Saturday, 21 October 2017

Fire & Petrol at the Royal Exchange

ON entering the Manchester Royal Exchange yesterday, for the first time ever my plastic M&S shopping bag was perused for explosives.  I've been going to the Royal Exchange since it opened in the 1970s with 'The Prince of Homburg' by Heinrich von Kleist, and I've never experienced a bag search before.  The performance was to be 'Parliament Square' written by James Fritz and directed by Jude Christian.

If we'd been visiting some show be it film or theatre, that had been put on by the politically-correct softies on British left we might have been cautioned and pre-armed with trigger warnings before the kick-off.  Perhaps the Manchester bourgeoisie are bolder and made of sterner stuff than the local loco-lefties?

The blurb on the Box Office publicity flier says:  'How far would you go for what you believe in?'

Given that the Manchester Arena bombing only occurred on 22 May 2017, it may have been considered a bit risque to put this play on.  Although, the main character Kat is more in the style of a Buddhist Monk self-harming by dousing herself in petrol than Islamic extremist.

Raw, disturbing and compassionate, James Fritz’s searingly powerful play forces a confrontation with some of the most urgent questions we face.  What can one individual do to effect change?  And where do we choose to draw the line between absolute commitment and dangerous obsession? 

It's not that we come up here against the Kantian idea of a moral law* - The Categorical Imperative.  It's more about what we can we do to have impact on events and still stay sane?

*  The Kantian idea of a moral law:
For an action to be morally valid, you must only carry out that action if you believe all people should act in the same way.  If society acted exactly as you do, would this be morally acceptable?’

Income and Wealth. It’s a Carve Up

by Les May

There are estimated to be about 50 million adults, i.e. persons aged 18 or over, in the UK.   Based upon a sample 13,000 people the Financial Conduct Authority has identified a half of all adults, 25 million people, as potentially vulnerable to a change in circumstances.  About 13 million adults are considered to be just ‘surviving’ and at high risk of falling into financial difficulties. A similar number have been overdrawn in the past year and about 3 million have used an unauthorised overdraft.  For about the same number of adults expensive ‘pay day loans’ are the only way to make ends meet.  Seven million homeowners say they would struggle to pay if their mortgage rose by £100 a month.  A half of people who rent say they would struggle if their rent rose by less than £100 a month.

This is the bleak picture which emerges when one looks at the balance between income and expenditure.  A report by the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) has shown a similarly bleak picture with regard to the distribution of wealth in this country.

A quarter of adults have less than a £1000 in savings and one in eight adults have no cash savings whatsoever.  The wealthiest 10% of households own 45% of the country’s wealth and the least wealthy 50% own just 9%.  In cash equivalent terms that’s an average of £1,320,000 owned by each of the wealthiest 10% and an average of £3,200 by the bottom 50%. So much for the Tory vision of a ‘property owning democracy’ and of wealth ‘cascading down the generations’.

The picture all these numbers paint is that the UK is a country of vast inequality.  But if you are reeling at the onslaught of the numbers from these two reports don’t worry, you are unlikely to see much said about them in the press, even by those columnists and who like to style themselves a being ‘of the left’.  And of course some Labour politicians have far too much to worry about to bother their pretty little heads about something so mundane as inequality.

In the past ten days my paper has contained something about Harvey Weinstein on nine of them. Even the Radio Times got in on the act with a story about how an actress I had never heard of had been asked to audition in a bikini. Shock horror! There was me thinking that these women were all shrinking violets who shunned publicity.

Now I don’t doubt that there are men in the film business who think that ‘get your kit off’ is a chat up line. But if it offends you there is always the option of walking away.  And if think that will damage your career, then it’s decision time; career or virtue.  Yes it’s about power, but as Shakespeare didn’t quite put it, ‘Caesar would not be a wolf if the Romans were not sheep’.  As I said, it’s decision time ladies.

When I read stories like this the question I ask myself is ‘am I bovered’. The answer is ‘No!’.  Why should I concern myself with the goings on of a privileged few when I live in a country where 10% of the population each have 400 times the individual wealth of more than half of the rest of us?  Or when 3 million people have to take out ‘pay day loans’ at outrageous interest rates because they haven’t got a few hundred pounds in savings when a minor crisis arises.  What ‘power’ do these people have? What power has someone on a zero hours contract?

Yet the outrage is all about the dodgy goings on in Hollywood.  It’s certainly not about inequality. How many actresses have been propositioned in the US and UK I don’t know, but I can say with some certainty it won’t be in the millions.

Why is it that the Left is so unwilling to show its outrage at the inequity of British society?  Why is it that Harriet Harman, one time Deputy Leader of the Labour party, can seriously think that the biggest problem faced by society is that there aren’t any ‘whistle blowing hotlines’, so that women can complain about the Harvey Weinsteins of this world?  And just to remind you; Harman is the woman who urged Labour MPs not to oppose a Tory bill to cut benefits.

I’m still waiting for an answer to the question I posed in a recent NV article.

‘Why is it that people, and not just young people with their demands for ‘safe spaces’ and the like, cannot resist sniffing out and condemning anything they think smells of racism, sexism or homophobia, yet don’t show the same enthusiasm for combatting the rise in vast inequalities in both income and in wealth, the growth of zero hours contracts, the receding possibility that they will be able to live a dignified and not poverty filled old age, the demonisation of the poor as work shy scroungers, the lack of social housing and the increasing proportion of household income that is going to a new rentier class?’

I’m not looking to Harriet for an answer or to any of those columnists who style themselves as ‘of the Left’.

