Thursday, July 31, 2008

The decline of New Labour

New Labour as we know cosied up to big business, in fact many are quite in awe of wealth .

As it won the backing of businessmen it really didn't care too much about the unions or the grassroots members . The money would come from business to pay workers to do all the focus groups and TV adverts , so what did it matter if at a local level many Party constituencies were pretty inactive.

A few years back I blogged in response to Ann Clywd who said at the time, in response to party members being critical of policy, that they should 'just go away.'

What I said then pretty much stands now:

She quotes members as saying "And why don't these other people just go away.'" Well Ann, as I have pointed out many have. I'm glad you feel that the Party is strong enough at the grass roots level that it can afford to hemorrhage further activists. Not sure if the big business donors fancy a bit of leafletting and all the dull work that needs to go on locally. As they start to desert , and the money dries up,will there still be the activists who fund raised and donated money for many years.

Why am I dredging up an old post from two years ago? Well figures show that the Party is losing members and is pretty broke:

The collapse in Labour's grassroots membership numbers has contributed to its precarious financial position, with the party still £18 million in debt despite slashing its staff and spending.

In an official submission to the Electoral Commission, Labour admitted that its membership at the end of 2007 was 176,891.

That is scarcely 40 per cent of the 405,000 peak reached in 1997 when Tony Blair took office, and thought to be the lowest total since Labour was founded in 1900.

Total Labour membership fell by nearly 6,000 during 2007, the year Gordon Brown replaced Mr Blair as leader. It is believed to have gone on falling during the first half of this year too.

The accounts published by the Electoral Commission showed that Labour remains in dire financial straits.

While Labour cut its debt from nearly £25 million to £17.9 million over the course of the last year, it still owes more than £15 million to individual lenders.

More than £11 million of those loans is due to be repaid this year.

The party has run up interest payments of more than £2.2 million on money it borrowed from wealthy backers before the 2005 general election.

According to the commission records, Labour had 213 staff at the end of 2007, down from 302 in the election year of 2005.

But with the exception of Lord Sainsbury, the supermarket heir and Science Minister, and Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate, Labour has failed to attract any big name donors, and the bulk of its funding came from the unions.

So membership is down, money is tight and in the polls and at by-elections Labour is doing badly. The Blairites and Brownites continue to bicker about what is fundamentally personalities rather than any major policy difference. Whilst New Labour scheme to knife Brown and find a replacement, it seems that a change in leader is not going to save Labour.

Changing one New Labour PM for another won't help. Its not about 'getting the message across better.'Its not about moving further to the right and making the Tories look all cuddly and electable.

This Labour government now resembles the last years of John Major's . It will stumble on, fighting and blaming but unable to grasp the need to change direction. The Tories are not cuddly and left, but this New Labour Government is letting them pass as such .

I'm not sure what can be done from the left in the Party. I think we need to push a left wing programme but let the right wingers knife Brown. If there is an election then I'd support another John McDonnell campaign, albeit with much cynicism. The unions could now exert pressure , but it seems they do not have will for that judging by reports from Warwick.

The reality is the real fight for the direction of the Labour Party will come after the next election. Much as I like retro furniture I don't much like retro politics, and revisiting the 80s and 10-15 years of Tory rule is not my idea of fun.Been there, done that and got the badges. Somehow I do think there will be a difference , especially once they have power again and the arrogance that goes with it.

Stay and fight in the Labour Party, join another party/group or leave the country ? The last option sounds the best.
The left is fucked.

Pic from that other campaign for Labour Leader.


No State Funeral For Thatcher

Sign the petition here.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

George Orwell blogs

Well not quite , as well he is dead, but some of his diaries are going online in blog form:

He was the author of Animal Farm, 1984 and some of the most memorable political writing of the 20th Century.

But, as his diaries show, George Orwell was also interested in travel, food - and even slugs.

The diaries, written from 1938, cover the descent of Europe into war, as well as Orwell's travels in Morocco, following his sojourn in Catalonia, fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

They cover the insightful and the mundane - he even includes newspaper clippings of sloe gin recipes

But exactly 70 years after the date of the first diary entry, on 9 August 1938, until 70 years after the last entry in 2012, the Orwell prize website will publish diary entries online daily - in blog form.

These diaries don't seem to be his political observations , they were in a separate diary, but still sounds fascinating and of course a lesson in how to write . Take note bloggers !


Monday, July 28, 2008

John 4 leader ?

There are mumblings by e-mail and facebook about a potential John4Leader Campaign. Hurrah you say, an annual event for Labour lefties and fun for all.

Ok, i'll be serious.

Here is a copy of the e-mail . Tactics, thoughts, opinions most welcome in the comments box.

John4Leader 2008

Please send this letter to all your contacts

Friends and comrades,

You may remember that I was in touch with you just over a year ago. At the time, I was writing to you on behalf of John McDonnell MP's campaign for the Labour leadership, a campaign in which I was very proud to have played a key role.

As you will know, we were denied the right to a democratic contest that would have allowed us to debate the future direction of our party because of a concerted and successful effort by Gordon Brown's allies to prevent John McDonnell from getting a place on the ballot paper.

