Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Call centre staff find management unwilling to listen

The unwillingness of management to implement a series of agreed changes, that will improve their treatment, means that call centre workers in the DWP could be reluctantly forced to take further strike action.

In January PCS members at seven telephony and process implementation project [TPIP] sites were on strike for two days in a dispute aimed at extending flexible working and ending a target-obsessed culture. When this failed to move management, staff at 37 call centres walked out in April, picketing taking place for the first time ever at every location.

All of which meant that on July 1st - the day after workers had joined thousands of fellow trade unionists on strike in defence of public services - management were prepared to sit down and agree to over 40 changes in working practices demanded by PCS reps.

Now however with management dragging their feet over their implementation, and refusing to offer flexi-time, staff are discussing more action. 

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

1,206 dead and nothing said

January to May saw, at least, 1206 refugees and economic migrants die in trying to come Europe to escape persecution and poverty. The figure’s, collated using documented sources by the Amsterdam based United for Intercultural Action, push the overall total since 1993 through the 15,000 barrier.

With many dying when their boats capsized then only a handful of these latest victims of immigration laws designed to keep them out of Europe have been identified.

They include Aminullah Mohamadi, aged 17, and Kambiz Roustayi, aged 36, both of whom committed suicide rather than be deported back to Afghanistan and Iran respectively.

At least with their names known it might give their families a chance to mourn their passing, but with a continuous daily diet of migrant bashing in papers right across the continent then there’s little prospect at this time of putting an end to the carnage. More is the pity; we’re talking people here. 

Close to one million youngsters without work, education or training.

Hundred’s of thousands young people aged 16 to 24 years appear to have little to look forward to as there are now 979,000 of them not in education, employment and training [Neet’s].

That’s a leap of 107,000 on the second quarter of last year and yet when the figures were released last week all the skills minister John Hayes could say was about “doing more to get young people who lack basic skills up to speed.”

Vacuous nonsense and with jobs in many areas in very short supply, further education courses closing down, the educational maintenance allowance being removed for all but the very poorest, not forgetting a catastrophic cut back in youth facilities, then it’s a no substitute at all for a publicly funded, from higher taxes, plan designed to give young people work and prospects for the future.

Support Jarrow March for jobs in October 

Kicking off on Saturday October 1st this follows the route taken by 200 marchers in 1936. It passes through County Durham, Yorkshire, Nottinghamshire, Northants and Bedfordshire before ending up with a rally on November 5th in Trafalgar Square, London. It’s organised by Youth Fight for Jobs and you can bet your bottom $ that when it gets to London the government will, like in 1936, do its best to ignore it. That’s because they are intent on using the current world economic crisis to decimate the social gains made after 1945. Unemployment is, for them, a price worth paying. 

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Swansea City 0 Sunderland 0

There have been worse goalless draws but nevertheless it means these sides have scored just one goal between them in their three matches apiece. And whilst Swansea now have two points in their first Premier League season they surely must beat the likes of last weekends opponents Wigan or Sunderland at the noisy Liberty Stadium if they are to retain their status in the top flight.

It was the failure of each sides record signing’s in front of goal that kept the scoresheet blank. First £2.5 million man Danny Graham was too slow inside the box, allowing Wes Brown to block, and then just before half-time the former Watford man headed Kenny Agustien’s cross past the post when left unmarked six yards out. On the restart he did bring a flying save from Simon Mignolet but then after turning Anton Ferdinand a better striker would surely have netted from eight yards out.

Sunderland’s Asamoah Gyan cost £13 million and in the first half when he timed his run to break clear with Stephane Sessegnon’s through ball at his feet he shot too close to the body of keeper Michel Vorm. In the second period he was too slow in shooting when left unmarked inside the box and then towards the end he hit a poor shot after Sessegnon had again sent the Ghanaian beyond the home defence.

All of which meant that the nearest either side came to scoring was when John O’Shea rose high to power Sebastian Larsson’s corner against the crossbar after just two minutes and when Scott Sinclair hit a 30 yard drive that beat Mignolet but crashed back off the crossbar. Had that gone in and Sunderland lost then the growing dissatisfaction with manager Steve Bruce amongst the Wearsiders follower's, over 2,500 of whom made the 700 mile round trip, would have increased and amidst rumours that Bruce and Gyan have fallen out it was interesting to see the striker stay longer than anyone else on the pitch at the end before throwing his shirt into the away section.

Standing up report

Home - many of the noisiest section in the stand next to the away fans stood for the entire match.

Away - a good number of the 2,500 plus away fans, who paid £35 each for a ticket, stood for the entire match.

Friday, 26 August 2011

A hollow victory as EDL banned by Home Secretary

It will undoubtedly have come as a relief to many Tower Hamlets residents that their neighbourhood isn’t going to have the English Defence League [EDL] attempting to walk through it on September 3rd.

Yet it’s a hollow victory when it takes a ban from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to do the damage and restrict the EDL - an organisation whose followers increasingly appear to be lads who can no longer afford to go the football - to a static demonstration. In October this year it will be the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street, when police attempts to batter demonstrators out of the way in order for the fascist Blackshirts of Oswald Moseley to march through an area with a significant Jewish, and communist and socialist presence, were rebuffed.

Building a similar response is what was needed now. That’s because it’s clear that the EDL’s manicured profile of opposition to ‘radical Muslims’ - in itself no bad thing and sadly it’s a fact that many on the ‘left’ have shied away from opposing one or two who’d happily have them slaughtered if they ever had any power - is a front for an attack on the rights of all people of colour to live in this country. And if you don’t believe me take a look at the current ramblings on their site, where there’s a clear attempt to link criminal activities with being a Muslim as if the two are somehow genetically linked and therefore alien to the British way of life.

Relying on state bans will inevitably lead to bans being imposed on progressive organisations. And after all there was trouble associated with the massive TUC demonstration in London in March and so what’s now to stop the government imposing a ban on any future event?  

Repeal of Hunting Act must wait until social gains made in the 40s are killed off

Your average fundraising event tends to consist of supporters either being asked to sponsor someone or buying a couple of quid’s worth of tickets with a token prize. Not so the Countryside Alliance, who not happy with some of their members owning a good stack of the land are charging £25 a ticket for their raffle. The prize? A chance for nine daft sods to obliterate 400 birds on a day’s sport that’s valued at £19,500.

The Alliance is still intent on seeing the Hunting Act 2004, that came into force on February 17th 2005, repealed and earlier this year Prime Minister David Cameron confirmed that he still intends to bring legislation to that effect before Parliament during his term of office, set to end in 2015. This is in line with agreement that the Tories made with the Liberal Democrats when they entered government together. This stated: “We will bring forward a motion on a free vote enabling the House of Commons to express its view on the repeal of the Hunting Act."

