Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Bomber Command and conquering the Nazi war machine"

I would recommend this posting by Geoffrey Goodman who is a former industrial correspondent for the Daily Mirror and also served in the RAF in Bomber Command during the Second World War. Hat tip Tribune magazine.

"I suppose it was a most poignant moment for me. Having served with the RAF during the war, I attended a service at St Clement Danes, the RAF church in central London, some 20 years ago where the Queen unveiled the statue of Sir Arthur Harris – Bomber Harris as he is usually labelled. That event was accompanied by jeering protesters whose unapologetic cry was: “Harris was a war
criminal”.

I was both shocked and surprised at the outburst of venom against Sir Arthur Harris. The raucous tones pierced like shrapnel. As a non-believer, I had come to that church two decades ago simply to salute comrades who had been among the 55,573 bomber crewmen killed as they flew to counter-blitz Nazi Germany. That was 44.4 per cent of Bomber Command’s entire aircrew force of 125,000. Were we war criminals, simply obeying orders regardless? Was the whole thing an astronomical waste of lives, British and German? Could it be that some of our fellow citizens actually regarded our war-time service as an act of murder?

Many of my fellow RAF mates, like me, were committed socialists. So was everything we did in dropping bombs on German towns, cities as well as specific military targets an unpardonable debasing of our socialism? Had we simply conformed by obeying orders? More to the point, I wondered those 20 years back, did these protesters believe there was an alternative, apart from surrender? Were we being accused, by definition, of being accomplices simply by obeying orders from this man Harris – whom some of our crews used to label “Butcher Harris”?

In fact, was the entire Bomber Command an army of “war criminals” submissive to leaders such as Harris? Such were the reflections which, inevitably, sifted through my mind during that St Clement Danes Church service two decades ago.

All of which tended to emerge again, recently, when the same Queen, 20 years older, unveiled the magnificent, long overdue, monument to Bomber Command on the edge of London’s Hyde Park.
Except, this time there were no protesters crying out “murderers”. Check out rest of article here.

Labour Housing Group (London) AGM 10 Sept 2012

"The Annual Meeting of the London Labour Housing Group will take place on Monday 10 September 2012 at Portcullis House, London SW1 at 6.30pm.

The business to be transacted will include reports on activities so far, guest speakers, announcement of election of an Executive Committee for 2012-2013, and discussion of policy and campaign priorities.

If you wish to stand for the LLHG Committee - Nominate yourself NOW Membership of the Committee will be decided by postal ballot of members of Labour Housing Group living in the London area.

If you wish to stand for election, please nominate yourself by emailing the Secretary of LLHG, Jamie Carswell, at jamie.e.carswellATgmail.com including a 100 word (maximum) statement in support of your candidacy by Saturday 18 August at the latest. If required, a postal ballot will be held thereafter.

London LHG operates under the national rules of LHG and will have a Committee of 12 members. The Committee will in turn elect officers and will have the power to co-opt a small number of additional members.

If you wish to submit a resolution for consideration at the meeting, please keep it succinct and submit to Jamie Carswell by 18 August. Please note we will keep strictly to this deadline in order to conduct an election and turn papers round in time for the AGM. If you have any queries please contact me by email at steve@hilditchonline.com (or on 07961 414809 if you do not have email).

Regards Steve Hilditch Chair"

(Jon Cruddas MP, now Shadow Cabinet member for the Labour policy review, has agreed to speak as well as Karen Buck MP).

UPDATE: PLEASE NOTE THAT AGM ONLY FOR LONDON LHG BRANCH MEMBERS!

Monday, July 30, 2012

"An Olympic sized legacy for London 2012"

Hat tip David Christie on Labour List

"Many of you may have been one of the countless thousands straining to glimpse a sight of the Olympic torch pass through Central London last Thursday. It had been the same a week before in the host boroughs as huge crowds greeted the Olympic flame in Greenwich, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest and Barking and Dagenham. It is overwhelming how this country has come together to celebrate these games. We must make sure that we use that good will to carry the Olympic spirit into a legacy for people.

When London won the right to host the Olympics and Paralympics in 2005 the promise of a tangible legacy was a fundamental reason for the bids success. In 2007 that promise was restated and augmented with a series of promises by Government including to use the Games to “transform the heart of East London.”

There has long been a view in East London that this should be about more than just the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park and a few thousand houses. It has to be about the lasting change for this part of London and a reversal of a century of inequality that has existed between the East and the rest of London.

In 2009 and in response the 6 host boroughs published the ‘Strategic Regeneration Framework’, which sets out their objectives to meet this challenge. It is epitomised by the principle of ‘convergence’: that within 20 years the communities who host the 2012 Olympic Games will have the same social and economic chances as their neighbours across London. Central Government and the Mayor of London are on paper signed up to this.

Last year the host boroughs published their record on convergence and there are signs of success, particularly with excellent schools in East London contributing to a good 5 A*-C GCSE rate. But the notable issues of low skills in the working age population, high unemployment and low median incomes remain. Beyond the report, the issues of poor quality housing and overcrowding are a barrier to success.

This is an issue of severe inequality within one of the richest cities in the world. Billions of pounds of public money has been spent, not only on the Olympics and Paralympics but on trying to resolve the health and skills gaps that exist and in the overlarge benefit cheques which result from the failure of those policies. Yet unlike eradication of inequality between nations there is no mass movement campaigning for ending this scar on London’s face.

In parts of East London convergence may be achieved through natural market forces. Areas such as Bethnal Green, Dalston and parts of Stratford are seeing new developments and young professionals moving in who will change the mix of people, the employment levels and the incomes. But do we want the legacy of the Games to be a replacement of the people who live here? Or do we want it to have been a genuine shift in opportunities for people who have lived here their entire lives and those that choose to make East London their home?

Labour should lead for London in embedding the spirit of convergence in our policies and ensure that the power of the Games is truly used to transform lives. These two weeks and the Paralympics will be an amazing celebration for our country; a country which is comfortable taking a centre stage in the world. Let our political leaders now deliver on that promise of legacy that made all this possible".

Vote YES to Protect Your Pension: LGPS 2014 Ballot

From tomorrow (31 July 2012) UNISON members will be able to vote on the new look Local Government Pension Scheme 2014.

My advice is to ignore the miserablists who are urging rejection for reasons I cannot even begin to understand never mind explain.  This (LGPS 2014) is a good deal.

