Friday, April 30, 2010

Interesting story in Hayes and Harlington

Seems Dave has done a bit of digging on John McD's opponent, Scott Seaman Digby .

Check it out here on the Mirror website .


Tactical voting ?

Below is a post written by Peter Tatchell for his website , also on facebook.

I have cross posted it here to kickstart a debate about PR, hung parliaments and tactical voting .

Another post you might want to check out on PR is by Dave , over here.

Lib Dems and Greens: Vote tactically

Peter Tatchell of the Green Party sets out the case for tactical voting by Lib Dems and Greens, to advance democracy and electoral reform

Progressive voters who do not normally support the Liberal Democrats have to admit that the sudden surge in their support has changed the possible election outcome. It is breaking the two-party duopoly that has strangled British politics since 1945 and lumbered us with parliaments that do not represent the full spectrum of voter opinion and with governments that are supported by only a minority of the public.

This election is our best chance in 100 years to get a government that will legislate for a fair voting system that will lead to the election of a representative parliament and a government with majority public support.

This change won’t happen if Labour or the Tories win. To secure change, we need a different result from past elections – a balanced parliament with more MPs committed to democracy and electoral reform.

This momentous, historic electoral opportunity for change has led me to qualify my call for people to vote Green. For the sake of the bigger prize of real democracy and fair votes, I have urged people to vote tactically for the Liberal Democrats in seats where the Greens are not standing, and in some other selected seats.

I urge the Lib Dems to show equal generosity and reciprocity by supporting the Greens in our key seats, such as Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South, Lewisham Deptford, Cambridge, Oxford East and elsewhere.

The Lib Dems have been very happy to accept Green support but they have not yet shown similar support for the Greens. This reciprocity is necessary in order to defeat the main opponents of democratic reform, Labour and the Conservatives.

I reiterate my appeal now:

We have got to end the corrupt voting system, whereby successive Tory and Labour governments have won a majority of seats based on a minority of votes.

In some constituencies, people should consider a tactical vote for the Lib Dems. In other seats, the Lib Dems should vote tactically for the Greens. This way, both parties benefit, as do all people who want progressive, democratic change.

Where are the Lib Dems who are calling for green and gold electoral cooperation in order to advance a democratic and fair election result? I don’t see any.

I am disappointed by the way some Liberal Democrats have sought to undermine the Greens in our target seats by misrepresenting and exploiting my appeal for mutual solidarity. This is cynical, manipulative politics. It is short-sighted, sectarian and selfish.

This election could be a real change-maker, or at least open up the possibility of future change. All progressive change-makers – including the Greens and the Lib Dems – should be working together to ensure that the old two-party ‘dictatorship’ is banished for good.

Where does this leave me and the Greens?

I still support the Green Party. I believe it has the best policies for a fair, green and compassionate society - and world. But like most Greens, I put values and ideals before narrow party interest. The lack of a democratic and fair voting system is the single most important issue on 6 May. If we don't have a representative parliament and a government with majority support, we don't have democracy.

The Conservatives and Labour oppose a fair voting system. They reject the democratic principle that a government should have majority public support. They accept that parties with a minority of votes are entitled to win a majority of seats, and that small parties with sizable public support, like the Greens, should have no MPs at all.

The Lib Dems support electoral reform, which is good. But they have recently indicated that they might accept the Alternative Vote system, which is not true PR. AV favours larger parties (including the Lib Dems) and would perpetuate the present flaw whereby a party with a minority of first preference votes could end up with a majority of seats.

The Greens, in contrast, do not accept AV. We believe that each party’s proportion of MPs in parliament should correspond to the proportion of votes won by that party.

Nevertheless, in order to prise open the door to a fair voting system and a representative parliament, tactical voting for the Lib Dems may be justified in some constituencies. But not in constituencies where the Greens have a good local base and a strong showing – such as Brighton Pavilion, Norwich South, Lewisham Deptford, Cambridge, Oxford East and so on.

In particular, in seats where the Greens have strong and growing support, I urge everyone to vote for the Green candidate.

I urge the Lib Dems to behave honourably and to not misrepresent what I have said; to not exploit my generosity towards them in order to damage the Greens in our target constituencies.

To the Greens who have doubts about what I am advocating, I say this:

My support for tactical voting takes the long view. The Lib Dems are our best (albeit flawed) hope for some form of electoral reform and, as a result, to secure more MPs from left-of-centre parties like the Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, the SNP and the Greens.

If the Tories or Labour win the election, there is no hope at all.

Although Nick Clegg has recently alluded to compromising with AV, I am quietly confident that he and others will eventually have to accede to a more democratic form of PR (most of the Lib Dem grassroots will demand it, as will the wider public).

The long-term success of progressive politics depends on PR. This election is our best chance in a century to get it.

