Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Labour Party Conference 2014 Sunday #lab14

I thought that I would post this picture to give people a feel of what it is like to be at Labour Conference and stay in Manchester.

Pictures are from the Conference centre; the late night booze fest aka the Midland Hotel; the lovely canals (and it is always sunny and warm in Manchester - trust me), my extremely cheap and cheerful hotel in Back Piccadilly Street - £260 for 4 nights - Staff very nice and a "character hotel" with interesting damp problems (I never made breakfast, so can't vouch for it); arrival at conference of the victorious "Vote No" Labour Battle bus and a Manchester public service warning on the dangers of telly. 

Claims of ‘permanent Conservative rule’ after Scottish independence don’t stand up to history

For some reason I didn't get around to posting this before the referendum on Scottish Independence.  At the Labour Party conference last week I heard the "myth" still being repeated.

"It’s common to hear claims like this about the effect of Scottish independence on future UK elections. The argument goes that since Scotland has predominantly Labour MPs, then without Scotland the UK would have a permanent Conservative majority in the House of Commons.

This reasoning doesn’t stand up to past experience. Since 1918, only four UK general election outcomes would have been affected had Scottish MPs been taken out of the equation.
Election Winner Winner (no Scotland)
1918 CON CON
1922 CON CON
1923 Hung – CON largest Hung – CON largest
1924 CON CON
1929 Hung – LAB largest Hung – LAB largest
1931 CON CON
1935 CON CON
1945 LAB LAB
1950 LAB LAB
1951 CON CON
1955 CON CON
1959 CON CON
1964 LAB Hung – CON largest
1966 LAB LAB
1970 CON CON
1974 Feb Hung – LAB largest Hung – CON largest
1974 Oct LAB Hung – LAB largest
1979 CON CON
1983 CON CON
1987 CON CON
1992 CON CON
1997 LAB LAB
2001 LAB LAB
2005 LAB LAB
2010 Hung – CON largest CON

In 1964 Labour won a slim majority; without Scottish MPs it would have been a hung parliament with the Conservatives as the largest party. In the October 1974 election (the second that year), Labour again secured a wafer-thin majority, but without Scotland it would have fallen short with the Conservatives as the largest party. Most recently, in 2010 the Conservative party would have had a majority if Scotland were taken out; in reality of course it fell short.

That’s not to say it wouldn’t be more difficult for Labour: a majority of Scottish MPs have been Labour at every election since 1955, and Labour remains dominant by historical standards. Hence the ‘advantage’ to the Conservatives in Scotland’s absence is getting bigger

Monday, September 29, 2014

Newham Council Supports TUC "Britain Needs a Pay Rise" Demo 18 October 2014

I was pleased this evening that Newham Labour Group and then Full Council approved this motion unanimously. I'll post more on this meeting and the pretty disgraceful aftermath outside the town hall.

"Newham Council welcomes the call from the TUC to help organise a National March ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ in Central London on Saturday 18 October 2014. We agree to work together to maximise participation of Newham residents, employees, members and affiliates to this event as we did for 26 March 2011 and 20 October 2012 TUC marches.

We note that in spite of this Government’s claims of economic recovery, real pay for many is still falling, leaving them struggling to feed their families and pay household bills.

We believe British Workers need and deserves a pay rise. The Labour Party has pledged that a future Labour Government will work to make sure that people can afford to live on the wage they earn. This march is just one step in a long campaign to win an economic recovery that works for all, not just those at the top”.

Proposed  Cllr John Gray, West Ham Ward
Seconded Cllr John Whitworth, West Ham Ward

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Ed at London Regional Reception #lab14

This is a late post but my excuse is that it was really busy during and since I returned from Labour Party Conference in Manchester. Hopefully I can catch up on post on events soon.

Picture of our Labour Leader, Ed Miliband, addressing the London regional reception at Conference a week ago.

This was a ticket only packed event. Shadow London Minister Sidiq Khan MP was the host.

I had a serious conversation with Gary Kent, the Director of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq on the threat from the ISIL fascists. A brave man.

There was good news from a major British property company that they will be announcing soon that they will make sure that all their directly employed and contracting staff are paid a living wage!

Ed himself was very relaxed and confident when he came to speak (the first of many times during Conference that I was to hear him in similar events). He started off with the traditional joke that the London Labour reception was his real, real favourite over all the other receptions but we should not tell anyone else this!

He also told this joke (which I was also to hear again) that as he came out of the Eastern region reception today, he was stopped by a female delegate who said "What a marvellous speech today". He replied by saying "Well, thank you very much". She said "not you but your wife Justine's speech during the women's conference today. She was marvellous".

Hat tip picture top Newhamite Sue M for photo.

Friday, September 26, 2014

ISIL


John,

Today, I voted for British air strikes against ISIL in Iraq. I want to share my reasons for this with you.

