciated by all of us. We would also very much welcome the opportunity to send a delegation of our newly relaunched Mental Health Campaign Group members  to meet with you personally at your earliest convenience that suits you to discuss these serious issues of concern to us. Thank you.
Yours faithfully
RACHEL GINNELLY   - CEO, Rochdale Borough Users Forum Chief Executive Office

MICK AYRTON -   Voice Programme Coordinator

RYAN COWAN Chair, RBUF Board of Trustees

MIKE JONES - Vice Chair RBUF Board of Trustees

DANIEL - RBUF Technical Assistant
NISBA - Project Assistant for RBUF


PETER WILDMAN – RBUF Mental Health Trainer / RBUF Rep

SARAH HARPER – RBUF Office Volunteer

Larissa Marshall – RBUF Service User

ANDREW WASTLING - Chair, Mental Health Campaigns Group

YASMIN KENYON - RBUF Housing & Homeless Rep

PETER WILDMAN – RBUF Mental Health Trainer / RBUF Rep

RASHIDA JORDAN - RBUF Service User / Volunteer

DONNA HOMES - RBUF Service User / Blue Pits Band

RICHARD OUTRAM – Policy & Research Adviser Liberal Democrat Group




NATASHA KIRBY – Rochdale Solutions – OL16

KATHTYN RENNIE -Rochdale Possibilities







SUSAN TURNER – REAG/ Cornerstone – OL2 7PY



[1]. “More than 100 mentally ill people a day have their benefits sanctioned “, The Independent – please see link at:

[3]. “Sanctioned Job Seekers with Mental Health Problems are not “vulnerable” says DWP” – Weekly Welfare, August VIII, 2015 – please see link at: