Friday, July 31, 2009

Holiday reading: 'The Curious Incident ...'

Holiday reading this year was Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time', which had long been on my to-read list following great reviews, recommendations from friends and general fuss.

I don't want to give away too much of the story to those few of you who have not yet read it, as unexpected developments are among the book's strengths, giving it a suspense plot that, for the most part, keeps you reading so that you take in the more important emotional plot. Suffice to say that it is a murder mystery in which the victim is a dog but the real story is less that of deceased canine Wellington and more that of narrator Christopher. The solving of the Whodunnit does not simply answer one challenge but launches us into another.

I could not read this book as anything other than what I am: the parent of a boy who, like teenager Christopher, has Asperger syndromw. I saw much of Joe's outlook on life in Christopher's: his structures of thinking, his bewilderment at the strange ways in which neurotypicals speak, his desire to shut out the world and protect himself from mental overload, his use of reasoning and rules to work through confusing and unfamiliar situations. But there were other aspects which did not seem like Joe at all. I had to remind myself that this is OK, that this is not a handbook about Asperger syndrome (in fact, it does not even mention the term), nor does it claim to describe or speak for aspies in general. It is a novel about Christopher.

At times I feared for Christopher being portrayed as a circus freak, or an object of mirth, or a danger to himself and those around him. Or that he might reinforce some unhelpful stereoptypes about aspies - for example, that they are incapable of lying or of understanding jokes. I have not read responses by aspies to the book, and it would not surprise me to find criticism alongside praise. Personally, I thought that 'The Curious Incident ...' just about managed to stay on the right side of the line and to re-balance itself just when I worried that it might tip over.

The book shows the joys and challenges that life presents to a teenager with Asperger's. It also shows powerfully how hard it is to be a parent, and how easy it is to do or say the wrong thing. It made my feel simultaneously sympathetic to Christopher's parents, angry with them for their mistakes, and rather chuffed that I'm doing a better job of it.

What struck me most, though, were the similarities of Christopher's thinking not just to Joe's but to my own. I sometimes share Christopher's frustration at the inaccurate and confusing ways in which people talk, his desire to curb his own runaway thinking, and his fanaticism for maths, science and the natural world. Asperger's syndrome is not so much a whole different way of thinking, but a condition in which ways of thinking that occur occasionally in most of us are hard-wired in the aspie.

'The Curious Incident ...' will probably be thought-provoking for people with Asperger's in their life. It will almost certainly be enlightening for those without. But it is a novel, not a textbook, and as it goes, a pretty good read: a murder mystery with engaging, believable characters, and everyday matters observed keenly and made interesting.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The bad boys did it and ran away!!

Ha ha - check this out "men blamed for financial crisis" and it isnae me that's saying it - it's a bloke.

Read it here from the BBC website

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Hopi v LRC cricket and social fundraisers 1st August

Right, another plug.

This Saturday there is the social events of the season, well for assorted lefties that is. Yep, forget Ascot or Wimbledon, check out:

Some of the finest sportsmen and women will be donning their whites, well tatty t-shirts and shorts I expect, and raising money for Iranian workers:

Hands Off the People of Iran play the Labour Representation Committee in 30 overs of cricket with John McDonnell MP and Attila the Stockbroker leading the two teams - all in order to raise as much money as possible for the Iranian workers' movement.
We have set ourselves the target of 1,000 pounds but are quietly confident that we can ago well above this if we put our minds to it and draw in as many of our vast supporters as possible. Such funds are absolutely central to our comrades in Iran organizing in the most difficult of situations and now facing a hugely repressive crackdown on their protests and rallies.
This is why it is absolutely vital that the workers’ movement in this country organizes material and ideological solidarity. The working class needs its own foreign policy linking the workers’, women’s and students’ struggles in Iran with those in this country and elsewhere. 
So, we need need your help to get this event off the ground and to hopefully make it so successful that there will be many similar events for years to come!

Details here .

The almost final line up is :


1.Attila Stockbroker (c) (HOPI Brighton)
2.Ben Lewis (CPGB) All-Rounder
3.Jack Howe (DEMO, Nottingham) Fast Bowler
4.Sunny Hundal (Pickled Politics) All-Rounder
5.Matt Sellwood (Green Party) Batsman
6.Natalie Bennett (Green Party) All-Rounder
7.Martin Jones (HOPI Chesterfield) Off Spin
8.Jamie Moloney(wk) (Chair, HOPI King's College)
9. Robert Shrew (HOPI London) Leg Spin
10. John Sidwell (Communist Students) All-Rounder
11. Rosie Isaac (Socialist Party)


1.John McDonnell MP (c) (LRC Chair) All-Rounder
2. Rory Macqueen (LRC national committee) Leg Spin
3. Tom Davies ( LRC and NUJ) All-Rounder
4.Sean McNeill (wk) (LRC and Unite) Batsman
5.Andrew Fisher (LRC NC and Unite) Batsman
6.Mary Partington (LRC NC and Unite)
7.John Wiseman (LRC and Unite) Medium Pace Bowler
8.Joe Flynn (LRC and NUT) Leg Spin
9.John Millington (LRC and Morning Star)
10.Sam Tarry (Young Labour Chair and Compass)
11.Tom Neilson (LRC and NW Leics Labour) All-Rounder
12.Ian McGovern (LRC)

I think there are a few more to be added, but given I have never watched a cricket match in my life and do not know the rules I have no idea how many should be on a team. Or for that matter what a leg spin or fast bowler is!
As you can see its a good mix of  the left . John McDonnell is captaining the LRC and I have heard he is a bit  handy with a cricket bat. Hmm. Nice to see a mix of women and men playing as well.

Well as someone who is a member of both the LRC and Hopi I'm not fussed who wins. I'm not sure how exciting watching cricket is , but there will be booze , food and good company. Oh and who knows , Marsha Jane may liven up the proceedings , and not in her usual way, by going into labour two weeks early! 

