Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Tories Against Homophobia? Yeah, When It Suits.

I caught a bit of Prime Minister's Question Time this morning, which served to remind me why I never usually listen. One of the big issues was a sordid bidding war between Labour and the Tories as to who first had the idea of ratcheting up police stop-and-search powers, including scrapping the form that coppers have to fill in to justify each incident.

But the bit that really riled me was the Tories demanding the exclusion of 'preacher of hate' Yusuf al-Qaradawi from the country, citing his anti-gay views as a reason. Excuse me, but if being anti-gay were a reason to be kept out of Britain, then the Tories had better book a fleet of jumbos to despatch a large number of their own party's members past and present from these shores.

Moreover, there is a big problem with the use of immigration controls against even the most unpleasant of characters. While David Cameron comes over all anti-homophobia in the House of Commons, the implication of his demand is that is is fine for al-Qaradawi to be anti-gay so long as he is anti-gay in someone else's country.

But despite the hypocrisy of Cameron and other reactionaries on the subject, al-Qaradawi is indeed an unpleasant character. It is possible, indeed necessary, to oppose both the Tories' use of this issue to whip up anti-foreigner hysteria, and also to oppose the actions of those such as Ken Livingstone who lay out the proverbial red carpet for al-Qaradawi. Socialists should be protesting against al-Qaradawi, not inviting him as an honoured guest.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Rape and the blaming of women

I have just read a report of a young woman who killed herself because she felt to blame for being raped:

Harriet McCormick, 20, was "vivacious and happy" until she was raped in a car park in Cardiff city centre during a night out with friends, her mother Cheryl told an inquest at the city's coroner's court.

She developed depression and twice took paracetamol overdoses.

She died after throwing herself off a footbridge on to the M4 motorway at Radyr, Cardiff, shortly after midnight on August 26 last year.

Speaking after the inquest, Mrs McCormick said: "Harriet didn't report what happened to her because she blamed herself.

"We feel that if anything that happens to another young girl, please, please seek help straight away. Don't be afraid. Don't blame yourself.

"Talk to people, because people would be there. There is help available. Please, please come forward."

Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan Coroner Mary Hassell said the death was a "direct consequence" of the rape, and said what happened to Miss McCormick was "extraordinarily sad".

Mrs McCormick, of Radyr, Cardiff, told the inquest: "She was beautiful on the inside, and she was beautiful on the outside. She was wonderful. She was a happy and vivacious, loving, caring girl."

She said her daughter was in Cardiff city centre for a friend's birthday in November 2006 when she was raped in a car park near the Creation nightclub by a man she had met earlier that night.

Miss McCormick, who had been in fancy dress as a policewoman for the evening, confided in her mother the following day, but did not tell police.

In a statement, one of her friends said Miss McCormick told her the pair had ended up in a car park after walking out of the club. She said: "They were talking about sex. She told him numerous times she didn't want sex with him."

The friend said Miss McCormick told her she didn't go to police because she couldn't remember what the man looked like.

Her mother, a nurse, said: "I think she felt dirty. She felt as if she'd been violated, which she had."

She added her daughter felt she had broken the "golden rule" agreed with friends - not to separate from the group on a night out.

Miss McCormick, who cut her arms and legs after the rape, was referred to a psychiatrist after her first overdose, and was making progress, her mother said.

She (the coroner)added: "Harriet somehow blamed herself for the rape. This is one of the most devastating aspects of a rape, that not only can a woman be violated in such a terrible way, but that she can be made to feel it's her fault, and clearly nothing could be further from the truth."

Both the coroner and mother are right, its not a woman's fault for being raped . It is though more than just sad and tragic. The mother is right to say women should tell someone, but lets look at what happens when they do and what the attitudes are around women and rape.
In that context it is understandable that Harriet felt the way she did, there is a very clear message in the media that women have some responsibility . This impacts on the whole process of going to the police right through to the juries attitude and the likelihood of a conviction.

Its no wonder she felt to blame but women are not to blame.Men are perfectly capable of self control and the ability to understand a simple word such as no. We still have the woman being judged. Was she a bit drunk, dressed a bit 'provocatively', had a bit of 'history'. These are still judgements that are made. If women know the rapist then its see as 'less', in fact Cosmo came up with some crass term, 'grey' rape. WTF does that mean. It seems though that sometimes in the public mind, some rape is not really 'proper' rape.

In terms of support , there are real problems with what is on offer. Rape Crisis centres are closing.

A survey a little while back came up with this as regards attitudes :

A third of people believe a woman is partially or completely responsible for being raped if she has behaved flirtatiously, a survey suggests.
The Amnesty International poll of 1,000 people also found over 25% believe she is at least partly to blame if she has worn revealing clothing or been drunk.

And the director of public prosecutions told the BBC the report "highlights some areas of real concern".

"The idea that a third of our people think that if a woman flirts she has only herself to blame if she is raped is, I think, quite shocking," he said.

"These are jury trials. The jury is the community in the courtroom and it is reasonable to suppose the jury brings into the courtroom a lot of the attitudes we have been reading about."

Which is linked to the low reporting rates:

The number of recorded rapes of women in 2004/5 was 12,867 - up 4% on the year before - although police estimate that just 15% of rapes come to their attention. Only 6% of reported rapes result in a conviction.

Those figures are shocking. Many women cannot face the courtroom and who can blame them when at the end of it their attacker could walk free .

Another report highlights that police do not always follow up even when a woman has reported the crime :

Officers routinely fail to follow home office guidelines, said the joint report. Nearly one in three of the cases police recorded as "no crime" should have been properly investigated as rape.