As a result, Gordon Brown was able to become leader without putting forward himself for the consideration of party members and trade unionists. This gave him a free hand to continue with the deeply unpopular New Labour policies that had proved so disastrous for the party and had already caused the removal of his predecessor, Tony Blair.

I write to you today in a strictly personal capacity. I have not discussed this with John or his parliamentary office.

It is clear that Gordon Brown's leadership is swiftly drawing to a close. It is also clear from recent local elections, parliamentary byelections, opinion polls and the total disintegration of party membership that the Labour party faces ones of the gravest crises in its history. We face the nightmare prospect of a generation or more of Tory rule.

It has been reported that various New Labour figures are preparing to stand as soon as Brown is forced from office. All supported and voted for the policies that landed Labour in its current catastrophe – such as the Iraq war, privatisation, attacks on civil liberties and cuts to public sector pay.

In the coming leadership contest, we need a candidate to stand who will fight for policies supported by the labour movement and millions of our supporters across the country - such as fair pay for public sector workers, public ownership of our services, a progressive tax system, an emergency council housing programme and an independent foreign policy. We need someone who is not compromised by voting for the very policies that have alienated our supporters.

John McDonnell is the only candidate with a consistent record, who has opposed all of New Labour's unpopular policies, who has a coherent alternative policy vision, and who has widespread support right across the labour movement.

I am therefore asking you to pledge your support for the letter below. Over the coming weeks, I will be collecting the names of a huge number of party activists, supporters, councillors, NEC members, PPCs, trade unionists and community workers and campaigners. The letter will be published in a national newspaper. Please state which CLP and/or trade union you are a member of and any relevant position you hold. You will be included in a personal capacity unless you state otherwise.

Please distribute this letter far and wide and collect as many names as possible and send them to . It would be appreciated if you could get in touch as soon as possible.

Best wishes,

Owen Jones (personal capacity)

As a range of Labour party members, supporters, councillors, NEC representatives, trade unionists, activists, community workers and campaigners, we are concerned that the Labour party currently faces a crisis from which it may not recover for a generation or more.

We believe that the current disastrous situation has been caused by the continuation of unpopular New Labour policies that have alienated millions of our supporters right across the country.

When Gordon Brown became leader of the Labour party, we were denied a democratic debate on the future direction of the party. We believe that, if a leadership contest is to take place, there must be a range of candidates representing all wings of the party. So far all the potential successors mentioned have supported the very policies that have landed the party in its current predicament – such as the Iraq war, privatisation of our public services, pay cuts for public sector workers, attacks on civil liberties, and failures to tackle a growing housing crisis and increasing inequality. We believe the current crisis is about policies, not personalities.

We desperately need a candidate to stand who will promote policies supported by millions of our supporters across the country – such as fair pay for public sector workers, public ownership of our services, a progressive tax system, an emergency council housing programme and an independent foreign policy. We need someone who is not compromised by voting for the very policies that have alienated our supporters.

John McDonnell is the only potential candidate with a consistent record, who has opposed all of New Labour's unpopular policies, who has a coherent alternative policy vision, and who has widespread support across the labour movement. We therefore urge John McDonnell to stand when there is a vacancy and for MPs to nominate him in order for party members and trade unionists to have a genuine debate and choice about the future of our party.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Keeping Effective Trade Unionism Illegal

So I get home from supporting a strike (pictured) to read that New Labour even in its death throes is holding out against workers' right to strike.

Existing law makes us jump through hoop after hoop to even hold a legal strike, while employers have every right they need to undermine workers' action. London Underground, for example, will keep the three striking stations open tomorrow with managers and admin staff hastily issued with the necessary certificates whether or not they are genuinely competent to run a railway station safely. We have to give them advance warning of our tactics; they have to give us nothing of the sort. They can sack Jerome for nothing more than refusing to be a punchbag at work; our only recourse is strike action, and then they get to render it ineffective.

And that is just how New Labour wants to keep it. Even as they head like a juggernaut with failed brakes towards electoral defeat, they still fear effective legal trade unionism more than they fear a Tory government.

And yet, when you would think the unions could do nothing other than denounce Blair/Brownism and force an about-turn in their disastrous anti-working-class policies, what do their leaders do? Issue a joint statement with the Labour leadership welcoming the outcome of the policy forum. Unison general secretary Dave Prentis said: "We have moved forward on a package that covers a wide range of areas that the British electorate wants to see addressed."

It is a really over-cooked cliche, but this really is the stuff(ing) of turkeys issuing a joint statement with Bernard Matthews welcoming Christmas.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story

If you weren't watching BBC4 last night, you missed a cracker - 'Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story'. This music has long been among my favourite, and although maybe less high-profile than Motown, was more edgy, more sweaty, and ran closer alongside the struggles of working-class black Americans.

It's founding act was Booker T and the MGs, in which black musicians like Booker T Jones played alongside white musicians like Steve Cropper in a 1960s in which segregation was not yet fully illegal and was still rampant. Subsequent stars included Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers.

You can not tell the Stax story without telling of the civil rights movement, the sanitation workers' strike and the death of Martin Luther King in Memphis, the home city of Stax.

