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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Socialist and Gay Rights Campaigner? Guilty and Proud of it!

The Licensed Taxi Drivers' Association (LTDA) seems to have got itself all in a lather about my leftiness. Click here to read the latest issue of their 'Taxi' magazine, and turn to page 3. There you will find the shocking news that (a) I attended a meeting of the RMT London Taxis branch (hardly surprising, as I am the union's Regional Council Secretary, and (b) that I am a socialist and gay rights campaigner.

Firstly, may I congratulate the LTDA for being able to use Google. Secondly, can I assure them and everyone else that I am not in the least bit ashamed of being either a socialist or a gay rights activist, and have never sought to hide either. And thirdly, I'd point out that other than this, there are several factual inaccuracies in the article: the Socialist Alliance folded several years ago, and although I was a SA candidate a few times, I'm not sure I was ever a 'leading member' of it; I gave a brief-ish report to the branch meeting and certainly did not take up most of its time; RMT does not tell taxi drivers not to work during Tube strikes; I said nothing about automatic ticket machines; I did explain why London Underground's attacks on jobs and customer service were bad news for taxi drivers, as when people are driven off public transport and into their cars, taxis lose out too.

RMT's taxi driver members understand this last point, which is why several of them joined the union's Lobby of Parliament against Network Rail job cuts recently. When, around a decade ago, annual multi-fatality rail crashes seriously damaged public confidence in rail safety and therefore caused a drop in passenger numbers, taxi drivers saw a fall in trade from ranks at stations.

Fortunately, leading members of RMT's London Taxis branch see this attack for what it is: an attempt to whip up cheap, populist, right-wing sentiment against what the LTDA evidently sees as a rival organisation. Whichever organisation you think taxi drivers should be members of - whether RMT, Unite or LTDA - I'm sure all Stroppyreaders will agree that this sort of thing is beneath contempt.

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Blog redesign ?

It has been a while since Will redesigned this blog and to be honest I'm bored with it. It needs a change and now Dave has done his ,I'm thinking I need to get a move on and sort this one. I'll probably enlist the help of Will and Hak, but just thought I'd invite comments and ideas as to how the layout and design could be improved .

Also, I need a new picture . Anyone good at cartoony drawing ? I'd like a 'Stroppy' type character to replace catwoman.

So dear readers, over to you in the comments ...

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Friday, February 26, 2010

Betty's Bentley breaks down


I'm sure some on here will gripe about crowded buses, tubes and trains ,or moan about cancellations and engineering works.

Buck up your ideas and follow the example of Betty . Yep, she knows how to roll up her sleeves and make do, even when her £10 million Bentley breaks down :

After her visit to Aldgate and a nice lunch at the Gherkin skyscraper, the Queen's armour-plated Bentley broke down. The vintage motor, presented to her in 2002 to mark her Golden Jubilee, simply wouldn't start.
As she clambered back out, an aide gesticulated to a Metropolitan Police Range Rover escort vehicle and helped the 83-year-old monarch climb inside.
She then drove off to her final engagement of the day just a few minutes away at Tower Bridge.
One onlooker who saw the entire episode said: 'It was all a bit awkward.
'The Queen's obviously never experienced an engine break down before and looked a bit stunned that the car wasn't working.
'She got out and an aide told her she was going to have use a police Range Rover.
'She just hopped in the back and continued on her journey.'


Oh my what a trooper, she knows how to make to do and rough it, puts the rest of us to shame don't it , gawd bless you ma'am .

Next time I am stuck on an overcrowded bendy bus , crawling through the roadworks on the Kingsland High Road, well I'll just hop off and flag down one of the many police cars that speed through with flashing lights and screeching sirens . Well if its good enough for the Queen ...

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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

SDL and the Edinburgh Anti Fascist Alliance


Scottish Socialist Party on the EAFA march, February 20th 2010, Edinburgh

The Scottish Defence League which is basically the English Defence League in Scotland thought they would have a rally in Edinburgh, they tried this last year in Glasgow and were stopped from marching however managed to occupy a wee bit of the pavement.  In Edinburgh there were two demonstrations the Edinburgh Anti Fascist Alliance which took a more occupy the streets, no platform for fascists stance and Scotland United/United Against Fascism which was part of a broad movement to have a demonstration and rally.