Friday, 20 October 2017

'Jubilee' at the Royal Exchange


The Royal Exchange Theatre presents


Adapted for the stage by Chris Goode
From the origianal screenplay by Derek Jarman and James Whaley 
Directed by Chris Goode
2 November - 18 November
Press Night: Tuesday 7 November, 7.30pm - The Theatre

A free-spirited, gloriously rude, take-no-prisoners blast of a show with a soundtrack to die for. Marking the 40th anniversary of Derek Jarman’s iconic film, the Royal Exchange’s world premiere of Chris Goode’s stage adaptation of JUBILEE is sure to appeal to young punks, old punks, and anyone who’s ever wanted to set the world on fire.
A marauding girl gang are on a killing spree and a time-travelling Queen Elizabeth I, played by original film cast member and legendary punk warrior Toyah Willcox, observes it all. An electrifying ensemble cast, including Lucy Ellinson as Ariel and Travis Alabanza as Amyl reimagine JUBILEE for a 2017 audience. A co-production with Chris Goode & Company this riot of a show will run from 2 – 18 November.
Chris Goode is a writer, director, performer and musician. Since 2011 Chris has been lead artist of Chris Goode & Company, with whom his work has included two (of his four) Fringe First award-winning shows: MEN IN THE CITIES and MONKEY BARS. Other projects with the company include WANTED, EVERY ONE, WEAKLINGS, and THE ADVENTURES OF WOUND MAN AND SHIRLEY. Outside of CG&Co he has made work for and with National Theatre of Scotland, Theatre Uncut, the Royal Court, Headlong, Tate Modern, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and Sydney International Festival among many others. Chris currently directs the all-male performance ensemble Ponyboy Curtis.
Toyah Willcox has avoided categorisation for 41 years. She is an award-winning singer/ songwriter/ actress with multiple silver/gold/platinum albums under her belt. Toyah's career started at the National Theatre when she was 18, where she formed her first band named TOYAH and took the punk scene by storm, even managing to avoid categorisation within the movement, and successfully pushed out the boundaries for women in music. She met Derek Jarman in 1977 and they became loyal friends. In the original film JUBILEE Toyah played Mad the Pyromaniac, a role she created with Jarman's blessing. Toyah continues to sing to sell out audiences and has a passion for British Film, acting in recent films such as AAAAAAAAH!, EXTREMIS, HOUND, SWIPERIGHT, and TO BE SOMEONE.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Spain to suspend Catalan autonomy

Holly EllyattCorrespondent,
SPAIN's central government has said it will move to suspend Catalonia's autonomy after the regional leader failed to drop a bid for independence.
In a statement on Spain's government website Thursday morning, Madrid said that the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont had refused to comply with a request to confirm whether the region had declared independence.
Consequently, it said it would "continue with the procedures provided for in Article 155 of the constitution to restore legality in the self-government of Catalonia." Meaning, the government is set to meet Saturday to propose measures to strip Catalonia of some powers and officially trigger Article 155 of the Constitution.
Puigdemont was given until 10 a.m. local time Thursday (4 a.m. ET) to withdraw the declaration of independence he made — albeit ambiguously — last week.
Before the deadline passed Puigdemont said the regional parliament could vote on a formal declaration of independence from Spain if no talks were held between Catalonia and Madrid. He again failed to clarify whether the region had declared independence.

Equivocal response

Puigdemont refused to clarify his government's intentions at an earlier deadline on Monday, at which point the Spanish government gave him one last chance to retract his equivocal response.
With no last-minute change of heart, Rajoy has said he will invoke Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution — its "nuclear option" that would allow Madrid to take control of the region, following approval from the Spanish Senate.
The effects of Article 155 are not likely to be felt for several days due to it requiring approval from the upper house of parliament. The unprecedented triggering of Article 155 is a constitutional crisis for Spain, however, and is likely to spook financial markets. There could also be more social unrest in the wealthy northeastern region.

Crisis a long-time coming

The current political crisis facing Catalonia and Spain has been long-coming. There has been a strong sense of separatism and regional identity in Catalonia, a wealthy region in the northeast of Spain, for decades. There have also been several unrecognized and unofficial referenda on independence in recent years.
The latest vote took place October 1 — 90 percent of 2.26 million regional voters opted for independence. Turnout was low at around 43 percent, however, and thousands of Catalans also took to the streets to protest against independence.
Puigdemont caused confusion following the vote by appearing to declare independence and then immediately suspend it, calling for dialogue with Spain, a request so far denied. His request for the European Union to mediate in the dispute has also fallen on deaf ears with the EU supporting the Rajoy government and saying it would not recognize an independent Catalonia.

Holly EllyattCorrespondent,

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Freedom Press Cartoons at Bradford*

Freedom Press cartoons on exhibition in Bradford
from Donald Rooum (former Friend of Freedom Press)
THE Peace Museum in Bradford is currently hosting an exhibition ‘Cartoons For Peace’ including at least two Freedom Press books.
The March to Death, a book of anti-war cartoons was first published by Freedom Press in defiance of war-time censorship in 1943. The drawings are by John Olday illustrating quotations chosen anonymous by Marie-Louise Berneri. The edition on display, with an introduction and notes, was published in 1995.
Wildcat Anarchists Against Bombs, by Donald Rooum, was published by Freedom Press in 2003 for the Defence and Security Exhibition International (arms trade) fair.
Anti-war and anarchist cartoons, by many artists from around the world include original drawings of Donald Rooum’s cartoons for Peace News in the 1960s.
The Peace Museum is at 10 Piece Hall Yard, Bradford BD1 1PJ,           
telephone 01274 770 241,
open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, 10am to 4pm, admission free.
‘Cartoons For Peace’, a temporary exhibition, opened on 18 October 2017.
No closing date has yet been announced. 