Here for your delectation is a summary of what you missed (if, indeed, you missed it):

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Talking Organising At Tolpuddle

I spent last weekend at the Tolpuddle Festival, the first time I had slept under canvass since early childhood. As a person who very much likes my creature comforts, I think I coped a lot less well than MarshaJane, who managed admirably to get through the whole weekend with just two pairs of shoes. A very good time was had by all, with pleasant evening conversation, some time sitting behind stalls and watching entertainments, and the kids quite happy to form a herd, look after themselves and check in on parents every couple of hours to demand more cash.

On the Saturday afternoon, there was a discussion in the Martyrs Marquee about union organising. All four speakers - Elaine Bernard PhD, Executive Director, Labor and Worklife Program, Harvard Law School, US; Michael Crosby, Global Partnerships, Regional Organising Director SEIU, New South Wales; Wilhemina Trout, Union of Domestic Workers, South Africa; and Paul Nowak, TUC National Organiser - were interesting and engaging, which always helps stimulate a decent debate. But that doesn't mean I agree with them all!

The best contribution from the platform, I thought, was Wilhelmina. She described how domestic workers in South Africa had got organised, but were initially rebuffed by union federation COSATU, who refused their application for affiliation. The workers decided to persevere, though, and have strengthened their union, forcing COSATU to at least recognise them. It seemed to me that this showed that union bureaucracies are not always a facilitator of union organisation, but sometimes a barrier to it. Wilhelmina also described how COSATU were far too closely in partnership with the ANC government, which was seriously blunting its ability to defend workers. A later attempt from the audience to defend COSATU made little impression, at least on me.

It is a reminder to us that a trade union is not something that organises workers, but something through which workers organise ourselves (as I said when the floor debate opened up). The big problem I see in the official union approach to organising is that it gets this the wrong way round.

Paul Nowak celebrated the tenth anniversary of the TUC Organising Academy. No doubt the Academy has improved union organising in some areas, but I think that the same resources used differently ie. targeted at rank-and-file organising, could have generated even better results, and that the Academy has brought in a top-down organising approach which cuts against the essential need for workers to reclaim our unions.

Through the Academy, people who may never even have been a union member before get trained and sponsored as organisers and then go and work for a union. Doubtless they work hard and reap some benefits for the union, but trade unions are already too bureaucratic and top-heavy without setting up organising strategies involving unelected people with no rank-and-file experience telling workers what to do.

Our unions need to be massively more democratic, not less so. the organising sphere is part of this, and the top-down Academy approach is, I think, not helping. Here's an example, in which I am not picking on the bloke concerned personally because I've know him years and he's a decent fella, but ... The TSSA sponsored yer man through the Academy, and took him on as an Organiser. He went on to become Senior Organiser, and is now Deputy General Secretary, a post appointed by the General Secretary. If the GS were to be run over by a bus tomorrow, he would take over as leader of the union, without ever having worked a day in the transport industry or been elected by the members to any post. For all his personal qualities, that's just not right, is it?

Reaaders may be noticing that the professionalisation of union organising is becoming something of a hot topic for me. So I will post more on it later, but in the meantime, comments are, as ever, welcome.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Lazy blogger

Not posted much lately due to a combination of being tired, busy and not inspired.

I had planned to do a music post after watching some bands playing locally last night, but they didn't inspire either.

Anyway I'm off soon to meet a friend ,sit in a bar on the seafront and drink cocktails or wine or something alcoholic ...


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

blog roll

When I get a bit of time I plan to update the blog roll and look to generally tart up the site . I'd quite like to learn how to design websites. Anyone know of any good shortish courses ?

Right, a few blogs to highlight (and to add to the side bar roll soonish!):

First off a view from the US , 'Godless Liberal Homo'. I had to give him a link for the name alone .

Another US based blog, "Inveresk Street Ingrate" ,from the "The only living SPGBer in New York." Darren's blog is a mix of pop culture, books, film posters (not sure why he has pics of them but its something I collect so like it), football (ugh) and the occasional bit of politics.

Another blog I keep meaning to add is RandomPottins. Charlie is one of my facebook scrabble mates .

Some lefty women blogs :

The Left Women's Network , the women's section of the LRC.

Feminist Fightback,
who are doing some good direct action around the RMT cleaners strike.

Next is Infantile and Disorderly, another great blog name.I met Vicky after a Hopi social and she was swigging neat vodka from a bottle. Straight away I knew we would get on :-)

Finally a green blog , 'Aled Dilwyn Fisher’s Blog.'Self explanatory really!

Please let me know of any others and I really will get round to a proper update soon.


Friday, July 18, 2008

Southall Black Sisters - Good news !

Victory in the High Court .

More details later .

Background here and here.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Academy school site occupied again to save recreation ground

SchNews, 11th July

"Locals object to the loss of the public recreation ground, and privatised schools, but it's also about the increased traffic problems, and the fact that Brent Council is allowing another school to be built in the northern part of the borough when there is already three large secondary schools, while neglecting the poorer, south part of the borough, which saw four schools closed in the 1990s." - Protester at Wembley tent city.

The site was occupied last year for 6 months by teachers, students and residents setting up tree houses (See SchNEWS 584, 603) in the longest running protest in the country against privatised Academy schools.

