Lenny, go for it! Target the Olympics!

February 29, 2012 at 8:20 pm (Jim D, labour party, pensions, Tory scum, unions, Unite the union, workers)

Above: Lenny The Lion?

The outrage (genuine and synthetic) generated by Len McCluskey’s speculative comments about strike action around the Olympics, goes to show how far trade unionism has been beaten back in recent years. Time was (I believe people now say “back in the day” – uggh!) union leaders would make such threats as a matter of course. On the left, our only complaint was that it was almost invarariably bullshit.

So it’s good to hear Lenny issuing such a threat. And it’s a disgrace (though entirely predictable) that Ed Miliband has denounced him.

Now, here’s a really radical proposal: Lenny, act upon what you’ve said. Why not time all future disputes – including pensions and also the bus drivers and staff,  to co-incide with the Olympics, and involve the RMT, whose tube members are also in dispute over Olympic pay?

Go for it, Lenny boy!

P.S: according to today’s Graun, “Conservative co-chairman Sayeeda Warsi last night called on Ed Miliband to exert pressure on the union and said she was “shocked that Unite would sink so low.” She described the possibility of strike action as “an appalling display of naked self-interest.”


P.P.S: good stuff from Dave, here and the Mambo people, here.

P.P.P.S: from Jim Denham:

I thought I’d add a further comment: it seems to have been forgotten (including by Ed Milband), that the role of trades unions is to defend their members’ interests. Not the “national” interest, and not some nebulous “joint” interest, allegedly  between employer and empoyee: no – we’re in business to defend our members. We may even think, sometimes, that they’re in the wrong, but we still do our best to defend them. That’s what unions are all about. That and furthering the interests of the working class as a whole. Even when we find it morally difficult to defend a member (eg: accusations of child abuse or terrorism) we at least do our best to ensure due process.

And, of course, we take advantage of opportunities to further our members’ interests, such as moments when the employers are vulnerable. OF COURSE we do that! We’d be negligent if we didn’t. HOW DARE WARSI AND HER TORY BANKING FRIENDS CRITICISE LEN AND THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT FOR DEFENDING THE WORKING CLASS!

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Lester Leaps In

February 29, 2012 at 3:02 am (jazz, Jim D, music)

Leap Day:

Never mind women proposing to men, or that business with the gloves: here’s the great Lester Young demonstrating what can be done with ‘I Got Rhythm’:

Simon Spillett (himself a tenor saxist of note) writes:

“‘Lester Leaps In’ is Young’s self-dedication, tailored to the chords of George Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’. Lester was actually one of the first jazz improvisers to abandon Gershwin’s original written tag, thus streamlining the sequence and making it easier to play on. Highlights are those false fingered concert B flats – that ‘Dah-Ah’ sound – and his gentle flutters in the fours with Basie (on piano). This is a record…that it is impossible not to smile to, capturing all the joyful irrepresibility of the tenorist in his prime.” 

Lester (“Pres”) died in 1959: at his funeral the trombonist Tyree Glenn played  ‘Just A-Wearing For You’ and someone commented, “Pres would have liked that…but the photographers snapping flashlight pictures while it was going on – he wouldn’t have wanted that to happen. Wasn’t no beauty in that and Pres wouldn’t have wanted anything that wasn’t pretty.”

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Mr Ed sings – about Rebekah?

February 28, 2012 at 6:53 pm (Asshole, Beyond parody, cops, gloating, Jim D, media, Murdoch)

Thanks Rebekah: any excuse to revisit Mr Ed:


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Save the NHS! Shoot down the vultures!

February 28, 2012 at 9:59 am (Champagne Charlie, Cuts, health service, parasites, profiteers, protest, Tory scum)

Protest outside ‘Winning Business in the New NHS’ conference, Wednesday 29 February, 8.00 am at  the King’s Fund, 11-13 Cavendish Street London, W1G 0AN.

Protest called by the Health Alarm 11:59 mobilising committee.