In the evening there is a Hopi fundraising social in the classy surroundings of the Dalston Social Centre. Its so close to Dave's that I'll be able to prise him away from his books and get him down there. That plus the threat of bringing round a load of drunk lefties to invade his flat if he doesn't. 

Details here .

Help will be needed on the day, such as making tea and pouring pints (I do hope they will have some Pims !), or helping on the door in the evening. Donations of food or raffle prizes are also most welcome.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Nicuragua - denying women is terrorism against women

Well so much for Daniel Ortega and the Sandinistas being socialists. Ortega has brought in a brutal penal code that has criminalised all abortions in Nicuragua, not that it matters but for all abortions regardless of the circumstances.

Read what Amnesty International have to say on Nicaragua. So glad they started to see women's need for abortion as a human rights issue. Well done Amnesty.

Women and girls must have the right to choose to pregnant or not - abortion is essential to women and girls for a plethora of reasons, a woman's right to choose must not just include the right to abortion if she needs it but also rights over her fertility and sexuality, women need to be able to choose who to have sex with and for it to be wanted, safe and protected.

Daniel Ortega's deal with the Catholic Church indicates a misogynistic response to women's needs. His government is behaving barbariously by preventing women the right not just to choose but to live. Ortega and his government must be condemned by socialists and lefts through out the world.

From an article from Amnesty International below:

Nicaragua's total ban on abortions is endangering the lives of girls and women, denying them life-saving treatment, preventing health professionals from practising effective medicine and contributing to an increase in maternal deaths across the country, concluded Amnesty International in a new report today, Read the report: 'The Total Abortion Ban In Nicaragua' (PDF).

According to official figures, 33 girls and women have died in pregnancy this year as compared to 20 in the same period last year. Amnesty International believes these figures are only a minimum as the government itself has acknowledged that the number of maternal deaths is under-recorded.

The report 'The total abortion ban in Nicaragua: Women's lives and health endangered, medical professionals criminalised' is the first Amnesty International study examining the human rights implications of the denial of abortion when the life or health of a woman or girl is at risk, including when she is a victim of rape or incest.

Nicaragua's revised Penal Code stipulates prison sentences for girls and women who seek an abortion and for health professionals who provide health services associated with abortion. Only three per cent of the world's countries have such absolute bans in place.

The new Code introduces criminal sanctions for doctors and nurses who treat a pregnant woman or girl for illnesses such as cancer, malaria, HIV/AIDS or cardiac emergencies where such treatment is contraindicated in pregnancy and may cause injury to or death of the embryo or foetus. This includes eptopic pregrancies when the foetus is not viable and the consequences can be at best a hysterectomy and at worst, death.

It even goes as far as punishing girls and women who have suffered a miscarriage, as in many cases it is impossible to distinguish spontaneous from induced abortions. Women cannot get D & C's after a miscarriage in order to ensure the foetus and other pregnancy debris is removed properly causing blood poisoning after miscarriagesparticularly later ones.

This new law is in conflict with the Nicaraguan Obstetric Rules and Protocols issued by the Ministry of Health which mandate therapeutic abortions as clinical responses to specific cases. However, no assurances have been given by the authorities that doctors will not be prosecuted if they respect these Rules.

Speaking at a press conference in Mexico City following her visit to Nicaragua, Amnesty International's Executive Deputy Secretary General, Kate Gilmore said:

'Nicaragua's ban of therapeutic abortion is a disgrace. It is a human rights scandal that ridicules medical science and distorts the law into a weapon against the provision of essential medical care to pregnant girls and women.'

'Nicaragua's Penal Code is a callous and cynical artefact of the political wheeling and dealing that took place in the country's 2006 elections. Today, however, it punishes women and girl children for seeking life saving medical treatment and doctors for providing it.'

Amnesty International delegates have met with young girls who, having been subjected to sexual violence at the hands of close family members or friends, were compelled to carry the resulting pregnancies to term -giving birth in many instances to their own brothers or sisters - because they were denied access to alternatives. It is deeply troubling that there was a recorded rise in pregnant teenagers committing suicide by consuming poison in 2008. THe question also has to be asked why is incest not being dealt with seriously in Nicuragua?

Obstetricians, gynaecologists and family doctors in Nicaragua told Amnesty International that under this Penal Code they can no longer legally provide effective medical treatment for life threatening diseases in pregnant women and girls because of the potential risk to the foetus.

One doctor told Amnesty International that she prays she will not receive a patient with an anencephalic pregnancy (a condition which means the foetus cannot survive) because of the prospect of telling the woman she will be compelled to carry the pregnancy to full term, despite its devastating physiological and psychological impact on the woman.

Kate Gilmore said:

'There's only one way to describe what we have seen in Nicaragua: sheer horror.

'Children are being compelled to bear children. Pregnant women are being denied essential including life saving medical care.'

'What alternatives is this government offering a ten-year-old pregnant as a result of rape? And to a cancer sufferer who is denied life saving treatment just because she is pregnant, while she has other children waiting at home?

'Girls pregnant as a result of incest had the courage to meet with us to speak out against the situation but President Ortega did not. It appears the Nicaraguan authorities could not stand up for the law, would not be accountable for the law nor commit themselves to its urgent repeal.'

So how come the government can enforce their monstrous penal code which tortures and murders women and girls but cannot seem to enforce a penal code against incest and rape?

Amnesty International is urging the Nicaraguan authorities to:

  • Immediately repeal the law that bans all forms of abortion.
  • Guarantee safe and accessible abortion services for rape victims and women whose lives or health would be at risk from the continuation of pregnancy.
  • Protect the freedom of speech of those who speak out against the law and offer comprehensive support to the women and girls affected by the law.

    Amnesty International is also calling on Nicaragua's Supreme Court to issue a decision on the legality and constitutionality of the law as a matter of the utmost urgency.

