Monday, August 30, 2010

A message to Tube passengers from Tube staff


London Underground plans to:
•get rid of around 800 station staff posts
•reduce ticket office opening times by around 7,500 hours
•carry out essential maintenance checks on trains every four weeks instead of every two weeks
•cut the number of train drivers’ posts

Tube trade unions RMT and TSSA have tried for months to persuade London Underground to scrap these unnecessary and dangerous cuts. We have spent hours in talks, have lobbied politicians, and have won lots of support from passengers. But London Underground and the Mayor have not listened.

London Underground has left members of the two unions with no choice but to hold strikes and other industrial action. We are prepared to lose money by striking because we are not prepared to see London’s workers and passengers put at risk, left without help, or have vital services withdrawn. We are professional railway staff and we want to be able to do our jobs safely and properly.

We believe that people who live in, visit and work in London need:
•a safe, secure London Underground
•open ticket offices
•more Tube staff, not fewer
•job opportunities for unemployed people and school-leavers

We understand that strikes can cause disruption and distress. We want the staff cuts withdrawn so that we do not have to carry on striking. Please support our campaign.


Fewer station staff means:
•a less safe London Underground
•less information and help during delays and disruptions
•it will be harder to evacuate stations quickly and safely in the event of an emergency eg. fire, crash, bombing
•less help for disabled, elderly and other vulnerable passengers
•less chance of you getting the help you need with directions, information, lost property, accidents or other issues
•less deterrent to assault, vandalism and other harmful behaviour
•you will feel less secure travelling around London Underground

Shorter ticket office opening hours means you will not be able to get a ticket seller’s help when:
•you have a problem with your ticket or Oyster
•the ticket machines are not working (which will happen more often with fewer staff to service them)
•you need to buy a ticket that is not available elsewhere
•you believe that the ticketing system has treated you unfairly
•your ticket or Oyster does not work
•you want the ‘personal touch’ in dealing with your issue

Less frequent train maintenance and fewer drivers means:
•trains potentially going into passenger service with defective brakes and other parts
•serious risk of accidents, injuries and even deaths
•trains more likely to be cancelled and therefore more delays to your journey

Support our campaign against staffing cuts:
•Visit our website:
•Send us an email:
•Contact your member of the Greater London Assembly. Find out their names and contact details at Write to them at City Hall, The Queen’s Walk, London SE1 2AA.
•Tell London Underground and TfL your views by writing to Customer Service Centre, London Underground, 55 Broadway, London SW1H 0BD, or online at
•Email Mayor Boris Johnson:

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pope and Blair to combine state visits- via NewsBiscuit

Rather good spoof for a Sunday morning, from NewsBiscuit :

Britain is preparing to host a joint state visit in September from two religious men convinced of their own infallibility and who refuse to make a public apology for their actions, his holiness Tony Blair and Pope Benedict XVI.

‘Look, it just makes sense to combine the two visits,’ said Mr Blair, ‘we are both Catholics, we both have books to promote and we both need protecting from an angry public.’

‘The Holy Father is delighted to be sharing his visit to the UK with Mr Blair,’ said a Vatican representative, ‘It will make a pleasant change for him to travel with someone who manages to be even more unpopular than him.’

The state visit, already dubbed ‘The Guilt and Redemption Tour’, will see the holy duo travel the nation in a specially adapted Popemobile, waving at the crowds from behind the safety of bulletproof glass.

Mr Blair and Pope Benedict will appear at venues around the country preaching to their followers and promoting their books, A Journey and A Bible. Both works have been heavily panned by the critics who describe them as ‘a shameless rewriting of history,’ ‘self-serving twaddle’ and ‘little more than a made-up fairy tale’.


‘The combined visit will save the taxpayer millions in terms of police protection,’ said Home Secretary Theresa May, ‘it should also confuse protestors who won’t know who to hurl abuse at first.’

However some activists are looking forward to the visit. ‘This is a great opportunity,’ said professional protestor Peter Tatchell, ‘with a bit of luck I might get to make two citizen’s arrests in one day.’

The Pope-Blair visit will culminate in an open air mass in which each man will pray for the forgiveness of the other. ‘This is the nearest that people will ever get to see either man make a public apology,’ said tour press secretary Alastair Campbell, adding ‘we might do God but we don’t do sorry.’

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Friday, August 27, 2010

Why the left shouldn't vote for Diane Abbott

As we are on the subject of the Labour Leadership, here is a cross post from Workers' Liberty . The AWL called for a critical vote for Diane , but some members disagreed. Here is a response from Janine :

“A tick-list of policies is not enough”

The AWL’s decision appears to be premised on the idea that Diane Abbott is a “standard-issue Labour left MP”, or perhaps “similar to John McDonnell but not as good”. That might have been true over the years of, say, Jeremy Corbyn, or Alan Simpson, or Alice Mahon, or John Cryer, or others. We would be absolutely right to back someone like this. But I would argue that Diane Abbott is not of this order at all. She is something different: not left, but fake left.

Diane Abbott:

• is held in contempt in her own constituency (‘’standard-issue’’ Labour left MPs are usually well-liked)

• sent her son to a private school

• hosts a TV programme with Michael Portillo and is close friends with other Tories eg. Jonathan Aitken

•supported the privatisation of London Underground’s East London Line.

