Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Manchester Jazz Festival

MJF_2014



carles_benavet


diego_amador
CARLES BENAVENTTuesday 22 - St Ann's Church | 13.00
Carles Benavent
/ bass guitar
Jordi Bonell / guitar

Our fruitful partnership with mjf has revealed yet another breathtaking virtuoso yet to grace UK shores: this time, a bass guitarist whose performance credentials include Miles Davis, Paco de Lucía and Chick Corea. Carles’ breathtaking facility and lyrical expression forges a fluid lead voice on an instrument originally intended for other roles; in partnership with his guitarist, the dialogue is fiery with flamenco and fusion undertones. more
FREEDIEGO AMADOR TRÍO (Double bill with Tin Men and the Telephone) Thursday 24 - RNCM | 20.00
Diego Amador
/ piano, voice
Jesús Garrido / bass
Diego Amador Jr / drums

Amador is an electrifying, consummate self-taught musician whose hands race from one end of the keyboard to the other with tremendous force, turning the piano into a percussion instrument, fusing flamenco music with post-bop and avant-garde jazz. more
£17.50

To book:
www.rncm.ac.uk/performance/tin-men-telephone-diego-amador-trio/

Terror Law Too Widely Defined

BLOGGERS and journalists could fall foul of the British legal definition of terrorism if they publish stuff that the authorities see as a danger to public safety.  That is the view of David Anderson Q.C., the official reviewer of counter terrorism laws in this country.

Mr. Anderson said that the UK had some of the most extensive anti-terrorism laws in the western world, and this gave the police and prosecutors the powers to nail al-Qaida terrorists, right-wing extremists and dodgy Irish groups.  Anderson thinks that recently there has been a degree of 'creep' in the use of the laws on terrorism, and because they are so widely drawn up the laws include 'actions aimed at influencing governments':   Anderson said British laws treated politically motivated publication of material thought to endanger life or to create a serious risk to the health and safety of the public as being a terrorist act if it was done for the purpose of  'influencing the government'.

In other European countries and in the Commonwealth countries the level of proof was set much higher in that there had to be an 'intention to coerce or intimidate'.  According to the counter-terrorism watchdog:
'This means political journalists and bloggers are subject to the full range of ant-terrorism powers if they threaten to publish, prepare to publish something that the authorities think may be dangerous to life, public health or public safety.'

He warned that bloggers and journalists could be classed as terrorists even if they had no intention to spread fear or intimidate, and even those who employed or supported them would also qualify as terrorists.   This means a religous campaigner who publicised religous objections to a vaccination campaign could be caught foul of the law on grounds that they were a danger to public health.  Anderson claimed that on hate crimes the law could make a terrorist out of a pupil who threaten to shoot their teacher on a fascist website.  Though this is clearly criminal Mr. Anderson says, but only if they intended to harm their immediate victims, and no purpose would be served by branding such a person a terrorist. 

Anderson said Britain rightly had tough counter-terror laws that the public accepted so long as they were used only when necessary.  Yet, he added:
'But they can currently be applied to journalists and bloggers, to criminals who have no concern other than their immediate victim, and to those who are connected with terrorism' but only at remotely. 

And he insisted:
'This is not a criticism of ministers, prosecutors or police – who as a rule exercise either their remarkably broad discretions with care and restraint.  But it is time parliament reviewed the definition of terrorism to avoid the potential for abuse and to cement public support for special powers that are unfortunately likely to be needed for the foreseeable future.' 

Small Axe Winners at Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival

 

The Small Axe Radical Short Film Award winners were announced yesterday at the Tolpuddle Radical Film Festival. The films - selected by our jury earlier in the week - were given an enthusiastic reception by audiences throughout the day, with all screenings packed out and many disappointed festival goers being turned away at the doors.

Iqbal Mohammed director of 'Against the Norm' made an appearance and introduced his film and several other filmmakers sent representatives but many of the successful filmmakers could not be there.

So without further ado the winners were....

Best Student Fiction:

Kappu Kalina Shaitana (Devil In The Blackstone)

Ananya Kasaravalli - India - 20 mins

A beautifully shot and engaging piece of storytelling with a simple and effective twist. This film provides a compelling portrait of people struggling to get by in poverty. It explores how powerful influences are stacked against the poorest in society and how small moral choices become disproportionately difficult under such pressure.

Best Student Factual / Documentary

Out Of Darkness Cometh Light

Emily White - UK - 4:20 mins

An excellent example of the poetic form in documentary. This film is engaging and enjoyable to watch while raising interesting ideas and an emotional response to the subject. Being human is about more than material things. This film explores how our ideas, dreams and shared culture can overcome the physical environment we live in. This is a great example of how films can explore ideas in ways that other mediums cannot.

Best Activist Fiction

Immigrants Are Hiding?

WORLDbytes - UK - 29 secs

This is arguably the most efficient film in the entire festival. It makes a political point, comments on society, and slips in a joke all in less than 29 seconds.

Best Activist Factual / Documentary

The Racket

Joe Jenkins - UK - 20 mins

This is a powerful documentary exploring an interesting debate from an original angle. It contains fascinating insights and research. The film is focused and clear communicating a consistent message without imposing a personal agenda. This is an excellent example of classical, well researched and informative documentary filmmaking.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Notes on World War I by Steve Roman

HOW THE FIRST WORLD WAR BEGAN: A GERMAN PERSPECTIVE
My notes on a talk to the Manchester Litt & Phil by Dr. Nick Martin, Director of the Institute for German Studies at Birmingham University.