I would like to say from the start I am of the opinion both demonstrations were necessary and had merit - as I think you can ride to bicycles in the circus.

To cut a very long story short the EAFA lent up having an unofficial demo and marched to the Canongate to a pub opposite the Scottish Parliament where some SDL bods had mananged to hole themselves up in.   EAFA marched there but on the way there there was the usual "splitters" "the movement's demonstration is here" argument that always happens when nazis are about.  At one point one of the organisers of the Scotland United march ran after the EAFA and then demanded that they come back and do what they were told.  Which resulted in a debate and argument quite literally on the street in fact at one of the major junctions on the road that really the marchers wanted to go to Jenny Ha's pub!

After a humiliating defeat the organisers of other march (i.e. SWP and their kith and kin) went off.

Anyway about 300 people went down to the Canongate and the fascists were not allowed to leave the pub at about 4 O clock they were taken away by the police and three were arrested for inciting racial hatred and to incite a fight.  There was no arrests of EAFA and the demonstration in the Canongate by the ANTI FASCISTS ended in good spirits.
EAFA rally outside Jenny Ha's pub - well to be clear quite a bit of the street because the police had
 cordoned it off

Three off the fascists fighting over the back seat - obviously did not complete finishing school


The Scotland United march had an attendance of about 2000 and many of Scotland's great and the good turned up and all in all Edinburgh clearly showed that they did not want fascists parading about in their city.

You can watch a  video here of what happened on the day from EAFA perspective.

For the record the Scottish Socialist Party back both initiatives, though fair to say the Scottish Socialist Youth were more involved indeed organisers of the EAFA response.

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Government Replies on Ugandan LGBT Rights

Stroppyreaders will recall that some time ago, I posted about an attempt at severe legal repression of homosexuality in Uganda. The government has now posted its response, which is as follows:

We received a petition asking:

“We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to condemn the government of Uganda if they pass the ‘Anti-Homosexuality Bill’ which proposes the death penalty for some homosexual activities.”

Details of Petition:

“A draft of the “Anti-Homosexuality Bill” was introduced by Ndorwa West MP, David Bahati on October 14, 2009 providing for a death penalty for those engaging in homosexuality. Homosexuality is already a crime in Uganda (introduced into the penal code by the british), but the Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Dr. James Nsaba Buturo has been complaining that the law is inadequate to curb homosexuality that is reported to be on the increase in Uganda.”

Read the Government’s response:

The legislation is a private member’s Bill, which was introduced on 14 October and is currently at committee stage in Uganda’s Parliament.

However, the Government is very concerned about the proposed private members Bill, now in its Committee stage in Uganda’s Parliament, which would broaden the criminalisation of homosexuality. The Government has made those concerns clear in numerous representations to the Ugandan Government. Most recently, the Prime Minister expressed his concerns with Ugandan President Museveni at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad and also in a telephone call on 11 February 2010. Baroness Kinnock, Minister for Africa, raised the issue with the Ugandan Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sam Kutesa at CHOGM. The UK High Commissioner in Kampala takes every appropriate opportunity to engage Ugandan Ministers on this issue.

We have also lobbied through the EU. Sweden, who held the local EU Presidency in Uganda, led a EU demarche to the Ugandan Foreign Ministry in December. The European Parliament has also called on the Ugandan authorities not to approve the bill in a resolution passed on 17 December.

The UK is in close touch with and is supporting Ugandan civil society organisations campaigning against the bill. There are now reports that the Ugandan Government may not pass the bill in its present form. But the Government will continue to follow the passage of the bill closely and to lobby against its introduction.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Last Post About Uncle Albert

Click here to read the obituary I wrote for Solidarity.

And you can read some great comments from Labour left MPs here. Thanks to Mary for this.

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Sunday, February 21, 2010

SDL and the Edinburgh Anti Fascist Alliance fae a wee weegie

Some of you may be following what happened in Edinburgh with the so called Scottish Defence League.  Until I have time to do a blog - you can read a report in Scots until I put something up tomorrow - sorry for those who don't do Scots but youse can look at the foties.  Read about it here from the Scottish Socialist Youth blog

Scottish Socialist party banner outsdie Queen's Gallery - outside Holyrood Palace, bottom of the Royal Mile. The fascists are just up the hill in a pub called Jenny Ha's.

