The alleged ‘Jihadist plot’ to take over Birmingham schools

March 12, 2014 at 10:41 pm (Brum, children, crime, Education, islamism, Johnny Lewis, law, religion, religious right, sectarianism, Tory scum)

Shiraz Socialist has for some time been in possession of documents that seem to show a conspiracy by Islamists to exploit the Tories’ academy programme in order to take over schools. We have, up until now, refrained from using this material or commenting upon it, because we were not clear on its provenance and not satisfied of its authenticity. There must, properly, be the suspicion that the documents have been faked in order to stir up anti-Muslim feeling. However, this material is now in the public domain (the Birmingham Mail, the Independent, the Daily Mail and the Times have all carried articles), so we’ve decided it’s time for us to cover the story.

Firstly, what do the documents contain?

The documents’ central and most alarming content is what seems to be a letter from a Birmingham Muslim fundamentalist to a co-thinker in Bradford.

This details a five-point guide called ‘Trojan Horse’, for taking over schools and urges the rolling out ‘Trojan Horse’ to Bradford and then Manchester, boasting that  considerable success has been achieved in schools in predominantly Muslim areas of Birmingham

The documents outline alleged successful plots carried out against a number of Birmingham headteachers and other members of staff.

The documents also give a step-by-step guide for targeting “under-performing” schools with dirty tricks methods, involving the spreading of lies about the school heads.

The recipient is first urged to identify any Salafi (ie: hard-line fundamentalist)  parents sending pupils to the school.

‘They are always the most committed to the faith and are hardliners in that regard and once charged up they keep going for longer,’ says the letter.

‘When the parents have been identified, we start to turn them against the headteacher and leadership team.

‘The only way to do this is to tell each parent that the school is corrupting their children with sex education, teaching about homosexuals, making their children pray Christian prayers and mixed swimming and sport.

‘If you can get them to be very vocal in the playground as they drop off or pick up their children that will stir up other parents.

‘The parents MUST be given direction and told not to discuss this with anyone, you only need a maximum of four parents to disrupt the whole school, to send in complaints to question their child’s education and to contact their MP and local authority.’

Once the head has been forced out, Islamist governors push through plans to make the schools academies.

The academy status, as promoted by the Tories, allows them to be run out of the control of the local authority, with funding provided direct from central government.

The letter states: ‘’Operation ‘Trojan Horse’ has been very carefully thought through and is tried and tested within Birmingham, implementing it in Bradford will not be difficult for you.’’

Trojan Horse, the letter states, has been fine-tuned so that it is ‘totally invisible to the naked eye and allows us to operate under the radar. I have detailed the plan we have in Birmingham and how well it has worked and you will see how easy the whole process is to get the whole process is to get the head teacher out and our own person in.’’

The documents propose that schools with poor Ofsted reports and with large Muslim student populations should be targeted for takeover.

They add: ‘’The poor performing schools are easy to disrupt, the better performing with strong head teachers is much harder and so we have to manufacture a strong enough reason, but rest assured we have not failed yet, no matter how difficult removing the head teacher may be. You just have to be clever and find the most appropriate way to deal with the school.’’

The documents add: ‘’This is all about causing the maximum amount of organised chaos and we have fine-tuned this as part of operation Trojan Horse. You must identify what the heads strengths are and build a case of disruption around that.’’

One passage reads: “We have caused a great amount of organised disruption in Birmingham and as a result we now have our own academies and are on our way to getting rid of more headteachers and taking over their schools … Whilst sometimes the practices we use may not seem the correct way to do things you must remember this is a ‘jihad’ and as such all means possible to win the war is acceptable.”

Yesterday’s Times (11 March) drew attention to “glaring errors” in the letter, suggesting that it might be a fake. The main “glaring error” is a reference to  the ousting of the former head of Springfield School in Sparkhill/ Moseley, Birmingham. The letter states “We did this perfectly to Noshaba Hussain from Springfield School. However, the Governors reappointed her so now we have another plan in place to get her out.” In fact, Ms Hussain was dismissed in 1994 and was not reinstated. The Times also states that “the crudeness of the apparent forgery is underlined by another error. It identifies two Birmingham schools where the plotters claim credit for removing head teachers late last year. However, the author seems to have muddled up their departure dates.”

The Times goes on to quote Tahir Alam, a former “education chief” at the Muslim Council of Britain, and named in the letter as involved in the plot: “This ridiculous assertion is based entirely upon a leaked document nonsensically referred to as ‘Operation Trojan Horse’ … the authenticity of which any decent and fair-minded person would question and quickly conclude as a hoax. Any reference to me is a malicious fabrication and completely untrue.”

As against this, Shiraz can report that we’ve spoken to a number of teachers from some of the schools named in the documents, and they are of the opinion that the documents are probably genuine – if only because their content tallies with verifiable events in at least two of the schools named in the documents. The former headteacher of Saltley School, Balwant Bains (who we have not spoken to) is reported as saying he was “bullied and intimidated” in the months before he resigned last November after clashing with the school’s governors. The Birmingham Mail (10 March) reported that “Friends claim the respected head, of Sikh origin, was undermined when governors over-turned his decision to expel a Muslim pupil found with a knife. The harassment of Bains included an anonymous text message branding him a “racist, Islamophobic Head teacher.” Five non-Muslim governors of the school have resigned, leaving 12 Muslim governors out of 14. The problems at Saltley School began, according to our sources, when Mr Bains was asked by governors to make curriculum changes, including the scrapping of sex education and citizenship classes because they were allegedly deemed “un-Islamic”. He was, we’ve been told, instructed to introduce Islamic studies into the curriculum and told that only halal food should be served to pupils, even though Saltley is a non-faith school. Mr Bains resigned after an Ofsted report concluded that he had a “dysfunctional” relationship with the school’s governors.