*   The cartoonist and former Friend of Freedom Press, Donald Rooum, who sent us the above e-mail may not be aware that his colleagues on the Freedom Press Collective  issued the statement below on the 23th, June 2016.  This statement apparently drafted by Simon Saunders, the one-time East Anglian privately educated schoolboy, who now juggles his job as part-time Freedom Editor with his real career as a Morning Star hired hack,  attempts to blacklist the 'Northern Four', Martin Gilbert, Barry Woodling, Brian Bamford and Chris Draper, who are all heavily associated with Northern Voices.
This doesn't say much for the ability of Freedom Press and Simon Saunders to influence 'progressive outlets' yo ban us, or for the coherence of the comrade anarchists in carrying out Simon Saunder's wishes.

Freedom Collective Statement on Brian Bamford | Freedom Press Their brand of disruptive, bullying, self-aggrandising tantrum-throwing is unacceptable and should not be given any support by anarchist or progressive organisations. In our view they should not be welcome in anarchist spaces nor published in the anarchist outlets – they are persona non grata in our eyes. We hope other organisations will support us in rejecting their toxic approach.

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Appeal to support jobs at Bombardier

                  We have lunched a Petition That calls on government must act to defend Jobs & Skills at Bombardier, Northern Ireland

·       As the UK is the second biggest Boeing client globally. We call on the government to follow-through on their words and use their leverage to defend UK jobs from US protectionism; to compel Boeing to withdraw their meritless case and lift the threat hanging over thousands of Northern Ireland workers.

Our Target is over 100,000 signatures, Link to the Petition is below, please sign and share with as many family and friends as you can. Current signatures at 3,621 after great work from our Unite workplace representatives over the weekend, but this will take all our support.
The UK is the second biggest Boeing client globally. We call on the government to follow-through on their words and use their leverage to defend UK jobs from US ...

Also colleagues we are trying to keep our workforces concerns in the public domain, so can you all please use your social media follow and retweet etc Unite the Union NI is on both Facebook and Twitter @UniteunionNI . If we could manage over 1000 retweets / likes etc it would keep the focus on our issues.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Protests at Arrest of Catalan Separatists

TENs of thousands have gathered in Barcelona for a candlelit protest after two leaders of the Catalan separatist movement were jailed.
Jordi Sánchez and Jordi Cuixart are being held without bail while they are under investigation for sedition.
The men were leading figures in the disputed 1 October independence vote, which Madrid has branded illegal.
Spain's Constitutional Court appeared to back central government's position on Tuesday, ruling the vote void.
It had initially suspended the law used by Catalan authorities to call the referendum.
However, Catalan government spokesman Jordi Turull suggested neither the court decision nor the imprisonment of Mr Sánchez and Mr Cuixart was going to stop the drive for independence, telling reporters "surrender is not something this government is considering".

Fake News or What?

By Les May

‘EX-MP set up deal to keep sex abuse secret’ screams the half page headline on the front page of today’s Rochdale Observer. Look inside and it’s just a claim made by Martin Digan to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.   A claim for which by his own admission he has absolutely no evidence.

Digan claims that a deal was struck between Cyril Smith, the late Jim Dobbin and Colin Lambert, in which Smith would ‘keep quiet’ about ‘a serious offence against a child in a public toilet’ supposedly perpetrated by an un-named Rochdale Council leader, in return for Dobbin and Lambert keeping quiet about sexual abuse at Knowl View.  He also claims to have given a ‘dossier’ about the abuse to Dobbin.  As is all too frequent when claims are made about Smith and Knowl View we are kept in the dark about when these events are supposed to have taken place.  And ‘when’ is critical in evaluating the likelihood that any of this might be true.

We’ll return to the ‘dossier’ later, but just to clarify, Jim Dobbin was Labour MP for Heywood and Middleton from 1997 to his untimely death in 2014.  He had previously been a Rochdale councillor from 1984, Labour leader from 1994 and Leader of the Council from 1996.  Colin Lambert was a Labour councillor and worked in Jim Dobbin’s constituency office.  He later became leader of the Labour group and delivered a stunning electoral result in 2014 before finding himself displaced by the present incumbent.

Now we’ve met Mr Digan before. In the section of Simon Danczuk’s 2014 book where he claims that Smith was sexually abusing the pupils at Knowl View Special School, Digan is the prime witness. I say ‘witness’, but in fact Danczuk writes that although he had been at the school since the late 1970’s he ‘was oblivious to what was happening at the school’ ‘Oblivious’ or not, it didn’t stop him claiming in Danczuk’s book that ‘boys were sold to paedophile gangs’.  Nor can we consider him to be the most reliable of witnesses.   The story about an event at Knowl View he told in a Radio 4 programme was subtly different from the same story which appears in Danczuk’s book.

As for the ‘dossier’, it’s a favourite term in the Cyril Smith/Knowl View saga, which seems to cover everything from a handwritten note of a short telephone conversation twenty years earlier, upwards. It consisted of copies of two reports one made by Aids worker Philip Shepherd and the other by psychologist Valerie Mellor, which Digan found in the Headmaster’s office and which had previously been submitted to Rochdale Council in 1991 and 1992.

So how likely is it that Digan’s claim about a ‘deal’ has any merit?   In cases like this it helps to ask who stood to gain? Certainly not Labour. From 1986 to 1992 Labour was running the council.  Any revelations about sexual abuse at Knowl View would have have had to be answered by them.  So why would they need any deal as an inducement to keep quiet?  I have seen the Shepherd report and can state categorically that it makes no reference to Smith.  Though I know the contents of the Mellor report I have not seen it in full, but I have been assured by someone who sees themselves as fighting for ‘justice’ for the ex-pupils of Knowl View that it makes no reference to Smith.

Digan likes to be seen as a ‘whistleblower’. Had he confined himself to trying to get the Shepherd and Mellor reports published and in the public domain so that we could see for ourselves what had been happening at Knowl View I would have felt that such a label was justified as that is what I want to see myself because these reports contain information about some very unsavoury goings on between some of the pupils at Knowl View. But, as his present claims show, he hasn’t.