Cameron however faces a problem in that a number of new Tory MPs are - perhaps surprisingly as they’re so right wing on most other things - opposed to fox-hunting and have even set up a well resourced and organised group that means there’s by no means the certainty that the House of Commons as a whole would vote for repeal.

As Cameron is also engaged, largely successfully at the moment it has to said, on bashing the working classes through policies designed, whatever the consequences to the economy, to decimate the social gains made at the end of the World War II, when workers returned determined to create a ‘land fit for heroes’, then the repeal of the Hunting Act must wait.  

THE ANATOMY OF ENGLAND: A History in Ten Matches Jonathan Wilson

Having invented and then dominated the early game of football England, with the notable exception of 1966, have regularly failed to conquer the world. Jonathan Wilson examines ten key fixtures to find out why. 

The fixtures – Spain 1929, Italy 1948, Hungary 1953, Argentina 1966, West Germany 1972, France 1982, West Germany 1990, Norway 1993, Netherlands 1996, Croatia 2007.

Have England learnt little since Hungary won 6-3 at Wembley in 1953?

Defeat against Spain showed England had plenty to learn. Hungary confirmed they were no longer the best as the match was played in conditions purists saw as ideal - namely a damp November afternoon. 

Some things did change but every footballing culture has a line it reverts to when under pressure. The Italians become negative whilst England hit it long to try and find the big man up front.

Why choose the 1966 Argentina match rather than the successful final?

To show manager Alf Ramsey’s pragmatism, a policy since maintained by those who’ve followed him. In 1964 England lost a game they dominated against Argentina. Ramsey thus considered playing without wingers and keeping it tight. The quarter-final was the first competitive match England played 4-4-2 and without a winger. Geoff Hurst came in for Jimmy Greaves. Ramsey also refused to compromise when Argentina had a man sent off. He didn’t surge forward but ensured his team kept the same shape and England won 1-0 with a header from Hurst.

It was also about class and English football has always had tension around class. The great Huddersfield and Arsenal manager Herbert Chapman ignored the establishment belief that the centre-half should be the focal point of a side’s attacking ambitions. It was a pragmatic decision leading to great success and putting food on the table. 

The Independent on Sunday said your book ‘should be required reading for all future England squads?’ Will it be?

The idea of modern footballers reading books is quite a distant thought.

What’s wrong with newspapers being “cheerleaders” for the England side?

Any newspaper has to have a level of objectivity and it means that when things go wrong the crash is much worse and the criticism of the players and manager goes over the top. That restricts genuine analysis in the future.

If they can find one or two great players then surely England will rule the world again?

It might be a circular thing, but there’s a problem as international football is clearly not as good as the Champions League. So, in general, the players aren’t as concerned about England. 

There’s a choice.  Either a good Premier League producing entertaining teams that are competitive in Europe or a good England team. It takes months of practice for club players to become familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses - what’s called ‘being on the same wavelength.’ To replicate this at the World Cup you’d close down the Premier League in February and take the best 40 players off into a training camp. South Korea did this in 2002 and they reached the last four. But no Premier League club would allow their players to be with England for months.

Prior to the 2007 Croatia match Frank Lampard said: “we’re always at our best when it matters.” You’re sceptical.   

First it’s an absurd link to Churchill’s statement after Dunkirk. But it also implies the earlier games didn’t need to be won and suggests players can just click their fingers and play well. True, some players respond well to pressure but others don’t so it’s not a given.

What might make England great?

Football culture has to alter radically with far less focus on individuals. We create great heroes and when they fail to meet the impossible standards we set they become great villains. The truth is eleven decent players playing coherently will be better than nine decent players and two great players playing incoherently. Jimmy Hogan was the English coach who turned the Hungarians into the best in the world and his theory was simple - choose the right pass, whether long or short. That’s something that has to be instilled very early and involves tactical intelligence and we struggle to produce players with that.


Written in 2008
Mike Marqusee.

Marqusee’s examination of his upbringing in 1960s Jewish-American suburbia, his anti-war and Pro-Palestinian activism in Britain, along with his grandfather’s experiences in Jewish New York in the 1930s and 40s that saw him move from anti-fascism to militant Zionism provide the background for a thought provoking exploration of what its means to be Jewish in the 21st century.

Why did you write this book?

In recent years there's been intense argument not only over Israel and Palestine but also over allegations of anti-Semitism and of  “self-hatred” on the part of Jews who criticise Israel, especially Jews like me who reject Zionism. I wanted to answer those charges and explore the issues raised but to do so through the specifics of lived history including my own and my grandfather's.

Was your grandfather’s move from anti-fascism to militant Zionism inevitable?

Only under those specific historical conditions and given the man's own history and impulses; not everyone followed that course. I'm always wary of narratives that imply that your identity is your destiny and that in the end we all return to our own kind. Jewish support for Zionism has not been a permanent factor in Jewish life; it was something that was fought over. It changes over time and it's changing now. 

Can you explain why the call for a boycott of all goods stemming from Nazi Germany in the 1930s was opposed by many Jewish organisations?

When the Nazis took power in Germany in 1933, there was a widespread demand at the grass roots of the Jewish communities in the USA and Britain for a boycott of German goods. Jewish leaders in both countries were hesitant. Some feared a backlash. Some wealthy Jews had businesses that traded with Germany and did not want their business disrupted. At the same time, the Zionist Federation made a public agreement with the Nazis called the ha'avara – transfer – through which German Jews who had the money would be allowed to emigrate to Palestine on condition that they used their assets to purchase German goods or services. The ha'avara undermined the boycott both materially and politically: for the Nazis, it was a propaganda coup. How could one argue for a boycott when Jews themselves were seen to be doing business with the Nazis? For most Zionists, the priority was always to get more Jews into Palestine, and the fate of Jews in Europe was a secondary matter.

Isn’t the fact that so many Jews left places such as Iraq between 1948 and 1951 to move to Israel
an indication they were being persecuted in Arab countries?

Historically, though there were outbreaks of anti-Semitism at various times and places; Jews in Arab countries were generally not subject to persecution. Certainly they never faced anything like what the Jews faced under the Czars, not to mention the Nazis. The position of Jews in the Arab world only became precarious after the birth of Israel, and in response to Israeli policies. The circumstances under which Jews left their homes after 1948 varied. In Iraq, the bulk of the Jewish population departed for Israel within two years. This was accompanied by anti-Semitic government propaganda, but it took place via collaboration between Israel and the Iraqi regime, facilitated by the US and the UK. In Morocco, the process unfolded over 30 years and was resisted by Moroccan governments.