Shiraz has also been told by Birmingham teachers that at another school named in the documents, Adderley Primary,  four Teaching Assistants have been forced out following the school’s receipt of resignation letters that the four denied having written. As a result of the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents the police have now re-opened their fraud investigation into the letters. At least one of the Teaching Assistants is now pursuing an unfair dismissal claim.

Shiraz Socialist will be following this bizarre affair and will report on developments. In the meanwhile, whether or not the ‘Trojan Horse’ documents prove to be genuine, what is clear is that the Tories’ academy programme is opening up education to religious fanatics, sectarians and bigots, making a mockery of the government’s proclaimed commitment to social inclusion.

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Unite Executive backs Collins

February 13, 2014 at 6:15 pm (capitulation, Johnny Lewis, labour party, reformism, unions, Unite the union, workers)


By Johnny Lewis (with help from Colin Foster)

The Executive Council (EC) of Unite today voted to back the Collins proposals on the Labour Party’s relationship with the unions. Apparently, just 13 members voted against and the union’s United Left was split three ways, with some voting in favour, some against and some abstaining.

Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey had already made his attitude clear by ensuring that the two Unite full-time officials on Labour’s Executive voted for the proposals on 4 February. The Unite lay rep on the Labour Executive, Martin Mayer, abstained (and is reported to have done the same at the EC), while stating that he does not like the proposals.

It is, sadly, a traditional approach of trade union leaders: to accept bad proposals without a fight because they are pleased with the adroit negotiation which made the proposals not as bad as they might have been, and they think that further “boxing clever” can curtail the remaining evils.

It looks as if most union leaders will follow McCluskey’s lead when the proposals go to a two-hour Labour Party special conference at the Excel Centre in London on 1 March.

Local Labour Party delegates, and as many unions as possible, should still vote against the proposals on 1 March, if only to lay down a marker for the battles between now and 2019 and to register a principle.

The principle is that no-one should vote for a far-reaching package like Collins’s unless they are positively convinced that it is good, and that they have had adequate space to consider, debate, and amend the package.

In fact the Labour leaders have planned 1 March as a “coronation” for the package. Moves are afoot to seek a vote in parts on the package, but that will take a struggle. Scope for amendments? None.

The evil in Collins is not so much in what it proposes immediately (though that includes bad things) as in its projection for 2019:

“After a transitional period of five years, affiliation fees shall only be accepted on behalf of levy payers who have consented to the payment of such fees. At that point, the scale of a trade union’s collective affiliation shall be governed by the number of levy payers who have consented to the payment of affiliation fees”.

That reads bland and technical, but it is not. The gist is the very opposite of the blather about building Labour as a mass working-class party.

Individual not-very-politically-active trade unionists currently have a political say through their unions’ collective representation in the Labour Party and through the right to vote on Labour leader and deputy leader.

Under the Collins plan, from 2019 all those individuals who fail or forget to tick a box on a form will be compulsorily “opted out” from their unions’ democratically-decided, collective, political action in the Labour Party, and form their individual voting rights in the Labour Party.

It is not spelled out in Collins’s text, but the aim here is to engineer smaller affiliation numbers so as to gain leverage for reducing the unions’ representation at Labour conference and in Labour committees.

Such reduction will increase the overweighting in the Labour Party of professional politicians, advisers, researchers, think-tankers, and their business-people friends.

It will firm up the characteristics of the Labour Party that shape the leaders’ current policies for continued pay freezes and cuts after 2015, and a feeble fight against the Tories.

Rumour has it that Unite will reduce its formal Labour-affiliation numbers soon, and the GMB will reduce its numbers too, though not as much as it said it would a few months ago.

The “clever” idea here seems to be that if unions’ formal affiliation numbers have already been reduced before 2019, at a time when unions still have their 50% vote at Labour Party conference, then the reduction to box-ticking numbers in 2019 will not be steep and will give less fuel to the Labour right-wingers who want to reduce union representation.

But the 2019 plan should be contested head-on.

The Defend The Link campaign is preparing material to tease out the detail of the Collins report, and will be active at the conference on 1 March.

And after that the battle must continue. Only two rule changes are to be voted on 1 March. Properly, the proposed shift in 2019 should require a further rule change.

Some Labour Party insiders warn that the leadership may try to make the shift without a rule change, but that can and should be contested.

Defend the Link

Collins report

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RMT’s Hedley denounces “Zionists”…like Roland Rance!

January 15, 2013 at 11:14 am (anti-fascism, Anti-Racism, anti-semitism, fascism, israel, Johnny Lewis, Middle East, palestine, unions, zionism)

Steve Hedley is the London Regional Organiser of the RMT and, by all accounts, a good left wing militant who in the past has been victimised (and denounced by the Daily Mail ) for union activity. For the record, I do not agree with the label “hideous racist thug” on the clip below.

