Friday, 31 January 2014

Interview with Dr Stuart Parkinson, head of scientists for global responsibility

The head of a major scientific body that promotes the ethical practice and use of science and technology has accused the environment secretary Owen Paterson of misrepresenting the threat of global climate change and lacking concern for many vulnerable parts of the world. 

Dr Stuart Parkinson, executive director for Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), is also concerned that the European Union (EU) is increasingly funding ‘security research’ by arms manufacturers and that the British government is failing to support the renewable energy sector. He also fears that an opportunity to make the case for peace may be lost in this year’s events to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One.

It was at the Conservative Party conference last year that Paterson, responsible for fighting the effects of climate change, spoke up after the first part of an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) trilogy was released. Scientists are 95% certain that humans are the ‘dominant cause’ of global warming since the 1950s. Worryingly, scientists are convinced that warming is projected to continue and in the worst cases scenario the situation is bleak for many parts of the world.

Paterson said, “this report shows a really quite modest increase…..remember that for humans the biggest cause of death is cold……..and warming will lead to longer growing seasons extending a little further north into some of the colder areas.”

Parkinson believes Paterson’s comments, “were poorly informed and misrepresent the extent of the global climate change as outlined by the IPCC. By focusing on the direct climate impacts on the UK he is showing a stunning lack of concern for the many other vulnerable parts of the world.” 

With the EU having massively increased funding for security research to €1.4 billion over the next six years, Parkinson worries that this is “resulting in an increasing use of technologies that alter the approach away from tackling the root causes of crime to ‘controlling’ the public with all sorts of implications for freedom and human rights.” 

Many of those who support the security industry contend that it provides jobs and that research is required to maintain UK firm’s positions in a growing market. The same argument is also advanced for government funds allocated to the UK’s arms manufacturers for research.

Parkinson disagrees and the SGR late last year released a report, Offensive Insecurity. This reveals that companies such as BAE Systems now has more workers in the USA than in the UK. A report that was co-authored by Ministry of Defence economists has calculated that were arms exports to halve then over 30% more jobs would be generated in five years due to the high technology skills of arms industry workers being redeployed elsewhere in civilian industry. US statistics show that the number of jobs created by spending $1bn on education is five times as many as in the military. 

“Our organisation does not just want to make arms industry workers unemployed. We want government funds to be switched away from the capital-intensive arms industry and into the renewable sector so that it can long-term replace the oil and gas sector, including fracking,” said Parkinson, whose political understanding was formed after he worked on military engineering projects whilst he was studying for his degree. Meanwhile, whilst Parkinson is in favour of research on technologies like carbon capture and storage, he contends that there is “no such thing as clean coal, only less dirty coal.” 

The SGR contends that many of the problems facing society today are the result of the irresponsible use of science, design and technology. A century ago the latest developments in scientific technology were brutally applied in a War largely carried out using nineteenth century military tactics. The introduction of machine guns, modern artillery, airplanes and tanks, allied to poison gas, led to the slaughter in the trenches. 

The Government plans to commemorate the First World War Centenary between 2014 and 2018 include battlefield visits for secondary school students. Key battle dates will be marked. Some right-wing historians have complained that the plans are too low key and by focusing on British defeats over emphasises the futility of war. Professor Gary Sheffield, vice president of the Western Front Association, has said, ‘the plans seem to miss out the fact that Britain won the war in 1918……the war was an enormous national achievement.” Others are calling the sacrifice of millions a necessary fight for freedom and even a battle for survival.


Parkinson entirely disagrees and will not be supporting “any event which seeks to glorify the war or Britain’s role in it, and I fear much of what the government plans may do this. The commemoration focus must be on ‘never again’ as the War was a horrendous waste of life that could have been avoided with greater political will.” 

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Tom Maguire plaque in Leeds Central Bus Station





The life of socialist and trade union organiser Tom Maguire is commemorated with a red plaque in Leeds Central Bus Station in St Peter’s Street. He was born not far from there in 1866 and although he died tragically young, Maguire was an inspirational political activist and theoretician admired by, amongst others, William Morris. 

Maguire helped co-found the Labour Party’s forerunner, the Independent Labour Party. However, it was as the leader of the 1890 Leeds Gasworkers’ Strike that he rose to prominence when in spite of being opposed by armed troops he organised widespread solidarity action and led workers to a famous victory.  

Maguire’s name is born by the (Isabella) Ford-Maguire Society which organises events around the socialist, feminist and radical history of Leeds. 

For more details see:- http://fordmaguire.org

For more on the life of Tom Maguire see: -



Bobby Smith - a Spurs legend


Taken from Golden Boot book that was published in 2011 by Amberley Publishing - written by Mark Metcalf and Tony Matthews

Many thanks for Tony Matthews for allowing me to publish this piece.

Bobby Smith finished as top scorer in Division One on two occasions - 1957-58 and 1958-59.

His record in the two season was as follows:-

1957-58        

Scored 36 goals (out of 93) 18 home, 18 away

Percentage: 38.7%

Runner-up: Tommy Thompson (Preston North End) 34 goals

Spurs finished third


Season 1958-59        

Scored 32 goals (out of 85) 22 home, 10 away. 

Percentage: 37.6%

Joint top with Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea)

Spurs finished 18th


When it came to toughness, nobody surpassed flint-hard Bobby Smith. He was burly, robust, brave, had a strong right-foot shot, could head a ball with power and above all, he was never afraid to go in where it hurt, often taking a heavy knock to ankle, shin, knee, thigh, back and head!