Diane Abbott is known as much for these things as for being any kind of left-winger. Even the extent to which she is seen as a left-winger is problematic. It relies on a definition of “left” that is based on single issues (supplemented by being black and female), not on siding with workers. Even those who perceive her as left-wing do not particularly associate her with trade unions or workers’ struggles, as she does not associate herself with them.

Our list of her leftiness — “She will be the one candidate who was against the Iraq invasion and is for trade union rights, for migrant rights, for expanded council housing, for taxing the rich, for scrapping British nuclear weapons, for fighting cuts, against privatisation, for free higher education” — could also apply to George Galloway. Diane Abbott is not the same as George Galloway, but this shows that a tick-list of policies is not enough to justify endorsing her. Sometimes, a candidate has other things on his/her record that cancel out a list of okay policies.

Moreover, she is not as left-wing, or rebellious, as you might imagine. In the last Parliament, Diane Abbott voted against the government in 68 votes out of 871 she attended (7.8%); John McDonnell did so in 205 votes out of 824 (24.9%). (Kate Hoey rebelled 153 times, more than twice as often as Abbott; and even Frank Field had a higher percentage rebellion, at 10.8%.)

The article (‘Vote Abbot but organise the left’... web reference above) argues that: “A critical vote for Diane Abbott will not cut across getting a hearing for our ideas.” I think that a critical vote for Diane Abbott would cut across us getting a hearing for our ideas from those people who see her for what she is. I am also not convinced that voting Abbott will “boost the broader left” as this assumes. If the left backs her and she gets a decent vote, then that may boost the perception of the strength of the left — but at the cost of politically endorsing Abbott as representative of the left, and therefore redefining what it is to be ‘’left’’ in a negative direction. So you can be “left” — indeed a representative, a champion of the left — while supporting privatisation, sending your son to private school, hobnobbing with Tories and sitting out workers’ struggles?! Is that a definition of “left” that we want to boost?!

Finally, the decision to support Diane Abbott does not appear to even consider the role she has played in this leadership election, where her candidacy scuppered John McDonnell’s chances of getting on the ballot paper.

When socialists decide who to back in an election, we need to consider not just that candidate’s formal policies, but whether supporting his/her candidature would advance the cause of socialism and working-class representation. With Diane Abbott, I just don’t see how it does. She is not a credible socialist candidate, and socialists do ourselves no credit by supporting her.

Janine Booth


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cruddas backs David Miliband for leader

Well as Owen Jones says on Twitter

'Cruddas backs DM' story is this:'ex-Blair adviser backs ex-Blair adviser'.No surprise if people look at JC's political record, not rhetoric

Yep, check out some of my old posts for my views on this opportunistic chameleon of a Politician .

He backed 42 days detention, voted for the Iraq war and then changed his mind , supported Brown and backed a secret inquiry on Iraq.He praised the genius of Blair.

As Dave said :

Compass leaders like Jon Cruddas combine the ability to deliver speeches demanding that Trident be scrapped, council houses be built and the Post Office not be privatised, with the supine cowardice to vote for 42-day detention without trial, a measure he surely must know to be wrong.
On the one hand, Compass wants to present itself as pragmatic radicalism for the twenty-first century; on the other, it wants to keep New Labour sweet. Ultimately, it cannot do both.
It's politics offer too little, too late.

Anyway, seems he has kissed and made up with David Miliband after a little tiff when he was still brown nosing Gordon and Blair in the same interview , quite an achievement in hedging your bets with both New labour camps :

In an interview with The Times, Mr Cruddas said that none of those who claim to be Tony Blair’s allies come close to matching the former leader.

The Dagenham MP, who is one of David Miliband’s rivals to succeed Mr Brown, turned down a ministerial job last summer despite being most members’ first choice as deputy leader. He suggested to The Times that he was now willing to take a job under Mr Brown.


Mr Cruddas said that MPs had been reckless, irresponsible and divisive in calling for change without a candidate, timetable or alternative policy programme. “People will be watching with wide-open eyes unable to understand that . . . we should become preoccupied with electing another party leader. That’s what’s so wrong,” he said.


Mr Cruddas, who worked in No 10 under Mr Blair, sought to wrong-foot those who would dismiss him as a leftwinger, praising Mr Blair’s “genius” and making a barely coded attack on those such as Mr Miliband who were “acting under his banner”.

“Blair was a much more charismatic, sophisticated, inclusive and radical politician than any of those who claim adherence to Blairism now,” he said.

Mr Cruddas signalled that he was willing to shore up Mr Brown’s battered administration. “It’s all hands to the pump now,” he said. “A year ago I said my [deputy leadership] campaign wasn’t about a job in government and I felt you had to carry that through. My instinct is not oppositional. Whoever is leader, we’ve got to think how we put the band back together.”

He praised both Mr Miliband’s and Mr Purnell’s efforts in taking on the Conservatives. Labour had not laid a glove on the Tories for more than a year, he said. He criticised attempts to portray David Cameron as a “shallow salesman” and as a right-wing Tory posing as a moderniser. Instead, he urged his party to match Mr Cameron’s emotional literacy and expose the tensions between the Tory party’s liberal and authoritarian wings.

Now I know some say we need to be pragmatic , but there is a need for some sort of consistent principle in a politician ,surely? Either Cruddas is just a careerist, who says what he thinks will get him further or he is a ditzy indecisive guy who changes his mind as much as his underwear (hopefully !). Neither is grounds for some sections of the left seeing him as the sensible saviour of the soft left in Labour . Surely his backing of David Milliband will cause the naivety to disappear ?