As to the accusations of disloyalty to my own party:

I have suggested tactical voting for Lib Dems in some constituencies not in order to undermine the Greens but to help secure their future success. In politics, sometimes we have to sacrifice short-term gain for greater gain in the long run. This election is, I think, one such occasion.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

Who's Not Normal?

Conservative candidate Mr Philip Lardner has been suspended from the Tory Party for writing that gay people are "not normal". Mr Lardner vows to fight on as an independent in defence of his right to be a bigot in defiance of all this modern, tolerant, heathen, politically-correct nonsense.

Despite the Party suspending Lardner, this proves, if proof were needed, that the Tory Party is still a party that attracts homophobes. Just when David Cameron was hoping we had forgotted Chris Grayling's 'off-message' view that B&Bs (Bigots and Boneheads?) should be allowed to turn same-sex couples away.

I also sniff a little double standard. Mr Lardner is a Scottish Tory. That, surely is "not normal".

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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Workers memorial day: remember the dead, fight for the living

Via Unison :

Each year on 28 April, IWMD is marked around the world to Remember the dead, Fight for the living. We remember those killed, made ill, or injured by their own or someone else’s work. Their pain and suffering and that of their families deserves not to be forgotten. We also renew our commitment to, and demand once more, safe and healthy work for all.

Far too many workers and their families suffer each and every year. The figures from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and which make the headlines, never tell the full story.

So what is the full story? It is estimated that work incidents cause up to 1,600 deaths each year; including deaths to members of the public, work-related suicide, and road traffic accidents whilst driving for work. On top of this, it is estimated that there are up to 50,000 deaths from work-related illnesses; including cancers, respiratory illnesses, and heart disease. For more detail, see The Whole Story, in the Safety and Health Practitioner.

According to the International Labour Organisation :

Each year, more than two million women and men die as a result of work-related accidents and diseases
Workers suffer approximately 270 million occupational accidents each year, and fall victim to some 160 million incidents of work-related illnesses
Hazardous substances kill 440,000 workers annually – asbestos claims 100,000 lives
One worker dies every 15 seconds worldwide. 6,000 workers die every day. More people die whilst at work than those fighting wars.

Behind those figures are real people whose lives,and those of their loved ones, have been lost , damaged or destroyed :

Juliet Young, a nurse who needlessly died following infection from HIV. Her employer did not have the disposable devices which would have prevented the injury that led to her infection.

Social care worker, Philip Ellison, 48, stabbed to death during a home visit. He leaves behind a wife and three children.

The family of Terence Dugdale was awarded £240,000 following the death of the father of six from mesothelioma. This was caused by his exposure to asbestos at work many years earlier.

Anthony Briars, 36, father-of-two was compensated after being blinded and badly burnt following electrocution by faulty work equipment. He now suffers from post traumatic stress disorder. Mr Amankwa, a health worker awarded £11,000 after seriously injuring his wrist on a badly maintained window. He was off work for four months. With his nerves affected, he now faces physiotherapy and more surgery.

Jacqueline Crowe, 46, a nurse who damaged her back trying to move a faulty bed was awarded £45,000. She was forced to leave her job after the accident. She now suffers depression and has to take strong painkillers daily.

For other case histories, see part 11 of the special investigation by Hazards magazine; A Deadly Business.

Details of events here ,including a minutes silence at noon.

This seems a world where lives are cheap, not one where health and safety has gone mad .

Hat tip,and credit for the pinched pic, John.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Theme tune for this blog

Phil has tagged me for this meme, basically if this blog had a theme tune what would it be.

Well I'm off to ponder , but welcome your views as well of course those of my fellow Stroppybloggers .


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Cameron , wants to con the "common people" ...

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Friday, April 23, 2010

The Autistic Me: One Year On

Last night I watched The Autistic Me: One Year On, one of a recent rash of programmes about the autistic spectrum, most of which have been pretty much OK.

It updated viewers on the fortunes of Alex, Tom and Olly, three young autistic men. Alex (pictured) is in his early 20s, has Asperger sydrome, works part-time and wants a girlfriend. He found one through internet correspondence last year, and he and Kirsty - also autistic - have developed a successful, if unconventional, long-term relationship. What is quite touching is that their absence of social inhibitions has allowed them to be authentically romantic with each other. Social protocol and embarrassment is evidently not all it is cracked up to be.

A year ago, Tom was perhaps the least likeable of the three, a surly teenager who had to stay in a residential unit when his family could no longer cope. And at the start of the update programme, he was still surly, and was distressed by his parents' recent decision to up sticks and move 300 miles to Cornwall. It is hard enough making friends when you are autistic, but having to start all over again at the age of 16 was truly daunting. However, Tom managed it, flourished through a college course in music, and is now in a band with peers who accept him for who he is.

