Sunday, June 27, 2010

All in it together, all making sacrifices and curbing our spending ...err no

Seems the Tory faithful are splashing the cash , no sign of belt tightening there or having to put on an extra woolly at this bash:

David Cameron and his rich Tory chums will toast the bloodbath Budget hammering the poor at a lavish champagne party where the CHEAPEST ticket costs £450.

The ConDem PM and his Chancellor George Osborne will be the star turns at the glitzy ball, which was last night angrily condemned by Labour MPs.

It will be held at an exclusive London venue days after Osborne delivered his “austerity” Budget, which hits low-earners hardest – and hands a business tax cut to the fatcats on the guest list.

Organisers have lined up 432 bottles of champagne – more than one each for the 400 guests, who will include City financiers and Tory donors. The event is expected to raise more than £1million for Conservative party funds.


Senior Labour MP Tom Watson last night attacked Mr Osborne for failing to live up to his pre-Budget promise that “we are all in this together.”

Mr Watson said: “I can’t imagine there will be any worried pensioners or frightened families at this event. Clearly, we are not all in this together.

“Holding this lavish ball days after the toughest measures in any Budget ever just shows the breathtaking arrogance of the Tories.”

Many of the high-rollers at the event will be wealthy donors from City hedge funds and investment banks – blamed by many experts for sparking financial meltdown and driving us into recession.


Rich Tory backers can buy one ticket for an eye-watering £450, pay £4,500 for a table for 10, buy a “benefactor” ticket at £1,000 or blow £10,000 for a de luxe table for ten.

Still, don't say you weren't warned that they will look after their own , time to re-watch this excellent video:

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Asperger's and Museum visits

I have sent the following e-mail to the Science Museum, and a similar one to the Natural History Museum ...

Last Sunday, I visited the Science Museum with my three sons, aged 11, 8 and 6. We enjoyed our visit very much.

However, my son Joe (8) experienced a lot of difficulty with the visit. Joe has Asperger syndrome. He finds crowds hard to cope with and is hyper-sensitive to loud noise. His condition also means that he struggles to understand social protocols concerning queueing, taking turns etc, and becomes easily distressed. He became upset several times during the visit, including in the Launchpad [children's section with lots of hands-on stuff], due to sensory overload, crowding and social pressure. Joe's distress also made the visit difficult for his brothers. The Museum is understandably very popular and always busy, meaning that Joe would always be vulnerable to these problems on any visit.

I suspect that other visitors with special needs - both children and adults - might experience similar difficulties (and some will experience different difficulties). Others may feel unable to visit the Museum at all due to anticipated problems.

I would like to suggest that on, say, one Sunday each month, the Museum opens earlier for disabled visitors and their families only, to enable them to enjoy the Museum's excellent exhibits and facilities in a more quiet and relaxed setting. For example, I firmly expect that Joe would enjoy and benefit greatly from the Launchpad without large numbers of other children jostling to get to the many exciting activities. You could perhaps provide specialised staff support during these sessions and other appropriate facilities eg. parking.

Please give my proposal serious consideration and let me know what you decide.

Janine Booth


'No foetal pain before 24 weeks'

Good news for supporters of abortion rights as The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists published a report stating that there is no evidence that foetuses feel paid before 24 weeks and therefore no reason to further reduce the legal time limit for abortions.

The report stated that brain connections are not fully formed, and the environment of the womb creates a state of induced sleep, like unconsciousness, they add. Foetuses at this stage are "undeveloped and sedated". It also found that there may well be no foetal pain well beyond 24 weeks.

Not only will this report make it harder for anti-abortionists to lobby for cuts in time limits, it will also provide comfort and reassurance to women facing the stressful decision of whether to continue or terminate an unwanted pregnancy. A difficult decision is made slightly less difficult without the worry - often brought on by untrue and alarmist anti-abortion propaganda - that a foetus may feel pain.

This report has, of course, seriously annoyed anti-abortion groups, which rarely allow such small matters as facts and medical science get in the way of following the instructions of their god. They had been pinning their hopes of further restricting women's abortion rights on the election of a Tory government, recognising that there is sufficient commitment to those rights within the labour movement that a Labour government was unlikely to do so even while it attacked the working class in other ways. That commitment comes from an understanding that when abortion rights are restricted, it is working-class women who suffer the most - having fewer choices available and being less able to access private treatment.