  • Labels: ,

    The Total Politics Blog Poll

    Details over here.

    In summary :

    The votes will be compiled and included in the forthcoming book, the Total Politics Guide to Blogging 2009-10, which will be published in September…

    The rules are simple.

    1. You must vote for your ten favourite blogs and rank them from 1 (your favourite) to 10 (your tenth favourite).
    2. Your votes must be ranked from 1 to 10. Any votes which do not have rankings will not be counted.
    3. You MUST include ten blogs. If you include fewer than ten your vote will not count.
    2. Email your vote to
    3. Only vote once.
    4. Only blogs based in the UK, run by UK residents are eligible or based on UK politics are eligible.
    5. Anonymous votes left in the comments will not count. You must give a name
    6. All votes must be received by midnight on 31 July 2009. Any votes received after that date will not count.

    It is being hosted by Labour List, LibDemVoice and Iain Dale's blog.  Hopefully that will move it away from its right wing slant, but it would be good to get more leftie (wider than Labour) and feminist blogs. Yeah I'd like a few votes, we are one of the few or only British leftie blog written by women across a number of left groups (LRC/Labour, AWL, Permanent Revolution and SSP, more welcome !) , but regardless vote !

    Who will I vote for ?  Well Stroppyblog and Dave of course ! Now need to decide the other eight .

    Right, off you go and vote and remember the deadline is the 31st July.


    Monday, July 27, 2009

    "GUILTY AND PROUD OF IT!" - Janine's book launch

    Last Wednesday I went along to the launch of Janine's book, "GUILTY AND PROUD OF IT - POPLAR'S REBEL COUNCILLORS AND GUARDIANS 1919-25. "

    It was hosted by Thompson's . There was a mix of Janine's family, John McDonnell, Bob Crow, some Lansbury's , comrades in the RMT and myself and Dave from the blogosphere.

    I got there a little late and so caught the end of the solicitor from Thompson's introducing the book and mentioning Stroppyblog, which also gets a mention on the back cover:-)

    John, who wrote the forward, spoke and emphasised that Janine not only detailed the story but made the connections with  today and the lessons to be learned. Janine then gave an overview of the story, complete with PowerPoint, ably assisted by her son Alex.

    I filmed John and Janine speaking. Apologies as its not great as I was a bit too far away, so you can't see the pics on the PowerPoint. Bob Crow also spoke, but my arm was getting tired holding the mobile, so no film of him.

    It was a good night and after the launch myself, Dave and Janine met up with Clive in a pub to carry on the celebrations.

    I have a copy of the book and its on my to read pile. Check out John and Janine below , for a feel for the book. It sounds very relevant and interesting. Well done to Janine for her hard work !

    Below videos. Again , apologies as the sound is low and filmed from standing at the back. It might also be a bit wobbly, but my arm was getting tired !

    John McDonnell:

    Janine :

    The book can be ordered here.

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    Sunday, July 26, 2009

    Cat's five word post


    I love Edinburgh. I live right in the middle of it, actually on the Royal Mile in the part called Canongate. I am involved in Save Our Old Town - check out www.independentrepublicofthe and

    Edinburgh sadly has too many tourists and a crap council. Recently we had a horrible display of the "Homecoming Gathering," organised by the Scottish Government and Tourist Scotland - lots of Americans, New Zealanders, Canadians and Australians being faux clan members. It was called the "Biggest gathering of the clans in 200 years." Yeah like since being deported maybe or since Culloden!!! It struck me that this was ethnic nationalism and it really creeped me out - many of my neighbours commented on this too. First, nationalism is wrong, weird and creepy . Now I understand why the Brit Left get worried about Scottish nationalism ,but they are worried about the wrong sort. Oh I bet I cause a stooshy about that!!!

    Anyway if anyone ever comes to Edinburgh get in touch and I will do you a non-tourist tour.

    Can't bear to discuss the tram fiasco and the road works and the bin men are working to rule due to job evaluation and not getting their over time payments so Edinburgh is going to rack and ruin.


    Me - I am a hard core feminist. I would describe myself as a Radical Marxist Feminist. I am in a battle against male hegemony and misogyny and not prepared to wait until socialism, I recognise the patriarchy but I think its class society not just men, Its a bit lame to blame men for class relations really. I have a male lover - Mr Eddie Truman and shave my legs (though only when I can be bothered). I campaign for a women's right to choose, against raunch culture and violence against women. I am against prostitution and see it as harmful towards women. But just to be clear I am under no illusion that women's oppression can disappear without doing away with class oppression, however not willing to let men off with oppressing women in the mean time.


    Just come back from China and Mongolia and I was a Mongolian warrior in a past life!! I love travelling, though with global warming probably quite an anti social thing to do!! I am lucky and been to many lands and experienced different cultures. Me and my mum went to live in South Africa when I was 11. She was probably the only white house keeper in the whole of Africa!! Will do blog about China and Mongolia later.


    Was brought up as a socialist and a feminist by my mum and grandad. Two always been together. My grandad was in the Communist Party until 1956. Currently in the Scottish Socialist Party and before that Scottish Militant Labour. Never really been a Trotskyist though admire Leon Trotsky, been to see his house in Mexico but hate his book The History of the Russian Revolution, bits of it don't make any sense. He makes no real explanation about why women went on strike for International Women's Day in February 1917!

    My socialism is being active in your community and have always been so and my workplace but I am resting from being a shop steward just now. Also being true to your self and community -don't be a hypocrite and my fav socialist quote is "each according to their ability, each according to their need".


    I love cakes - best cakes from the co-op, lemon cupcakes. I also love scones and walnut cake but a danish pastry or bakewell tart does not go a miss. Presently trying not to eat too many cakes just now in order not to look like someone who really eats cakes all the time. I also bake cakes - fairy cakes, banana bread, scones and mufins.

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    Friday, July 24, 2009

    Save Vestas

    Just a bit of a round up on this.