Olly is a warm, funny and clearly very competent high-functioning autistic (and diabetic) twenty-something. Having made a huge success of a temporary job at the British Library last year, he has struggled to find employment. Olly's update was less life-affirming than the other two, and shows the appalling discrimination that autistic people face from employers. Helped by some scheme to get work, Olly did a placement with Asda, excelled at the work, and was apparently promised a job ... only for Asda to keep him waiting without any contact for months on end and then offer him only 10 hours per week. He told them to poke it.

So there you go: With the support of friends, family and education, young autistic adults can contribute massively to society and have rewarding lives. But then bosses poke in and wreck it. And government schemes that claim to help disabled people into work seem instead to pander to thsoe bosses, supplying them with free workers for a period while demanding nothing meaningful in return.

Programmes like this give me a glimpse of my son Joe's potential future. Hopes and fears.

And I couldn't help but notice the guys' mothers too! Tom's appeared to have little faith in him, and was surprised when he achieved so much with music and friends. Alex's was devoted and loving, but seemed a little clingy, saying that she didn't want him to leave home and be independent. And Olly's was supportive and content that he lives in supported independent housing nearby, so is close but independent. And I don't mean any of those comments as judgemental as they probably come across, because we all do our best and none of us are perfect parents.

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Busy today

No blogging as i'm off to the Royal Courts of Justice to support Dave .Talk amongst yourselves ...


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

David Camerwrong presents a new Vision for Britain

Hat tip Sukhwant on Facebook.

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After the Election . . . Join the Resistance!


Saturday 15th May 2010
10:30am to 3:30pm
ULU, Malet Street, London

Whatever the outcome, the forthcoming General Election will be a watershed for the labour movement. With all the major parties threatening massive cuts in public spending, there is clearly a need for the Left to discuss how it can cooperate on this and many other issues.

There will be plenary sessions led by John McDonnell MP and Mark Serwotka, PCS General Secretary, as well as workshops to address the issues facing the Left in the struggles ahead.

Co-sponsored by the LRC, CLPD, Convention of the Left, CWU, Labour Briefing, NUJ, Save the Labour Party, and others

Admission Free (donations will be welcomed though!). No need to register. Please put this date in your diary now!


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Poofs, perverts and promiscous women , to blame for more or less everything

It seems that the reason religious people get all wound up about women who are no better than they ought to be ,or LGBT people having sex is that they are really concerned at the havoc all this will wreck.

It really is for our own good , rather than some hypocritical do as I say not as I do , especially if you are a right wing US god botherer.

Did you realise gay people cause floods ? They do , really :

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence.


"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

But people 'free to act as they want,' as in having sex outside of marriage with either gender for fun, well it also causes earthquakes and hurricanes .

But there is an easy solution :

An outspoken member of Israel's parliament has said recent earthquakes that have hit the country are a consequence of gay rights laws.

Shlomo Benizri, who is a member of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was speaking in a Knesset (parliament) debate on earthquake preparedness.

After reading passages from the Old Testament, he said that in his view one cause of earthquakes is that "the Knesset gives legitimacy to sodomy.

"A cost-effective way of averting earthquake damage would be to stop passing legislation on how to encourage homosexual activity in the State of Israel, which anyways causes earthquakes."

And :

In November 2005 a councillor for the Democratic Unionist Party in Northern Ireland tried to blame the gay community for Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.

Maurice Mills said it was a judgement from God:

"The media failed to report that the hurricane occurred just two days prior to the annual homosexual event called the Southern Decadence Festival, which the previous year had attracted an estimated 125,000 people."

Of course if all this were in any way logical , then wouldn't god just zap the pervs and leave the good pure people alone?

Anyway, why am I rehashing old posts , apart perhaps for a bit of bloggers block ?

Well because now women are to blame for earthquakes. Well not just any women, but baaaad ones, floozies and strumpets !

Again, the solution to natural disasters and climate change is're thinking don't throw away plastic bags aren't you ! Nope, its women cover up :

A SENIOR Iranian cleric says women who wear revealing clothing and behave promiscuously are to blame for earthquakes.
Iran is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries, and the cleric's unusual explanation for why the earth shakes follows a prediction by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that a quake is certain to hit Tehran and that many of its 12 million inhabitants should relocate.

"Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes," Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi was quoted as saying by Iranian media


"What can we do to avoid being buried under the rubble?'' Sedighi asked during a prayer sermon on Friday.

"There is no other solution but to take refuge in religion and to adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes."

Hmmm, following this logic, are abusive priests and nuns to blame for the Icelandic volcano? Yep, blame them for your messed up holidays .


Sunday, April 18, 2010

What about where there is no socialist candidate?

"The likelihood is that a Tory government will make earlier and deeper cuts in public spending than a New Labour one. A Labour government may also be more vulnerable to trade union pressure not to outlaw industrial action in 'essential' services."

I agree with this statement. It is enough to warrant voting Labour where there is no credible socialist protest candidate, despite New Labour's appalling anti-working-class record in office.

Who made this statement? The Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, as part of its founding statement of policy.