Anti-abortion group Life responded to the report by saying that, "the issue of whether or not an unborn child feels pain is highly peripheral to the ethical debate over abortion. Our intrinsic dignity as human beings does not in any way depend on the extent of our ability to feel pain."

Now tell me this. If a report had appeared asserting that foetuses can feel pain before 24 weeks' gestation, do you think that Life and their fellow anti-abortionists would dismiss it as "peripheral"?! No, I don't think so either.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Edwina Currie on cuts

For those who still think after the budget, that there is no difference between Labour and Tories, listen to this.

Go to 42 mins in, where you will hear Edwina in When Harry met Sally mode .Yep she is very excited over the cuts . Still, she was very excited over a naked John Major .

Tories relish cuts .

Check out Dave's post on the budget , looking at how this Con Dem Government will go further than Thatcher.


Well done Robert Dougans !

Yep, know he is a Tory Boy, but he came to Dave's rescue in his libel defence case against Ms Kaschke. For that I'm very grateful and come the revolution he will be spared :-)

For those who haven't followed the case , details here and here. Thanks also go to David Allan Green and Joel Bennathan of course .

Last night though, the limelight was on Robert :

I am delighted that my friend and former trainee Robert Dougans won the extremely prestigious Assistant Solicitor of the Year award at last night's The Lawyer ceremony at the Grosvenor Hotel.

(An "Assistant Solicitor" - in general terms - is a lawyer who works at a law firm who is not a partner.)

Robert won this for his conduct of the Simon Singh appeal and for his extensive pro bono work, including in respect of the Dave Osler libel case (where he was able to convince Mr Justice Eady to strike out the claim as an abuse of process).

Well deserved.

Pic of Dave with Robert outside the courts celebrating .


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

March against the Butcher's Budget, Edinburgh 22nd June 2010

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Emergency Budget: Redistribution from poor to big business

LRC Press release :

Today’s Emergency Budget will redistribute wealth from the poor to big business. The Budget announced a 4% cut in corporation tax from 28% to 24%, a higher threshold for employer NI contributions and employer NI exemptions for new businesses, and a cut in the small business rate of tax.

Meanwhile, £11bn of cuts are announced on welfare, benefits will only now be uprated in line with CPI not RPI, maternity grants are abolished, child benefit will be frozen for three years and public sector pay frozen for two years.

In response to the Chancellor’s Emergency Budget today, John McDonnell MP, LRC Chair, said:

“The budget is a significant redistribution of wealth from the poorest in our society to big business. Cuts in welfare benefits to children, pregnant women and the homeless are being used to fund cuts in corporation taxes for big business. Welcome to the Coalition’s concept of ‘fairness’

“People rightfully perceive a grotesque unfairness in that they are being forced to pay with cuts in their jobs and services for a crisis caused by the greed of the bankers. Cuts on this scale will inevitably be met by resistance from not just trade unions but from across our community”.


Here's a Poster that Needed Amending


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Monday, June 21, 2010

CBI: One Rule for the Bosses, Another for Workers

The CBI is proposing measures to make it even harder to strike.

In particular, the bosses' club wants "rules on strike action to be changed to ensure that industrial action has the support of 40% of the balloted workforce, in addition to a majority of votes cast."

The CBI is asking the Tory-led government to legislate for this, conveniently ignoring the fact that if such a rule applied in General Elections, they would not even be the government. In fact, I'm pretty sure that no government would ever have become the goverment under such rules.

But we wouldn't expect bosses to be champions of democracy, given that they didn't get their own jobs and don't pursue their own policies, through a democratic process. How about we introduce a new rule that companies can not cut jobs without balloting the workforce first, and achieving both a majority of votes cast and 40% of the total balloted workforce. Fair's fair, huh?

The CBI also wants the consultation period on redundancies cut from 90 to 30 days. So workers would get one month, rather than three, to argue for alternatives to redundancy - and to look for an alternative job. This move would self-evidently increase unemployment, and therefore the demands on state spending, just at the time when everyone says that they want to cut these things.

This isn't about democracy at all. It is about tying up trade unions in even tighter chains than those that tie them already. It's high time for those union to go beyond sad speeches about how terrible the anti-union laws and start some sustained and effective action to get them repealed.

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Friday, June 18, 2010

Absence from the blog

Apologies for not blogging or commenting here for a while.

I'm facing redundancy, and to be honest I'm pretty preoccupied with that at the moment.

Lots is being said by the Con Dem Government on the pain we are all having to face to clear up the mess of the bankers . Thing is, its not the bankers who are making sacrifices for some mythical good of the country , its the public sector .