Police made the decision to record "no crime" because the victim withdrew her complaint or because they felt she lacked credibility due to inconsistencies or factors such as alcohol consumption. But they should not have done so unless they had "verifiable information that no crime was committed", according to guidelines. The failures not only inflated police perceptions of the scale of false allegations, but led to a loss of information about perpetrators and risked undermining the victim's credibility if she made a later report of rape, the report said.

Further disincentives are the quality of the process that women go through when they do report :

Other problems included wide variations in the quality of medical examination services for victims, with some services outsourced to private companies recruiting doctors from abroad on short-term contracts. There were poor examination facilities, "unacceptable" delays, the taking of inappropriate samples and a lack of expertise.

In one case an elderly victim who had been raped and violently assaulted was forced to wait over six hours at the sexual assault referral centre. In another, when a child victim on holiday with her mother had still not been seen by a paediatrician after three days, the mother took her child home to London, where she made her own arrangements. "This level of delay is unacceptable and is a factor that is likely to contribute significantly to victims withdrawing their complaint before the investigation has properly commenced," said the report.

So whilst I feel this is very tragic I am also angry. The media is quick to talk of irresponsible women getting drunk and being in the 'wrong ' place . Its quick to talk of men whose lives are ruined by wrongful allegations, a tiny drop in the ocean compared to wrongful non convictions. The reality is not hundreds of women going through a horrendous criminal process to exact revenge, its women who do not report because of the barriers and the attitudes that prevail. Its the women who feel blame. And at its most tragic its women like Harriet who cannot live with those feelings


Monday, January 28, 2008

New Labour Endorses Private Firms' 'Diplomas'

New Labour is to give private companies the right to have their training courses recognised as the equivalent of A Levels.

The media has concentrated on McDonald’s way more than the other firms involved, with headlines such as Would you like a diploma with those fries? or SuperSize my CV. Maybe McDonald’s is more newsworthy than FlyBe or Network Rail, maybe its brand best represents the radicalism of the policy for its supporters or its ludicrousness for opponents.

We should certainly oppose this policy, but be careful how we do so, avoiding chiming in with any snobbishness about academic purity or suggestion that young people who get jobs in McDonalds do not deserve equivalent qualifications to those whose families can afford for them to go to college. Nevertheless, oppose it we must, for two reasons:

  • It is outside public education and training, and is therefore unaccountable;
  • It is run by private firms, and is therefore compromised by the profit motive.

If McDonald’s trains its staff in, say, food hygiene, then it does not do so in the sole interest of public health, but in the interests of doing just enough to keep the inspectors away and the customers coming through the door.

And guess what? The CBI approves, deputy director-general John Cridland saying that the move is ‘a significant milestone on the road to reforming qualifications so that they better reflect the skills and competencies employers and employees need.’ And there you have it – this is about what employers need; for working-class people, it is only about what we need as employees, not as people, so is ‘what employers need’ in other words.

If the government wants the employees of private firms to get skills and qualifications – as it should – then it should require those firms to release those employees from work to go on college courses. And it should tax their profits to fund an expansion of state-run further education.

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Demo in Glasgow

Anne Widdecombe and David Alton visited Glasgow on 23rd January to discuss the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, the leaflet went on about human hybrids, the end of fatherhood and increased abortions. Quite alarmist that one bill could cause so much mayhem.

They and the audience were welcomed by over 150 students, socialists – a good turnout from Glasgow University Socialist Students - and pro-choice campaigners. The protest outside was probably jollier and livelier than the mumbo jumbo inside about doom and gloom about the decline of the family,the abolishment of daddies, irresponsible women and the horror of human-animal hybrids, a futuristic nightmare – no wonder they looked so horrified as they had to face a gauntlet of protesters demanding no going back to the backstreets.

The demonstration though mostly made up of women had great support from men to who over enthusiastically joined in with the slogan “our bodies, our lives, our right to decide” but it was an act of solidarity with their sisters as opposed to men demanding control of women’s bodies.

Those going into the meeting sort of blanked us and had to walk through a gauntlet which I have to say was quite intimidating. There was some pushing and shoving but nothing serious. The police were not really that interested and never intervened.

I wrote an article some years ago on abortion here it is if you are interested

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Warning Pictures may disturb

Oh dear a member of Solidarity who stood for election in Midlothian last year for Solidarity is on the front page of the News of the World today after being filmed in a brothel called Big Sisters in the Czech Republic.

This is of course what Sheridan and his cohorts split the party over - the right to go to sex clubs and brothels so i don't think it will really matter to Solidarity members perhaps they will be in support of Mr Boyce because he is stopping the woman, he is filmed with, living in poverty.

And at least he hasn't lied about it and freely admits he "is not involved in politics".

Oh dear. The News of the World might never leave them alone.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Pants On Fire

In this week’s Weekly Worker (page 4), Peter Manson writes: "Talking of [Respect] Renewal ... it is well known that Galloway is more than keen to stand candidates for the GLA. However, I hear that talks with Bob Crow and a number of other interested parties are proceeding reasonably well and it [is] quite possible that they will announce a common list."

The truth is that Bob Crow has not even spoken to George Galloway for more than 18 months, since a rally against East London Line privatisation in Mile End to which The Gorgeous One arrived in a particularly flash motor.

Which suggests that either Galloway is ‘flying a kite’ by allowing untruths to circulate (which we could never believe of someone of the integrity of Mr GG), or the Weekly Worker is being slapdash in its regard for printing facts rather than uninformed speculation.

The previous issue of the Weekly Worker begged us to help it to survive and grow, lauding the paper’s irreplaceable services to the left amidst rather dull descriptions of the demise of its printing machine. If this is the ‘service’ it provides to the left, then I for one will not be digging deep for its appeal.