I would vote for a TUSC candidate if there were one in my constituency (unless there were an exceptional reason not to vote for that particular candidate), and I would hope that TUSC supporters would, by the logic of TUSC's own statement above, vote Labour in constituencies where neither they nor another socialist candidate is standing.

But will they? The SWP says it will, though it whispers rather than shouts the fact. One TUSC candidate has put his name to the Socialist Campaign to Stop the Tories and Fascists, which advocates a Labour vote. But the Socialist Party will not, apparently. I have even heard of their members saying they would advise people not to vote in Barking, where Nick Griffin in standing, although I have not seen that as the official Party line.

What the SP does say is "There is no fundamental difference between the attacks that a Tory government will inflict on us and the attacks a New Labour government will make", which seems to contradict the TUSC statement at the start of this post.

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Thursday, April 15, 2010

LibDems Leaflet

A Liberal Democrat leaflet dropped through my door the other day, its headline LABOUR - SOFT ON CRIME. Evidently, these supreme opportunists are as capable of pitching to the right of Labour as to its left. Labour might usefully learn that no matter how far it shifts to the right in search of some mythical middle ground popularity, it will still get knocked for not being quite right wing enough. You'd have thought that the immigration issue would have already taught them that.

(By the way, I am not suggesting that concern about crime is necessarily right wing. It is not, and the left would do well to pay more attention to an issue that so many working-class people are affected by and concerned about. It is addressing the issue in terms of being "tough" or "soft" on crime that is right wing, as it implies a repressive, disciplinarian approach to the problem.)

Nick Clegg told us yesterday that he wants to be Prime Minister. Problem is, matey, that no-one else does. The last Liberal Prime Minister was David Lloyd George, the last Liberal Prime Minister heading a Liberal Government Herbert Asquith. That was a century ago. The Liberals faded as a serious political force because the Labour Party was born and politics became polarised around exactly the thing it should be polarised around - class.

New Labour's retreat from class (or from the working class, at least!) may yet bring about the rehabiliation of the Liberals as well as the return of the Tories. That deserves to be another nail in the coffin of the New Labour project.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Sarah Brown and the politics of pedicures

For those stupid and shallow enough to base where they place their X in this election based on what Sam Cam or Sarah Brown wears or does, the Mail helpfully is running daily updates. This may very well be the clincher that sees Cameron walk through the doors of no 10:

The wife of Labour leader Gordon Brown should have been putting her best foot forward when she visited a temple in north-west London today.
Instead she unveiled a rather unsightly problem on her left foot - her little toe and fourth toe crossed over one another.

She has been placed in direct competition with David Cameron's wife Samantha, and this will do little to boost her credential's against 'SamCam'.
In fact, it's the kind of sight that will immediately put the Prime Minister's wife into second place behind the Tory leader's wife.

She would have been well aware that her toes were in such a frightful condition, however, and most likely decided against a her detriment.

Oh and Sarah, you really should have got knocked up as well a few months before the election. Very remiss not to do your duty there .


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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Grand National - sport or big profits on the backs of the death of horses?

This is reposted from last year :

Its the race when those who never normally go near a bookies have a flutter. Well its a bit of fun isn't it? Well no :

The 2009 Grand National meeting claimed its fifth victim today (April 4) when Hear The Echo collapsed and died at the end of Saturday’s big race. Not since 1997 – when six horses perished – have more horses been killed at the three-day Aintree meeting.

Just 17 of the 40 Thoroughbreds entered into the four-and-a-half mile Grand National finished the race. Hear The Echo collapsed in the run-in and, despite oxygen being administered, he died. Butler’s Cabin also collapsed and required oxygen. At several other races he has had to be revived in this way.

Hear The Echo was just 8-years-old and was having his first race in Britain. His other 22 events were in Ireland.

The three-day meeting got off to a predictably grim start on Thursday, with two deaths and at least two near misses. One of the casualties was the highly-rated Exotic Dancer. The other was Mel In Blue – a horse with a track record at the other end of the ratings scale. Exotic Dancer finished second in his race but, soon after, suffered a fatal heart attack. Mel In Blue was riding in the Foxhunters’ Chase, run over the Grand National course, when he broke his neck after falling at the supposedly much safer Becher’s Brook,
Two more horses were killed the following day (Friday). Moscow Catch died after a heavy fall that appeared to break his neck, and Lilla Sophia, who was four-years-old and had raced only three times before, was destroyed after breaking a leg.

Says Animal Aid Director, Andrew Tyler:

‘Racing industry figures repeatedly claim that Aintree is not the threat to horses' lives that it was even in recent years, and yet deaths at the meeting continue to be routine. Last year, three perished, while the carnage this year exceeds anything seen at Aintree since 1997. The Grand National is appallingly cruel and deliberately so. It degrades all those responsible for staging and promoting it. The fatalities that so routinely occur are not accidents, they are entirely predictable, even though the racing industry tries to look the other way and plead innocence.’