Born in Lingdale near Middlesbrough on 22 February 1933, he played for Redcar Boys’ Club and Redcar United before joining Chelsea on schoolboy forms in 1947, taking amateur status in 1949 and turning professional in May 1950. He spent the next five-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge during which time he scored 30 goals in 86 senior appearances, acting as deputy to Roy Bentley for a number of seasons.

In December 1955, Tottenham’s manager Jimmy Anderson paid £18,000 for Smith. When he arrived at White Hart Lane, Spurs lay just one place off the bottom of the First Division table, but Smith scored the necessary goals to dispel the threat of relegation and thereafter went on to play a major role in the London club’s glory years.

Initially Smith played inside-left with Len Duquemin leading the attack with Johnny Brooks on the right and in 1955-56 he scored 10 vital League goals and, after switching to centre-forward, he followed up in 1956-57 with another 18 before netting 36 in 1957-58 to equal Ted Harper’s 1930-31 club record for most in a season.

By now he had alongside him Tommy Harmer who was one of the finest passers of the ball in the English game and could split open the tightest of defences with one magical touch! Spurs also had some exceptionally fine wingers in Terry Medwin, George Robb and Terry Dyson with Cliff Jones ready in waiting.

Smith scored twice in the first four games of the season, both to no avail as Spurs lost 5-1 at Portsmouth and 3-1 at Newcastle. He was injured in the return game with Pompey and missed the next three matches before returning for the home clash with Birmingham City in mid-September.

Spurs crushed Blues 7-1 but amazing Smith failed to get on the scoresheet, Bobby Stokes weighing in with a fivetimer!

However, three days later Smith scored twice in a 4-2 home win over Sheffield Wednesday, giving the Owls’ defence a tough time as he bustled and barged his way into the penalty-area at every opportunity.

Absent from the next game (v. Manchester City) Smith was completely out of sorts in a 4-0 defeat by Wolves at Molineux and he didn’t fare much better in the next game which Spurs lost 4-3 at home to Nottingham Forest. But after netting a ‘real beauty’ in a 3-1 North London derby win over Arsenal, he never really looked back.

He found the net at Bolton (lost 3-2), did likewise in successive home wins over Leeds United (2-0) and Everton (3-1) and struck a decisive blow to earn a point at Villa Park (1-1).

He had a few off days but was at his brilliant best at Old Trafford on 30 November, grabbing a hat-trick in an excellent 4-3 victory. This was his first treble for Spurs and in fact he could well have scored five or six goals had not United’s ‘keeper David Gaskell been in such good form.

Smith weighed in with five goals during December, scoring braces in wins at Blackpool (2-0) and against his former club Chelsea (4-2) as well as sliding in the winner to beat champions-elect Wolves at White Hart Lane in front of almost 59,000 spectators.

On target twice in a 3rd round FA Cup-tie v. Leicester City (won 4-0), Spurs went out in the next round and, in fact, January was a disappointing month with only two League games being played, Smith scoring in a 3-3 home draw with Preston but having a poor game in a 2-0 defeat at Burnley.

On 8 February he did what very few players have done over the years – he scored a hat-trick against the other Manchester club, City, as Spurs cruised to a 5-1 home win, gaining sweet revenge for a same score drubbing at Maine Road earlier in the season.

Two weeks later Smith netted twice in a thrilling 4-4 draw at Highbury, bagged both goals in a 2-1 win at Leeds and struck his third hat-trick of the season in a 4-1 home win over Bolton.

At the end of March he was rampant against Aston Villa and gave Jimmy Dugdale a roasting as he scored four times in a splendid 6-2 victory. A week later he notched a couple in a 4-3 win at Everton and ended the season with singles in 3-1 and 2-1 wins over Leicester City (away) and Blackpool (home).

Spurs, who scored a total of 93 League goals in the season, finished third in the First Division – a massive 13 points behind Wolves and eight adrift of runner’s-up Preston.

In 1958-59, Smith was once again the leading scorer in top flight football, sharing the honour this time with Jimmy Greaves (Chelsea), both players notching 32 League goals. In fact, Smith and Greaves had been together briefly at Stamford Bridge (1955) and would team up again when Greaves joined Spurs in 1961.

Scorer of one goal in each of the first two games – both defeats at the hands of Blackpool at home (2-3) and Chelsea away (2-4), he was off target in the next three before netting in the 1-1 draw at Nottingham Forest. At this juncture Spurs were not playing well. In fact, they won only two of their first ten League games and were well down the table.

After netting twice in a 2-2 draw with Manchester United in front of 62,277 fans at Old Trafford and banging in the opener in a 2-1 home win over Wolves, Smith missed two sitters and hit the woodwork in a 1-1 draw at Portsmouth before scoring four times in a record 10-4 home victory over Everton on 11 October.

On the morning of the Everton game it was announced that Bill Nicholson had been appointed as Spurs’ new manager – and in the afternoon he looked on as the team selected by his predecessor, Jimmy Anderson, walloped the Merseysiders in front of almost 38,000 spectators at White Hart Lane.

The goals started to flow as early as the third minute when Alf Stokes fired Spurs ahead. Everton equalised through Jimmy Harris on 11 minutes and on the quarter-of-an-hour mark Smith rose unchallenged to nod home Tommy Harmer’s delightful cross to make it 2-1 before Danny Blanchflower sent George Robb through to score a third for Spurs.

In the 31st minute outside-right Terry Medwin flew down past Bramwell and his cross was met square on by Smith (4-1). Medwin then found space to score twice before half-time to virtually see off the Merseysiders at 6-1.