    First off check out the website and the Facebook group for updates and how to help.

    There is a petition, so head over and sign it.

    There is a solidarity protest at the Vestas HQ:

    Create Green Jobs – Don’t destroy them
    Support the Vestas Occupation
    Solidarity protest at Vestas UK HQ in Warrington
    Saturday 25th July @ 12 noon
    Vestas Celtic UK HQ
    302 Bridgewater Place
    WA3 6XG
    For Further info: Richard 07760 224 580 – Gtr Manchester Respect

    Hat tip Liam.

    Liam also has a report from the London demo last Wednesday. Seems Simon Hughes was heckled :

    Did you know that Simon Hughes is not a Trotskyist? I can exclusively reveal tonight that the Liberal Democrat MP is not in favour of nationalising stuff under workers’ control and that this is the view of his party.
    Who’d have predicted that? Eh?

    The cops had decreed that no megaphones were to be used and I can’t claim to have heard too much of what he said but there was something about the importance of skills, something about windpower being a good thing and global warming being a bad thing. Not quite the revolutionary programme but not worth getting your knickers in a twist about. Applaud mildly and see who’s up next is the sensible reaction.
    Gosh no!
    “It’s a popular front!” “He’s just grandstanding!” “Let’s occupy the ministry!” “Are you in favour of nationalisation???”


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    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Latest from Western Sahara

    The article below is from the newsletter of the Western Sahara Campaign UK. As readers may or may not know, Morocco occupies the Western Sahara, against the wishes of its native Saharawi people. Although it is a similar situation to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, the British left has much much less to say on the subject ...

    POLISARIO protests to the UN

    In defiance of the ongoing peace process, Morocco is speeding up its plans for illegal oil search in occupied Western Sahara. This provocation has led POLISARIO to protest to the UN Security Council.

    In his letter Ahmed Boukhari, of the POLISARIO Front, drew attention to "the agreement between Morocco’s state-owned Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (ONHYM) and the Irish-based Island Oil and Gas plc and San Leon Energy Ltd to upgrade pre-existing reconnaissance licences into full exploration licences, located in the Zag Basin and Tarfaya areas. Both licence areas lie inside the territory of Western Sahara.

    "In accordance with General Assembly resolution 1514 (XV), . . . the natural resources of the Western Sahara are the heritage of the Saharawi people. . . .

    Activities which deprive the Saharawi people of the right to enjoy and benefit from the exploitation of those resources are in contravention of international law.

    "It is the responsibility of the Security Council and the Members of the United Nations to restore respect for international law. In this regard, I recall General Assembly Resolution 63/102, which calls on Member States to take “legislative, administrative or other measures in respect of their nationals and the bodies corporate under their jurisdiction that own and operate enterprises in the Non-Self-Governing Territories that are detrimental to the interests of the inhabitants of those Territories, in order to put an end to those enterprises.”

    "In the interests of bringing this long-standing dispute towards a peaceful solution, the Security Council must call a halt to the illegal plunder of the natural resources belonging to the people of Western Sahara."

    To see the full text of the letter, click here


    Tuesday, July 21, 2009

    Tribunal Condemns Management Bullying of Man with Asperger Syndrome

    An Employment Tribunal has awarded £78,000 to Andrew Beck, whose employer bullied him because of his Asperger syndrome and learning difficulties.

    As outlined in this article in the Manchester Evening News, Mr Beck worked without problems at a golf club for 12 years before a new manager arrived and started to make his working life a misery. The manager made Andrew wear bright clothing because of his autism, and banned him from using motorised vehicles despite his job involving moving lots of heavy equipment around. He ridiculed and humiliated Andrew, for example giving him a child's toy as a Christmas present.

    Finally leaving the club's employment in 2007 because of the effect of this systematic bullying on his health, Andrew took an Employment Tribunal claim for constructive dismissal and disability discrimination, and was successful.

    Although it is good to see that Mr Beck has won his claim and will be compensated, and that the employment law system has decided that this kind of management bullying is unacceptable, the case also shows up flaws in employment law. It is beyond the power of the Tribunal to compel the golf club to either reinstate Andrew or to discipline the bullying manager, Nick Marner. £78,000 does not sound much to me for being routinely abused and forced out of your job after 21 years service (in fact, it is less than a third of a sum described by Boris Johnson as 'chickenfeed'). Given that such awards take into count your lost earning capacity, it suggests to me that Andrew's job was not exactly well-paid.

    But hey, Mr Marner is "going on a man-management course", so that's OK.

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    Monday, July 20, 2009

    First online article about my book

    Here, on The Wharf website. It should also appear in their newspaper.


    Vestas Workers Occupy!

    From Martin (Workers' Liberty) on the Isle of Wight ...

    Vestas workers have occupied the St Cross factory in Newport. This measure has been taken due to the consistent failure of Vestas Blades and the government to face up to their responsibilities in the necessary challenge of fighting climate change and maintaining jobs.

    Due to management attempting to intimidate the workers who have been organising themselves in preparation for a fight, plans to move on the factory were accellerated and a team of workers have taken the plant at 7:45 this evening as a result.

    Now more than ever Vestas workers need our support. The island does not have a history of workers taking control - this could be the first of many victories where workers take control of their industries and demand that the bosses put people before profit, the environment before opportunism.

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    Save Vestas

    This is the update circulated on the Workers' Liberty email list.

    After the Government's new announcements on renewable energy, the campaign to save the Vestas wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight looks more winnable than ever.

    We need to organise enough pressure - but in the next two weeks! - that the Government cannot get away with talking about vast expansion of renewable energy and simultaneously letting the only wind turbine factory in Britain be shut for lack of an investment in re-fitting which is tiny on the scale of Government finances.

    Vestas workers are demanding that the Government take over the factory and reopen it under new management.

    On Friday 17 July we demonstrated and leafleted when Prince Charles visited the Isle of Wight.