However, in October 2011 he was accused of antisemitism as a result of what he said to a Jew in the audience (who’d heckled him) at an RMT public meeting entitled ‘Palestine’s fight for Freedom.’ That is where the clip above was filmed (by the heckler, who is also responsible for the label above the clip).

This is a transcript of what was said on that occasion:
SH: We oppose the Israeli government because of the racist policies they are carrying out on the Palestinian people. You can cover it up for so long with your friends in the media but the attack on the Mavi Marmara and the attacks on those innocent women and children have turned into the biggest concentration camp on the earth. This is the reality. You’re an absolute disgrace to the Jewish people. You are a modern-day fascist, you are a modern-day Nazi, by supporting those policies that oppress [inaudible] minority in your own state. No wonder the EDL are flying the flag of Israel. The modern-day Nazi EDL are flying the flag of Israel because it’s the state that they associate with. What the Nazis did to you, you’re doing to the Palestinians.

[Chair calls next speaker who begins]

Heckler: Feel better?

SH: Better than you obviously. But then again you’re the chosen people so you might feel better than me, huh?

Heckler: So its about being Jewish?

SH: It’s about being Zionist.

Most of the left, at the time, ignored this incident, perhaps because the heckler (one Richard Millett) is, supposedly, a “right winger” and because there seems little doubt that Hedley was, to some extent, provoked. On the organised left, only the AWL criticised Hedley, and that was in a very mild and low-key statement.

Now Hedley has involved himself in a further row over “Zionism” and related matters. This time, however, Hedley’s targets are leftists, including well-known and outspoken anti Zionist Jews, several of whom are associated with the extreme (“absolute“) anti Zionist and anti Israel blog Jews sans frontiers.

The row took place on facebook and began when Toby Abse commented on former SWP leader Martin Smith’s association with the notorious antisemite and jazz musician Gilad Atzmon:

Tobias Abse Interesting reminder of the close friendship between Martin Smith and Gilad Atzmon, the notorious proponent of rabidly anti-semitic world Jewish conspiracy theories. During Smith’s leadership of the party Atzmon, a jazz musician, often did gigs for the party or its front organisations. Readers of the article below will note Atzmon’s aggressively sexist and anti-feminist views ( not I think coincidental).

Jews sans frontieres: Bookmark this!

Steve Hedley offs the closet Zionists are now attacking Martin smith,any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.

Tobias Abse Did the Christian Brothers teach you antisemitism at school – yes, we are all Christ killers aren’t we?

Charlie Pottins Steve, these comrades were fighting Zionism before you had even heard of it. And quite frankly the way you go off like a Pavlov’s dog I think you have a problem. PS, Toby, wrong stereotype, Steve is from a proddy background. But did have a strong Stalinist injection if that is any relevance. Still, he has now uncovered the conspiracy hatched no doubt in the old cemetery at Prague behind the SWP’s little difficulty. I’m surprised the plotters took their time, mind, it would have been more effective if they had gone for Martin Smith while he was still SWP national secretary, rather than giving Smith’s comrades the chance to take their distance from him. I blame that Yigal Gluckstein myself, he was obviously sent over here with a long-term plan.

Steve Hedley You are the one with the problem Charlie i suppose coming from the wrp who were accused of being anti semetic(not that i agree with that by the way) yoy may feel that you need to prove a point by jumping to the closet Zionists defence.I have really not been following the internal rift in the SWP and have little knowledge of how the accusations made were handled and no comment other than to say that they should be investigated by an appropriate outside body.I do feel though that it is very wrong for people who call themselves socialists to gloat over these issues.To top it all
closet Zionists like Tobias Abase are now attacking Martin smith for his alleged links with a Jazz musician(who he claims is anti Semitic),.Smith has an impeccable record of anti racist anti fascist campaigning but this doesn’t seem to matter to Abase and his ilk who it seems will use any diversion to stop people condemning the Israeli states atrocities,Abse your politics are lower than a snakes belly you opportunist runt.

Roland Rance Steve Hedley: You’re not seriously arguing that JsF is a Zionist blog, are you? The SWP, under the leadership of Martin Smith, promoted the antisemitic chauvinist Atzmon long after nearly else on the left had rumbled him. When we picketed Bookmarks because of Atzmon’s lecture there, it was not because of the SWP’s (correct) position on Zionism and Palestine; it was because of their unconscionable support for and promotion of this charlatan.

Luke Cooper That is the most hideous piece of anti-semitism I’ve seen on the left. Ok, I have seen much of it but it is shocking and appalling coming from a leader of a progressive trade union.

Steve Hedley im objecting to guilt by association of an anti racist/anti fascist campaigner by a load of zionist charlatans if the cap fits wear it

Steve Hedley luke who?

Steve Hedley And just how are my comments anti semitic

Roland Rance Steve Hedley:
> how are my comments anti semiticBy your assumption that anyone who objects to Atzmon’s antisemitism is ipso facto a Zionist. In fact, by equating “Jewish” with “Zionist”, you are echoing both antisemites and Zionists. Enjoy your company!

