Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Name This Bear 'Mohammed'

As I type, Liverpool school teacher Gillian Gibbons is arriving at court in Sudan to face charges of blasphemy, because she allowed schoolkids to name a teddy bear 'Mohammed'. She could end up being lashed or spending time in prison.

There is no grey area here - the state enforcing religious protocols is utterly reactionary and wrong. Religions have long proscribed taking a divinity's name in vain, perhaps based on the idea that "fear of a name just increases fear of the thing itself", as Hermione Granger says about He Who Must Not Be Named, otherwise known as Lord Voldemort.

There should be no such crime as 'blasphemy', in any country, against any religion. There is no room for excuse-mongering that Gillian Gibbons 'should have been more sensitive' or 'should have known better' or whatever. A bloke from the Sudanese Embassy said on Radio 5 this morning that he regretted this situation, regretting that Gillian Gibbons had caused it. The Unity High School in Khartoum where Gibbons worked - a private, Christian-run institution - has issued a public apology to Muslims and sacked her.

It's a gift for all manner of right-wingers - I dread to think what hay The Sun, The Daily Mail or the BNP are making with this issue. Right-winger and serious threat for London Mayor Boris Johnson uses it to come over all reasonable, whilst chucking in terms like 'bonkers', 'demented' and 'lunacy', and insisting that British Muslims somehow have responsibility over and above that of British non-Muslims to protest against the teacher's trial.

The victors in this are the religious regimes and the reactionary right - no matter how much they claim to despise each other, they feed off each other too. In the name of secularism, democracy and anti-racism, let the left stand apart from both.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Stroppy and other fed up lefties

Here's a chocolate cake have it with a cup of tea or mug of coffee or even a big glass of Shiraz and chill out. As my granda used to say "it's not called the struggle for nothing" and lefties are awfy argumentative and have an awful lot to say for themselves. So if you are fed up a wee cup cake to get you through the day but don't give up


London Pro-Feminist Men's group

Apart from my long debates about Kylie's arse, I have had a few chats recently with leftie men about anti sexism and the male feminist and how to be supportive and what to call themselves. Some younger ones like Kit calls himself a feminist. Some of the older ones , bit more cynical, admit that back in the 80s the main reason for calling yourself that was to get into the knickers of members of the women's group. You know who you are :-)Now of course they are both good old anti sexist lefties but who don't make a big deal of it.

Anyway enough rambling. My point is I don't expect men to be perfect (that would be dull anyway), just an awareness that they need to address issues and a hands up when they get it wrong or don't know. I don't much care what they call themselves, its what they do in support of women and whether they can question themselves and the left that counts.

With that in mind I was pleased to hear about a blog and group, the London Pro-Feminist Men' group, from one of my many drinking buddies and mates John A. John is still enthusiastic and not yet bitter and twisted:-) Its nice to see it. Perhaps some of us hard bitten old cynics could learn from people like John and this group.

Pic: Members of the group at the Reclaim the Night rally.

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Can't be arsed

I will write a longer, more considered, post on this a bit later. For the time being I really can't be arsed and have had enough with all the really crappy attacks and point scoring for what passes as debate on the left.

Hello?? we are a tiny group of people. Anyone looking in would run a mile. We alienate more than we draw in through our tactics. Hey, perhaps I do. I have been told I am alienating for the way I criticised Galloway and that my blog is one of the most intimidating around. My views count for little as I have had a drink with Denham.Makes a change from being told I have blood on my hands and am a CIA whore (which I'm not btw, don't charge and only shag lefties :-))

I really wonder why I bother. Who needs enemies when you can have leftie comrades. Fuck knows what any society we created would be like.

Oh and this is not just a rant at any one person. Its a general I am fucked off with the left brought on by debates about Kylie's arse (Says it all really) and the general nastiness that passes for a debate on Respect. Its just a culmination of pissed off ness.

Want to know what I'm griping about? Bit of a political masochist ?
Check out here , here and here.

For now I'm going to have some JD, play scrabble on facebook and eventually write a more considered post in the next few days.Or perhaps give up and get a life.

btw on Splintered Sunrise Andy Newman says that this blog is intimidating

Generally, the blogs are not safe places where people feel confident to express a dissenting view. And two of the very worst in terms of intimidation are Stroppyblog and Shiraz socialists, because you tolerate the verbal bullying from Voltaires Priest and others.
And Stroppy
You did tolerate and collude in bullying of Louise by “Voltaires Priest”.

He is referring to this thread.

Make up your own minds if this makes this blog one of the very worst in terms of intimidation.

I don't delete and I don't moderate . I don't see anything here that is worse than many of the blogs and that includes SU.


Privilege Persists

Guess what? Private school kids are still bagging University places. Privilege is still alive and kicking.

Apparently, this is 'despite' government efforts to encourage top universities and state school pupils to see each other as potential partners. But hey, when those efforts include not just tuition fees, but extra tuition fees if a university rates itself as really top-notch, then even really sincere encouragement won't get you too far, will it?

This is not a big problem to the Torygraph, of course, which is far more exercised by an apparent threat to take away charitable status from private schools. Excuse me, but in what sense is helping posh parents to obtain a privileged education for their kids away from the great unwashed proletarian feral youth in any sense a 'charitable' pursuit?


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Every three days in Britain a man kills his female partner or ex-partner. This man John Smith was on bail, he had previous convictions for partner abuse, they were estranged. We need to ask "what will it take?" before courts understand that bail conditions do not protect women? The court asks for a risk assessment now - where was the risk assessment when he was bailed?

Abattoir Butcher Murders Wife

25 Knife Wounds In Frenzied Attack

A SLAUGHTERHOUSE butcher stabbed his estranged wife 25 times just minutes after they had sex, a court heard yesterday.

Mother-of-two Kelly Smith died after her husband, John Smith, launched his frenzied attack.