Did I miss something; did nurses or doctors or housing workers or social workers or teachers cause the recession ??

Nope, yet we public sector workers are the ones being made the baddies . Take a look, if you have a strong stomach, at the Daily Mail with its stories of how privileged we are. Hmm, I never received a bonus in my life, yet alone a six figure sum, that encouraged me to take mega risks with the economy.

Have I been paid much much more than someone in the public sector? Well, most of these stories do not take like for like. A previous partner , who did work in the city, once told me the sort of work I was doing would be rewarded with about triple the salary if I was in a private company. OH and his pension and redundancy package was every bit, and more , as good as mine .

Yep, Chief Execs are paid well, but look down at the bottom of the salary rung. The support workers helping people , the old for example, lead an independent life . Those who work with the homeless , those with a learning disability, mental health problems and many more. Check out those salaries , less than £20,000 , and then gripe about their pensions .

Pensions, yep, gold plated handed on a plate to us aren't they? Well no, I large whack comes out of my wages every month .

Thousands of public sector workers will be losing their jobs . This will impact on the economy in benefits and money not being spent , as people tighten their belts. Where exactly will the mythical private sector jobs be exactly ?

Those who talk of cuts cuts and more cuts, of sacrifice , will not be effected really.

I don't have inherited wealth to fall back on, and that was not because my parents were lazy. Far from it, but illness meant we did not have money . Not quite the case with much of the Cabinet .

I have worked bloody hard all my life , and now worry what will happen if I can't pay the mortgage . I'm fucked if interest rates rise majorly.

I'm luckier than many, I have a redundancy package that means I'm OK for about 6 months max. But then what, as more and more workers join the dole , competing with me for the few jobs there are?

What happens to those without a payout . with mortgages to pay ? More repossessions and homelessness?

Many will have been on short term contracts or only with a year or two behind them, no payout for them.

So yeah, real life getting in the way a bit.

Still, in a few weeks more time for blogging. A silver lining!


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The ConDem Debt Repayment Con

Economics is never going to be my specialist subject, but even I can see that the line of argument from Cleggeron is a con.

They keep repeating that the nation's debt must be paid off as soon as possible or else catastrophe will ensue. (Not that the LibDems believed that during the election campaign when they wanted progressive-minded supporters of public services to vote for them, but hey.)

Many millions of us are in debt. It's called a mortgage, and it was positively encouraged by the Tories the last time they were in power. But how many of us feel an overwhelming sense of urgency to pay off their mortgage RIGHT NOW? Hardly anyone. The arrangement with the lender is to pay it off over 25 years or so.

Similarly, you'd think, the nation's debt. Especially as, as I understand it, most of the debt is in a form equivalent to bonds, so the lenders are not beating at the door to get it repaid.

Would you pay off your mortgage this year if you could? Maybe. Would you starve your family to enable you to do so? Of course not. But Cleggeron are not starving their own families, are they? They are starving ours - of the services, wages and pensions we need.

Clegg's speech yesterday was particularly loathsome, with not a sniff of liberalism or democracy in the air: it was a straightforward Tory speech. Public sector workers' pensions are, apparently, 'gold-plated' and unfair to private-sector workers (not that private-sector workers will benefit from attacks on public-sector workers' pensions, but hey). And it's a shame to cut public-sector workers' wages, but we really have to, except the very very badly-paid ones (why there are very very badly-paid workers in the public sector to start with is glossed over). Taxing the super-rich, stopping the massive tax avoidance/evasion, or nationalising the banks? Nah.

It seems to me that if the ConDem coalition does not need to slash public services and attack public-sector workers in order to pay off the debt immediately, then it must be doing so because it wants to. And why does it want to? Because this lash-up of ruling-class parties wants to break the consensus that grew after the Second World War that the state should provide for people's welfare, and replace it with one that we should fend for ourselves.

It's an economic, political and ideological offensive that we must respond to with an industrial, political and ideological counter-offensive - including by spreading the word that people should not believe the crap about having to pay off the debt right now.

[PS. All of this, of course, skims over the argument that Labour could have avoided building up such a big debt by taking the money from the big financial institutions rather than borrowing it from them. But that's for another time.]

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Strikers We Can All Support

Whoever you are supporting in the World Cup, here are some strikers we can all support: football security stewards being ripped off by employers paying them wages much lower than promised.