Steve Hedley No Roland you made that assumption not me and by your own reasoning your an anti semite now

Roland Rance Where did I make that assumption? JsF exposed (many years ago) Atzmon, and protested at the SWP’s links with him. You describe them as “closet Zionists” (one of Atzmon’s pet phrases) for this. They are not Zionists, and unlike you I know very well the distinction between the two.

Steve Hedley You see you Zionists deliberately misconstrue any attack on the Israeli state as anti semetic Margaret Thatcher is a Christian Zionist so is George Bush enjoy your illustrious bedfellows.You really have to come up with better tactics to defend the murderous Israeli stae these ones frankly make you look daft.You made the assumption in your last post obviously the memory od a goldfish and the same debating skills.

Roland Rance The claim that I am a Zionist is false. Either you know this, and are delibarately lying in order to smear me, or you do not know this, which means that you have not been involved in Palestine Solidarity work for the past thirty years and have no idea what you are talking about. In either case, I demand that you retract and apologise for this defamatory statement.

Steve Hedley As i said if the cap fits wear it im retracting nothing ,ive posted here in an individual capacity but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts if you like.You on the other hand have labelled me anti simetic which im clearly not.Unlike you ive fought fascists politically and physically just where were you when AFA was fighting the BNP ,i don’t remember you ever putting your welfare on the line ,could it be your just another keyboard warrior?

Tami Peterson @ Steve – Roland and I certainly have our differences but to call him a Zionist and ‘keyboard warrior’ is ludicrous! In my time in politics in the UK Roland was one of the most consistently active and outspoken anti-Zionist activists that I met. You have no idea who you are talking about or you wouldn’t be making such ridiculous statements.

Roland Rance I was in AFA, Steve. In fact, I organised the first AFA conference in Bradford thirty years ago. We had stewards around the town to prevent a possible fascist attack, but had to call them back to conference in order to protect members of the local Asian Youth Movement from physical attacks by members of Red Action. I know all-too-well about racism masquerading as leftist anti-fascism.

Steve Hedley Tami I dont know either of you from Adam and Eve but anyone who throws the Label anti semite at me or inded Martin Smith is not in my opinion a laudable individual anyway your entitled to your opinion ,Roland Rat are you really calling AFA racist youve really lost the plot,

Steve Hedley That should have been Rance not rat

Roland Rance No, I’m not calling AFA racist. Learn to read.

Steve Hedley Your obviously just a middle class patronizing prat there will be no retraction and if the cap fits wear it . I’ve wasted enough time talking to you but feel free to run to the bourgeois courts like the other toy town revolutionaries Rat

Steve Hedley oh dear predictive text again Roland Rance

Tami Peterson Well Steve I personally met Roland, Charlie and the others you are attacking here on many anti-fascist demos. I never, however, had the pleasure of meeting you.

Steve Hedley Same here Tami ive never met you and AFA in which i served ten years didn’t hide behind police lines having demos

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A right to bear arms?

December 15, 2012 at 9:59 am (children, crime, insanity, Johnny Lewis, libertarianism, mental health, murder, rights, United States)

“A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” -Second Amendment, the U.S. Constitution

todays paper

Whatever the merits of such notions about personal and national security (they are, to say the least, highly questionable in this day and age), it is important to note that the only kind of militia the Second Amendment expressly regards as consistent with security is a “well-regulated” militia. One may rationally and reasonably conclude that this applies both to an organized militia and an unorganized one. Otherwise, an armed citizenry consisting of men and women using guns for presumed high purpose according to their respective dictates of personal whim and political fancy is the stuff from which anarchy could result, and in turn the tyranny against which the private possession of guns is supposed to protect Americans.

The right to keep and bear arms (a term that connotes a military purpose) stems from the English common law right of self-defense. However, the possession of guns in the mother country of the common law was never an absolute right. Various conditions were imposed. Britain today has one of the strictest gun laws in the world.

There is nothing absolute about the freedoms in our own Bill of Rights. Freedom of speech is not freedom to shout “fire” in a crowded theater. Freedom of religion is not freedom to have multiple spouses, or sacrifice a lamb in the local park, as religiously sanctioned practices. Similarly, whatever right the Second Amendment protects regarding the private possession of guns, for whatever definition of “militia,” is not an absolute right. It must serve the overall public interest, including (from the preamble of the US Constitution) the need to “insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense and promote the general welfare.” Whatever right there is to possess firearms is no less important than the right of every American, gun owners included, to protection against the possession of guns by persons who by any reasonable standard lack the crucial credentials for responsible gun ownership.

– From a 1977 article by David J.Steinberg, Executive Director, National Council for a Responsible Firearms Policy:  “Does The Second Amendment Mean What It Says?” 

– Socialists debate gun control here:

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Unite: the case for an early GS election

December 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm (elections, Johnny Lewis, unions, Unite the union, workers)

The ‘United Left’ (UL) grouping within Unite the Union meets tomorrow (Saturday 8th December) to discuss the proposal to hold an early election for General Secretary. This has been agreed in principle at the union’s EC last week, but unless the UL support it, Len McCluskey’s bid for early re-election will be in difficulty. McCluskey’s enemies within the union have already denounced the EC’s decision. The reasoning behind going for an early election has not, so far, been widely publicised within the union, so as a service to Unite members we’re publishing the case that will be put to the UL tomorrow:


Unite is – at last – making a difference. As the GS told the Policy Cnference this year, for too long Unite was just a promise, a hope. In the last two years that promise has started turning into a reality.