Her hands and wrists were sliced open as she tried to defend herself from the onslaught.

At the High Court in Glasgow yesterday, 28-year-old Smith admitted murdering her.

Smith had previous convictions for assaulting his wife and for a breach of the peace involving her.

The fatal attack happened in a friend's house at Glasgow Street, Ardrossan, Ayrshire, where Smith had been staying after he and Kelly split up.

Kathleen Harper, prosecuting, said Smith was on bail at the time and was banned from either approaching or contacting Kelly or going to their marital home.

On the evening she died, on February 19, Kelly drove her two children, aged eight and two, to a friend's house to be looked after for the night while she went out for a drink in a Saltcoats pub with another pal.

On the way home, she went to see her estranged husband.

An argument began but it calmed down to the point where they made up and had sex.

Afterwards, however, Smith went into the kitchen and returned with a knife which he plunged into Kelly as she sat on the bed.

When she fell to the floor, he continued to stab her and then stabbed himself in the left arm.

Ms Harper said Smith took his wife's house keys from her bag, intending to get her car from the family home and escape.

But he couldn't find the car keys there because Kelly had left them and the car in her friend's driveway.

He then went to the friend's house, threw stones at her window to waken her up and said he was to take the children and get the car keys. But he was told to leave.

Smith then went to another friend's house and told him: "I really done it this time.

"I need to get away from here. I think I've killed her."

They went round to Smith's house and he went in, returning to shout: "Aye, she's deid."

Police got a 999 call from Smith saying he had stabbed his wife and, when they arrived, he was still inside the house.

When he was taken to the police station, Smith asked detectives several times: "How long will I get for murder?"

Asked why he got a knife after they had made up, he said: "Coz madness.

"Just things going through ma heid and I've just lashed oot and I shouldn't have,poor lassie."

Asked why he stabbed himself in the arm, he replied: "I just thought maybe if we just both got it together.

"I wish I'd put it through me mate and then the two of us would have went the same way."

A post-mortem revealed that Kelly would not have died straight away but would have bled to death.

She had received internal wounds damaging the lungs, her spleen, a kidney, small and large bowel and liver.

Judge Lord Brailsford called for a risk assessment report before formally sentencing Smith to life in January next year.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Guest post - The Future is Unwritten

I spotted on Facebook that Eddie Truman, pictured on the left (where else :-) ) in his heyday, had written a review of The Future is Unwritten. I asked nicely and he said I could reproduce it here on Stroppyblog. Its also going to be in the next issue of Scottish Socialist Voice.

So here it is :

“White youth, black youth Better find another solution Why not phone up robin hood And ask him for some wealth distribution ”
White Man In Hammersmith Palais

30 years ago a social revolution was in full swing that had burst onto the scene a year earlier in 1976.
In ‘The Future Is Unwritten’ Julien Temple has made a film that documents the life of the unofficial leader of that social revolution, John Graham Mellor, otherwise known as Joe Strummer.
Using film footage of Strummer’s youth and from the pre-Clash day’s of the101’ers, the squatters movement in London in the mid 1970’s, through the early years of the Clash, the heyday of punk and onto the break up of the Clash and Strummer’s tragically short renaissance, The Future Is Unwritten is a highly emotional film, leaving this viewer in tears towards the end.
Politically the 1970’s had been a decade of enormous upheaval; the miners had been in battle repeatedly and the 3 day week during the Heath government of 1970-74 gave a sense of a country in crisis.
Generally speaking though, this had not been reflected in pop and rock music.
The ‘heavy rock’ of bands like Led Zeppelin and Cream had evolved into pompous and over elaborate ‘progressive rock’ of Yes and Emerson Lake and Palmer with American bands like Rush and Blue Oyster Cult also hugely popular in the UK.
My abiding memory from the mid 70’s is my school friends with denim jackets that their mums had carefully embroidered with the logo of their favourite heavy metal band or even the artwork of an album cover.
The music and ethos of the heavy metal fans was incredibly conservative and hostile to new ideas, this was the era of the spectacular guitar solo and,incredible though it now seems, the drum solo.
When The Clash, Sex Pistols and Damned arrived it was a blessed relief.
Fast and furious, songs stripped back down to 3 minutes 30 seconds and, in the case of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones’ songs, a musical reflection of the turmoil and anger of the late 1970’s.
The Future Is Unwritten documents the explosion of punk rock and the social context that it took place in; the advent of mass unemployment, industrial disputes, the rise of the National Front and the opposition in the form of the Anti Nazi League.
Joe Strummer became the spokesperson for a new generation of left wing and militant youth and through his lyrics and interviews we were educated in the politics of protest and more diverse forms of music.
It was The Clash who inspired us to start attending the Edinburgh reggae club with their cover of the Junior Murvin song ‘Police and Thieves’ and the off beat chops of what is surely one of the great records of all time ‘White Man In Hammersmith Palais’.
“If Adolf Hitler flew in today, they’d send a limousine anyway” bawled Strummer, an observation that appeared frighteningly real at the time.
The contract that The Clash had with CBS records was little more than bonded labour and throughout their existence Strummer and Jones battled with the company on behalf of the fans.
The group insisted that CBS sell the double and triple albums London Calling and Sandinista for the price of a single album each, at the time £5.
In the case of Sandinista the band compromised on £5.99 and had to forfeit all royalties on the first 200,000 sales.
The band was constantly in debt to CBS and only began to break even around 1982.
The contradiction of being in a rock and roll band with principles and the commercial realities of success in the huge US market finally destroyed The Clash.
For anyone with an emotional investment in the band, the look on Joe Strummer’s face as he explains how he felt when the US military adopted‘Rock the Casbah’ as an anthem during the first Gulf War is absolutely heartbreaking.
“ha you think its funny, Turning rebellion into money” Strummer had sung in White Man In Hammersmith Palais’.
With the Clash no more Strummer entered a period of loss and uncertainty,haunted by the past.
Gradually he emerged from the dark and started to make music again, along with some involvement in films.
In 1999 his new band The Mescaleros issued their first album and in 2002 they played a benefit gig for striking fire fighters in London. Mick Jones was in the audience and joined Strummer on stage for an encore, the first time they had played on stage together since 1983.
On December 22nd 2002 Joe Strummer died at home of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect, he was 50 years old.
The Future Is Unwritten documents the life of a rock and roll singer, an inspirational figure and the spokesman for a rebel generation. Watch it if you possibly can.