British memory of WWI:
* Mud
* Suffering/sacrifice (not killing)
* Death (700,000)
* Donkeys (lions led by – invented by Alan Clark)
* Futility
* Poets
* Veterans
* Poppies
Mud, blood and futility only since the 1950s

German memory of WWI:
* Limited/negligible (remembrance extinguished after 1945)
* Only 2 major overview exhibitions*
* Humiliating terms of Treaty of Versailles and blame (Clause 231)
* War ended 28 June 1919 when the Treaty was signed
* War guilt
* Seen as prelude/condition to rise of Nazism and the Holocaust
* Stab in the back myth
* Not fought on German soil
* Subsumed by WW2 and Nazis’ barbaric crimes
* No debate on causes
* But (re)-imagining Germany in the past 100 years and wider
commemorations of WW2 and the fall of the Berlin Wall

Causes of the War:
* Domino effect of interlocking alliances in Europe
* Increasing fear of encirclement by Russian and France
* The Blame Game – grab for world power, looking for an excuse (conspiracy theory)
* The poker players (cock-up theory)
* Sleepwalkers (Christopher Clark) blames Serbia and Austro-Hungary and the briefing paper
* 1897 – we want our place in the sun
* Schlieffen Plan 1905 (war game) but put in place together with Eastern Front

Other facets:
* Manifesto of the 93 on 23 October 1914 – leading cultural figures in science and the arts defending German actions since August: helped Allied propaganda and led to allies’ boycott of those figures into the ‘20s
* Thomas Mann – Intellectual War Service
* War is purification
* Kultur v civilization
* Massive pro-war poetry and other writings in first months
* Over 2 million German dead
* There was no plan either in the briefing paper or during the war to invade Britain but only to capture the channel ports – this fear, rather than protecting Belgium, was in the British Cabinet’s minds
* From 2001 Germany changed from ‘blood’ to ‘soil’ to determine nationality


FIRST WORLD WAR: ORIGINS AND WARNINGS FOR THE 21ST CENTURY
A debate at Manchester Salon between Dr James Woudhuysen Professor of Forecasting and Innovation at De Monfort Uni. and Terry Jackson, Chairman of the Lancashire and Cheshire Branch, Western Front Association.
The origins of the First World War are variously attributed to the collapse of the Habsburg Empire, the complex system of international alliances that developed before 1914, the way in which Germany's Schlieffen Plan depended on its army sticking to strict railway timetables, or the unreadiness of old dynasties to move with the times.
In fact, James will argue, it was the very 2014 phenomenon of Foreign Direct Investment that, before 1914, bound all the eventual participants in the conflict into a system of long-run, spiralling tensions. Today's commentators on the First World War often miss three other forces that mediated and accelerated the catastrophe.
* First, Britain's newly privatised military-industrial complex - the forerunner of GCHQ today - heightened frictions with Germany, even if it didn't cause them.
* Second, the Entente between Britain and France was based on fear not just of Germany, but of losing colonies everywhere. The First World War was, in tendency at least, a global war. It was as much about Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America as it was about Verdun, or America's eventually decisive role in Germany's defeat.
* Third, class relations before, during and after the war were much more polarised than they are today. The 'social question' was key to the very fate both of Russia, and of Germany. In the final stages of the war and after it, France, Italy, the US and even Britain encountered significant strikes and militant class struggles.
Today, some see the US guarantee of Japan’s security against China as the potential trigger for a dangerously titanic conflict. In this scheme, a rising China today is analogous to an ascendant Germany before the First World War. The re-emergence of Russia as a world power, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union, also suggests parallels with developments 100 years ago.
It may however not be accurate to see contemporary conflicts in the East and South China Seas, and nearby, through the lens of 1914. Nor may it be helpful to view Myanmar as a new Serbia. In this discussion, we will explore the parallels and the differences between 1914 in Europe and 2014 in East Asia. He will ask whether a 'pointless' war over the Senkaku Islands might in fact emerge as the extension, by other means, of today's anxious, precautionary politics.

My notes of the debate:

* Introduction of the assembly line and cultural change
* Brand names for consumers
* Investment – mutual between UK and Germany
cross – eg France in Russian railways
* Privatised military/industrial complex driving the war
- 5 in 6 British warships built privately
- revolving door between industry and government
* Navalism – Britain 2:1 - wanted a navy twice as big as the next two
* Anti-Semitism (J A Hobson)
* Theodore Roosevelt in the Caribbean – Cuba and Panama (Canal)
* India lost 70,000 men
* Japan’s navy supporting the allies - lost a ship off Malta in 1917-18
* 200,000 in the British Army in 1914, half of them overseas
* Prussia was a signatory to the 1839 Treaty of London which guaranteed Belgian neutrality in perpetuity and by implication was one of her supporters
* 60,000 allied casualties on the first day of the Somme: 19k allied killed; 5,000 Germans killed
* 53 different ethnic groups present at Ypres

Labour Party to Act on Blacklisting!

THE Labour Party national policy forum held in Milton Keynes last weekend decided issues on to appear in the General Election manifesto and the following wording was agreed on blacklisting:

'If the current Government will not launch a full inquiry into the disgraceful practice of blacklisting in the construction industry the next Labour Government will.  This inquiry will be transparent and public to ensure the truth is set out.'
This commitment comes only days after David Cameron flatly refused a blacklisting inquiry. Vince Cable at BIS has repeatedly turned down calls for a public inquiry

Blacklist Support Group issued the following statement:
'The Labour Party pledge to hold a "transparent and public" inquiry into blacklisting should be applauded by everyone fighting for justice on this human rights conspiracy.
We have been calling for this for many years - Fair play to them.
 