ISIL is a murderous organisation. It has ambitions for a state of its own -- a Caliphate across the Middle East, run according to horrific values. And it is threatening to undermine the democratic state of Iraq.

We have seen its hostage-taking of innocent British citizens, but it is not just British citizens who they are threatening: they also threaten Christians, Yazidis, fellow Muslims, Sunni and Shia, from many different countries and backgrounds. They threaten anyone who does not subscribe to their deeply perverted ideology.

The truth is that ISIL is murdering Muslims. Military action against ISIL is not an attack on Islam.

We cannot stand by against the threat of ISIL in Iraq, but in acting against them we need to learn the lessons of the past.

That means a comprehensive strategy, humanitarian and political as well as military; rooted in the region. Some of this is underway, but more needs to be done.

I understand the reason for many people's wariness about military action and I share it.

I was not in the House of Commons in 2003, but I was not in favour of that war. I understand that some will wonder if this is a repeat of that experience. In my view, it's not.

The decision today is about supporting a democratic state, not overturning an existing regime. There is also no question of British ground troops being deployed.

There are six criteria I believe we must use to judge when military action is right and to make sure we learn the lessons of the past. These are: the action must have just cause; it must be the last resort; it must be of clear legality; it must have a reasonable prospect of success; there must be support in the region; and it must be proportionate.

I have scrutinised these six conditions and believe they are met in this case.

You can read my scrutiny of these six conditions here:
labour.org.uk/six-conditions-ISIL

There is no debate about the legal basis for action. There is no argument about whether military action is a last resort.

There is also broad international support behind action, not a divided world. All 28 EU member states and the Arab League are providing support. Five Arab states are taking part in military action.

As always, I have huge admiration for the bravery, spirit, and the duty displayed by our armed forces, who will act on the decision taken by Parliament today.

There is no graver decision for our Parliament and our country than the one taken today. Intervention always has risks, but ISIL unchecked means more persecution of the innocent and a dismembered Iraq would be more dangerous for Britain.

I believe that taking military action against ISIL in Iraq is the right course of action in promoting our values and protecting our security.

Best,
Ed

(makes sense to me)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

"Forgotten Black Heroes" UNISON Greater London Black History Month Event

All UNISON members in London are invited to attend this event 9.30 - 4pm on Wednesday 29 October 2014 at the "London Welsh Centre, Grays Inn Road (just down from Kings Cross Station)".

The event will "hear about the heroes in World War 1 and those who have influenced the way we live today in London". Contact your UNISON branch if you want to attend.
 
I would love to attend but will probably be outside London that day. I have never been to the London Welsh Centre either!

I hope that they will honour people such as 
Walter Tull who was the first black officer in the British Regular Army who was killed in action in 1918. Walter was also one of the first Black professional footballers. There is a Newham connection since he played for Clapton FC (Forest Gate).

Check out this post I wrote last year on remembering the "forgotten" Muslim soldiers, Hindu and Sikh who died in the First World War. I think that all Newham Children should visit the First World War battlefields and Menin Gate.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Labour Party Conference 2014 #Lab14

On the train back to the "Smoke" after 5 days away at this year's Labour Conference in Manchester.

I was not a delegate and went in my "ex-officio" capacity as a Councillor. This meant I could have a late start (no early morning delegation meetings) and go for a jog in the morning to clear the head around the lovely city centre canals.

Best of all I could pick and choose which parts of conference business I wanted to see and also go to the fringes that took my fancy.

I'll post on some of the fringes and debates I attended during the next few days.

I must admit that I thought the conference was a little flat considering we are only 7 months away from a General election but the reason was I think that many in the Party were still knackered after the Scottish referendum.

Politically I think it went very well, the Party is united and determined to get rid of the Tories next May. While I think we ought to have gone further on a number of policies and announcements, we have enough to win and "win big" as guest international speaker, New York Mayor, Bill De Blasio, put it so effectively today.

I'll post more on Ed's speech but it passed the grayee litmus test (I rang my Mum who watched it on the telly and she said he came over well.).


Friday, September 19, 2014

Gordon saves the Union, Scotland says No...time now to move on


To be clear I am so relieved with the result today, yet people I know and respect are utterly desolate and devastated.  Democracy is noble and uplifting but it also can be very cruel and personal.

I don't care what the vile trolls of both camps think or say but I do think that everyone now needs to move on and do what is best for Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

While my preferred option at this moment would be a Federal Britain of democratic regions and nations, I want us all to decide it by "the Scottish way" - that is - openly argue and passionately debate our common future.  England and Wales please note!

Who do you want to look after your future? Tell the FCA to give you a say!

This is another great campaign by ShareAction to encourage all of us with pensions to hold the financial services industry to account for what they do with our money.

It is clear that we are being ripped off and we often have little or no control over the means of our future. To me both these points are related.