Montage by Eddie.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Stroppyblog birthdays

Belated happy birthday to Cat (last Saturday) ! Hope you had a good one. And remember, its more fun to grow old disgracefully .

Talking of disgraceful stroppy women ...happy birthday for this coming monday to MJ !! Sorry I can't make the drinks tonight. Have a degenerate time...

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Pro Choice Catholics

Something to upset the pope :

A large minority of Catholics back a woman's right to have an abortion and are critical of their bishops for paying "too much attention" to the issue, a survey has suggested

A poll of adults in the UK has shown 43% of Catholics agreed that it should be legal for a woman to have an abortion when she has an unwanted pregnancy with only 27% disagreeing.

A further 20% said they neither disagreed or agreed.

The survey also found that 42% of Catholics agreed with the view that the Catholic bishops concentrated too much of their attention on abortion when there were other issues that also required their attention.

The YouGov poll of 1,983 adults in the UK was conducted online earlier this month for the US-based group Catholics for Choice, which is to brief MPs on its findings.

The poll found the highest level of support for abortion among the general population with 63% of all respondents agreeing it should be legal for a woman to have an abortion when she has an unwanted pregnancy.

This figure fell to 58% of people who identified themselves as Protestant.

The survey findings come as the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill was debated in the House of Lords earlier this week. Both pro-Life and pro-choice groups are expected to attempt to use the Bill to change the law on abortion.

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Been very busy so not got round to blogging the last few days so this is old news !I went to the LRC conference last Saturday. I won't write much as its been well covered elsewhere.I intend to get involved with the Women's Left Network but must admit I am not quite as upbeat as others about the LRC and staying in the Labour Party. I'm probably just getting more gripey and cynical as I get older and I was never an optomistic little ray of sunshine at the best of times.

Congrats though to Louise, Tami , Marsha Jane, Susan and Mary for getting elected to the LRC National Committee. That is a reason to be positive, a load of leftie feminist women who won't just sit quietly while the men talk bullshit.Good to meet Susan as well and have a few drinks with her after.

For now I will stay in the Party, get involved in campaigns, try to set up a regional LRC with Jon R and help with the Women's Network. I have yet to see the light and want to join Respect Renewal. Sorry, not convinced. So staying put.


Another Witch to Burn

I have set up a new blog called ANOTHER WITCH TO BURN it's going to catalogue men's violence towards women. We had a Reclaim the Night march in Edinburgh just last month and a woman was raped on Saturday night - so in my rage I have decided to catalogue men's violence towards women because it is getting trivalised. If you have any stuff you would like me to post let me know. I know blogging it won't stop it but I feel I need to catalogue it!


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Child Benefit Data Disks

Some comments on the loss of the child benefit data disks ...

There is a glaringly obvious link between cutting civil service jobs and funding, and the civil service cocking up. PCS has commented on this. I'd have thought that the CWU should be pointing out the pitfalls of a government department using a private courier rather than Royal Mail, but there is nothing yet on its website.

I also agree with the chorus of people pointing out that this incident should be the nail in the coffin of ID cards.

There has been a lot of concern about ID theft, and yes, as one of the people whose details are on those disks, I feel a little flustered.

But there is, I think, a greater concern, which I have not heard in the extensive news coverage. There are vulnerable parents and children whose details are on those lost disks - women fleeing violent ex-partners, families who are refugees from oppressive regimes, parents who have been rejected by hostile families or 'elders' who do not approve of their relationships. For many of those kids and their parents, the confidentiality of their addresses and personal details is absolutely essential to their safety. Yet the BBC asks how worried we should be, but considers only the threat to our bank accounts and credit facilities.

Maybe I've missed it. But maybe the politicians are too busy trading insults to even think about the potential victims.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Fremantle demo

Links to a crop of YouTube clips of the recent Fremantle demo here.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Terrible Anniversary

Today is the twentieth anniversary of the King's Cross fire, when 31 people died because London Underground didn't have sufficient fire safety procedures.

As a result of the fire, the Fennell Report made over 100 recommendations, and LUL improved its fire safety through measures such as banning smoking, getting rid of wooden escalators, and providing radios for all staff. The Home Secretary made use of his powers under Section 12 of the 1971 Fire Precautions Act to introduce the Fire Precautions (Sub-Surface Railway Stations) Regulations 1989, which insist that there must be at least two staff on duty at all times, that they must be trained, rooms must be adequately compartmentalised, and there must be systems that detect, contain and suppress fire.

'Sub-surface railway stations' include not just London Underground, but the other metro systems in Tyne & Wear, Glasgow and Merseyside, plus several national rail stations, including Birmingham New Street. for those of us who work in them (I'm a Stations Supervisor on the largest London Underground station, but I'm required by my contract to say that my comments here are my own, not those of my employer), the 'Section 12 regulations' are etched into our whole approach to our job. They came too late to save the 31 casualties of 1987, but have certainly save countless lives since.

Which it is why it is so alarming that the government has been trying to whittle away at them over the last few years. RMT and FBU are giving optimistic signals about the latest talks, and there are some interesting reports on this webpage.