A FIGHTING BACK UNION: Leading from the front and standing shoulder to shoulder with our members, Unite has shown that it is possible to fight and win, in both the private and public sectors. Pioneering a new and developing leverage strategy we have won a series of major disputes over recent months, including those on London buses, the electrical contractor and wider construction industry and in manufacturing at Honda. We have also given a lead in the public sector, particularly in the fight for pension justice.

AN ORGANISING UNION: the 100 per cent campaign has been an outstanding success, already bringing in more than 45,000 new members in Unite-organised workplaces. No other union is attempting anything like this, let alone succeeding at it. While our organising strategies aimed at presently unorganised sectors of the economy continue to bring not only new members to our union, but a new confidence and developing strength to union organisation across the economy.

A PROGRESSIVE UNION: with our new political strategy we are at last starting on the hard work of making Labour a vehicle for working people’s aspirations once again. Working systematically across our regions to identify constituencies where we can take positive actions to ensure our values of solidarity, dignity, respect and fairness are once again at the heart of our party. Further, Unite has led in setting up the new think-tank CLASS which has received a broad welcome for its project of reviving radical thinking.

A DEMOCRATIC, TOLERANT UNION: Unite is at ease with itself – united, without the factional politics of the past; but also open and democratic, a union run by its members where fear and intolerance play no part. A union without the excesses and abuse at the top of the recent past.

A UNION IN THE COMMUNITY: We have launched our community membership plan to great enthusiasm. Reconnecting with our communities and offering a home in Unite to all those not in paid employment. Our community strategy is developing a new confidence and a collective voice that will only strengthen our organisation over the coming years; in addition we have extended our structures for retired members and youing npeople.

A CAMPAIGNING UNION: Unite is leading the way in its campaigns for justice and fairness for all. We are the leading voice in thew labour movement fighting austerity and the attacks on our NHS, Welfare State and Public Services. To support this we are developing a sweeping new e-communications strategy which will tap into the campaigning energies of our members.

IN ADDITION: Unite has completed its constitutional integration, bedding in a structure of around 400 constitutional committees and reorganising our branches to root them more firmly in the workplace.

As a result, Unite is now playing the leading role in the entire labour movement. It is pioneering the revival of the organised working class at a time of great economic and political difficulty. No other trade union is even attempting the range of initiatives Unite is undertaking.

THIS WORK IS UNFINISHED: Indeed, in some respects we have only just begun. Many of these initiatives are still in their early stages. In some – like our political work – final achievement of our objectives is till uncertain. All depend for their success on a continuation of the leadership that has been given over the last two years.

That leadership has embraced activists at all levels of Unite, but above all it has come from the Executive Council and the General Secretary. Without that united, collective leadership, it would be easy for our union to to lose momentum and fall back into the easy routines of managing decline.

That is why the issue of renewing the General Secretary’s mandate should now be considered.

As things stand, the next General Secretary election would take place in 2015. That means that in 12-18 months in jockeying for succession would start. The authority of the present General Secretary would inevitably start to erode as officers and activists look to the future beyond.

Under normal circumstances that would not be the end of the world, it is an unavoidable price of democracy. But these are not normal circumstances. For all the reasons stated, Unite’s potential still hangs in the balance, and it is no exaggeration to say that the future of our movement depends on the continuation and extension of our leadership.



This means that Unite will start to drift in a relatively short period of time. Probably the first casualty would be a loss of impetus in the 100 per cent campaign, which has required a big culture shift for many officers. Our united impact into the Labour Party in a crucial time leading up to the next General Election would also be disrupted and diluted.

It is also important to note that the existing schedule means a General Secretary election more-or-less simultaneously with the next General Election. Whatever the outcome of the General Election, this is bound to be a particularly demanding time for Unite’s political work. Either we will (as we hope and believe) be dealing with a new Labour government which we will be seeking to hold to an agenda of working people’s interests, or we will have to deal with the fall-out of a defeat which might raise the most profound questions about the future of the Labour-union relationship. Either way, it will be no time for a leadership vacuum or instability at the top of Unite.


It is now possible, because of legal changes, for the General Secretary to serve past the the previous limit of sixty-five years of age. If re-elected, Len McCluskey’s new term would end while he is sicty-seven.

In the future, serving slightly past 65 will surely come to seem a normal, unexceptional, situation. However, today this inevitably gives rise to comparisons with the recent past, when various General Secretaries in Unite’s predecessor unions tried to extend their terms past the age of 65.

There are two significant differences today. First, Ken Jackson, Roger Lyons and Derek Simpson all sought to extend their terms without consulting the membership (Derek it must be said, with some justification because of merger arrangements). That is not the case here – we are talking about asking the membership to renew Len’s mandate in a democratic election.

Second, this is about ensuring the continuity of left progressive leadership in the labour movement’s leading organisation. This decision is not about Len: it’s a much bigger decision you are being asked to make, about the wider interests of the left in our movement. If elected Len would remain as General Secretary of Unite and the leading voice for working people across the labour movement for two years beyond his current term. Importantly, Len has pledged that if elected, his extended term to 67 will be at no additional cost to the union beyond him reaching the age of 65.