The proposed Wembley Park Academy school site in West London was re-occupied last week after the Brent Council took the lease away from the community sports ground - with immediate effect - as work was due to begin to get classrooms ready for the school, due to open this September. They have been given eviction papers, and are in Willesden County Court, Acton Lane, Harlesden, next Tuesday (15th) at 10.30am - so from that point onwards they may be facing the bailiffs, and will need urgent help.

The venture capitalists behind this Academy call themselves The Ark - which stands for Absolute Return for Kids (sic, and sick). The Ark is a group of hedge fund speculators who already have one privatised Academy school, three to follow, with plans for many more. They are headed by Arki Busson, a French multi-millionaire playboy who's recently engaged to actress Uma Thurman.

This school is due to begin its first year by offering students the old community sports hall - recently acquired, and in appalling condition - and a load of porta-cabin classrooms. During 2009 the new buildings will be constructed on the recreation ground, so for the first year students will be in porta-cabins in the middle of a building site.

* The camp is urgently requesting people - particularly those with experience in direct action, tents, and all the usual protest camp tat, particularly after Tuesday's court hearing.

* Directions: From the Wembley Park tube station, turn left, walk up the hill to main junction on Bridge Road, turn left, walk 100 metres, and turn left into the gate way to Wembley Park Sports Ground.


The right to be annoying even to Catholics

New South Wales brought in regulations to ensure Catholics were not annoyed during World Youth Day Catholic pilgrim celebrations being held in Sydney (which last a week not a day, still facts never do go hand in hand with religion do they).Those found annoying Catholics faced :

a fine of up to $5500 for anyone causing “annoyance” to the estimated 225,000 pilgrims who have flocked to Sydney to celebrate with Pope Benedict XVI.

Hmmm. Lots of people annoy me. Catholics who want to make all abortion illegal annoy me. Catholics who argue against the use of condoms in the fight against HIV annoy me as does their view that gay sex is sin rather than fun.

My response is to argue against their views when they try to impose it through laws on the rest of us. I don't ask for them to be banned from annoying me however tempting that may be. So on pro choice demos when I am called a murderous whore I argue back. When handed a leaflet I rip it up.

So why are religious views so sensitive and fragile that they must not be annoyed ?
Surely good religious types can handle 'annoying ' people , can argue their case . Will the sight of a condom traumatise them ?
Can't they just say no thank you, walk away or even argue back ?

Anyway sense has prevailed :

Australian anti-pope activists have won the right to “annoy” Catholic pilgrims at the week-long World Youth Day celebrations in Sydney after a court struck down a new law and backed their right to hand out condoms and coat-hangers.

The decision by three judges in the Federal Court embarrassed the New South Wales Government, which introduced the new regulations this month...

Immediately after the victory, Rachel Evans, one of two ‘No To Pope’ protesters who took the case to court, started handing out condoms to pilgrims. One threw them on the ground and some were affronted, but Ms Evans said several took them.

“We’re not seeking to annoy or inconvenience anyone,” she said, wearing a T-shirt declaring ‘The Pope is wrong, put a condom on’. “We welcome the Catholic youth. We’re going to talk to them about how we oppose the conservative contraception policy of the Pope.

“The statement from the judges was very clear: we have the right to peaceful assembly and these annoyance laws contravene that right. The judges specifically said condoms, T-shirts, coat-hangers [symbols of backyard abortions] and so on.”

The court decision coincided with the opening of World Youth Day, with a mass by Sydney Harbour attended by more than 150,000 people. Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, delivered the homily.

Interestingly :

Cardinal Pell was earlier keen to ensure that his well-known doubts about climate change did not clash with the Pope’s announcement on his flight to Sydney that it would be a key part of his message at the celebrations.

“I'm a bit of a sceptic about the claim that human activity is likely to produce a man-made catastrophe,” the Cardinal confessed.

Hmmm, so if its not man made then does that mean God is being a bit arsey and messing with the environment ?

Oh and for those who are a bit hypocritical I notice that Sydney brothels are offering a 10% discount to the pilgrims . Wonder if they will do 'special' themes such as priest and choir boy or naughty nuns ?

Couple of Father Ted clips :


Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Appalling State of NHS Dentistry: a personal story

This story both illustrates the shameful state of NHS dental care under a 'Labour' government, and explains why I haven't blogged for about a week.

My son Joe had an accident at school last Tuesday morning. Being chased round the playground, he tripped and fell, his shoulder and mouth hitting the side of a concrete bench with considerable impact. His front right tooth was bent back what looked like about 30 degrees, slightly fracturing his upper jaw.

Joe is six. The tooth is a adult tooth, less than a year old.

Having fetched him from school, we phoned our dental surgery. No, there is no dentist available to see Joe. We should go to the emergency dental clinic at the Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel, in the evening. So I took Joe.

We arrived at 6pm for a clinic that opened at 7pm, and there were already half a dozen people queueing outside. By 7, there were maybe forty. But there was only one dentist on duty, so only the first ten got in, everyone else sent home with a phone number to ring. I got one of those ten tickets on the basis of being one of the first ten arrivals and shouting very loudly about my six-year-old son and his serious injury.

