Monday, 21 May 2018

Peace News on the Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair

Anarchists barred from bookfair

One person barred and a second ejected from Liverpool event.

Septuagenarian Anarchist - Brian Bamford

ON 7 April, the organisers of the Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair excluded two people from the gathering, which was taking place in the huge Black-E community arts centre near the city centre.

Brian Bamford, a member of the Northern Anarchist Network, was told in advance that he would not be allowed in, and was stopped at the door.  Another man (whose name is not known) was taken from a workshop by organisers and thrown out of the bookfair. (The workshop was about employers barring trade unionists from jobs.)

I was told by bookfair organisers that Bamford had a history of causing disturbances, and they were determined to avoid such problems at their event.  The other man was apparently thrown out for circulating an offensive anti-trans leaflet.

Read more:

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Gaza massacre - 600 Palestinans killed on Monday!

"Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." (Friedrich Nietzsche).

When you hear that seven US governors have written to the Nobel committee nominating U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel peace prize, it makes you think that the inmates have taken over the lunatic asylum. That educated idiot, Boris Johnson, the British Foreign Secretary, has also called for Trump to be awarded the peace prize and believes that the U.S. moving its embassy to Jerusalem, "could be a force for peace."

On Monday, 60 Palestinian demonstrators were killed at the Gaza border fence, many by Israeli snipers. The killings which included eight children under the age of 16 and a double amputee in a wheelchair, who was shot for throwing stones,  coincided with the high-profile ceremony to mark the transfer of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the 'Nakba' ('catastrophe'), when more than 70,000 Palestinians fled or were expelled in 1948, following the creation of the state of Israel. At least 2,400 people were wounded. Trump called the embassy move a "great day" for Israel and his daughter Ivanka, celebrated the opening to cheering and clapping from American and Israeli VIPs. 

The foundation of the Israeli state 70 years ago, involved the deliberate ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians. Demands for compensation and restitution have been routinely ignored for decades. In what some people see as a provocative act, Donald Trump chose to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem on the very day the Israeli's commemorated their state's anniversary and the Palestinians mourned their Nakba.

Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories has now reached its 51st year. The people of Gaza have had to endure eleven years of blockade since they voted in a Hamas government in 2006. Despite being a flagrant violation of international law and an obstacle to peace, the Israeli's continue to expand Jewish settlements on the West Bank and to pursue a policy of ethnic cleansing. UN Security Council resolution 2334, passed on 23rd December 2016 - the U.S. abstained - condemns the Israeli settlements on the West Bank as a flagrant violation of international law; demands that Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem", and seeks a two-state solution to the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. The resolution is entirely consistent with international law going back to 1967, which sees Israeli settlements on occupied land as illegal. 
Fadi Abu Salah killed by the IDF

There are 430,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank and 200,000 Israeli's in East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as the capital of their future state. Despite almost universal condemnation of the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, the Israeli's continue with their illegal seizure of Palestinian lands. Two days after the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S. President, Israel revealed plans for nearly 600 settlement homes in East Jerusalem. 

Although many of the Palestinian demonstrators are unarmed and throw stones and no Israeli soldiers have been killed since the protests began in March, Israel's hard- line prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, blames Hamas for the deaths of Palestinians and says that every country has the obligation to defend its borders even if these borders are illegal and a violation of international law. Netanyahu says there will be no Palestinian state on his watch. He and is government are addicted to  grabbing Palestinian lands and moving in illegal Israeli squatters. 

In 2014 the Israeli's killed 1,500 civilians, one-third children, using shelling, bombing, drone strikes and sniper fire to kill people in Gaza. In February 2015, the U.S. Congress gave 25 standing ovations to the man (Benjamin Netanyahu), who ordered the attack. The U.S. gives £3.8bn a year to Israel in military aid. The killings in Gaza will intensify demands that the Israeli top brass be prosecuted for war crimes.

Monday, 7 May 2018

Shadow of Rochdale's Danczuk Dynasty survives

by Brian Bamford
ALMOST four years ago on the 3rd, June 2014, BBC News announced:
'Rochdale Council is set to have a new leader after a coup in the ruling Labour group.  Colin Lambert was unseated by former leader Richard Farnell at a Labour group meeting on Monday evening.

That brought a tweet from the then Rochdale Labour MP, Simon Danczuk:
'Good news for Rochdale that Richard Farnell is to be new council leader, commiserations to outgoing Councillor Colin Lambert.'

This 'good news for Rochdale' was to turn into sour milk as a bumbling Richard Farnell squirmed under cross-examination in the hot seat of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse in 2017.

In 2014, BBC Radio Manchester claimed there had been a long term plan to replace Colin Lambert as leader of the Rochdale Council following the local elections of that year.

At that time it seemed that the now disgraced Councillor Farnell was being pushed by the Danczuk mafia within the Rochdale Labour Party to take over the leadership almost against his will.  Sources inside the party suggested Farnell even then foresaw his own future downfall, and was in a state of distress at the thought of taking over at the top.

Councillor Farnell, we now know is suspended and in some disgrace, though still in receipt of his council stipend.  His close colleague and pal Councillor Allen Brett replaced him in December 2017.

Coucillor Brett was Simon Danczuk's Parliamentary agent and he is reputed to have praised Mr Danczuk in the following terms:
'Simon is someone with the qualities and skills to represent Rochdale in Parliament very well indeed.  He’s got a breadth of experience in the trade union movement and in business.  He’s a former councillor and because of his own upbringing, understands how difficult life can be for people and families in Rochdale.  I’m looking forward to working with him.'