A big thank you to all those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen. 
'The Blacklist Support Group will continue to push for the broadest possible public inquiry to ensure the truth about the entire sordid conspiracy is uncovered. There is documentary proof of police and security services collusion with the Consulting Association and lawyers for the the UK government have recently admitted that blacklisting was a breach of our human rights. Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue: it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state against trade unions.  We look forward to the day when directors of multinational corporations and senior undercover police officers are publicly forced to justify their illegal covert actions while giving evidence under oath. 
We won't be cracking open the champagne just yet, we will continue to apply pressure by our extra-parliamentary campaigning but this commitment to a public inquiry is a significant step forward and a vindication of our ongoing fight for justice.'
The Labour Party policy forum also made commitments to release the suppressed government papers relating to the Shrewsbury Pickets plus on false self-employment and asbestos. See link from UCATT website for more info: http://www.ucatt.org.uk/ucatt-secures-labour-commitments-false-self-employment-blacklisting-pleural-plaques-shrewsbury
 

Ukraine & Spain, is it the same?

Does the Civil War in east Ukraine resemble the Spanish War?

LAST Thursday, Sabrina Tavernise in the International New York Times wrote a report of an incident that reminded me of my experiences in Spain under Franco in the early 1960s, Albania, Hungary, and former Yugoslavia in the 1990s.  She was in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine at a checkpoint held by a 'pro-Russian rebel with bad teeth and aviator sunglasses [who] was trying to help (her)'.  These rebels had been fighting Ukrainian regular troops but they were protective towards her an America journalist as they waited for orders from 'a higher-up'.  Later a brown Lada with tinted windows screeched to a halt at the check-point and a man got out wearing a maroon beret and black leather fingerless gloves.  He had little time for the men who were chatting to Sabrina and wouldn't give them his contact details, he merely indicated that she should get into the back of the Lada.   

The Ukrainian rebel insisted she write down her telephone number and other details before getting into the car 'just in case', and he said 'Don't be afraid  they're just going to check you out.'  The man in the sunglasses and 'arms slathered in tattoos' drove off with Sabrina into 'a strange slide into a Wonderland world, were fact was hard to tell from fiction and reality and absurdity came in equal portions.'  They ended up at his girl friend's flat in a 'dingy one room apartment', and he told her that his name was Denis and that he was head of an intelligence group in Luhansk.  He said he was tired and didn't want to be bothered checking her documents at the office.  A woman who introduced herself as Tamara Vladimirovna exclaimed at the pleasure of having such a lovely guest and shook Sabrina's hand warmly.   

These kind of incidents often happened to me in such situations in other countries in Europe:  people who one may expect to be hostile such as the Civil Guards in the mountains in Segovia in the summer of 1963, when I was returning from a trip to the Asturias where the miners were on strike, who detained me while the authorities did checks on my papers in Alicante, surprised me and I ended up being treated to Sunday dinner by the wives of the Civil Guards together with wine and Sherry; I don't recall them offering me a Cognac with my coffee though!  Something similar happened to me in Belgrade in December 2000 after the fall of Slobodan Milošević, in 1989 in Visigrad, Hungary  before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Sarranda in Albania at the time of the rioting and civil unrest over the Pyramid Sales scandal there.  The thing is to avoid the political rhetoric, the stereotype thinking and to realise that when you get involved politics and journalism in places like the Ukraine now, and Spain under General Franco you can't operate according to any political, ideological or a priori guide book; circumstances force you to think on your feet and if you don't do that you really could end up dead..  Sabrina Tavernise made a journalistic judgement and she was well treated well, and George Orwell made similar judgements in the Spanish Civil War but in his case he and his wife only just escaped in one piece.   

The story of  Sabrina Tavernise's experience was published the day before Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down by persons unknown.  Sabrina's 'interrogator' Denis introduced himself as 'a mercenary from Russia' and he said 'I don't give a damn about any of this.'  Denis did not say who paid him but said that his group formed the heart of the rebel forces and that most of the 'insurgents here – about 80% in his words -  were were scrappy locals:  taxi drivers and coal miners who had never seen a battle'  He added:  '20% were better because they had fought in Afghanistan.'   

Reading Sabrina's account the involvement of Denis and what he says are 'about 50 Russians... being paid to fight against Ukraine's government' one could be forgiven for making a mental comparison between Denis and his Russian mercenary mates and the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War.  The International Brigaders too were accused of being mercenaries in the 1930s, and they too saw the Spanish republican fighters militias as inferior and even racially less able:  there is plenty of documentation to demonstrate this attitude in the archives.  On the news today even the defenders of the Muslims fighting in Syria, are arguing that they are only like George Orwell who fought in Spain and wrote 'Homage to Catalonia'.  The truth is that the rebels argue that the Kiev government was installed as a result of a coup and the Spanish republican government in 1936 was threatened by military sedition which in some ways superficially represented a similar situation.  There is, however, a vast ideological difference between the participants in the International Brigades in the Spanish Civil War, and the Russian mercenaries in Luhansk, Slovyansk and Donetsk: in the case of the Russian mercenaries in east Ukraine – take Mr. Strelkov, a native Muscovite whose real name is Igor Girkin, who made a public appearance earlier this month at a news conference; Mr. Strelkov is described by the journalist Noah Sneider as having 'ideological rigidity [that] precedes any connections he has to Russia's security services, stretching back at least to at least to his days at the Moscow State Institute for History & Archives... [t]here Mr. Strelkov obsessed over military history and joined a small but vocal group of students who advocated a return to monarchism.'   