The deaths of three horses at Britain's Grand National race meeting within 35 minutes has seen the BBC come under fire from an animal welfare group over its coverage.

Animal Aid accused the broadcaster of "continuing its grotesque cover-up of horse deaths at the Grand National meeting".

The charity was commenting as it prepared to protest outside Aintree in the lead-up to this weekend's Grand National Steeplechase.

On Friday, the second day of the three-day meeting, three horses perished.

Two of the victims broke their necks or backs almost simultaneously at Valentine's Brook on the Grand National course, while pitted against 27 other horses in the Topham Chase.

They were eight-year-old Prudent Honour and seven-year-old Plaisir D'Estraval. Neither had run over the Grand National fences before, the group said.

The third casualty was Schindlers Hunt, who was reported to have broken a front leg during the John Smith Melling Chase, just 35 minutes earlier.

The first day of the meeting also produced a casualty. A six-year-old mare, Pagan Starprincess, fell at the first obstacle in the 22-runner Silver Cross Handicap Hurdle. She is believed to have suffered fatal spinal injuries.

Animal Aid said it feared that Saturday's seven races, including the Grand National Steeplechase, would see the current tally of four deaths for the 2010 meeting increase further.

Last year, five horses were killed at the three-day event.

Earlier this week, Animal Aid director Andrew Tyler wrote to BBC head of sport Barbara Slater demanding that deaths at Aintree are not in future "glossed over" by its television team.

He accused the BBC of "fashioning a dishonest, sanitised picture of the Aintree meeting to maximise its earning potential".


Thursday, April 08, 2010

New research: Children at risk of exclusion from school could have autistic behavioural traits

New research appears to have confirmed what many of us have long suspected: that many kids facing exclusion from school may have undiagnosed autism.

Here's the press release from Media Newswire:

Children at risk of exclusion from school could have autistic behavioural traits, according to new research.

The study, published in the April issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry, suggests that up to a third of children who are at risk of being excluded from school for disruptive behaviour could have undiagnosed social communication problems of an autistic type.

Researchers from the UCL Institute of Child Health (ICH) recruited 26 persistently disruptive children aged 6-13 years old from primary schools in the London borough of Hackney. 16 of the children had been excluded from school at least once before, and 10 were considered by their teachers to be at high risk of exclusion. The researchers interviewed the children’s parents, and the children were given tests of IQ, attention, social cognition and theory of mind.

The researchers found that 9 of the 26 disruptive children (35 per cent) met clinical criteria for an autism-spectrum disorder. However, their social communications had not been detected by a professional.

Lead researcher Professor David Skuse,head of behavioural and brain sciences at the ICH and manager of the UK’s National Centre for High Functioning Autism at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Trust (GOSH), said:

“Our research shows that many children who get into trouble at school are being labelled ‘disruptive’ or ‘aggressive’ by their teachers and peers, when in reality they are displaying behaviours that are consistent with traits we see in clinically diagnosed autism. The children involved in our study have been recommended for appropriate treatment and their educational needs should now be recognised and adjusted accordingly.

“Teachers should be supported to identify these children before they are unfairly excluded from school and they miss out on the education and learning opportunities they deserve.”

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Re-elect John McDonnell

As you all know by now the election has been called.

Although John has worked tirelessly in his constiituency, especially around the runway issue, his seat is by no means safe. Although campaigning against the extension at Heathrow, the fact that the Labour Govt is supporting it is not helping.

The Tories now seem to have made this a target seat. They are pouring money in, putting out flash material, have rented a shop and Cameron visited last week. This is unheard of in the area.

So given that , what can you do to help:

- Canvass and leaflet .This is happening everyday , teams going out at 10.30,2.00 and 6pm . All welcome, go to the constituency office in Pump Lane, Hayes Middx. UB3 3NB. Tel 0208 573 3535. The office is a short distance from Hayes Station, 20 minutes by rail from Paddington.
Don't live near enough ? Well there is telephone canvassing.

- Money. Please donate. Cheques made out to Hayes and Harlington Constituency Office, address above, addressed to his agent John Holmes.

Right, off you go !


Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Oh no, a re run of Kylie's arse and gorgeous George

Anyone remember the very heated Kylie's arse debate ?

Well the gorgeous one is again showing his appreciation of women in lingerie , this time their role in helping the success of big business:

In knick of time for M&S
Danni in M&S knicks and pyjamas as part of the new advertising campaign will surely help the store. Alongside the past adverts featuring Twiggy and Mylene and my favourite - Noemie Lenoir - the ad campaign of the high street warhorse has begun to get it back on its feet.A good thing too. Their food is ace, their underwear terrific value. But their ads are marvellous. Take a look here and on YouTube.