How can you dispute the 2006 claim by the Chief Rabbi of Britain, Jonathan Sacks, that Jews were threatened by a tsunami of anti-Semitism?

The evidence doesn't support it. There has been a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and that is worrying. But the numbers make it clear that Jews face nothing remotely comparable to the racism that other minority groups face.  Sacks's “tsunami” claim is based on his view that growing opposition to Israel and to Zionism itself betokens a rise in anti-Semitism.

How can you claim that there is a weakening of Jewish support in Britain for Israel?

For many years, Jewish opposition to Israeli policy was barely visible in Britain. That's manifestly changed in the last decade. In August 2006, during Israel's attack on Lebanon, there was vocal and visible Jewish opposition in demos, meetings and letters to the press both here and in the USA. Undeniably Zionism remains the dominant political force, and the Jewish establishment remains wedded to Israel. But as Israel's record comes under greater scrutiny, that dominance has been threatened, which is why attacks on opponents of Israel have become more strident and sweeping.

How would you respond to claims that you can only be a Jew by supporting the Israeli Government?

There's nothing in the Hebrew Bible or the Talmud to justify such a view. To me it's completely incompatible with significant sections of the Bible (for example, the prophet Amos). More importantly, at least for me, is that the strict political limitation of what it is to be a Jew is incompatible with modern Jewish traditions of humanism, secularism, equality and democracy. Reducing Jewishness to allegiance to a particular nation-state flies in the face not only of our history but also of our lived experience. Can I only be a Jew by sacrificing the rest of my humanity, by ignoring the claims of human solidarity? Among its other shortcomings, Zionism drastically narrows down Jewish identity and Jewish history, most of which has unfolded outside of Palestine. 

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Post office's and the universal service under serious threat

“Post office closures in rural areas will increase. In addition the future of the Universal Service Obligation [USO] to collect every working day from post boxes and also deliver to every address at the same stamp price, six days a week is now threatened. That would impact heavily on rural communities.” That’s the view of Paul Clays; regional secretary for Communication Workers Union [CWU] in the north east, after the coalition government’s Postal Services Bill became law in June.

It’s one that directly contradicts claims by the man behind the privatising of Royal Mail, Business Secretary Vince Cable that “there will be no closures on our watch” after he promised a four-year package of support to post offices worth £1.34 billion.

Yet by also giving the go-ahead for any future private Royal Mail to end the Inter-Business Agreement that presently guarantees Post Office Limited £343 million a year for providing mail services then watchdog group Consumer Focus has predicted that under privatisation 4400 post offices will be closing by 2015. That’s 40% of the 11,500 still open and begs the question why Cable turned down the CWU proposal to set up a postal bank that had the potential to replace business lost when state pensions and child benefit became paid directly into bank accounts under the previous government.

“It makes no economic sense,” says Clay who has seen Royal Mail’s ethos shift significantly since he started as a postman 26 years ago.

“Back then it was about providing a high quality public service but now the business
appears more interested in looking after its biggest clients, TNT, DHL and Business Post, who are also its competitors.”

Becoming the latter was made possible under European regulations that allow private companies to profit by providing only part of a postal service in that they process and distribute mail but don’t do the delivery, handing on the most expensive part of the operation to the Royal Mail. Not surprisingly this has cut the latter’s profits and boosted those in the private sector.

And in a further attempt to maximise their returns multinational TNT was happy to take over the running of the Netherlands postal service over two years ago. “It has been an unmitigated disaster,” says Clays. One that serves as a warning as to what might happen here, with unprofitable rural areas only receiving deliveries twice a week whilst sending a letter costs twice as much. Postal workers have found their hours and pay cut - after all who has ever heard of a privatised service in which workers see their pay or working conditions improve? Now heavy public criticism, and a series of strikes across the country, has led to TNT seeking to get out of their commitments by asking the government to buy them out and take the post back into public ownership.

All of which means that in spite of the new Con-Dem legislation the CWU isn’t giving up the fight to prevent a private company taking over Royal Mail.

“It might just be the case that it’s too expensive and not profitable enough for them.  Also the fact that 90% of Royal Mail employees are organised within the CWU and the public in all areas want to defend their post offices is a powerful combined force. Nothing is yet decided and I look forward to CWU and members of other trade union, especially in rural areas, working together on this” says Clays. 

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Brighton and Hove Albion 1 Sunderland 0

Brighton and Hove Albion 1

Craig Mickail-Smith 95

Sunderland 0

A deserved victory for the Championship side against a toothless Sunderland side that look in for a season of struggle in the Premiership. What didn’t help the Wearsiders cause was manager Steve Bruce’s decision to begin the match with no recognised forward on the pitch or the former Manchester United man’s performance at the start and interval in extra time when he appeared disinterested and made no serious attempt to motivate a side that he has expensively assembled. None of which bodes well for a side that, with just one goal in three games, is clearly in need of a lift. 

Backed by a noisy crowd the home side, already confident following an unbeaten start to the season, pushed forward at the start. Nevertheless with only three minutes gone they should have been punished when Liam Bridcutt gave away possession and Stephane Sessegnon was left with just Casper Ankergen to beat, but the Benin international flashed his shot high and wide. Brighton danger man Craig Mackail-Smith then brought a good save out of debutant Keiran Westwood before Sessegnon saw a shot blocked by Ankergen.

A mix-up between Westwood and Anton Ferdinand left Mickail-Smith with a great chance but the forward failed to hit the net and just before half-time the home side did well to stay on level terms as Craig Gardner saw his shot punched away by Ankergen before Wes Brown was only inches away from touching home Sebastian Larsson’s cross.

On the restart Kieran Richardson was in superbly to prevent Ashley Barnes, sent free by a Ryan Harley ball over the Sunderland defence, from giving Brighton the lead. When minutes later the away defence was split in similar fashion Mickail-Smith and most of the crowd were already celebrating when his shot beat Westwood only to hit the inside of the post and somehow stay out of the net. 

With Gus Poyet’s side looking to win the tie in 90 minutes there were strong appeals for a penalty when Inigo Calderon went down in the box, referee Andy D’Urso booking the midfielder for diving. As extra-time beckoned Dunk blocked Gardner’s shot from the edge of the box before Ahmed Elmohamady headed miserably wide when left unmarked inside the area.