If Noah Sneider is to be believed it seems that under Mr. Putin people like Mr. Strelkov (or Mr. Girkin) are coming to the fore.  Mr. Sneider writes: 
'An ultra-nationalist and reactionary Mr. Strelkov fits an increasingly familiar profile in Russia, one that has emerged strongly with the re-election of President Vladimir V. Putin.  Messianic and militaristic, such figures combine a deep belief in Russia's historic destiny with a contempt for for the “decadent” West, while yearning for the re-establishment of a czarist empire.'   

Strangely (or perhaps predictably) in the West we have some people who are on the left who find themselves defending the Russian strategy and argue that poor Mr. Putin and Russia are in danger of encirclement by the ideas of wicked western liberal democracies.   Better a reactionary Russia or even an oriental despotism, than a decadent liberal USA or European Union.   

What ought we to do now that 298 passengers have died?   

Ought we to have more severe sanctions against Russia as a consequence of the plane that was shot down?  Ought the US or the EU to intervene to support the Kiev government?   

When America, France and the U.K. failed to intervene on the side of the Spanish republican government in the Spanish Civil War there was much criticism of them on the left.  And when, Orson Wells asked President Roosevelt in 1939 if he had any regrets, Roosevelt said 'Yes, my failure to support the Spanish republic in 1936.'  

Friday, 18 July 2014

'No Public Enquiry,' says Cameron



Prime Minister David Cameron was recently interviewed by award winning journalist Adam Smith (author of "Obama and Me") and was asked about the blacklisting in the construction industry. 
Adam Smith: "With the blacklisting scandal affecting over 3,000 people up and down the country is it not time for a public inquiry?"
David Cameron: "What is needed to make sure we exercise the legislation that is now in place, this is something that happened under the last government and now there is now legislation in place to stop illegal blacklisting".
Adam Smith: "So you don’t think there should be a public inquiry?"
David Cameron: "As I say I think enforcing the law that we have now is the most important thing".

Blacklist Support Group secretary Dave Smith responded:

"Blacklisting is a national scandal akin to McCarthyism. There is documentary proof of police and security services collusion with the Consulting Association and lawyers for the the UK government have recently admitted that blacklisting was a breach of human rights. Blacklisting of trade unionists is no longer an industrial relations issue; it is a major human rights conspiracy between multinational corporations and the state. Despite all this, David Cameron has said 'no' to a public inquiry.

Blacklisting is working class phone-hacking. Only a fully independent public inquiry will get to the truth of the blacklisting human rights scandal and expose all the corporate and state spying on trade unionists who raised concerns about safety issues: UK citizens participating in perfectly peaceful democratic activities.

It is not surprising that a Conservative Prime Minister funded by big business does not want a public inquiry. But that is what blacklisted workers, their unions and the TUC are calling for. Ed Milliband could demonstrate he supports working people against predatory capitalism by committing a future Labour government to a full public inquiry into blacklisting with be an election pledge in the manifesto".

Pic: David Cameron being interviewed by Adam Smith (right) 
Blacklist Support Group

Is Rochdale Observer Danczuk's Mouthpiece?

RECYCLING more old news tomorrow's Rochdale Observer regurgitates more muck on Cyril Smith from retired Detective Sergeant Jack Tasker.  This stuff can be found in Simon Danczuk's book between pages 215 and 221.  Tasker, now 82,  is still good for a quote and the  Rochdale Observer journalist Chris Jones tells us 'Mr. Tasker... he believed Smith would have buckled in court and been found guilty of child abuse had his enquiry been allowed to go ahead.'   

Then discrepancies start to appear when Tasker says:
'We'd brought Smith in for questioning and I'd say no more than two or three weeks later we turned up at the office and two officers from headquarters were there demanding every scrap of evidence we had.  They took the files away and told us to keep quite about it.'   

In the book by Danczuk D.S. Tasker says:
'I got the impression that if it went to trial he (Cyril) would crack.'   

But then Danczuk's book, Danczuk writes: 
'It was Thursday evening...  But by Monday he'd (Smith) given them the slip again.'   

In the first account it is 'two to three weeks', and then in Danczuk's book it's only four days after talking to Smith.   

There is a problem here with the Rochdale Observer's treatment of Simon Danczuk M.P. now in that it is treating him with just the same uncritical deference as the previous regime of Rochdale Observer editors sucked-up to Cyril Smith M.P. in the last century.   Or perhaps it's just lazy journalism?  

Bury MBC & Zero Waste?


Bury MBC & Thrice Weekly Collections

The Local Puppet Obeys its National Master!   

LAST Wednesday night, Bury Council's Labour Cabinet agreed to implement thrice weekly collections of grey bins, this decision represents not just a defeat for the public belief in regular bin collections but it is a defeat for the trade unions and particularly Unite, a union which last year ran a campaign to gain 100% membership at Bradley Fold Waste Depot.   

As I watched the Bury Labour councillors and the manager at Bradley Fold deliberate, it demonstrated, yet again, that local councils are now the mere puppets of a national government and have very little sovereignty of their own.  Time and again questioners from the floor argued that this measure was not a 'green agenda' but a cost saving exercise to please the national budget demands of Westminster.   