The new regulator, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is holding a "consultation" on governance but ShareAction believes that the Government clearly thinks that we don't have any rights to what happens to our money or how it is invested.

If you think it is important that you have transparency and a voice - then click here and let the FCA know.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

“Britain Needs a Pay Rise” West Ham Labour supports TUC demo Saturday 18 October 2014

Tonight a well attended West Ham Labour Party General Committee unanimously supported the motion below.

Hopefully, other Labour CLPs and Labour Groups on Councils will propose (and pass) similar motions and do what they can to make the day a success (please cut and paste).

In Newham we will probably be meeting at Stratford Station beforehand with the West Ham CLP banner if people want to go to the demo together. Further details to follow.

"West Ham Labour Party welcomes the call from the TUC to help organise a National March ‘Britain Needs a Pay Rise’ in Central London on Saturday 18 October 2014.

We agree to work together to maximise participation of West Ham residents, employees, members and affiliates to this event as we did for 26 March 2011 and 20 October 2012 TUC marches.

We note that in spite of this Government’s claims of economic recovery, real pay for many is still falling, leaving them struggling to feed their families and pay household bills.

We believe British Workers need and deserves a pay rise. The Labour Party has pledged that a future Labour Government will work to make sure that people can afford to live on the wage they earn. This march is just one step in a long campaign to win an economic recovery that works for all, not just those at the top”.

Proposed: John Gray, UNISON Housing Association delegate
Seconded: John Whitworth, West Ham Ward delegate.

(You might not agree but I think that social media and Internet have given new life to such political motions?)

Solidarity with Scotland: Vote No since We are all Better Together

This beautiful illustration by the 19th Century socialist artist, Walter Crane, is about international Labour solidarity (not the UK Labour Party). However it symbolises to me why I believe that it will be a defeat for working people and wider progressive politics, if Scotland votes for separation. Nationalism is incompatible with such solidarity in my view. No matter how well intentioned

To be clear, this will not be the end of the world for Scotland or the rest of the UK if there is a Yes Vote today. While I would be personally heart broken if it happens, I will get over it and life will move on. Despite the myths, the Labour Party can win general elections without the Scottish vote (only twice in 100 years have they been needed). Neither will Scotland become immediately bankrupt nor descend into some rabid extreme nationalist state. This will not happen.

Yet these are some of my fears: -

I do think that the biggest beneficiaries of separation will be big business who will use our internal divisions for a race to the bottom and further drive down fair taxation, decent wages and employment rights.

I don't actually believe that any country can really be independent if it has no meaningful control or influence over its currency.

Jobs in the Scottish financial services industry will be hard hit. Tonight by co-incidence I was at a London Pension committee and three of our fund managers/advisers had flown in from Scotland to give presentations. I wonder how many we will see if there is independence and relocation to England?

I suspect that if there was independence, that the SNP will fall apart since they are a messy coalition who would have achieved their raison d'etre.  The Scottish Tories could then gradually reclaim their political dominance in Scotland. Read your history books. It is no coincidence in my view that the Tories use to have majority support in Scotland before the rise of the SNP.

As someone who has lived in Scotland and experienced middle class "Morningside Edinburgh", I don't think that the Scottish Establishment will be that much better than London if they have full powers.

You are not going to do very much about getting rid of nuclear weapons either if they (and I have my doubts this would happen in practice) are simply relocated to Northern England or Wales.

Being Scots/Welsh I am deeply worried that the genie of English nationalism will be let loose and 54 million English will dominate the 5.3 million in Scotland and the 3.1 million in Wales without the checks and balances of an union.

Finally, I think this quote is important even though he has decided not to participate in this referendum. "I grew up in the shipyards and docks and have always remembered that I have much more in common with a welder from Liverpool than I do with an agricultural guy from the highlands.... I have never been a nationalist" Billy Connolly.  Nuff said?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Become a HOPE not hate supporter for just £1


Dear John

On Friday, the regulated period for the 2015 General Election begins and every penny we spend on campaigning or exposing extremist and racist parties and politicians has to be recorded and reported to the Electoral Commission. Because of the recent Lobbying Act we will have 70% less to spend than we did in 2010 but we have to account for a far greater number of activities.
The Electoral Commission has even decided that you - our supporters and activists - must be considered members of the public unless you pay a financial contribution and so every email, telephone call or meeting we hold with you must be included in our election returns.
This is both stupid and undemocratic but unfortunately this is now the law.
As a consequence, we are creating a £1 HOPE not hate 'supporter' category so we can communicate and involve you in spreading our message without it counting as an election expense.
Become a HOPE not hate 'supporter' for just £1
By becoming a HOPE not hate supporter you will:
·         help decide our campaign priorities and direction
·         receive a HnH supporter newsletter
·         be invited to HnH meetings, events and trainings
·         be making a contribution to our 2015 campaign fund
Back us to continue our work
The new law has forced us to ask you to pay for the right to be a ‘supporter’, which I know is ridiculous because you are already the life blood of the organisation, so in return I want to give you the opportunity to get more involved in the organisation and have a bigger say in our future direction.
We have achieved so much together in the last 10 years now I hope you will stand with me as a HOPE not hate supporter so we can do even more in the next 10.
Thanks
Nick
Ps, I’ve written an essay reflecting on 10 years of HOPE not hate. I’d love you to read it