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

No Justice For Janine

Today I got the final decision: I will receive no compensation for losing my eye when it was hit by a firework set off sideways in a public park on 5th November 2005.

For background, my old blog can tell you the details of the horrible incident itself, having facial reconstruction surgery six months later, the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) turning down my application for compensation in September 2006, getting a false eye a month later, and marking the anniversary by taking my kids to a firework display and giving a firework safety talk to some year 6 kids. Since then, my false eye has failed because my eyeball continued to shrink; I am having a new one fitted next month, but in the 50:50 event of it shrinking further, will have to have it surgically removed and replaced by an implant.

But oh no, no compensation for you, Janine.

Today was my appeal hearing - the final stage. The CICA is supposed to pay out to victims of violent crime if the action is deliberate or reckless. The panel of three - a lawyer, a doctor and a lay person - rejected my appeal on the grounds that what happened to me was a 'tragic accident'.

Together with my legal team, whom I wouldn't fault at all, I pointed out to the panel that a firework only goes off sideways if it is deliberately pointed that way or if it is set off recklessly. If you pay proper care and attention, it goes upwards. Moreover, the particular group of people who set off the firework had already let one off sideways a couple of minutes beforehand - sufficiently scaring me that I was rounding up my children to take them home when I was struck. Once might possibly, conceivably, be an accident: twice is downright reckless if not deliberate. Oh, and legging it and leaving other people to help me and call the ambulance is pretty reckless too.

But this evidence made no impression on the majority of the panel (though one of the three seemed more sympathetic than the others). They - and the Presenting Officer, the geezer who defends the CICA's refusal of the claim - were much more concerned with suggesting that it might be my fault for venturing out with my kids on fireworks night in the first place. I knew it was dangerous, didn't I? Well maybe, but so did all the other millions of parents who took their kids out that night too. What am I supposed to do? Lock my kids up on 5th November every year and have them grow up resenting their killjoy mum?

Then came the death blow to my chances of winning: the police. On the night, the coppers had told me that I was the victim of a crime, that they would give me a crime number, that I would receive compensation. They wrote to me the next day with the crime number, in a letter that stated clearly that I was the victim of a crime of violence. They referred me to Victim Support, who only support victims of crime, not victims of accidents. It was only when the CICA rejected my application ten months later that I found out that the police had deemed it an 'accident' instead. You might speculate that their inability to secure a conviction led them to declare it an 'accident' because that's less embarrassing for them than 'unsolved crime' - I could not possibly comment.

The police officer who attended today described my injury as 'horrific', adding that he had seen gunshot wounds, stabbings, even a person impaled on an iron bar, but that in his ten years of policing, mine was the worst injury he had seen (and he personally only saw me in the hospital, by which time I had been cleaned up a little). But he insisted on giving evidence and answering questions in a way that he must have known would lead to me receiving no compensation. At least one member of the panel seemed to be enormously grateful to the officer for attending (although it's just part of his job to do so) and gave me the impression that he would believe everything a copper said above anyone else. The Detective Constable got none of the suggestive and hostile questioning that I got.

As I understand it, since 1995 governments have successively tightened up the criteria for criminal injuries compensation, making it harder and harder to get some kind of recompense for life-changing damage. The CICA has even refused claims from Tube workers who went through the trauma of the 7/7 bombings at close hand if they weren't quite close enough. So while the Tories and New Labour compete with each other in speeches about who cares most about the victims of crime, behind the scenes both parties have whittled away the rights of those victims.

As one of my friends texted to me on hearing the verdict: it adds insult to injury.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Pro - choice demo this friday

Demo organised by Feminist Fightback :

"Don't Turn Back the Clock on Reproductive Freedoms!"

Christian Medical Foundation members gave evidence to the recent Parliamentary Science and Technology committee strongly advocating a reduction in the time limit for abortion, without disclosing their affiliation with the CMF.

They support Tory MP Nadine Dorries' minority report calling for a lowered time limit. We're picketing them to protest against their anti-women policies and show our support for abortion rights - join us!

Friday, 25th of January, 4pm outside the Christian Medical Fellowship HQ, Marsalsea Road, London SE1

Info: 07815 490 837 or


Monday, January 21, 2008

PRP For The Old Bill? No Thanks!

The Daftest Idea I've Heard In A Long time award goes to the 'think-tank' that has recommended performance-related pay for the police.

PRP is a crap idea anyway - its criteria are necessarily arbitrary and/or unfair; workers who don't put in unpaid extra hours or kiss management arse don't get the dosh; it encourages division, bitching and back-stabbing amongst workers who would get a better deal if they stuck together; and in any case, we don't have performance-related bills or mortgages, do we?

But for the police - double bad. What will it be? A PRP bonus for the number of arrests or crimes solved? So the cops come upon a 'disturbance' - say a heated argument in public or a picket line - and with their eyes on the next pay packet, it is in their interests to nick everyone in sight. And if they haven't got enough collars for this month's target, then how about a trip to the local cruising ground to create some victimless crimes to bump up the figures? I could go on and on, but really the dangers of this should be obvious to everyone, let alone people awarding themselves the title 'think'-tank'.

And which 'tank' has come out with such nonsense? Why, it's the Institute for Public Policy Research, labelled by the press reports as a 'left-wing' body. Left-wing, my arse.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guest post - Abortion Rights Rally Launches New Fightback

I couldn't make the meeting last night.
Given the importance of the issue I wanted a report on the event , so Tami has kindly let me use her post on Shiraz.

Over to Tami ...

Last night, nearly 300 women and some men gathered in committee room 14 (and the neighbouring room for the overflow) to show their support for the upcoming battle in parliament for a woman’s right to choose. It really was inspiring to see so many women, and so many young women in particular, ready to stand up to those who would take us backward.