Click here to download pdf leaflet.

The conference is a briefing session (at £354 a head) for private profiteers dealing with the NHS, run by a communications firm, GB Communications PR, whose bosses have strong NHS connections. The philosphy of these profiteers is succinctly and frankly outlined  in a recent letter to the Guardian:

 I find the logic of your editorial (23 February) somewhat lacking. Neither vested interests nor the vagaries of public opinion can be allowed by an honest government to stand in the way of difficult decisions. On your logic, the unions would still be holding us all to ransom, the Bank of England would remain under the government’s thumb, and Saddam Hussein and Gaddafi would still be in business. Radical reform of the NHS is essential. The proposed reforms are rational and modest. The lurid and shameless resistance movement has been managed by the usual suspects. Unless the NHS is at long last de-Sovietised, it will collapse in bankrupt ruin, to be followed by thoroughgoing privatisation.
Professor David Marsland

Conference speakers include Mark Simmonds, Tory MP and shadow Health Minister 2007-10, probably the highest-placed Tory able to speak on the issue without the constraints of a current government position. Simmonds is paid £50,000 a year, on top of his MP’s salary, to work just 10 hours a month as “strategic adviser” to Circle Health, which on 1 February became the first private firm to take over the running of an NHS hospital, Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

As NHS experts Alyson Pollock and David Price have written: “up to £100 billion annually of taxpayers’ money is likely to be handed over to large corporations that will run and operate our NHS services for profit…

“The winners will be shareholders, CEOs and directors of new companies while the losers will be the poor, the elderly and the infirm — those whom the health service was designed to protect… The reforms mean that the NHS will remain as a brand name only with health services will be run on US lines by, and largely for, shareholders and profit.”.

The 29 February conference is about profiteers positioning themselves to get their slice of the £100 billion.

There is still time to stop the Health and Social Care Bill, which is set to strike a massive and grievous blow to the NHS. We need a mobilisation of the labour movement to demand the bill is withdrawn and to put forward a positive plan to rebuild the National Health Service.

We demand also the repeal of cuts to the NHS, the liberation of the NHS from extortionate PFI charges, the reversal of the marketisation already imposed.

We call on the Labour Party to publicly reaffirm Andy Burnham’s promise that a future Labour government will reverse marketisation of the NHS by this government.

We will demonstrate against the private sector vultures, with a simple message: no to the Health and Social Care Bill! No to privatisation – hands off our NHS! Please join us!

More details: healthalarm@yahoo.co.uk or Rosie, 07734 088 243.

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Saving Face – a worthy Oscar winner

February 27, 2012 at 7:23 pm (Brum, cinema, Disability, good people, humanism, Islam, Jackie Mcdonough, misogyny, terror, thuggery, women)

From Birmingham Mail.net:

The documentary  film ‘Saving Face’ about the work of Birmingham charity Islamic Help and its campaign to treat women injured in acid attacks has won an Oscar.

The film, which charts the work of Balsall Heath-based Islamic Help and its long-running programme treating victims of the devastating attacks, received the prestigious accolade in the short documentary category at the glittering LA ceremony.

It features renowned plastic surgeon Mohammad Ali Jawad who repairs the wounds suffered by women at the hands of jealous partners. Mr Jawad has led teams of doctors on behalf of the charity in performing hundreds of procedures on those in desperate need of surgical help.

Makers Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy turned the spotlight on the charity after seeing a Channel 4 film detailing the surgeon’s work with model Kate Piper, herself an acid attack victim and now Islamic Help’s official ambassador.

A spokesman for the charity said they were overjoyed at the triumphant news.

“This will help raise the global profile of our campaign. It is a remarkable achievement by the film-makers who deserve the award for their fantastic work,” added the charity’s spokesman.

“This is a great platform for us to keep up the good work. Many of us involved with Islamic Help had our fingers crossed throughout the night waiting for news from the ceremony.