Since the Union cannot identify who is in the scheme or not, all those who work for employers who have membership of the LGPS will be balloted. If you are currently in the pension scheme you need to vote YES to secure it. If you are not currently in the scheme I would also recommend you vote YES since you may be able to join it later.

Voting YES is a "no-brainer" in my view. This is a good deal that should secure the scheme for the future. Check out the latest advice below from the UNISON pension advisors:-

"It’s time to have your say! Use your vote on the new pensions proposals.
  • Ballot will be held 31 July – 24 August.
  • Ballot helpline (10-21 August) 0845 355 0845
Among the improvements to the LGPS negotiated by Unison are:
  • No overall contribution increase – 90% of members will pay the same or lower contributions than now – you will only pay more if you earn over £43,001 a year.
  • A career average scheme which uses all your pensionable pay to calculate your pension, increase in line with the Consumer Prices Index (CPI)
  • An improved 1/49th accrual rate, which means your pension builds up faster each year
  • Pensionable pay will include non contractual overtime and additional hours worked by part-time and term-time wokrers – so more of your earnings will count towards your pension
  • Most part time workers will pay less for their pension as contributions for part timers will be based on actual pensionable earnings from 2014, not the full time equivalent as they are now
  • A new 50/50 option means that after April 2014 you can choose to pay half the contribution to receive half the pension in those years while keeping full survivor benefit and ill-health pension protection. You can opt back into the full contribution for full pension rate at any time.
  • If you are transferred to a private or voluntrary sector employer, you will still have the right to stay in the LGPS.
Current scheme members’ pensions benefits for service before 1 April 2014 are protected and will still be calculated on final pensionable salary on leaving service or retirement. The current normal pension age of 65 will continue to apply to this part of your pension. The existing Rule of 85 protections will still apply and members will not have their pension reduced if they are made redundant after the age of 55 regardless of normal pension age.

If you want to find out more about how these changes will affect you then go to http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/lgps.asp"

Ted's "big hand to the Olympic volunteers"

Hat tip to Bow Resident (and fellow Gog), Ted Jeory, and his post on the "brilliant Olympic volunteers" who are the unsung heros of the games. It shows there is good in everyone (even in a Sunday Express reporter :)

"This is the first of two posts this morning that are slightly off the Tower Hamlets beat. I’m on Olympics duty for the Sunday Express over the next fortnight (like Mayor Lutfur Rahman, I was at the opening ceremony on Friday and we both agree–again!–it was a wonderful atmosphere).
Here’s the first piece, on the brilliant Olympic volunteers, many of whom, such as my lovely neighbour, Ray Gipson (he’s a steward at the Aquatics Centre), come from Tower Hamlets...(click for link to post".

"Pension schemes need urgent rule change"

Catching up after annual leave last week. Just read Janice's important letter on pensions published in the Guardian on 25 July.

"Phillip Inman's welcome report on the dire state of private sector pensions (No wonder ministers are panicking over pensions, 23 July) nevertheless omits one major reason for the horrendous deficits of defined benefit (ie final salary and career average) pension schemes: a couple of clauses buried in the 2005 Pension Regulations. The clauses force defined benefit schemes to conduct valuations using methods derived from free market theory: basing scheme projections, decades into the future, on the state of the markets on one day. If the markets are fine, the pension fund is fine. If not, schemes are in trouble. These rules have caused wild volatility: no one has a clue about how big their deficit will become. Last year the Pension Protection Fund reported DB schemes' combined deficits as £8.3bn. A few weeks ago they passed £300bn.

The Association of Member Nominated Trustees, whose members are trustees of pension schemes with collective assets of about £200bn, says DB schemes must be enabled to ride out short-term market volatility by smoothing the valuation – taking an average of asset values and gilt yields over several years. The PPF has adopted this method for itself. What's good enough for the PPF is good enough for the schemes that fund it. The AMNT has submitted rule changes to the Department for Work and Pensions, and our views are shared by organisations such as the CBI and the National Association of Pension Funds.

This may sound like a dusty technical issue. But what's at stake are the pensions of more than 2 million working people, and the chance for the millions coming after them of having a decent pension.
Janice Turner
Co-chair, AMNT

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Independent Labour Party and the Clarion Movement

This poster is an useful guide to the history of the Labour Movement family. It explains the connections between The Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the Clarion Movement. 

"We are often asked about the relationship between the Nelson ILP Clarion House and the National Clarion Cycling Club.

The short answer is that there is not one. Although we share similar socialist ideals to the people who started the Clarion Movement that gave birth to the Clarion Cycling Clubs.

The Clarion Newspaper and the Clarion Cycling Clubs The Clarion Movement developed out of the Clarion newspaper.   The Clarion newspaper was one of the most influential Socialist newspapers ever published in Britain, creating thousands of Socialists and inspiring a whole social movement. The movement was divided by the First World War and never recovered.  The first issue of The Clarion was published on 12 December 1891.  The offices were in City Buildings, Corporation Street, Manchester, although the paper moved to Fleet Street in 1895. (The building still stands opposite the Co-operative Bank.)

 The Clarion was founded by Robert Blatchford.  The Clarion readers set up a social network of societies, including the Clarion Cycling Club, Vocal Unions, Clarion Fellowship, Clarion Handicraft Clubs, Clarion Scouts, Rambling Clubs and Cinderella Clubs (which arranged events for children).

The Clarion Cycling Club began one evening in February 1894 when Tom Groom and five others men held a meeting in the Labour Church in Birmingham and decided to set up a Socialist Cycling Club. Visit the following website of Brighton and Hove Clarion Cycling Club
for further information

The Independent Labour Party The ILP comes from a long tradition of organisations on the left of the political spectrum that have sought collective solutions to the inequalities and destructiveness caused by capitalism. We seek to continue that tradition today, to extend cooperative solutions to human problems by democratic means. The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a workers political party formed in Bradford in 1893. In 1975 The ILP became Independent Labour Publications and is now an educational trust, publishing house and pressure group committed to democratic socialism and the success of a democratic socialist Labour Party. The ILP (an ethical Socialist party) was formed with the intention of fighting local and national elections with the objective of achieving political power.

The first two Labour Prime Ministers: James Ramsay MacDonald and Clement Richard Atlee had their political roots in the ILP.  Locally Nelson ILP has a proud record of social welfare achievements.


The Clarion House The Nelson Clarion House is the last of many Clarion Houses throughout the country that were run by the ILP branches. The Clarion House is a monument to the ILP Movement.