In Danczuk’s book he lets himself be used as a tool for Danczuk to fashion his claims about Cyril Smith and Knowl View school. Now he’s gone freelance.   But apart from the story of ‘a deal’, the best he can come up with at the inquiry is that he had often seen Smith bouncing young boys on his knee during parties held on the premises to coincide with governors meetings.  So no ‘smoking gun‘ then?

No doubt he told the police all this when he was interviewed as part of the ‘Operation Clifton’ investigation.   The fact that the police concluded there was no evidence of a ‘cover up’ at Knowl View suggests in the absence of evidence of ‘a deal’ they did not take take the claim seriously. Claims like this just make the inquiry look like an amateurish shambles.

Russian Revolution in Somerset

Subject: The Russian Revolution in Somerset

Bridgwater Trades Union Council is hosting a special public discussion to mark the October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia.
Date: Tuesday October 31st. Time: 7pm. Venue: The Engine Room, 50-52 High St, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3BL
The meeting is part of the Engine Room's "Bridgwater Together" celebrations, running from Saturday October 28th to Saturday 4th November.
From Tuesday 31st to Saturday November 4th, the Russian Revolution theme continues with an Engine Room exhibition of rare and original Soviet Posters and photographic magazines, organised and curated by Bridgwater's Irena Brezowski.
Dave Chapple, Bridgwater TUC Secretary, said:
For millions of people throughout the twentieth century, and for many thousands of socialists in our country today, the overthrow of Kerensky's Government by the Bolsheviks, led by Lenin, Trotsky, and Kamenev in October 1917, was a world-changing, inspiring and liberating event.
October 1917 was hailed by most shades of left-wing opinion in Britain: the militant shop stewards and syndicalists, South Wales miners, Glasgow engineers, the Socialist Labour Party, the British Socialist Party, Sylvia Pankhurst, John Maclean, and many like George Lansbury in the Independent Labour Party. During the next few years it was British Labour's strike threats against Lloyd George's war-mongering  that helped to ensure that the besieged fledgling "soviet" state survived.
However, even before Lenin's death in 1924, many previous admirers world-wide, begun to have doubts about the policies and direction of the new state.
As Lenin and Trotsky gave way to Joseph Stalin's murderous dictatorship, and right down until 1989, millions of workers in the Soviet Union and its satellites developed negative, critical or hostile attitudes to communist state authority, attitudes which led some Russians and Eastern Europeans after 1989 to seek intellectual consolation or refuge in the bright lights of western consumer capitalism.
In Bridgwater today, still Somerset's premier working-class town, live hundreds of unrepentant and dedicated local socialists, and they are working alongside hundreds of migrant workers from Eastern Europe, including many Russian speakers from Lithuania. Local trades unions have welcomed migrant workers into membership and some are already shop stewards. Of course, many migrant workers retain personal or family memories of pre-1989 days, and so will have their own views on communism and October 1917. 
This is why Bridgwater TUC's  public meeting on October  31st is being organised as a serious discussion between different opinions and perspectives,  and not a celebration.’
Speakers are Liz Payne, President of the Communist Party of Britain; Dave Chapple, Secretary of Bridgwater TUC; and Irena Brezowski, a Bridgwater College lecturer who has family and personal links to the old Soviet Union.
Tuesday October 31st, 7pm, The Engine Room, 50-52 High St, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 3BL
Please pass this invite onto any of your contacts who might be interested.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Abused lad claims he was punished for whistleblowing on Cyril Smith

A FORMER student at the Knowl View part-time residential school for boys has claimed that he was punished by his headmaster for accusing the then Governor of the school Cyril Smith of child abuse, the ongoing inquiry into abuse heard today.
The witness, who cannot be named, told the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, that Cyril Smith touched him inappropriately when he 10-years-old in the staff room at Knowl View.
He was placed at the residential school for boys in 1969 in a shared dormitory called 'Nirvana' with older boys.
He said, that the then headmaster, John Turner, 'spanked him on the backside' in front of the other boys in the school gym.  And he added that Mr. Turner accused him of 'trying to ruin the man's career'.
He was sent to other institutions, he believed as another punishment.
He later returned to Knowl View before leaving aged 16.
The witness claimed he was sexually assaulted by other older lads at the school.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

David Swallow & the early miner's union

TWENTY eight people attended a Wakefield Socialist History Group meeting on the history of the Yorkshire Miners at the Red Shed in Wakefield on Saturday.
The first speaker, Ken Capstick (former Vice President of the Yorkshire NUM), gave a fascinating account of the life of David Swallow.
Swallow was born at East Ardsley, Wakefield in 1817.   He is credited with being the founder of the first national miners' union -meeting were held at the Griffin Inn, Northgate in Wakefield.   He also played a leading role in the first national miners' strike in 1844.
Ken argued that Swallow was an organiser of "rare quality" and a great orator who drew large crowds wherever he spoke.  It is "time to recognise and honour a great miners' leader who did not receive the recognition he deserved during his lifetime."
The second speaker, radical historian Alan Brooke, then spoke about working conditions in collieries particularly around Huddersfield in the 19th century.
He noted that hurries -as vital to the operation of colleries as the colliers themselves- were "invariably children or women" and their job was to "push or pull the corves full of coal to the pit bottom."   One hurrier, John Dixon -later Secretary of the West Yorkshire Miners' Association- started work in a pit at Briestfield in 1835 at the age of 7!
Alan -who has a website Underground Histories- also spoke about various reforms/ innovations such as the safety lamp, pit ponies, Mine Inspectors and checkweighmen.
The speeches were followed by a lively discussion session with questions in particular about Swallow's life after he was deposed as a miners leader.
The next Group event, a meeting on the Bolshevik Revolution, is on Saturday 11 November 1pm again at the Red Shed.