    Workers are meeting to discuss campaign tactics. Moves are afoot to organise a demonstration in Newport IoW, probably around the weekend of 25-26 July, and to launch a "families and community" campaign against the closure.

    What you can do:

    * Come to the Isle of Wight if you can.
    * Organise and send messages of support - from yourself personally, from your union branch or committee, or from other organisations you're involved in. Send to
    * Spread the word.
    * Check out

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    Friday, July 17, 2009

    RMT AGM Report

    This is the report that I wrote for Solidarity newspaper on the recent RMT AGM. I am preparing a more detailed report for RMT members.

    Rail and transport union RMT held its annual general meeting from 28 June to 2 July, against a backdrop of employers attacking jobs and conditions across the industry.

    The AGM was unanimously determined to resist these attacks. However, thousands of job cuts are going ahead, several strike ballots have been voted down, and it was not entirely clear how the union plans to turn this situation around.

    Six years on from its foundation, Network Rail has still failed to harmonise the terms and conditions of workers who came to it from various contractor companies, and RMT members overwhelmingly defeated its latest harmonisation proposals in a recent referendum.

    Rank-and-file members are critical of union’s campaign on this issue to date, and a resolution from the North East Region sought a guarantee that RMT would not agree harmonisation or restructuring proposals, in any company, that left any members worse off. This seemed to me a basic principle — workers do not join a union for it to negotiate a worsening of their working conditions, nor to allow employers to play off one group of workers against another. However, the majority of delegates were persuaded that the resolution would “tie the hands” of the Executive, and voted it down.

    Delegates gave a retrospective endorsement to the “No2EU — Yes to Democracy” election campaign, passing a resolution from the Executive approving “No2EU” and resolving to organise a conference later this year to plan future electoral challenges. As I disagreed with the first of these but agreed with the second, I abstained, as did two other delegates, the rest voting in favour. However, several supporters of the resolution criticised the name “No2EU” and the lack of consultation with branches and members, largely supporting “No2EU” because they thought it better than doing nothing and gave them something to vote for.

    Not a single delegate defended the Labour Party. Later in the week the AGM enthusiastically welcomed John McDonnell’s parliamentary report.

    The AGM passed a resolution on Venezuela, with the standard left line of support for president Hugo Chavez — but delegates made some critical comments during the debate. Disappointingly, the AGM voted for a boycott of Israeli goods, overturning RMT’s “solidarity not boycott” policy. In this debate, Bob Crow broke the union’s rule that the General Secretary should defend existing RMT policy, instead giving a tubthumping speech for the boycott — earning himself a reprimand from the President, but only after it was too late to affect the outcome.

    RMT’s AGM is different from many other unions’ conferences, as it has fewer than seventy delegates. The advantage of this is that everyone gets to speak on whatever issue they want to. But the disadvantage is that big sections of the membership are not represented.

    While the structures do not prevent delegates criticising the leadership, I feel that aspects of the AGM’s culture suppressed criticism. We have a dominant General Secretary with a big personality, impressive speaking style and a decent (though flawed) record of standing up for members. This — together with a powerful desire for unity, for huddling together against the storm of the employers’ attacks — can quieten dissent even if the structures do not.

    The “top table” got their way on everything, all week. That alone should set alarm bells ringing.


    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    French Lessons in How to Fight the Bosses

    Stop fannying around with overtime bans, strikes, walkouts, even occupations. You want some real militancy? Try this ...

    French workers threaten to blow up factory

    Furious employees at the bankrupt New Fabris factory in central-eastern France are demanding 30,000 euros each in compensation from Renault and PSA-Peugeot. If no agreement is found by July 31, the 366 workers threaten to blow up the factory.

    Hat tip: Bruce


    Tuesday, July 14, 2009

    Stroppy is ...Brighton, Cats, Mood swings, JD and Scrabble... apparently !

    Jim has given me five words that remind him of me. The point of this meme is to take them and “waffle” about what they mean to you.

    Seems a bit like Just a Minute, except repetition and deviation is allowed !

    So what words did my mate Jim come up with? Well, they are Brighton, Cats, Moods swings, JD and Scrabble! What, no fishnets or DMs ?

    Hmm. That conjured up an image of a mad moody cat woman swigging on a bottle of Jack Daniels, with her signed Dolls4Jim pic on the wall, as she played scrabble on Facebook. Not far off;-)

    OK, lets waffle...


    I spent most of my adult life in London, but have lived in Brighton now for over ten years.
    What do I like about it? Well I like that its very LGBT friendly, especially my part of town. How often do you walk up to the train station at 7 in the morning and pass a gaggle of drag queens in full slap coming home from a night out , heels in hand?
    Its the first place where I felt comfortable and at home.
    I like living in a part of town that is populated with bars and sex shops , small independent cafes and generally an air of anything goes.
    I like that there is lots of good live music and I can walk to see it in small venues .
    I love being near the sea, preferably in winter when the waves are crashing .

    What I don't like? Well woolly thinking muesli munching , crystal clutching , reiki types who name their kid Chakra . Yep too many new agey people who are extremely gullible and easily impressed. Who needs religion when you have a new generation of the superstitious.
    Much as I love the eccentricity, the woolly headed healing Henri's who wear baggy tie dyed trousers and live off alfalfa I could do without. Mind, I don't think they would like my 'negative aura ' either. Luckily I live in a part of town that they don't tend to inhabit.
    I also don't like it when its really crowded with drunken daytrippers or hen parties screeching at 4 in the morning on their way back to their B&B.
    Oh and I don't like arrogant cyclists that ride on the pavement or the wrong way up a street and then swear at me for being in their way.

    But generally I love Brighton, although I also spend half my time in Hackney, and really couldn't stand somewhere too normal.


    People tend to be cat or dog people. I started out as the latter, as a child we had rescue dogs, including a greyhound. They are lovely dogs and like racehorses, unless they are winners they do not have a happy retirement .