Harris reduced the deficit soon after the break, but Blanchflower quickly set up Smith who completed his hat-trick with a great finish.... 7-2 to Spurs.  There was a lull in proceedings between the 60th and 80th minutes before the game exploded into life once again. Harmer belted in a rocket from 15 yards (8-2)... Harris replied (8-3), Smith put away Stokes’s corner (9-3), Bobby Collins made it 9-4 and the injured Johnny Ryden nipped in with a later tenth to seal a memorable victory.

Smith maintained his form by scoring in each of the next four matches – a 4-3 victory at Leicester, a 2-3 home defeat by Leeds, a 1-5 drubbing at Manchester City and a 1-1 draw with Bolton at White Hart Lane. He then struggled in the 2-1 win at Luton and the 4-0 home reverse against Birmingham before scoring twice in a seven-goal thriller at West Bromwich which Spurs lost 4-3.

Smith scored in two of the five League games played in December – in 2-1 defeats by Preston and West Ham - before starting the New Year with a smart effort in a 3-1 victory over Blackburn. He then netted in successive FA Cup-ties against West Ham (won 2-0) and Newport County (won 4-1), scored in a disappointing 4-1 home defeat by Arsenal and struck twice in a hard-earned 4-4 home draw with Portsmouth towards the end of  February but was then sidelined for three games at the start of March.

Returning for the home visit of Manchester City, he scored in a 3-1 win, netted again six days later when Aston Villa were beaten 3-2 and was on target in the 3-0 win over FA Cup finalists Luton Town during the first week of April.

He then went out and ended the season in style... grabbing both goals in the 2-2 draw with Burnley (one a fierce drive from outside the area), cracked in his second four-timer of the campaign when West Brom were battered 5-0 on a barren White Hart Lane pitch (he could have had six or seven in this one-sided game if Baggies’ goalkeeper Ray Potter had not been at his brilliant best) and netted the opener in a last-day 2-2 draw at Preston.

After two wonderful campaigns, during which time he scored 73 goals in competitive football and 12 more in friendlies, Smith followed up in 1959-60 with another 25 in the First Division, plus five more in the FA Cup, four of which came in a 13-2 fourth round replay victory over Crewe Alexandra.

He then added 33 more to his tally in 1960-61 (28 League, 5 FA Cup) when, of course, Spurs completed the double. After that he struggled with injury problems for long periods and managed only 27 more League goals in the next three seasons before transferring to Brighton & Hove Albion for £5,000 in May 1964.  His record with Spurs was superb – 208 goals in 317 first-class appearances. He gained League, European Cup-winner’s Cup and two FA Cup winner’s medals, scoring in the 1961 final against Leicester and against Burnley a year later with his socks rolled down to his ankles. He also won 15 England caps, scoring 13 goals including two in the 9-3 drubbing of Scotland at Wembley in April 1961.

Smith, who helped Brighton win the Fourth Division championship in 1965, remained at The Goldstone Ground until October 1965 when he moved to Hastings United, later assisting Leyton Orient (on trial) and Banbury United. He retired in May 1969 to become a painter and decorator and as the years passed by he became a cripple, the legacy of his footballing career. Sadly Smith died after a short illness in Enfield, Middlesex on 18 September 2010.

Shortly after his death, the Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp paid tribute to Bobby Smith as both a player and a person.  "I loved Bobby. A proper character and what a player," said Redknapp.                                                                                                 "He was a larger-than-life character and I am sorry to see him go.                                     "I remember seeing him terrorize goalkeepers in those days of European football, battering the ball into the back of the net, but not only that, he could play as well.          "He was a real top centre-forward and a great, great character." 

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The 1984-85 miners' strike - the build up



9 March will see the release of the book Images of the Past featuring the fantastic photographs of the late Martin Jenkinson. I am proud to be one of the co-authors - the other is Mark Harvey - and the added benefit is that25% of the author's (Martin's is going his wife and daughter) fee's are to be split with the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign and the Justice for Mineworkers. I have written the 25,000 words for the book. 

In the run-up to the release of the book I thought it might be good to put one or two things on this blog. One of the key issues in the lead up to the strike was whether the Tories had a secret plan to close most of the pits. A speech by Arthur Scargill to the 1983 TUC is reprinted below from the Yorkshire Miner. 

Scargill's claims were ridiculed in the press and the media and coal board chairman Ian MacGregor even sent out a letter in June 1984 to every miner’s home stating: ‘This is a strike which should never have happened. It is based on a very serious misrepresentation of the facts ... miners have supported the strike because your leaders have told you this ... that we plan to do away with 70,000 jobs.That we plan to close 86 pits, leaving only 100 working collieries. If these things were true I would not blame miners for getting angry. But these things are absolutely untrue. I state that categorically and solemnly. You have been deliberately misled.’  MacGregor was lying. 


Report on Arthur Scargill's speech to TUC Conference in 1983 

Add caption


Charlie Hurley's league debut was 60 years ago this weekend


This weekend marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Millwall debut of centre-half Charlie Hurley, who later went on to manage Reading. Over the next three and a half seasons the Irishman went on to become a firm favourite amongst the Den faithful before departing in a big money move to Sunderland. Up at Roker Park, Charlie became the adored favourite of the crowd and was to be subsequently voted Sunderland’s finest ever footballer.

Milwall drew 2-2 at Torquay in Hurley’s first match and the seventeen year-old quickly became an established part of a defence that included experienced captain Alex Jardine and ‘keeper Malcolm Finlayson.