Coming soon, Galloway advertising M&S ? Press TV not paying enough, might soon need to supplement the loss of an MP's wage ?Still i'm sure his fan club can squirm around and find a good reason for such an inane blatant bit of promotion for a large capitalist corporation that sells Israeli goods (isn't he for a boycott?).

Hat tip Vicky on Face book.



No amount of cajolery, and no attempts at ethical or social seduction, can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred of the Tory party. So far as I am concerned, they are lower than vermin. - Aneurin Bevan

Oooh, but look, Dave with a puppy wuppy . Bite doggie, bite .


Election called , May 6th

Well that was a surprise .

Monday, April 05, 2010

Disabled Parking Badge? Naff Off

So you thought that a person with a disability would be entitled to a disabled parking badge (Blue Badge)? Wrong! They have to have the right kind of disability, apparently.

Said badge gives you a range of parking concessions, including exemption from parking and congestion charges, and the use of marked bays. People with severe mobility impairments will get the badge, but people with other disabilities which might make it hard or impossible for them to use public transport will not necessarily get it.

We applied for a Blue Badge for Joe. His Asperger syndrome makes it difficult for him to travel on public transport, especially because he has an aversion to loud noises, and because he gets very distressed when unexpected things happen, such as service disruptions (which, after all, happen quite often). His behaviour when distressed can be alarming, possibly even dangerous to himself and others.

Joe would really enjoy a trip to London Zoo, for example, but it is an arduous journey by public transport, and there is no parking nearby apart from a car park exclusively for Blue Badge holders.

But Hackney Council refused our application. Apparently, because Joe does not have a severe mobility impairment, he can not have the badge. 'Behavioural difficulties', the letter explained, do not qualify him. Why?! Are they irrelevant to a person's travel needs?! Er, no.

It seems to me that the Blue Badge scheme is far too narrow in its scope, and does not recognise the range of disabilities and their effect on people's lives and experience. The purpose of a Blue Badge, says the Department for Transport is to enable someone to park as near as possible to where they are going, as a Blue Badge gives them access to disabled parking bays next to the entrance of, for example, the supermarket or railway station you were using. Hence, it is given to people who would struggle to physically get from the further end of the car park to the supermarket door. Fair enough: it is definitely needed in these circumstances.

But what about people like Joe? People who do not have a physcial impairment, but who nonetheless have great difficulties using public transport.

Since the Blue Badge was introduced, parking charges have risen and congestion charges been introduced, which means that for people whose disabilities make it hard for them to use public transport, travelling by car to certain venues has become prohibitively expensive. Without the Badge, Joe's life experiences are unnecessarily limited; with it, they will be enhanced. That alone should be reason enough for people with conditions such as his to have the badge.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Cross post - response to Laurie Penny on sex work - "The Liberal in the middle."

In the interests of what I hope is a good debate on this issue, one which sadly causes major difficulties within feminism, I am cross posting this from Sophie Buckland. It is a response to an earlier post by Laurie Penny, that was cross posted here.

A response to Laurie Penny on sex work.

There is a phenomenon, observable across feminist debate, that I like to call playing liberal in the middle. Where two ideologies clash there’s always someone who claims the middle ground for their own, however inconsistent and fractured it may be. Take pornography for example – we don’t want to be with those for state bans and prison sentences, that’s illiberal and censorious. But equally, those people arguing for freedom of speech, well, what about violence against women? So here’s a nice fudge – campaign for the state to legislate that lads’ mags must be on the top shelf. Decry both sides for fighting in the process, because they could always take a simple central position – after all, you did – and bingo. Liberal in the middle.

This is exactly what’s going on in Laurie Penny’s article on sex work and feminism. From the very start, the difference in political position over sex work is characterised as ‘an ugly obstructive shibboleth’ – the equivalent of ‘stop fighting or I’ll bang your heads together, now kiss and make up’. Laurie is being our mother, attempting to adjudicate in what she sees as ‘squabbling’, but what is in fact a very real and important political debate over very revealing ideological differences. This serves to both depoliticise feminism (aren’t they silly, don’t they fight, isn’t it unimportant) and to position Laurie’s concluding fudge as the sensible, level-headed answer. The ‘fabric of feminist unity’ is under threat from both sides! Quick, take the middle ground!

What these ‘sides’ are is unclear. Laurie mentions the IUSW, briefly, to criticise their appeal on Punternet for help lobbying against the Policing and Crime Bill (no mention of anti-sex work forces appealing to notorious Blairite benefit-cutter Harriet Harman to bolster their case for the Nordic model, presumably that’s ok). Apart from this, no sex worker organising is referred to at all – no English Collective of Prostitutes, no X:Talk, no allies in the shape of Feminist Fightback (hi Laurie!) for example. Our actions get a brief line, when the attacks on our contingent at Reclaim the Night are alluded to, but we are invisible. This allows a neat elision of pro-sex worker, pro-decriminalisation politics into concerns about protection (‘many pro-sex work feminists believe that the protection of sex workers should be the only consideration’ – really? Who?), effectively sucking out the radical labour-oriented politics of much of our ‘side’ and replacing it with top-down liberal hand-wringing.