“We were all absolutely overjoyed when it was announced that Saving Face had won the Oscar.”

Co-director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy said: “Daniel Junge thought it would be fascinating to see how Dr Jawad’s revolutionary plastic surgery skills could be used.

“Our story shows the audience how a country’s own people can help overcome problems. We hope the documentary will help people understand acid violence.”

Meanwhile, the charity is staging its Four Miles for Smiles fund-raising event at Edgbaston Reservoir on Sunday.

All cash raised from the sponsored walk will go to its Smiles Better campaign that funds the work of Mr Jawad.

Registration fee is £10 for adults and £5 for children. All participants will receive a medal, certificate and T-shirt.

Further details from Umbreen Hussain on 07528 832 759 or email umbreenhussain@islamichelp.org.uk.

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The SWP at its best…and worst

February 26, 2012 at 12:12 pm (anti-fascism, Jim D, red-baiting, sectarianism, Socialist Party, SWP, tesco, youth)

Well done the SWP!
Now there’s something you never expected to read here. I’ve been meaning to say it for a week or so: ever since the Government’s workfare programmes began to unravel with major particpants like Tesco effectively pulling out and  the A4e cheap labour outfit exposed as a fraud-ridden money-making scam whose main aim is to further enrich Cameron’s chum Ms.Emma Harrison.

What’s this got to do with the SWP? Well, according to employment minister Chris Grayling, it’s all the fault of “a small group of long-standing militant activists from the far Left… (running) a big internet campaign that is being run by an organisation that is a front for the Socialist Workers Party.” At one point, the preposterous Grayling even accused the SWP of hacking his email – an allegation he has since had to withdraw.

The claim that the campaign is simply a handful of SWP’ers is repeated in more detail in today’s Sunday Telegraph, which names SWP full-timer Michael Bradley, party member Julie Sherry and Right To Work chairperson Sam James, as key figures.

Now, I have not been personally involved with the present incarnation of the Right To Work Campaign (it’s a relatively recent revival of the original 1970’s campaign), but it’s obvious that it is being largely run, financed and directed by the SWP. You could even, perhaps, call it a “front”:  in principle, what’s wrong with that? In fact, congratulations to them – it’s by far the most useful and progressive activity the SWP has been involved in for many, many years. But I can also guarantee you that people other than SWP’ers are involved, and even the Torygraph acknowledges that the Socialist Party’s Youth Fight For Jobs and the non-aligned UK Uncut are part of the campaign.

Regardless of whether it’s fair to call Right to Work a “front” for the SWP, the dramatic success of the campaign (Tesco, for instance, have now abandoned the unpaid work experience scheme and announced its own programme paying £7 per hour) proves that a determined, well organised campaign focussing on an issue of immediate relevance to working class people, can achieve real results – something we perhaps tend to forget after years of defeats and setbacks.

The identities of hard-left militants orchestrating a campaign to undermine a Government scheme to provide youngsters with work experience can be exposed today.

 Above: SWP / Right To Work activists outside McDonald’s, Oxford Street

Sadly, at yesterday’s Unite Against Fascism (UAF) national conference, the SWP were back to their usual form:

“There has been quite a bit of fuss, including inside the SWP, about the lack of democracy in UAF, and so this year – for the first time since the campaign’s founding in 2003, believe it or not – there were elections for the national committee. However even this small step was largely a formality or, to be blunt, a fake. Rather than a proper open election for a multi-member committee, candidates had to be nominated for a variety of individual positions (chair, vice chair, secretary, assistant secretary, parliamentary officer and so on).

“Obviously this will have discouraged people from standing – and, lo and behold, there was only one candidate for each position. (Many of them were nominated by “Love Music Hate Racism” and “One Society Many Cultures” – “organisations” which decide these things how, exactly?) However this was only achieved by excluding Justin Baidoo, a young socialist and trade unionist from South London wishing to challenge SWP full-timer Martin Smith for assistant secretary, on a technicality. (See here.) The chair of his union branch had sent in the nomination, but failed to send in the reaffiliation form.