In the 1954-55 season, Hurley made an impressive thirty-eight league games in Division Three South and was already showing that in addition to being a good tackler he didn’t lack for confidence in playing the ball accurately out of defence.  Hurley loved playing at the Den, saying, “the dockers fell in love with me as they liked the fact I was a footballing centre half who used to play a bit, taking risks as they would call it today but I just thought that was how you played.”

Malcolm Finlayson and Charlie go up to baulk Jimmy Rodgers,
Bristol City's centre forward, in a match Millwall lost
3-1 at the Den on September 4th 1954 

Denis Pacey, who hit 12 goals for Millwall during the season, later recalled: “Hurley had very good ability on the ball; I think he could have played in any position as he had so much ability in both feet.” Millwall finished the season in fifth place, raising hopes of a promotion push in the next campaign.

Millwall 14th October 1954
Back row: John Short, Joe Heydon, Stan Anslow, Malcolm Finlayson, Pat Saward, Charlie Hurley
Front row: Johnny Johnson, Denis Pacey, Alex Jardine (captain), Johnny Summers, Gordon Prior  
However, the 1955-56 season was to be Millwall and Charlie Hurley’s worst ever. It started well enough for number five as he was considered good enough to be picked as part of the London X1 side that became the first English team to play in a European competition, the Inter-City Fairs Cup. He was one of only two from outside the top flight to be selected. Hurley partnered Danny Blanchflower in defence.

The match at Wembley saw London beat Frankfurt 3-2 with Roy Peskett, writing below a massive ‘HURLEY HOLDS GERMANS’ headline in the Daily Mail, proclaiming that “cool elegant, at times almost classical in his action, Hurley, I think is going to figure among the great ones in soccer within a few years.”

Hurley was brought up in London and thus required to do National Service and it was whilst playing for the Army Catering Corps that he did his cruciate knee ligaments. It prevented him making his debut for Ireland against Spain, put him out of the London side that fought its way through to the Inter-City Fairs Cup final and also threatened to end his career at just twenty. An already struggling Millwall side fell further down the table, manager Charlie Hewitt was sacked, and the necessity to apply for re-election was only just avoided by a twenty-second end of season placing.

Despite a severe shortage of cash, Millwall ignored rumours that Hurley would never play again and stood by him. “Millwall were great and stood by me during the hardest weeks of my football life. They were brilliant.” Hurley worked eighteen hours’ a day for six weeks in a rehabilitation centre.

An unfit Hurley missed the opening weeks of the 1956-57 and when he returned he was moved to centre forward where he scored in consecutive matches but saw his side thrashed 7-2 at Torquay and 5-1 at home to Aldershot. Still not fully recovered he did not return to the side until 1957 and missed out on the famous FA Cup defeat of 50s cup kings Newcastle United. The season ended with Millwall in seventeenth place and with Hurley having made twenty-five league appearances.

In the summer of 1957, Hurley finally made his international debut for the Republic of Ireland. England had thrashed Ireland 5-1 at home in a World Cup qualifier and the Millwall number five was given the task of preventing Manchester United’s Tommy Taylor, who had netted a hat-trick at Wembley.

The Republic’s selectors were criticised for making an inexperienced player the kingpin of their defensive system. Millwall manager Ron Gray, however, was confident Hurley would do well, saying, “Charlie is just the boy for Taylor – he’s good in the air. He can hover like a helicopter.”

Gray was to be right as Hurley totally blotted Taylor out of the game and many pundits rated him man-of-the-match. Ireland led until the 92nd minute when a late equaliser by John Atyeo took a fortunate England side through to the World Cup finals the following summer. The sides would have required a third match if Ireland had held on. Hurley went on to make 40 appearances for his country, which was at the time a record total.

Hurley’s performance against England had many First Division sides keen to sign him and a penniless Millwall were keen to cash in once the 1957-58 season started. However, when Sunderland came calling, Hurley had no idea where the place was and initially refused to uproot and leave his family behind. It didn’t help that in an era where the maximum wage was still in place his wages would remain the same.

Eventually a deal was agreed and Sunderland paid £18,000 to Millwall. Considering the record fee for a player at the time was £35,000 then the equivalent fee today would be around £18 million for a centre half not yet twenty-one.

Hurley enjoyed a 12-year career at Sunderland and remains revered amongst Wearsiders. He became one of the first defenders to come up for corners and he regularly scored powerful-headed goals. Welsh legend John Charles rated him the finest centre half playing in England in the early part of the 60s.

After Hurley left the northeast he left he played briefly for Bolton Wanderers before becoming manager at Reading in 1972. It was his ability to get the best out of Robin Friday – rated by some Reading fans as their finest footballer ever – that helped the Royals win promotion to Division Three in 1975-76.

When Friday, described by Hurley as “a nutter and that’s an understatement, but he was a naturally gifted player”, went off the rails at the start of the season and was sold to Cardiff City, Hurley was unable strengthen his side. As the Elm Park club tumbled back into the bottom flight, Hurley brought to an end his career in football by quitting his post in February 1977.

Mark Metcalf
Author of the authorised biography CHARLIE HURLEY – “The Greatest Centre Half the World has Ever Seen”
Published by SportsBooks Limited in 2008.


Monday, 27 January 2014

Did police spy Mark Jenner help prevent justice in the David Ewin murder case?

When on February 1995, PC Patrick Hodgson gunned down an unarmed man, the self-funded Colin Roach Centre (*) in Hackney was approached by the dead man's wife, Sarah Ewin, to help seek justice.