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Demo for Cambodian living wages outside Adidas in Oxford St this Wed 10am

I got this email from SERTUC this morning:-
"Labour behind the label/C.CAWDU demonstration outside Adidas

Date: 17 September Time: 9am – 10am
Location: Adidas Store, 415-419 Oxford St, London W1C 2PG

On 17 September there will be a global day of action called by global unions to demand an increase in the minimum wage in Cambodia from $100 to $177. As part of its solidarity actions on the day, the TUC will be supporting the demonstration being held by Labour behind the label and the Cambodian Apparel Workers Democratic Union (C.CAWDU) outside Adidas on Oxford st.

This demonstration will be calling on Adidas, H&M, Gap, Zara, Levi's, Puma, Walmart, and C&A to commit to an increase in the minimum wage in Cambodia. Please come along and show your support and spread the word through your networks.

For more information, please see:

https://www.facebook.com/events/691857020895533/?ref=22

Monday, September 15, 2014

Miner's Strike: 30th anniversary

This framed cartoon is on the wall of the community centre where I hold my Councillor surgery. The Chair of the centre is the daughter of a miner.

It takes me back to Yorkshire and my youth. This year is the 30th anniversary of the start of the 1984-1985 Miner's strike. As a politics student in Leeds at the time, I went to rallies and pickets lines to show support. But I don't think I really understood what what was really going on nor what it is like to actually go on strike until I became a trade union activist in UNISON.

The miners strike was not just about saving jobs but also about saving communities and a way of life - now long gone. They lost that particular battle but that does not mean that we cannot organise workers and communities to take action and act collectively in the future - and win the war.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

West Hammers in Ilford North #labourdoorstep

Yesterday morning after my Council Surgery I joined fellow West Ham CLP activists "next door" in the marginal seat of Ilford North.

We joined up with the Labour Candidate Wes Streeting and his team. 

West Ham CLP has been "twinned" with Ilford North (and Thurrock) for the General Election.

It is of course absolutely vital that we win these marginals next year to get rid of the Tories.  It will not be easy but I pleased to note that I did speak to residents who had voted Tory last time but were considering voting Labour in May.

Picture of Wes (2nd left) and team which included our "Supernice" and cute secret weapon in getting out the Labour vote, the pint sized West Ham ringer and number one "knock-er up-er" Milly!

You can find out details of further Ilford North campaigning here

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Hokey Pokey


No real reason, I just like this video - it is so supernice :)

(its a Newham thing)

Conflict in Gaza - West Ham CLP motion

This was the second motion that was supported by West Ham Labour Party Executive Committee on Wednesday.

It narrowly missed out as being our contemporary motion to Labour’s party conference (which has to refer to events post 31 Julynot already be on agenda and have a 250 word limit).

"Conference notes the fact that on 3 August 2014 an Israeli missile hit a UN school that was being used as a recognised civilian shelter and this resulted in the deaths of 9 Palestinians and at least 27 injured.

Conference believes that the recent Israeli actions in Gaza are disproportionate and illegal under international law. The UN, EU and UK government must act now to prevent further outbreaks of bloodshed.

The death toll of innocent civilians cannot be justified. Israel has a responsibility to respond to rocket attacks judiciously – it has not done so, and the latest bombing of the UN school is beyond comprehension.

Conference believes in the policy of a two-state solution. We recognise the right of Palestinians to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza strip with its capital in Jerusalem. To have a viable Palestinian state Israel must comply with international law and withdraw to the 1967 borders.

The illegal settlements continue to dispossess, humiliate and terrorise the people who are the rightful owners of the land that has been occupied.

Conference calls on both sides to reach a permanent cease fire. The only viable alternative to the current conflict in the region is a political arrangement: the principles of which are embedded in the long-existing UN resolutions.

No more lives must be lost. It is time for international law to be upheld. It is time for the safety, dignity and rights of the people of Gaza to be restored".

(Photo of Street Art Protest in Dublin)

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sports Direct - what a really rubbish company

Check out Tom P blog here on the antics of retail store, Sports Direct. Its billionaire boss Mike Ashley acts like he runs a private company with no other shareholders; it is certainly not a living wage employer and nearly 90% of its staff are on zero hours contracts.

Next time you want to buy anything at Sports Direct - think again. 