Five minutes into the additional 30 minutes it was Brighton who scored the all-important opener. Man of the match Craig Noone released Alan Navarro and when his cross flew towards the back post an unmarked Mackail-Smith had little difficulties in scoring. There were still 25 minutes remaining but only once did the Black Cats look like getting back on level terms when Sessegnon found £8 million man Craig Wickham who fired well over with just Ankergen to beat. Brighton thus deservedly progressed to round three, whilst for Sunderland there’s the prospect of a tricky match on Saturday away to Swansea, before Chelsea are at the Stadium of Light.  

Standing up report

Home fans 

Many fans in the Brighton 'home end' stood for much of the match.

Away fans

1,205 away fans paid £24 each and largely sat throughout the match. 

Monday, 22 August 2011

Doubts grow on promised health study on incinerators impact

There’s still no news as to when, or even if, the Health Protection Agency [HPA] will make good on its promise to conduct a study into the impact of incinerators on babies and children’s health.

In April HPA Chief Exec Justin McCracken reported that following discussions with the Small Area Health Statistics team at Imperial College, London it had been  “concluded that an epidemiological study of birth outcomes around municipal waste incinerators would have sufficient power to produce reliable results. Work is now progressing in developing a detailed proposal for what will be a complex study.”

This commitment came eight years after then HPA Chief Exec Pat Troop had first promised a study and seven years after a study in Japan concluded that the risk of deaths amongst the youngest declined the further they lived from solid waste incinerators.

A point that has been pretty conclusively confirmed by Michael Ryan from Shrewsbury who despite having a fraction of the resources of the HPA still took the time, and spent his own money, to obtain statistics from the Office of National Statistics on infant mortality rates in thousands of wards across the UK.

Ryan had lost two of his own children, one at 14 weeks, and had considered that their deaths may have been the result of having lived downwind of an incinerator.

An opportunity to confirm that has long since passed but that doesn’t mean Ryan wants to see other parents suffering the same fate, and as part of his campaign he’s sent out hundreds of press releases, contacted MPs by the dozen, spoken at public meetings and generally made a right nuisance of himself in letting “the world know” that publicly available statistics show that in areas where incinerators are sited - and it doesn’t vary depending on the relative income levels - that the levels of infant mortality are above average. In basic language incinerators kill young kids. Probably damage the health of many more.

All of which makes it worrying that many more are on their way, Labour loved them and the Tories and Liberal Democrats are not going to stop anything that stands in the way of economic development, especially during these straitened economic times. And so despite a recent Freedom of Information [1] request
confirming that even the filters at new incinerators fail to prevent the majority of the PM2.5 dangerous particles escaping into neighbourhoods then expect the numbers to have tripled to around 150 by the time this Parliament comes to an end in 2015.

Don’t expect however by then says Ryan to have any results from the proposed study. Pointing out that the HPA also promised a study four years ago Ryan  believes there won’t be such a study “as if there is, then if it’s done with the intent of finding out the truth then it will obtain the area statistics on deaths, put them alongside where incinerators are based and conclude the obvious. That would be dynamite, government’s would need to act and a highly profitable business would face closure and possibly litigation for the damage caused to children’s health.” 

All of which means that whilst the HPA hasn’t done the work it will continue to ‘confirm’ that incinerators are safe as their ‘contribution to air pollution at ground level is likely to be very small.” 

  • Whilst much of Ryan’s work has concentrated on rates of mortality amongst the very young a new US study has just concluded that air pollution from industrial sources damages school children’s health and academic success.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Cutting back on justice

The mark of a caring, civilised society is its criminal justice system. And with thousands of civil servants doing their best to help provide one, PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka has attacked the government’s proposed 25%+ cuts in it saying; “Hacking away at our justice system, instead of investing and providing proper resources, will only damage our social fabric and add to society's problems.”

The union believes slashing £350 million from the £914 million annual civil and family legal aid budget by 2014 will have a devastating impact, hitting a quarter of those who seek civil legal aid. Similarly, the closure of 93 magistrates' courts and 42 county courts will lead to hundreds of job losses and backlogs in the court process, making local justice less accessible. And whilst the PCS wants to see prison numbers reduced that can only be done with rehabilitation programmes that improve dealings with people with mental health, drug and alcohol issues.

"Hoping people can fend for themselves is not the mark of a caring society. We should be improving people's chances of accessing reliable local services, not making it more difficult and trying to provide justice on the cheap" said Serwotka. 

Civil servants jobs under threat from offshoring as companies seek to boost profits

There’s the prospect of civil servants jobs being lost in the future after a senior government figure expressed support for offshoring. Under this practice - the economic logic of which is to reduce costs by employing lower paid workers - the transfer of some business operations abroad throws people out of work and diminishes the skills base here.

Speaking recently Paul Grey, Head of UK Trade and Investment [North India] told a group of businessmen in India that: “We are not interested in restricting offshoring and there is no interest from our side to make it difficult for companies who operate here.” The reason? “To reduce spending in the UK.”

Private sector companies - including Hewlett Packard [HP], IBM and BT - have for sometime now been outsourcing, amongst others, their IT operations and the Bangalore region of India, where wages are around a quarter of those paid to British workers, has largely been the preferred destination

Seven years ago however ‘new’ Labour were willing, admittedly during a period when jobs were in greater supply, to allow contractor Siemens to send 250 posts within NS&I to India. Then five years later the British Council, a body established to promote British interests abroad, was allowed to move 100 plus jobs.

Now comes news that the coalition government is considering allowing an offshoring contract that in addition to sending 200 jobs at HP abroad will also permit, for the first time ever, live personal data about people in the UK to be held overseas. [see below] Previously sacred public sector practices could be abandoned. So too could 200 experienced staff and yet, as the PCS union has constantly pointed out, putting people out of work doesn’t - as yet, but who knows what this Government has in mind - come without a price to British taxpayers who can expect to pick up the bill in terms of lost tax revenues and increased benefit liabilities.

As HP rep Ian Fitzpatrick said when interviewed: “This and other proposed transfers appear to be a clear case of inflicting public pain for private shareholders gain.”

There may also be other costs as there’s the possibility that any transfers may not work out as smoothly as hoped. Government systems are incredibly complex.  It is not the genius of the individual software programme that makes them function efficiently but the fact that 120 systems can interlock together on a platform.

Developing parts in isolation is a huge risk and it is more than likely that work developed overseas will need to re-written in the UK, and the promised savings so desired by Grey and his Government colleagues won’t materialise.

That’s increasingly proved to be the case with offshored work in the private sector. Back in November 2008 Orange returned 1,200 call centre jobs from India to the UK. This year BT opened a new call centre in Sandwell in the West Midlands after taking a decision two years ago to move some jobs back to the UK from India. And now United Utilities has decided to return call-centre work from the Philippines handled under contract there by Accenture. The subsequent boost in staff levels at United’s Warrington and Whitehaven offices is seen by the company as the most efficient method of dealing with customers genuinely struggling to pay their bills.