See: - http://www.independent.co.uk/news/officer-shot-unarmed-suspect-1312861.html

The killer had to endure 3 trials before he was finally pronounced innocent of murder or manslaughter. The first trial was stopped in controversial circumstances when two people in the public gallery shouted out that Hodgson had known Ewin before the shooting incident and brought proceedings to a sudden end. With a re-trial costing at least a million in public funds you would have assumed that the very least that security officers in the highest court in the land, the Old Bailey, would have done was prevent those who had forced the trial to be abandoned from leaving. Not so. Surely then the Met Police would ensure they later arrested them? Not so, even though many people knew who they were.

The events were covered in the magazine produced by the Colin Roach Centre titled RPM. What follows are the articles from issues 3 and 4. In the article from number 3 the final paragraph is of particular interest as it makes reference to 'a wider State-inspired plot......probably we will never know if the two who intervened were part of something wider........'

Many years on we do know that the Colin Roach Centre/HCDA was at the centre of a wider State inspired plot as it had within its ranks Mark Jenner (see http://www.bigissueinthenorth.com/2013/03/there-is-no-way-of-knowing-how-much-damage-jenner-caused/7622) Jenner wrote a number of articles for RPM magazine (see below) and also the internal newsletter for members.

Jenner attended a number of events in support of Sarah Ewin and also attended the Old Bailey. What was his role in this and other events - such as the campaigning by Malcolm Kennedy to clear his name and demonstrate the police killed Patrick Quinn (see http://writemark.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/malcolm-kennedy-rip.html) - in which the police were under the microscope?









* 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. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Unite help ensure safety remains top priority at slate quarry

Unite members at the Penrhyn Slate Quarry are following in a long tradition of land based trade union activity on the North Wales site. A union was first organised there in 1874 and the start of the last century saw the longest dispute in British industrial history. Today, Unite is working closely with the owners of the quarry and has been successful in reducing accidents to virtually zero. This is a remarkable feat considering the difficult working conditions.
 
Located just outside the small village of Bethesda, the quarry was first developed commercially in the 1770s. It went on to become the world’s largest slate quarry in the nineteenth century and remains Britain’s biggest. Welsh Slate Ltd, which also includes smaller quarries in North Wales, manufacture on site each week around 125,000 roofing slates as well as decorative aggregates for paths and gardens. This provides jobs for around a hundred people on processing and twenty plus in the actual quarry itself.
 
The quarry is enormous and the main pit is a 1.6 km long and 150 metres deep.  This provides some unique safety challenges.

Thanks to Paul Box for permission to use this photograph. 

 
There are 15 metre benches or terraces on open galleries on each mountainside. The slate itself starts 60 metres below ground. Removing the overburden is an ongoing process and in the last year contractors have stripped 2 million tonnes in order to widen the quarry and free up more slate. The slate’s colour depends on the chemical composition of the mudstone, which was deposited at Penrhyn around 500 million years ago. Most slates from Penrhyn are heather blue in appearance.

Extracting the slate involves taking advantage of the natural weaknesses in the rock through planes and joints to take out large blocks. The word slate is derived from the French verb esclater, meaning to split.
 
Since Irish businessman Kevin Lagan purchased the quarry in 2007 there has been major investment. A new machine has been purchased that uses wire impregnated with diamonds in cheese wire fashion after probes have been employed to link the vertical and horizontal cuts.


Copyright Paul Box 

 
Although explosives are then employed to bring down the loosened rock the process has lessened the danger of falls as the quantity of shot required is considerably less than in the past. Nevertheless in the last few years there have been two major rock falls in the quarry, including one that released six million tonnes of rock. Fortunately, both falls were at night and no one was injured.
 
Quarry manager Dafydd Williams said,  “The skill is to understand the geology of the quarry. It could be very dangerous as the cleavage of the slate is vertical but you’ve got sub joints that are parallel. If you don’t understand those joints and recognise that by moving one block it will impact on those near to it then you could find yourself with problems.”


Copyright Paul Box 

3,000 tonnes of productive slate a week are taken from the quarry. Huge loaders and massive Volvo trucks are used to carry giant blocks of stone for processing.
 
Once the slate blocks reach the processing plant a hydraulic splitter is employed to split the slate to a size that can be sawed. Not so long ago this breaking down of the stone was done manually with a sledgehammer and chisel. It would have been back breaking work.
 
Forklift trucks transport the smaller blocks to the sawmill, where four saws further reduce the size of the stone to various sizes of which the most popular for customers is 20 by 10 inches.

Copyright Paul Box 
The remaining stone is deposited with the splitters, whose job it is to determine the thickness of the finished slate. This depends on the quality of the slate as well as the skill and experience of the worker. Wayne Eccles started work on a training scheme in the early 90s and was given 32 weeks training on splitting. He said, “The skill is in the eye as you always split slate in half. Some people use their thumb to decide on what thickness the slate will be.” The splitters are the only employees whose contracts include bonus payments – which can vary from £50 to £150 a week – and they make more if they can create roofing slates that are thin rather than thick. As we are talking millimetres in difference then that is no easy task.
 
Eccles followed his father into the quarry industry as did Neil Roberts, whose sister has examined the family tree and discovered the link to quarrying goes back six generations to 1823. Both men are aware of the famous strike that started at the quarry in November 1900 and ran for almost three years.
 
Quarrymen were being forced to endure extremely hard and dangerous work for low levels of pay. The Quarrymens Union was established in 1874 and achieved success that year in disputes at Penrhyn and Dinorwic Quarry. Aristocratic families owned all of the quarries in North Wales with Penrhyn in the hands of Lord Penrhyn. His family had at one time owned thousands of slaves on their Jamaican sugar plantations. They won huge compensation for ‘loss of income’ when slavery was abolished. They invested this in developing their slate quarries and building Penrhyn Castle.
 