Tonii Wilson wins Beckton By Election for Labour

Congratulations to Newham Councillor Tonii Wilson who was elected last night for Beckton Ward (seen in between existing Cllrs David Christie and Ayesha Chowdhury)

The by-election was caused by the death after a short illness of Cllr Alec Kellaway.

I have previously described Tonii as "supernice" and she is - but I also admire her determination and evident hard work during the campaign.

Thanks are also due to the Agent, Alan Davies, who has run a great campaign.

The actual results were as followed:-

Syed Hussain Ahmed ​        Conservative ​584

​Mark Dunne    ​                    Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition ​21
​Jane Alison Lithgow   ​        Green  ​70       
​David Mears                       ​UK Independence (UKIP) ​215         
​Kayode Shedowo               ​Christian Peoples Alliance      ​33       
David Thorpe  ​                   Liberal Democrat        ​43
​Tonii Wilson    ​                  Labour ​1,006  

Turnout was low at 18.87 which is something that politicians do need to do something about. The irony in Newham is that the higher the turnout usually means the higher is the Labour vote.

It was good to see that ultra Tory UKIP running a very poor third. While TUSC came bottom with 21 votes (the 1%ers).

Thursday, September 11, 2014

West Ham CLP Housing motion chosen for Labour conference 2014

Hat tip Julianne at West Ham Labour blog. "Last night West Ham’s Executive Committee agreed to submit a contemporary motion to Labour’s party conference. The motion presses Labour to take further action to provide genuinely affordable housing (text below).

EC considered two motions – one on Gaza and one on housing. There was overwhelming discussion and support for both motions, but on a vote the CLP decided to submit the motion on housing.

There’s quite a few stages to go before our motion gets debated at conference. Firstly it has to be accepted by the conference committee, if it is (and many are not) it will be grouped with similar motions.

The motion would then go to a ballot of conference delegates. If our motion was chosen for debate (up to eight motions can be chosen) our delegate, Julianne Marriott, would need to work with the delegates who submitted similar motions to agree the wording of a joint motion and who should speak in the debate. After a debate Labour’s policy commission will consider the motion and debate.

We’ll update on how our motion fares on its journey to conference.

Text of the contemporary motion:

“Homes people can afford
Conference notes:

1. TUC’s research, published on 2 September, which finds that Copeland in Cumbria is the only local authority in England where the average house price is less than three times average annual pay.

2. Shelter’s investigation, published 7 August, which found that 1 in 3 homeless families in London have been trapped in temporary accommodation for over two years because the major shortage of socially affordable homes means councils are struggling to find suitable housing for homeless families.

3. That twice as many working people (963,000) are relying on housing benefit than they were five years ago and that this Tory Government only invests £5 in the Affordable Homes Programme for every £95 it spends on housing benefit.

4. The compulsory landlord licensing scheme introduced by the London Borough of Newham which has prosecuted 500 landlords over health and safety breaches in the last 18 months.

5. These examples demonstrate not only the growing crisis of affordability in housing caused by this Government’s handling of the economy but also this Government’s refusal to address it.

Conference calls on the Labour party to continue to expose Tory failure and to take bold action to increase and rebalance funding for genuinely affordable homes, remove the right to buy subsidy and replace homes bought under right to buy on a like-for-like basis, create minimum statutory standards for landlords and prevent further inflation of the cost of housing.”

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Better Together - A Proud Nation



This is the latest Referendum Broadcast - which was broadcast last night on BBC One. "We can have the Best of Both Worlds - a strong Scottish Parliament with more powers guaranteed and the the strength, security and stability of being part of the UK". We are better together.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Queen Supports Care UK/Bridgepoint Strikers!

This lunchtime I went to support Care UK strikers from Doncaster outside their real employer's headquarters at Bridgepoint Private Equity,  95 Wigmore Street, London, W1. I had just missed seeing Rock legend, Dr Brian May from the band "Queen" at the protest (see centre picture).

Apparently Brian had been driving past and saw the protest. Check out this report on FaceBook from one of the strikers "So just in London striking and Brian May of Queen walks over to me gives me a hug and says well done for what we are doing.... Absolutely gobsmacked"

Brian May tweeted  "Guys from Doncaster protesting destruction of NHS by Cameron. They are RIGHT. BBC shamefully not reporting this. Bri".

The Doncaster Care UK/Bridgepoint Private Equity protesters have suffered massive pay cuts since they were transferred from the NHS to Care UK. One striker I spoke to is losing £400 per month in wage cuts. Other strikers are new staff who want Care UK/Bridgepoint to pay them the UK Living Wage rate. They are now on their 63rd day of strike action. This is turning into one of the longest disputes in social care ever in the UK.

I understand that Private Equity investor Bridgepoint has huge investments in Personal and Social Care in the UK. This sector is a massive risk to Bridgepoint investors. Imagine what would happen to your reputation and investments if there was yet another social care scandal at a project they had recently taken over and got rid of experienced staff and replaced them with untrained and inexperienced workers on minimum wage and zero hour contracts?