The Nelson ILP Clarion House, built in 1912, is one of several ‘Clarion Houses’ that were used by the Nelson Independent Labour Party.

The Clarion House was built as a place in the countryside (a centre for recreation) that o ered working people the opportunity to escape the conditions that prevailed in the textile and other industries of the day. Its purpose was also to spread the word of socialism, fellowship and equality. Further information about the establishment of the Nelson Clarion Houses is included in a CD-ROM which can be purchased from the Clarion House.


The Nelson Independent Labour Party Land Society Ltd
The Clarion House is owned and managed by The Nelson Independent Labour Party Land Society Ltd, which was formed under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act of 1893, on the 13th of July
1910. It was founded by the members of Nelson branch of the Independent Labour Party.

The Land Society continues as an independent trust, retaining the name, “Nelson Independent Labour Party Land Society”, and being broadly committed to the principles of the ILP founder members and
to the promotion and contemporary expression of ILP traditions. Shareholders of the trust do not receive any benefit, either in money or kind for being shareholders and they have to demonstrate their  commitment to the principles mentioned above, before becoming shareholders. Shares have a nominal value of £1.00 each. The Nelson ILP Clarion House is staff ed by volunteers who do not
receive a reward, other that the satisfaction of providing a service to our customers.

The volunteers are made up of members and non-members of the Land Society.  We are greatly indebted for the work undertaken by the volunteers and we hope that you appreciate the contribution that they make, as much as we do".

Hat tip Captain Swing.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The best part of the London Olympics 2012 Opening Ceremony: Homage to our NHS

I really enjoyed the opening ceremony last night. I thought it was just simply brilliant. The bit about the birth and importance of the National Health Service (NHS) was a particular favourite.

It seems that not everyone shares this view. Nick Lowes from "Hope Not Hate" reports that
"...Conservative MP Aiden Burley (Cannock) described the opening ceremony as "the most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen". He went on: "Thank God the athletes have arrived! Now we can move on from leftie multicultural crap."

This from the man who enjoyed a stag do in France with friends dressed up in Nazi uniforms".
Nuf said?

Hat tip photo to UK Uncut (which of course did not appear during the acual ceremony)

Twitter Joke Appeal: David Allen Green is the Real 007

Great news yesterday that Paul Chambers was cleared by the Lord Chief Justice at the High Court of a criminal conviction for making a daft comment on twitter.

Paul was supported during his appeal(s) by Comedians Stephen Fry and Al Murray.

While his legal team was headed by top solicitor, David Allen Green (also known as blogger "Jack of Kent")

I sent David a twitter message that this is yet another notch for justice in his legal gown!

This is an important victory for free speech and will hopefully make those responsible for protecting us against real terrorist threats think carefully before abusing their powers in such a way. 

I met Paul briefly with David when he was making one of his very many appearances at the Royal Court of Justice (RCJ).

When I was having my own "difficulties" at the RCJ, David helped me out immensely (alongside my Tory comrade, Commissar Robert Dougans). I posted the picture above here (which got this response from you-know-who).

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Third London Olympics 2012. The Greatest Show on Earth is about to begin



It is finally happening. Tonight sees the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics which is happening in my own borough. After years and years of waiting and countdowns, it is about to start. Travelling back yesterday to London from a family wedding abroad I noticed on Greek TV news that they were describing it as, "The Third London Olympics". I knew about the 1948 Olympics but had forgotten about the 1908 event.

The opening ceremony will take place about a mile or so away from me which I will watch on telly. I will look out of the bedroom window to see if I can see the fireworks.

I haven't got any tickets yet. Watching competitive sports has never been my thing. However, I do feel genuinely excited and pleased at the prospect of the "Games".  I think that the investment in Newham and the rest of East London has been well worth all the construction works and expected congestion. It has brought together the community in a way that nobody expected.

My elder sister is a sports fanatic and a professional gymnastics coach (who is currently hopping around with her foot in plaster after yet another break). I can remember when we used to fight as kids during Olympics over what to watch on the telly (in those days there was only ever one). She wanted wall-to-wall sport while I wanted anything but.  She still reckons it is best on TV rather than watching live since she doesn't miss anything. No change there then.

I will try and get some tickets to some of the less popular events so I can say "I was there" but I won't be that disappointed if I can't. There will be more than plenty to do during the next few weeks.  I'll try and post as and when.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Remploy Strike - 2nd Day of Action

Picture is from this morning's picket line outside the Remploy factory in Barking.  The government is closing 27 factories employing 1,012 disabled workers. 

Check out this BBC report here and GMB press release here.

Local Labour Assembly member John Biggs (left) was there in support. Seen in picture on left with Remploy steward (and Newham Labour Councillor) Jose Alexander (2nd from right)

Monday, July 23, 2012

People’s Museum & Gallery of Newham

Coming to Newham for the London Olympics? What to see something a little different for half an hour or so? How about popping into the "Peoples Museum and Gallery of Newham".

Click on link to check out the list of exhibitions, films, "Reminiscence sessions"and guest speaker's on local history and art. Since space is limited they ask you to RSVP if you intend coming.

The opening night is on Wednesday and it is open to the public from 26th July to 22 October 2012.

It has been organised by Eastside Community Heritage and is being held in West Ham Labour Party rooms in Stratford, E15, which is about 10 minutes walk away from Stratford Station. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

"Four out of five service groups say vote 'yes' in the LGPS ballot"

Excellent news! The elected lay Service Group Executives of UNISON have voted overwhelmingly to endorse the new look Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS 2014).

"Members covered by Local Government Pension Scheme in England and Wales are being urged to vote yes to a new LGPS 2014 scheme when they are balloted this month.

In all around 660,000 members in five UNISON service groups will be covered by the ballot, including:
  • 580,000 members in local government;
  • 40,000 in police and justice;
  • 19,000 in higher education;
  • 17,000 in community;
  • 6,000 in the water, environment and transport service group.
The local government, police and justice, community and WET service groups are all recommending that members vote 'yes' in the ballot. The higher education service group is recommending that members vote 'no'.

Heather Wakefield, national secretary for local government and police and justice, who led the negotiations for UNISON says: "After months of talks, led by UNISON, we now want you to have your say on the proposals for the new Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS 2014).

"UNISON is recommending that members vote yes in the ballot, because we believe that these proposals give most LGPS members - and especially women and low paid workers, who are the majority of members - a better pension deal.

"It is vital that members make their voice heard.

"Please tell your members to look out for their ballot paper which is being sent direct to the home addresses of all UNISON members who are in the LGPS or eligible to join."