It could also be argued that an early election constitutes an unnecessary expense for the union. That is not the case except in the very short term – any money spent on a GS election in 2013 will be money saved by not having one in 2015.

In summary, this is an opportunity for Unite to reaffirm its present dynamic, progressive course, and settle its leadership for a vital five years ahead. That is why the Left is asking Len to stay on for another five years (two more than originally envisaged), and why the Left should be asking the Executive Council to sanction a General Secretary election early in 2013. This move will no doubt be attcked by our enemies among the Tories and the employers and most likely within “New Labour” too. But it should be welcomed by everyone with our union and our movement’s best interests at heart.


McCluskey’s own statement, here

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Unite: McCluskey to stand again

December 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm (Johnny Lewis, unions, Unite the union)

Above: Len McCluskey

Jerry Hicks, the unsuccessful (and somewhat eccentric) candidate who stood against Len McCluskey for general secretary of Unite in 2010, has put out this press release:

Unite make plans to call snap election for General Secretary. But  why?
The time table of this ‘snap’ election could begin as early as next  week. It is expected that at Tuesday’s [4th December] National Executive meeting  approval will be sought to begin the process of the election. The machinery can  commence to issue notice to the membership, with the branch and workplace  nomination period likely to be January and February.
The postal ballot of over one million members could begin as early as  the middle of March 2013.
Len McCluskey became General Secretary of Unite as recently as  November 2010 meaning that he has so far only served 2 years of his 5 years term  of office.
During McCluskey’s election just 2 years ago it was generally  regarded that he would be a one term [5 years] General Secretary, neither he nor  his supporters did anything to dispel the illusion.
So why is this happening 3 years early? After all McCluskey could  stand again in 2015 as a matter of course. However if he did and won a further 5  years in office that would take him to the age of 70 and advisors think that the  union’s members would not be too happy to have a General Secretary working past  normal retirement age.
So by dragging the election forward he could run, win, serve a new  term of 5 years taking him to 67, thus avoiding that and a number of other  issues. Namely the Government proposals of retirement age of 68.
Add all this to the biggest ‘plus’ for McCluskey and his followers,  that by using all the union’s machinery to push through at ‘break neck speed’ an  election 3 years early makes it almost impossible for anyone else to have  anywhere near an equal chance as McCluskey, given the incredibly short time  scale and the cost of simply mailing branches which runs to thousands of pounds.  Thereby virtually ensuring him a smooth ride, maybe even unopposed.
McCluskey seeking another term makes a mockery of the merger rumours  between Unite and the PCS with Mark Sewotka taking over from McCluskey, rumours  spread by both hierarchies.
It would also cheat the membership out of an election in 2015 when  it’s also the year for the next Parliamentary General Election. Unites ‘one way’ relationship with New Labour is an increasing source of criticism of his  leadership, so in a General Election year a debate about it might be a problem  for McCluskey.
Jerry Hicks, runner up in the previous 2 elections for General  Secretary said “Our Union has a long and discredited history of general  secretaries trying to cling on to power beyond the age of 65. There was Ken  Jackson, and then Derek Simpson, now Len McCluskey wants some more of  it.”
Jerry Hicks went on to say “This is just not right, it’s completely  unnecessary and verging on abuse of power. It sets the wrong example, shows the  wrong leadership and sends the wrong message that raising the retirement age is  OK. It’s not! We should be seeking to lower the retirement age for working  people, to end the scourge of high unemployment especially amongst the under  25s.
Notes to editor: Jerry Hicks was runner up to McCluskey in 2010  securing 52,527 votes he can be contacted by mobile 07817827912 or email
Hicks is factually correct: McClusky is going to stand again in 2013. A leading figure in the United Left group that supports McCluskey, told Shiraz :
“Len, with the support of the EC, is going for an election in early 2013. If he wins (as he probably will) he’ll have a mandate for another five years in order to complete his plans with regard to internal Unite structures, the Labour Party and the TUC.
“He’s 62 now and that will take him to 67. He says he’ll not stand again and as he’s now got his full pension entitlement it will cost the union very little.
“The problem is that people will say ‘he’s had time to implement changes and find a replacement’ and ‘Unite’s saying retirement at 68 is too late and yet he’s carrying on to 67.’ Still, Len’s mind is made up and there’s unlikely to be a credible candidate from either the left or the right to stand against him.”
Another very senior Unite member says:
“After the Roger Lyons and Derek Simpson extensions it is clear this will lead to some fairly sharp attacks on Len and ‘his people.’
“I think it’s fair to say that the changes in the law on age discrimination have changed the terms of the debate.
“Len has been a far from perfect GS but I can’t think of any alternative candidate who would be either competent or even minimally politically acceptable.
“So I would support Len as a candidate, though not for any of the ‘official’ reasons being given.”

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14 November: European workers to strike together

November 1, 2012 at 1:22 am (capitalist crisis, economics, Europe, internationalism, Johnny Lewis, solidarity, unions, workers)

Instead of the Tories’ little-Englandism and Miliband’s shameful opportunism, let’s have a working class response to the present European crisis:

14 November: European unions to strike together (adapted from Workers Liberty)

By Ruben Lomas

Trade union federations in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Malta, and Cyprus have called general strikes for Wednesday 14 November.

Unions in France and Italy are also said to be considering calling mass strikes.