So, who would you like to put in a wheelie bin ?

Answers in the comments box please .


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Hopi v LRC cricket fundraiser this weekend

Yep, its that time of year again, the second annual Hopi v LRC cricket match. Now cricket bores me , sorry, but I still found it a fun day out. That may have been of course because Mark F made sure there was Jack Daniels available in the bar . Even with the rain , it was fun though and all in a good cause :

Sunday 29th August 2010
12:00pm to 5:00pm

From 12 noon in Victoria Park, Hackney, E9

The second annual solidarity cricket match between Hands Off the People of Iran (Hopi) and the Labour Representation Committee (LRC). The match is to raise money for Workers’ Fund Iran – a charity that is dedicated to raising much-needed funds for the inspiring struggles of the Iranian working class. These struggles have increased enormously in the recent period and been led by numerous sections of the workforce – from car workers to bus drivers, sugar cane workers to construction workers.

Last year we raised £1,500 and we are confident that we can get close to £2,000 this time around. These funds can certainly not match the funds raised for ‘regime change from above’ by the US and its allies, but they are absolutely crucial to our brothers and sisters in Iran and of great symbolic importance: their fight is our fight.

We have stepped up the plans for this year and are looking forward to more numbers, more fun and more funds being raised. But to take these steps forward we need your help! Can you:

• Play? Both male and female welcome players welcome so get in touch!
• Get your union branch/campaign/organisation to pass the draft motion (overleaf)?
• Help out on the day?
• Organise a stall for your union/campaign/organisation on the day?
• Provide a donation to help cover some of the costs we will incur during the day?
• Help to publicise the event amongst friends and on the internet or send a message of support for us to put up on our blog?

For more details see

Monday, August 23, 2010

Southall Black Sisters are fundraising for two Delhi-based sisters who sustained a horrific acid attack

From their website :

Donations are desperately needed to finance the medical costs and rehabilitation of Samar (31) and Juwariya (25) Atique whose young lives and hopes were brutally crushed in October 2009 by two men who threw a jug of acid on their faces as the women were returning home from a day's work in a rickshaw. Their crime - Juwariya had turned down a marriage proposal from one of the men!

They sustained severe burns and injuries to their faces, their eyes and their upper bodies. In acid attack cases, the victims should be hosed down gently with a continuous stream of water immediately to stop the acid continuing to burn into their flesh. But they did not get treatment for five hours after the incident because the woman doctor was threatened with a similar attack by these men and their families. Their eyes were infected and continually pouring out pus. They may be blind for life. They will need to have reconstructive surgery on their noses and lips. Their eyelids were burnt away so they also suffer from itching and dryness in the eyes. Their first operation did not take place till 5 months after the event. To date they have had 3 operations and they will need many, many more. They live in Delhi but they have to travel to a hospital in Chennai, nearly one and a half thousand miles away, where they are getting subsidised treatment. One of the sisters is suicidal, they are both suffering from depression but neither of them has had any counselling sessions as yet. Post-operative care and rehabilitation will take years.

They were independent working women, whose incomes contributed to the expenses of a joint family of 11 people. Samar worked for an IT company and Juwariya, ironically ran her own beauty parlour. One other sister and brother have had to give up their jobs in order to look after them leading to a loss of four incomes. The reduced family income is less than the monthly cost of routine medical expenses like bandages, antibiotics and painkillers, let alone the cost of going to Chennai for surgery, let alone the costs of daily life. So far, they have managed with donations and loans from family and friends. Poverty has compounded the consequences of violence.

This case came to the attention of Southall Black Sisters earlier this year. Although we do not usually have the capacity to run international campaigns, we felt that the horrific nature of this particular attack served as a salutary reminder of the extreme violence that women round the world continue to face should they make the smallest strike for freedom and assert their most basic rights, in this case, the right to choose their own partner/spouse.

The immediate target for fundraising is £21,000 for microsurgery to be carried out on Samar's eyes. There is some hope that her sight may be saved although Juwariya's is irretrievable. Of this sum £11,000 has already been raised. However the very rough total estimated costs of all surgery, including longterm rehabilitation, are: £250,000. It is impossible to be precise partly because every decision for futher surgery depends on preceding operations. The following are some examples of costs:

Average monthly cost of care: £1350 (bandages, medicines, nursing, local hospital visits, nutritious food)

Each visit to the Chennai hospital: £12,000 (based on their previous trip)

Every return flight to Chennai costs: £985 (for 3 people)

Counselling: £30 per session

It is very easy (and secure) to donate online. Please click on the Justgiving link above and follow the instructions. If you are a UK taxpayer at the basic rate, they will even reclaim 28p for every £1 from the government, increasing the value of your donation by 30%. Please publicise this case as widely as possible.

Donate here.

There are pics of the women before and after the attack, really horrific. Click on the link to SBS to see the reality of what attacks like these by men mean for women.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

'Middle Class Benefits' - My Arse!

I am heartily sick of the use of the term 'middle-class benefits' to describe universal benefits, such as Child Benefit and Winter Fuel Allowance.

The ConDem coalition announced yesterday that it will be reviewing said benefits, and the media happily went along with the term 'middle-class benefits' on the spurious grounds that as they are universal, even better-off people can get them.