Alan Stewart
Convenor Wakefield Socialist History Group

Don't Short Circuit Justice!

 Harvey Weinstein & Natural Justice
by Les May

ON Thursday morning as we sat sipping our coffee on Todmorden Inside Market my wife commented ‘It seems to be open season on Harvey Weinstein’.  As I had never heard of him I could only say ‘Who’s he’?

My ignorance was short lived.   Bang on the front page of my paper was a picture of a somewhat unprepossessing chap, with a younger woman on each arm, which raised in my mind the question of whether they had first been attracted to him for his good looks.

My wife was right.  After several actresses had accused him of making unwanted sexual advances to them it seemed the journalistic equivalent of the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, plus uncle Tom Cobley and all, immediately decided the women must be telling the truth and decided to ‘give him a good kicking’.   To add an element of farce Harvey decided to check into ‘rehab’ for treatment for sex addiction.

It wasn’t just the journalists. ‘Our Treeza’ decided to get in on the act too.   There was talk of him losing his British CBE and the Oscar board have convened an ‘emergency meeting’.   Phew!

But it’s not all bad news for Harvey.  He got lucky; the police in Britain and the USA have said they will investigate.    That means his accusers will have to make formal statements.  If they are telling porkies they’ll be found out.  He’ll know exactly what he is accused of.  He’ll be innocent until proven guilty. The women will have to interrupt their ‘busy schedules’ to turn up in court.  The legal process will take its course.   (Actually I don’t believe that last sentence; it will end up with a plea bargain.   Followed by a lot of articles about how ‘the system’ let down women yet again.)

Unfortunately it’s not just where ‘celebs’ are involved that there is an eagerness to short circuit the protection the law affords both to the accuser and the accused in interpersonal disputes where ultimately it boils down to nothing more than ‘his word against hers’.

It is becoming the norm that in universities, larger companies, trades unions and the like, these kinds of dispute are dealt with internally in what can most charitably be described as the most amateurish way, by people who have little grasp of the rules of evidence or much concern for natural justice.

Natural justice really boils down to common sense.  Here are some ground rules.
Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.  In other words no-one has to ‘prove’ their innocence.
The accused person should be informed of the specific charges against them and the name of their accuser.
The accused person should have the opportunity to cross-examine the accuser and vice versa.
The same goes for any witnesses, be they for the accuser or for theaccused. If an organisation uses a panel of people to investigate an incident, then a different panel of people should be involved in assessing that evidence and coming to a judgement, and the evidence collected should be available to both parties.

As I observed earlier natural justice is common sense.  It’s about being fair and being seen to be fair. Anything that fails the test of fairness, isn’t justice.

Saturday, 14 October 2017

ICO: Information Commissioner's Office

Construction blacklist

During 2008/09 the ICO carried out an investigation into employment blacklisting in the construction industry. As part of that investigation, the ICO seized information from a company called The Consulting Association. Some of the information we seized amounted to a 'blacklist' of individuals who were considered to pose a risk to their employers if employed within the construction industry.

How do I know if The Consulting Association held information about me?

Since 2009 we have been operating a fast-track service so individuals can telephone the ICO and find out whether their name is included within the information seized from The Consulting Association. You can telephone us and we will check the information held. If there might be information that relates to you we will ask you to provide proof of identity and then we will provide you with a copy of the information held. We have also been trying to proactively contact individuals who might have been affected by the activities of The Consulting Association.

I’ve received a letter from the ICO about the blacklist. What should I do next?

You can see the letter we sent out and a blacklist factsheet here. We ask that you contact us by post or email and provide some additional identifying information. We will then check the seized information and provide you with any information where we are satisfied that it relates to you.

In a few cases, there might not be enough information within the seized information to determine that it relates to a specific individual but if this is the case we will tell you.
You may want to use the template letter below:
[Your full address]
[Phone number]
[The date]
Dear ICO,
Subject access request
[please insert your full name, date of birth and current address]
Please supply the information about me I am entitled to under the Data Protection Act 1998 from the information seized by the ICO from The Consulting Association.
I have included:
• My National Insurance number
• A copy of correspondence showing my name and current address
• A copy of identification showing my name and date of birth (for example, a copy of my passport or driving licence)
• List of my previous addresses
If you need any more information from me, please let me know as soon as possible.
Yours sincerely
[your name]

If all your identifying information is available electronically, you can email your letter and identifying information to us at
Or, post it to us at:
Information Access Team
Information Commissioner's Office
Wycliffe House
Water Lane

I haven’t received a letter. What should I do to find out if I am on the database?

If you wish to check whether information about you is held on the database you can call our helpline on 0303 123 1113 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday. Give us your name and a contact telephone number and an ICO case officer will call you back. The officer will search the database. If no match is found, we will confirm this straight away.
If the details you provide are similar to, or seem likely to match those of someone on the database, we will ask you to provide us with further identification in writing. Once we have verified your identity and confirmed whether your details match those on the database, we will contact you to confirm if information is held about you and provide you with a copy of it.

Why is the ICO not writing to everyone?

In many cases the seized information is old and incomplete and there simply isn’t enough information for us to be able to confidently identify an individual. We are contacting as many people as we can.

What action has the ICO taken against construction companies?

The ICO issued enforcement notices against 14 construction companies based on the evidence recovered from The Consulting Association.
Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering Limited
Balfour Beatty Construction Northern Ireland
Balfour Beatty Construction Scottish & Southern Limited
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services (HY) Limited
Balfour Beatty Engineering Services Limited
Balfour Beatty Infrastructure Services Limited
C B & I UK Limited
Emcor Engineering Services Limited
Emcor Rail Limited
Kier Limited
N G Bailey Limited
Shepherd Engineering Services Limited
Sias Building Services Limited
Whessoe Oil & Gas Limited

What did the ICO do about The Consulting Association and the construction companies which used it?