 “A lot of our customers do face difficulties, and we have to work out the ‘can’t pays’ from the ‘won’t pays. Having local people collecting from local people will make this easier,” said Russ Houlden, United’s chief financial officer. A principal the Government would do well to keep in mind. 

Sunderland 0 Newcastle United 1

Sunderland 0

Newcastle United 1

Taylor R

These sides have clashed three times in a year and with two wins and a draw Newcastle have shown themselves to be superior.

Very much second best in the first half the Geordies controlled the second 45 and after Simon Mignolet flapped at Ryan Taylor’s well-directed free kick there was never any chance that the Wearsiders would recover from going a goal down. That was especially so after a horrendous over the ball challenge by Phil Bardsley on Fabricio Coloccini had earned him a second yellow card and an early bath.

On another day the defender would have been, least, the second Sunderland player dismissed because midway through the first half Sebastian Larsson clearly prevented Joey Barton’s close in header with his hand after Mignolet had missed Yohan Cabaye’s corner and Shola Ameobi had headed towards goal. Strenuous appeals for a penalty were however waved away by referee Howard Webb, one of the few mistakes made by him all afternoon.

With Lee Cattermole winning the midfield battle Sunderland had attacked from the start. Stephane Sessegnon brought a fine save from Tim Krul but it was the home sides failure to take advantage of the half a dozen occasions when they got behind the Newcastle full-backs that ultimately cost them. Up to January last season Steve Bruce’s side had Darren Bent to snaffle up balls that fizzed across the box but despite spending heavily in the summer Sunderland have yet to find an adequate replacement.

As half time approached the home side were unfortunate when Asamoah Gyan’s curling shot beat Krul only to scrape the top of the bar. Home fans hopes that this would see their side up the pace in the second proved misplaced as with Barton, Cabaye and Chieke Toite exerting a grip in midfield it was no great surprise when Newcastle, to the delight of their fans behind the goal, took the lead, all three points and local bragging rights.

Standing up report

Home fans - many of the home fans in the South West corner and North Stand stood during the entire match.

Away end - Newcastle's 2,500 fans who paid £30 a ticket stood during the match. 

Friday, 19 August 2011

The struggle for the living wage at Mitie

According to Iain Duncan Smith “work is good for you.” Try telling that to one of the cleaners at the benefits agency office in Newham and whose £6.30 an hour pay from Mitie group PLC means she needs a second job to survive.  She’s so exhausted that last year she twice experienced her “body closing down such that I thought I was dying.”

Although she preferred to remain anonymous she’s amongst a growing number, at the highly profitable company, that have joined the PCS. She’s glad to have done so saying “I don’t know what we would have done without it as we have increased our pay.” Now she dreams of having it further increased so she can work fewer hours and see more of her grandchildren.

To try and make that possible the PCS recently intervened at the Mitie AGM and after raising their concerns a meeting with Head of Facilities management Chris Townsend has been arranged to discuss demands for a living wage of £8.30 an hour. Meanwhile Denis Charles, a Mitie security guard at Bedford Magistrates Court, is attending a PCS workplace representative course that once he’s completed “will mean I can represent my colleagues.” 

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Private prisons for profit

Privatisation, job cuts and closures are the future for Britain’s prisons as the government pushes forward with its plans to put profit before people.

Opening up Acklington, Castington, Coldingley, Durham, Hatfield, Lindholme, Moorland and Onley to competition comes only months after it was decided to transfer operations at Birmingham to G4S and following which 123 job cuts were swiftly announced.

Those left out of work will struggle to find employment elsewhere within the prison service as the government also intends closing Latchmere House and part of Hewell prison. All of which rather begs the question about whose going to be left to do the rehabilitation work with the 85,000 people currently locked up, and demonstrates said PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka that: "This government is obsessed with putting profit before people, even when that means making money from locking people up.

The recent announcement by G4S of job cuts in Birmingham proves it is simply untrue that these privatisation plans are about making services more efficient or effective."

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The role of the workplace rep or shop steward

This is an unpublished piece from last year on the role of the workplace rep.

How many people would volunteer for additional unpaid work, particularly when there is the prospect of getting into conflict with those who pay your wages? The answer it would appear is quite a few, and they are appealing for others to join them!

Workplace reps or shop stewards play a vital role in representing and defending their fellow workers, promoting union consciousness, enforcing the provisions of the collective bargaining agreement, communicating official union policy and acting as a link between the union leadership and members. Democratically elected, and open to recall by members, a good shop steward is worth their weight in gold.

London bus worker John Murphy has been a steward for 11 years at the Potters Bar garage of Metroline, which operates 80 routes across the capital.  Sick of hearing people complaining about how ineffective the union was, and convinced he could do a better job he stood for election against the serving steward and won the largest number of votes, saying; “that whilst I decided to jump in at the deep end the union by providing training, and contact with a full time officer, helps you out whilst you gain experience. You’re not left on your own.”

As the newly installed steward John was quick to challenge any misconceptions that swapping one steward for another was an end to their problems or participation in the union telling members that he “could only expect to improve conditions and win grievance and disciplinary hearings if management knew I had their support for my actions. It’s true that I have responsibility in steering, or stewarding, things by gathering and distributing information but stewards are only as good as their members allow them to be. It mean’s s/he must constantly be reporting back and explaining everything that is being done in the member’s names.”

With around 95% of the 300 plus drivers at his depot in Unite, Britain’s largest union, then John, as the only steward, can have a hectic time. A recognition agreement with the company means he is stood down from working on the buses, to run a members surgery on a Friday morning, and to represent members at the disciplinary and grievance hearings that often constitute the largest part of a stewards role in any workplace.

Certainly that latter is the case for Sam Scholey, an employee for seventeen years at the Leeds office of the telephone and internet banking company First Direct and elected Unite steward there since 2003. Just recently Sam was delighted to assist a member who was concerned by her manager taking on aspects of her job. This left the worker in a vulnerable position during a period when the company has been making redundancies.

“When we examined the evidence it was clear that the member’s concerns were genuine and when we took the case to a grievance hearing we were able to re-assert her role in the company and protect her post” said Sam.

Where people have been made redundant Sam and her fellow stewards, with their full time officer’s support, have managed to negotiate an improved package for those leaving the company that includes being informed at least a month before they are formally given three months notice. Where possible others have been re-deployed and their pay ring-fenced, for a period of time, if the new job is at a lower rate.  Just recently Sam, as one of four negotiating shop-floor stewards, has played a role alongside full-time officer Justine McCarthy in “putting forward a number of reasons why a 1% pay offer made by the company to staff should be increased.” If agreement cannot be reached then the issue will go to ACAS and possibly pendulum arbitration. With average pay at around £15,000 per annum, with 20% more for night-shift staff, then the need to see wages increased is clear. 