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Socialist Wimmin's weekend to Lochranza, Isle of Arran, Scotland 22/23 February 2008

Hi sisters,

I am organising a weekend for the Scottish Socialist Wimmin's Network at Lochranza Youth Hostel for 22nd and 23rd February and would like to invite wimmin comrades from down south. For the two nights including food I recon it will be £50 for waged, £40 low waged and £30 for unwaged. Kids and activists still at school will be free. That'll include all food, you'll have to buy your own drink though there are a couple of nice pubs near by but there are NO shops!!!

It'll be a social occasion but there will be political discussions too. Lochranza is so beautiful you will love it - so you can go for walks too and not participate in the discussions. Comrades in Scotland could accommodate youse for staying overnight in Glasgow or Edinburgh as travelling to an island takes time.

If you would like to come email me on, come to participate or to chill out, don't come if you want an argument we want to have a nice time - some of us have been through the wars.

It is a wimmin's weekend so on this occasion sorry blokes you canny cannae come

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

European Far Right Implodes

The far-right block in the European Parliament has collapsed - amusingly enough, because one lot were racist about the nationality of another lot.

It seems that Mussolini's grand-daughter (pictured) - who shares Il Duce's loathsome politics as well as his gene pool - had a pop at Romanians, suggesting that they are inveterate criminals. Which pissed off the Romanian nationalists somewhat.

Which all goes to show that nationalists co-operating internationally is, er, problematic. I suspect that there might be a lesson for the left in there somewhere.

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Appointment To New Equality and Rights Body. A Bloke Who Doesn't Believe In Equality and Rights.

I've copied below an article from the National Secular Society. It seems that there is no end to this government's fawning to religious leaders and the religious right.

Why on earth appoint someone who opposes gay equality and human rights onto a public body charged with enforcing equality and human rights?! And why is it that this government feels compelled to put people on committees because of their religious superstition? How does that earn you a seat? I could accept religious people being appointed if they are well-qualified for other reasons, and regardless of their faith. But because of their faith? No thanks.

Incidentally, I don't agree with the Secular Society's Terry Sanderson's comment about people being unable to change their sexuality. I've long thought that "gay people can't help it" is one of the weakest defences of LGBT rights around.

Calls for fundamentalist Christian to be removed from equality body

The appointment by the Government of an anti-gay Christian fundamentalist to the new Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is "a slap in the face for Human Rights", says the National Secular Society.

The Government has appointed Joel Edwards, general director of the Evangelical Alliance, as one of its commissioners. Mr Edwards has been prominent in campaigns to undermine women's rights to choose an abortion and recent equality legislation for gay people in the areas of employment and the provision of goods and services. The Society is convinced that the appointment will damage the reputation of the Commission and raise questions about its objectivity.

On April 10 last year Mr Edwards was reported to have said: "Forgiveness, respect, hope and trust are rooted in the Christian faith and they are the antidote to a culture that is being railroaded into an individualistic, rights-orientated mentality". Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, described this stance as "denigrating the underlying basis for Human Rights".

He continued: "We note Mr Edwards said on his appointment: 'As a Christian leader, I believe one of my primary responsibilities will be to ensure that the values of faith communities -- our concerns for important issues such as respect and tolerance -- play an effective role in this commission'. This shows a disturbing focus on representing the values of faith communities rather than totality of Human Rights. What Mr Edwards is really trying to do is impose his religious values on others, whether religious or not. This is the very antithesis of Human Rights.

"This appointment must be reversed immediately. Mr Edwards comes to the job with a pre-formed agenda that is based on a literalist reading of the Bible. How on earth is he going to look objectively at sexuality issues when he so vociferously opposes equality for homosexuals and women's right to choose?"

Mr Sanderson added: "It has been a concern from the inception of the Commission that trying to accommodate religion under the same human rights umbrella as sexuality is an impossible task. Religious people can change and abandon their religion or interpret it differently if they want to, but gay people cannot change their orientation. Mr Edwards would doubtless like to claim they can, and seeks to persuade them to desist from any sexual activity whatsoever."

The NSS has written to the Minister for Women Harriet Harman requesting that she rethink Mr Edwards' appointment as a matter of urgency.

Jim Herrick, chairman of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, said: "Joel Edwards likes to present himself as Mr Moderate. He likes to portray those who oppose him as extremists. Yet he is a classic evangelical, one who will not accept that gay people are entitled to sexual expression under any circumstances. He is front man for a body that shelters a section of the population that is so illiberal one wonders where on earth this can lead in the context of Human Rights. This appointment is a step towards a redefinition of human rights."

GALHA says that if the gay community doesn't protest most vigorously about this appointment, some of its hard won new rights could be fatally undermined.

"Mr Edwards is going to present a most reassuring front when he is challenged. Don't be fooled. His troops of fundamentalists are lining up behind him whooping with glee. They've got their man exactly where they want him. This appointment must be cancelled -- and without delay," said Mr Herrick.

The new EHRC amalgamates previous watchdog bodies dealing with race, disability and gender and adds new strands dealing with sexual orientation and religion and belief.

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Conferences and Creches

As many of you are probably aware, this weekend brings a sort of 'super' Saturday of leftie conferences. There is the LRC, Respect , Respect renewal and the Socialist Party event. Spoilt for choice, that is as long as you don't have any childcare responsibilities .

I planned to go along to the LRC event with Dave. All well and good except he needs to have his kids to stay that weekend. I e-mail to find out if there is a creche. The response I get is :

The LRC is very aware of the difficulties that some parents or guardians will face because of their childcare responsibilities, but unfortunately we just simply don’t have the resources to provide a full crèche this year.

In previous years we have looked into the possibilities of running a creche but it was found to be prohibitively expensive both in relation to our resources and demand.

There is a box on the leaflet which asks people if they need childcare assistance but you are the first to contact us this regarding this.

Thank you for raising this issue and we will gladly undertake a full investigation around the possibilities of providing a creche next year.

The LRC will be happy to reimburse you with the cost of your conference registration to assist with your childcare costs.