“Given this is the first time UAF has held elections, and given there were no other contested elections, you might think something could be done? Wouldn’t it have been positive to have a real election? But no, rules are rules – that is, when they allow the UAF leadership to carve out opponents. I guess it would have been particularly embarrassing for the SWP to have Martin Smith attacked from the left by a young, black socialist. (I should say that Justin chose not to get up on the floor of the conference and demand a vote on his exclusion – which I think was a mistake.)

“Nonetheless, surely the election still went ahead, with participants having the chance to vote for ‘Re-Open Nominations’? Don’t be silly! The ‘candidates’ were simply declared elected. I wondered if some SWPers cringed at this total absence of democracy.”

Read the rest here.

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On Eric Joyce

February 26, 2012 at 8:03 am (booze, Cross-post, labour party, MPs, wild man)

(Excellent stuff imho. I didn’t ask for permission to cross-post – hope that’s OK, Mr Mambo -JD)

by representingthemambo in Current Affairs, Opinions, Philosophical Meanderings

As a fan of righteous violence I was actually quite amused to hear that Labour MP Eric Joyce had chinned a couple of Tory MPs this week. I’m sure they probably deserved it and the fact that he appears to have actually dropped the nut on one of them is actually hilarious.

However I then reflected that there is a serious side to this. Reading the account in the Telegraph (which may or may not be accurate of course) and learning a bit more about his recent history (he spent the night in a police cell in 2010 for drink driving) he seems like a man with a drink problem. Which isn’t that funny really. The photo I copied above is that of man who looks very different to the fresh faced MP of a few years ago. Something appears to have gone very wrong.

It’s difficult to feel too much sympathy for a man with such outrageous yearly expenses claims but one does get the feeling that his life is spiralling out of control. He has apparently just broken up with his wife and things are looking very messy.

Sadly the boozing culture and the cross-party chumminess that seems to induce is part and parcel of the British Houses of Parliament. Whilst I have no objection to people enjoying a tipple it does seem it has gone too far and Parliament is treated like a club. MPs appear to have easy access to lots of cheap and free booze when discharging their various responsibilities and some people obviously can’t cope with it. Joyce, it would appear, is one of them.

The collegiate ‘club’ atmosphere in the Commons and Lords is one that bothers me very much. There is often a lot of talk of British politics being too ‘adversarial’ but I take the opposite view. The disagreements are invariably shrill but never over matters of serious principle. Considering the stakes they should hate each other. It worries me more when they don’t. It should be a violent clash of ideologies and worldviews. That it isn’t is largely due to Labour’s failings over the years and eagerness to adapt to the status quo. One actually can’t take issue with Joyce’s drunken statement that there are ‘too many Tories’ in the House but such brainless tribalism isn’t enough I’m afraid.

Personally I think they should close the bar. It may sound radical and authoritarian but in how many other workplaces would such a state of affairs be tolerated? The bar that used to be open at the hospital I work at has been shut for years. MPs, when it comes to expenses, pensions and boozing seem to operate by a different set of rules to the rest of us. There is clearly a conceit, that they often fail to veil convincingly, that they are special and deserve to be treated differently and that they could all be earning more money in the private sector.

Maybe some MPs need to remember what they are paid handsomely to do and that it is a privilege for them (not us) to be our elected representatives. And if they do think they can earn more elsewhere, then piss off and do it. They are a bunch of faceless mediocrities for the most part anyway.

And finally I think we would be best not to sneer and laugh at Joyce too much. He sounds like he needs help rather than mockery. Whether this will finish his political career or not we shall have to see, but I have an uneasy premonition of him going the way of that other drink-soaked politician, Charles Kennedy, and fading into embarrassing irrelevance or even worse. Whilst Joyce is no great shakes as a parliamentarian, it would be a tragic fall from grace on a purely human level.