In 1900, its owners informed 2,800 Penrhyn quarry workers that trade union contributions were to be ended at the site. Conflict with contractors who had taken their jobs led to 26 men being taken to court. After taking solidarity strike action the quarrymen returned to work only to discover that 800 of them no longer had any work after eight banks had been closed. Every worker left the quarry and despite the hardships, which were made worse as there were insufficient union funds for strike pay, an improved company offer was refused at Christmas 1900.
 
On 11 June 1901 the quarry was re-opened with the company inviting selected quarrymen to break the strike by offering them increased wages. Only 242 initially returned to work and were joined by a similar number of newly recruited employees.
 
Those who returned were considered traitors and cards with the wording ‘Nid Oes Bradwr yn y Ty Hwn’ (There is no traitor in this house) were displayed in the strikers’ windows. Taking down a card was a sign that a worker had returned to work. Lord Penrhyn then built new homes for strikebreakers away from the centre of Bethesda. The strikers complained of ceaseless persecution by the police and a committee of inquiry appointed by Caernarvonshire County Council found that the police acted without regard to the liberties of those on strike.
 
After three years on strike the suffering of the strikers forced them to return to work on Lord Penrhyn’s terms. The victorious owner refused to re-employ the strike leaders and many subsequently left the area permanently to find work elsewhere.
 
Although the workers were defeated the landmark dispute nevertheless played an important role in the subsequent emergence of radical politicians across Wales.
 
“I think the workers were right to strike. I joined the union when I became employed, as you need representation at work,” said Roberts, who, like Eccles, is an elected Unite safety representative. Both are rightly proud that there has been no lost time due to accidents in well over a year.


 
“We have a proper safety committee that meets regularly with management to discuss how to make the workplace safe. There are high explosives used in the quarry and we are working with heavy blocks of stone. Safety is therefore very important. We have worked closely with management on raising awareness of previous injuries. The use of trolleys has reduced manual handling and as a result reduced back injuries. There is also proper safety equipment in the workshops including ear plugs and dust masks,” said Eccles.


Sunday, 19 January 2014

Sir Samuel Romilly

Barry pub name commemorates successful legal reformer 

The Sir Samuel Romilly, Barry, South Glamorgan

Sir Samuel Romilly (1757 – 1818) was a successful legal reformer who did much to end both the slave trade and capital punishment for minor crimes.

The Londoner used a legacy of £2,000 to train as a lawyer and in 1786 he published his book Observations in which he opposed an increase of capital punishments. When Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson formed the Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade, Romilly supported the organisation and his activities brought him into contact with William Wilberforce and Jeremy Bentham.

When the London Corresponding Society campaigned for a widening of the electoral franchise and suffered prosecution, Romilly successfully defended John Binns against a charge of seditious words in 1797.

On entering the House of Commons in 1806 as MP for Queenborough in Kent, Romilly became Solicitor General under the Whig administration led by Lord Grenville, a staunch slave trade opponent. When the Foreign Secretary, Charles Fox, presented a series of bills to ban the slave trade in British colonies they were passed overwhelming in the House of  Commons and the Lords.

Romilly believed this was “the most glorious event, and the happiest for mankind, that has ever taken place since human affairs have been recorded.” The 1807 Abolition of the Slave Trade Act did not however mark the end of slavery as by ruling that British captains found trading would simply be fined - £100 for each slave found on board - then captains captured by the British Navy often preferred to throw slaves overboard rather than pay up.

Slavery was to be finally abolished in the British Empire on 1 January 1834, by which time Romilly had been dead for over fifteen years after he killed himself only weeks after his wife, Margaret Garnault, died. 

In the decade before Romilly, rather than face it without his wife, took his life he led the campaign to restrict the death penalty. His liberal views were not matched by his Parliamentary colleagues and he found it difficult to persuade them to pass legislation. He did though manage to repeal statute’s, which made it a capital offence to steal from a person, and also for soldiers caught begging without a pass from a magistrate or his commanding officer. In 1814 he succeeded in abolishing hanging, drawing and quartering.


Romilly’s son, John followed in his father’s footsteps by becoming an MP and served as Solicitor General and Attorney General between 1846 and 1851. He became Baron Romilly of Barry in 1866 and owned a considerable estate in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Sir Samuel Romilly pub was opened by J.D Weatherspoon’s four years ago and serves a large selection of drinks, refreshments and food to people of all ages

Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent book review - published by Corporate Watch



MANAGING DEMORACY, MANAGING DISSSENT
Corporate Watch
Edited by Rebecca Fisher
 
How global capitalism is dependent on manipulating democracy in order to survive.
 
The two biggest political decisions taken in Britain this century are those that sent British troops to Iraq in 2003 and the £500 billion bank bail-out deal completed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling in October 2008. Even though the latter decision let corrupt bankers off the hook and ensured a fiscal and public sector crisis for generations to come it was made even before any debate in Parliament had taken place.
 
And whilst the decision to commit armed forces to Iraq was made after a substantive Parliamentary vote it was taken after millions of voters had demonstrated against the war and opinion polls indicated massive opposition to the conflict, which more than a decade later is still ongoing.
 
Meanwhile in 2014 the Tory-Lib Dem government continues down a path it failed to let the electorate know about in 2010 as it fast-forwards the destruction of the NHS by passing control to the private sector and hedge fund operators.
 
When it comes to an increasing number of big – and little - decisions that affect them and their families then it appears the British electorate must be denied a voice. A situation that is largely replicated right across the globe.
 
Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent – Capitalism, Democracy and the Organisation of Consent is published by the not for profit research organisation, Corporate Watch. Rebecca Fisher edits the writings and they demonstrate how liberal democracy defends the unequal capitalist power structures from the potential good of participatory democracy. Increasingly this defence involves criminalising a much greater range of effective activities such as the ability of trade unionists to take secondary action in support of their fellow workers or students occupying their Universities in opposition to tuition fee increases.
 
Anti-terrorism legislation meantime is being extended to include an increasing range of activities that have nothing to do with terror but plenty to do with exposing corporate and environmental corruption.
 
Helping confuse people – and convince them there is no real alternative – is the corporate media, who have even co-opted previously progressive, pro-worker terms such as reform, which previously referred to enhancements in public welfare and now refers to eliminating labour rights and removing health and safety regulations. Similarly, the government is currently talking of economic recovery, which means the recovery of profits by the major companies whilst disguising the absolute absence of any recovery in living standards for the mass of people.
 
The book also details how corporate power and its mega-wealthy political friends have massively funded the promotion of their form of democracy across the former communist bloc, Africa and Asia and in doing so have ensured that liberation movements, which mobilised social movements to win power, have ended up attacking those who previously backed them.
 
This book therefore makes for unpalatable reading and it certainly has no happy ending, especially as it lacks solutions. However as a book, which lays bare the crisis facing working people if the vast majority are not to face permanent financial instability this is highly recommended.
 
Managing Democracy, Managing Dissent is edited by Rebecca Fisher and published by Corporate Watch. It is available to buy for £8.00 at http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/democracy 

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

John McDonnell MP pays tribute to Malcolm Kennedy

Irish Post - 11 January 2014 

Frank Swift - Blackpool legend

From Blackpool Gazette in December 2013

Millwall supporter Robert plays his part

From Millwall programme on 1 January 2014. 

Frank Swift - a Fleetwood Legend

From Fleetwood Town programme for home game with Cheltenham on
30 November 2013









Charities under fire for using workfare schemes and backing benefit sanctions


From the current edition of the Big Issue in the North magazine - please buy the magazine when you see a seller.
The YMCA has defended its involvement in the government’s workfare programme after it was among a number of leading charities heavily criticised by welfare rights campaigners.
Under workfare, individuals must undertake work in return for their benefit payments or risk losing them.
Workfare had come to an end in Britain in 1948 when workhouses introduced in 1834 were abolished. Inmates had performed a range of tasks, such as sewing and weaving, in return for relief. However, the last Labour government introduced the New Deal programme, under which claimants lost their benefits if they failed to take up full-time education, voluntary work or a job placement with companies that included Primark.
Condemned
The current government has expanded workfare. These now include the mandatory work activity placements that last four weeks, which a Department for Work and Pensions report in 2012 showed did nothing for participants’ long-term job prospects.
Many of Britain’s major companies, including Asda, Greggs and Poundland, are known to have used or be using workfare. The same is true of many national charities.
Boycott Workfare, an organisation committed to “ending forced unpaid labour for people who receive welfare”, has condemned charities that provide community work placements under workfare. They include the Shaw Trust, Groundwork UK, the Salvation Army and the YMCA.
In December, the Edinburgh Coalition Against Poverty blockaded a Salvation Army store in the city for two hours after a member of its group was forced to work there or lose his benefits. The charitable organisation responded to its critics by stating: “It is offensive that volunteering and work experience can be referred to as ‘forced labour’ as we help support victims of human trafficking who go through unimaginable ordeals.”
‘New skills’
Liz Wyatt from Boycott Workfare said: “The motivation for many charities using workfare is because they can’t find regular volunteers who can commit to more than one or two days a week. Workfare provides an endless stream of workers at little cost to charities, who often become reliant on workfare workers to operate.”
Through the mandatory work scheme some charities can receive payments – normally around £50 week – while some also boost their income by administering schemes. The latter includes the Shaw Trust, which The Big Issue in the North approached without success for comment.
YMCA England does not receive any payment in exchange for work placements in its retail shops and community construction and gardening projects.
The organisation has justified its workfare involvement by claiming participants may get their first experience of a work environment or acquire new skills to allow them to get back into work.
A YMCA spokesperson said: “We have read media reports of bad experiences through workfare but we find it difficult to condemn any scheme that carries the potential to help individuals gain new skills or prepare for future employment.
“Anecdotal evidence reveals many people on our projects have progressed into paid roles within YMCA or in other organisations. We cannot provide any figures as YMCAs are independent charities.”
The spokesperson also defended the use of benefit sanctions against claimants who did not comply with workfare.
“Many young people felt sanctions could provide motivation to get some people into work,” said the spokesperson. “However, we have supported people not wishing to work at the YMCA to return to the Job Centre and find an alternative role.”
Withdrawn
But Wyatt said there is “no evidence that unemployed people or society at large is benefiting from charity involvement in workfare”.
She added: “No wonder therefore that many charities have withdrawn from the schemes as the public are angered by their involvement.
“There is no evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work when there are so few jobs anyway. Workfare is about pushing people deeper into poverty and any charity that doesn’t recognise that is the case isn’t worthy of the name.”
In October last year, the Chancellor, George Osborne, said there was “no option of doing nothing” for welfare payments. He announced a £300 million nationwide scheme to force 200,000 long- term unemployed to undertake community work, attend a job centre every day or undergo an intensive programme to tackle their failure to find work.
Osborne’s statement came in the same month as it was revealed that benefit payments had been suspended 580,000 times to people who were ruled not to have done sufficient to find work in the previous 12 months.