    I ended up with cats as my ex liked them and we rescued some feral kittens when we were students. Those cats followed us into a number of squats and later more salubrious surroundings . They lived until 15 and 17 .

    I now have two rescue cats, Bob and Beryl, who have made a number of appearances here, including live cat blogging during the US Presidential elections.

    I am well aware of the stereotype of child free women with cats (not childless, its a positive choice !), but as I say I got into them via a man and was a dog person. I don't treat them like babies or sit there spoon feeding them while talking to imaginary people and they are most certainly not a substitute. I think I'm better with animals sometimes than people, I don't seem to be able to offend them and they are trusting and affectionate . Its people who fuck up the world, not cats.

    Mood swings

    Pah, now why did Mr Jepps pick that ?? Well yeah I can be arsey and stroppy, hence my blog name. As an ex Mental Health social worker I am well aware of the diagnosis of bi - polar, but I'm more common or garden drama queen, but not all the time, honest.

    Not so sure about mood swings as such, but changeable and can veer from upbeat to down . I suppose I care , about this world generally and people I love. That can make me happy, sad and angry at times. It also means I perhaps can't be as cold and theoretical as some on the left. Yeah, I may not be as up on Marx as others, but my politics came from a childhood where we were often poor, being homeless and seeing my family fucked over by the system.


    Ah, which one ? As regular readers know I was part of the campaign to get Jim Denham elected leader of the Labour Party and a founder member of Dolls4Jim. Jim has a special place on this blog and many disappointed people google mud wrestling and thongs, only to find a post about him.

    Jack Daniels, the other JD,well its probably my favourite tipple and one that I came to quite late, having worked my way through many spirits. I think I like the association with Keith Richards , but I started drinking it when in New York. I was there with an ex and got drinking it in bars.He went home and I stayed on a few days more and got trapped there 9/11. I spent much of that day in various bars drinking it watching the news and talking to people.


    Well, its really facebook wordscraper. I haven't actually played scrabble proper for many years. I must admit its quite addictive . I have three regular people I play with, that's Jim J, George Binette and Charlie Pottins,  I do also play people I find from the 'join table' board, though some have other types of games in mind !

    Well that's my waffle . If anyone else wants to do this add your name in the comment box and I'll come up with five words, though it makes sense if I know you a little, even virtually .


    £250,000 salary for 'knocking off an article," well thats just chicken feed says Boris

    Under Cameron the Tories try to make out they are all new, caring, sharing and in touch with ordinary people. Yeah right, we all went to Eton didn't we. Even the expenses scandal , where no party came out well, highlighted the class differences;moats , duck islands and country estates , never mind wanting to claim for servants!

    In my last post I wrote about how low paid workers are asked to take a hit of up to £8000. Contrast that with Boris talking about his second job :

    He told the BBC's Hard Talk programme that it was wholly reasonable for him take the second salary in addition to about £140,000 he gets as mayor.
    He added: "Of course I make a substantial donation to charity".

    When asked about the pay for the articles Mr Johnson said: "It's chicken feed.
    "I think that frankly there's absolutely no reason at all why I should not knock off an article as a way of relaxation.
    "I write anyway, I happen to write extremely fast.
    "I don't see why on a Sunday morning I shouldn't knock off an article - if someone wants to pay me for that article then that's their lookout and of course I make a substantial donation to charity.
    'Out of touch'
    "Maybe that money shouldn't go to charity, maybe you'd rather I didn't make those contributions to charity," he added.

    I do hope none of you are going to criticise Boris, I mean do you want to take money away from charity !!

    This is of course a distraction, so he gives to charity, but he still trousers more in one year than most earn in 10 or 15. And lets get second jobs in perspective, many take them to make ends meet and I'm not talking about nice little lucrative newspaper columns. People who work all day doing a shitty minimum wage job and then head off to do something similar in the evening.

    Boris may think this is all part of his 'charm, ' the mop haired buffoon. What it shows is he hasn't a clue what second jobs mean for most people and how insulting dismissing sums they can only dream of getting via a lottery win is .

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    Monday, July 13, 2009

    Threat to sack binmen and street cleaners in Brighton if they don't accept cuts of up to £8000

    Pay equality is a good thing, men and women should be paid the same for work that is comparable. Trouble is, this is being used as an excuse to "equal down." Women have fought hard to get equal pay , but not to get the wages of men reduced. These workers, men and women, are usually some of the most low paid . Eddie drew my attention to cuts being proposed in Edinburgh.Seems this is not a one off:

    A council has drafted a secret plan to sack 821 workers if they refuse to take pay cuts of up to £8,000 each.

    A confidential document seen by The Argus sets out Brighton and Hove City Council's latest move in its attempts to stave off compensation pay-offs which cost it more than £23 million this year.

    It sets out proposals to terminate the contracts of 821 workers who are mostly employed either as binmen and street cleaners in its CityClean waste department or in the city's parks service.

    Their jobs would be lost on January 1, 2010, unless they accept new lower wage deals.

    The document proposed the plan as a contingency if negotiations with trade unions over the pay cuts fail.

    The cuts being asked of workers range from £2000-£8000.

    Any examples of this happening elsewhere ?

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    Saturday, July 11, 2009


    Bit quiet on the blogging front , I have been away from my laptop, being wined and dined in Brum by Volty and Denham.Well cheesy chips and Jack Daniels , but a pleasant evening nonetheless sitting by a canal debating Jazz and hearing tales of Denham;-)

    Its also quiet as MJ is at home eating cheesecake, watching Torchwood and getting ready for baby no 2 and Cat is away in Mongolia !

    That leaves Janine who this weekend is busy at the AWL "Ideas for Freedom" and Vicky who I suspect is out celebrating her 21st today. Happy birthday Vicky !!

    On the topic of the Team StroppyBlog, we are always keen to have new women bloggers join us (and the odd male leftie guest post). Get in touch if you are interested .