The three main parties spoke from the platform with female representatives from the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats and a male representative from the Conservatives. Many issues were discussed including precisely how we got to the point where Conservative Baroness Masham has used the unrelated Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill to attempt to tack on an amendment restricting a women’s right to choose.

In particular they are attempting to restrict abortion in the cases of “foetal abnormality”. Many in the pro-life, anti-woman movement claim to be speaking on behalf of disabled people. However, a rousing speech was given by Alex Kent from the NUS Disabled Students in defence of a woman’s right to choose and with a certain amount of indignation at those who would use disabled people as an excuse to restrict abortion access. Baroness Jenny Tonge (LD) spoke of how this restriction would require women who were carrying foetuses with no brain to full term and this was a condition she had witnessed herself as a medical professional.

There were a number of mentions made of the statistics such as those showing an 83% support amongst the British public for a woman’s right to choose and this led to references to “the silent pro-choice majority”. In addition, MP Evan Harris (LD) spoke about the scientific report which was produced in October of last year and overwhelmingly passed by a majority of MPs which concluded that there is no evidence to change the 24 week time limit and in fact further restrictions to access, like the requirement of obtaining two doctor’s signatures, should be scrapped.

Emily Thornberry MP (LP) who was sponsoring the meeting ran through a list of private member’s bills which have been presented but which have all, fortunately, failed. These included the proposal to have a “cooling off period” before the woman could proceed with an abortion, forced informing of parents for teenage women under a certain age, and a combination of the lowering of the time limits coupled with a cooling off period.

By far the most rousing speech of the evening was by Diane Abbott MP (LP). Diane wondered if this new fight around a women’s right to choose would involve MPs receiving plastic foetuses in the mail as they did in the 1990s when the issue was being debated. She then went on to utterly condemn those who claim that being opposed to abortion has to do with the right of children. “Where is this support once the child is born?” Abbott asked. She noted the hypocrisy, particularly concerning asylum seeker children and to much applause stated “This is an anti-woman campaign!” In addition, Diane was one of the few speakers to mention that there remained a fear of women’s sexuality which was woven into this debate. Finally she claimed, to more applause, that if these campaigners were so concerned about abortion rates, why did they also oppose sexual education?

Other speakers included representatives of the Fawcett Society, the Voice for Choice Network and Doctors for a Woman’s Choice. Each added their own unique perspective to the debate and educated all in attendance.

There was a discussion period afterward in which we heard from the Green Party, various NUS representatives and a very good showing from trade union activists. By the time one left there was a feeling of a new movement being born.

Having said this, there will obviously be struggles ahead. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it is a tragedy, and nothing less, that George Galloway will not participate in this movement nor speak out in favour of a woman’s right to choose. While there was a comrade there from the ISG (of whom I continue to have a tremendous amount of love and respect for), I continue to believe that the fact that a party which claims to be to the left of Labour cannot send its only MP to such meetings a great detriment to the left.

In addition, a comrade from Permanent Revolution was in attendance and was speaking to other comrades from Feminist Fightback after the meeting who were wholeheartedly in favour of direct action, demonstrations and loud protests. It is clear that others in the movement rely more on lobbying and writing to MPs. Having lived in the US and participated in clinic defence as well as pro-choice rallies in the face of very hostile and right-wing opposition, I am inclined to agree with those who want more of an emphasis on direct action to beat back the right.

To be fair, Abortion Rights has in fact called for some direct action against Anne Widdecombe’s “road trip” to whip up support for the anti-choice amendments. I am listing the dates, times and venues in full in the hope that it will help to gain support for protests across the country. I plan on being at the London counter-demo and encourage everyone to join us in this crucial fight for a women’s right to choose against the forces of reaction. Anne Widdecombe’s Anti-Woman Road Show Dates:

Glasgow, 23rd of January @ The University Union, 7:30pm
Southampton, 30th of January @ Univ of Southampton, 7:30pm
London, 6th of February @ Central Hall Westminster, 7pm
Liverpool, 12th February @ The Liner Hotel, 7:30pm
Coventry, 13th February @ Coventry Cathedral, 7:30pm
Widnes, 18th February @ The Foundry, Lugsale Rd, 7:30pm
Cardiff, 4th March @ TheCity Temple, Cowbridge Rd, 7:30pm

Join us! Let’s build this new fightback against the anti-woman campaigners in parliament and in the streets! Please consider joining and financially supporting Abortion Rights UK.

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Facebook Scrabble under threat

I'll admit I have a bit of an addictive/obsessive personality. My latest thing is facebook scrabble, I love it. I play with a few bloggers such as Phil, Noel,Jim, John and Mike. Sometimes we chat and gossip as well, mostly though I just want a game.

There is also a facility where people put up that they are looking for someone to play with, specifying speed, type, general level etc. I sometimes find a game there to get my fix.
Some people use that for a little more than just scrabble .On the notes put up last night there were a few gentlemen looking for 'hot chat' as they put it. Here are some of their specifications for a scrabble partner:

Women wanting FUN! H O R N Y women only...mature preferred..say Hi to acknowledge! NO MEN!!!

girls (20-30) who relish and lead d*rty chat only. otherwise will delete

looking for ladies who want some extra hot hot STEAMY fun!!

Naughty girls only....

Naughty/Busty Women ONLY.. - for a Fun game and some naughty chat! :). No experts please. (Say Hi if you read this).


looking to play a female with D cups or better

One guy stated he wanted to know cup size and if the woman lost they had to send him a picture of their breasts.