Also with them were strikers from Your Choice Barnet ("YCB" in red tee shirts) who are on their 2nd day of strike action over pay cuts.  They also look after disabled children and adults and Tory Barnet Council is planning to cut their wages by an average 10%. The Doncaster strikers had shown them solidarity at thier picket line that morning and they were showing their support in return.

The Historic Mission of the Scots in the United Kingdom

On 18 September the Scots will go to their polling stations and vote on whether or not to remain part
of the United Kingdom.

As the son of a Scottish Father and Welsh mother who has also lived in Scotland but now in London I of course, do not have a vote. Quite rightly so...but like every else I am entitled to a view. 

Personally, I think it will not be the end of the world if Scotland votes to separate but I think it will a blow to Scotland and to wider progressive politics.

In my view it is in the interests of Scots, Welsh and English that we do not separate.  I think though that it is more in the interests of Scotland than England that the union continues.

There is a degree of lalaism by both sides in the current debate but I don't think there is really a real downside for England to have an independent Scotland as a neighbour? The argument in favour of the union by the English is mostly sentiment.

The crucial issue is that the ONS estimate in 2013 that the population of the UK is 64 Million while Scotland is only 5.3 million. The English population is over 10 times the size of Scotland and GNP gap is even greater.

The Scottish economy is and would be inevitably tied to England regardless of any legal constitutional arrangements.

As someone who has lived in Wales, Scotland and England I am amazed at the naivety of those who slag off the English and want a separate state but who think that if this happens then they will have some sort of equal status and power with a neighbour 10 times their size? ...Dream on.

Just a thought but surely if the English are really so bad that you want to split with them, don't you think there is a risk that they will use their dominant economic power and size to further their interests at the expense of Scotland?

My own personal major beef with Scottish independence is that it will split and divide the working class and the progressive vote in this small island. I am amazed at the views of those who think that if Scotland becomes independent that it will be some sort of Socialist Idyll. Yeah.

I can remember discussing this with my Dad who was a Aberdeen born and bred, Rosyth docks trained electrician, who reminded me that the Tories were the major party Scotland until the early 1960s and that it is no co-incidence that the Tory vote went down roughly the same time as the Nats vote went up.

My view is good luck to Scotland if it goes separate but don't naive about what will happen if it does. The historic mission of the Scots in the last 300 years of the union is to hold the English in check. Scots have played a huge and completely disproportionate leadership role in the United Kingdom. Despite the small population, Scots have a significant place in our common history as British Prime ministers, Field Marshall's, Philosophers, Artists, Entrepreneurs and Social leaders.

Remove that influence and mission and I genuinely think none of us will like what will happen. To be clear, I don't stay up all night worrying about Scottish nationalism - I do fear English nationalism.

I am reminded of Truman Capote, that "More tears are shed over answered prayers than unanswered ones.” I hope that the real land of my fathers 18 September will not result in more tears. 

Monday, September 08, 2014

"Keeping wages down for ever" – A new slogan for the Tories?

Great post from TUC General Secretary Frances O'Grady on Touchstone. "The TUC’s Congress starts in Liverpool today, and an issue at the top of many minds will be the threat posed by the Conservative Party’s new proposals on strike ballots.

These are not just a few bureaucratic obstacles that will make life a bit more difficult for trade unions. Rather they work together to make official strikes close to impossible and will open up trade union activists to increased surveillance by the state.

The Conservative proposals are three-fold.

First they want to impose a turnout threshold of 50% on strike action, in a ballot conducted by postal votes. This is a level that has never been met in elections as important as that for the London Mayor. It is an irrational barrier too as a 49% vote for action with none against would be invalid, while a narrow 26% to 25% victory for action would be legal. It actually makes an abstention more powerful than a vote against, which rather undermines their stated rationale of increasing turnouts.
Union elections are governed by old legislation introduced when the post was our main means of distance communication. Now most mail is junk mail or bills, and life for many has moved online and onto smartphones, making a 50% target even more difficult. For sure give people a chance to vote by post, but do not keep denying the right of union members to vote securely and secretly online.

Secondly, the Conservative proposals impose many new duties on unions on the conduct of ballots and communications with members. It’s of course good practice to communicate properly – and members are smart enough to tell when you are not. But as soon as you start to set it out in law, in practice all you are doing is giving employers many new ways of challenging ballots in the courts on technicalities.

Thirdly, they want new specific criminal offences for people on picket lines. There are already strong public order laws in the UK and I have no sense that the police want anything extra. Yet the Conservatives are proposing that if a seventh person joins a peaceful and good-natured picket line, all seven could be prosecuted and given a criminal record.