    Tuesday, July 07, 2009

    It's Official: Immigrants Don't Jump Housing Queue

    A new report has established the facts about an issue usually dragged down by myths: immigrants don't top the housing list. Yes, despite what the BNP would have us believe, a mere 1.8% of social housing tenants are people who have arrived in Britain in the last five years - 98.2% are British-born or long-standing immigrants.

    It is quite staggering how much myth-making goes on around the issue of immigration. People "just know" that asylum seekers get mobile phones from the state, that Britain is a "soft touch" compared with other countries, that all asylum seekers are bogus, that immigrants jump queues not just for housing but also for health care, social services and school places.

    Rarely does the real truth get in the way of an assumed truth that assists prejudice and division. Let's hope that this report helps.


    Monday, July 06, 2009

    Cross post - "599-1 for strike action.Edinburgh binmen fight pay cut. SSP - Scottish Socialist Party"

    Found this via Eddie Truman, on Facebook. The article is by Colin Fox and its on the Scottish Socialist Party web page .

    Here it is cross posted here, with agreement of Eddie :

    Edinburgh binmen refuse to lift £70 a week less as council demands cuts
    by Colin Fox - 4th July 2009

    The Scottish Socialist Party received a call from David Cameron last week.
    But this wasn't the David Cameron born with a silver spoon in his mouth who went to Eton or votes Tory.

    He is a bin man with Edinburgh City Council and has been for 21 years.
    David contacted us to ask for help after the Council's SNP / LIberal administration informed him and 600 of his collegaues their pay was to be 'modernised', by chopping £3,000 a year from it.
    Bin men like David earn £16,000 including bonuses. Management aims to take £70 per week off them.
    Council leaders insist the cuts are necessary if they are to implement the 'single status' agreement in the Equal Pay Act.

    This Act, passed into law three decades ago but not fully implemented, affords women workers the same rights as men by insisting that work of equal value be equally rewarded regardless of gender.

    The Scottish Socialist Party supports this principle wholeheartedly, however we, and the rest of the labour movement for that matter, are determined that wages are 'equalised up' not down. In other words it must mean a substantial pay rise for women not a cut for men.
    In a ballot result announced last week David Cameron reported that the 600 bin men in Edinburgh had voted '599 to one' to strike against the proposed wage cuts.
    He further explained that the workforce had begun a 'work to rule' refusing overtime or taking up shifts on their days off.
    The union believes the ballot result puts the ball firmly in the Council's court. The prospect of rubbish piling up in the city's streets with temperatures, as we have seen this week, into the 80's and with 200,000 visitors heading here for the Festival will put the SNP/Liberal coalition under huge pressure to back down.
    Meanwhile I have written to Stephen McGregor, TGWU Unite shop steward pledging the Scottish Socialist Party's full support for the union. I added that as far as I was concerned bin men earning only 2/3rds of the average wage was an inadequate level of pay for the important and yet dirty job they do in serving our communities across this city.

    Just one quibble, were all the binmen, men ? I know its mainly men, but I have seen women 'binmen.'

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    Sunday, July 05, 2009

    Southall Black Sisters boycott London committee on violence against women

    Southall Black Sisters were due to take part in an evidence session, meant to feed into London mayor Boris Johnson’s violence against women strategy. They have withdrawn from this because BNP member Richard Barnbrook is on the Health and Public Services Committee . Where to start ! Well the F-Word highlights their polices , positions and history on women's rights. This includes removal of witness protection in rape cases, tax reforms to return women to dependency on their husbands and an anti choice position. More details here. Given their homophobic, racist and sexist attitudes, what the fuck is Barnbrook doing on a committee looking at violence against women ??

    Southall Black Sisters have issued a statement , reprinted on the F-Word. They are calling on other organisations who are due to present evidence to boycott the process:

    How can a committee that includes a member whose political stance is to encourage hatred and segregation, address the call of black and minority women for justice in the face of domestic violence exacerbated by a draconian and punitive immigration system? The BNP’s agenda - to ‘preserve Britain’ for the ‘indigenous’ people of the UK - cannot mask its inflammatory anti-immigration and anti-progressive position. Its intention is to dehumanise and exclude all who fail to conform to its authoritarian, patriarchal and exclusionary notions of British identity. Such a stance is not conducive to shaping progressive public policies in any area, let alone on health or violence against women.

    These are just some of the reasons why we urge all organisations who are due to give evidence to the committee to join SBS and the Eaves project in our boycott. Together, we can challenge and defeat racism, fascism and indeed all anti-democratic movements that seek to deny our common humanity and the rights that go with such recognition.

    I'm not sure what the process is for choosing membership of committees, it may be he has a right to be on them all as representative of his Party? Anyone know? If so I suspect the GLA has no choice but to have him there.

    That's the reality of the BNP getting elected ,it gives them a platform, rights and access to the political process . I hope the boycott makes an impact, it will though need the support of the other groups . I'd welcome thoughts on tactics, as more and more I suspect we will come up with this situation, where they have some input into areas where there policies are despicable and discriminatory.

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    Carnival of Socialism #39

    Cross-posted from Infantile and Disorderly

    When I agreed to the Carnival of Socialism, I wasn’t thinking clearly. Otherwise, I would have said that the week when I start a new job and move house (into one without the internet I might add) is not the best time to be trawling through the left blogosphere. But who cares? Hastily compiled round at a friend’s house on a borrowed laptop, here is the - by no means comprehensive - 39th Carnival of Socialism! Enjoy… And happy blogging!

    Let's start with the tennis. Splintered Sunrise tackles ethnic slurs of Eastern European tennis players in The Telegraph, and Cruella Blog observes that sexism is flourishing in the world of tennis.

    The Third Estate has an exclusive interview with Mark Steel, addressing the the Green Party ("Caroline Lucas is a very impressive character") and the SWP's call for left unity ("it’s like an alcoholic going back to his wife and saying ‘I’ll be different this time I promise!'")