Thus, yesterday's news that Councillor Allen Brett had been re-elected as the Leader of the local Labour Party and hence the Leader of Rochdale Borough Council, will be cause for concern for a large section of the party.  The day before Brett's re-election (6th, May) in a letter on Rochdale ONLINE, over a hundred  'grassroots members of the local Labour Party' from 18 wards in the borough of Rochdale, urged local councillors to vote for Councillor Jacqui Beswick as Labour Group leader which they claimed 'will give the fresh leadership to take the borough forward.'

Instead, the Rochdale Labour Party has just gone politically backwards.


Saturday, 5 May 2018

Who Pissed on Rochdale Labour Party's Chips?

by Brian Bamford
Damaging 'Off the Cuff' politics of Dancuk, Farnell & Brett

AFTER last Thursday's local elections, West Heywood's Labour Councillor Jacqui Beswick,  announced her bid to take over the leadership of Rochdale Council by standing against Allen Brett the current leader.  She said:  'I don't want to drag up the past difficult times', but 'the bad press' she insisted, won't have helped the Labour Party in Rochdale.

At this Sunday's AGM the future of the Rochdale Labour Party will be in the balance, when elections are to be held for leader.  Tellingly, Councillor Beswick told the Rochdale Online website:  'I believe in change!  Not from the top down', but from the ward membership upwards.

Councillor Beswick stood before for the leadership last November, when the disgraced Richard Farnell stood down, but she failed to get in.  What she didn't say yesterday, is that she didn't succeed because of opposition from her minority group opponents with special cultural interests within the local Labour party.  Northern Voices, at that time, was told by sources close to the Party, that she lost because she refused to parley with these minority  'clans' with unique influence in the party.

Yet it may well be to these forces, which Councillor Beswick may be eluding to below when she talks of 'an opportunity for a new broom to sweep out the old order instead it was consolidated with backers of the former leader who seemed in denial'.

Yesterday, in her Rochdale Online interview, Councillor Beswick declared:

'Recent events in Rochdale have shown there is a need for change in Leadership.  Some of us tried to make this make this point when the national party asked the previous leader to step down last November following his evidence to the IICSA enquiry.
'This should have been an opportunity for a new broom to sweep out the old order instead it was consolidated with backers of the former leader who seemed in denial.
'Timescales were deliberately short and instead Richard Farnell's close ally and deputy [Allen Brett] took over. 
'At this time the level of change at the top was not sufficient, which is why a number of cabinet members and a deputy resigned last December.
'Rochdale and its residents deserve better than this and especially after the IICSA report that has identified historic failings 
'I believe fresh Leadership is important to take the Borough forward. For this reason I am putting my name forward at the next group AGM with an agenda for change that says the old ways of doing things are not good enough for Rochdale.'

With Allen Brett as the Labour leader, and with the former disgraced leader still in the wings as a Rochdale councillor, the Rochdale Labour Party is tainted by the political ghost of the disgraced former Rochdale MP, Simon Danczuk, to whom both were close.  All Danczuk's sexual peccadilloes, and the misdemeanours with regard to his expenses, have over the years soured the political atmosphere in the Rochdale Labour Party.  But, Councillor Allen Brett hasn't helped to clear-the-air by recently trying to dissemble his way out of what he said about being selective favouring Labour wards in spending the £12 million government grant on local road improvements, and then when caught out claiming this was just an 'off the cuff' remark.

This terrible triumvirate Danczuk, Farnell and Brett, all in the end pissed on the chips


Dave Chapple’s MAY DAY Speech

Wells May Day 2018:

International Worker’s Day greetings from a life-long Somerset trades unionist, a school-cleaner for 11 years, a postman for 38, a shop steward for 35 of those years, to the Wells Constituency Labour Party for organising this, the first May Day March in Somerset for 24 years.

Solidarity, also, to Wells, from Somerset’s working-class capital: Bridgwater.
Bridgwater, a town where, today, 14 out of 16 town councillors; 10 out of 15 district councillors, and 2 out of 3 county councillors are Labour.

Bridgwater, home of 17 pub-based workers Carnival Clubs, which organise, at weekly meetings of 10 to 30 members, on November’s first Saturday, the greatest West Country working class cultural event, one enjoyed by 100,000 people from all over. 
Bridgwater:  The home of Robert Blake, Cromwell’s General at Sea, staunch republican if not a regicide, who personally inflicted some of the first Royalist casualties of the Civil War.
Bridgwater, where, after the battle of Sedgemoor in 1685, no member of the Royal Family set foot in the town for over 300 years.

Bridgwater, the town, a century later, that remembered Judge Jeffries sending 800 Monmouth rebels to Barbados sugar plantations, so well, that radicals like John Chubb organised Britain’s first ever petition against the slave trade.