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Thursday, February 18, 2010

SWP Split

Ok, far be it from Stroppyblog to provoke the ire of our readers by ignoring serious developments in politics. So I guess we can't leave unmentioned the mass resignations from the SWP. This letter spells out why John Rees, Chris Nineham, Guy Taylor and various others are jumping ship - something about Lindsey German not being allowed to go to a meeting, apparently.

I'm still at a loss to tell the political difference between the leadership and the 'Left Platform'. I suspect there is very little difference, and that the factional split has more to do with the SWP's failure to account politically for the Respect disaster, therefore allowing personal resentments to shape the party's line-up. Moreover, there is, of course, the SWP's notoriously intolerant internal regime, and it is little surprise that the trigger for the split has something to do with Newcastle, where their local regime is notoriously awful.

The comments box is yours ...

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Albert Booth's funeral

Albert's funeral took place yesterday.

Jim Mortimer, former Labour Party General Secretary, spoke of how he had first met Albert sixty years ago, when he was a young delegate to the annual conference of the engineering draughtsmen's union (now part of Unite), and of the legislative progress Albert had delivered when a minister of state, sadly repealed later by Thatcher and never restored by New Labour.

My dad gave a terrific speech thanking various people and telling some tales of events that shaped young Albert's politics and made him the socialist that he was.

My cousin Ian added some more, including Albert's choosing to fight a marginal rather than accept a safe seat in 1987, and his refusal of a seat in the House of Lords on the grounds that he would not accept any seat to which he had not been elected. My sister-in-law Anne and cousin Graeme added some more poignant and moving points. And stalwarts of Beckenham Methodist Church added their tributes too.

All in all, a pretty good send-off. I'll leave you with a letter from today's Guardian:

The death of Albert Booth (Obituary, 11 February) reminds us that he was one of the few Labour ex-ministers to refuse a peerage on socialist principles, which he shared with his mentor Michael Foot. He was also an active trade unionist in the old AUEW, worked as a marine engineer, served as a local councillor for many years and was never parachuted into a safe seat. He was one of the best representatives of old Labour sadly missing from the party today.
Tony Judge
Twickenham, Middlesex

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Protest the Pope this Sunday



Via Peter Tatchell :

No Pope, No Vatican - London for a Secular Europe

Oppose Pope Benedict’s State Visit to the UK

Stop the Vatican’s crusade against women's and gay rights



Protest the Pope

This Sunday 14 February 2010
Meet at 1pm outside Westminster Cathedral (not Westminster Abbey).
Victoria Street, London SW1 (near the corner with Ambrosden Avenue)

March to the Italian Embassy in Grosvenor Square for a rally at 3pm.

We support:
• Women's equality and reproductive rights
• Equal rights for LGBT people
• A secular Europe - immune to the Vatican's agenda
• One law for all, no religious exemptions from the law
• State neutrality in matters of religion and belief

We oppose:
• European Union collusion with religion (Lisbon Treaty Article 16c)
• The special status of the Vatican in the United Nations
• State-funded faith schools
• The economic privilege and political influence of the Vatican in Italy
• Taxpayers funding the Pope's State Visit to the UK this September
• Misogyny, homophobia, fascism, racism and xenophobia

Protest against the Pope’s State Visit to the UK

“We want a secular Europe, where the Vatican and the Catholic church cease attempting to impose their harsh, intolerant morality on everyone else,” said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who is speaking at Sunday’s protest and assisting with its organisation.

“The Pope opposes women's rights, gay equality, embryonic stem cell research, death with dignity and the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV.

“He wants the Catholic Church to be exempt from equality and anti-discrimination laws that apply to everyone else.

“Pope Benedict played a key role in the cover-up of child sex abuse by Catholic clergy.

“He has rehabilitated the Holocaust-denying bishop Richard Williamson, and even though Pope Pius XII failed to speak out against the Holocaust he plans to make him a saint.

“Given that he opposes universal equality and human rights, Pope Benedict should not be accorded the honour of a State Visit to Britain.

“The estimated £20 million cost of the visit will be funded by the taxpayer. The Pope has already denounced our equality laws. He is likely to abuse his presence in Britain to further attack our democratically-agreed legislation that gives equal rights to women and gay people.

