Wednesday 29 July 2009

A crucial battle

Bob Crow addresses the rally......

....while the occupiers listen

I have just returned from probably my quickest (and certainly wettest) trip to the Isle of Wight to show support for the workers occupying the Vestas factory in Newport to save 600 jobs. A small group of trade unionists, socialists and climate campaigners made the trip courtesy of the Unemployed Workers Centre minibus. Some of the group (not me I have to confess) have joined the climate camp which has been established outside the factory.
The rally outside was addressed by Bob Crow of the RMT (pictured above).

The workers won a small victory today when a judge threw out an attempt by the company to secure their eviction. The judge (whilst making it clear that he did not sanction the continuation of the occupation) was quite contemptuous of the failure of Vestas and their lawyers to follow the correct procedure, having failed to give proper notice and having failed to serve papers on all of the occupiers in person, as is required. He concluded that "one expects claimants to get their facts straight".

The company will now have to come back to court next Tuesday and there will be a further rally in support on that day. There is also a demo planned in Newport this Saturday lunchtime.

This is a crucial battle. It ticks all the boxes in terms of the fight for jobs and the fight for the environment, and it gives the lie to the notion that trade unionists and the green movement cannot work together on campaigns because they have competing interests.
The workers have faced attempts to starve them out, although the company has been embarrassed into providing some food - they send dismissal notices in with the pizzas! They have also been fenced in to stop supporters getting food to them. But even though the company has now sacked them and is trying to deprive them of redundancy pay, the workers are determined to fight on.
Everyone on the island knows about it - it was all the cabbie taking us back to Ryde harbour wanted to talk about - and they support the occupation, because they know how devastating closure would be for the local economy.
Get there if you can. Get your union to support the workers. Don't let them lose.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

Support the Vestas occupation - Save jobs save the planet

This is a very important dispute at the UK's only wind turbine manufacturing plant. The latest news is that the police are effectively besieging the factory and attempting to starve the occupiers out. More info here

What we're fighting for
Vestas Blades UK on the Isle of Wight is due to close on 31st July. 600 jobs will be lost immediately, many more jobs that depend on Vestas will follow. This makes no sense from a green or a labour perspective!
The government has just announced a major expansion of renewable energy including wind power. We are calling on Vestas to keep the factories open, saving jobs and offering those who want to leave a better redundancy deal. We are calling on the government to intervene to save jobs at Vestas - through nationalisation if that is what it takes - to show that it is serious about saving the planet.

What you can do
Send messages of support from yourself or your organisation tomailto:savevestas@googlemailcom.
Send a donation from your trade-union or other organisation, or make a personal donation: cheques payable to Ryde and East Wight Trades Union Council, 22 Church Lane, Ryde, Isle of Wight, PO33 2NB
Petition energy minister Ed Miliband. His e-address is His phone number in his Doncaster constituency is 01302 875 462, and at Westminster, 020 7219 4778. Flood him with calls for the Government to take over the Vestas factory and keep it producing, under new management.
Organise a visible demonstration of solidarity. Take a photo with a placard that reads “Save Vestas” and email the photo to

PS - Public Meeting Friday

Support the Factory Occupation
Speakers: Vestas Worker, Chris Baugh (PCS Ass. Gen. Sec, pc), Seamus Milne, Jonathan Neale
Friday 24th July, 6pm, ULU Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY
Called by the Campaign Against Climate Change Trade Union Group

Goldsmid By-election : Vote Green but illusions

Ironic to be stealing and adapting the old SWP line on voting Labour, but it just about sums up what I would be doing this Thursday if I lived in Goldsmid.

The Tories will hopefully receive the punishment they are due from the voters after allowing lame-duck Lainchbury to stay in place so that they could vote in their Mayor and Cabinet. The stalling over his inevitable departure made it impossible to hold this by-election at the same time as the euro-elections, which means that extra expenditure has been incurred. Taxpayers' money spent on keeping the Tories in control of the council - just fancy that!

New Labour is reeling from the defection of former councillor Vince Meegan, who is calling for a Green vote. Clearly they couldn't win a raffle (even if they bought all the tickets!) and by all accounts the Green campaign has left them standing.

So it's a vote for the Greens....but.....there are concerns. For example, their very late arrival on the right side of the housing transfer issue in 2007; in some areas Green councillors have voted FOR academies (though not here, I hasten to add). My main issue with the Greens is that they are a progressive force but many of them still think that the market can bring green reforms. Hopefully what is happening at the Vestas factory (see next post) demonstrates very clearly the problem with that.

But a Green victory would still be an advance.