The LGPS Scrutiny Group has decided on a joint ballot. It will run from 31 July to 24 August, and members can vote by post or online.

In Scotland, pensions are a devolved matter for the Scottish government and the Scottish LGPS is a separate scheme, with no clear proposals to change it. The LGPS in Northern Ireland is covered by different regulations and proposals are still under discussion".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Intermission (and The Fighting Temeraire)

Blogging and responding to comments will be a bit erratic for the new few days. As is my want and for no  particular reason I have posted this picture of one of my favour paintings.  "The Fighting Temeraire" by Joseph Mallord William Turner.

Double click on picture to bring up
detail.

Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Letter to Chair of Community SGE on LGPS 2014 proposals

Dear Kevin

Please present my apologies to today’s Community Service Group Executive (SGE) meeting on the proposed new Local Government Pension Scheme 2014.

I have a long standing family commitment.  would however like to make a report to the SGE on what I believe to be the merits of the LGPS 2014 (England and Wales) proposals.

I will declare an interest. I am a member of the LGPS and have been for around 18 years. Three other members of my immediate family are also members of the LGPS and we are all dependent on the scheme for financial security in our old age. The scheme needs to be made sustainable to ensure this.

My branch carried out the consultative process of members about the proposed new scheme. Out of the 1400 members consulted the response was poor but all members who did respond were in favour of the new look 2014 scheme and no-one was in favour of taking industrial action against it. There is no appetite whatsoever in my branch, my service group nor (I understand) my region for any strike action on this issue. 

Why would there be? Since we should be celebrating LGPS 2014 as a significant victory for the Union and the labour movement! Brought about by collective campaigning, lobbying, mobilising and effective industrial action.

In many ways LGPS 2014 is actually an improvement for our members. Pension build up (accrual) will increase for all but 90% will pay the same or less. The existing final salary pension scheme discriminates against low paid women workers in favour of highly paid senior managers and Chief Executives. This is just wrong. Most members will do better under LGPS 2014 than 2008. Not only low paid women but nearly all part time workers and those who rely on non contractual bonuses and overtime to live on.  The 50/50 option will be a godsend to hard pressed members who due to cuts and pay freezes feel forced to leave the scheme.

In our Service Group (and others) the 2014 protection and extension of “Fair Deal” is absolutely crucial. Members being TUPE transferred will not have to accept 2nd class pensions schemes and will still be able to keep their LGPS pension if transferred again (and again). This requirement will also scare off the more blatant and obvious quick buck profiteers who don’t want to take on the responsibilities of a decent pensions scheme.  It will remain a world class guaranteed defined benefit scheme.

It’s a no brainer in my view. Let us support the LGPS 2014 in the forthcoming ballot and make this affordable and sustainable scheme a bench mark for all pensions for all workers. 

(Oh, and please forgive the miserablists. In the future they will be citing the success of the LGPS as an example of what you can achieve by industrial action)
Regards

John Gray
UNISON National Executive Council Member for Community & Voluntary sector.

UPDATE: LGPS 2014 endorsed overwhelmingly by SGE's see here

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Of trots and trolls: My new followers

Oh dear - last week I had Jon of the Rogers becoming one of my followers on twitter (which was bad enough) but last night I had Big Bad Mikey Law becoming one as well!

While it is gratifying of course that they have seen the error of their ways and want to follow the forces of light and reason.

I do of course have my doubts about the sincerity of these conversions while on their road to nowhere.

Take a stand - Defend equality

Over the course of time we get used to it.

(Guest Post) “It” being a methodical onslaught on privileges (such as free comprehensive health care), freedoms (such as the freedom to live with the ones you love where ever they may come from in the world even if you earn less than £18,600 per year) and our rights.

Sometime last year the Government issued their now (in?) famous “Red Tape Challenge”. As part of this, one of the proposals was to repeal the Equality act 2010.

This suggestion prompted a deluge of responses from across the Country to leave the act alone. The act was brought in at the end of the last Labour Government after a tortuous amount of consultation and involvement stretching over years.

The new coalition government in their infinite wisdom started swiftly to make the changes by simply failing to implement sections of the Act (protection over Dual discrimination) http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/equalities/equality-act/faq/ and watering it down where they could (the move away for the requirement to equality impact assess policy changes to simply paying “due regard” to equality).

However on the 15th May this year, it seems clear that it was time to focus on our rights. Issuing a double whammy of two sets of consultations on repealing two sections of the equality act, removing equality act questionnaires and reconsidering and reviewing the Public Sector Equality Duty the proposals have explicit intention to scream out:

· Tribunals have no place in preventing future discrimination

· People making allegations of discrimination have no place demanding that they should be protected from harassment

· People making allegations of discrimination have no business asking for answers from their respondents before their day in court

· The Public Sector Equality Duty has no place in making sure that unfair and discriminatory decisions don’t take place.

The organisation I work for has set up a website for people in Northamptonshire to respond to the proposals here [http://defendequality.co.uk] but if you live outside Northamptonshire you can learn more about the proposals and find a suggested set of words to complain to the Government Equalities Office on both enforcement@geo.gsi.gov.uk and thirdpartyharassment@geo.gsi.gov.uk

Don’t forget to write to your local MP. You have until 7th August 2012 to take action. If you don’t ... you very well might regret it.

(Guest post by Anjona Roy: photo Kelly)

Monday, July 16, 2012

LGPS 2014 ballot - Vote YES to protect your future (& ignore the miserablists)

From UNISON eFocus today. There will be a ballot on the new proposed Local Government Pension Scheme 2014.

UNISON members who work for my employer and in my branch have voted overwhelmingly in favour of accepting the deal. This will keep a world class guaranteed pensions scheme for all and stop the discrimination of low paid women in favour of highly paid senior management and Chief Executives.

The ballot will start on 31 July and last until 24 August. You can also vote on-line.

While there are some who have genuine reservations about the proposal, there is also a miserablist opposition who are simply mischief making and doing all they can to distort and undermine the new scheme.

Through our arguments, campaigning and collective action we have defended the LGPS and retained a world class guaranteed defined benefit pension scheme. 

Some people simply don't know how to quit when they are ahead!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Daniel Zeichner - Labour PPC for Cambridge

Good news! Daniel Zeichner has been selected as the Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Cambridge at the next general election. The seat use to be Labour until 2005. Now held by Lib Dems.