'Universal' in this context has a similar meaning to 'comprehensive' in the context of schools. So perhaps we should start referring to 'comprehensive schools' as 'middle-class schools'. No, didn't think so.

When the filthy rich remain filthy rich, when they are suffering a tiny fragment of the cuts which hit everyone else savagely, it also seems to me that turning fire on the so-called 'middle class' is aiming at the wrong target. Usually, when anyone gets down to specifics, they talk about excluding families with an income over, say, £40,000 from these benefits. But raising kids, or paying the bills, on a joint income of £40,001 is not exactly the life of Riley.

If people are really railing at the injustice of very rich people being entitled to benefits, fair enough. But rather than take the benefits away, make them pay for it through a more progressive taxation system.

Because if a universal benefit becomes a means-tested benefit, it is not just the 'middle class' who suffer - it is the working-class people who might still be entitled to the benefit but will stop actually getting it. As explained in my previous post here.


Chemical castration drug used to control kids on the autistic spectrum

As regular readers will know, both myself and Janine have personal interests in the rights of people on the autistic spectrum , and feel strongly that more should be done to support and understand . Not cure or experiment on. I myself have learnt lots from my aspie partner and would not seek to change or 'cure' him, but I am aware that the world is not always a welcoming place .

Given that I was shocked to read this :

Controversial treatment comes to South Florida

A Maryland medical group has started treating autistic children in South Florida with shots of a drug used for chemical castration, a therapy widely panned by mainstream experts.
The group gives children the cancer drug Lupron to stop their bodies from making testosterone, saying the drug helps expel toxic mercury and quells aggressive or sexually explicit behavior by kids with excessive levels of the male hormone.


But numerous physicians, researchers and therapists insist there’s no proof mercury causes autism, that Lupron removes mercury or that autistic kids have excessive testosterone. What’s more, the drug carries a risk of bone damage, stunted growth and heart trouble, and can render children impotent.
These experts contend that Lupron, costing about $5,000 a month but seldom covered by insurance, is one of many treatments that cash in on the desperation of parents trying to cope with an incurable condition for which medicine has few good answers outside of painstaking behavioral therapy.
“Not only is there no scientific backing whatsoever for Lupron treatments, there are several major concerns for the children’s health,” said neurologist BethAnn McLaughlin, an adviser to the Dan Marino Foundation autism group in Weston and the mother of two developmentally disabled children.
“These people are preying on the fears of parents. We cannot be using these children who are so vulnerable as guinea pigs in a medical experiment.”
Untested autism treatments have flourished while science struggles to explain the disorder, which disrupts the abilities to speak, concentrate, connect with people and control impulses.


A vocal subset of parents and activists blame vaccines, especially those with the mercury-based preservative thimerosal, which has been banned from virtually all as a precaution. Numerous studies have found no connection between autism and vaccines or thimerosal.
Lupron therapy grew from the mercury camp. Baltimore researcher Dr. Mark Geier started using the drug in 2005 on the theory – disputed by mainsteam doctors – that testosterone binds mercury in the body and that many autistic kids have high levels of the hormone.
Lupron halts production of the female hormone estrogen, which the body uses to make testosterone. The drug mainly is used to treat endometrial cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, and sometimes to chemically castrate sex offenders.
Geier’s promotional materials said he has treated hundreds of children with Lupron and has launched nine ASD Centers in eight states. In his latest, he teams with Dr. David Clayman, a Boca Raton radiologist who has an autistic teen son and is opening an ASD office beside his MRI center in Tamarac.


Lupron critics said autism parents may not understand the dangers.
The drug is not approved for children – except a rare few with premature puberty – because it can impair bone development crucial to growth, said Dr. Gary Berkovitz, chief of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Miami medical school.
It’s not recommended for people with heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, depression or seizures because it can worsen those conditions. Autistic children are prone to seizures.
“It has not been tested so there’s no way to know if it has adverse effects in the long run,” Berkovitz said.
Said neurologist McLaughlin: “We have very significant concerns about irreversible damage to sexual function and the brain and sex organs of these children.”


McLaughlin said parents should stick with slow and difficult but proven therapies. Teens struggling with sex can benefit from counseling, rewards for positive behavior, jobs or activities to keep them focused and, if needed, drugs to treat anxiety or sleep issues, she said.
“What we know works is a rough course,” she said. “Yes, we can do better. But what we don’t want is for families to lose faith in science and go off with people who … are violating the first rule of being a doctor, which is ‘first do no harm.’”

This is absolutely appalling and I am shocked that this is allowed in the US. I can understand that parents may be frustrated and that there may not be enough support in place , but to do this to your child is abuse. The parents fears are being exploited for money and the young person has no say in what happens to their body. It is about control rather than looking at longer term ways to help someone adapt to a neurotypical world. And to perhaps question whether that world is necessarily the best way to do things . This is truly a scary way to treat people and does nothing to work with difference ,understand and learn. It is about a quick buck . Aspies have the same rights as anyone else and this is a breach of them.


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Holiday Reading 1: Paul Mason - Meltdown

You know that capitalism lurches into crises, you know this one is something to do with bankers making risky loans, you are familiar with terms like subprime, credit crunch, and you've heard of Fannie Mac and Freddie Mae - or was it Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac? But you would really like to understand it all a bit better.

My recommendation? Read this book.

Paul Mason's 'Meltdown' was published in February 2009, and provides a highly readable, indepth-yet-easy-to-understand account of the current economic crisis. His account is very much helped by lively descriptions of people and places, cultural references, and the personal touch of his own presence at press conferences and lurking in various places waiting for developments.