The ICO prosecuted Ian Kerr, who ran The Consulting Association. He was fined £5,000 for a data protection offence and The Consulting Association ceased trading. The ICO also issued enforcement notices to 14 construction companies.

Could the ICO have issued a more substantial penalty?

It was disappointing to us that we could not issue more substantial penalties, but these were the maximum legal powers available to us at the time. We have since been given the power to issue civil monetary penalties up to £500,000, but these can only be issued where a breach of the Data Protection Act has taken place after April 2010.


The UK’s independent authority set up to uphold information rights in the public interest, promoting openness by public bodies and data privacy for individuals.

Could you have contacted people sooner?

The ICO’s focus since 2009 has been on helping those who feature on the list. To complement our helpline, we set up a fast-track service to allow anyone who suspected they were on the list to find out if they were, and get a copy of any information held about them.
Earlier this year, we wrote to 103 people in the cases where we had the individual’s address and were able to establish its accuracy with the help of Equifax.
In total, we’ve now taken over 4,000 calls from individuals wanting to know if their name was included on the blacklist, using the fast-track process. We have also received over 1,200 written requests, from which 467 individuals have been provided with copies of their information. That figure will continue to grow in the coming weeks, as we help more and more people.
We’ve also worked with construction trade unions to try to proactively reach more individuals whose information is included within The Consulting Association files. We provided details of individuals included on the list to the construction trade unions, which they cross-referenced with their membership lists.

I’ve heard there are other blacklists – what is the ICO doing about this?

The investigation into The Consulting Association did not find evidence of other blacklists. This is the only blacklist held by the ICO. However, if you think you have any evidence about the operation of a further blacklist then you can contact our casework team about this.

How do I find out more about the issue of blacklisting?

The Scottish Affairs Select Committee is conducting an inquiry into employment blacklisting and you can read more about this on their website.

Further Reading

External link

Parliment Square at Royal Exchange

“How far would you go for what you believe in?”

A Royal Exchange Theatre and Bush Theatre co-production
By James Fritz
Directed by Jude Christian
Designed by Fly Davis
18 - 28 October at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester
30 November – 6 January at the Bush Theatre, London
Royal Exchange Press Night: Friday 20 October, 7.30pm – The Theatre Bush Theatre Press Night – Friday 1 December

In his powerful new play PARLIAMENT SQUARE, James Fritz skilfully interrogates the draw of extreme demonstration, compassionately exploring the impact and fall-out of a single, selfless act of protest.

Esther Smith (BBC3’s CUCKOO and UNCLE BBC 3) takes the lead role of Kat, who watches as ‘the world gets worse’ and finds herself compelled to take action. Selected for a Judges Award in the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting 2015, PARLIAMENT SQUARE deftly asks where the line falls between complete commitment and dangerous obsession. Directed by Jude Christian this compelling World Premiere is a Royal Exchange Theatre co-production with the Bush Theatre. It will run in Manchester from 18 – 28 October before transferring to London from 30 November – 6 January.
The Story: 
 Kat gets up one morning, leaves her family behind, and travels to London to carry out an act that will change her life and, she hopes, everyone else’s. But what are the real consequences?

James Fritz’s searingly powerful play 'Parliament Square' won a Judges Award in the 2015 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting. Raw, disturbing and compassionate, it forces a confrontation with some of the most urgent questions we face. What can one individual do to effect change? And where do we choose to draw the line between absolute commitment and dangerous obsession?

Friday, 13 October 2017

What happened to the undercover police inquiry?

TWO years into the public inquiry into undercover policing and campaigners spied upon by the state this week claimed that progress has stalled and no information had been revealed about the officers involved. Jon Robins reports:

Speaking at an event at the Labour fringe on undercover policing and police surveillance, core participants in the undercover policing inquiry together with  their lawyers accused the government of delay and expressed concerns about the new chair of the inquiry.
Helen Steel is one of eight women activists who began legal action against the police having discovered that former long-term partners had been undercover policemen. Steel, who was representing the Police Spies out of Lives group, told delegates they were as much in the dark as the day that the inquiry was launched in July 2015. ‘More than two years into the inquiry and we still have had no disclosure about the relationships or the officers involved. The public has learnt absolutely nothing new about the extent of police in the abuse or how this was allowed to happen,’ she said.
In May this year, Sir John Mitting took over the chairmanship of the inquiry from Lord Justice Pitchford, who had been diagnosed with motor neurone disease. The inquiry has long become bogged down as the police have called for proceedings to be held in secret to protect the identities of the undercover officers – as reported on the Justice Gap (here).
‘The inquiry has finally acknowledged upwards of a thousand groups were spied upon but still hasn’t released the names of those groups,’ Steel told the meeting organised by the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers. Steel argued that whilst the police were prepared to confirm that they sent undercover officers into Isis, ‘they claimed it would be too dangerous to confirm the names of the thousand campaigns spied upon by the Special Demonstration Squad and the National Public Order Intelligence Unit,’ she said. ‘It beggars belief.’
In a message to the meeting Michael Mansfield QC, the president of the Haldane Society, claimed to be ‘under no illusions as to the extent to which agencies in the state have taken an interest in me’ in relation to his work on political cases such as Orgreave, Hillsborough and the Shrewsbury pickets.

For more go to: 

Whatever happened to the undercover policing inquiry? - The Justice ...