“The Pope has discouraged the use of condoms in countries where HIV infections are decimating whole populations. Such teachings are irresponsible and immoral,” said Mr Tatchell.

Sunday’s demonstration is organised by the Central London Humanist Group in partnership with the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, One Law for All, the Gay And Lesbian Humanist Association, the Rationalist Association and OutRage!.

It is in solidarity with the demonstration happening the same weekend in Rome, also against the Vatican and its reactionary interference in Italian, European and world-wide politics.

http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=415005340443
http://www.meetup.com/Central-London-Humanists/calendar/12192702/

Program of the demonstration:

- Assemble: 1pm at Westminster Cathedral (not the Abbey)
- March: 2pm - 3pm from Westminster Cathedral to the Italian embassy
- Rally: 3pm - 5pm at the Italian embassy (Grosvenor square)

Speakers at the Italian embassy (3pm) :

* Bob Churchill (British Humanist Association),
* Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association)
* Maryam Namazie (One Law for All)
* Gerard Phillips (Protest The Pope)
* David Pollock (European Humanist Federation)
* Terry Sanderson (National Secular Society)
* Peter Tatchell (OutRage!)
* Josh Kutchinsky (Central London Humanist Group)

WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE VATICAN

Protest organiser, Marco Tranchino, writes:

The tiny Vatican State is inhabited mainly by priests. It is extremely powerful and its "moral" crusades adversely affect the lives of millions of people in Europe and across the world.

Officially part of the UN, its "observer-state" status means it can access, influence and pressure UN debates on issues such as birth control, abortion and homosexuality. No other religion has such privileged UN status.

The Vatican has diplomatic relationships with almost all the countries in the world (174 when John Paul II died) and in many EU countries it benefits from the support of Catholic politicians and, in many cases, of Christian political parties.

Of the 27 countries of the European Union, 14 are bound to the Vatican by at least one treaty. No other faith has such political power in Europe and the world; prompting the Economist to publish an investigation about the diplomatic service of the Vatican, questioning whether it deserves its special status in the UN (21 July 2007)

The Catholic Church is an extremely profitable business. It owns businesses such as hotels, restaurants, shops and private schools and the Vatican pays no tax! On top of this, the Vatican receives public money in many countries: in Italy about 1000 million Euros in taxes paid to the Vatican every year (991 millions € in 2007 ).

Through its very considerable political, diplomatic and economic power, the Vatican adversely impacts on the lives of European citizens, and the wider humanity.

THE POPE'S OPPOSITION TO WOMEN’S & LGBT RIGHTS

The issue of women's rights and the Catholic Church goes way beyond the hierarchy of the church, where women are unable to ascend to priesthood as a result of their gender. Women who have had a divorce, women who want to have an abortion and women who are living as single parents in Catholic countries are often victims of moral intimidation and discrimination. The Pope encourages us to view women as unequal to men, by consistently and publicly stating that the two genders are different and that women are naturally inclined to be mothers and child-carers. In some Catholic countries, like Ireland and Poland, abortion is illegal. In others, like Italy, the right to an abortion is constantly under threat from the Vatican's pressure on the government.

The Pope says that being gay is an "objective disorder" and a "moral evil". In nearly half the countries in the world, homosexuality is totally illegal and punishable by long terms of imprisonment. A proposal for the universal decriminalisation of homosexuality was opposed by the Vatican in the UN in 2008. It has a long history of blocking attempted UN debates on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) human rights; often refusing to condemn homophobia and opposing laws to protect LGBT people against discrimination.

RELIGIOUS POWER IN THE UK

Although Britain is a fairly "secular" society, Christianity still has considerable influence in many British institutions and it continues to enjoy unfair privileges.

A limited right to abortion has been granted to women living in England, Scotland and Wales, but in Northern Ireland it remains illegal. This anomaly is significantly due to religious influence, including that of the Catholic Church. Christian lobbies are engaged in continual efforts to restrict a woman's right to abortion and have succeeded in reducing the time limits for an abortion.

Religion retains undue influence and power in various ways. With increasing numbers of state funded faith schools (1 in 3 of all schools in the UK is either Catholic or Church of England), religious institutions continue to exercise an influence on many young people.