We got priority to see the dentist, and Joe made him check his toy dinosaurs' teeth before he would get in the chair - which would all have been very amusing were it not for what happened next. Joe needed the tooth straightening - an agonising procedure - but the clinic had no sedative for children. Yes, you read that right: no sedative for children. They tried to do it on injections only, and Joe did his best and bravest to tolerate it, but he couldn't, and after several efforts, the treatment was abandoned and we went home with instructions to attend the dental hospital at 8 the next morning.

So my partner took Joe at 7am to ensure he was seen a quickly as possible. He eventually saw the dentist at around 11.30am, about 25 hours after the accident. Her assessment? "The first 24 hours are crucial."

It seems that had Joe got proper dental care within those crucial 24 hours, they could have sedated him, straightened the tooth and very probably saved it. As it is, the tooth has been partially straightened, but we will not know whether it will survive for several weeks, even months. He could lose a permenant front tooth, and have a hole in the smile on his beautiful face until they can make him a falsie as an adult. Even if the tooth survives, Joe faces months and years of treatment, including very likely wearing a brace next year.

He has been off school since, developed an infection this weekend, had to go back to hospital and is now on antibiotics as well as painkillers. He has a follow-up appointment on Wednesday and will need regular follow-ups thereafter.

And all because the 'Labour' government would rather see any additional money it puts into the NHS siphoned off by privateers rather than go into patient care. It makes me sick.


Thursday, July 10, 2008

Mosley on down - Guest post by Jim Jepps

Chatting over face book scrabble with Jim, I asked him to do a guest post . Hmmm he pondered, what on? Something thoughtful I suggested, you're good at that. Again he pondered. I suggested putting the topic to a vote on Stroppyblog, he got nervous.
Then came the whole Mosley story and he muttered about going off to write about kinky sex. That's it I said, that's the guest Punchie said over at Dave's, about the discussion on BDSM: I really hope more personal stuff can not be mentioned (or if you must, I'd thought Stroppyblog would have been the specialist for lifestyle like this).

So here is Jim's rather good post :

Frankly all the papers have been very naughty. Very naughty indeed, and I have a basement flat that they must proceed to immediately for their proper chastisement. It really is not on plastering what are private goings on all over place. What's the use of being a fabulously wealthy son of Britain's most prominent wartime fascist if you can't have a private life, eh?

The term public interest is a strange one in the context of the Max Mosley sex scandal. Of course the public is interested, we all want to know whose bits and pieces have been going into whose whatchamacallit, but there does not seem to be a compelling democratic requirement for us to know the first thing about Mosley’s proclivities “sick” or otherwise.

Some of the discussion in the press seems to be of the opinion that because Mosley does the kind of things that only former Blue Peter presenters would contemplate he is not fit to be in charge of that stupid game where ridiculous looking cars whiz about until time itself seems to be standing still. For instance the Telegraph’s Kevin Garside thinks that the revelations around the case “paint Max in a deeply unflattering light, and more readily associates him with the kind of behavior unsuited to one running an international body like the FIA.”

Really? Frankly I could do with that one being spelt out for me because I'm not getting the connection. Perhaps he's called for the driver who comes in last to be stripped and lashed around the track and it's only now people have realised he had ulterior motives beyond simply spurring the others on to do better. However, unless this is so I am nowhere near convinced.

Admittedly when Garside describes Mosley’s sex life as “rich and varied” it’s difficult to know whether he is referring to the fact that Mosley’s five “friends” cost him £500 each and therefore he is regularly indulging a habit beyond the reach of most - even as a Christmas treat. That doesn’t include the reported £ 35,000 yearly upkeep of his fully equipped oubliette either. Yes, obscenely "rich" even.

Incidentally, there seems to have been very little focus on the prostitution angle of the case (and some of the evidence seems to be casting him in more of a pimp than a client) but there has been a great deal of censorious frowning about the so-called Nazi connotations of his ritualized abuse. As if the real social conditions of the women involved is far less interesting than the make believe games they were being paid to indulge in.

Mosley denies there were any Nazi overtones to his orgy, even though one of his captors was wearing a Luftwaffe uniform and a fellow prisoner pleaded with her guards that they were “Aryans” and so did not deserve to be harshly treated. Obviously there were Nazi overtones – but so what? They weren’t organizing a BNP branch, daubing local shops in swastikas or running for office as far right candidates – they were (or at least he was) having fun, mucking around – and they were not to know they were being videoed, so any sensitivities about other people’s feelings are irrelevant because for five out of six of them this was a private function, even if one of them was the wife of an MI5 agent. They just weren’t to know that the News of World would be posting selected highlights on the net.

In “Spanking good fun” I described the common “old stereo type of the elite white male in a powerful job by day and lashed to a dungeon rack by night” and that seems to fit our Max rather neatly. But the stereotype holds our attention because of the contrast between real world power and the make believe powerlessness - not because it reveals the old white guy's true nature, but because it reveals an unexpected side to it.

Some political people seem to be confused because they’ve mistaken sexual games for real oppression. Now obviously slap and tickle without the tickle is not everyone’s cup of tea. Fair enough, but that’s no excuse to go around tutting and getting sniffy at consenting activities you were never meant to find out about, let alone invited to.