It is also helped by straightforward explanations and by regular mentions of the poor and working-class victims of the bankers' behaviour. Its style is much more journalistic than theoretical, but it feeds your theoretical understanding nonetheless.

Now a year-and-a-half old, the book can not provide up-to-date accounts of governments' slash-and-burn response to the crisis. These extraordinary-scale cuts, and the accompanying pathetic-scale curbs on the bankers, perhaps cast doubt on Paul's central argument: that this economic crisis has killed neo-liberalism. He contends that the 'age of greed' is at an end; capitalism has no choice but to reign in and regulate its financial mega-gamblers.

Even if the ConDems' savage attacks suggest otherwise, though, they do not prove that Paul is wrong, and I still find his argument very convincing. Obviously, it's an argument that I'd very much like to be convinced by, especially as he also argues that the organised labour movement will have a much bigger role from here on in.

That last bit is something that we do not have to wait on and observe, but that we can assist with our own efforts.

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Friday, August 13, 2010

Pete Wylie "The Day That Margaret Thatcher Dies! "

Hat tip Harry P and Lawrie C on Facebook.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Organising Against Sexism and Harrassment at Work

I'm cross-posting this from the Workers' Liberty website because it seems like a Stroppy kind of thing ...

Author: Jean Lane

The following is an edited transcript of a speech given at an AWL North East London branch meeting in August 2010. The transcript covers both Jean's initial speech and her response to a subsequent discussion. For reasons of time, the questions and contributions from other attendees of the meeting have not been transcribed.

It's my 25th anniversary of doing a really shit job! Our organisation produced a pamphlet about it at the time. It was actually a series of articles that were printed in our paper; much later on we put them together and produced the pamphlet. The articles themselves were written some months after the event, because for a long time afterwards I couldn't even talk about it. It was awful. To try and talk to anyone about it was absolutely impossible because I was so emotionally effected by it.

Some time afterwards, there was a programme on TV which was about a woman firefighter. One of the episodes was about the woman suffering sexual harassment at the hands of her male colleagues, and I couldn't watch it. They were using the episode to say that harassment of women at work was unacceptable, but I still couldn't watch it. Emotionally the effect of my experience in this job was really quite hard.

After we produced the pamphlet, the organisation (which was at that time called Socialist Organiser) did a lot of meetings around the country, both in towns and on university campuses, about the issues. They were really big meetings. I don't know what it was, but something just touched a spark with people. It was about personal experience rather than the heavy-duty theory we usually do. It was obviously a personal experience that a lot of people related to. There wasn't a single meeting we did at that time which didn't bring up huge numbers of horror stories that women in the work were going to. I thought my experience was bad, but to be honest it was nothing compared to some of the experiences we heard in those meetings. These were women who'd never spoken out before and they had absolute horror stories. For instance, one of the meetings – which was at Lol Duffy's election campaign in Liverpool – had stories about women who worked in shops being physically abused away from the counter, women who worked in offices being abused... The actual level of abuse that those women were receiving was far worse than what I experienced in a job where you could reasonably expect the level of harassment, because of the nature of the job and the workforce, to be of its worst kind. I was shocked to find out the extent of it and to find out that it wasn't just about working in an all-male environment; it was about working anywhere at all.

I was working as a labourer on a building site. It was a one-year job, designed to get unemployed people off the dole for a short while. It was in Coventry, and there were lots of unemployed engineers and car-workers. It was designed to help those people get back into the habit of employment, and to give them a year's worth of wages and employment to kick them back into the world of work again. So the people I was working with were people who'd been in the industry for 25 or 30 years in some cases, and had become long-term unemployed without much hope of getting another job.

Because of the actions and behaviour of one man in particular, my experience of working there was absolutely dreadful. There was no physical harassment; it was all verbal, and all specifically designed to make you feel worthless and like you had no right to be working there. The intention behind it, quite explicitly in the end, was to drive me out. “This is a man's job.” It was constant. It was every day. It was relentless.

By the time I started that job I had already been a revolutionary socialist for quite a few years, and had been a feminist for all of that time. I thought I could handle most things, but I was crushed by that experience. The effects of it were to make me ill. I was on pills, unable to sleep, depressed. This went on for several months. So although it wasn't direct physical abuse, the effect of it – especially if you multiply it out across all the women it happened to – in terms of a woman's actual right to work is absolutely huge.

In the end the problem was dealt with by me persuading one of the men that what was happening was unacceptable, and then him persuading the other men of that, and them threatening to kick the shit out of the perpetrator if he didn't stop it. And that's what dealt with it. He left before I did, and at the point my whole working life changed for the better. Partly that was because he was gone, but partly it was because of the discussions I was able to have with the other men.

At the time this was happening to me and who knows how many other women workers, there was legislation in place against sexual harassment. The Sex Discrimination Act had been around for more than 10 years, although that act itself didn't deal directly with sexual harassment at work. It dealt with issues of discrimination in terms of having a job, getting training and getting promotion on the basis that you were a woman. It was amendments to the act that came out later than added paragraphs about sexual harassment at work – what it is, what it means, what you can do about it and the fact that it's illegal!