Pesticide safety victory

A North West resident diagnosed as chemically poisoned has welcomed the government’s decision to alter the way the safety of pesticides is assessed for arable use.
The government move follows a long-running legal challenge by Georgina Downs, from Sussex, who was also left unwell by the use of crop sprays on fields next to her home.
According to the World Bank around 355,000 people worldwide are killed each year by pesticides.
Withdrawn
In March 2009, Downs
forced the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to review its risk assessment for people exposed to agricultural pesticides used in spraying crops.
Its working group took until December 2012 to report to ministers, who have only just announced they will accept its recommendations.
The recommendations include assessing the effects of repeated exposures to crop spraying rather than single exposures, and separate assessments for children and adults.
Some crop sprays may now need to be withdrawn or amended.
But the working group exclusively concentrated its attention on crop spraying and did not consider other methods of pesticide application, including hand-held applicators.
Collapsed
Gillian Broughton is convinced it was the use of the latter by farm labourers in June 2009 that left her seriously unwell. She was walking on a footpath in Billinge, near St Helens, alongside a farmer’s field with her son, Paul.
She saw what were possibly rabbit warrens being sprayed with what smelt like cleaning fluid. She collapsed 48 hours hours later and was unable to get out of bed for weeks. Paul was also badly affected with rectal bleeds and was off work for six months.
After failing to get a diagnosis from the NHS, Broughton paid privately for laboratory tests that concluded she had been chemically poisoned. She has been unable to prove a direct link with the use of pesticides but has campaigned against their use in her area, supported by the local branch of the Green Party.
Broughton, who hopes to soon be fit enough to seek part- time work, said: “It is great to see Georgina Downs winning out on the way that the safety of pesticides on arable products is to be assessed. This now needs to be extended to all pesticides, as the very least that needs to be additionally achieved is preventing people becoming as poorly as me in the future.”
Downs said: “By accepting all the working group recommendations the government is finally acknowledging that the risk assessment approach they’ve relied upon has been inadequate – just what I have always argued.”
Ban
However, Downs wants a ban on pesticide use in the locality of residents’ homes, schools, playgrounds and public spaces.
“There has never been any UK assessment of the health risks for residents and others exposed over the long term,” she added. “Under European legislation pesticides should never have been approved for spraying in the locality of such areas.

“The existing UK policy has put rural citizens in a guinea pig-style experiment, for which many of us residents have had to suffer the serious, devastating and even fatal consequences.”

Friday, 10 January 2014

The Battle of Hastings: the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England


Author Q&A: Harriet Harvey Wood

The Battle of Hastings: The Fall of Anglo-Saxon England 
Published in 2009. 

Harriet Harvey Wood’s book challenges conventional wisdom on 1066 by arguing that rather than bringing culture and enlightenment to England the Normans’ aggressive and illegal invasion destroyed a long- established and highly developed civilisation.
What is the basis of your claim that England in 1066 was ahead of other European people in its political institutions, art and literature?
The evidence. Much has been lost from all Dark Ages European countries, but in England we know there was poetry of a high quality, because some of it survived. We also have the law codes of the English kings from the very early 7th century to the 11th century available that show that even kings were not above the law in England. There were no law codes in Normandy. For art, look at the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Sutton Hoo jewellery and the Benedictional of St Athelwold. That’s not to say however that there wasn’t fine art work elsewhere in Europe.
What was the basis of William’s claim to the throne of England? None. He claimed that the previous king, Edward the Confessor, had promised him the succession but there is no independent proof of this.
His only blood claim was that his great-aunt had married Edward’s father. In any case, England was an elective monarchy: the previous king could say who he would like to succeed him, but the Great Council were free to disregard his suggestion – and in the case of William, they did and elected Harold.
Can you say a little about the battle of Stamford Bridge that occurred days before the Battle of Hastings?
The King of Norway Harold Hardrada invaded, claiming to be the King of England, a claim even weaker than William’s, but both were ultimately relying on force, not right. Hardrada was the most celebrated warrior of his age, and was considered unconquerable. To the English, Hardrada would have seemed the greater threat and his defeat at Stamford Bridge finally ended the Viking threat to Western Europe. However, Stamford Bridge undoubtedly reduced Harold’s strength and he arrived with fewer men at Hastings than might have been the case. It’s entirely possible also that if Harold had not been at Stamford Bridge, William would not even have managed to land.
Why did Harold choose to fight at Hastings rather than draw William forward?
With hindsight, one can only say God knows! William had caused devastation in Sussex while Harold was up north. The first duty of a king at that time was to defend and avenge his people. He had to challenge William. The point to remember is that if his defensive
tactics had worked, and they should have worked (in fact they nearly worked, as even Norman chroniclers admit), William would have lost.
It was Harold’s death that finished it.
Considering most accounts were written long after the battle took place then how much is conjecture? There aren’t many first-hand descriptions of Thermopylae or Marathon. William of Poitiers and Guy of Amiens were writing about it very soon after the event, using the accounts of those who had fought in it. From the Norman point of view, the evidence is as good as you’re likely to get in the 11th century. From the English point of view, of course, yes, it has to be largely conjecture, since there was no surviving testimony. Even the English chroniclers were reporting hearsay well after the event.

What changes did William introduce after his victory?
The most fundamental change was in land tenure laws. There was land held by the king and land held by the people (folkland). One could hold land as a gift from the king (bookland) in return for certain services, or one could hold it by “folkright” – this was probably family land, the inheritance of which may have gone back to the period of the original 5th century Anglo-Saxon settlements. William made all land the property of the king, granted by him to the holder. A man sitting on land that had been the property of his family for generations suddenly found it belonged to William.