Hmmm. I just wanted a game of scrabble and I had no intention of flashing my tits on Facebook !! And no, I have never answered one of these scrabble requests. The only 'chat' I do is politics and gossip with the bloggies.

Given this there looks like being some scrabble addicts facing withdrawal symptoms soon :

The makers of Scrabble have asked Facebook to remove Scrabulous, a popular version of the game, from its website.

In a move that has drawn protests from online fans of the game worldwide, the toymakers Hasbro and Mattel are pressuring the social networking site to ditch Scrabulous because, they argue, it infringes their copyright.

The Facebook application – which users can add to the personal profiles they create on the site – is hugely popular. About 600,000 users play the game online every day.

Many, including the promoters of Scrabble tournaments, have credited Facebook with prompting a renaissance of the word game among young people. Another Facebook user, from London, wrote: “How ridiculous! Scrabulous had massively raised the profile of Scrabble, rendering it actually quite cool (where it was once seen as rather geeky).”

Ahhh, my addiction, what will I do. And those men looking for busty babes to talk dirty over the Scrabble with will have to go back to their 'chat lines' !

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chocolate fountains !!

Now I'm no Nigella, as many of you may have guessed by now . I don't have lots of gadgets . I was made to buy a potato peeler by a horrified Dave, who is currently concerned that I have only one bowl in the whole of my flat for cereal, soup etc. I used to have four, fuck knows where they went to. More bowls, along with a bin for the kitchen and much more, are on my to buy list.Life is too short for worrying about bowls.

Anyway , given all that I was interested to read this :

Last year we spent £625m on kitchen gadgets, according to GfK Marketing Services, including more than £8m on chocolate fountains alone, up 240% on the previous two years.

Am I missing something? Is this just me or is this a lot of money spent on chocolate fountains ? Is this what all well equipped kitchens have these days ?

Anyone got one of them?

They do sound fun. I'm sure there are lots of uses for melted chocolate , much more fun than a potato peeler ;-)


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Teachers: Poxy Pay Proposal

Bad news for teachers today, as the government tells them they are to get a poxy 2.45% rise this year with rises of 2.3% in the next two years. With RPI-inflation running at 4.3%, this announcement may exceed Brown’s limit but is still a real-terms pay cut. Moreover, it is a multi-year offer, which would demand that the unions put away their weapons for three years while the employers attack their members’ livelihoods.

Almost unbelievably, this miserly offer has provoked objections that it is too generous, and breaks Gordon Brown’s 2% pay cap. Perhaps New Labour thinks that it can sell teachers and trade unionists a con – that they have ‘backed down’ over the pay cap, and that workers should therefore be grateful and not fight for more. Fortunately, most workers are not daft enough to swallow this, though we can not be so sure about union bureaucrats.

Mind you, even the notoriously right-wing Professional Association of Teachers has issued a statement expressing its disappointment.
No sign of action from the PAT, oh no, but more belligerent noises from the NUT, at least some of whose officials are saying that the union is ready to ballot members for strikes.

But while politicians continue to decry what they claim are poor standards among teachers, I have to moan about terrible standards of literacy among government representatives and the media. Since this story broke, they have persisted in referring to the government’s announcement as a ‘settlement’ and/or a ‘deal’. Listen very carefully, you at the back, this is an offer: it will only become a settlement when it is actually, erm, settled – which will hopefully not be until it has been massively increased and delivered as a one-year rise without strings.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Scotland's Hidden Cultural Heritage - The Common Good

Don't know what the equivalent is in England and Wales but in Scotland we have the Common Good, Common Good land and property is land and property given to the people by rich people, lords, ladies, won inn battle, left in wills or just there for the people. The word Market, Links, Green is usually a key to it. Effectively it is land and property owned by the people and shouls be stewarded by local authorities to ensure it is used effectively.

Unfortunately it isn't - there is a petition here into the Scottish Parliament about its stewardship, some people including myself are calling for better legislation to protect our common wealth.

What is the equivalent in Englandshire and Wales?

Andy Wightman has written lots about it in Scotland in a book called Who Owns Scotland here

We are having a Common Good day on Saturday 26th January at the Pearce Institute here - which looks interesting.

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Strummer T-Shirts from Philosophy Football

Right, time for a 'commercial break' !

Yep, I am thoroughly shameless and happy to plug Philosophy Football in return for some freebie t-shirts . I know its not exactly cash for honours but its a start and I am a Clash fan . All other offers considered. Given all the free plugs JD gets (the drink not Mr Denham ) , then I should be sent a couple of bottles at the very least.

So here is the plug for some new T-Shirts and very nice they are too :

Regarded by most fans as the finest of all Clash songs, the closing
words from White Man in Hammersmith Palais make the finest of epitaphs
for our remembering Joe Strummer shirt. With part profits going to
Billy Bragg's Clash-inspired initiative.
The shirt is available in sizes small- XX-large. Plus womens' skinny
rib fit. Available from Philosophy Football.


Saturday, January 12, 2008

Article in SSP Frontline Magazine

I wrote this article about three years ago - here.

The SSP supports the criminalising of men who buy sex and the full support for prostituted women. For balance here is an article by Prof Gregor Gall in the following magazine.

The SSP voted by a big majority at their conference in 2006 for the criminalising of the buyers of sex and to view prostitution on the continuum of violence and abuse of women. The SSP supports full resources for prostitutes, is against Toleration Zones and for the buyers of sex to have the responsibility.

It was about four years worth of discussions that helped us come to this conclusion. All six of the SSP MSPs in 2003 signed Margo McDonald's proposal for a Toleration Bill, so it does show you how debate and experience of concrete conditions does change consciousness

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Les "différences culturelles" peuvent-elles excuser le sexisme?