Hmmm. I find it strange we are the only ones who need childcare. Have people just given up asking for a creche at events. The cost to attend is £15 waged and £10 unwaged. Dave pays £8 an hour for a babysitter . A whole day at a conference would set him back nearly £80, pretty prohibitive even with the registration reimbursed. Childcare is an issue for men and women. We want men to play a full part in childcare . Dave is looking after the kids this weekend so his ex can work. If men don't share the responsibility it impacts on women. Childcare is fundamental to support women, both directly and in this case indirectly, and the left should find a way to make sure its in place at all its events.

I have done a bit of research. I have looked at the two Respect websites and can't find reference to whether either of the conferences have a creche. I have e-mailed them both to ask. If I have missed it on the website or anyone knows anything please add a comment .

I note though that the Socialist Party do provide a creche and its quite prominent on their information :

There will be full creche facilities but places must be booked in advance. Please email us details of children (i.e. age and other important information such as foods they cannot eat etc.)

Also under 'Essential Information' they have :

Special Needs
The venue is accessible but please contact us if you think there is something we may have overlooked

I did not notice this on any of the other events so well done. Slight quibble in that it could be more explicit about the access. Does it include sight and hearing needs ? But still at least it gets a mention.

I note that feminist Fightback had a creche and they charged £5 for registration . I don't know what they charged for the creche but am asking around. So if they could do it why can't the LRC. Why aren't people asking for one. Is childcare no longer an issue ? I don't think that is the case. Why isn't this an issue for the left. Oh and why I'm having a gripe , why isn't disability either.

There will be a women's caucus at the LRC. I hope they will take this issue up.I plan to.

And while I'm doing that Dave will be reading Trotsky to his daughters,bless.


Please keep the comments coming as to which groups have a creche at events. Seems some are good at this and others pretty crap. I think the issue of cost does not wash as some groups do it. Its not good enough to say its too expensive !
Seems at least two people will not be at the event because of lack of a creche and others who don't even bother asking anymore. I will also link it to the wider issue of access to events .
This is not just an LRC issue but I will raise it at the Women's Network meeting at the LRC conference and suggest a left wide campaign on it.

Another update

As a result of a bit of naming and shaming on this blog, and MarshaJane's powers of persuasion, the LRC has agreed to reimburse the full childcare costs (within what is reasonable, £80 ish ) for people needing it. They will properly look into the issue for next year.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

China - Olympic 'beauty bootcamp'

Can you stand for two hours in stilettos, balance a book on your head whilst gripping chopsticks in your mouth ? If so you could be a hostess in the Chinese Olympics.

China has begun training the first of 1,250 teenage girls as hostesses for next year's Olympics, at what is billed as a charm school — but is more like a boot camp for beauties.

For girls hoping to be selected to take part in the award ceremonies, that means enduring a gruelling schedule of etiquette and movement classes as they are groomed, just outside Beijing, to appear alongside medal-winning athletes.

More than 560,000 people have applied to be volunteers at the Games — the largest number in Olympic history.


Making the grade requires a discipline unusual in teenagers. Like the other girls at the Beijing Changping Vocational School, 17-year-old Wang Hong gets up at 5am every day.

She spends hours standing in stilettos, while balancing a book on her head and with a pair of chopsticks clamped between her teeth to improve her smile.
"Once I had to stand and smile for two hours," Miss Wang told a Chinese newspaper. "I have to wear three bandages on my feet after walking in the high heels."

For Miss Wang, all the effort and pain will be worthwhile if she can help hand out medals to China's most famous athletes, such as Liu Xiang, the reigning Olympic and World 110 metre hurdles champion, or escort visiting VIPs.

Some of the girls, though, have already been ruled out for not meeting the Beijing Olympic Committee's stringent criteria. These include fair and unblemished skin and, according to some Chinese reports, not having a big bottom.

Somehow I don't think I would stand a chance, I mean the ability to get home when pissed wearing DMs probably isn't ladylike enough is it, let alone the fact that my arse wouldn't meet their 'stringent criteria' :-)
Oh and I wonder if something similar will happen in Stratford, East London , for the 2012 Olympics ? Knowing the area quite well I'm not sure these are 'attributes' that abound in the area.

What do you think Mja ;-) ?

pic :two Newham women having tea:-)

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Has Anyone Seen The 'Co-ordinated Industrial Action'?

Earlier this year, Gordon Brown threw down the gauntlet to public sector trade unions by announcing that pay rises would be restricted to 2%. Yes, workers who provide public services would have to swallow a real-terms pay cut. The only thing that could stand in the way of this insult would be an effective trade union fightback. Gauntlet thrown down.

Not only would each union need to fight back, but to maximise their chances of success, their strengths should be combined into a united, coherent resistance. Acknowledging that, there was much talk at TUC Congress of co-ordinated action. More than mere talk, indeed. There were loud demands, hearty applause, and a unanimous resolution (click here and scroll down to Composite 13).

So where are we with this 'co-ordinated industrial action'? The Prison Officers' Association's campaign has gone quiet since its inspiring action in the summer. The CWU is asking posties to abandon their solid strikes and cut the throats of their own working conditions by voting for a deal that gives Royal Mail virtually everything they want. Unison got a narrow Yes vote for industrial action, but decided not to call action because of a low turnout that was easily explained by the postal strike. NUT's Executive decided on a torturously long process creeping towards possible strikes, voting down a proposal for a quicker timescale. The other teaching unions shudder at the very thought of strikes. And now PCS's Executive has decided on no more strikes this year, despite winning a two-thirds membership vote for action, for the sake of talks with the Cabinet Office that will almost certainly prove futile (good job 'the Marxists' are in charge at that union HQ then!).

In summary ... Some unions are doing nothing. Some are moving so slowly a tortoise could overtake them. And others have thrown in the towel already. This 'action' could not be less 'co-ordinated' if the policy was explicitly for 'unco-ordinated action'. Of course there's one very easy route to united action - everyone do nothing. Gordon will be laughing all the way to the bank.