The Bury Labour Cabinet chaired by Councillor Mike Connolly, might just as well have been a delegation of functionaries from the offices of the national government of David Cameron.  Why do we still have this pretence of local democracy when the purse strings are controlled by London?   

They all danced merrily as Labour men and women to the tune of the Tory led Coalition, just as the national government dances in step with the market and the financiers.  Why bother to vote when this is how things are determined?   

I rose to ask the question on behalf of my members at Bradley Fold, knowing full well that no amount of fine oratory or eloquence would change anything at last Wednesday's Cabinet meeting, and asked:

 'What will happen when the “side waste” that collects in mountainous quantities beside the Bury wheelie-bins owing to the new the reduced collections?  As I know that the bosses at Bradley Fold are anxious to move the goalposts to make bin-men collect the "side waste".' 

The Bradley Fold manager Neil Long, who had been brought in to answer such a question, rose to say:  'We are aware of this problem and such debris will be mopped-up by our follow up teams.'   

There was concern that for those with big families the space in the bins would be insufficient and would lead to the increasing problems of vermin and fly-tipping.   

We were urged to rejoice in the spirit of the green agenda of Bury Council and that the Council's aim was 'zero waste'.   

I argued that:  'The talk of plans to create “zero waste” in Bury by the council bosses begins to sound like headline grabbing by an ambitious management and local politicians.'   

It all fell on deaf ears as the plan was rubber-stamped by the Labour Cabinet and the next day the Bury Times ran a headline announcing a 'BACKLASH OVER BINS' and saying that 'politicians, members of the public and a trade union (Unite) are spearheading opposition against the proposals...' , and it was reported that a lad from Radcliffe, Daniel Barkess, had handed in an online petition with 3,318 signatures on.

Blacklist Bosses' Misled Parliament correction

CORRECTION
Vinci, Laing O'Rourke & Balfour Beatty and their predecessor companies spent approximately £335,000 on the services of the blacklisting organisation The Consulting Association NOT £335 million as incorrectly stated in the previous email
 
Genuine apologies - there was no deliberate intention to mislead

On Thursday, July 17, 2014, Blacklist Support Group <blacklistsg@gmail.com> wrote: 
BOSSES from blacklist companies were today (Tues 16th July) humiliated during a packed witness session for a parliamentary Select Committee when MPs repeatedly accused them of setting out to "deliberately mislead parliament". The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting heard evidence from Nick Pollard, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, Andrew Ridley-Barker, managing director of Vinci Construction and Callum Tuckett, group finance and commercial director at Laing O'Rourke plus Richard Slaven, partner at Pinsent mason solicitors and Richard Duke from the PR company Grayling.

Simon Reevell MP (Con) condemned the letter sent by Richard Dukes of the PR company Grayling on behalf of the blacklist compensation scheme which he claimed was "intended to mislead every member of parliament" which falsely claimed that unions and representatives of blacklisted workers supported the scheme.

Jim McGovern (Lab) MP for Dundee told the industry bosses point blankly that they had "misled this committee and misled parliament"

MPs identified that Vinci, Laing O'Rourke and Balfour Beatty companies had paid in excess of £335,000 to the Consulting Association which equated to approximately 200,000 name checks on construction workers. 600 workers had either been denied employment or had persoanl information information added to the blacklist database by the 3 firms or their predecessor companies. The construction bosses were continually ridiculed and interrupted by Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs alike who refused to accepted their grovelling apologies for their role in the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal with Select Committee chairman, Ian Davidson MP accusing the scheme of being "purely damage limitation" rather than a genuine desire to show "repentance"

The levels of compensation being offered by the scheme were also forensically taken apart by MPs and Richard Slaven, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason was forced to admit that he could not quote a single authority to justify the pitifully low figures being offered by the blacklist firms who MPs identified as having a combined annual turnover of £34 billion. Slaven was accused of being "not exactly razor sharp" by former barrister Simon Reevel MP.

The MPs suggested a number of changes that the firms said they would go back and consider including extending the schemes period to 3 years to allow for the High Court trial to conclude before workers needed to make a decision. Ian Davidson again repeated his suggestion that the compensation scheme that had been condemned by the Blacklist Support group and trade unions should exist to provide "interim damages" which would be increased once the High Court trial finished. The MPs stated that unless the scheme was drastically improved and the firms showed real attempts to clean up their acts that they should "be denied access to future public contracts"



Thursday, 17 July 2014

Blacklist Bosses Mislead Parliament

BOSSES from blacklist companies were today (Tues 16th July) humiliated during a packed witness session for a parliamentary Select Committee when MPs repeatedly accused them of setting out to "deliberately mislead parliament". The Scottish Affairs Select Committee investigation into blacklisting heard evidence from Nick Pollard, chief executive of Balfour Beatty, Andrew Ridley-Barker, managing director of Vinci Construction and Callum Tuckett, group finance and commercial director at Laing O'Rourke plus Richard Slaven, partner at Pinsent mason solicitors and Richard Duke from the PR company Grayling.