Although the sexual harassment side of things hadn't been particularly dealt with legally at the time I was going through my experience, the TUC already had guidelines for union activists and indeed employers about women's right to work and about sexual harassment at work. So there were already things that people could use. When I did eventually persuade one of the men in my workplace that sexual harassment was unacceptable, I was able to show him printed materials that showed that it wasn't just about me but was something was nationally recognised and widespread. One of the things that persuaded this man that was was happening to me was unacceptable was the fact that he had three daughters; when you looked at the statistics about what happened to women at work and in society generally, he worked out that there was a very good chance that one of his three daughters would suffer what I'd been going through and probably worse. He initially though it was a joke. But when I showed him written stuff from the unions and from government commissions, that legitimised it in his mind as a real issue.

On a personal level, it effects not only your immediate health but your ability to work. It effects your right to work, because people leave. They can't stand it for too long. The changes that have been made over the last 25 years have, I think, been genuine attempts to deal with the situation and put a proper definition of what sexual harassment is on the statute books. But of course if you're the woman in the workplace, unless you've got this lovely glossy policy wrapped round a brick when you're being given a hard time then it actually doesn't help you in an immediate sense. It does help you, and it helps the unions, in the sense that it highlights it as a problem and educates people. It changes perceptions and expectations about what's acceptable and what's not, and how they feel they should be treated at work. The fact that there's legislation gives the union a springboard to negotiate. On a certain level it's absolutely essential, but on an immediate personal level in the day-to-day workplace it doesn't help you.

The Sex Discrimination Act is only one of the acts that's changed the experience of women's employment over the last 30 years. That legislation has made a difference; they have been important developments for working women, and I think they're worth defending. Those are the very sorts of things that are going to be under threat when it comes to how the recession is going to effect women at work.

The workforce has changed since that legislation. Far more women are at work now than there were 30 years ago; that's a good development as far as socialists are concerned, because you can't fight a working-class revolution with only half the working class organised! You've got to organise the class as a whole to raise the consciousness to want to change society, and who better than those who've been worst treated by society to want to change it?

But there are problems too. Women are often working part-time, mainly because of childcare responsibilities and needing shorter hours. Of all women in the workplace, 45% are part-time compared to 11% of men. The wages of part-time jobs are far lower, largely because of where those jobs are concentrated: they're in cleaning, they're in catering, they're in care assistance, they're in shop-work. Those are the places were women employees predominate and where low-pay predominates.

The women who fought for and won a lot of that body of legislation were working-class women who were socialist-feminists, who took on the experiences of the Ford women whose strike was the basis of the Equal Pay Act. An awful lot of those women fought to get a voice for women in the unions; that was absolutely essential. The vast majority of them ended up becoming reformists with a few notable exceptions, Pat Longman being one of them.

Pat was part of all of those movements; she was around at the time strikes were going on for equal pay, at the time when the National Abortion Campaign was a huge organisation building massive conferences and demonstrations. It's because of those women that the labour movement got changed and legislation got changed. But largely they did become reformists. I remember going to Labour Party conferences when Labour had been in opposition for years, and those women were saying “we can't make any changes until we win power.” Those arguments were used to justify voting for right-wing women over left-wing men within the Labour Party. There were only a few notable exceptions who didn't get sucked into all of that. However the advances that were fought for were absolutely right; sexual harassment is one of the issues that effects women at work, and if we either only rely on legislation or allow it to be dismissed then it's only going to get worse.

The recession is going to effect the number of women at work. In the last recession it was men who were thrown out of work by manufacturing going down the drain – exactly the sort of men who ended up working tin-pot, part-time jobs on building sites because industry collapsed. In this recession huge numbers of women face redundancy because it's local government, healthcare and other areas with large numbers of women workers that are under attack.

I see it as a Unison rep for education workers on a very regular basis where school managements just decide “I'm not having part-time workers any more; full-time or nothing – take your pick.” For an awful lot of women that means “nothing”, because you can't afford to raise your kids on part-time wages and unfortunately the burden of domestic responsibility does still fall almost entirely on women. So an awful lot of things are going to start going backwards unless we organise. We have the experience of what's been done in the past, and what's not been enough. So – legislation yes, but beyond that we have to organise women workers to defend what we've got and take it further, because it's going to be under attack.

In the late 70s and early 80s, the labour movement was very male dominated, even in those industries with a lot of women workers. It wasn't that the leadership of the unions were overwhelmingly men – they were 100% men. The leaders were men, the reps were men, the organisers were men. They were men and they were white and they were bureaucrats. By and large they were right-wing, and they dominated Labour Party policy by wielding the bloc vote at Labour Party conference at a time when conference actually meant something before it was shut down by Kinnock and Blair.

We set up Women's Fightback, which was socialist-feminist in its politics but intended to be broad and open. The purpose of it was to build a bridge between the women's movement and the labour movement. It aimed to get those socialist-feminist ideas into the labour movement, because we recognised that if we want to change society then women must be organised and if we want women's liberation then society must be changed! And we knew that because only the working class can change society, we had to change the labour movement. That's how our organisation saw our task at that time.

The women's sections in the Labour Party in the 1970s were councillors' wives, and they made tea. They made tea while their men talked to constituents and did the “real” work. What happened in the late 70s was that women went in consciously, as groups, and there were big faction fights between old women and young women and took them over! We started voting for Benn in the leadership campaign, voting to support Bobby Sands, voting to ban the bomb... all these right-wing councillors' wives were horrified. They were big political battles.