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Book launch and event: Stalin’s persecution of Jewish writers

February 25, 2012 at 9:42 am (anti-semitism, history, Human rights, intellectuals, Jewish music, Jim D, stalinism, terror)

Dear friend – I thought you might be interested in this  event. Do feel free to circulate to anyone else you think might be  interested.
Best wishes
Ross Bradshaw
Five Leaves Publications PO Box  8786 Nottingham NG1 9AW Office number: 0115 9895465 Out of office:  0115 9693597
Click on image above to enlarge and read.

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Total victory for the sparks!

February 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm (class, Jim D, Sheer joy, solidarity, unions, Unite the union, workers)

From: Dan J
Date: Friday, 24 February 2012
Subject: [lambethsos] Sparks Victory!
To: “lambethsos@yahoogroups.com” <lambethsos@yahoogroups.com>

Just got this and it really is an inspiration!

SPARKS PROTEST TOMORROW CANCELLED because…the other 5 companies have just given up!
The BESNA agreement is no more. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a victory thanks to the sustained direct action and protests by sparks and other construction workers’ and their independent rank and file action http://www.constructionenquirer.com/2012/02/23/its-official-besna-is-finished/

It’s official: BESNA is finished

Grant Prior | Thu 23rd February | 18:18

The controversial BESNA reforms of the M&E sector have been officially killed off.

A statement from the Heating and Ventilating Contractors Association today said: ” In consultation with the remaining companies and following discussions with Unite, it has been agreed that HVCA will withdraw its proposal for the Building Engineering Services National Agreement (BESNA).

“As a result of today’s decision by HVCA, Unite has agreed not to pursue further industrial action or protests against the BESNA companies.

“HVCA, supported by its member companies, will now engage in high-level talks with Unite within an agreed timeline, with the aim of creating new proposals and ensuring agreed terms are honoured.”

The Enquirer revealed this week that the deal was dead in the water after Balfour Beatty pulled out at the eleventh hour and its fellow contractors quickly followed suit.

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No to political antisemitism at SOAS!

February 24, 2012 at 12:57 am (academe, anti-semitism, intellectuals, Jim D, Middle East, palestine, Racism)

Press release:

Launch of the New Centre for Palestine Studies at the London Middle East Institute (SOAS)

 1st March 2012 (6pm-9pm)

 We are delighted to announce the creation of a Centre for Palestine Studies at the London Middle East Institute.
The new Centre will be launched at SOAS on Thursday 1 March with an inaugural event to which you are warmly invited. Please join us at 6:00pm in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre for a discussion on Palestine studies and stay for a reception afterwards to celebrate the launch of the Centre (7:30pm onwards).
This initiative brings together the considerable academic expertise on Palestine at SOAS, a body of scholarship with deep roots and a long history. At its inception, the Centre’s membership draws on about 35 SOAS academics across a wide range of disciplines, ensuring that SOAS has one of the world’s most unique concentrations of academic specialism on Palestine.
Speakers include:

· Hassan Hakimian, Director of the London Middle East Institute and Reader in Economics Department, SOAS, will introduce the launch and offer welcomes

· Gilbert Achcar, Professor of Development Studies and International Relations at SOAS, the first Chair of the Centre for Palestine Studies, will present the new centre and outline its perspectives.

· Karma Nabulsi, Fellow in Politics at St Edmund Hall, Oxford University and member of the advisory committee of the Centre, will speak on ‘Palestine Studies and their Future Internationally

· Ilan Pappé, Professor of History, Director of the European Centre for Palestine Studies, University of Exeter, will focus on ‘Palestine Studies in the British Academia: Past, Present and Future’

 The event is free; there is no need to register. Our website will be going live soon.

Shiraz Socialist says: note that at least two of the speakers – Nabulsi and Pappé – are on record as advocating the destruction of Israel, and are therefore political antisemites. Such people need to be confronted and denounced for what they are:  political antisemites.

A peaceful protest would seem to be in order.

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