Come to the Convention of the Left in Brighton

Capitalism in Crisis -The Left’s Response

One day special conference with contributors including Robert Griffiths (Communist Party of Britain), Caroline Lucas (Green Party), John McDonnell MP (Labour Representation Committee), Kay Phillips (Respect Party) and more.
The organisers of the Convention of The Left would like to invite you to the free one day conference in Brighton.
This will take place on Saturday September 26th from 10.30am to 17.00pm at the Brighthelm Church and Community Centre, North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YD.
Last year the Convention ran successfully as the alternative to New Labour's conference in Manchester. This year's Convention event will continue the debates on the crisis of capitalism and Westminster politics and develop our ideas in response. The wealth exists in society to pay for our essential needs - and the way the governments of the UK, EU and US have found trillions of Pounds, Dollars and Euros at the drop of a hat for the bankers proves what we have been saying all along. And, as the continuing bloodshed in Afghanistan shows, there is still a limitless coffer for war and destruction.The trouble is that our rulers want to use the wealth in society to prop up capitalism - which will inevitably lead to the same results all over again. They are buying themselves out of their crisis, but expecting the rest of us pay the price.Recessions lead scape-goating, racism and the rise of the far right. The election of two BNP members to the European Parliament should be warning to us all.Don’t blame the victims. The poor should not be punished for the crisis of capitalism. We must provide the alternative. We look forward to seeing you in Brighton on September 26th to discuss how we make the green, left, socialist and radical alternative a reality.

for previous Convention information and archive material please click here

Sunday 19 July 2009

Dry heave of the week!

Did anyone else catch Allegra Stratton's sycophantic puff-piece on James Purnell, our recently departed work and pensions secretary in Saturday's Guardian?

I was hoping she might manage to pin him down on how he thought it was a good idea to get a millionaire to do a review of incapacity benefit; not to mention his ingenuity in designating his London flat as his second home for expenses purposes, and the same flat as his main home for capital gains tax (avoidance) purposes. She could have asked if tax dodging is a suitable pursuit for the person who is supposed to be leading the fight against "benefit fraud".

But no such luck - although the starstruck Stratton was able to inform us that "his sideburns seem in rude health. He has a tan and is lightly freckled, and he has traded his ministerial suit for a pair of fashionable indigo jeans." Ahhh, nice!

What now for the Left?

The European Elections were a disaster - for New Labour certainly, but no less so for the Left in general. In this country NO2EU ran a good campaign but the basis of its coming-together (not to mention the lateness of it) was always going to hamper its performance. The Greens did well but failed to increase its representation, and the Socialist Labour Party did...well...pretty much as usual.

But worst of all was the election of two BNP candidates as MEPs, giving them a base and a considerable budget from which to build.

The story for the Left was the same throughout Europe (the only positive exception being Bloco de Esquerda in Portugal), with a resurgent Right just about everywhere.

This ought to be a wake-up call for the Left in this country - our splintered quarrelling Left - which sometimes appears to think that winning some obscure point in an arcane political debate is more important than actually providing a political alternative to the rapidly imploding New Labour other than fascism.

For the Left to fail to unite is nothing less than a dereliction of duty in the face of what is to come in the form of a massive attack on working people's living standards and on the welfare state, whichever of the main parties wins the next election.

Wednesday 15 July 2009

Support this campaign for access to Newhaven West beach

The Argus on Tuesday 7th July had a small piece about a demo being organised at Newhaven West beach. It is on Thursday July 23rd, meeting at Fort Road @12.45pm before making its way to the beach. Protestors are being encouraged to bring drums, horns and banners. They want us to make as much noise as possible. The demo is timed to arrive at the beach at about 2.00pm, when the tide is right out, so that the media will be able to get good pics of people enjoying this spot, which generations of Newhaven - and Lewes and Brighton and Sussex and London et al - folk have enjoyed.

The march is being organised particularly for young people, but all adults are being encouraged to attend, too. The Primary Schools are all making placards and banners, and Tideway Comprehensive is coming along, too, as is the towns Young Persons Mayor.

The contact is Maurice Langham on Bton 510 955. His email is He is a Newhaven town councillor.

The beach has been closed by the harbour owners for 2 years now - pleading safety concerns - and the Town Council is running a campaign to have it designated as a 'Town or Village Green', which will make public access a statutory right and protect it from development.

Newhaven harbour, the undercliff, and the cliffs and fort are one of the most delightful seaside spots in Sussex. The cliffs, clifftop and undercliff are of national importance for their rich geology. Their invertebrate assemblage - of beetles, bees and wasps, and other groups - is also of national importance.They are also mineral and fossil rich. The bird life is wonderful, with Kittiwake, Fulmar, Peregrine, Gannet and much more. In spring the cliffs are a delight of colourful wildflowers, including many rarities, like Sea Clover and Fenugreek.

The whole cliffland and seashore is threatened by a deadly combination of neglect and development, despite its pile of protective designations: - SSSI, SAM, LNR, RIGS, SNCIs.

The cliff Downscape has been left out of the proposed South Downs National Park, despite all its in-your-face gorgeousness. Newhaven is, after all, largely a poor community, and the urban fringe Downland of poor people has often been excluded from the Park's protection.