There were battles going on all over the place at that time. My experience on the building site was just one experience. Before that I'd worked for the post office, and we had union activists sticking pornographic stuff up on the noticeboards! Their general behaviour towards women workers was not good. The battle was to be had within the union sometimes even more than with management. They were essential battles.

The Grunwick dispute was one of the first times when the whole labour movement rallied in solidarity with women workers. They were on strike for a year for union recognition and were almost 100% Asian. You could go on their picket line and see battalions of seamen, engineers and car-workers marching down the street to support them and you'd overhear white male workers saying things like “that Paki woman could never have attacked that copper!” That language was natural to them. Racism and sexism was absolutely accepted and unquestioned until, as a result of women and black people being in the workplace and organising, the contradictions got raised in people's minds.

There were very, very few women in the building industry when I was going through my experience. Of those that were, very few were unskilled, unqualified labourers like me. If they got in at all they went in with a specific skill, like an electrician for example. I'm sure their treatment was no better but they probably had slightly better standing because they had essential skills.

One of the most telling examples of women going into a male-dominated workforce and changing it for the better is American women miners. In the 70s and 80s women went to work in the mines in places like Kentucky and won massive campaigns around health and safety. Men had been putting up with really shoddy working conditions where people were maimed and killed and the women just said “we're not putting up with this.” They fought for some health and safety legislation and won it. They were changing minds and also changing people's direct working experience.

People have asked me whether I took the job with a specific intention of having a go politically. The reason I've ever taken any job has been to organise. All I've ever done in my workplaces has been to become the union rep, organise meetings and have political discussions. I would've done that on the site if I'd had the chance. There were other women who did the same; there was a woman in the IMG who took a job on the tube, and there was “Red Steph” in the car industry. She became nationally famous for a while for organising at Cowley.

On the pamphlet itself, I think there's always a place for literature that just says what it's like. We don't always have to have all the answers. Sometimes it's right to just describe and say what working-class people's live are like. That can be an education in itself. People recognise themselves, and that changes you. It's a good thing for socialists to do.

The unions today would deal with an issue like this as an individual question. They'd say “let's sue” rather than trying to collectivise the issue and use it to organise. That's as big a battle as we're facing today. As we were saying, legislation is good, but is it enough? The thing that's missing is the collective organisation and the action at a rank-and-file level. You might win an individual case in the courts but as long as the capitalist state exists then they can take whatever you win back off you again. All the glossy pamphlets and policy documents aren't going to help us win; we're only going to win with collective action.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Community campaign is victorious

Evil caltongate, the wet dream of developers

After the community campaigned for years saying that the Caltongate was the wrong development.  The council have admitted defeat!  They have cancelled the land sales and giving back deposits.  You can read more on the Independent republic of the Canongate  about the history of the Save Our Old Town campaign.

See the news on STV

The reality is that charlatan developers scammed £70 million from HBOS and convinced the council to give their dystopia planning permission which meant knocking down listed building, chucking out tenants from the business properies and homes and demolishing the bus garage that was on the site causing the gap site.

You can read more on the Guardian's local blog here 

Local people have set up a Community Development Trust in order to deal with this issue because we predicted this would happen hopefully we can get to work bringing back the blighted area into a vibrant place to be, the Waverley Valley deserves this

The gap site left behind by developers who were given permission to demolish buildings, they walk away owing the bank £70 million and we get left with a hole in the ground

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Love Marmite, Hate the BNP

Marmite may bankrupt the BNP:

Nick Griffin's racist BNP is facing financial ruin after featuring Marmite in an election broadcast.
The party was hit with a massive claim - estimated at up to £170,000 - over the TV stunt, in which leader Griffin was pictured beside a huge jar of the spread. The party then showed a jar of Marmite - slogan "Love it or hate it" - with its own motto "Love Britain Vote BNP".

Griffin claimed he intended the film as a humorous dig at Marmite, who he believed had mocked the BNP in their online and TV ads featuring a "Love Party" and their rivals the "Hate Party", whose leader appeared to be loosely based on Griffin.

But bosses at Marmite makers Unilever were furious at the BNP broadcast and began High Court proceedings for breach of copyright. BNP caved in and the amount claimed is put by insiders at between £70,000 and £170,000.


Former National Organiser Eddy Butler has said the BNP is "on the brink of bankruptcy".

Hat tip Matt on Facebook.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Respect homophobia, sexism and child abusers ???? Nope.


There is a head of state visiting, socialists, LGBT people, feminists , what do you do?

He heads up a political party and state :

- Where the leader is elected by a small group of men.For life.
- No woman can hold office.
- LGBT people are seen as bad and made to feel shame. They often have to pretend to be heterosexual , marry or else risk censure.
- Members of the Party have abused children entrusted to their care. Years of cover up, where the interests of secrecy and the adults take precedence over victims , have ensued . Continual pressure from victims groups have eventually lead to an apology, but the Party likes to portray itself as the victim.
- To allow a woman to be an officer is seen as on a par with abuse, they are clearly second class citizens.
-The leader and his representatives go to Africa and push unscientific twaddle, that condoms can lead to aids, exasperating a bad situation.
- Representatives push in other countries, such as Nicaragua, for all abortion to be illegal, even if the mothers life is a risk. Woman then face backstreet abortions and death. Cancer treatment is even withheld in case the foetus is harmed. Woman again, second class citizens.
- In other countries, representatives push for divorce to be illegal , often trapping women in abusive marriages .