The churches (especially the Catholic church) made sure that the proposed EU Constitution – and the now approved Lisbon Treaty (article 16c) - dangerously commits the European Union to "an open, transparent and regular dialogue with Churches and religious organisations". Why should religious bodies receive this special treaty guarantee, which is denied to humanists and human rights advocates?

WE DEMAND A SECULAR EUROPE

The state should be neutral in matters of religion or belief.
No faith should have privileged legal or social status, or special access to government
The beliefs of one group should not be used to limit the rights of others.
We affirm the common values of the people of Europe as expressed in the Brussels Declaration. https://www.iheu.org/v4e/html/the_declaration.html

We want to protect democracy and to champion human rights against those who seek to retain undemocratic influence and deny equality and protection against discrimination to others.

Further information:

Peter Tatchell, OutRage! – 0207 403 1790

Protest coordinator: Marco Tranchino - marco.tranchino@gmail.com - 07806647903

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Friday, February 12, 2010

Rev Angus MacLeay and Rev Mark Oden, Friday Fuckwits


Apparently wives should submit to their husbands and shut the fuck up :

In a leaflet issued to parishoners, the Rev Angus MacLeay used passages in the Bible to justify women playing a submissive role in local church life. He urged women to “submit to their husbands in everything”.

Mr MacLeay, a member of the General Synod, is opposed to the appointment of women bishops. He has campaigned vociferously for Reform, an Evangelical group that seeks to reform the Church of England “according to the Holy Scriptures”.
The leaflet he issued It says at one point: “Wives are to submit to their husbands in everything in recognition of the fact that husbands are head of the family as Christ is head of the church.

“This is the way God has ordered their relationships with each other and Christian marriage cannot function well without it."
In a section called `More difficult passages to consider', it continues:
"It would seem that women should remain silent....if their questions could legitimately be answered by their husbands at home."

In a sermon days later, his curate, the Rev Mark Oden, a married father-of-three, built on the argument, sparking further controversy.

He told his congregation at St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks, Kent, that the behaviour of modern women was to blame for Britain’s high divorce rate.

He said: “We know marriage is not working. We only need to look at figures – one in four children have divorced parents.
“Wives, submit to your own husbands.”


Quite a few women were not so willing to 'submit' to such nonsense, saying they won't return to the church and dozens of them cancelling their direct debit to St Nicholas's.

Oh dear, they really don't know their place do they.

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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Support Paul Holmes 4 UNISON General Secretay

I'm supporting Paul Holmes for UNISON General Secretary as is UNISON United Left and John McDonnell MP. The campaign is gathering pace now with nominations coming in (Nomination period ends on the 1st April) so any stroppyblog readers that are also UNISON members please pass on his nomination request to your Branch Secretary and Branch Committee.

More info including Paul's request for nomination and UUL statement of support over on Union Futures

Paul also has a campaign blog and of course a facebook group.

Heres a video with John McDonnell MP and Paul Holmes on why John's supporting Paul.
video

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Support protests in Iran - demo today

Via Peter Tatchell:

Support the heroic Iranian democracy activists who are protesting in Tehran today

Mass vigil tonight, Thursday 11 February, 6-8pm,

Iranian Embassy,
16 Prince's Gate,
London
SW7 1PT.

More details here: http://iransolidarity.blogspot.com/ and here:
http://iransolidarity.org.uk/

"I stand in solidarity with the courageous Iranian democracy, social justice and human rights activists: the defiant women, the jailed trade unionists, the beaten and murdered students, the victimised lesbians and gays, the persecuted Baha'is and Sunni Muslims, and Iran's oppressed ethnic minorities, such as the Arabs, Kurds, Baluchs and Azeris. Their struggle is our struggle, because human rights are universal."

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

UNISON Leadership battle!


Can someone tell me what is going on with UNISON General Secretary leadership and who is supporting who? I'm confused.

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Albert Booth: tributes


Click here for a report on Albert's death from the local newspaper for the area in which he was an MP.

Guardian obituary here.

The Mirror tells of Albert being repeatedly sacked for unionising his workplace here.

Tam Dalyell calls Albert the most principled politician he knew, in the Independent, here.