In fact it’s worse when people start talking about BDSM as if it’s some sort of bizarre acted out therapy where he’s been working out “issues” with his father. I don’t get turned on by going round building sites, tapping pipes and then shaking my head sadly (which is how I imagine my Dad at work, perhaps the reality was different) and I don’t think it’s an appropriate way of sorting out any father/son issues that may or may not exist. Maybe it’s just that he’s into a particular form of kinky sex, and so he does it. I don't think you'll be getting any great psychological insights just from the press reports though.

Obviously there are some personal ethical issues involved. He’s been getting up to this for decades and forgot to mention it to his wife. That, dude, is not cool. There’s also the prostitution thing, I don’t think it stops being prostitution just because they’re getting paid large amounts of money and appear to be rather happy about the whole thing (which is perfectly possible). So there are power issues here, but it isn't the caning that's the issue.

Whatever the wrongs and rights of this I still find it difficult to get excised and start ranting about his deviance or immorality. I mean he’s not one of those back to basics Johnnies is he? He’s never openly nailed his personal morality to the mast – that just isn’t his kink - so I don't think it's our place to lash him for it. No matter how much he begs.

But still some want to send in the Nazi sex police. The weird thing is the press appears to be taking the position that kinky sex is alright, but German kinky sex? That’s just sick!

Take this from the Guardian when it was put to the reporter that in fact it was just an English dungeon fetish and had nothing to do with the Nazis the journo's patriotic feathers are ruffled and he replies "I know of no English prison that beats its inmates with a stick until their buttocks bleed. I know of no English prison where the warder will deliver those blows and count them out in German. I know of no English prison where the inmates then have sexual intercourse with the warder who has just given those blows." Whilst, of course, the real Nazi regime was just like the fantasy played out for Mr Mosley. Maybe someone needs a history lesson.

We should reject the policing of sexuality even by people who are progressive on other issues. The simple fact is that something can be an expression of a deep desire without being a literal exposition of what you’d like to really happen. Dressing up in a Nazi uniform for kicks does not make you an advocate of genocide – even if you’re a member of the Royal family.

Ah, I’ll go further, because I see some thin ice I’d like to skate on. Some people have rape fantasies, they do, it’s a fact. It does not mean they actually want to rape or be raped they are simply drawing from the deep, dark well of sexuality and if you are one of them it does not make you a bad person and you shouldn’t spend even one second feeling guilty about those fantasies.

Just as a dream does not mean you actually want to play strip poker with William Shatner at the local library (although, actually, that might be pretty cool) a fantasy or a fetish is just that and is not *real* in the sense that you're likely to act it out elsewhere. If you can’t see the difference between being caned by someone in a sexy uniform and the historic horrors of the Third Reich then you have officially left the building of free thinking and joined the temple of dogma where they burn the mention of "incorrect things" because they think that means they will no longer exist.

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Save Southall Black Sisters - demo 17th and 18th July

I have received this update on the funding threat to Southall Black Sisters :

Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008 from 9.30am onwards at the

High Court on the Strand


We urge you to join our demonstration on the
17th and 18th July at the High Court in the Strand at 9.30am
Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle and Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District and Circle Line)

Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

Southall Black Sisters

Demonstration 17th and 18th July 2008 from 9.30am onwards at the High Court on the Strand

Many of you are already aware that SBS has been locked in struggle against Ealing Council with regard to its decision to withdraw funding for our domestic violence services for black and minority women. On 17th and 18th July 2008, the High Court will hear a challenge brought by our users against Ealing Council for its failure to have proper regard to existing equality legislation, especially the Race Relations Act, in reaching its decision on our funding. The Council will seek to justify its decision on the grounds that a generic domestic violence service will be better placed to meet requirements of the equality legislation and the so called ‘cohesion’ agenda.

Equality, Cohesion and the Right to Self Organisation

This is no longer simply about the funding of SBS. The case represents a key moment for the third sector. In one of the first challenges of its kind, the Council will be required to account for the way in which the confused and contradictory ‘cohesion’ agenda is being cynically used to cut essential life saving services to black and minority women in particular. Specialist services likes ours are needed, not only for reasons to do with language difficulties and culture pressures, but also because we have considerable experience in providing advice and advocacy in complex circumstances where legal aid is no longer easily available and where immigration and asylum difficulties make some women much more vulnerable than others. In addition, we will seek to challenge the Council for its failure to take account of how and why groups like SBS, were set up in the first place: to challenge racism and gender inequality as well as religious, caste and ethnic divisions within our communities.

The Council has made much of the need to reflect the racial diversity of Ealing (meaning the white majority population) in the interests of ‘cohesion’. In the process it seeks to argue that the very existence of specialist groups like SBS is unlawful under the Race Relations Act! Ealing Council has also withdrawn funding for key refugee and race equality projects in Ealing. This approach is not unique to Ealing. Evidence from around the UK suggests that organisations in the firing line tend to be the more progressive black and minority and feminist projects. At the same time, reactionary, sometimes fundamentalist religious organisations are being given financial support to provide ‘welfare services’, even at the risk of undermining the human rights of the most vulnerable in our communities. The subcontracting of third sector services is also contributing to the decimation of groups like SBS. What this demonstrates is a political attack on the notion of positive action and on the right to self organisation underpinned by secular, anti-racist and progressive values.