Alec McFadden asks Unite to behave 'gracefully'

The statement below is Alec McFadden's legal 
representative's response to Alex Flynn,  Head of Unite 
media and campaigns: 
Mr McFadden’s challenge was not technical.  It was based not merely on his vehement denial of the trumped up allegation but also on the blatantly unfair procedure used against him which included the refusal of both the disciplinary and the appeal panel to even call the complainant to appear before them, thus preventing them or Mr McFadden questioning the complainant.  It was based also on the refusal of the appeal panel to even consider evidence that the allegation against Mr Mc Fadden was fabricated. Unite charged Mr McFadden under a rule which Unite, which the ACO (Assistant Certification Officer) held did not apply, and he rejected Unite’s remarkable defence that the rule meant the opposite of what it said. 
To suggest now that Unite may bring another, different charge under a different rule more than two years after the allegation was made, demonstrates nothing less than persecution of Mr McFadden.  It is impossible to see how the Unite disciplinary process (already found by the ACO to be fatally flawed) could ever have the appearance of justice if it is to rest on bringing repeated charges at two year intervals until a conviction is finally secured.  Unite has spectacularly failed to conduct its disciplinary proceedings fairly or in accordance with its own rules and it should now accept the CO’s findings gracefully and let Mr McFadden return to his valuable work for the union.’

Unite replies in Alec McFadden case

Alec McFadden v Unite the Union 

 Northern Voices contacted the Unite Press Office
for a reply to Alec McFadden's press statement, and for
Unite's interpretaion of the Trade Union certification
officer's ruling.  The union's reply is published in full below:

Hi Brian

Gail forwarded me your email seeking a response to Mr McFadden’s press release. Please find our response below.
A Unite spokesman said: “Unite does not tolerate sexual harassment or discrimination and is committed to equality and fairness for all. The decision by the Certification Officer was based on a procedural and technical challenge and does not appear to make any difference to the findings of the investigation that found Mr McFadden to have a case to answer. Unite will consider the full judgement when it is delivered and assess whether it is appropriate to recharge Mr McFadden under our disciplinary rules.”
All the best

Alex Flynn
Head of media and campaigns
Unite the union

Thursday, 12 October 2017

McFadden case: Unite breaks its own rules

Below Northern Voices publishes the decision of the trade union certification officer over the procedure used by the Unite union to investigate and discipline Alec McFadden, over a complaint of alleged inappropriate behaviour by him in October 2015.  The trade union certification officer's decision shows that the Unite union, in its disciplinary procedure against Mr. McFadden, exceeded its powers.  This decision is based on a failure of natural justice by the Unite union in the manner in which it treated Mr. McFadden:
Press Release 11th October 2017
Alec McFadden's press statement last night begins by declaring:
 'UNITE the Union has been found to have acted outside of its jurisdiction in debarring veteran Trade Unionist and Community Campaigner Alec McFadden from his elected office.'

 Mr Alec McFadden vs Unite the Union
The Assistant Certification Officer, having considered the three preliminary issues set out in the decision in these proceedings dated 24 July 2017, has concluded that the disciplinary proceedings by Unite the Union against Mr McFadden and the consequent penalties imposed upon Mr McFadden were in breach of the rules of the union.  He therefore makes a declaration to that effect, pursuant to sections 108A and 108B of the 1992 Act.
The Assistant Certification Officer will give his reasons for his decision in writing shortly; however this decision is provided in advance of those written reasons so as to make it clear to the parties that the hearings in these proceedings fixed for 9 and 10 October 2017 are now unnecessary; and he directs that those hearings be vacated.
It is not clear to the Assistant Certification Officer whether Mr McFadden seeks any remedy under section 108B of the 1992 Act other than the above declaration.  If he does, he must set out what remedy or remedies he seeks in writing to the Assistant Certification Officer and to the union by 17 October 2017; and the union shall respond thereto in writing to the Assistant certification Officer and to Mr McFadden by 31 October 2017.
Jeffrey Burke QC 3 October 2017

Craft Shortages!

by Martin Gilbert
THERE is a national shortage of crafts people: plumbers, electricians, joiners and others.  Academics have been blamed for admitting too many students.  But the charge against universities is unfounded coming too often from those who do not know what universities are for or what they achieve.

It can be seen as a part of the present climate of devaluing and opposing creative and critical thinking (dare one say “anti-intellectual”). Examples of that process abound:- secondary schools cutting classes in drama, art; dance and music.  All where individuality and creativity can be nurtured. Funding for any kind of community arts is getting increasing scarce.  In spite of lip service being given to “localism” and “community” Local Authorities are forced into impossible decisions.  Short term thinking supports that negative climate.

Another cause is women feeling inhibited or being subtley obstructed from employment however good their skills might be. During both World Wars women filled benches in factories and engineering offices.  Demobilization, when the men came home, sent such women back to their kitchens.

One remedy to fill the skills gaps and get more school leavers into jobs is apprenticeships.  But they would only re arrange the dole que. Too often the apprentice would be fired on finishing his time, often a seven year period.  On-line learning has much shortened the time of some genuine apprenticeship schemes.   But recollections of Youth Training Schemes allow for much scepticism.  A main concern of the training industry was profits for its Directors and share holders rather than it’s consumers.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Curse of Danczuk’s Book

by Les May

JUST how thorough is the ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse going to be?  Press reports, which we must assume follow what was said at the Inquiry, refer to Rochdale Alternative Press. This is a mistake lifted straight from Simon Danczuk’s book where neither he, nor his co-author, Matthew Baker, could be bothered to check that the correct title was Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP). If anyone at the Inquiry is relying on this book then we shall still be as much in the dark about what really happened at Cambridge House and Knowl View as we were before the inquiry started

The purpose of this Inquiry should be to determine the facts.  That does not appear to be what is happening. The lead counsel, Brian Altman QC, seems to be trying to tell a story worthy of someone acting for the prosecution in a criminal case. We are told Smith’s knighthood ‘conferred a veneer of respectability and power’ and that this afforded influence over child welfare cases at Rochdale council.

This may or may not prove to be the case. Judging by the infamous, but fictional, ‘Satanic Abuse’ cases from 1989, RMBC child welfare workers were entirely capable of making a mess of things on their own.  But could we please have the facts and save opinions until after the evidence for this statement has been produced?   However often they are repeated opinions and assertions aren’t facts.