The Spanish union federation CCOO aid: “Unemployment, cuts, the impoverishment of the majority and deterioration of public services justify a general strike.”


The CCOO and UGT, Spain’s two main union federations, held a “social summit” with working-class community organisations, students’ unions and smaller trade unions to launch the strike call. Unemployment in Spain has reached 25%.

The European TUC has called for a “day of action and solidarity on 14 November, including strikes, demonstrations, rallies and other actions.”

The 14 November will be the 21st day of general strike action in Geece since 2009. Most general strikes have been for a single day, although some have lasted 24 hours.

This  strike call is important. The European-wide natue of the crisis and the capitalists’ austerity agenda cannot be effectively answered by national action . A European workers’ response is necessary.

A day of coordinated strike action will help shift the struggle away from national movements trying to find solutions to “their” national economic crises, and towards a European working class response to a European bosses’ offensive.

14 November wil not be a magic bullet. As the Greek experience shows, even a series of general strikes do not necessarily topple governments or force them to change course. What they can be is a focal point and a platform for coordinating resistance.

In each European country, scialists must organise for the maximum possible rank-and-file control over the strikes. The direction of the action must be decided by the requirements of workers themselves, not some schema of the union bureacrats. Anti-EU posturing, letting national ruling classes off the hook (a favourite activity of Stalinist and nationalist anti-EU fanatics), must be avoided at all costs.

A European general strike as a one day spectacular, an excercise in letting off steam, will be a futile and counter-productive excercise.

In Britain, socialists and serious trade unionists should fight for our unions to be involved. Where possible, existing disputes should schedule action for 14 November.


If it’s not logistically possible, or doesn’t make industrial sense, to strike on that day, other actions should be organised.

Stewards should call workplace (or after work) meetings to discuss potential disputes and, in the public sector, a fightback against the pay freeze.

Lobbying the TUC to call a general strike on 14 November is unrealistic and counter-productive. All serious militants know that even a freak “general strike” call from the TUC would not, presently, get a response from the rank and file.

Instead, 14 November should be the focus for action that can be achieved around existing disputes, with socialists emphasing the European-wide nature of the crisis that we all face.

Calls for withdrawal from the EU can only be a nationalist distraction from what we need to say and do within the working class and society as a whole at the moment.

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The TUC shouldn’t play games with the General Strike slogan

September 11, 2012 at 2:17 pm (capitalist crisis, Johnny Lewis, Marxism, socialism, solidarity, TUC, unions, workers)

“On the same ground of abstract, unhistorical methods of observation stand those today who would, in the manner of a board of directors, put the mass strike in Germany on the calendar on an appointed day, and those who…would be a prohibition of ‘propaganda’ eliminate the problem of the mass strike from the face of the earth.

“Both tendencies proceed on the common purely Anarchist assumption that the mass strike is a purely technical means of struggle which can be ‘decided’ at pleasure and strictly according to conscience, or ‘forbidden’ — a kind of pocket-knife which can be kept in the pocket clasped ‘ready for any emergency,’ and according to decision, can be unclasped and used” – Rosa Luxemburg, ‘The Mass Strike, The Political Party and The Trade Unions’ (1906).

 Rosa Luxemburg

It’s certainly good to see delegates to this year’s TUC talking about co-ordinated action over public sector pay, as well as the joint NUT-NASUWT commitment to joint “action short of strike action” over pay, pensions and conditions. The Unison motion, yesterday, calling on the TUC to give “full support to all groups of workers in the private or public sector who take industrial action against cuts or attacks on pay, jobs, pensions or conditions of service and co-ordinating unions taking strike action” was backed by all the major unions and carried almost unanimously: excellent!

But today’s motion from the POA (Prison Officers Association), calling on the TUC to  to consider “the practicalities of a General Strike” is, frankly, a ridiculous excercise in empty posturing and ‘resolutionary socialism’ at its worst. It actually commits the TUC to nothing, while acting as a distraction from the real work that needs to be done in building for more limited co-ordinated action. Which is why such fake-left poseurs as Prentice, Crow and Kenny will back it. Anyone who needs convincing of the utter irrelevance and vacuity of this motion should have a look at the ‘arguments’ used to support it, here.

Much the same objections apply to demands upon the TUC to call a “24-hour general strike.”

As Rosa Luixemburg explained in the excellent pamphlet quoted at the top of this post, the general strike (“mass strike”) is not a slogan to be played with, or a “technical” device to be “decided” upon at will by the leadership of the trade union movement. What our movement requires at the moment is patient rebuilding and regroupment around carefully identified, necessarily limited, objectives. The general strike puts the possibility of the seizure of state power on the agenda. Does anyone seriously think that’s where we’re at right now? Actually, the wording of the POA’s motion makes it clear that they don’t really think a general strike is even a remote possibility at the moment, and it’s noticeable that their general secretary Steve Gillan, writing in yesterday’s Morning Star, doesn’t even use the words “general strike,” but merely says “we should consider all our options.”

The general strike is an immensely valuable and potentially revolutionary weapon for the working class. Its potency must not be undermined by foolish, empty, fake-left posturing. Serious people in the socialist and trade union movement should read Rosa.

LATE NEWS: apparently, the General Council has decided to support the motion, which rather confirms my case…

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Where now for Hope not hate?