Sam also spends time trying to get non-members to join Unite. She says that it “is particularly difficult convincing younger workers, most of whom leave school and start work knowing nothing about unions or their role in improving wages and conditions. I tell new starters that I am elected to represent them to ensure they are treated fairly and equitably. At the same time I also tell people they can become stewards themselves if they are dissatisfied at work and feel they can help make things better. At the moment we have an agreement which allows the union to have up to 30 stewards across two sites but less than half the positions are filled.”

Such a problem is common in many workplaces. Sean Ramsden is the Unite branch secretary at Havering council and one of forty stewards spread across those who work as coach drivers, street cleaners, escorts and on meals and wheels. He says that the steward’s role “is an important one that combines a number of skills. We are always on the look-out for people to become stewards regardless of their background. We don’t just want the mouthy ones from a workplace unless they are willing to make themselves familiar with the working practices and contracts of those s/he represents. They need to know what’s going on around them and also be prepared to undertake some training to improve their skills.

Being a union steward is about ensuring the workers voices and opinions are heard and represented in decisions. In the immediate future, of course, with the severe cuts the new Government intends introducing s/he’s role especially in Local Government is going to involve motivating members to defend their terms and conditions.“

And what would John, Sam and Sean say to anyone thinking of becoming a steward?

“Go for it, someone has to do it and by helping to organise people at work it means that as workers we can have some control over our lives.” John

“Being a shop steward, if you ignore you don’t get paid, is the best job in the world especially after you’ve assisted someone at a disciplinary hearing and they tell you how their support has helped pull them through.” Sam.

“It’s hard work, but without people being willing to come forward and represent their fellow workers then everyone’s terms and conditions will suffer. It’s one of the most important roles anyone could ever commit to.” Sean

Rochdale 0 Carlisle United 0

Rochdale 0

Carlisle United 0

Pity the punters who paid between £15 and £20 to watch this poor fare. True some of the passing and movement off the ball was first class but in terms of goalmouth action, never mind serious efforts at goal, there was very little to speak of. So much so that it wasn’t until there were 24 minutes on the clock that an Ashley Grimes header had anyone dreaming of a goal. Much more wasteful was Joe Thompson who minutes later rose unmarked to head Nicky Adams corner over the Carlisle bar.

The best move of the first half came just before the end when following some fine interlink play home skipper Gary Jones saw his 18-yard effort flash over, before Peter Murphy shot narrowly wide in Carlisle’s first real effort on goal.

On the restart Grimes saw Adam Collin deny him with a decent save before home fans appealed for a penalty when Jean-Louis Akpa Akpro went down in the box. Rochdale then had Marcus Holness to thank for keeping them level when he closed down Tom Taiwo in the six-yard box. With the away side exerting late pressure James Berrett fired narrowly wide before Rochdale responded with Andrew Tutte, impressive throughout, beating Collin, but also the far post to ensure the game ended goalless. 

Standing up report - a good number of the 500 or so travelling fans stood during much of the first half. 

Cost for away fans - £20 and £14 [seated area] 

Home fans on terrace - £15, seats £20 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Liverpool 1 Suarez Sunderland 1 Larsson Half-time 1-0

Referee Phil Dowd’s generosity allowed Sunderland to escape with a point from Anfield. Having been punished for his complacency in failing to clear quickly enough Kieran Richardson brought down inside the box Luis Suarez as the Liverpool number 7 shaped to shoot.

It was true that the Uruguayan had taken a little too long in rounding Simon Mignolet but there seemed little doubt that Richardson had prevented him opening the scoring and should have been down the tunnel. In the event he was still on the field when Suarez walloped the penalty kick high over the goal.

A few minutes later this sad miss was forgotten when Suarez stooped neatly to head Charlie Adam’s free-kick beyond Mignolet. At this point there seemed absolutely no chance of Sunderland getting to half-time without being well behind and yet despite plenty of possession the home side did not do too much with it, although on another day the half shove on Anton Ferdinand by Andy Carroll might not have brought the free-kick the Sunderland defender was awarded before the Liverpool centre-forward beat Mignolet.

The keeper was also grateful to the crossbar when following a superb 35 yard run Stewart Downing hammered a powerful shot that deserved better.

View from away end 

Sunderland had rarely threatened in the first half but on the restart they were quickly level when Sebastian Larsson met Ahmed Elmohamady’s dropping to cross to volley past Pepe Reina, before running towards the ecstatic Sunderland fans in the corner.

With Asamoah Gyan and Stephane Sessegnon now seeing more of the ball up front and new man Wes Brown in resplendent form at the back Sunderland were dominant. They might also have found themselves playing ten men when Jamie Carragher’s challenge left Gyan on the ground and a few minutes off the pitch injured and substituted.

Although they created a number of chances the away side failed to really force Reina into a significant save and towards the end might have paid the penalty when Carroll should have done better with a number of well-flighted crosses towards him in the Wearsiders box.

In the summer plenty has been made of the signings Kenny Dalglish has made but as yet none of the likes of Carroll, Downing, Adam or Jordan Henderson are top-draw players and at the back with Carragher past his best it’s difficult to see Liverpool seriously challenging for a top four spot.

As regards Sunderland, it was a good point. Yet serious doubts remain about Richardson’s defensive abilities. In addition getting goals will be difficult - a better side would after equalising have won - as the departure of Darren Bent in January remains a big loss.

Bill Shankly statue outside the Kop 

Cost for away fan - £44
Number of away fans - 2,000
Home fans - good numbers but the Kop is a reflection of Liverpool’s glories and is well past its best.
Standing up report - except at key moments the home fans sat most of it with no section of the home crowd standing permanently. Away fans - most stood the whole match. 

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Q&A with author of first book on disability hate crime

SCAPEGOAT: Why we are failing disabled people

Katharine Quarmby

This first ever book on disability hate crime seeks answers and poses solutions to a problem revealed as having deep historical roots.

  1. Why did you write this book?
In 2007 I became aware of the case of Kevin Davies, a young man with epilepsy.  Held captive in a shed in the Forest of Dean he was tortured, burnt and starved before dying weighing just seven stone.

His three offenders were declared guilty - but not of murder or manslaughter - but wrongful imprisonment and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. They got nine to ten years each and disgusted I began investigating disability hate crime and it didn’t take long to discover similar cases. Some of these are now well known including that of Fiona Pilkington who that same year killed herself and her severely disabled daughter after years of torment by local youths.