This Party is homophobic, has a very poor track record on the physical and sexual abuse of children and does not women to have control of their own bodies. It wants to have laws across the world that will impose its beliefs and make woman suffer.

So, what should the response of Socialists, LGBT people, feminists be ? Protest !!

Ahhhh, yep we do that when a nasty Head of State visits . BUT , change political party for religion . Hmm, what difference does that make I hear you ask? Well it seems rather a lot , for example we should welcome the pope .

We must respect their views .Not be strident .Not protest.

Ahh, but do they respect our views? Do they not consider women who have abortions as sinful and murderers ? What about their supporters who scream at women going into clinic?

I believe in a secular society, freedom of religion and none. Freedom of speech , both ways. Freedom to protest abhorrent views. I believe in solidarity with woman fighting to control their bodies, access to birth control , scientific sexual health education, equality of women and LGBT people.

A religious belief is a belief just like a political ,personal or ethical one, Why should a large wealthy organisation , run by men, be privileged , not be offended and be respected?

A religious belief is just that, one amongst many beliefs. All need to be argued for, all are open to criticism, mockery, argument, debate and offence . As a socialist and feminist I expect that of my views, I know I have to defend and argue and be accountable. same goes for religion.

I'm sure the Catholic Church can stand a bit of debate and protest. My views are open to debate,protest and argument, why not theirs?


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Sex workers 'named and shamed '

Shocking :

Six street-based sex workers in Newham, east London, were named on the Metropolitan police website. Police posted their photos, full names and dates of birth.

In a second case, two Polish women who were selling sex from their home in Aldgate, east London, were raided by City of London police as part of Operation Monaco.

Operation Monaco was launched in May 2009 but police have admitted that just one charge of controlling a prostitute for gain has been made, as well as 52 charges for placing cards in phone boxes advertising sexual services.

Police took photographs of the Polish women, who were not charged. Last Sunday, photos appeared in News of the World. The women said they were distressed by the police raid and the lack of warning that their pictures would appear in a tabloid newspaper.

"Why have the police done this to me?" said Vicky, one of the two. "I work as a childminder and a cleaner and do some sex work to make ends meet. I pay tax and national insurance and am not doing anything illegal. A lot of people know me, and even though the News of the World blocked out my face I'm still identifiable by my hair, clothes and jewellery."

The women lodged a complaint with the newspaper, which removed their images from its website.

"The police were looking for money and found £50 from a customer," she added. "We never use drugs and are always sober when we're working. The police kept asking us over and over again if we'd been trafficked. We haven't been, and we signed a piece of paper to say that.


Georgina Perry, the manager of an NHS sex work project in east London called Open Doors, said: "I'm very disappointed with the police. They can't go around asking the community to police vulnerable women. It encourages vigilantism."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the National Association of Probation Officers, said: "I suspect this is part of a pre-Olympics clean-up in east London."

A Met spokesman said the asbos against the Newham women had been used as a last resort because they were persistent offenders, and that decisions to publicise the identities of people issued with asbos were made on a case-by-case basis.

This isn't about 'protecting' trafficked women, or supporting women who want to leave sex work and find alternatives, this is a just about a 'clean up' ahead of the Olympics.

The police have treated them as a 'nuisance' and have no real concern for their welfare . If they really wanted to ensure women were not abused, being trafficked and controlled, they would not treat them in such a manner, putting them at further risk.

Will any of these woman come forward when they are abused, attacked or know of woman trying to escape trafficking when they are treated like this, like something to be swept of the streets so as not to spoil the shiny image being prepared for the Olympics ?


Friday, August 06, 2010

Holiday summary

Went to Cornwall. Holiday cottage just outside Whitstone, on the Launceston-Bude road. Nice accommodation. One of a group of cottages in a rural setting with good facilities, including shared playground, table tennis room, balls, rackets and toys of various descriptions and stuff to borrow for BBQ and beach. Disappointed that outdoor swimming pool - one of the main reasons for booking it - was 'heated' not very much. Rabbits, dogs and chickens all became family freinds. The Booth-Leach family tradition of a Chinese takeaway on the first night of our holiday. Kids made friends with other holidaymakers' kids, and played out for hours each day.

Rained every day, but not all day every day. Day 1, went to Tintagel (but didn't visit castle) and Boscastle (but didn't visit harbour). Did sit on pleasant beach and buy new jacket though. Day 2, went to Trethorne leisure farm. Playground outside, big slides inside, making a fuss of animals, Joe had wobbly over queueing for pony ride. Day 3, only beach day. Widemouth Bay, very nice. Day 4, Bude. Nice place, but bit of a washout, saved by bookshop visit and ten-pin bowling. Day 5, Eden Project. I love it, rest of family OK with it. Day 6, John and Joe went to Launceston steam railway; Alex, Harrison and I stayed at accommodation. All went for evening meal at lovely restaurant in Boscastle, where we sat outside next to the river imagining the size of the wall of water that flooded the village in 2004.

Read two books - Luke Jackson's 'Freaks, Geeks and Asperger Syndrome' and Paul Mason's 'Meltdown'. After the first, resolved to try out gluten-/casein-free diet for me and for Joe. Played Scrabble with John and Alex every evening - after twelve years of John refusing my invitations to do so. Joe tried to join in once, but couldn't cope with the idea that he couldn't choose the seven letters he wanted.

Today: long, wet drive home.