Bridgwater, which, even if the town’s large factories have been replaced by warehouses, still hosts militant trade union organised workplaces, like the Unite union at Refresco-Gerber and ARGOS, who have struck for two weeks and three weeks, respectively, in the last few years. 
Like Hinkley Point “C” construction workers, who won back lost bad weather wages recently after a successful and illegal sit-in. 
Like my former workplace, the Royal Mail Delivery Office, where, still, national and regional managers are regularly thrown into panic upon rumours of yet another wildcat strike being planned by the CWU Reps and Committee;
But what of the rest of Somerset?  What of the Mendip area?  What of Wells itself? Well, it seems clear now, 33 years after the epic NUM strike of 1984/5, that Tory Governments planned, starting with the miners, to shut down whole industries in order to weaken or eliminate strong trades unions. 
Over the next decades, Thatcher, Major and Blair were glad to wipe out 90% of UK manufacturing, to critically wound trades unionism as a whole. So Somerset, too has been almost completely de-industrialised: we now have hardly any large factories that make things. 
Think at all those losses: the dozen or so Somerset Clarks shoe factories; Moorland and Bailey sheepskins; printers and packagers like Butler and Tanner, Mardon, Purnells; Cider makers like Showering; Evercreech dairy; Nutricia; St Cuthberts paper mill at Wookey; and for Wells, skilled engineers like Clares and EMI. 
So it wasn’t just the cities, not just the NUM: Somerset has, also, descended, within two generations, from a place where working-class people through their union could negotiate reasonable wages, conditions and pensions, to a dog-eats-dog individual race to the bottom: bullying supervisors, zero-hours, no holidays, no sick pay, no pension no rights at all.
But why, then, I am proud to announce, in the last few weeks, has Wells hosted the launch of Mendip TUC, the newest local trades union council in the UK?

Because trades unionism still exists in the Mendips, there are reps and stewards and union branch officers in every town and many villages.

Because rural trades unionism can still thrive: in every village school, every small town Royal Mail Delivery Office, every time you see a BT Openreach worker shimmying up a telegraph pole, shop in most supermarkets, try and find a job in one of the few remaining job centres, you will come across trades unionists: in the CWU, in the NEU, NASUWT, UNISON, in PCS, Unite, GMB or USDAW.

If you are a Mendip area trades unionist, join us at our next Wells meeting in the Lawrence Centre, Union St, 6pm on Monday May 21st!

What of the radical and socialist tradition in Mendip, and Wells itself?

George Howell was a bricklayer, shoemaker, and Chartist.  He was also an auto-didact, a historian, and Secretary of the TUC Parliamentary Committee in the 1870’s and 1880’s. George was born and grew up in Wrington. 
Fred Swift was a Writhlington coal miner, an ILP/Independent Labour Party socialist and, with the Bridgwater railwayman James Young, one of the first two socialists elected to Somerset County Council before World War One.

Arthur James Cook: AJ Cook, born at Wookey in 1883, brought up in Cheddar where he worked on Caleb Durbin’s dairy farm, became at 17 a Rhondda miner, a fiery and revolutionary syndicalist orator jailed twice, for sedition and for opposing World War One, and finally, leader of the MFGB during the General Strike and Miner’s Lockout of 1926. 
The General Strike, where the local Wells strike committee, led by railwaymen, ordered 200 copies of the TUC’s daily The British Worker during those epic nine days. 
From syndicalism to Parliamentary socialism: Only two generations ago, Labour and Tory were almost neck and neck in Wells: In the 1945 General Election, the Tory majority over Labour was reduced to only 2,465.

In 1950 Labour polled 18,000 votes to the Tories 20,600 in a turnout of 87.8%.

In 1951, Dai Llewellyn, former Welsh miner and veteran International Brigader from the Spanish Civil War, the Somerset Miner’s Agent, won 21,500 Labour votes and again came a narrow second.

It wasn’t until 1974 that the Liberals overtook Labour in Wells. 
You can never tell me, looking back at that astonishing working-class Labour support, in Wells, a Cathedral City for goodness sake, the “Belly of the Tory Beast” that what happened once, a long time ago, could not happen again, but better still, Labour winning Wells!
Why not? People can sometimes change very quickly! 
After all, 50 years ago, a fortnight before the French Revolution of May 1968, were not learned Marxist historians predicting decades of working-class subservience? 
To start winning, we do need to organise, campaign, show solidarity, on a Somerset county-wide basis. 
From Dulverton to Bath, Portishead to Chard, Burnham on Sea to Frome, Keynsham to Yeovil, Radstock to Wellington, Cheddar to Wincanton.

Poor public transport does make this difficult. 
You can get a bus from Clevedon or Wells to Bristol up to 10.30pm at night, yet try and get to Bridgwater from Glastonbury, or Burnham on Sea from Bridgwater, after 7pm, and this is the same First Group bus company! 
Reason: the Tory Somerset County Council is the only West Country county that cannot be bothered to have a County Transport Forum: then again, how many Tory Councillors have ever caught a bus? 
Somerset needs county-wide independent campaigns, supported by the six Somerset Trade Union Councils and all local Labour Parties:
Against Library Closures; 
Against cuts and closures to NHS Community Hospitals;
Support teaching and other education unions fighting Academy attacks on their pay and conditions;
Against Tory County Council cuts to children centres, children and adult disability learning services;
Against outsourcing of NHS District Hospital non-medical staff: 
The list of dismantled Somerset public services is almost endless. 
I suggest that, from 2019, trades unionists and socialists in every Somerset town host an event, such as a public meeting, on May 1st, but for all Somerset towns to come together in Wells, the centre of our County, to celebrate International Worker’s Day on this first May Saturday. 
Today, we still honour the sacrifices of those anarchist workers in Chicago who in the late 1880’s suffered state execution for fighting for the 8-hour day, but in dying for our socialist cause, they lit a torch that still, if sometimes dimly, burns.

2018 should be the year that Somerset’s workers get of their knees, learn that if you fight you can win, if you never fight you always lose.

Don’t be a drop-out! Get up, get into it, get involved! Refuse to lose! 