As for the ‘other side’, the abolitionists, their position gets a glossing too. But it’s a positive sheen that’s applied. There’s talk of the ‘more regressive and punitive sanctions against soliciting’ applied by the Policing and Crime Bill, which apparently ‘practically no opposition was brooked against’ (see examples of such opposition here and here). No mention of the fact the very abolitionists lobbying intensively for Clause 14, the criminalisation of those who buy sex, utterly ignored the increase in legal sanctions against soliciting, the effective extension of criminalisation of sex workers. The article suggests the current laws are the ‘net result’ of feminist ‘wrangling’ (stop squabbling, again!), as if the existence of a political struggle within feminism is to blame. It’s not. The reality is one ‘side’ argued, with our limited resources, against the bill, and one ‘side’ chose to lobby it through whilst ignoring the downsides, because one clause suited their agenda.

This exposes a problem with the liberal in the middle feint. Attempting to reconcile two fundamentally different political positions and appear reasonable to both at the same time involves twisting and glossing all sorts of complicated ideological issues. So we get the claim that the turn to ‘focus police attention’ on clients is ‘welcome’; no mention of the fact the pro-decriminalisation side don’t welcome the Nordic model, and think this has very real negative consequences for sex workers on the streets. The side-taking here is clear, yet it’s presented as the feminist position. We get the claim that the ‘socio-economic analysis’ of sex work is ‘lacking’, yet a stubborn insistence on referring to sex workers solely as ‘vulnerable’ women (not working-class, or even economically disadvantaged). We get a discussion of ‘choice’ where society apparently sees all women’s sexual choices as ‘empowering act[s] of autonomous agency’ yet also the claim that ‘female sexual agency is still seen as abnormal’. The contradictions are products of trying to marry (and in the process ignore) underlying political differences on class, capitalism, agency and the state, and the result is a confusing fudge.

The choice/agency language bears further investigation here. The article states:

Nothing obscures this crucial approach so much as the dogmatic insistence, on both sides of the debate, on the primacy of a faux-feminist notion of ‘choice’.

The ‘sides’ presumably go something like this: abolitionist – women have no choice at all in the sex industry, they are all passive victims. Pro-decriminalisation – it’s all about free choice! But there’s another elision here, which again favours the abolitionist argument. I’ve never heard a serious, pro-decriminalisation, sex worker rights activist argue that all sex workers operate through entirely free choice, and thus the industry should be legal. No one says this, not even the most right-wing media – even the Sun and chums deploy the drug-addicted, homeless street prostitute imagery while they publish sexy articles on Brooke Magnanti. Laurie confuses individual sex workers saying ‘I made a choice’ (valid, of course) and decriminalisation activists arguing that entirely free choice applies to all.

Instead of ‘choice’, we tend to talk about ‘agency’, a concept made up of the complex interplay of choice within the limits of circumstance, that recognises elements of coercion (for example, if you’ve a ‘choice’ between being a cleaner and being a sex worker, you’ve still made a choice, but it’s limited by circumstances – education, economics, job markets – that may have a coercive effect). This allows for an understanding of multiple experiences of the sex industry, for women in different class positions for example, all of which are authentic, all of which must be considered in the process of creating a political response. The abolitionist argument has no such room for nuance. It relies on the assertion and reassertion of a single, totalising experience, that of women who suffer abuse and violence in the sex industry. The decriminalisation side can and does incorporate experiences that are positive, negative, ‘high-class’, street, violent, non-violent and every shade in between: we believe decriminalisation will bring benefits for all sex workers. The abolitionist side cannot incorporate a complex conception of agency or experience: the industry must be abolished, and anyone who mentions ‘choice’ is a puppet of the pimps. Once again though, this bad behaviour on the part of abolitionists (which has lead to, for example, refusing to be on platforms with/screaming in public at sex worker activists) is ignored in favour of the liberal fudge – it’s six of one and half a dozen of the other after all – and even spun around against pro sex worker activists. The ‘pro-prostitution lobby’ (who?!) is accused of ‘silencing the voices of women like Mott’ (a ‘former prostitute and abolitionist activist’) – no evidence is offered as to how this occurs, so presumably it’s just by our very existence.