Daniel is a national officer for UNISON Labour Link - seen in this photo (wearing grey jacket) running a very successful and innovative UNISON Computer telecanvass team during the May 2012 elections.

"Pensions, Pensions and more Pensions"

(This is an article I wrote last week for my Branch Stewards newsletter).

"Let’s face it. Many members probably consider Pensions to be a pretty boring issue and something that they would prefer to put off thinking about too much until another day (or preferably never). Well, whether you like it or not, in the coming months, all UNISON members and in fact nearly all employees will have to wake up and start thinking about pensions. 

For those of us in the Local Government Pension Scheme there is an ongoing consultation process at the moment by UNISON on a new look scheme. LGPS 2014 agreed last month with the unions, LGA employers and the Government. You will be balloted on the scheme at the end of the month. Have a look at what is being proposed on the UNISON website http://www.unison.org.uk/pensions/lgps.asp

While members in the Social Housing Pension Scheme (Pensions Trust) will need to be aware that their employers have been sent letters about the deficits in their pension schemes which is causing some employers to panic and start talking of closing the scheme or massive increase in contributions. There has also been some outrageous scaremongering by some financial “advisors” to schemes. UNISON is arranging an urgent meeting with the Pensions Trust. In the meanwhile if your employers start talking of any changes to your pension scheme please contact the branch immediately and ask your employer to send us copies of what is being proposed.

Remember – the current pension so-called “deficits” are valued in a completely discredited and inaccurate manner which even the current Pensions minster has recognised is wrong and needlessly “killing” good pensions schemes. Remember closing a pension scheme does not get rid of any deficit - in fact it can make things worse.

Finally, for those of you who are not in the LGPS or SHPS please be aware that “auto-rolling” is kicking in at the end of this year. Nearly all employees who are currently not in a pension scheme will be automatically enrolled into the employer’s scheme or a state scheme.

Now this is “good news” for those not in a scheme but what we are concerned about is that some employers who currently have decently funded defined contribution schemes (also known as DC, Group personal pensions, Group Stakeholders, money purchase etc) may be tempted to cut existing employer contributions, since they are worried about an increase in the pension bill from more people being in it.

We have to fight this as well. Pensions are expensive. Employer’s have to realise that unless they want their staff to retire in poverty they have to fund pensions properly.

Pensions are obviously not boring nor are they as complicated as you think. We need to have at least one UNISON Pension Champion (or rep) in every employer. If you are interested in being a “Pension Champion” let the branch office know and we will sort out some training for you on the role in the very near future".

John Gray
Branch secretary

Woody Guthrie-This Land Is Your Land



Woody Guthrie birthday was July 14th as well! Hat tip Norm.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Bastille Day: "La Marseillaise" Red Army Choir

Keir Hardie 120th Anniversary: Scottish Parliament & Newham Council

The motion below was tabled in the Scottish Parliament last week. Hat tip Dave Watson. Below that is the statement that Newham Mayor Robin Wales gave to the Full Council meeting on 2 July

"Keir Hardie Anniversary

Neil Findlay (Scottish Labour): That the Parliament notes that 4 July 2012 was the 120th anniversary of the election in which Keir Hardie became the Member of Parliament for West Ham South; remembers how Keir Hardie represented miners across Scotland as a trade union official and went on to represent constituents in West Ham South in England and Merthyr Tydfil in Wales as an MP; understands that Hardie used his time in Parliament to fight for a number of issues and greater rights for the working classes; notes that Hardie was a strong proponent for votes for women, which was achieved 13 years after his death; recognises his support for home rule for Scotland and considers that it was delivered by a Labour government, a government of the party that he founded; commends the Keir Hardie Society for its work in promoting the life and work of Keir Hardie, and looks forward to the 2020 celebrations marking the 120th anniversary of Keir Hardie’s election as MP for Merthyr Tydfil".

Newham Council (formerly East and West Ham Borough) - Keir Hardie

"The Mayor informed that 2012 marks 120 years since Keir Hardie was elected to Parliament in the (then) West Ham South seat. Born in 1856, Keir Hardie was the first Independent Labour Member of Parliament and a pioneer and founder for what would later become the Labour Party.

Keir Hardie was the first truly working class representative in Parliament. He drew on his own experiences and hardships that he faced growing up in Scotland, where he first started work at the age of 7 in Shipbuilding in Glasgow, before at the age of 10 becoming a miner. He went on to become a trade union activist and leader. As secretary of the Ayrshire Miners Union, he lead some of the first organised campaigns for decent wages and living standards. His contribution as one of the first leaders of the Labour Party cannot be underestimated, in particular in helping to establish it's founding principles and becoming the party which fought for the rights of the working class.

Hardie won the West Ham South seat in 1892, winning by over 5,000 votes. He stood for free schooling, pensions, women's rights and the abolition of the House of Lords… Proof that sometimes over a century isn’t a long time in politics!

The Mayor stated that Newham Council would honour this great man this year with an exhibition at the Old Town Hall, Stratford, and that more details would be publicised in due course".

Picture on right is of the bust of Keir Hardie inside Stratford Town Hall taken during the 4 July West Ham Labour Party and Newham TULO commemoration tour.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Goodbye and thanks Keith: Hello and welcome Frances

On Wednesday evening after the NEC meetings I went to a reception to mark the retirement of UNISON Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet. Keith has served the Labour Movement for 40 years and I think we all wish him well in the retirement. Even though I doubt very much we have seen the last of him.

I had a later meeting that I couldn't get out of, so I was only able to have a brief chat and handshake. I don't know Keith that well but it was really nice that he remembered that I had helped (in a very small way) during the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) negotiations in 2008. We also discussed the new LGPS 2014 scheme and the incredibily good deal that UNISON had negotiated for members.

Coincidentally this week Frances O'Grady was appointed as General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress. She happens to be the first female GS of the TUC which is I think an important landmark occasion in trade union history. I have seen Frances speak and promote progressive labour politics and really welcome her election.

"Housing bodies fight to protect staff pension pots"

Today the Social Housing Magazine "Inside Housing" led with a report that housing organisations are to challenge a threat to their workers' pensions.

The Pension Trust which administrates the Social Housing Pension Fund (and many other Community and voluntary sector pension funds) is being blamed for attempting to force employers to close decent defined benefit schemes and force them to open less secure defined contributions schemes. This is supposed to be about rising pension "deficits".

To be fair to the Pension's Trust I have had conversations with people closely connected with the Trust and they say that they are fully committed to keeping these schemes affordable and open.

This morning I posted these comments on the Inside Housing website.