  1. Why despite murdering 200,00 disabled citizens did those involved in the Nazis euthanasia campaign largely escape prosecution?
 Two reasons. Those killed were largely German citizens making prosecution under international law difficult but also there was sense amongst the British and American authorities that disabled people’s lives weren’t worth living and so what had happened to them wasn’t particularly wrong.

3. Does the rising number of convictions for disability hate crimes demonstrate they’re on the increase?

I think it’s more a case of better reporting but there is also some anecdotal evidence from MIND and other charities that current rhetoric around disability benefits and people being called scroungers and cheats is leading to increased hostility and attacks on disabled people.

 4. There are many disturbing, murderous cases in this book - it appears many members of the public prefer to ‘look the other way’ rather than acting to prevent them, why?

Three reasons - people generally don’t interfere when they see attacks. But many on disabled people occur where they live and physiotherapists, housing, social and support workers rarely, if ever, report them to the police, seeing them as safeguarding rather than criminal issues. Finally there is general hatred located in the belief that disabled people haven’t earned the equality they should be able to enjoy. Society condones these acts even if most people wouldn’t carry them out themselves.

 5. Why should serious case reviews relating to serious harm or death of a vulnerable adult be made compulsory for local authorities?

To discover what’s happening. At the moment they often don’t get carried out or the reports don’t get released and I feel they would show that crimes are not being reported to the police.

6. What might bring disabled and non-disabled people closer together?

I think we have de facto segregation that keeps us apart. Many non-disabled people are fearful of disabled people, believing that if they are friendly they will end up being sucked in to looking after them. This doesn’t have to be true,

We also need to see as many disabled people as possible in the community doing normal jobs. We need more disabled teachers and police officers, because if you see disabled people as contributing to society this undercuts the belief that disabled people have special perks that they don’t do anything to deserve.

  7. What’s wrong with Iain Duncan Smith’s comment that “work is good for you?

There’s nothing wrong with doing work. But the statement can be interpreted as meaning that if you’re not doing work then you’re not good, which is worrying as not everyone can work, or get paid for it.

Plenty of disabled people know how much work they can do and volunteer their services appropriately. Now they are going through assessments where non-medical practitioners are deciding how much work they think they are capable of doing. The differences of opinion can be quite stark.

There’s also anger that under the access to work initiative, that gives a disabled person extra support to help them start work, vitally needed workplace adaptations such as the installation of a hoist are not taking place. All of which means starting work is delayed for those who can go out to work.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Some observations on the riots

Last Saturday afternoon I took a stroll down Clarence Road in Hackney. Having travelled down from West Yorkshire we were en route into central London to show my three-year old son around the capital for the first time in his short life.

I have largely good memories of Clarence Road, it runs down the side of Pembury Estate and I worked on it for many years during the 1990s - even occasionally getting paid for my ‘co-ordinating’ efforts - at the Colin Roach Centre. [see
This was an unfunded radical centre that had originally opened after the council took away the funding at my workplace, the Hackney Trade Union Support Unit, and rather than see it close down it was merged with Hackney Community Defence Association [HCDA] that had been formed in 1988 to successfully oppose the criminal - including drug dealing - and brutal activities of the police. Prominent within HCDA was Celia Stubbs, the partner of Blair Peach who was killed by the police in Southall in 1979.

Colin was a young black man shot dead in Stoke Newington Police Station in January 1983, sparking a campaign that achieved much but has still failed to catch what most then and now believe are the cops who killed him. That’s the problem with cops who kill - they get away with it. In 1995 David Ewin, who wasn’t a nice man, was shot dead in Hammersmith. His wife, Sarah, a lovely woman and fresh with a little baby approached the centre to seek support. It’s a long story but for the first time ever a police officer was charged with murder in the execution of his duty. Patrick Hodgson was strange man; he’d been a firearms officer for many years and yet had failed to move up the ranks.

As Ewin, who was driving a stolen car, had clearly been blocked in on all sides by police officers in cars he could not possibly have escaped. Whereas his partner PC Patrick Kelly did not even take out his gun Hodgson felt it necessary to shoot the unarmed man. He died two weeks later.

Despite the evidence it was still something of a shock when Hodgson was charged with murder and plenty of people accompanied Sarah to witness proceedings at the highest court in the land, the Old Bailey, where as you’d imagine security was tight.

Hodgson was absolutely hopeless in the witness box, sweating profusely and constantly contradicting himself. It actually looked like the Jury would have no other option except to find him guilty when two people in the public gallery jumped up towards the end of the trial to accuse Hodgson of knowing beforehand who Ewin was. It all meant the trial was stopped and a re-trial was ordered, costing of course thousands of pounds. Those who caused this? They walked unopposed past security and out into the street. There were CCTV camera’s everywhere and it was clear that catching them wouldn’t have been that difficult - after all some people even knew who they were - but that never happened.

Even then Hodgson wasn’t off the hook, he did a little better the second time round but the majority of the Jury didn’t believe him and unable to reach a verdict it passed to another Old Bailey hearing, where the police officer got third time lucky. Watching Hodgson leave court he wore the grin of someone who had ‘got away with it’ and he had!

Now I have no way of knowing the exact circumstances in which Tottenham’s Mark Duggan was shot dead, but when I heard press reports that suggested police had been fired upon I instinctively knew this was a lie. And this might be difficult for those who have respect for the police, so did thousands of other people in Britain’s Afro-Caribbean community. When less than 200 hundred turned out to demand answers and after standing outside Tottenham Police Station for five hours got none it was already clear that a cover-up was underway.

Now for most, the vast majority of people, that wouldn’t matter. After all the most popular paper in the UK remains The Sun newspaper with its celebrity glorification and constant condemnation of anything that might, even insignificantly, threaten the rights of the rich and powerful.

After all wasn’t Duggan another ‘bad un?’ Seems like it, and therefore so what if he was shot dead, whatever the circumstances? Let the family go away and spend years - perhaps like Celia Stubbs decades - trying to get to the truth? 

Duggan’s death now does matter to people. Of course not the actual death itself, but because of the looting and rioting that has gone on since - culminating it appears with the tragedy in which three Birmingham men from the Asian community, knocked over whilst defending their communities, have been killed. Let’s hope it doesn’t prevent others taking to the streets to defend themselves as clearly no one can support ordinary working people being terrorised by gangs that are now out of control.