Opinion, supposition and an urge to ‘tell a good story’ have bedevilled almost everything that has been written about Smith, Cambridge House and Knowl View special school since Danczuk was ‘handed the story on a plate’ in 2012.

The essay in which in which Manchester Guardian editor C. P. Scott wrote the words ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred’ is still worth reading today.  Pity about that unfortunate lapse in 1979 when like the rest of the press it ignored the RAP article.

(If you find it difficult to activate any of the links on NV pages press the left mouse button and drag the cursor over the link, then press the right mouse button and select copy from the menu which appears.  This can then be pasted into your web browser, e.g. Firefox.)

Blacklist Complainants Object to Inquiry Chair!

Secret Court of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal 
A PACKED meeting in parliament of core participants, other activists and lawyers for those targeted by undercover police voted unanimously for Sir John Mitting to be removed as chair of the public inquiry into undercover policing.  This follows deep unease by those spied on by police about the 'Minded To' Notes published by Mitting on the UCPI website which appear to be heading in the direction of an inquiry held in secret rather than an open transparent and public inquiry.  Mitting is one of the hand picked members of the senior legal profession to sit in the secret court the Investigatory Powers Tribunal - the antithesis of open and transparent justice.
'paradigm shift'
Neville Lawrence told the meeting he and many other victims of undercover police spying had 'lost faith' in the inquiry given the new direction taken by Mitting.

Imran Khan, lawyer for Doreen Lawrence and the Blacklist Support Group told the meeting that there had been a 'paradigm shift' since Mitting took over from the former head of the inquiry Lord Justice Pitchford who was forced to stand down due to ill health. 

The public inquiry was announced 3 years ago by the then Home Secretary Theresa May but to this day not a single witness has given evidence and not a single document disclosed to the lawyers of the victims.  Suresh Grover from the Monitoring Group told the meeting that "the police have deliberated obstructed justice". 
Garrick Club & 'institutional sexism'
Helen Steel argued that his credentials as a member of the men-only Garrick Club meant he was the wrong person to rule on institutional sexism of the undercover police.  A new 'timeline' on the inquiry website fails to mention the public apology made by the Metropolitan Police to the women activists deceived into long term relationships by the police spies.

Stafford Scott, from Tottenham Rights told the meeting that "families of murder victims are being denied access to files kept on them" due to ongoing institutional racism by the Met Police. 

Dave Smith, blacklisted union activist said that victims had "always been sceptical whether the British state would truly expose the truth about the UK's secret political police units"

The meeting was chaired by Naz Shah MP who said she would raise the concerns on the Home Affairs Select Committee and with the Home Secretary.

Appeal for Rohingya in Myanmar

Dear Foreign Minister Boris Johnson and Ambassador Sir Tim Barrow,

I am appalled at the apparent lack of political pressure, to date, from the
UN over the treatment of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar over a long period
of time. This has obviously been seen as a 'green light' to the military
leaders in that country to commit even greater atrocities.
It is not a sign of weakness to admit our training and arming of Myanmar
forces was wrong, as indeed is our selling of arms to Saudi Arabia to be used against civilians in Yemen.  I quote, hopefully correctly, David Davis MP, 'A democracy that cannot change its mind ceases to be a democracy'.
Please send a clear message to the UN that the situation in Myanmar is
ethnic cleansing and the UN has an obligation to take strong action on this
matter. It is pleasing that the UK has shown the way by suspending training
of the military in Myanmar, but more needs to be done.

John Wilkins (BOLD: Building Our Local Democracy)
[United Kingdom]

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Puigdemont's Catalonia statement in 15 sentences

from La Vanguardia
, Barcelona
The President of the [Catalan] Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont , appeared on Tuesday October 10 before the plenary of the Parliament and at his own request to report the results of the referendum on independence on 1 October .
The speech has been studied to the last detail in the last hours and has been controversial until the last moment in a meeting that have maintained the parliamentary groups of Junts pel Yes and the CUP and that has caused that the president Puigdemont requested the delay one hour from the beginning of the session.
Finally, at 19.00 in the afternoon and before all the deputies of the Parliament and more than 1,000 journalists, Puigdemont has assumed the mandate to turn Catalonia into an independent State in the form of a republic while at the same time asking the House to suspend the application of the DUI to open a process of dialogue.
'I assume the mandate of the people that Catalunya will become an independent state in the form of a republic '
'The Government and myself propose to the Parliament to suspend the effects of the declaration of independence to establish a process of dialogue '
'What I expose today is not a personal opinion, derives from the results of 1-O '
'The 1-O Catalunya held a referendum on self-determination in extreme conditions, amidst attacks on people who queued to introduce their ballot '
'The images of 1-O will remain in our memory forever, we will never forget it '
'We must all take our responsibility to de-escalate the situation. I will not contribute with the word or with the gesture to increase it '
'The votes favorable to the Estatut were 145,000 less than that obtained the yes to the independence the past 1-O '
'Millions of citizens have come to the rational conclusion that the only way to guarantee coexistence is for Catalonia to become a '
'From the point of view of self-government the last seven years have been the worst of the last four decades. There has been a lamination of skills and a shocking contempt against the language, culture and way of life in Catalonia '
'Catalan demands have always been expressed peacefully and from majorities obtained at the polls.'
'I ask for an effort to know and recognize what has brought us here. We are not criminals, we are not crazy, we are not abductees or coup. We are normal people who want to express themselves '
'We have nothing against Spain or against the Spaniards, on the contrary, we want to find ourselves better. To date the relationship does not work '
'Police repression and disqualification have been the response of the Spanish state to a peaceful demand '
'The polls have said yes to independence and this is the way that I am willing to go .'
There is a plea for dialogue that crosses all Europe, which already feels called '