Our Tradition: Struggle not Submission

These are immensely worrying developments for all those concerned about the threat to progressive notions of equality and justice. We therefore urge you to join our demonstration on the 17th and 18th July at the High Court on the Strand. Nearest Tube Holborn (Circle & Piccadilly Line) or Temple (District & Circle Line). Please bring musical instruments, whistles and banners.

More info on the SBS website.

For further details contact SBS 0208 571 9595


Monday, July 07, 2008

East Glasgow by-election report from SSP

Sorry can't post a picture - it'll no let me!

By-election appears to be going well had over 30 comrades out over the first weekend. Getting lamp posters up, leafleting and canvassing.

Here are some of the press coverage from this weekend.

Scotsman article this morning, Labour under attack from the left,
Frances Curran; here

Herald this morning, Frances attacking Labour; here

The Daily Record this morning, Frances attacking Labour; here

And this one is not from Viz but from the Daily Record. Unbelievable, I know. Came from a real press release!
Frances Curran was horrible to me at school says Solidarity candidate; here

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

RMT AGM Report part 2

Despite the overwhelming disinterest in part 1 (judging by the empty comments box, at least), I feel obliged to post RMT AGM report part 2 to cover bits omitted first time round.

Overall, it was a gathering with very little hostility to the union's leadership. On one level this is fair enough - compare RMT's tops with most other unions' and you will see people a lot more willing to fight, not tied up in 'partnership' deals and not in the pocket of an anti-working-class government.

But absence of hostility is not the same as absence of criticism. Several resolutions implied dissatisfaction and called for improvements in certain areas, in particular: better information and accountability of negotiators during pay disputes; more campaigning on issues such as the anti-union laws at workplace level as well as at national meet-ups; and an approach to international visits that avoids overblown delegation sizes and recognises that international solidarity can only be effective if you don't neglect your own backyard.

The only issue on which the 'top table' suffered defeat all week (other than the Israel/Palestine resolution covered in report pt 1) was an appeal against withdrawal of legal support for a particular case in Glasgow. The employer sacked the member concerned following an anonymous complaint about him. The union backed his case to Tribunal, where he won, and thence to Appeal, where he lost, but then withdrew support rather than take the case to Court of Sessions. The AGM voted to overturn this decision, I think partly because of the merits of the case itself and the principle involved, and partly because a lot of branches are unhappy with deserving cases not getting union support on the basis of conservative advice from the lawyers and the Appeal over this case seemed a good way to make that point.

But on some issues, discontent that is plain amongst the membership did not find a voice at the AGM. There were two resolutions about the situation in EWS, where a vicious anti-union employer has marginalised RMT with the help of other unions. One resolution criticised the union's handling of the situation; the other did not. The President deemed the uncritical resolution to 'cover' the critical one, so the latter was not voted on. The criticism quietly slipped off the AGM agenda.

I don't like this business of one resolution 'covering' another, and objected when it reared its head again on the issue of migrant workers. There was a good resolution on the politics of migrant labour and the need for working-class unity; and another (submitted by my branch and others) on what the union should do to step up its organising work among migrant workers. When the President ruled that the former 'covered' the latter, I was on my feet challenging that ruling for fear that the specific proposals on organising would be lost. Although my challenge was defeated, it drew sufficient attention that lots of speakers specifically stated that they supported both resolutions, which will be hard for the Executive to ignore. Hopefully, people will also start to question this whole 'covering' business and support a rule change to replace it with a compositing process.

Having been successful in aguing my point on one international issue (the Israel/Palestine debate referred to elsewhere), I was most certainly in a minority on another. But that's what happens when you get up and question the union's long-cherished devotion to Cuba. But some things just have to be said, and my branch had unanimously agreed that I should get up and say it, so ... It's a one-party state, you know, and a significant number of our members and activists are uncomfortable with the union's uncritical cheerleading of the Cuban regime; we should be in solidarity with the Cuban people not with the regime. Including mine, there were four votes against the resolution, three more than I expected.

I successfully proposed a resolution committing the union to fight the BNP on the basis of working-class politics rather than alliances with Tories, and the AGM also unanimously backed a resolution supporting Notts Stop The BNP's mobilisation against the Nazis' Red White and Blue festival in Derbyshire this August.

And one final thing: This year saw the first ever creche at at RMT AGM. Pictured is one of its participants, escaped from the playroom to have a go at chairing the event (sitting in the seat occupied by his dad during the AGM sessions).


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Scotttish Socialist Paarty is to stand in Glasgow East by-election

Frances Curran is our candidate.

Frances grew up in the Barlanark Housing Scheme - she'll be a fantastic candidate and she has stood here before. Will report further news later on.

If anyone wants to make a donation send donations to SSP- Suite 308/310, 4th Floor, Central Chambers, 93 Hope Street, Glasgow, G2 6LD.

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Network Rail's Slapdash Safety Kills Rail Worker

Employers' disregard for workers' safety has claimed another victim.