From Soccernet website ...

Police break up Durban protests:June 14, 2010

The long-standing dispute between workers at South Africa's World Cup stadiums and the authorities again spilled over as riot police fired tear gas into crowds of stewards in the hours after Sunday's match between Australia and Germany.

Witnesses said several hundred stewards assembled underneath the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban in an impromptu protest over wages. When the police moved in to break them up - reportedly firing two percussive grenades in the process - they moved outside the stadium where an AP reporter witnessed tear gas being fired.

"They're giving us 205 rand ($26)," one worker told the New York Times. "We started at 12 noon and worked until midnight, and they want to give us 205 rand. Different things have been said to people, but we were promised 1,500 rand per day. We started to protest because we wanted to negotiate."

Others said they had been abandoned after the match and would have to walk about four hours to get home. They said no transport was provided for them.

Later, about 100 police later surrounded a group of about 300 protesters on a street near the stadium and separated the men from the women. The protesters later left peacefully after discussions with police. There were no injuries or arrests reported.

A FIFA spokesman declined to comment, but he head of the World Cup organising committee said there had been "an internal pay dispute between the principal security company employed by the organising committee and some of the static security stewards employed by the company at the match.

"This happened, however, long after all spectators had left the stadium after the match and the incident had no impact whatsoever on the matchday security operations."

Local Organising Committee (LOC) chief communications officer, Rich Mkhondo, says the organisation is fully aware of the matter, but insists it is not something directly linked to it.

"It's an employer-employee dispute over wages, that's all it is,'' Mkhondo said. "Our constitution in this country allows people to express their views when it comes to strike action.

"However, we do have a relationship with that company and we will continue negotiating with that company to make sure this kind of situation does not arise again. We will be investigating that (whether they were paid what they were promised) and everything else around the issue.''

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Friday, June 11, 2010

Rally Round the Flag and Defend BP?!

Regular readers will know that we Stroppybloggers are no great fans of the Daily Mail. And today, the right-wing rag has wound me up again.

The Mail's front page today urges David Cameron to 'stand up for your country' by defending BP against Barack Obama's criticism. In case they hadn't noticed, BP ceased to be owned by 'the country' when Cameron's predecessor, Thatcher, flogged it off.

The explosion at BP's Deepwater Horizon drilling rig killed eleven workers and has caused untold environmental and ecological damage, including the possible extinction of species.

BP was happy to pull in the profits and not share them with the rest of us when things were going well, but now we're supposed to take collective responsibility for defending it from thoroughly-deserved criticism when it cocks up on a massive scale?

No thanks. There is no 'national interest' in defending a private multinational corporation that puts profits before workers' safety and the environmental. Not even if the 'B' used to stand for 'British'.

[PS. Good article here.]

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A New Chance to Tackle Anti-Union Laws

This is really good news. It is important that we do not just let John get on with proposing his Bill to a hostile Parliament, but mobilise in support of it.

Press release from John McDonnell MP ...

As one door closes another one open: John McDonnell tops the poll in the Private Members' Bill Ballot.

John McDonnell MP has been drawn first in the Private Members' Bill Ballot today and has opted for a Bill to tackle abuse of trade union ballots by employers.

John McDonnell said:

"It's a funny old world, as one door closes another one opens. Coming top in this poll will enable me to tackle an abuse of the current employment laws by employers that I have tried to reform for the last 4 years."

"As we have seen in the current BA Cabin Crew dispute and many other recent disputes, employers have been able to exploit a loophole in the existing law by using minor technical errors in a trade union ballot for industrial action to frustrate the democratic decisions of trade unionists who wish to take action. This resort to the courts by some ruthless employers is bringing current employment law into disrepute and undermining industrial relations in this country. The courts are being dragged into disputes and used as weapons in the hands of bullying employers. Even where there have been overwhelming majorities in ballots in favour of strike action, minor technicalities which would have no material effect on the outcome of the ballot, are being exploited to negate the democratic decision of the trade unionists involved. This cannot be right and in the interests of good industrial relations needs to be addressed."

Note-to Editors-

Over the past four years John has made several attempts to tackle this issue by introducing amendments to the then Government's employment legislation and promoting in Parliament the TUC backed Trade Union Freedom Bill.

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Wednesday, June 09, 2010

John McDonnell withdraws from Labour Leadership race


John McDonnell: I’m withdrawing from Labour leadership race

9th June 2010

Dear Comrades

I am writing to let you know that I have withdrawn from the Labour Party leadership race this morning.