Three rap titles from the greatest of all popular musicians, The Godfather of Soul, the Minister of Super Heavy Funk, James Brown.

But, 2018 in Somerset, not Atlanta, Georgia: Get involved in what? Refuse to lose what? Fight for what?

I hope you don’t mind me ending with a personal point of view.

Just remember, I was a Labour Parliamentary candidate a long 31 years ago!

I have been a Somerset socialist agitator for over 40 years, but I’m not tired:

I fight for a country that is run by a radical industrial workplace democracy, that has priority over councils and parliament; 

The fundamental units: Community Assemblies (They were called Soviets);
The old and still un-achieved Chartist demand for annual elections with recallable delegates;
An anti-militarist, non-nuclear federation of the nations, where the rotor blades of Westland/Leonardo PLC really are turned into Bristol Channel wind and underwater turbine blades;
Where swords really can become ploughshares;
Where, here in Somerset and throughout the world, the long-suffering working-class, the peasants and the poor are anything but meek, are so bloody-well organised that they really can inherit the earth.

See you in Wells on our very own First May Saturday in 2019?

07707 869144

Friday, 4 May 2018

Tory bad boy makes good on Tameside Council!

Enfant terrible - Liam Billington

NORTHERN Voices congratulates Liam Billington, the Conservative Party candidate who yesterday won the Stalybridge-South ward with 1233 votes, in the Tameside  2018 May local elections.  Katy Flanagan, the Labour candidate, came second with 834 votes.

As the former editor of the scurrilous blog 'Tameside Eye', young Billington, once disclosed  that Tameside Council had spent over £30,000 on a variety of futile events - 'the diversity breakfast', 'lifestyle clinics', 'urban walks', all organised by sixteen 'well-being champions'.

In November 2014, he criticised a charity (Tameside 4 Good), for making a donation of £1000 to Tameside and Oldham Gay Society which they hailed as a success story.  He described 'Tameside Pride' as "a bunch of puffs mincing across Ashton", and suggested that the money would have been better spent on food-banks or care for the elderly, the people who need it most.  Asked whether he regretted his choice of language, he declared, "I'm gay myself and I use the word all the time."

As the Tameside Eye blogger, Billington was arrested in 2008 on an allegation of harassment relating to three doctored images that appeared on his blog.  The complaints were made by Labour councillor's  John Taylor - who Billington dubbed 'councillor fuckwit' - and Sean Parker-Perry.  Aged 19, Billington was held in custody for seven hours at Ashton police station, where he was photographed, finger-printed, and a sample of his DNA was taken.  His two computers were removed from his home and seized as evidence. After being charged with one count of harassment and two counts of racially aggravated harassment, he was eventually released on police bail.  After considering the evidence against him, Manchester Crown Prosecution Service, decided not to prosecute.

As the Conservative Party candidate for Stalybridge South, Billington recently launched a petition to bring back a market in what is now the Stalybridge Civic Hall.  He believes that reviving the market will be a key component to the regeneration of Stalybridge.  He is, however, no defender of public libraries and will find himself, well at home, among the many semi-literate councillors who make up Tameside Council, who have also closed many libraries throughout Tameside.  The young whizz-kid, once said, "Who needs public libraries when you've got Amazon and a laptop."  Needless to say, not everyone has a laptop or can afford to buy books online. But this doesn't seem to worry Billington.  I suppose that's what makes him a Tory - I'm all right Jack, fuck you!

No doubt, this young controversial 'enfant terrible', will bring some much needed opposition in the one-party state that's called Tameside Council and will enliven the debates in the council chamber.  A future Tory leader in the making on Tameside Council? Watch your back John Bell!

Cleansing the Stables?

by Les May

ON the evening of the local elections a lady who had spent the afternoon watching the antics of two Tory ‘number takers’ at a Castleton ward polling station described them to me as ‘a couple of daft lads’.  Later that day when the votes were counted one of those ‘daft lads’ came close to unseating the Labour incumbent, Aasim Rashid, whose majority was only 41 votes which was by far the smallest in any ward. How could this have happened?

It too easy to point to the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) and the subsequent resignation of Richard Farnell.  But I believe the problem goes much deeper.   Farnell made the mistake of supporting the gone, but unlamented, ex MP Simon Danczuk, for far too long.  From the last day of 2015 until Labour refused to endorse his candidature in mid 2017 Danczuk had the support of Farnell and his cronies, which included some of the people who still hold the strings of power in the Rochale Labour group.  As a result the present regime just looks like ‘Farnell Lite’.

Danczuk brought to Rochdale an unpleasant style of politics.  If Labour in Rochdale is to avoid any more election night scares in what should be a safe Labour seat, it is going to have to show that it has broken completely with the past.  That means clearing out of the seats of power all the councillors tainted by too close an association with Danczuk.  Are they prepared to do it or will short term ‘horse trading’ open the door to the Tories in the long run?


Wednesday, 2 May 2018

"Closed minds stop THOUGHT Crimes!"

 Do we need a First Amendment?