"While it is good news that Housing organisation are going to fight to protect their pension schemes it is absolutely vital that everyone understands that these “deficits” are frankly meaningless.

The cost of pension schemes is measured by a discredited and outdated accounting system called “Mark to Market” which even the Pensions minister Steve Webb described as a “Nightmare” which is “killing” perfectly good schemes. He has promised “not to stand “idly by” and to do something.

All employers and defined benefit pension schemes must not panic or over react. They should be working jointly with the trade unions to resolve this temporary problem. Remember closing the scheme will not get rid of the deficit. It can make it even worse.

Modern defined benefit pension schemes are as sustainable and affordable now as they have ever been. 


John Gray Branch Secretary UNISON Greater London Housing Association Branch"

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Keir Hardie: First Labour MP 120th Anniversary Event

Last Wednesday 4th July was the 120th anniversary of the election of Keir Hardie as the first Labour MP.

He was elected as MP for West Ham South in the 1892 General Election.

The modern day West Ham Consistency Labour Party and Newham TULO organised a commemorative tour to mark the occasion. 25 people from Newham and East London turned up.

We started with a tour of the Old Town Hall in Stratford where the election count took place in 1892 and where Keir was announced the winner. We went onto the balcony overlooking the High Street where Keir made his acceptance speech in front of 15-20,000 people. Keir then led a march back through the borough to Canning Town.

We also went into the Bell Tower of the Town Hall and the basement Police cells. There use to be a Magistrate court next door. (Off message - but tradition states that these were the very cells that Mick Jagger and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones rock group were held in the 1960's for minor public order offences).

We underestimated how long it would take to complete the tour of the Town Hall so we didn't manage to visit the other sites which included historic locations of the radical and suffragette clubs from Hardie's time. 

We stopped off at the Martyrs Memorial in the Church yard of St John.  Which is not about Hardie but is a symbol remembering religious persecution and bigotry down the ages. We finished up outside the famous Theatre Royal built in 1882. Then in the bar for a quick drink followed by a curry in West Ham Lane.

Following the success of this event we are aiming to carry out further Labour movement tours in the future. Details to follow.

Picture outside the Old Town Hall by Dan McCurry. I'll post more pictures of Facebook. Finally, many, many thanks to the Old Town Hall staff for the tour and their enthusiasm: Update see tour photo's here

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"A Future that Works" TUC flyer March 20 October 2012

Check out this TUC resource for downloading and ordering flyer's and posters for the March in London on Saturday 20 October 2012. Scotland will also have its own anti-Austerity March and Rally.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

"Merging London's Pensions: the Pros and Cons"

Last week I went to a meeting organised by the Centre of London (Demos) in City Hall to debate whether merging the 34 different Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) Funds in London made any sense or not.

"It has been argued that London's pension funds could be pooled, and that significant savings could be made from the current £30m cost of administering the 34 funds across London.

A pooled pension fund could then contribute to new infrastructure projects in London.

The event will be chaired by Liz Meek, Chair of Centre for London with speakers Bob Neill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at DCLG, Suhail Rahuja, Chairman of Superannuation Committee for Westminster, and Ravi Govindia, Leader of Wandsworth Council. Dr David Blake, of the Cass Business School, will outline research from the Toronto Institute and on Dutch public sector funds to provide some comparisons".

LGPS minister, Bob Neil MP, could not come so his place was taken by DCLG civil servant, Terry Crossley (who is due to retire in the next week or so).

I thought that Dr Blake did demonstrate that there was a financial benefit from having better governance (by bigger schemes) although I have heard elsewhere that this is not proven. But it does make sense that bigger schemes would be able to afford more expert and specialist advice and get significant economies of scale .

While Councillor Ravi Govindia from Wandsworth spent most of his time attacking the idea that merger would fund new infrastructure projects rather than the concept of merger itself. Yet he did point out that his fund was well run and efficient so he could not see how merger would benefit his scheme and his council tax payers.

Terry Crossley gave the classic British Civil service "yes, but no, but" analysis (I will miss him when he retires) that there could be savings from merger but there could be other ways of reducing costs.

Councillor Suhail Rahuja gave a pretty convincing argument that we need to research further since "to misquote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", the answer to the meaning of life in the LGPS is not 34.  There is no good reason for there being 34 schemes in London. Why not 17 or 7? If people think that small pensions schemes are better then why isn't the massive USS or BT schemes being pressed to be broken up into smaller regional funds?

I did ask a question to the panel why there was no beneficiary representation speaking at this meeting? After all it is workers deferred pay we are talking about?  Which I think was accepted by most of the panel.

Controversial figure Michael Johnson waded into the debate by accusing the financial services industry and vested interests of completely ripping off the LGPS. I don't think this increased his chances of an invite to Terry's retirement party!

Pensions Week reported on the seminar and concluded that merger was "broadly rejected" in favour of some form of shared services. Which I don't think actually happened. I think the consensus was that it was too early to tell and we need more digging.

With hindsight the panel should have not only included beneficiary representation but also a Pension Committee Chair in favour from a London Labour Council. Most Councils in London are Labour Controlled. The idea mooted of pooled infrastructure fund was also a mistake. Even if it makes perfect investment sense it proved divisive with some rather over excited individuals privately attacking the idea as some sort of "socialist plot".

I think we need to look at this merger idea further. Perhaps we don't need to do it, perhaps we do. While merger will be fraught with difficulties, if it saves money and improves investment performance while improving governance. It is worth looking at and considering carefully.

I have seen figures that claim merger of the national LGPS would save £300 million per year.  If this is true then in these times of austerity then these claims should be looked into.

At the end of the meeting Terry Crossley told me that there use to 3,000 different UK Local Authority pension funds. Now there is 101. So there must have been compelling reasons for this huge rationalisation and it proves that merger difficulties must have been overcome.  

Monday, July 09, 2012

UNISON Labour Link Forum 2012: Day 2

Saturday was the second (and last) day of this year's Forum in Cardiff. Check out the report on day one here. The traditional Labour Link Social had been held the previous night and "a good time had been had
by all" (it also raised money for UNISON welfare).

Forum started off at 9.15 sharp with a speech by our new UNISON President, Chris Tansley (and life long Labour Party member). Then a presentation on the UNISON Labour Link annual report and review of the year by Chair Steve Warwick and National officers Keith Birch and Julian Cooke.