Malcolm Slater was an overhead lines supervisor, an RMT member, and a long-serving railway worker just months away from his retirement.

On June 11, the metal ‘basket’ of a Unimog hoist fell away from its hydraulic arm during work on the overhead line at Margaretting, Essex, injuring three men. One of the three, Malcom, died of his injuries in hospital on Tuesday morning, July 1.

You may have noticed that my report on RMT's AGM referred to a debate on these "lethal Unimog machines". That debate unanimously demanded the withdrawal from use of all Unimog hydraulic hoists pending a proper investigation and appropriate action to remedy a serious design fault. As we debated, we were told that Malcolm's life was hanging by a thread, and it is devastating to hear now that he lost his battle to survive.

Workers and union reps had already raised concerns about the single weld which attached the basket to the arm, predicting that a serious accident could occur. Network Rail, however, were not bothered enough to take the machines out of service while the concerns were investigated. I wonder why - might have cost them money? The company's inaction has cost Malcolm Slater his life.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

Will Rubbish and revolutionary romps !!

Here at Stroppyblog there have been many discussions about sex and socialism. The sex survey showed we can be as kinky as the Tories ...yep read that Weekly Worker to me baby. Theory as foreplay does it for the comrades as it seems does nuns with guns, Ruth Kelly in bondage gear and reading trade union rule books .

So it only seems right to welcome Will's foray into porn...oooh and in a geordie accent as well. When I met Will I kept asking him to call me Pet, as I polished off a bottle of JD this turned to 'yer doing ma heed in woman' .

Anyway, given all that I'm pleased to announce Will has set up his own Porn section on DSTFW!!

He is promising :

OK - The Drink Soaked Trots are proud to announce their new porn section. Just watch our Google ads income soar as we copy page 3, starting with a topless shot of our own Gadgie – a big man in more ways than one, wink, wink. There will be a range of erotic posts from our regular writers such as Beaver Boy and Shaggy the Scottish dwarf.

Then there is our new saucy tales feature… That section is blank at the moment but hang on in there - you never know…

No. 1 Revolutionary Romps:

Fiona McPosh always felt drawn to the man with the deep, sensitive camel eyes. “Tell me once more how you would eliminate the bourgeoisie”, she lisped suggestively. “Why aye man, I’ll shoot all the fuckers in the heed”, he replied firmly. She moistened, burning with passion deep inside. Her nipples tightened against her flimsy night attire as he scratched his manhood in a suggestive manner. Surely now was the moment to reveal … (to be continued)

I'm sure some of this blog's readers can contribute !

Will, you're pure class man .

Hat tip : Volty.


Geldof backs David Davis

The fact that Davis is pro the death penalty and anti gay rights, as well as being an all round reactionary Tory shit isn't enough to put some off backing him 'tactically' in the by-election.

Hmmm. Well how about this, he has the support of Bob Geldof :

Bob Geldof is to endorse former Tory frontbencher David Davis' protest against the Government's erosion of civil liberties, it was revealed.
He said: "What is the point of Britain without its freedoms? What terrorises the terrorists is our civilisation.

"I am delighted to support this campaign and I will be speaking on it in Hull tomorrow."

Come on, what more do you need , Bono to endorse him ?

Pic :
Yeah I know its not of Davis and Geldof but there isnt one, its 'Sir Bob' with another of his chums.


The left is fucked ...part 225

John McDonnell at the Permanent Revolution event last weekend, via Tami.
He almost makes Dave look an optimist.

Tami also has some good reports of the LRC and PR events last weekend.


Tube Ticket Offices: We've Won!

Yes indeedy. All those hours spent thrusting leaflets into the hands of unsuspecting passers-by, and sitting in meetings rowing with management, and building for industrial action - they have all paid off ...

The Mayor has backed down and scrapped the plans to close 40 ticket offices.

Of course, knowing BoJo, he will already be cooking up other ways to attack Tube workers, and will also be trying to claim the credit for saving the ticket offices. We know better than to swallow any of that nonsense.

In a time when victories for workers and unions seem few and far between, it is worth celebrating every victory, and I take a great personal pleasure in celebrating this one.

Anyone who wants to read through the story of this fight - the best places to look are here and here.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Left Women's Network - conference 12th July

Below are some details of the conference on the 12th :

Women in Struggle!


The Left Women’s Network (LeftWN) is the women’s section of The Labour Representation Committee, an open democratic organisation committed to the development of a radical policy agenda for the Labour Party, the trade unions and the wider labour movement. Since 2007 we have been successful in bringing women together from within The Labour Party, trade union movement, campaigning organisations and the wider labour movement.

We urge women activists to come along and meet other
LeftWN members to discuss how to tackle gender inequality and improve women’s participation in the labour and trade union movement. Please distribute this widely.

Speakers include :

Maria Exall (Vice-chair LRC / TUC Women’s

Committee); Katy Clark MP; Veronica

Killen (Charter for Women); Linda Riordan MP

Christine Shawcroft (vice-chair LRC / Labour Party NEC

Clara Osagiede - Cleaning Grades
Secretary, RMT. A key organiser of th RMT Cleaner's Strike.

Kate Ahrens - UNISON Nec

Register at the LWN website

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