As ever, the only hope lies with the rank-and-file. Which is why it is good to see this website - and this one, too.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Migrant Workers Strike In Dubai

Thousands of migrant building workers are on strike in the world's tallest tower, in Dubai.

The United Arab Emirates is a country that is largely based on migrant labour, with migrant workers constituting three-quarters of the population but having no rights. I'm not even sure that 'country' is the right word - it seems more like a machine for extracting foreign labour located within certain borders.

Anyway, up the workers!

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From 'Two Jags' to 'No Jags ' Prescott ?

Once it was a life of croquet at Dorneywood, blond secretaries in tight red leather trousers and of course two jags.

And now? Well it looks like Prezza has discovered the joys of public transport if my sighting of him waiting on the platform at Paddington tube station the other day is anything to go by.

Pic: I opted for a real live jaguar.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Slaying Vampires, Slaying Bosses

The fabulous Joss Whedon, creator of the best TV shows ever, Buffy and Angel, has risen even higher in my estimation by hauling his arse down to the Writers'
Guild of America's picket line
(click the link and scroll down the comments to the one headed FROM THE FRONT LINES). Good on you, Joss. And go the WGA!

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Socialist Reports From Crisis-Hit Pakistan

Probably the best source of news from a socialist viewpoint from crisis-hit Pakistan is the Labor Party of Pakistan.

I've copied below a statement from the Party leader Farooq Tariq, plus his 'day two' diary ...

LPP vows to resist draconian Emergency - Lends full support to resisting judges - Hails lawyers for taking up the fight

Lahore: The Labour Party Pakistan (LPP) has strongly condemned the Musharraf regime for imposing Emergency thus depriving the people of Pakistan of their already-limited basic human and democratic rights.

The LPP Chairperson, Nisar Shah, and Secretary General Farooq Tariq, in a joint statement issued here Saturday vowed to resist the imposition of Emergency in collaboration with civil society bodies, trade unions and opposition parties.
While lending full support to the resisting Supreme Court judges and Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Ch., the LPP leaders condemned Justice hameed Dogar for taking oath under new PCO saying: ‘ Regardless of the immediate outcome of the judges fight against the generals, the resisting judges have deprived the Emergency of all its justification’.

They said that it was unprecedented in the history of Pakistan that judiciary had showed such a courage. ‘This resistance also owes to the mass movement led by lawyers fraternity last summer that humbled the Musharaff regime and chief justice was reinstated',’ they added.

They also hailed the Karachi lawyers for taking lead in announcing to launch their struggle to fight back Emergency.

The LPP leaders appealed to activists, trade unions and civil body organisations to join hands with resisting judges and lawyers to rid the country of military regime.
They said: ‘Though the regime is likely to use Taliban-occupation of certain districts in Frontier province as a pretext to impose Emergency yet it is most likely that Emergency is imposed to pre-empt a court ruling against Musharaff's re-election. Emergency means that all basic democratic rights will be suspended while courts would have their powers curtailed’.

‘Pakistan has been in grip of political crisis and regime was facing growing mass resentment. This Emergency is a desperate attempt to cling to power,’ they added.

The Day Two
Of underground life

By: Farooq Tariq

Today is my second day in underground life. On 3rd November 2007, when General Musharaf declared an emergency and suspended the constitution, I was in Toba Tek Singh, a city around four hours from Lahore. This was to attend a meeting for the preparations of the Labour Party Pakistan fourth national conference. The conference was scheduled to held 9/10/11th November in the city. Poster for the welcome of the delegates were printed and an invitation card to invite supporters for the open session of the conference was ready as well.

The meeting was nearly ending when I heard the news that emergency is been declared. I decided immediately to travel to Lahore. I was in contact with other party comrades on telephone and every one advised me not to go to my home. This was in the background of my three arrests in three months where I spent 23 days in jails and police stations. Labour Party Pakistan has become a target for the military regime because of active participation in the advocate movement. Several comrades had been arrested during the movement.

As I arrived in Lahore, I heard that police has raided my house and are looking for me. My partner Shahnaz Iqbal told them that I am not home and will not be at home because I know that I will be arrested. This was around 11.30pm when police came to my home. It was good decision not to go home.

I was immediately given few Sims of mobile phone from different private telephone companies and was advised not to use my regular mobile number in any case. “I must use a new number to contact comrades every day to avoid been traced” was the advice. The telecommunication system is so advance that when I will on my regular mobile, they can know where I am and can be immediately arrested.

All the private television channels were off the air. It was only the official television that was broadcasting the official propaganda. Even BBC and CNN were off the line as well. We were in dark and did not know what is coming up. The government was using its dictatorial measures to silence any oppositional voice being heard by people of Pakistan on the news media. It was an unprecedented act of censorship.

After midnight, General Musharaf came up on the official television to tell the reasons why he has imposed the emergency and that usual demagogy of national interest and Pakistan First. He was trying to tell that he has removed the chief justice of Supreme Court of Pakistan because his decisions have promoted terrorism and suicidal attacks in Pakistan. This was all none since. He had imposed the emergency rules to prolong his power period and was to avoid the Supreme Court decision that might be against him. It was a dictatorial act by a dictator who had tried to convince the world that he is not a dictator. That, he is in a transition period from dictatorship to democracy.

I was awake till 3am trying to listen some international news from the radio.

Next day was Sunday and I went out to buy the newspapers. The area I was staying was where I never had been earlier and no one knew who I am and so on. But the newspapers were not there yet even at 8am. I went back home and in the meantime, I put on my regular mobile telephone forgetting that I am in underground. There was immediately call from a friend and I replied to him. This was a mistake.