None of which means it’s impossible to understand - at least, in part - why people are indulging in criminal behaviour and why the likes of Cameron, Clegg, the popular press or the establishment TV station, the BBC, and certainly not the police can provide the solutions as for them it simply means - at best - a return to the status quo in which inequalities across society continue to increase. [As an aside - one which is now in fact threatening the whole capitalist system as the logic is that eventually, even in developed countries, those at the very bottom won’t have the money to spend on goods which producers need to sell in order to exist. The banks going bust remains a possibility - see

So why did many people start by kicking things off in Tottenham? Especially when Duggan, and assuming it’s true, was a nasty piece of work who was involved in criminal activities? Clearly it wasn’t liberal people who wish to uphold people’s civil rights and feel it’s wrong for the police to go around shooting people dead. In part it had to be people outside his immediate family who identified with Duggan and his lifestyle. Like many, not all, I met from the Pembury Estate when I worked there and some of whom might have been amongst the rioters being shown in Hackney running down - guess where? Yes Clarence Road - on Monday night to fight with the police and loot the shop that’s next door to what used to be the Colin Roach Centre.

In the main they’re young, unemployed, poorly educated, black and male. Plenty have quit or been chucked out of school early. They’re streetwise because without much money or things to do in often-overcrowded accommodation they’re forced to spend much of their time outside with their mates. All of which means they can expect to receive the regular attention of the police, usually white and drawn from communities outside the area where black people are often not welcome.

These officers bring their attitudes with them. On Sunday mornings during the 90s I played regularly for a decent football team and our home ground was on Hackney Marshes that is now being - at least, in part - torn up to make space for car parking at the Olympic Stadium. Up front I formed a decent partnership with a black social worker, Sam. He had two cars. One was a battered old thing for work and the other a decent BMW. Choosing which one to drive to the game was a difficult choice, select the old one and he got there on time, choose the other and he was stopped virtually every time - even by the same officers on occasions. 

It could be, of course, that this sort of thing wouldn’t happen nowadays and yet the statistics continue to show that if you’re black or Asian you’re many more times likely to be stopped. Resentment builds up; it’s only natural especially when those doing the hassle are enjoying something that those being hassled can’t, unlike Sam, obtain - a well-paid job.

That’s because they’ve left school with few qualifications - the reasons for which I cannot hope to do justice to here, but a combination of class and colour, not forgetting a caution or two from the police, are important - but also because when they do seek work the stigma of living in a poor neighbourhood and also being black inevitably counts against them. Working at the Colin Roach Centre I lost count of the number of young, and old, people who told me of how hard they had sought without success to find work.

All of which makes people easy prey for the criminal gangs that do exist in places like Hackney. Being part of a gang gives status, or RESPECT as Tony Blair might say, and just as importantly money to be able to buy things that today everyone is told by advertisers they must have to be ‘normal’ including the latest range of mobile phones. 

In some of the especially well-organised gangs it can bring lots of money and power over the neighbourhood and like it - or not - that’s something a number of people look up to, especially when the alternative is a life of unending boredom and no money. More usually the gangs are not especially well organised and the takings from crime - including street robbery - are never going to be sufficient to allow someone to enjoy an easy life.

All of which means that when Duggan is killed there are plenty of people who can identify with him, a man who despite difficulties in his life has - and I am not defending him - made sort of ‘good’ by putting two fingers up to those - the police - who many feel are just the most visible example of those who are oppressing them. As such I’d hazard a guess that many of the people who - at least, initially - started things off hold, however imperfectly, such views.

Of course many more people have since joined in. From the looks of it that seems to be a case of when it gets a bit tasty on the streets then why not join in the general mayhem? And from my experience of riots - and I’ve seen I’d guess a good hundred or so at various locations including football grounds, demonstrations, rallies and pickets, including a number in which people died or were killed - they have a momentum of their own especially after drink gets involved. People get carried away and do things they had previously never even considered. None of which I am attempting to excuse, rather I am just trying to understand.

Of course it’s wrong when people then rob shop’s that working people have often worked their cotton socks off to get up and running. Asian shopkeepers that have been attacked are right to defend themselves, and in fact because the police are often reluctant to take seriously their complaints plenty are already used to doing so.

At the same time it’s the height of hypocrisy for Cameron, Clegg and rich Tories to condemn people for being criminals, not forgetting the Sun newspaper. The latter is part of a newspaper group that continues to hide much of its financial affairs in offshore accounts, thus avoiding paying much needed tax. Other rich people and organisations continue to do the same. Meanwhile virtually the whole political class inside Parliament has been exposed as dipping illegally into the taxpayers funds that make up their wages whilst making moves to decimate working people’s wages and future pensions.

Cameron and Clegg are best mates with many of Britain’s top paid bankers. These have helped decimate much of the country and yet despite the burning anger of many people the Con-Dem’s have refused to even contemplate restricting their future bonuses.

Then there’s that symbol of everything that’s good about this country - the Royal Family. They’re so good that they need thousands of acres of land on which to live on. Other aristocrats are the same and as such Britain has the most imbalanced pattern of land ownership in the World! Less people own more of the land than anywhere else on the planet. How did they get it? Whisper it quietly, or like the BBC and other ‘responsible’ outlets ignore it completely, but they stole it. 

Aagh you may say that was centuries ago - although not as it happens in every case - but what isn’t is the fact that these same landowners are actually paid millions each year in subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy. All whilst the people living in places like the Pembury are stuffed into unsuitable overcrowded accommodation in inner city areas where for young people finding a place to live is becoming almost impossible.

Yes those doing the thieving and the mugging are being criminals, but isn’t it more criminal to have taken away the pittance that working class students were getting under the Educational Maintenance Allowance whilst not hitting bankers, MP’s, rich tax dodgers and the Royal Family in the pocket? Who needs help the most? Get the money in and redistribute it and create a more equal world. [One in fact that doesn’t leave around a quarter of it in abject poverty with no possible means of escape.]

Doing the latter will also mean that the sorts of useless things that people have been out stealing would become of little value. A mobile phone or a television or a few fashion items don’t give someone a life, they’re being stolen because every single day highly paid advertisers are sadly, with success, ramming down people’s throats that without having this particular gadget or item then you’re no-one. A person’s value is tied up with what they own, when it should be about their relationships with other people, helping others in their community and struggling to improve the lot of everyone around them. Without which there is eventually only barbarism.

Graffiti on Clarence Road shows hostility towards police and Cameron as well
as demonstrating that gangs, [E5 - postcode area and LW - Lower Clapton Road]
which are often hostile towards one another, have combined their activities.
Of course the graffiti also demonstrates some poor spelling.

* This article has not touched on the decline of organisations such as the Colin Roach Centre in places like Hackney. Imperfect as it was it did give an opportunity for often dispossessed people to rally round and fight back against an uncaring system.