Simon Reevell MP condemned the letter sent by Richard Dukes of the PR company Grayling on behalf of the blacklist compensation scheme which he claimed was "intended to mislead every member of parliament" which falsely claimed that unions and representatives of blacklisted workers supported the scheme.
Jim McGovern (Lab) MP for Dundee told the industry bosses point blankly that they had "misled this committee and misled parliament"
MPs identified that Vinci, Laing O'Rourke and Balfour Beatty companies had paid in excess of £335 million to the Consulting Association which equated to approximately 200,000 name checks on construction workers. 600 workers had either been denied employment or had persoanl information information added to the blacklist database by the 3 firms or their predecessor companies. The construction bosses were continually ridiculed and interrupted by Labour, Liberal and Conservative MPs alike who refused to accepted their grovelling apologies for their role in the Consulting Association blacklisting scandal with Select Committee chairman, Ian Davidson MP accusing the scheme of being "purely damage limitation" rather than a genuine desire to show "repentance"
The levels of compensation being offered by the scheme were also forensically taken apart by MPs and Richard Slaven, partner at law firm Pinsent Mason was forced to admit that he could not quote a single authority to justify the pitifully low figures being offered by the blacklist firms who MPs identified as having a combined annual turnover of £34 billion. Slaven was accused of being "not exactly razor sharp" by former barrister Simon Reevel MP.
 
The MPs suggested a number of changes that the firms said they would go back and consider including extending the schemes period to 3 years to allow for the High Court trial to conclude before workers needed to make a decision. Ian davidson again repeated his suggestion that the compensation scheme that had been condemned by the Blacklist Support group and trade unions should exist to provide "interim damages" which would be increased once the High Court trial finished. The MPs stated that unless the scheme was drastically improved and the firms showed real attempts to clean up their acts that they should "be denied access to future public contracts" 

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Transatlantic Trade Danger!

Dear Editor
I write to alert your readers to one of the biggest threats to face public services and our health service in particular, in decades.
It comes in the form of an international trade agreement currently been negotiated without any reference to the electorate.
 
The agreement is called theTransatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Negotiations for this trade agreement(which were initially held in secret) would allow the wholesale incursion by the private sector into public services and public procurement. If passed this agreement would make it night on impossible to bring poorly performing privatised services back under public ownership and threaten those already under public ownership.
 
TTIPis purely about increasing the power of multinational investors, generally big business and hedge funds, and reducing regulation on these bodies. TTIP would establish in law the right of multi-national companies to sue nation states in a special court– The Investor –State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) – if the nation’s regulatory framework were deemed a barrier to free trade.
 
Campaigning bodies such as War on Want, the People’s assembly and trade unions are alerting people to this threat. Local people should contact their councillors, MP’s and EMP’S calling upon them to have public services taken out ofTTIP before it is too late.
Regards,
Unite the Union

Voting Only Encourages Them!

IN April, Len McCluskey the General Secretary of Unite threatened to stop paying millions to the Labour Party, if Ed Miliband didn't buck his ideas up. 

In May, it was reported that Len McCluskey and his union Unite had handed Labour its biggest donation since Ed Miliband came to power.   It was said that the  Labour Party had had £1.8million from Unite, the union he leads.  Many of the Unite union members resent this financing of a political party.

Today the Unite union has issued a simpering call for members of the union to resister to vote and to exercise their vote:  'Next May we will choose a new government. We can rid our people of a government that has done so much to destroy the social fabric of our nation.  But if you’re not registered you can’t vote and if you don’t vote you don’t have a voice.'

The Unite plea continues:
'In 2010 only 65% of the electorate voted - but non-voters are those who suffered the most from brutal austerity policies....  Some six million UK people are eligible to vote but are not registered and this figure could increase because the law is changing.'

Then it rams the message home by saying: 
'If you don’t do politics, politics will do you'

What the union Unite neglects to note is the corrupting effect that its own involvement in party politics is having on both its officers and on its members.  It gives it members the false belief that voting will usher in change in peoples lives, it encourages people to trust in politicians.  To hand over power to the wheelers and dealers down in Westminster.  That is a corrupting vision promoted by a trade union which encourages people up North to leave things to the politicians down South.

The union bosses then go on to look for Knighthoods and other honours from the establishment under a Labour administeration.

I have never voted in my life, and I do not intend to encourage the party politicians by starting to vote for them now. 

Laughter as Militants Mock English Anarchists

'ENGLISH anarchists,' declared blacklisted electrician Colin Trousdale, 'can't organise owt!'  Comrade Trousdale was speaking at a branch meeting of the famous Greater Manchester Contracting Branch 1400/7 in the Town Hall Tavern on Tibb Lane about the attack in October 2012 of a gang of members of the so-called Anarchist Federation (AF or A.fed) on a vendor on the Northern Voices/ NAN stall at the Anarchist Bookfair, and the consequent theft of trade union literature.  To laughter from the rest of those present he suggested that the anarchists ought to invent a salad cream bomb for throwing at their enemies.  The meeting which was mostly discussing important issues such as the blacklist and the behaviour of the Unite union in attempting to negotiate separately from the Blacklist Support Group and other unions, and to engage in talks with the very companies guilty of blacklisting in the construction industry, turned to the bizarre behaviour of Nick Heath and the Anarchist Federation (AF) as a bit of light relief under Any Other Business, when the Secretary of Tameside TUC gave a report likening the behaviour of A.fed. to an organisation on the far-right of English politics.  The meeting was reluctant to give even that degree of political seriousness to an organisation like A.fed. who were likened to clowns incapable of wiping their own arses.