A speech that I wrote and delivered a couple of years back has been translated into French and published in ProChoix News. Actually, it had already been published in 'Ni Patrie Ni Frontieres', but apparently this will get a much wider audience. Thanks to Yves Coleman for translating it and getting it published.

Its title? Les "différences culturelles" peuvent-elles excuser le sexisme? Or, Are 'cultural differences' an excuse for sexism? A favourite subject of this blog, indeed.

And for those of you who don't read French, you can read it in English here.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Socialist Youth Network discussion meeting on prostitution

The Socialist Youth Network (SYN) that I co-chair with Owen Jones, are hosting an open discussion meeting on prostitution 7.30pm this Thursday (17th January 2008) Thatcher Room Portcullis House

This follows the parliamentary rally 4pm on Wednesday organised by the Safety First Coalition (That stroppy blogged about here).

The discusion meeting will be lead by Catherine Healy and Pye Jakobsson.

Its an informal event for SYN members (and anyone interested) to come along and debate the issue with these interesting speakers.

Catherine Healy was key to New Zealand's successful decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, Ms Healy was appointed by the Minister of Justice to the NewZealand Prostitution Law Review Committee.
She is a founding member andthe national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective and is frequently sought by national and international organisations foradvice on issues affecting sex workers.
She was widely consulted for the publication of A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the NewZealand Sex Industry recommended by the Justice and Electoral SelectCommittee and collaborated with researchers from Otago University,Christchurch, on major research into the effects of decriminalisationsoon to be published.
In 1993 Ms Healy was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal for her services to women.

Pye Jakobsson has been organising for sex workers' rights since 1994, Ms Jacobsen is a founding member of Sex Workers and Allies in Sweden (SANS) which organises against the criminalisation of sex workers resulting from the criminalisation of clients. Hope to see some of you there

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Defend the Abortion Act - Campaigning for a Woman's Right to Decide

Yep, another meeting at the Commons next wednesday.

Organised by Abortion Rights :

Public meeting - Wednesday 16th January 2008 Defend the Abortion Act - Campaigning for a Woman's Right to decide

7pm for a 7.30pm start, Committee room 10, House of Commons, nearest tube Westminster

All pro-choice supporters welcome!

This public meeting will kick off the pro-choice campaigning to defeat anti-abortion amendments to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill currently in parliament and to support any opportunities to advance women’s abortion rights.

The meeting will hear a range of short contributions from invited speakers followed by time for contributions thoughts and ideas from the floor.

Speakers include: Baroness Joyce Gould; Baroness Jenny Tonge; Emily Thornberry MP; Katy Clark MP; Diane Abbott MP; Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary TUC; Wendy Savage, Doctors for A Woman's Choice on Abortion; Anni Marjoram, adviser to the Mayor of London; Alex Kemp, NUS Disabled Students' Campaign; Katherine Rake, Director Fawcett Society; Anne Quesney, Director Abortion Rights

Anti-abortionists opposed to women’s right to choose on abortion would like to use the government’s Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill, currently speeding through the House of Lords, to restrict the Abortion Act. Already, Baroness Masham has tabled an amendment to restrict abortion. Other parliamentarians may try to lower the legal abortion time limit from 24 to 20 or even 13 weeks. Any such restrictions would be devastating for women and must be defeated. Pro-choice MPs are also expected to table amendments to improve the law. These should be fully supported.

Please allow plenty of time to clear security on entering the Palace of Westminster and tell the police outside Parliament that you are attending a meeting sponsored by Emily Thornberry MP

The room is wheelchair accessible and has a hearing loop system. Please let us know of any additional access requirements that may facilitate your attendance.

Have your say and get involved – all pro-choice supporters welcome!

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Meeting at the House of Commons on sex work

Information recived from the Safety First coalition about a meeting on the 16th January :

Clause 72 of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill (CJIB) is currently passing through Parliament, introducing compulsory rehabilitation for prostitute women under threat of imprisonment. The criminalisation of clients is also being discussed, supposedly to deal with trafficking. Before you decide on these issues

The Safety First Coalition invites you to hear first hand about

New Zealand’s decriminalisation of prostitution,
Sweden’s criminalisation of clients,
and their effects on women’s health and safety.

Keynote speakers:

Catherine Healy

Key to New Zealand’s successful decriminalisation of prostitution in 2003, Ms Healy was appointed by the Minister of Justice to the New Zealand Prostitution Law Review Committee. She is a founding member and the national co-ordinator of the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective. She is frequently sought by national and international organisations for advice on issues affecting sex workers. She was widely consulted for the publication of A Guide to Occupational Health and Safety in the New Zealand Sex Industry recommended by the Justice and Electoral Select Committee. She collaborated with researchers from Otago University, Christchurch, on major research into the effects of decriminalisation soon to be published. In1993 Ms Healy was awarded the New Zealand Suffrage Centennial Medal for her services to women.

Pye Jakobsson

Organising for sex workers’ rights since 1994, Ms Jacobsen is a founding member of Sex Workers and Allies in Sweden (SANS) which organises against the criminalisation of sex workers resulting from the criminalisation of clients.

Wednesday 16 January 2008 4-6pm
House of Commons, Committee Room 10
Westminster, London SW1 All welcome
Hosted by Baroness Vivien Stern and John McDonnell MP

The Safety First Coalition is made up of members of the church, nurses, doctors, probation officers, drug reformers, anti-rape organisations, residents from red light areas, sex workers, sex work projects and others who came together in the aftermath of the tragic murders of five young women in Ipswich, to press for women’s safety to be prioritised and for an end to the criminalisation which makes sex workers vulnerable to attack. It opposes Clause 72 which increases criminalisation. It is co-ordinated by the English Collective of Prostitutes.