The Daily Telegraph evidently doesn't like him much, but then you wouldn't want it to, would you? It also doesn't bother much with accuracy when it comes to certain facts.

Click here for an Early Day Motion mourning Albert's death. Thanks to John McDonnell and Mary Partington for this.

There will be a service of thanksgiving for Albert's life, at which former Labour Party General Secretary Jim Mortimer will deliver a eulogy on behalf of the labour and trade union movement, and to which all Albert's many friends and comrades are welcome:
Monday 15 February, 11am
Beckenham Methodist Church
Bromley Road
Beckenham
(a short walk from Beckenham Junction station)

The photo was taken at my book launch last year, and shows Albert with my dad David and the vicar from George Lansbury's church.

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Stephen Fry on the Catholic Church




Via Neil on Facebook.

This was from a debate last year.

The clip is about 20 mins long, by half way through Fry gets into his stride on sex, abuse and HIV/Aids.

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Monday, February 08, 2010

"Women against Fundamentalism" are a nutty group ...apparently

According to Islamaphobia Watch.

Yeah, listen to the male community leaders instead boys, rather than women who have fought in their respective religious communities for the rights of women. A group who campaigned alongside Southall Black Sisters , stood up to men who shouted them down when they dared speak out against censorship, who screamed at them on demos saying they should be at home when they dared speak out about the Fatwa on Rushdie.

Shame IW had to stoop to the level of insults such as cranks and nutty, used by men to dismiss women who are a bit uppity . Hey boys, why not go the whole misogynistic hog and ask if she has PMT.
Still I'm sure that has put Gita and the girls in their place, hope they sit down and shut up , else they will be called Islamaphobic. That should silence debate as usual.

The left really has lost the plot. I would rather stand with 'nutty' women than religious men and their apologists anyday.

Secular women, pah , nutty the lot of them.

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Sunday, February 07, 2010

Amnesty, reinstate Gita Sahgal






Official site to support Gita , Human Rights for all. Please go over there to add support, discuss etc, rather than here.

Below is a statement by Gita (pictured on the left at last years 20th anniversary of WAF) :


Amnesty International and Cageprisoners


Statement by Gita Sahgal




7 February 2010



This morning the Sunday Times published an article about Amnesty International’s association with groups that support the Taliban and promote Islamic Right ideas. In that article, I was quoted as raising concerns about Amnesty’s very high profile associations with Guantanamo-detainee Moazzam Begg. I felt that Amnesty International was risking its reputation by associating itself with Begg, who heads an organization, Cageprisoners, that actively promotes Islamic Right ideas and individuals.



Within a few hours of the article being published, Amnesty had suspended me from my job.



A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when a great organisation must ask: if it lies to itself, can it demand the truth of others? For in defending the torture standard, one of the strongest and most embedded in international human rights law, Amnesty International has sanitized the history and politics of the ex-Guantanamo detainee, Moazzam Begg and completely failed to recognize the nature of his organisation Cageprisoners.



The tragedy here is that the necessary defence of the torture standard has been inexcusably allied to the political legitimization of individuals and organisations belonging to the Islamic Right.



I have always opposed the illegal detention and torture of Muslim men at Guantanamo Bay and during the so-called War on Terror. I have been horrified and appalled by the treatment of people like Moazzam Begg and I have personally told him so. I have vocally opposed attempts by governments to justify ‘torture lite’.



The issue is not about Moazzam Begg’s freedom of opinion, nor about his right to propound his views: he already exercises these rights fully as he should. The issue is a fundamental one about the importance of the human rights movement maintaining an objective distance from groups and ideas that are committed to systematic discrimination and fundamentally undermine the universality of human rights. I have raised this issue because of my firm belief in human rights for all.



I sent two memos to my management asking a series of questions about what considerations were given to the nature of the relationship with Moazzam Begg and his organisation, Cageprisoners. I have received no answer to my questions. There has been a history of warnings within Amnesty that it is inadvisable to partner with Begg. Amnesty has created the impression that Begg is not only a victim of human rights violations but a defender of human rights. Many of my highly respected colleagues, each well-regarded in their area of expertise has said so. Each has been set aside.