I was told by my friend to change the venue immediately that is what I did. This was my second place in hiding during the last 12 hours. Here I read all the papers. Then I went to a park three kilometers away from my place of stay and spoke to some party comrades from my new telephone numbers and discussed the political situation. I called my family as well to check the moral. It was high as ever. My daughter and son asked me not to come home and that they are ok.

A meeting by Joint Action Committee for Peoples Rights was called at the office of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to discuss and chart out the strategy to oppose the dictatorial meausre. The chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Asma Jahanghir was already detained at her house. And her office called me to tell the comrades to come for the meeting. I told them I will not be there and if police see me they will immediately arrest me.

Khalid Malik, director Labour Education Foundation and Azra Shad chairperson Women Workers Help Line were among those who arrived in time for this meeting. So were around 70 others. Comrade Maqsood Mojahid, Khaliq Shah and Bushra Khaliq were little late for the meeting. As they arrived, they saw police everywhere around the HRCP office. They stopped and contacted inside via phones to tell them be ready for the arrests. This was may be the only time when being late has paid off. This laziness of three comrades saved them being arrested.

Police went inside and broke the doors. They asked women to leave and men to stay for arrests. The women refused. The women included Hina Jilani, Rubina Sahgal, Neelum Hussain, Syeda Deep and Azra Shad. They were all bundled to the nearest police station. This incident showed the intensity of the police brutality and the military regime to silence any opposition voice. It was first time since the establishment of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan office in 1986, that police entered the building. It was considered to be a safe place and that police will not dare to enter.

I heard within few minutes from Bushra, secretary Women Workers Help Line of the arrests. She told me to be more careful.

In the evening, I made another mistake to on my regular telephone. Bad habits die hard. So there was a call, I spoke to a journalist from a private tv channel against the arrests. I immediately realized the mistake and left that place to stay another one for the evening. As I arrived at the new place, a received a call around 11.30 pm that police has entered my home and checked me everywhere. My partner told me next morning that police came with some intelligence officers in plain cloths. They ordered her to open the door otherwise they will break in. When police entered my home, it was only my daughter (13) son (7) and my partner Shahnaz at home. The police opened every room, cupboards, bathroom, and went to the rooftop. They were desperate to arrest me.

I was upset after hearing the news but did not call home for security reasons. It was hard but I had to be patient, I was told by my friends.

Today is Monday. We had decided to bring the weekly paper Workers Struggle in time and today was the last day of the paper production. It was decided that we would not work at the usual office of the paper; police might even come there. So decided to bring the equipments, computer, and printer and so on to a new place for working together. I also told the comrades I would come and write the main article for the paper.

We were five together to work on the paper. I wrote the article and was on new telephone line to hear about the whole scale arrests of the advocates all over the country. Over seven hundreds have been arrested. Police entered the Lahore High Court building for the first time in the history and arrested the advocates after they were severely beaten up. It was writing a new history of police atrocities under a military dictatorship.

Khalid Malik and Azra Shad along other were charged and sent to the same jail, Kot Lakhpat, where I had spent around ten days in June this year. Lucky they are, the weather is ok and not hot. We discussed some more measures for tomorrow.

We decided to fight back the military regime and to organize the movement. It was agreed that I will not come up open but will be active in organizing the movement until my arrest on job. It was agreed that we will not accept the dictatorial measures and will organize the demonstrations and will ask comrades be ready for more arrests.

Here I am sitting in a net café at 6pm to write this and sent it from there. I had to travel over 20 kilometers to reach my place for this evening.


Monday, November 05, 2007

Corbera d'Ebre - reminder of the Spanish Civil War

I have just come back from visiting a comrade in Corbera d'Ebre and I fell in love with the place. It is fantastic - a little village in the Terre d'Alta of the Catalan region of Spain, everyone has their own land to grow vegetables and fruit and those without land are allocated a council owned horta or allotment. At this time of year peppers, aubergenes and tomatoes are still growing, it is fantastic. And EVERYONE speaks to EVERYONE - you would not want to be in a hurry in Corbera d'Ebre as as soon as you see some one you know (in a village of 1000 people, thats everyone) you have to chat.
But the thing that struck me was the reminders of the Spanish Cival War - I have read about in books, watched telly programmes, one of my favourite books is Homage to Catalonia and of course I have seen Land and Freedom but seeing a village that was decimated by Franco is something else - there is nothing there except rumble - the old village has been preserved and a new village was built. I was actually quite shocked by it, Corbera d@Ebre , a republican strong hold held out as long as it could the neighbouring town Gandesa was pro-Franco (which was not bombed) helped destroy the little village.
Here's a wee you tube of the village - the old village is up the hill and the new village is down the hill.
I hope to go back soon


Sunday, November 04, 2007

A break up record for the SWP

Pour yourself another glass of chardonnay, tuck into the chocolates and play a bit of Gloria Gaynor,that's my advice to SWP comrades feeling a little tired and emotional .It could also be played at the start of the Respect conference (you know, the one without Galloway), might pep up the spirits.

I should have changed that stupid lock
I should have made you leave your key
If I'd've known for just one second you'd back to bother me
Go on now, go walk out the door
Just turn around now
('cause) you're not welcome anymore
I will survive. Hey hey.
It took all the strength I had not to fall apart
Kept trying' hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart,
And I spent oh so many nights
Just feeling sorry for myself. I used to cry
But now I hold my head up high
And you see me somebody new
I'm not that chained up little person still in love with you

Oh and I'm having trouble keeping up with all the goings on re Respect on the blogs. I start losing the will to live as I plough through it. Anyone care to do a Sunday omnibus edition or the highlights of the week? Andy ?:-)

update :
Last one, I promise .
Thanks to Hakmao in the comments I was lead to this . One for Rees and German I think...

Children behave
That's what they say when we're together
And watch how you play
They don't understand
And so we're...