In the feedback on the recent Local elections in May we heard about the computer tele-canvassing software piloted in London and Eastern region. It was such a success that there are plans to roll out the software to all regions and even possibly for Labour Link volunteers to use from home.  We were also shown the video by Southampton UNISON on how they helped get rid of its anti-union Tory Council in May (I will post when I find it).

Followed by motions on "Impact of the cuts on the Black Community"; "LGBT equality - reality not rhetoric"; Labour & Disabled people" and "The Labour Party and detrimental age discrimination".

Next were seminars on "Police and Crime Commissioners" and "Devolution". I chaired the seminar on "Devolution". Delegates from Wales, Scotland and London (who will not be facing Police Commissioners elections in November) came to together with Welsh Assembly Minister for Europe, Alan Davis (right of picture), Welsh Assembly member (and former MP) Julie Morgan and Dave Watson (UNISON Scottish Organiser and top blogger) to discuss the political impact of devolution on the Party and trade unions.

I said at the start that I was perhaps well qualified to chair this meeting since I was born and bred in Wales to a Welsh mother and Scottish father. I have since lived and worked in Scotland but have now spent most of my life in London (and am now a Councillor in the Peoples Republic of Newham where we have a 61-nil Labour majority).

Alan made the valid point that it was sometimes very frustrating being in a Labour Government in Wales since the UK media are completely obsessed about what is going on in the "SW1 bubble" and it's about time that London recognised that trains go down to Cardiff as well as up to London.  Julie made the very interesting point that this was the first ever meeting she had attended of representatives from Wales, Scotland and London discussing this issue.

Dave pointed out that before devolution he would give evidence to the London Parliament 2/3 times per year on Scottish issues. Now with a Scottish Parliament he is in Holyrood 2/3 times a week! London UNISON Labour Link Political officer, Steve Terry, also spoke about the work we are doing with Labour London Assembly members to hold the Tory Mayor, Boris Johnson to account. Difficult to do of course with someone who doesn't do anything.

After this there was Motions on "Renewable Energy" (another London Regional Motion) and a rule amendment on representation in Labour Link of self organised groups.

The Chair Steve Warwick closed the Forum and hoped that we all got home safety (the weather has been atrocious with floods up and down the country). Due to time limits he declined to accept a vote of thanks to the Chair from Bristol delegates (in joke).

On the way home I did feel reflect on Forum and felt very proud of Wales for not only keeping the faith and returning a Labour Government but also demonstrating "Socialism works" and (most importantly) "it can deliver" (Alan Davies).  

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Speech on a "New Direction for the Labour Party" Motion 3

"Chair, Forum, Gloria Hanson, Greater London Region, moving motion 3 – A new direction for the Labour Party. Accepting the amendment from Scottish region.

Forum, I’m not here to sing the praises of the Labour Party and the Last Labour Government. But I could.

Equally I am not here to try and bury them either, which I could as well.

Instead what this motion is concerned about is making sure that at the next General election the Labour Party has a simple and clear overriding policy that not will not only inspire and unite us, but would be a platform to victory and give a mandate for the most far reaching and radical Labour government since 1945.  

Our society has become more and more unequal in recent years and decades. The gap between the rich and the poor, has become bigger and bigger. For decade after decade this gap has now become a gulf. It is now time not only to stop this – but to reverse it 

In the past this forum has agreed with the research found in the Book “The Spirit Level” that the more unequal the society in terms of income, the greater the ill health, the shorter the life expectancy;

The more unequal the society, the greater the crime rate, the shorter the schooling.  

Forum, Income inequality kills, it destroys people’s lives, if wreaks our society and divides us into the few haves, the many have nots... and the remaining... have nothing. 

So forum we know what the problem is – next we have to decide what to do about it?

The most successful societies in the world are therefore those who have the smallest gap between the rich and the poor. No society is perfect; no society is an absolute model for our island to choose.

But there are two facts things about more equal and successful societies.  One is that they have much higher rates of progressive taxation and public spending. 

The second fact is the gap between top and the bottom in terms of pay is simply, much, much lower. 

So the answer Forum is the next Labour government must be brave, it must be decisive. It must legislate for progressive taxation to pay for improved public services. Next it must also legislate and take action to bring down the pay of the rich and bring up the wages of our people.

Let us have a living wage not a minimum wage,  Let us end the scandal of public subsidy for bad employers who don’t pay decent wages; Let us follow the lead of the new French socialist president and lower the salaries of top public servants,  Let us as they do in many other countries let us put worker representatives on the boards of all companies; Let us rebuild an economy that delivers good jobs on decent money and not one built on financial speculation

We need our Party, our Labour Party to agree to promise to reduce income inequality by the end of its term and to take the necessary political and economic action to achieve this goal. 

What we want Forum is not rocket science. It is a plain and simple. We want a better society for ourselves and our children and this is one of the ways to achieve it.  

A society based on Fairness and need which will benefit all. Finally Forum, in one way this is not really about a new direction for our party - as a much needed return to our roots.  

Forum I move" 

"Equality" by Councillor Steve Brayshaw

video
Last Monday Evening at the Newham Full Council meeting, Councillor Steve Brayshaw made this powerful speech on "Equality".  As an out Gay man Steve paid homage to the murdered gay American civil rights activist Harvey Milk. He quoted Milk's famous speech called "Hope" and attacked bigotry, hatred and intolerance in all its forms. I think it is well worth listening. You can read the full speech here as well. 

AMNT newsletter – July 2012: meeting review; trustee guide discount

 Dear member,

Two weeks ago the AMNT hosted its summer members’ meeting with a number of topical discussions and presentations.

The event, which took place at AXA Investment Managers’ London offices in Newgate Street, began with a presentation by co-chairs Barry Parr and Janice Turner on the association’s latest developments.

Copies were distributed of AMNT’s recent submissions to the Dept for Work and Pensions inquiry into occupational pension schemes and to the Red Tape Challenge. We reflected the consensus of  all our meetings and called for DB trustees to be given the option of using smoothing when carrying out our triennial reviews.

DC trustees were updated on the discussions going on within the pensions industry, in which AMNT is participating, on development of a better type of DC scheme.

These included the finalisation of the constitution, an update on the AMNT’s lobbying activities and an insight into the potential sponsorship opportunities the association is in the process of finalising.

Then committee member Owen Walker gave a presentation on the development of the website.

This was followed by AMNT member and chief executive of FairPensions Catherine Howarth giving a presentation on the shareholder spring and how this affects trustees.

FairPensions has produced a briefing on executive pay, which has been designed with busy trustees in mind.