In a year in which Freedom, the anarchist newspaper and perhaps the oldest left-wing paper in England, died of shame having been on the its death-bed for about a decade under a variety of weak editors.  Freedom, it was noted, never reported on any of the attacks on Northern Voices and even allowed itself in its dying moment, to be bullied by the superannuated boss of A.fed the cockney Nick Heath.  The anarchists had been condemn at a another meeting of the Greater Manchester County Association of TUCs (GMCA TUCs) for their behaviour on a May Day march.  It is getting difficult to defend anarchists these days at trade union meetings such among the Manchester blacklisted electricians, simply because they behave badly in a way which lacks an English sense of humour, and there was hearty laughter at the electrician's branch when it was learned that the pretext for the attack on Northern Voices and the theft of the trade union pamphlets was provoke after NV13 carried an obituary on the late Bob Miller describing him as a 'skedaddler':  many of the blacklisted lads read Northern Voices and their branch has been affiliated to Tameside TUC for years.  Yet, few would bother to read much of the other publications on the left.   

At last night's meeting the Socialist Party and Linda Taaffe came under attack when it was suggested that the branch affiliate to the National Shop Steward's Network (NSSN).  This was agreed, but Colin Trousdale pointed out that the NSSN had never had to same clout since the split when the syndicalists and other independent socialists left, and Colin said that the biggest loss had been the departure of Dave Chapple as the Chair of the NSSN.  Dave Chapple, who is a libertarian socialist, would never call himself an 'anarchist' simply because of the kind of corny behaviour already described at the Anarchist Bookfair, where the organisers refused to intervene and challenge A.fed., the electricians expressed disbelief about this.  The Socialist Party was criticised for divisiveness, but Colin claimed that the real culprit who caused the split in the NSSN was Peter Taaffe.  It was said that the split in the NSSN was caused by the Socialist Party who wanted their own 'sovereign' anti-cuts body separate from that of the SWP and others.  The supporters of the NSSN were asked how many cuts had been prevented by the NSSN since it set up its own anti-cuts organisation, and answer came there none.  It was even suggested that Nick Clegg and Vince Cable may have in truth modified more of the cuts than the NSSN and the Socialist Party put together.   

Dave Chapple and the paper Trade Union Solidarity are organising a conference on the 'Future of Working Class Education' in August.   

The electrician's branch discussed the bankrolling of the Labour Party by Unite and Len McClusky.  One member said that the Labour Party could not be saved, and this funding was a waste of the member's money.  What is interesting in all this is how nothing ever changes the unions throw money down the political drain of the Labour Party, the English anarchists live up to their standard barn-pot caricature, and English trotskyists still seek solutions to the problems of the world through eternal point-scoring and splits. 

Butler-Sloss Jumps Before She's Pushed

THE BBC reported today:  'Most public bodies at least claim they appoint people because of what they know, not who they know. But it was Lady Butler-Sloss's family and political connections - not her experience and knowledge - which led to her resignation.'

Who now then?   Who now to probe into child sex abuse?

Yesterday, the Home Secretary Theresa May said she did not regret appointing the peer, adding that she would 'not hang around' in naming her successor.

But who?

There must not be another botched job.

Afterall, Ann Elizabeth Butler-Sloss was the first female Lord Justice of Appeal and until 2004, was the highest-ranking female judge in the United Kingdom.

Who will be her successor? Mrs May has said she still favoured appointing a single individual to head the over-arching inquiry rather than a panel of experts urged by Labour and some abuse victims.

An American judge has been mooted by some.  But would they have the necessary nous or street-wise grasp to understand our English ways?

What about the Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon?   Best known as the superjudge who ordered the arrest of General Pinochet, this crusading legal head of WikiLeaks has been approached by the NSA whistleblower to represent him.

Already there are calls for a figure less linked to the establishment to be appointed - but if a legal background, along with the security clearance to read confidential government papers is required, then that could be easier said than done it seems. 

Marching Together with the TUC!

THIS autumn the TUC is to organise a mass demonstration in London under the banner of Britain Needs a Pay Rise. It will take place on Saturday 18 October 2014, and will begin with a march through central London, culminating in a rally in Hyde Park. 
This will be the fourth march that the TUC has organised since the coalition came to power. The first � the March for the Alternative � in March 2011 saw 500,000 people attending a huge march and rally in London.
With people facing the biggest squeeze on their incomes since Victorian times, and official figures out last month showing that wages have fallen in real terms every year since 2010, the TUC believes that as growth returns to the UK economy, everyone should get to share in the recovery.
TUC General Secretary Frances O�Grady said: �Hard-pressed families across the UK must be beginning to wonder when the tough times they are experiencing will ever end. They keep hearing that the economy is growing and learning of yet another bonus extravaganza in the city, yet their own wages never seem to go far enough.
�Worries about money are a big deal for ordinary people. While their household budgets can just about stretch to cover everyday essentials, they are likely to have to load up their credit cards to meet the cost of any unexpected items.
�During the dark days of recession, workers accepted that their pay might have to be frozen or even cut to save jobs, but now the economy is picking up � and many employers can afford to pay their staff more � the time has come for Britain to get a pay rise

Monday, 14 July 2014

Lost in the Labrynth of Child Abuse!

By Charles Moore in The Telegraph 11th, July 2014: 

HERE are some things we do not know about the 'historic' child abuse accusations that are causing such concern.

We do not know who was accused by the late Geoffrey Dickens MP. We do not know for certain if anyone Dickens accused in private was a public figure. Except in the case of the named accusations he made in the House of Commons under parliamentary privilege, we do not know what he accused anyone of. We do not know whether the accusations he made were already known to police by other means, and therefore added nothing. Nor do we know what happened to whatever he passed to Leon Brittan and subsequent Home Secretaries in the 1980s.
 