London council worker has been suspended after being caught claiming Zionists “collaborated” with the Nazis.
"Stan Keable has been removed from his duties as an environmental enforcement officer for Hammersmith & Fulham Council after saying: “The Nazis were anti-Semitic. The problem I’ve got is the Zionist government at the time collaborated with them. They accepted the ideas that Jews are not acceptable here.”
The Left-wing activist made the comments, shared in a clip on Twitter, at a demonstration outside Parliament led by the Board of Deputies of British Jews protesting against anti-Semitism in the Labour Party. He was in a counter demo which said Jeremy Corbyn has been unfairly smeared as an anti-Semite.
A council spokesperson said he had been suspended while an investigation was carried out and that it “does not tolerate anti-Semitism”. His job includes inspecting private landlord properties. He does not work with social housing tenants.
Conservative MP for Chelsea & Fulham, Greg Hands, said: “I am shocked someone expressing hateful opinions could have a job meeting vulnerable tenants. The council leader should launch an inquiry into whether there are others of his ilk in the council.”
Suspended - Stan Keable (right of picture)
Mr Keable also works for union Unison, which said it is investigating and “takes allegations of anti-Semitism seriously”. Labour expelled Mr Keable last autumn for his role as the secretary of Labour Party Marxists.
Mike Katz, of the Jewish Labour Movement, said: “To try to twist the history of the Nazis to fit an anti-Zionist narrative is offensive.”
Image not part of article - NV Editor

When contacted by the Standard, Mr Keable said: “I am sorry for any offence I may have caused. But the Nazi regime and the Zionist Federation of Germany collaborated, through the Haavara agreement, in the emigration of some 60,000 Jews to Palestine between 1933 and 1939.” He said he did not insinuate that Jews collaborated with the Nazis."
Source: London Evening Standard (3/4/2018) Kate Proctor.
© Provided by Independent Print Limited

While the cat's away, the mice will play!

Comrade Pritchard (in flat cap) GMCUB Chairman

WHEN Sheila Coleman, the Unite union Community Membership Officer, failed to attend the branch meeting of  the Greater Manchester Unite Community Union Branch (GMCUB), on Tuesday 24th April at Unite Salford Quays Office trouble erupted.  Sister Coleman seems to act as a kind of chaperone for this troubled and wayward union branch.

In consequence without her loving and caring attention all hell broke lose, with one robust and militant branch member, Paul Kelly, taking to flailing with his fists at a fellow branch member.  So seemingly frenzied and demented was the Kelly outburst that he had to be restrained briefly by colleagues, while he recovered his composure.  

The Unite Greater Manchester Community Branch has gained a such a reputation of wayward conduct of late, that it has been the subject of special investigation and has had the undivided attention of the Unite officer Ms. Sheila Coleman, who has a distinguished background on Merseyside for campaigning for the victims and families of Hillsborough. 

Last month, it was hoped that with the successful banishment of two disgruntled branch members by suspending them just before the branch AGM, the climate of the branch would cool down a bit.

Alas, it was not to be!  

Last month's suspensions seem merely to have excited people like Mr Kelly, to try to create the conditions for further suspensions and havoc.  

The taste of the blood of the earlier suspensions was apparently too rich for Mr Kelly, and he seems to have become overwrought as the report below of recent allegations in the Salford Star  suggests:

'The President of Salford TUC Paul Kelly has been reported to the Unite Regional Office. The substance of the complaint is that he verbally abused a Unite member prior to a meeting of the Greater Manchester Community Branch on Tuesday 24th April at Unite Salford Quays Office. Furthermore he raised his fists in a threatening and menacing manner and threatened to beat the member up!'

None of this bodes well for May Day and worker's solidarity.  Indeed next Monday, the excitable Mr. Kelly will be speaking on such issues as international comradeship at a May Day event in Salford's Bexley Square alongside the delightful Labour shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey MP.  


Sunday, 29 April 2018

“The Red Flag of Anarchy” by Andrew Lee

A Book Review by Christopher Draper

DO you remember those wooden rulers on sale at Woolworths with the names and dates of all the British Kings and Queens on the back?  That was the kind of history I learnt at school.  Regrettably, a lot of alternative history isn’t much better with a similar emphasis on London-based leaders.  I’ve always preferred to read about radical lives and politics away from the metropolitan bubble and Andrew Lee’s new history of Sheffield’s pioneering socialists and anarchists is a perfect paradigm of “people’s history”.

ANDREW Lee’s book embodies the ideals it chronicles with a beautiful cover designed by libertarian socialist Walter Crane.  The text is printed on decent quality paper and it’s lavishly illustrated with numerous portraits and political posters.  Computer screens might usefully churn out dry facts but Andrew Lee appreciates that wisdom is more surely gained through a slow, aesthetically pleasing book-read and there is a lot to mull over in The Red Flag of Anarchy”.

Focussed on the Sheffield scene from 1874 to 1900 the author depicts a rich political culture created by predominantly working class activists of every flavour.  He doesn’t push any political line but the book is suffused throughout its 178 pages with an inspiringly libertarian spirit.  Lee’s achievement is to conjure up a vivid picture of a welcoming, inclusive yet militant socialist milieu.  Activists who for an all too brief moment managed to create the germ of a new society within the shell of the old. An alternative society that created communist colonies, embraced gay lifestyles, published a regular anarchist newspaper, operated a “Commonwealth Café”, organised picnics and ran raffles with books by Bellamy and Thoreau as prizes or alternately “A Handsomely Framed Portrait of Ravachol”!

The Red Flag of Anarchy” is invaluable not just for its contents but as an inspiration and model for socialists all around Britain to get your shovel out and start digging down into your own local libertarian past.  I know from my own researches that there’s always been far more going on out of London than our erstwhile chroniclers would have us believe.