The idea is to make something available which gives trustees some handy questions they can ask fund managers if they want to be sure that a tough line is being taken on executive pay packages.

You can read it here: http://www.fairpensions.org.uk/sites/default/files/uploaded_files/investorresources/ExecutivePay2012.pdf

Members were then given a presentation by an AXA IM spokesperson on how investment companies can also help trustees to improve their shareholder engagement.

The meeting then split into breakout groups, focused on DB and DC issues.

The working group on defined benefit pensions concentrated on discussing a draft produced by DB working group chair John Gray on what to do if your scheme sponsor announces they want to close the scheme.

This draft is at an early stage and John Gray (john.gray@amnt.org) is very keen to hear from you if you have been through this process, regardless of whether the scheme closed or stayed open.

We are now revising the draft guide, carrying out further research and checking and we hope to circulate it to everyone in the near future. If you are interested in contributing to it please contact John.

After the break, members received a presentation by friend of the association and executive director of OPDU Jonathan Bull on the benefits trustees can receive of indemnity insurance.

Jonathan’s presentation can be downloaded by clicking here.

30% discount on trustee guide

The publishers of The Guide for Pension Trustees are offering AMNT members 30% off this publication which is on the reading list for the PMI trustees’ qualifications. The Guide is a practical and comprehensive manual for all pension trustees.

It contains the essential practical, legal and commercial information that trustees need in order to perform their roles efficiently, accurately and lawfully. You will receive free quarterly updates of the guide, reflecting the latest developments in the sector, and you will have free access to the guide online, which includes additional modules and data tables.

It normally costs £265 but the AMNT discount brings this down to £185.50, and all those taking up this offer will also receive a free copy of the Pensions Pocket Book 2012, which normally retails for £47.50. To obtain the discount you have to quote offer code GPTCW110 when you order. Telephone 01235 465 574, fax 01235 46556 or email subscriptions@marston.co.uk.

Ask your fellow MNTs to join us

The meeting was delighted to hear that AMNT has now grown to about 240 members, and we are responsible for pension funds with collective assets of an estimated £200-billion.

The more members we have the stronger our voice will be in putting forward your concerns to the industry, the regulators and the government, so if you could suggest to your fellow MNTs to join us that would really help.

Kind regards, AMNT Committee

(I posted this late so had to take out an invite to a conference that was out of date)

Saturday, July 07, 2012

"Best Bluegrass Clog Dancing Video Ever Made"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cs2j8f7H2WY&feature=related

Simply Brilliant. IMO.

Even if I am accused by some of having two left feet and being tone deaf :)

(Video embedding disabled for some reason)

"A New Direction for the Labour Party" Motion 3

"A New Direction for the Labour Party" Motion 3 came from my branch and was adopted by the London UNISON Labour Link Forum as one of our two motions to National.  Gloria Hanson moved the motion. I'll post her speech tomorrow.

"This UNISON Labour Link Forum notes:-

That there is no political alternative to the Labour Party, warts and all.

The last Labour Government despite its faults delivered massive benefits to our members and other working people. Pension credit and the minimum wage put real money into the pockets and purses of pensioners and the low paid. While it invested in the NHS, schools and protecting the vulnerable.

We note this Tory Coalition Government and its policies to favour of the wealthy, its plans to dismantle our NHS and the slashing and burning public services.

The Labour Party is the only hope for the future of progressive politics and obtaining social justice for our members and all other working people. We must all do whatever we can to ensure that a Labour Party government is returned at the next General election.

Yet we must also ensure that the next Labour Government is brave and decisive in tackling the evils it will inherit. Our economy needs to be rebalanced away from the free market liberalism of the recent past. We need a genuine mixed economy.

The income inequality gap between the rich and the poor in our society will be the key measure in judging the success or otherwise of a future Labour Government.

While we do not want to indulge in the pointless sloganising and postulating of those who do not have any credible alternative, we do want the next Labour Government to take the necessary action to reduce income inequality in our society. 

This forum calls for UNISON Labour Link to carry on its work within affiliates, TULO and the Party to ensure that the next Labour government:-
Commits to reducing income inequality by the end of its term and delivers on this promise".

Greater London Region

Friday, July 06, 2012

UNISON Labour Link Forum 2012: Day 1

Picture is of Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Health Secretary and key note speaker at today's UNISON Labour Link Forum which this year
takes place in Cardiff.

Labour Link is the UNISON political fund that is affiliated to the Labour Party. Delegates to the Forum are elected regionally and from our self-organised groups. The Forum began with a welcome from National Chair, Steve Warwick, who was the first to make the point about how good it was to be in a Country with a Labour Government. This was followed by motions on "Constitutional Change" and "The Welsh Approach".

Andy gave a short speech followed by a Q&A. He repeated his promise to appeal the Coalition Health and Social Care bill if a Labour government is elected in 2015. He warned Forum that we must not fall into the Tory trap and fight amongst ourselves. The Party must stop being dominated by elites and encourage more ordinary working people to become Councillors and MP's.

The next key note speaker was Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister of Wales - Prif Weinidog Cymru .  He was proud that the Party was implementing the Labour manifesto commitment to introduce a living wage for Wales. Carwyn said while it was desperately important to re-elect Labour in 2015, you had to give voters reasons why to vote Labour.

After this was more motions on "Public Sector Pay", "A New Direction for the Labour Party" (my branch and London region motion) and "defending the NHS". There were a number of attacks on the shadow Labour team over its shambolic response to pay and spending cuts. 

After lunch there was an address by Assistant General Secretary, Cliff Williams. He stressed the importance of  UNISON using its political influence alongside its industrial strategy. He also made clear that while UNISON does not mind debate, it will not tolerate attacks by Progress on our link with the Party.  An unaccountable organisation that has secretive funding, its own membership and is even a listed private company!

This was followed by seminars and a Parliamentary Q&A with Lillian Greenwood MP (former UNISON National officer), Dave Anderson MP (former UNISON President) and Derek Vaughan MEP.  Lillian defended Councils from Coalition attempts to blame them for cuts. I liked Dave's comment that Lib Dem MP's shamefaced excuses  for voting with the Coalition was "bo****ks". While Derek pointed out that £50 billion could be raised from a Robin Hood Tax (a Tobin or Financial transaction tax). Make the Banks pay to clear up their mess.

First day finished with more motions on "Universal Credit"; "Trade Union Facility time" and "Justice at Work".

You can follow the Forum on #lablink12