As a result of my speaking to the Sunday Times, Amnesty International has announced that it has launched an internal inquiry. This is the moment to press for public answers, and to demonstrate that there is already a public demand including from Amnesty International members, to restore the integrity of the organisation and remind it of its fundamental principles.



I have been a human rights campaigner for over three decades, defending the rights of women and ethnic minorities, defending religious freedom and the rights of victims of torture, and campaigning against illegal detention and state repression. I have raised the issue of the association of Amnesty International with groups such as Begg’s consistently within the organisation. I have now been suspended for trying to do my job and staying faithful to Amnesty’s mission to protect and defend human rights universally and impartially.


Link to The Times article .

Link to the statement by Amnesty .


To be fair to all parties in this,and to allow a proper debate, below is Moazzam Begg's response to the Sunday Times article, a letter he has written :



The Sunday Times







Dear Mr. Kerbaj,



Your Article: ‘Amnesty International is ‘damaged’ by Taliban link’



I was shocked and extremely disappointed to see your article in today's Sunday Times make no reference at all to the questions you so ardently sought to have answered (as mentioned below) and, that I explained to you in some detail in our telephone conversation yesterday.

Your headline makes a serious accusation: that it proves to expose a tangible link between Amnesty and the Taliban. Can I ask exactly who in the Taliban you are referring to that is either linked to Amnesty or me?



It seems very odd that your article, which is entirely about Amnesty's relationships with me, carries very little in the way of responses from me which you so clearly went out of your way to seek. Why is that?



When asked about the nature of my relationship with Amnesty you make no mention of my response: that I work very closely with them and that it stretches back to the time that Amnesty worked with my father when I was in Guantanamo.



I told you clearly that if you wanted to know my (and Cageprisoners') views about Awlaki to refer to the article that is on our website: http://www.cageprisoners.com/articles.php?id=30886 in which you could have quoted, had you wished, the following:



"Cageprisoners never has and never will support the ideology of killing innocent civilians, whether by suicide bombers or B52s, whether that’s authorised by Awlaki or by Obama. Neither will we be forced into determining a person’s guilt outside a recognised court of law." This article also deals with any concerns about the recent Christmas day plot - something you asked us about.



When asked specifically about the Taliban I told you my view: that I have advocated for engagement and dialogue with the Taliban well before our own government took the official position of doing the same - only last week - although, I did not say, like the government, we should be giving them lots of money in order to do so.



I also clearly told you, though you deliberately chose to ignore, that I had actually witnessed what I believe were human rights abuses under the Taliban and have detailed them in my book, from which you conveniently and selectively quote. I added that the US administration had perpetrated severe human rights abuses against me for years but that didn’t mean I opposed dialogue with them. I even told you that Cageprisoners and I have initiated pioneering steps in that regard by organising tours all around the UK with former US guards from Guantanamo and men who were once imprisoned there. Cagreprisoners is the only organisation to have done so. (One of these soldiers, upon in response to your article sent this message to me: They are attacking you and your causes...don’t forget you have real support by some of us ex-Soldiers who have seen the light... I expect he too will be accused by your likes of being brainwashed by me). Instead, you simply say, without qualification, 'He defended his support for the Taliban....’



Had you - and Ms Sahgal no doubt - done your homework properly you'd have discovered also that I was involved in the building of, setting up and running of a school for girls in Kabul during the time of the Taliban, but of course, that wouldn't have sat well with the agenda and nature of your heavily biased and poorly researched article.



In relation to MS. Sahgal, I told you - and you were fully aware - that I appeared on a BBC Radio 4 show, Hecklers, alongside her, Tariq Ramadan, Lord Nazir Ahmed, Tahmina Saleem (ISB) and Daud Abdullah (MCB). I told you that her analysis of the situation on this programme was so poor and skewed that she referred to all of us as 'partners of the government in the war against terror' until I reminded I was sitting on the panel.



I told you too that I have never since spoken to Ms. Sahgal and that if she had any concerns about my work she has never put them to me and that I found it most odd that she found it more appropriate to discuss this in the media first. Again, had you done your research properly you'd have made some reference to our first meeting on Radio 4 where I iterated that the way to solve conflicts can be found in the Northern Ireland model (engaging with 'terrorists). I have engaged in several such initiatives, some of them hosted by Amnesty, asking people to look at this episode as a place to find solutions. Bizarrely, Ms. Sahgal, through her argument, seemed to reject this view. Whilst it gives me no personal pleasure to hear of the suspension of Ms. Sahgal for holding her view the newspapers were not the right place to air them without first putting them to Cageprisoners or me.