That seems quite a lot not to know.  What do we know?  We know that no one can find the various bits of paper (not a single “dossier”) that Dickens handed over.  We know, from a Home Office investigation into itself last year, that it has found 573 files (out of a paper mountain of almost 750,000 files) that make reference to child abuse matters in some form (not related to Dickens).  We also know, by the same internal title check that found the 573 files, that the Home Office could not find 114 possibly relevant files.  These were probably destroyed, we learn, under the rather sloppy procedures that govern all files.

We also know that Geoffrey Dickens was not always accurate.  As the Labour MP, Paul Flynn, pointed out to the Home Affairs Select Committee this week, Dickens made claims about the satanic and occult that were, to put it politely, far-fetched.  In 1986, Dickens also named in the House a consultant anaesthetist who, he said, had raped an eight-year-old girl.  The Director of Public Prosecutions had already decided that no prosecution of this case could succeed, because of the lack of evidence.  But after Dickens had named the consultant, the Sun newspaper paid for him to be prosecuted privately.  The anaesthetist was acquitted.  This innocent man says today that Dickens never spoke to him or sought any evidence from him before making his false accusation: it was 'an awful period of my life'.

Having been a journalist in Parliament in the Eighties, I remember Geoffrey Dickens.  He was a 'rentaquote' – a man who could be relied on to say something noisy on almost any subject and thus boost one’s rather feeble stories. He was also the sort who would say controversial things in Parliament if prompted with 'information' from our trade.  We therefore treated him without our usual harsh censure when he admitted his first mistress, with whom he attended thés dansants, and when his second mistress was subsequently revealed.   The late, great Frank Johnson, parliamentary sketch-writer for this paper, described him as 'the second most famous Dickens in English comedy'.  Dickens was not an expert on child abuse.   Indeed, he was so unused to the word 'paedophile' that he said 'fidopile' in his speeches.  Without wanting to be unkind, I would say he did not know very much about very much.

On this balance of what we know and don’t know, and on the record of Geoffrey Dickens, does it make sense to have two new inquiries (on top of an earlier one)? Is there any earthly reason why – with no new evidence of what they actually were – we should start hunting for the Dickens claims again? For how many years does the government have to look for the needle in the (partly destroyed) haystack when we have no factual reason for thinking that the needle may be worth finding?

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, who announced the inquiries this week, speaks of the need for the “complete confidence” of the public.  But, by caving in to demands for more inquiries without clear reason, she reveals her own, infectious lack of confidence.  She has brought in the head of the NSPCC – a body no more impartial in these matters than is the RSPCA about farming – to interrogate her own people.

Then there is Mrs May’s wider-ranging inquiry into just about everything that public and non-state bodies have ever done about child abuse accusations. No sooner had she appointed Lady Butler-Sloss as its chairman on Wednesday than there were howls that this would mean a cover-up of a cover-up.
Lady Butler-Sloss has every sort of relevant qualification. She chaired the inquiry into the false diagnoses of child abuse made by doctors in Cleveland in the late Eighties, for example. But it was 'revealed' that she is also the sister of the late Sir Michael Havers, who was Attorney-General in the Eighties.  According to the MP Simon Danczuk, one of activists in the field,    'She’s part of the establishment and that raises concerns.'  So reverential are we made to feel towards those who campaign in the name of abused children that no one pointed out that Lady Butler-Sloss is not chairing the Dickens/1980s inquiry and so this charge against her is irrelevant as well as silly.  No one ventured to say that her 'establishment' knowledge of how public bodies actually work might be an advantage when investigating them.

The essential message behind Mrs May’s decision is, 'Help! I’m frightened.'    There is such a mood got up about child abuse that no one in authority dare question any complaint.  On Radio 4 news on Wednesday evening, I heard the BBC reporter solemnly intone that 'one man who alleged he was the victim of abuse in a care home says the appointment [of Lady Butler-Sloss] shows a complete lack of empathy'.  This man was not named, nor was the care home; his claim of abuse was not described or proved; his opinion of Lady B-S may be of no value.  And yet, in this climate, who dares resist? Perhaps Mrs May congratulates herself on having escaped censure this time.  But her critics will be back:  they can smell her fear.

So what is all this about?  I do not believe that it is really about child abuse, although shocking institutional failures to prevent or catch abusers in schools, hospitals, children’s homes, the BBC and so on certainly make things worse.

First, and less important, it is about the coming general election. It should not escape notice that Mr Danczuk is a Labour MP whose particular skill is beating Liberals. Tom Watson, one of the great self-appointed commanders in the children’s crusade, is a well-known Labour attack-dog against the Tories. Labour love a narrative of an evil past in which Margaret Thatcher   'tore the heart out of communities' and 'threw millions on the scrapheap'. If they can persuade people that her cronies were a gang of sex criminals, they will be able to terrify David Cameron’s Conservatives away from policies that made her win all the elections she contested. Paedophile accusations give them good cover because they do not sound party political.

The second, much more important reason why we are plunged into yet more inquiries is a wider breakdown of trust in those who govern us. (This is just as much a problem for Labour as for the other two main parties.) It relates to disillusionment because of the credit crunch, the expenses scandal, and the shift of power to the European Union. We think we hate what we call a powerful elite, but what we really despise is a weak one. Once trust is lost, a naive cynicism sets in. Anyone in authority is automatically disbelieved. The desperate official reaction is to create inquiry after inquiry, and even inquiries into inquiries, babbling about    'transparency' and praying that the news cycle will shift to something else.

Cumulatively, such a process means that government becomes impossible.  We are not far from that point.