Wednesday 30 September 2009

Blackberry Way

What comes to mind when you see all those earnest, besuited 30-somethings coming out of NuLab Conference on the seafront?

How about....the perfect cast for a truly epic Cecil B De Mille-style version of In the Loop?

The Left makes gains in Europe. Lessons for the UK?

In the German elections the headline was the turn to the right, largely due to gains for the free-market Free Democrats. The election was a disaster for the SPD.

But big advances were made by Die Linke (Left Party), a far left grouping made up of ex-communists from the East and disillusioned SPDers. They got 12% of the vote and increased their representation in Parliament from 54 to 76. A majority of their MPs are women.

In Portugal, Bloco de Esquerda (Left Bloc) has won 16 seats in Parliament.

This demonstrates that parties to the left of New Labour-style social democracy can break through if they are ready to work consistently and people willing to sink their differences. A lesson surely for our divided left.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Pictures of today's demo

Today's demonstration was a well-supported, noisy affair with contingents from a number of trade unions, students and anti-war groups. I estimate about 2000 marchers. The rally at the end featured Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell from the Labour Party, unions leader Mark Serwotka from PCS and Tony Kearns from the UCW, as well as Lindsay German from the Stop the War Coalition.

Contrary to the lurid predictions of the Argus (and some of its weirder website devotees), it was a peaceful event, the organisers having liaised with police beforehand and throughout. It is rumoured that many of the marchers did in fact have jobs and had also washed beforehand!

Thursday 24 September 2009

BHT workers fight on

I was happy to join my UNISON branch colleagues on the picket lines at Brighton Housing Trust yesterday (see earlier post).
The workers are now engaged in a rolling programme of selective strike action. This continues next week at First Base. As we have made clear a return to negotiations would be enough to stop the action but BHT remain oburate in their refusal to do so.

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Respect by-election victory

Respect is "on course to win up to three seats in General Election".

George Galloway this morning welcomed Respect's by-election victory in Sparkbrook ward, Birmingham, as "spectacular". "This was a great victory for Respect. We beat a strong campaign from New Labour, got more than three times the Tory vote and pushed the Lib Dems into fourth place. This will send shock waves across the city of Birmingham and beyond."George Galloway continued: "Our detailed analysis now shows we have a very good chance of winning in our three target seats of Birmingham Hall Green with Councillor Salma Yaqoob, Bethnal Green and Bow with Councillor Abjol Miah and Poplar and Limehouse where I am challenging the discredited New Labour MP Jim Fitzpatrick. My warmest congratulations to newly elected Councillor Shokat Ali who will add strongly to the team on Birmingham Council."George Galloway spent yesterday campaigning for Respect in the by-election.The full election result was: Respect 2492, Labour 2221, Tories 797, Lib Dems 505, Greens 188 and Independent 54. Respect holds all three council seats in Sparkbrook ward.

Racist attacks in Saltdean

Someone I know has sent me this disturbing news from Saltdean.

A Muslim family that has lived in Saltdean for over twenty years has been subject to a sustained campaign of racist and religious abuse. The Deghayes's home and family have been attacked, verbally and physically. The children, especially two twins in Year 8, are regularly called "Paki" and also "terrorist". This leads to fights at school and Saltdean Oval (the park). There are also many small acts, such as having water thrown over them in the school canteen at lunch, that have been going on for almost two years.

On Friday 11th September at 11.30 pm a gang of youths, boys and girls, smashed the front window of the Deghayes house and the windscreen of their car. They were in the garden for some time. They used bottles, bricks and stones to break the windows. The police have yet to charge anyone in relation to this.

The abuse is not unconnected to the fact that a family member, Omar Deghayes, was held for several years in Guantanamo Bay before being released in late 2007.

Brighton is a Peace Messenger City, and the local Peace Messenger Group has organised a public meeting on Thursday 24 September at 7.30 pm in Our Lady of Lourdes Church Hall, Steyning Rd, Rottingdean. [NOTE CHANGE OF VENUE IF YOU HAVE SEEN A PREVIOUS ANNOUNCEMENT]. Buses 27, 12 and 14 stop on the seafront at Rottingdean: walk up the High Street and take the first right into Steyning Rd. The entrance to the Church Hall is about 50 yards up on the left. The number 2 bus will also take you there, but it takes ages via Woodingdean.

Please attend if you can, or maybe you can help in other ways. For more information, please contact Jackie Chase (Peace Messenger contact) on 07759 564 620.

There is some resistance out there!


Come and find out about the inspiring battles that workers are undertaking against the unjustified attacks on jobs, pay and conditions. With a speaker from the Vestas workers' committee plus contributions from the Visteon car parts plant occupation, Brighton bin workers/street cleaners’ in dispute with the council and Brighton Housing Trust workers fighting to defend their pay and their jobs.

Meet 7.30pm Thursday 24 September Friend's Meeting House, Brighton

Will Hove go it alone...and will there be honey still for tea?!

"Grayson! There are an awful lot of working-class people in Brighton, you know! "

Talk of "independence" is in the air. The independence of sweet surburban Hove from evil, hedonistic, spendthrift Brighton, that is. There seems to a bit of a head of steam gathering around this notion that life in Hove was so much better in splendid isolation. A website - Hove Alone (which seems to be down at the moment) - is dedicated to the reformation of Hove Borough Council, and letters keep appearing in the Argus, most notably from civic worthy Beryl Ferrers-Guy, who seems to blame the formation of the unitary council for the closure of the Army and Navy in George Street!
Brighton and Hove City Council is far from being a perfect institution, but who do these campaigners think they are kidding? Do they imagine that a Hove Council can be formed which will run everything? In the unlikely event of Hove reverting to borough status, many of the key services like education and social services will be run by a county council, just as they were before. Given that this entity would be stuck out to the west of what would presumably remain an unitary Brighton, this would likely be West Sussex County Council. The borough council services would be ripe for takeover by the burgeoning "shared services" partnership of Worthing and Adur. So in return for gaining this "independence" we would end up being ruled from Chichester and Worthing. Some people just don't think things through do they?

Of course, what really lies at the heart of this campaign is a sepia-tinted view of Hove untainted by all those poor people, homeless people and drug addicts. Of a council which hoarded resources but never thought about putting them to good use. It is though these folk imagine that some kind of fortified border can be set up across Western Road to keep all the "bad" stuff out.

Hove always had more than its share of poverty and social problems - it was just better at putting a genteel facade around it all. Hove cannot insulate itself from the realities of the world, so don't listen to the blandishments of those who claim otherwise. Better that we work together to solve the problems which face us all