And new specific technology offences will mean strikers will face tougher legal restrictions on Twitter than other people. They will open up union activists to enhanced surveillance as potential criminals.

In drawing up these proposals, they seem to have ignored their stated question of “how can we improve turnout in strike ballots?”, and instead asked “how can we stop strikes, intimidate staff and help bad bosses?”

Strikes would become so difficult that there would be no effective right to strike in the UK. Yet the right to freedom of association is a fundamental human right. That includes the right to form effective trade unions. Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes routinely suppress trade unions and lock up strikers – That’s surely not how we want to run our own society.
But if even that is not a sufficient reason, let’s look at what an effective ban on official strikes would mean for the workforce.

Politicians often say that the alternative to strikes is talking, but there is a difference between talking and negotiating. You only get real negotiation when there is power on both sides of the table. Collective bargaining works because both sides understand what the other can realistically deliver. This is why the vast majority of genuine negotiations don’t result in strikes but an eventual deal between management and workers.

But take away the right to official strike and one of two things happens. Either workers end up meekly asking their employer for more, with as much power as Oliver Twist brought to the negotiating table. Or you see an increase in hard-to-manage and destabilising unofficial action, whether wildcat strikes or mass duvet days.

It is not just union members who have suffered the longest decline in living standards since the 1870s. And it is not just union members that will lose out. Workplaces that have collective bargaining set pay rates in non-union workplaces too. Undermine collective bargaining and you undermine everyone’s pay.

I have seen no polls that suggest the public think strikes and unions are a concern. Economic commentators don’t point to unions as part of the problem, but are more likely to see them as part of the solution to a society in which inequality has grown and wages stagnated. Conservative MPs have told me in private they see no need for such measures. Perhaps it appeals to funders or potential UKIP defectors, but it won’t win votes.

This is an attack on our fundamental civil liberties, but it will also act to lower living standards for the many – whether or not they are union members. With these new proposals, the Conservatives seem to found have a simple slogan for the next election – “Keeping wages down for ever”.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

"On the Knocker" in Gallions Reach

Collage is from Saturdays canvass session in Gallions Reach, Beckton.

Tonii Wilson is the excellent Labour candidate (centre of collage) seeking to win this weeks by-election following the tragic sudden death of Cllr Alec Kellaway.  

London Assembly member John Biggs came along to help out as well.

John and I were sent to knock doors and ask residents if they will be supporting Labour on Thursday (11 September) in a new housing development in Gallions Reach. This is made up of several distinctive blocks of flats.  It is quite an attractive site overlooking the Albert Basin.

The response rate was pretty good from the people that we managed to speak to but many were out or didn't open their doors. Always a problem for all canvassers in blocks of flats.

In the middle of the site there is the rather incongruous redbrick 19th Century Gallions Hotel (see top left of collage). Which was built when this area was a dock for travellers about to embark on international P&O voyages. The author Rudyard Kipling stayed at the hotel before setting off for India, and mentions the place in his novel The Light that Failed (1890): “Is it Tilbury and a tender, or Gallions and the docks?”.

Another source states that the hotel used at one time have a bad reputation and was allegedly known as the 'Captain's Brothel'!

Nearby is the Gallions Retail Park which occupies part of the gasworks site where Stanley Kubrick filmed the Vietnam scenes for Full Metal Jacket and scenes from the James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only".

On a more sombre note, last week was the anniversary of the Princess Alice disaster. "On 3 September 1878, on the return upriver from a day trip, the steam powered pleasure steamer 'Princess Alice' collided with the collier 'Bywell Castle' just off Gallion's Reach at Woolwich. In very warm weather the pleasure boat was packed with between 700 and 900 day-trippers. The 'Alice' was only equipped to take 500. She sank almost immediately with the loss of approximately 640 lives".

We are campaigning in Beckton tomorrow: -

Monday - St Marks centre, 218 Tollgate Road, E6 5YA at 6:30pm - 8pm

Tuesday - the junction of Boultwood Road and Harper Road, E6 5QA at 6:30pm - 8pm

Email newhamlabour@gmail.com if you can help out on Wednesday and polling day.  

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Angela Rayner selected as the Labour Party Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Ashton-Under-Lyne

I am really, really chuffed to hear that Angie was selected as the PPC for Ashton-Under-Lyne today.

She is a home care worker and the Stockport UNISON branch secretary (and Regional Convenor) and will make a fantastic MP.

This is great news not only for the people of Ashton-Under-Lyne but also that the Labour Party is selecting working class rank and file trade unionists for safe Labour seats.

I have met up with Angie, her husband Mark (UNISON LGPS rep) and their lovely children at various UNISON conferences over the years.

She was featured in a Guardian article a couple of years ago and I posted at the time that  "Angela typifies the very best of UNISON and how it can grow its activists".