December 7, 2011 at 3:12 am (anti-fascism, Johnny Lewis)

HOPE Not Hate

Beyond the BNP - where now?Dear  supporter,

As the British National Party teeters on the brink of financial collapse, it is a good time for us to look at where the HOPE not hate campaign is going. Have we succeeded in what we set out to do, or is there still more to be done? I’ve written a short essay on what I think the HOPE not hate campaign should do now, but I want to hear your views.

The HOPE not hate campaign was set up in 2004 to provide a positive antidote to the BNP’s politics of hate – and I think we have achieved our goal. The BNP is now down to just a handful of councillors, it is deeply divided between warring factions and it has such crippling debts that it is hard to see how it can continue.

Against that we have developed one of the most successful political action campaigns in this country. Over 165,000 people have supported our campaigns. We have over 50,000 supporters on facebook and 8,000 followers on twitter. Thousands of you have taken to the streets, campaigning in the very communities which the BNP once viewed as their own. It is our political victories that have led the BNP to its current crisis.

Where now for HOPE not hate?

The BNP might be in trouble but the conditions for racism continue to exist and will grow as the economic crisis really starts to bite. Our Fear and HOPE survey showed that there is a correlation between negative attitudes towards immigrants and economic insecurity and pessimism and there is plenty of both going around at the moment. Religious extremism and intolerance is growing and a Scottish vote for independence could lead to an explosion in aggressive English nationalism.

Should HOPE not hate meet these new challenges?

I think the HOPE not hate campaign should be about more than just dealing with the consequences of hate. Bringing communities together against the EDL shows what positive work we can do and we should expand this. Next summer’s Olympics gives us a perfect opportunity to celebrate our modern society and develop shared local identities.

We have achieved so much because of your support. Now I want to hear what you think of our plans for HOPE not hate. Over the coming weeks we will give you the chance to choose the name of a new HOPE not hate publication, get involved in online debates and become more involved in HOPE not hate.



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Nick Lowles

To follow the HOPE not hate campaign, visit Click here to unsubscribe

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30 Nov: unions call for Labour support

November 15, 2011 at 11:43 am (Cuts, Johnny Lewis, labour party, unions, workers)

Both Unison and the GMB have called upon local labour parties to support the 30th November public sector pensions strike, and produced model motions (see below). The GMB has also produced a booklet.

Both only talk about ‘encouraging’ party members and councillors to support strike and noticeably leave out any call on MPs and Milliband. Readers may wish to amend accordingly.

UNISON motion

Public Services – Pensions
This CLP notes the TUC resolution on 14 September to defend public sector pensions and campaign for decent pensions for all recognising everyone deserves dignity in retirement.

Government Ministers have launched an unprecedented attack on public service pensions. This is not only unjust but could undermine the viability of some schemes if members start to leave because of massive increases in contributions by up to 50% and could lead to more people on means tested benefits, at a higher cost to the tax payer in the longer term. Pensions are not ‘gold plated’. The local government scheme has many low paid women staff and on average women’s pensions are around £2500 per year while in the NHS the average pension a woman gets is £3500.

Wild claims are being peddled by the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and large sections of the media that the schemes are unfair and unaffordable. These claims are wrong.

This CLP notes that following detailed negotiations with the last Labour government, public service pension schemes were systematically revised to ensure they were sustainable, open to ongoing negotiation and revision and that future costs to the taxpayer would be limited.

Current proposals are not a genuine attempt to make the schemes more sustainable, they are a cash grab by the Treasury, imposing an additional tax on workers already facing a pay freeze. The increased contributions are not being used to strengthen the schemes but are going to the Treasury to pay debts caused by the banking crisis. Public service workers are being asked to pay more and work longer for a pension that will be much less than originally promised. This is exactly the race to the bottom the government claims it wants to avoid. All working people, in both the public and private sectors should have decent and fair pensions.

Despite lengthy negotiations the Ministers have refused to listen or alter their proposals leading to union members being balloted on taking strike action as a last resort to show their opposition.

This CLP notes that the trade unions and community groups have agreed to organise local and national protests in support of public services, jobs and pensions. This CLP encourages Labour party members and councillors to support these protests against the attack on public services and public service workers that will damage communities and social cohesion.

This CLP calls on the Labour Party at all levels, councillors, labour groups and MPs to press the government to have meaningful negotiations on pensions to reach an agreement and avoid more strikes

Andy Freeman
Regional Organiser
UNISON East Midlands


CLP believes:

Everyone deserves a fair pension, and is entitled to security and dignity in retirement.

If the government get their way, public sector workers, struggling to alance the books after a pay freeze and with the cost of living rising, will have to pay more and work longer for pensions that are worth less. That is not a fair deal.

Everyone should be able to pay into a fair pension for their retirement.

There should be a fair deal on pensions for public sector workers, and the Labour Party should develop policies to make pensions better and fairer in the private sector too.

CLP resolves:

To back public sector workers in their campaign against the government’s unfair triple attack on public sector pensions, and to support the day of action on November 30th.

To add our CLP’s name to the statement of support on the unions together website, and to encourage the CLP’s members and elected representatives to do the same.

To write to local union branches to notify them of our support, and to ask them to get involved with the CLP.

To attend a campaign rally on 30th November, and take the CLP banner to show our support.

H/t: Pete

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