    Revolutionary Road provides some of the most up-to-date information in English of the situation in Iran.

    Vengeance and Fashion can think of better things to privatise than the railways and postal service. Like the Queen, for instance.

    Don Paskini at Liberal Conspiracy tackles the so-called "Red Tories".

    HarpyMarx reports on India's overturning of the homophobic Section 377 (here) and the cops' spurious allegation that Ian Tomlinson's killer could have been a member of the public disguised as a police officer (here).

    Reading the Maps commends the role played by New Zealand soldiers in fighting Franco.

    Liam MacUaid writes about the MOD's approach to compensation, and doesn't think that $210 compensates for the murder of an Afghan man's wife.

    Left Luggage tackles the tricky subject of Left Disunity.

    Benjamin Solah calls for full marriage rights in Australia.

    The Red Wombat Hole has a statement of solidarity with Iranian workers and protesters.

    Charlie Pottins has an interesting question to ask: "WHY, in these recession-hit times, when companies are backing off so many projects, have six big corporations - one of them BAE Systems(formerly known as British Aerospace) found money to lobby the US Congress, not over trade restrictions, taxes or legislation that might obviously effect business, but on an issue concerning something that happened almost a century ago?"

    A Very Public Socialist highlights evidence from New Scientist that the world is perfectly capable of feeding a growing population...

    The Daily Maybe reports on the climate protesters found guilty this week.

    Though not from the Socialist Blogosphere, you should still check out Marjane Satrapi (the maker of Persepolis) speaking of her longing to return to Iran and her admiration for the courage of the Iranian youth in the New York Times.

    Finally, Hands Off the People of Iran will be playing cricket against the Labour Representation Committee to raise funds for Iranian workers. Attila the Stockbroker and John McDonnel MP will be heading up the two teams. More details here.

    - - - - -

    Thanks for reading and apologies if I missed you or your submission out.

    Peace and solidarity,

    Vicky (Infantile and Disorderly)


    Bishop of Rochester tells gays to "repent and be changed"

    Stroppy tells Bishop to go fuck himself !

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    Saturday, July 04, 2009

    Hot Off The Press: My Book!

    Buy it here.

    And here is the official blurb ...

    by Janine Booth

    In the aftermath of the First World War, thirty Labour councillors went to prison rather than accepting inequitable taxes. With unemployment rising in 1921 in Bow, Limehouse, Millwall and Old Ford, Poplar Borough Council could not help provide relief drawing only on the limited wealth of one poor London borough. Poplar councillors, including future Labour leader George Lansbury, demanded that rates from richer areas should help. Rich Kensington had a hugely greater rateable value and far fewer jobless people: it could afford to pay more. So Poplar refused to pay over rates to the London County Council, and thus began the Poplar Revolt.

    Drawing on archive research and on newspaper reports, this book tells the story of the support mobilised by Poplar Council. The story begins when newly-enfranchised working-class voters elected Labour to run the Council in 1919. For the next two years, it improved life for Poplar residents, coming into ever-increasing conflict with the central authorities and the local government funding system. The crisis came in 1921, when Poplar Council refused to levy a portion of its rates. Poplar's fight took its Councillors to prison in September 1921. After six weeks, the courts released them from prison and the government changed the law to redistribute funding from richer to poorer boroughs: they had won! Over the following years, they continued to battle, but lost momentum. The book ends with a survey of outcomes and considers how this story has meaning today.

    "In the 1920s, Poplar's Councillors and Guardians chose to fight. Had they chosen differently, we would not even remember them."

    Contemporary black and white photos 234x156 mm; 213pp, Pbk ISBN
    978 0 85036 694 5 GB Pounds 12.95

    Oh, and there's a great foreword by John McDonnell.


    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Sarah Palin resigns

    What was I saying about needing inspiration ...I see lots of it coming up !!

    Check out the second part, goobledook!

    WTF is she going on about, she makes Bush seem articulate.

    Hell yeah .

    Hat tip Jim J.


    Wednesday, July 01, 2009

    Blogging, hot weather and jazz...

    Apologies for light blogging of late. That's partly because 1) I'm very busy, 2) bloggers block and 3) its too damn hot ! I even don't like drinking alcohol when the its sunny, I prefer drinking in dark seedy places as opposed to on the beach, which makes me feel sick even with just one glass of JD let alone a half bottle:-)

    Hopefully inspiration, and thunderstorms , will strike . In the meantime a musical interlude. A few weeks back I went to see Ornette Coleman at the Meltdown festival. This caused some debate over at Dave's blog and Mr Denham posted on the subject, twice .Now I like to listen to all sorts of music and am always up for discovering artists new to me. I have listened to bits of jazz over the years ( Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane amongst others). Being with Dave has meant hearing lots more ! In talking to him and Jim I have discovered there is basically two types of Jazz, Osler Jazz and Jimmy (Denham ) Jazz. Jim apparently is good time!

    So to cut to the chase, here are some you tubes of jazz that Jim won't like . Next week , lucky girl that I am, have the opportunity to watch him in action, playing the drums. I'll report back !

    First off John Coltrane with Alabama . This was written in reaction to the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church,by the Klu Klux clan, that resulted in the death of four girls.

    Now for some Miles Davis with a track from Kind of Blue, although to really torment Jim I should have uploaded something from Bitches Brew .

    After tormenting Mr D, here are some female jazz vocalists which I believe cross the Jim/Osler categories .

    I have picked Billie Holiday singing Strange Fruit. Its one of the most powerful songs about racism, where she sings about the lynching of black people .Its one of those songs Im not sure saying I enjoy it is quite how I feel . The lyrics evoke feelings of anger at the suffering and racism.

    OK, bit of a theme, here is Nina Simone singing Mississippi Goddam.Nina was part of the Civil Rights and this, like John Coltrane, was partly a response to the Church bombings.

    Finally , round off with some Dinah Washington:

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