I stood for the Labour leadership as the candidate of the Left and trade union movement so that there could be a proper debate about Labour’s future in which all the wings of the party were fully represented. It is now clear that I am unlikely to secure enough nominations and so I am withdrawing in the hope that we can at least secure a woman on the ballot paper.

We came into this campaign knowing that it would be really difficult to obtain sufficient nominations but we knew we had to try. The support we received from rank and file party members and from trade unionists was just overwhelming but we still could not overcome the barrier of gaining sufficient support from Labour MPs.

I appealed to the party leadership to lower the qualifying bar to allow all the candidates on the ballot paper. It was perfectly possible within the existing rules for this to be done. Reducing the bar to 5% would have allowed all the declared candidates to get on the ballot paper and the Party to have a full and open debate about its future direction. The party hierarchy refused and instead threw its weight behind one candidate.

I know that many Labour activists and trade unionists will be disappointed.

I want to thank you for all your hard work in lobbying and campaigning to secure sufficient nominations to get me on the ballot paper. You could not have worked harder.

I am urging everyone to continue the fight for democracy within the party so that in future elections rank and file members will be represented by the candidate of their choice.

We must also now throw our energies into the campaign to resist the cuts that the Coalition government is launching against our community. Providing leadership in this struggle is critically important in this coming period. We will be convening rallies and demonstrations and linking up with trade union action to resist the cuts. Let’s rise to this challenge.

Yours in solidarity,

John McDonnell MP

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Hands Off Universal Child Benefit

As David Cameron invites the nation to suggest public spending cuts, one thing that seems to be square in the government's sights is universal Child Benefit. What support there is for this appears to rest on two reactionary and annoying 'arguments':

1. That children are a private indulgence of their parents, who should therefore meet the costs themselves.

Actually, matey, they are the continuation of the human race, and therefore the human race collectively bears some responsibility towards them. Moreover, Child Benefit covers a bare fraction of the real cost of raising a child, but it is a useful contribution.

2. That rich parents do not need or deserve Child Benefit and it should therefore be means-tested. This 'argument' is bugging me, as it is superficially appealing but an abuse of people's class consciousness and rightful anger at the rich.

The fact is that once a benefit is means-tested, it is the poor, more than the rich, who lose out. Means-testing means that you have to apply, that you need to be able to navigate the system, to fill in the forms, to reapply periodically. Means testing still carries stigma, as well as practical difficulty. Nearly every means-tested benefit has an unsatisfactory take-up rate.

It also costs the state a great deal more money to administer a means-tested benefit than to give out a universal benefit. A large proportion of the money it would save, it would have to spend.

But why should working-class people's tax pay for rich parents' child benefit?! The answer is simple: pay for it with rich people's tax instead! Give them the Child Benefit with one hand, take their excess wealth for the common good with the other.

And keep Child Benefit universal.

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Sunday, June 06, 2010

Dissolution Dishonours (The Abstractions of Democratic Reform - Part 2)

I should probably have posted this earlier, but the internet connection at the Booth/Leach residence is knackered ...

The latest Honours List has prompted my usual tutting, sneering and giggling. The 'Dissolution Honours' includes such names as John Prescott, John Reid, Michael Howard and Ian Blair. Floella Benjamin enters the Lords after a career in children's TV, though I'm not sure whether that is Big Ted and Jemima sat next to her on the leather benches or her fellow LibDem peers. And ex-student activists of a certain age will titter at the entrance to aristocratic honour of one Maeve Sherlock, past President of the National Union of Students.

Funny, I thought that it was now a matter of political consensus that an unelected chamber of Parliament is an undemocratic anachronism which should be replaced by an elected body. But while our elected politicians drag their political feet in actually implementing what they say they believe (presumably because cuts in public services absolutely must be the priority), there is an unholdy rush of those who apparently don't believe in seats of unelected power giving unelected seats to their political allies who also do not believe in seats of unelected power. What a sickening spectacle.

My late Uncle Albert refused a seat in the Lords after he lost his seat in the Commons, for the simple reason that he did not believe he should have power without having been elected. Down the years, a fair few labour movement luminaries have taken the same stand. But evidently, the acceptable alternative is to say one thing, and do the complete opposite.


Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Happy Birthday Tom Robinson

Tom Robinson is 60 today, and presumably, glad to be grey. Three clips to celebrate this groundbreaking and principled leftwing songsmith ...