Let's get down there and show our support for these folk and this lovely area,

Dave Bangs

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Review - The Duckworth Lewis Method

So who would have thought that a slightly quirky concept album about cricket could turn out to be the music hit of the year?

But that might just be the case with The Duckworth Lewis Method, produced by a band with same name assembled by Neil Hannon of Divine Comedy fame.

The name of the album derives from the arcane method of calculating a revised run target in rain-affected match. But from this rather uninspiring premise comes a real cornucopia of musical styles, from music hall to jazz to ska, with witty and sometimes moving lyrics. The track Jiggery Pokery, relating Shane Warne's legendary first-ball dismissal of Mike Gatting, is a particular gem.

If it is influenced by anything, then probably it is Sgt Pepper

Hannon clearly loves his subject but you may not even have to like cricket to love this!

Monday 13 July 2009

End this futile war now

Stop the War Coalition Monday 13th July 2009 Letter to Gordon Brown MP, delivered at emergency Troops Out Now demonstration, Downing Street, Monday 13 July, 5-7pm:

Dear Prime Minister,

The tragic deaths of 15 British soldiers in just over one week, including three who were barely 18 years old, has highlighted the need for British troops to be withdrawn from an unwinnable and unjustified war.

The argument that British troops are in Afghanistan to bring stability, security and democracy is simply refuted by the facts. The lesson of history is clear. The Afghan people have always resisted any attempt to invade or occupy their country. All attempts to do so over the past 150 years have only brought horrific levels of death and destruction, both to the Afghan people and the invading armies.

Why, if British troops are in Afghanistan to protect the Afghan people have civilian casualties - the majority of which have been inflicted by the NATO forces - doubled in the past year? Why, if democracy is the purpose of the invasion, is Britain supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai, which colludes with warlords and tribal leaders who many Afghans regard as no better than the Taliban? Why, if reconstruction of Afghanistan is a central aim for the British invention, is more than double being spent on military intervention than has been allocated for rebuilding the country? Escalating the military intervention, as is now planned can only bring more devastation and destruction to the country’s infrastructure. Why, if defending women’s rights is an aim of British policy, do so many women say that their condition is worse than before the invasion in 2001, as highlighted by Afghan campaigners for women's rights such as Joya Malalai, who is an MP in the Afghan parliament?

The argument that British national security is the main purpose for the British deployment is an inversion of reality. The terrorist acts and threats that Britain has experienced have been home-grown and directly linked to Britain's aggressive foreign policy, specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan, but also in the government’s tolerance of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land. This war has all the characteristics of the Vietnam war. The same spurious claims were made that this was fought to defend national security. The longer this argument was used to justify the war, the more the conflict escalated, leading to millions of people needlessly losing their lives. That lesson must now be applied to Afghanistan. Any hope for stability and reconstruction must begin with the removal of all foreign troops. The latest ICM opinion poll shows that 56 per cent of the British public want all British troops withdrawn by the end of 2009. We urge the British government to end now this futile war which, if continued, will only mean more wasted lives of British soldiers, countless deaths of Afghan civilians and further devastation of a country that has suffered from decades of war and occupation.

Yours sincerely,

Stop the War Coalition

Who is The Taxpayers Alliance?

Whenever the local paper wants to run a story about real or alleged "waste" in the public sector - who they gonna call? The Taxpayers Alliance! Frequently you will see stories in the Argus about "taxpayer anger" over this or that supposed piece of public sector excess. In fact, on closer inspection the "taxpayers" in question turn out to be the TPA - the new rentaquotes for lazy journos everywhere.

So it is worth asking what this organisation actually stands for.

A look at their list of prominent supporters gives some clues - a who's who of right-wing free-market thinkers such as Madsen Pirie and Patrick Minford. In fact, for an organisation dedicated to opposing "non-jobs" in the public sector, they boast a fine array of academics who doubtless pull in generous salary packages courtesy of the taxpayer. Their Chairman, Andrew Allum, left the Tory Party in 2003 - because it wasn't free-market enough for him.

The TPA has a simple approach - find extreme examples what might appear to be bad spending decisions (but leave out the context and the fine detail), and a few examples of high pay. And from this extrapolate a bloated public sector, full of "fat cats" and failing to deliver.

Among their favorite targets are so-called "gold-plated" public sector pensions, which they want to dismantle. In fact the average local government pension, to which workers contribute all of their working lives, amounts to a more nickel than gold £4000 pa. These pensions are paid to such "fat cats" as street cleaners, teaching assistants and school cooks.

Strangely they have little to say about the huge taxpayer-funded bailout to the big banks - now estimated at £3000 per household. But they want to cut taxes -especially for the rich - and they want to cut the public sector - the services that you and I rely on.

So next time you see The Taxpayers Alliance in print, have a look under the veneer........