I have just two criticisms which I hope Andrew might address in future editions.  The first is the absence of an index.  This isn’t so much of a handicap as it would be in a text-only volume as the extensive contents list and numerous illustrations facilitate navigation but digitisation makes compiling an index simple and speedy.  Secondly I would like some analysis of why Sheffield’s socialist oasis became barren.  At the end of the book Lee observes, “It was the end of an era, everything was going to change…Parliamentary politics was to become the order of the day” but it wasn’t inevitable, what exactly occurred in Sheffield? My own research, for example, shows that in Leicester all manner of socialists cooperated for years until the foundation of the ILP in 1893.  Thereafter Leicester ILP refused to have any truck with local anarchists whose direct-action was thought detrimental to attracting votes. ILP sectarianism thus transformed Leicester’s lively socialism into bureaucratic electoralism. Were the same forces at work in Sheffield?

If we are ever to regain the radicalism and comradeship of early socialism it’s crucial that we identify what went wrong last time.  Andrew Lee reminds us of an era when Labour Clubs were far more than dreary drinking dens.  Available from Amazon for £10.00, in my opinion “The Red Flag of Anarchism” is the most valuable and entertaining study of grass-roots, pioneering Anarchy in the UK since John Quail’s classic “Slow Burning Fuse”.

Saturday, 28 April 2018

Les May justifies attack on Simon Danczuk


YOUR response to my Northern Voices piece ‘Same Old Danczuk’ highlights the stark difference in the way that you approach investigative journalism and the way that Danczuk approaches it.   In your piece you specify the questions which need to be asked and who they should be asked of; that is not Danczuk’s way of doing things.   He resorts to a ‘scattergun’ approach in which he fires off a lot of vague accusations in the hope that some of them will stick.

His book ‘Smile for the Camera’ devotes chapter 10 (pages 237 to 256) to Smith’s relationship with the Liberals. It is full of second hand stories taken from people who were willing to talk to him.   At the end Danczuk concludes ‘Cyril abused people both as a Labour councillor and as a Liberal MP and no political party was ever able to stop him’.  There is nothing in the previous twenty pages, or indeed the rest of the book, to justify the second half of this sentence.

Danczuk has used this tactic of vague, but damaging, accusations before.  After Leon Brittan died in January 2015, Danczuk said ‘Sir Leon is someone who should have faced questions and been compelled to give evidence to the inquiry over his role as home secretary in the 1980s when a dossier containing allegations of establishment child abuse was handed to him.  We had a similar carefully placed story about a ‘dossier’ in the Rochdale Observer in 2014.  The so called dossier was in fact some notes made of a telephone conversation by someone in the office of Lib-Dem MP Liz Lynne.

If Danczuk had drawn attention to the fact that David Steel knew in 1979 exactly what the allegations against Smith were and was aware of the evidence for them being true, then I would have felt this was entirely justified, as he was in pointing out that Steel nominated Smith for a knighthood (p243).  What I objected to, and still do, is that he implied that Cyril’s behaviour at Cambridge House had continued and that the local and national Liberals were aware of this and had protected him.  That is just too vague to be taken seriously as in the absence of specifics it can never be refuted.

Danczuk’s desire for other people to be asked questions by the IICSA is not matched by his willingness to answer questions himself.  He avoided answering questions about his book from the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2014 by turning the spotlight on Leon Brittan and he has avoided being asked questions by the IICSA.

Wednesday, 25 April 2018

John Walker challenges Les May's analysis


I defer to nobody in my admiration for your dogged and forensic analysis of Danczuk and his book. Were others more aware of it, we could have been spared the adulation that he received as he dragged his collecting tin around TV studios and newspaper offices promoting both it and himself.

However, I would disagree with your analysis in this article - and, for once, think that Danczuk called it right about the role of prominent Liberals, nationally and locally - in their silence over the matters that the Child Abuse inquiry examined.  Indeed, the inquiry itself was critical of the role of later LibDem MP Paul Rowen, when he was leader of Rochdale council.

Where I think Danczuk hit the nail on the head, in particular, is about David (now Lord) Steel.

Steel was leader of the Liberal Party at the time RAP published its allegations about Smith in May 1979.  We (I was co-editor of the paper), on legal advice, wrote to Steel for his comments on the story, prior to publication.  We published the response of his press secretary - 'nothing much to see here - move on' was a paraphrase of that response.

I have challenged Steel about this publicly, over recent years - on the airwaves (World At One) and in print (Private Eye).  His responses have wavered between: 'I didn't know', to 'nobody else took the matter up, so it couldn't have been important', to it 'it was just tittle tattle that didn't merit investigation'.

Well, clearly all three of those explanations can't be right.

At the time RAP published the story, the Liberals former leader Jeremy Thorpe was facing trial on conspiracy to murder (a docu-drama on this will be shown by the BBC soon), and another of the handful of Liberal MPs (Peter Bessel) was in severe financial and other difficulties, on both sides of the Atlantic, that eventually caused him to stand down from Parliament.  There was not a national political journalist in Westminster who was not aware of the RAP story.

It is inconceivable that the leader of a party with only a dozen or so MPs, with two of them up to their neck in serious trouble would not have taken rumours about a third very seriously and attempted to establish what was going on.  Either that, or Steel was a seriously deficient party leader - and few people have accused him of that.

Two postumous biographies of Jeremy Thorpe have made it very clear that Thorpe's solicitor was very aware of the RAP/Smith story and were fearful that it would adversely impact on their client at his trial.  They went to considerable ends to ensure that Fleet Street did not touch the story - including using the considerable weight and influence of Harold Wilson's then 'Lord - fixit' Arnold Goodman to keep the papers quiet.