Running just as fast as we can
Holdin' on to one another's hand
Tryin' to get away into the night

I think we're alone now
There doesn't seem to be anyone around


The Real Soundtrack To The Respect Split

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Friday, November 02, 2007

Should I stay or should I go

Yep, its a very over used song title by the Clash. It sort of sprung to mind with the whole Respect ...ummm debate , is that the right word ?

I was also inspired by the one and only Hakmao (and Volty)in looking around you tube for an appropriate musical accompaniment for the SWP CC .

Always tease tease tease
You're happy when I'm on my knees
One day is fine, next is black
So if you want me off your back
Well come on and let me know
Should I Stay or should I go?
If I go there will be trouble
An' if I stay it will be double
So come on and let me know
This indecision's bugging me

Mind you I think Galloway has answered ...“off you go” - “fuck off, fuck off the lot of you”.

Anyway, whilst looking for the Clash version I happened upon this cover by none other than Kylie (one for Kit then). Its the second song in.

Still, back to the Clash and a song dedicated to the gorgeous one .

yep, 'turning rebellion into money'...

( oh sort of a hattip to Darren as he is rather fond of quoting this lyric)

Suggestions please for the soundtrack to this soap opera ...

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Look Who's Backing Cops And Tyrants

Just as the verdict in the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes (pictured) rightly condemns police brutality, guess who is rallying to the defence of the long arm of the law?

Ken Livingstone.

And, whilst mouthing some criticisms of the Saudi regime, Ken is apparently hosting a banquet for the visiting Saudi royal (update: this may not be true - see comments box).

Anyone still think he's left wing?

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

More on the Saudi protest

MarshaJane has asked for other views so I'll add my bit.

First off a big thank you to MarshaJane, Owen and Mary P, from SYN, for all their hard work in organising the event .

The speakers included :

Sandy Mitchell (former British prisoner in Saudi Arabia), Jeremy Corbyn MP, Yahya al-Alfaifi (Saudi trade unionist), Katy Clark MP, John McDonnell MP, Marsha-Jane Thompson (SYN Co-Chair), Murad Qureshi AM,and Peter Tatchell.

As Marsha said, it was powerful to hear a first hand account of torture from Sandy. His lawyer, sorry I did not catch his name, spoke of the disgraceful behaviour of this government in not tacking the Saudis over his imprisonment and torture on false charges (not that torture is acceptable even if he had been guilty). His lawyer had written to successive ministers with little effect. He read out the latest response from Milliband, who said they would use the next diplomatic opportunity that arose. Understandably most people would think a state visit would fit the bill, but no. The response , when he rang Milliband's office to ask about this, was that the opportunity had to come from the Saudis and they were refusing to discuss the issue. So the government will only tackle this if the repressive regime opens the dialogue. Well that's not going to happen anytime soon.

The other speakers pointed out that Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive societies on earth. It has no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions. Human rights violations are rampant – including the lack of basic rights for women ( including the fact that they can't vote, go outside without a man, hold a passport or drive a car),and the repression of gays, the widespread use of torture, amputations and public executions. Jeremy Corbyn made a particularly powerful speech highlighting the hypocrisy of the fact that parliament had debated the abuse of human rights in Burma this week,yet was silent on the same in Saudi Arabia

All in all a good demo...except for David B and Mike R leading a group of AWLers in disruptive singing of the Internationale at the end.First rampaging around blogs other than their own and now this, Tut tut. I reprimanded them and told them to behave or else stick to their own demos !!

As is traditional, we all headed off to the pub.
The usual suspects were there . John A introduced me to another blogger, Will Parbury. I believe he is a very wussy new labour type and this will further add to my crimes in the eyes of Punchie. Oh well, after the first bullet what does it matter.

We went to a pub near the embassy that was full of suits and not the usual seedy haunts that the leftie bloggers piss up lot inhabit. There was a very grand 5 storey house opposite and we could see into an ornate drawing room. A car pulled up outside and Will said, oh look that's William Hague. At which point a few of the great unwashed lefties started waving at him. He looked at bit perturbed and a bit later drew the curtains so we couldn't have a nosey.

John I'm afraid shocked the assembled drinkers by stating he quite liked George Galloway. Stunned silence . This then started what I believe is called an 'intervention' in the US. We all argued why we thought Galloway was a tosser and MarshaJane pointed out that John would be disowned by his 'dad', Dave.

Anyway, all in all not a bad night.

See over here for more on what people can do to protest against the Saudi regime.

re pics , my ones are not to great so am trying to find some others to put here.


Saudi Protest

The protest last night had over 200 turnout and the amount of media interest it generated was huge.

I'm hoping that others that were there will post because its hard to get a good feel for a rally when your running around organising it.
But heres a few brief points. (on a seperate matter John A dont think we have forgotten that you think George Galloway is wonderful and expect a full post on that later :p)

All the speakers were good and spoke about the hypocrisy of the government and Peter Tatchell gave a very good speech on why we shouldn't be "sharing Values" with King Abdullah.

But Sandy's speech was inspiring and although I knew the details of the case hearing him explain how he was abused and tortured every day was really moving.

I also found out something I didnt know and that is our government overturned Sandy's right to sue the Saudi government for the inhumane treatment he received. So as it stands at the moment because of that case law any british citizen who is tortured abroad doesn't have the right to seek reparations because of diplomatic immunity.

Disgraceful and we also heard from Sandy's solicitor who is taking the case to the European courts now to try and get the decision overruled.

The protest was mentioned in the indie today and on Sky news and Fox last night.

Indie Gordon Brown and his "friend" King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia shook hands yesterday outside No 10 Downing Street.
It may not make the Brown family photograph album but Mr Brown put on a brave smile. No matter that Labour MPs were protesting outside the Saudi Arabian embassy a few hours later at the red-carpet treatment for the "dictator" of a "corrupt regime.

Here are a couple of Pics and there are some more here

The back of my head - but at least my hair looks good :)