Friday, September 05, 2014

UNISON Says Fair Pay for NHS staff

"The real value of NHS pay has been falling for five years 

Pay in the NHS has not kept in line with inflation and staff have not received an above-inflation pay rise since 2009.

NHS workers in England are under paid

 This year 60% of NHS staff will not get any pay rise and only those at the top of their bands will receive a 1% unconsolidated lump sum. The 1% unconsolidated lump sum is a one-off payment which does not alter the hourly rate, so it will not count towards unsocial hours for evening, weekend or night shifts, it will not be added to overtime, it will not be added to any supplements (such as high cost area supplements, local recruitment and retention premia, or on-call arrangements) and it does not count towards pensionable pay.

UNISON members working in the NHS in England are now being balloted for industrial action

UNISON’s healthcare service group executive has agreed to ballot members in England on pay for strike action and action short of strike action. 

The ballot will open on 28 August 2014 and close at 10am on 18 September 2014. Members will vote on strike action and action short of strike.

If members vote ‘yes’, it is proposed that members will take action during a week in October. This is likely to start with a short stoppage followed by a defined form of action short of strike, such as insisting that members take their breaks.

Members will be sent a ballot paper with questions asking whether they are prepared to take strike action and/or action short of strike action.

We are urging members to vote yes for both strike action and action short of strike. However, we are also urging all members, whatever their view, to vote to ensure we have a high ballot turn out".

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Walking in County Kerry

Off message but after a week in Dublin I spent a wonderful week walking in County Kerry, Republic of Ireland. Hired a cottage in the tiny former smuggling port of Portmagee. A drop dead gorgeous, relaxed and friendly part of the world. Reminded me of Madeira.

There are a number of "looped walks" which are well signposted and very quiet and peaceful even in August. Many have historical themes.

My only regret was that I left it too late to book a boat trip to visit Skellig Michael. Next time.

The Guinness wasn't bad either.

More pictures on Facebook here and here.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Forest Gate North Councillors

www.forestgatenorth.com

"This is the blog of the three Labour councillors for Forest Gate North ward, in the London Borough of Newham. We are Seyi Akiwowo, Ellie Robinson and Rachel Tripp. We have created this blog as a way of keeping residents informed about our work for the ward and for Newham. Here we hope to blog about meetings, all kinds of issues from very local to national, queries and concerns, and anything else we are involved in that we think you might want to know more about. We hope that you find it useful; please get in touch and let us know".
 
What a great local blog. Will suggest tomorrow at ward meeting that we have a West Ham one!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Searchlight on History repeats itself: 1942 SS - 2014 IS

This is the latest front cover of the long standing anti-fascist and anti-racist magazine "Searchlight".

I think we all know what it shows and compares. 

Tonight we heard of yet another cowardly murder of a journalist, Steven Sotloff.

Searchlight is absolutely right to compare the butchers of the Islamic state with that of the Nazi SS.

They are all the same - fascist scum and we need to stop them.

The IS are no more Muslims than the German SS concentration camp guards were Christians - they are all just fanatics and common murderers.

In Britain recently a number of respected Islamic scholars have declared IS a "heretical” and “an oppressive and tyrannical group... and religiously prohibited to support or join”

In view of the Nazi slaughter that happened in the lifetime of my father and mother, I don't think that those of us who are not Muslims have any cause to be complacent or smug.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Bridgepoint, Care UK and is it "good business practice" to pay poverty wages?

Last week UNISON Strikers from Care UK in Doncaster tried to lobby the owners of their company, £8.7 Billion Private Equity firm Bridgepoint Capital.

Care UK won the contract to run former NHS care services in Doncaster. The strikers are trying to get a decent pay rise (following savage cuts in their pay and conditions -up to 35% of pay for some staff) and also a living wage for all new employees.

In the light of such questionable employment practices I  wondered what the Bridgepoint's stated policy is on ethical investment issues? I found here that apparently "We believe that it's good business practice to have strong environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) principles - and that building these principles into our business practises is good for our investors, employees, investee companies and their stakeholders in the long term.  Our approach is led by our core values, which we expect our teams to adhere to in the way they conduct themselves and represent Bridgepoint - and wherever relevant, in our environmental, social and governance policies".

also here I read that Bridgepoint "works with management teams to implement appropriate social policies in their operations and procedures. Typically, these focus on worker health and safety, labour rights and welfare". Oh, they are also "a signatory to the United Nations' Principles for Responsible Investment"

hmmmm - what twaddle. How can slashing wages and making its workers broke and homeless be "good business practice"? How in these circumstances do they "focus on worker health & safety, labour rights and welfare". What hypocrisy.

Of course companies that treat their workers like rubbish also treat their clients as rubbish as well.

Check out UNISON news here and Observer article here

Finally, I am willing to bet that a number of pension and insurance funds invest in Bridgepoint. Do you really want your retirement funded by exploitation and misery?