So in in a calculated gamble - Steel just braved it out.  Nobody picked up the story, and his party was saved further embarrassment.

One result of no action being taken against Smith is that others with deviant interests in under age boys would have been emboldend to think that they too could get away with inappropriate behaviour. The terrible trail of abuse at Knowl View is one possible outcome.

To return to David Steel. The Child Abuse inquiry is critical of the process by which Smith was knighted in 1988, and is critical of Thatcher (the awarding Prime Minister), and the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee - PHSC - (the body responsible for vetting the appropriateness of nominees)for allowing his name to go forward to the queen, to appoint.

I have written elsewhere ('The Queen Has Been Pleased - 500 years of corruption in the British Honours System' - Secker and Warburg 1986) of the supine, establishment white-washing nature of the Committee.  So their turning a blind eye to the Smith knighthood was simply par for the course for them at the time.

The Child Abuse Inquiry rather missed the point about Smith's knighthood.  The nomination for a political honour - for that is what it was - would have had to have come from the recipient's party leader. In this case - David Steel. Despite what was known in the Liberal Party about Smith and Cambridge House - Steel was still prepared to nominate Smith.  The inquiry's opprobrium about Smith's knighthood should have been directed at Steel and not Thatcher or the PHSC.

Why should Steel have nominated Smith at that time, for that award? Well, his party was in a delicate stage of negotiations with the SDP about a merger - Smith was always a loud mouthed maverick.  The offer and award of a knighthood could be used to shut him up and get one potential obstacle our of the way for Steel, as he sought to cement the merger.  And as we know: Smith got his knighthood, his silence was achieved and the Liberal Democratic Party was born.

David Steel was the teflon man as far as the Child Abuse Inquiry was concerned - not a witness, nor a feature of its report.

I think the report had many deficiencies - and the void around Steel was one of them.

For once - I agree with Danczuk on the Liberals escaping blame. But I won't be taking up his offer of a drink, to celebrate!

John Walker:  former joint editor of Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP)

Same Old Danczuk!

by Les May

A week ago in an article for Northern Voices, I wrote:

OSTENSIBLY Simon Danczuk’s 2014 book ‘Smile for the Camera’ is about the sexual peccadillos of his predecessor Cyril Smith. But a careful reading shows that the intent was to so closely associate Smith’s antics with the Liberal-Democrats that the party became permanently unelectable in Rochdale so securing a safe Labour seat for Danczuk for as long as he wanted it.’

A recently ‘leaked’ letter from Danczuk to the Chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) tends to confirm my view.  Danczuk wrote:

Finally, I would like to point out that both local and national Liberal Democrat activists/representatives would have been even more aware of many of the issues regarding Cyril Smith though your inquiry appears, so far, to have been quite limited in regard to investigating such matters.  I was wholly convinced that key Liberal figures were well aware of Cyril Smith’s abuse but chose to do nothing. Perhaps this is something that deserves more attention.

This is typical Danczuk.  As with his assertions in the same letter regarding whether Richard Farnell knew about the unsavoury goings on at Knowl View it represents only Danczuk’s opinion.  Just when did his conversations with Farnell about abuse at Knowl View take place?  Were they after November 2012?   If they were then should we not ask whether Danczuk only found out about Knowl View after he was contacted by someone who had been hawking around his story about a ‘cover up’ for years and had suddenly discovered someone to believe him?   As always he offers us no facts only vague generalisations implying that Farnell knew about Knowl View when what was actually commonly spoken of was Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House.

I find Danczuk claim that he ‘thoroughly examined what went on at Knowl View as part of my research for the bookdifficult to take seriously, because the book is full of assertions made without evidence and when asked in October 2016 to provide real evidence he could not do so.

As for his attempts to smear Jim Dobbin with, Relatively new to this town, I found these attempts to cover-up abuse very strange.  I was puzzled as to why local politicians like Jim [Dobbin], but also others, had not raised concerns when they had the power to do so.   At an appropriate time, I did put on record the abuse that Cyril and others committed.’  I find them beneath contempt because Danczuk’s idea of ‘an appropriate time’ was two years after Cyril Smith died, 33 years after his behaviour had been reported in Rochdale’s Alternative Paper (RAP) and a year after Danczuk had applauded enthusiastically at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to him in 2011As for ‘the others’ we are still waiting.

If asked to choose between believing Richard Farnell’s version of what he knew about Knowl View and believing what Simon Danczuk’s says he knew, I’d believe Farnell every time.

If you want to know why follow the links below.

Disgraced Danczuk Damns ex-Crony Farnell

IN a 'leaked' letter on Rochdale Online website it was revealed last weekend that the disgraced former MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, had earlier told the Chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) Prof. Alexis Jay, OBE, that he believed it to be 'inconceivable that Councillor Richard Farnell was not aware of what went on at Knowl View'.

Mr Danczuk wrote:  'The point here is that Councillor Richard Farnell has spent a considerable amount of his life in Rochdale and has been deeply involved in the Labour Party for many years, it would have been impossible for him not to have heard the rumours and accusations about Knowl View.'

Danczuk added:  'Also, Councillor Farnell is a very "hands on" leader and any of his colleagues would know that he would expect to be told if there was a problem, or there would have been adverse consequences for them for not having told him.'