If this reads like a defence of pro-sex worker, decriminalisation politics that’s because, frankly, it is: those are my politics, as a socialist feminist and the politics of the activists I’m proud to work alongside. I feel this article simplifies, distorts and in many cases outright ignores the reality of pro-sex worker activism to fit it neatly into a ‘brutal moral binary’ against abolitionism which is of the author’s own making. The real binaries here are about attitudes to capitalism, agency and class, and cannot be so easily straddled to form a liberal middle ground. But if you’re reading this as a abolitionist, I’d argue that you have just as much interest in opposing such an analysis as I do – as, in fact, any feminist with a political agenda does. While both our ‘sides’ can be ‘manipulated by patriarchal apologists’ as Laurie points outs (in reference to, of course, decriminalisation) either to push a moralist agenda or a free-market one, I’d argue it’s this attempt at grabbing the reasonable, centrist position that really hurts feminism. Feminist of all stripes, like any radicals, are often portrayed as extremists (though I’m happy to be so) and screeching, dogmatic harpies; what a gift to those who push this image, to have a feminist analysis which patronises both sides for being blinkered, and in the process denigrates the very idea of real political issues within the feminist movement.

There have always been huge tears in the ‘fabric of feminist unity’ – I wonder if anyone still considers Sylvia Pankhurst an outrageous sectarian splitter for refusing to bow to the WSPU’s nationalist, pro-war stance and forming her own, explicitly socialist, organisation? Perhaps Sojourner Truth ought to have kept her criticism of white feminist privilege to herself to preserve unity in the movement? I’m sure pretty much no one would argue either of these women, who found themselves at odds with other women’s organising, should ‘put aside ideological differences’. So why should we?

The overwhelming answer to this here seems to be that this divide just isn’t important enough. Of course, it won’t seem so from the simplified, basic treatment it receives here. But as feminists we have fought for our movement(s) to be considered political, as political as men’s, for so long, that we cannot simply lash together opposing opinions for the sake of some mythical unity. That way lies real silencing – when ideological points cannot be made lest some feminist, somewhere, disagrees – and a feminist movement that has no teeth, no ideas and no point.

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Friday, April 02, 2010

Court Bans RMT Strike - It's Nothing To Do With Justice

The court ruling injuncting RMT's strike of Network Rail signallers lays bare Britain's trade union legislation for what it is: a set of laws designed not to ensure justice but to stop workers fighting back against the employers' offensive.

Network Rail plans to slash 1,500 maintenance workers' jobs. Despite the fact that this will endanger rail travellers, chuck people on the dole and screw up the working lives of those who remain, there is no law that stops Network Rail doing this. It didn't have to ballot anyone, let alone provide its opponents with incredibly detailed information of exactly whom it balloted.

It is also attacking the working conditions of signallers, imposing anti-social rosters, increasing their safety responsibilities by stopping the use of track detonators, and taking away their rights to transfer and promotion. Again, no law to stop them; no need to ballot.

Network Rail's employees want to object to this. They have no say in how the company is run, their lobbying of politicians has fallen on deaf ears, and although they have leafleted the public and gained a lot of public support, the employer and the government ignores that too. There is only one effective weapon in their arsenal - their right to withdraw their labour.

Techncially, they have the legal right to strike. But in practice, this seems to be a bit like me having the 'right' to do an Army obstacle course - there are so many walls to climb over, nets to crawl under and bogs to wade through that with the best will in the world, I probably wouldn't manage it.

Trade union legislation requires unions to give employers advance notice of both its ballot and of the industrial action it plans to take, so that the employer can do as much as possible to minimise the effect of the action. That is quite bad enough. It is like Accrington Stanley playing Manchester United in the FA Cup and having to send ManU their team sheet and tactics a week in advance so that their top-flight opponents can have a massive advantage and a clear headstart towards winning.

But worse still, the union's notification of the ballot has to be so detailed that it is near-impossible for a union to meet, particularly if it organises workers in a variety of grades and work locations with a high turnover. It has to send a list - or matrix - stating the exact number of workers in every grade and every location involved in the industrial action ballot. On London Underground, for example, we have hundreds of work locations (nearly 300 stations, plus all the depots, admin buildings, etc), and dozens of grades, with people changing grade and/or location all the time.

And worse still, the employer does not even have to give the union the information it has that would help the union to compile that information! So Network Rail does not have to tell RMT that one of its signal boxes has burned down, and can then get a judge to declare a strike ballot illegal because RMT included that box in its ballot notification.

There are strong echoes of another judge banning Unite BA cabin crew for striking at Christmas because it had balloted staff who had expressed an interest in voluntary severance, even though the employer had not told the union that they had expressed an intersted in volunary severance!

The fact that these laws and rulings are nothing to do with fairness is frequently underlined by those who celebrate them. Read and listen to comments welcoming the court's ban on the RMT strike. Very few vox pops say "I wouldn;t have a problem with this strike if they had only got the postcode of that signal box correct". No, they say "I'm glad the strike's been banned, because now we can impose our job cuts / I'll be able to get my train on time / I hate bolshy workers and militant trade unions anyway."

RMT will almost certainly reballot and continue its fight against these catastrophic job cuts. But the question remains: WIll the TUC call a massive mobilisation in defence of a fundamental right that has been stripped away by successive Labour and Tory governments - the right to strike?!

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