Clause 72 is being promoted as an alternative to a fine but it is an additional power. It requires anyone arrested for loitering or soliciting to attend a series of three meetings with a supervisor approved by the court “to promote rehabilitation, by assisting the offender to address the causes of their involvement in prostitution and to find ways of ending that involvement.” Women will be humiliated by being asked to reveal intimate circumstances while no resources are being made available to “address the causes”. Failure to attend will result in a summons back to court and a possible 72-hours imprisonment. Women may end up on a treadmill of broken supervision meetings, court orders and imprisonment, on top of fines and prison sentences for non-payment of fines. Even the Magistrates Association has expressed concern.

English Collective of Prostitutes or Safety First Coalition
Tel: 020 7482 2496, 07811 964 171


Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Independent Republic of the Canongate

The Save Our Old Town (SOOT) campaign in Edinburgh has started a blog. We have 26 days before the Edinburgh Councillors decide whether to allow the demolitions oh homes and listed buildings in Edinburgh's Canongate (where I live-it's the same street as the Scottish Parliament). 9 of the 17 homes they want to demolish are council houses.

So check out our blog. Save Our Old Town is a great campaign and hopefully we will win!

Cat xx

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Carnival of socialism

I was quite concerned that John A , now retired , would spend a life of debauchery sipping cocktails in Marbella. But no, he is hard at work relauching the 'Carnival of Socialism 'with comrades Jim J and Dave M.

The Carnival :

... is getting back on track due to popular demand and a regrettable failure of capitalism to overthrow itself. John has been joined as editor by Jim and Dave to make a small but perfectly formed team which will be taking the Carnival forward into 2008.

Last year we had some themed carnivals and we may well go back to that at some point but for now we're just looking for fortnightly round ups of the weird and wonderful blog entries from the socialist blogosphere. We're sure that bloggers will want to highlight their regular reads but we also hope that the carnival will encourage people to expand their reading range and dip into issues they don't often think about. We'd like to see carnivals that push the boundaries, that go beyond the same old faces as well as revisit these old familiar friends.

The beauty of the blogosphere, and carnivals in particular, is that they provide an opportunity to celebrate the diversity in our movement as well as those things that unite us. We hope that we'll help provoke debate, discussion, sometimes even argument - but ultimately we want to help bring the left together in order to be better able to promote a socialist agenda in the twenty first century.

So go on over and volunteer !!


Tuesday, January 08, 2008

male sex workers

Much of the debate on sex work focuses on women selling and straight men buying sex.
In reality there are men who sell sex to gay men and to straight women. There are lesbian's who sell sex to women. This complicates what can be a simple feminist analysis of women as victims.On the other side are those who say women choose that work and its no more exploitative than many other jobs under capitalism. Neither for me really address the issue and the complexities. This is just a quick post, and I'll come back to this later and in more depth.

For now here are two articles about women as 'punters' of men . Here and here.

Thoughts please ...


Monday, January 07, 2008

Resident Inspectors?

My local council (Hackney) is asking residents to volunteer to be 'resident inspectors', which "sits alongside the programme of mystery shoppers that we already have up and running" and whose role is "to examine an area of our service and find out what works well and what could be done better". The Council has commissioned a consultancy, Campbell Tickell, to get the project off the ground.

I believe strongly that the left should take a lot more interest in the politics of working-class communities, and am pretty actively involved myself. From this point of view, I have a few concerns about the 'resident inspectors' proposal and would welcome views.

1. How can we be sure that a 'resident inspector' actually represents the views of the community in which they live? If residents simply volunteer, rather than being elected by their Tenants' & Residents' Assocation (TRA), and if they report only to the Council not to the TRA, then what is to stop them putting forward views that are only their own and may actually contradict those of their neighbours?

2. My suspicions are always aroused when there is a consultancy firm involved. There is a record of these costing the Council a lot of money and ending up telling the Council what the TRA could have told them for nothing all along!

3. Although the Council's blurb states that they see resident inspectors as "people who work collaboratively with our staff", if I were a trade unionist in Hackney Council, I would have two big worries - firstly, that 'resident inspectors' might be used to spy on Council staff; and secondly, that this inspection work should be done by paid Council staff, and as such, 'resident inspectors' might be a means by which the Council is getting work done for free by well-meaning volunteers at the expense of (potential) Council jobs.

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Happy Birthday John !!

John A, mine and Dave's 'adopted son' , has turned 20 !!!!!

Sadly he has chosen this moment to retire his blog, as he feels he is no longer 'a very young boy'. Hopefully after a while the addiction will kick back in and he will be back.

Perhaps the next bloggers piss up could also be his retirement party.

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Sunday, January 06, 2008

'Green' sex

Whilst perusing Facebook as a way of avoiding other more pressing tasks, I came across a link to a blog post on 'How to green your sex life .'
(hat tip to Jim Jay who posted it up there) .

Hmmm. I try to be green, albeit in a slightly haphazard fashion.I am though a bit wary about 'green sex'. All sounds a bit dull and worthy, two words that should not be linked to sex in my view. Images of hand knitted sex toys wielded by right on bearded men with pony tails appeared in my head (and I must try to erase them forthwith). I do my best to recycle,worry about my carbon foot print, so can I keep my non PC sex please.

Anyway, take a look and see what you think. It includes sex toys, underwear , finding a 'tree hugger' partner (her words, not my sarcasm!)and the benefits of vegetarianism for oral sex. Oh and something about 'suspicious' dildos !

pic is of some 'green' knickers.

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

Anti-social perfume!

Just love the first sentence in this Daily mail article I found while trawling the papers:

Women who drench themselves in strong perfume may actually be ill - rather than anti-social.