Danczuk's damning of his former pal Richard Farnell, himself now a fellow battle scared warrior in the culture of political disgrace owing to the findings of Alexis Jay's Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, contrasts vividly with the support Councillor Farnell then leader of Rochdale Council, gave Simon Danczuk when he was suspended from the Labour Party in 2015.  In another leaked letter dated the 18th, January 2016, and drafted by Richard Farnell to the then General Secretary of the Labour Party, and copied to Jeremy Corbyn, Councillor Farnell wrote touchingly in support of Simon Danczuk MP:
'We (the Rochdale Labour Party's Executive Committee) would like assurances from yourself and the Leader of the Labour Party that Mr Danczuk will receive a fair and proper hearing by the Party in respect of the allegations made against him and that any decision will be based entirely on factual evidence. '

Indeed, the Rochdale Labour Party loyaly backed Simon Danczuk right up to the moment Mr. Danczuk cut-up his Labour Party membership card when he was deselected for the job as Rochdale's MP.

Councillor Farnell responding to Danczuk's damning statement told Rochdale Online:
'Mr. Danczuk's letter is all supposition and guesswork and that's the reason he was not called to give evidence as he has no knowledge of the events which happened 26 years ago....'

The current leader of Rochdale Council, who himself has now been accused of impropiety regarding his comments with regard to Council business, when asked failed to comment on Mr. Danczuk's letter to the Child Sex Abuse inquiry.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Par for the Course in Rochdale

by Les May
AS a long time Labour voter I was not entirely surprised to see a half page article in the Rochdale Observer reporting the remarks attributed to council leader Alan Brett which can reasonably be paraphrased asno vote, no road cash’.  Naturally the Lib-Dem and Tory leaders have chipped in with their ‘two pennth’ and are making the most of this stupid remark.  But before they get too cocky they may wish to reflect upon why I was unsurprised.

For as long as I can remember the various parties have been trying to convince us that voting for them and their policies is the way to make Rochdale a better place. In fact the scope for independent action is heavily circumscribed by what the national government dictates. It is a case of ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune’.  A household in council tax band H in Westminster pays less than a Rochdale household in band C.  Will a different party in the Leader’s office change that?

We can see from Brett’s response, that this was ‘a breach of trust and confidentiality’, not a resigning matter, what the real problem is.  At the core of Rochdale’s problems is poor governance rather than poor policies.  Far too much of what goes on in Rochdale is done secretively. Attempts are made to suppress local debate by procedural ploys. Too many decisions are taken behind closed doors.  Press and public are routinely excluded from meetings with no reason being given.  Public notices are not infrequently wrong in detail or late being posted.

But do we hear a word of complaint from the ruling party or either of the opposition parties? No!  Councillors do not bother to ask on what grounds the press and public are being excluded from meetings, nor it seems do they routinely examine notices put up in their ward to check that they are both timely and correct.  So these fundamentally undemocratic practices continue. We can be forgiven for thinking that when it comes to good governance all the parties ‘piddle in the same pot’.

Last year as a sop to those who objected to the increase in the remuneration of Rochdale’s councillors the Tories suggested that the number of councillors be cut from 60 to 40.  I’m told there has been a bit of discussion behind closed doors, which seems just a bit premature as no-one has yet taken the trouble to explain to us, the voters, just how cutting the number of councillors per ward from three to two, is going to improve democracy in our town.  (It won’t, and there’s no such thing as cut price democracy.)  This is yet another example of how decisions are taken in Rochdale in an atmosphere of secrecy.  Let’s have some debate about this. How many councillors think this is a good idea?  We need to know.

Poor governance is not a problem created by a single party. It is the responsibility of all of them, and all individual councillors, to put it right.  As the various councillor hopefuls stuff their manifestos through our doors perhaps it is time to say what WE expect of THEM. Nor is it just at council level that things need to change.  At the last election an individual was ‘parachuted’ into the Labour nomination even though there were several local candidates for it.

A Manifesto for Democracy

What we should expect from our MP?

S/he will:
Have one job, being our MP.
Maintain an accessible office in the constituency from the time they are elected.
Hold regular surgeries at various venues around the constituency.
Prominently advertise the time and place of surgeries.
Respond promptly and in full to queries and complaints.
Regularly visit all parts of the constituency to understand how it looks to voters.

What we should expect from our Local Council

Work of officers will be monitored by every councillor and officers held accountable.
All meetings transacting Council business will be open to the public and press.
All meetings transacting Council business will be properly advertised.
All public notices will be issued in a timely manner and without mistakes.
A video archive of all council meetings will be maintained and available to the public.
A properly indexed and citizen friendly website will be maintained.
If services are outsourced the Council remains accountable for their proper delivery.
Concerns about possible electoral fraud will be taken seriously.
Available resources will be utilised equitably across the Borough.

What we should expect from our Ward Councillor

S/he will:
Attend Council meetings.
Will actively monitor the work of officers.
Hold regular surgeries.
Prominently advertise the time and place of the surgeries.
Respond promptly to queries or complaints.
Walk the streets of their ward and act proactively on what they find. 

There are other things in Rochdale which need to change if we are to have confidence in our Council and our councillors.  I suggest three to start with.

A number of councillors have been in place for too long.  The Council needs ‘new blood’. Individuals should be capped at three electoral cycles

Democratic control cannot be fully maintained if Council services and assets are outsourced or placed in the hands of arms length’ companies.  There should be a halt to both these activities.

The ‘whip system’ should not be employed improperly by any political party.  It was wholly improper for a party whip to be employed to force through a rise in councillor allowances.  It is apparent that some councillors were very unhappy about this rise at a time when council employees had any wage increase capped.