You had also interviewed my colleague, Asim Qureshi, but again failed to mention anything thing he said to you in relation to the work of Cageprisoners and our relationship with Amnesty International.



To conclude, I believe your article, is written in a style clearly designed, intentionally or by negligence, to damage our relationship with human rights organisations and discredit the work we do in advocating for the rights of those who have suffered terrible human rights abuses. As such, I have referred your article to your editor and the Press Complaints Commission as a formal and major complaint and, to my lawyers to pursue legal action.



Moazzam Begg



Director

Cageprisoners Ltd

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Albert Booth RIP

My uncle, the former Labour MP Albert Booth, died from cancer in the early hours of this morning, peacefully in his sleep, at the age of 81.

He lived and died a socialist and trade unionist. Old Labour. And a really nice bloke.

One of his finest hours was the introduction of legal rights for health and safety representatives, a guide to which I have posted here.

I might post some photos or more thoughts later, but I'm a bit too sad right now.

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Friday, February 05, 2010

UPDATE - ALBERTO DURANGO SACKED! MOBILISE FOR 12 FEBUARY DEMO

Dear Brother/Sister,

At a so-called disciplinary hearing Lancaster Cleaning Services have sacked UNITE shop-steward and leader of the Latin American Workers Association Alberto Durango. The company took over the contract for the Union Bank of Switzerland on Monday 1 February; they suspended him on the Tuesday and sacked him on Thursday 4 February. This premeditated act is part of their efforts to break the union at UBS.

Lancaster were hired by UBS to replace the company Mitie, despite this banking giant making profits of $14,billion they hired a notorious anti-union firm to ensure they pay even less to their cleaners. Ignoring the protection afforded by TUPE, workers were told they are to have their wages cut via a reduction in their hours! The workers lodged a grievance; in response they have sacked Alberto their shop-steward.

Alberto was called to a ‘disciplinary hearing’ to ‘discuss that we cannot continue to employ you’ – it was a kangaroo court. They refused to recognise him as a UNITE shop-steward. The reasons they gave were that he had worked for them before and he was sacked for ‘dishonesty’. Alberto previously worked for Lancaster for over a decade, only when he became a union activist did they target him. A series of allegations were thrown at Alberto, they orchestrated his arrest by the Home Office based on false claims. He was released without charge. Lancaster then sacked Alberto regardless claiming he never worked for them under his true identity. After his dismissal the company then admitted following a union appeal he had in fact worked for them in his true identity after all!

Lancaster have ignored the ongoing Tribunal case against his previous dismissal, they have ignored his rights under TUPE and are openly blacklisting union activists. The Union Bank of Switzerland and Lancaster are partners in crime. Many activists of the labour movement and organisations have responded to the appeal for solidarity. Let’s step up the mobilisation for the demonstration on 12 February, we are now protesting at the main UBS site where Alberto was sacked. Make this a mass protest to start turning the tide on the union busters.

Chris Ford
Branch Organiser

MASS DEMONSTRATION

Reinstate Alberto – Hands off Our Union
Friday 12 February 1:00 PM,
Outside UBS Capital, 100 Liverpool Street, London EC2M 2RH

Organisations:Latin American Workers Association; The Commune; La Comuna; Colombia Solidarity Campaign; Permanent Revolution; National Shop Stewards’ Network; Labour Representation Committee, Brent Trades Union Council, Rifondazione Comunista, Workers’ Liberty, International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq

Individuals: John McDonnell MP; Jeremy Dear, NUJ General Secretary, Steve Hedley RMT (LUL) Regional Organiser; Professor Gregor Gall, Research Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Hertfordshire; Pete Firmin, LRC Co-National Secretary; George Binette, Camden UNISON Branch Secretary (pc); Derek Wall, General Election Candidate for Windsor/former Green Party principal Speaker, Jerry Hicks, UNITE General Secretary Candidate, Vaughan Thomas, RMT (LUL) Regional President,

Please add your name and organisation to the sponsors: latin_americanworkers@hotmail.com

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