Slap an asbo on them now !


Friday, January 04, 2008

Pro-Choice Carnival

Just a quick plug for this new blog/carnival , :

This Carnival aims to highlight some of the best writing on the theme of a woman’s right to choose, and will be published every other month. Contributions can be new or old, long or short, written by women or men, feminists or non-feminists, just as long as the writing comes from a firm belief that access to safe, legal abortion is every woman’s basic human right.

It also has some useful links to pro choice websites.

Perhaps some other bloggers can link to this site and give it a plug.

Hat tip to the F Word.


Thursday, January 03, 2008

'Which rock chick are you'?

In my trawl for tattoo pics on the Internet, I came across one of those 'Which **** **** are you'. I don't usually bother with them but thought I would do this one as a distraction from my current obsession with tattoos and face book scrabble (odd mixture that!).

So I did 'Which rock chick are you?' and guess what, and no cheating, I was Courtney .

Which Rock Chick Are You?

Suppose other similarities are stroppiness, (bad) dress sense, bottle blonde, getting drunk and being arsey and rude to people . And that's just the positives of course :-)

Hey Marsha, you do it :-)


Wednesday, January 02, 2008


As requested in the comments on the last post here are the piccys of my tatts.

We could have a competition guess which tatt is where :) (most of the pics are obvious!)

+ I can count I just couldnt take a picture of the 6th one - No you filthy minded people not cos its somewhere like that!

i just ran out of battery on my camera - its on my ankle!


A tattoo for Stroppy!!

Yep I know I am old enough to know better, but as those who read this blog know, I am not in any rush to grow old gracefully!
I have always wanted a tattoo but dithered . After faffing for the last few months I have decided to just do it.

I have some ideas about getting a tattoo or two. Now my dear readers were helpful with my last mid life crisis idea, getting a guitar.

Back then I mused :

I have absolutely no intention of 'acting my age' , whatever that means anyway. I plan to grow old disgracefully. In my 60's I shall still pootle out to see unknown indie bands play in small crappy venues . I shall listen to old favourites but still have a thirst for hearing new music. I shall wear fishnets and DMs when I really should know better (that is probably now). I shall have bottle blonde hair and avoid sensible comfortable practical clothes. If I change, and start going to dinner parties and listening to Dido , please take me out and shoot me.

I am going to buy myself an electric guitar and learn to play. The other option was a red sports car and a toyboy. Trouble is 1) I can't afford a sports car. 2) Think Osler might be a bit miffed to be replaced by a toyboy and anyway I much prefer weird arsey old leftie men.

So got the guitar and now want a tattoo. So I thought I would see what you all thought on this. Ideas for what and where. What tats do you have ? Did it hurt (I'm a wuss )?

I have a few ideas. I quite like the idea of a deep red rose on my cleavage(and no, not a new labour one!) , on the right side. Nope, I'm not classy.

Oh and a 'stroppy' on my shoulder. That's a sort of punky, cartoon 'stroppy' with fishnets and DMs. It will look good when I'm pushing my zimmer in years to come:-)

I don't want really big tattoos , but I also don't want the 'nice' little middle class bluebird types either. I don't want to end up looking like a small child has scribbled over me, like Amy Winehouse. And before anyone suggests it I don't want 'Dolls4Jim' or a bottle of JD tattooed on my backside. I expect Jim will tell me to be sensible like he did with the choice of guitar, which of course I ignored.

I'll probably go with the rose first and see how I like it. I haven't found one I like yet, I like the roses in the figure of 8 pictured, but just one or two as a stem.

I am curious to hear Stroppyblog readers views, not that I'll take any notice mind.

After that perhaps the red sports car and toyboy ...

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Minnie Lansbury RIP

Today is the 86th anniversary of the death of one of my all-time heroes: Minnie Lansbury.

Yet another woman whom history has ignored in favour of her male comrades and family members - Minnie was George Lansbury's daughter-in-law - she deserves to be much better-known amongst socialists, feminists and those with any interest in labour movement history.

Born in 1889 to Jewish parents in Stepney, Minnie Glassman became a school teacher before marrying Edgar Lansbury in 1914. She was a committee member of Sylvia Pankhurst's East London Federation of Suffragettes, which mobilised and involved working-class women (and men) whom 'Votes For Ladies' campaigns elsewhere held in contempt. In 1916, she became Assistant Secretary, and when ELFS became the Workers’ Socialist Federation in 1918, Minnie was elected Assistant Secretary.

Minnie served on Poplar's War Pensions Committee from 1914-18. She joined the Communist Party as soon as it was formed in 1920.

When Labour swept to power on Poplar Borough Council in 1919, it appointed Minnie Lansbury as one of its Aldermen. In this role, she played an important part in the Rates Dispute of 1921 (about which I am writing a book, due to be published later this year). Minnie and 29 of her fellow Councillors were imprisoned after they refused to collect precepts for cross-London bodies, preferring to raise money only to support the population of the desperately poor, recession-ravaged, dockside borough of Poplar. The Poplar Councillors' militancy, stubbornness and mass working-class support brought them victory, forcing the government to adjust the local government funding system massively in favour of the pooorer boroughs.

But it cost Minnie Lansbury her life. On January 1st 1922, she died of pneumonia, almost certainly made worse by the effects of six weeks imprisonment in the previous September and October.

I have some fantastic photos (not yet ready for reproduction) of Minnie going off to Holloway prison, cheered on by thousands of local men and women, the crowds stretching back as far as you can see. As she went, she gave a quote to the Daily Herald: ‘I wish the Government joy in its effort to get this money from the people of Poplar. Poplar will pay its share of London’s rates when Westminster, Kensington, and the City do the same!’

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