Friday 31 December 2010

The campaign against cuts needs unity. It doesn't need distractions!

As we move into a new year, the campaign against the slash-and-burn policies of the ConDem government will need to intensify.  It will also need to pull in the maximum number of people from all of the campaigns against various aspects of the cuts.  I could wish that all of these people would be coming at this from a revolutionary socialist perspective, but I realise that this is not going to be the case.

The Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition has in many ways been a model of how to organise a united fightback against the cuts.  It has been an open, democratic body which has respected the fact that no one individual or political tendency has all the answers and that the priority is to get everyone working together on what unites us.  It has offered and given support to initiatives from other groups, rather than tried to muscle in and claim ownership of every activity.  This can be seen in the way that it has related to the tax protests by UK Uncut and the student rebellion against tuition fees.  Also the solidarity which it has given to the Argus journalists in their dispute and to the fight by council workers against the Connexions cuts and the attempt to close Bright Start Nursery.

It is therefore no coincidence that the BSTCC has grown over the last half of the year, to the extent that it needs to find a bigger room for meetings and is branching out into the localities - with a successful Portslade meeting earlier in the month and one planned for Hollingdean in the new year.

It is for all these reasons that Socialist Resistance is concerned that progress both locally and nationally could be hindered by proposals likely to be put to the National Shop Stewards Network anti-cuts conference to create an "All-Britain Anti-Cuts Campaign".  An article on SR's website explains the background and our opposition to this proposal.  It has been motivated by the Socialist Party's members on the NSSN steering committee and unsurprisingly was adopted, since the SP has a majority on that body.  But what is significant is that the SP carried not a single non-SP member of the committee with them.  The NSSN steering committee is now divided on this issue with effectively two factions - the SP on one side; everyone else on the other.  It is one thing to be able to use a majority to get your way, but any victory starts to look a bit pyrrhic when there's nobody with you.

We need to build a fightback against the cuts in the workplace - and the NSSN is crucial in developing this, in the absence of much fight at all from the union leaderships - but what we don't need is another national body purporting to be the national anti-cuts campaign.

Locally the Socialist Party has played an exemplary role in the anti-cuts movement and their activists have been crucial to its success, but I hope that they recognise that they need to continue to work within a broader movement rather than set up some new body which is not needed or wanted by the vast majority of people outside their ranks.

Saturday 18 December 2010

Tories on the back foot over Bright Start - Campaigning Works!

In the face of a determined campaign by nursery workers and the parents and kids, the Tories are in headlong retreat over their plan to close down Bright Start. They even pretended it was snowing to get the council meeting over with as soon as they could!

Latest bulletin below.

Save Bright Start News

Bulletin number 9


The council seem to be looking for a way out, we made the Argus front page and the TV news again. And we have a lot of reason to be more hopeful about our future than we did 2 months ago.

But our campaign is not over yet.

This is Alex Knutson, Unison branch secretary’s statement following the council meeting yesterday

“First of all, thanks to all who turned out, and another excellent front page of the Argus, extensive coverage on the regional news, and having the children present in the Gallery really does put pressure on our elected politicians !

The decision was that the Green motion, amended by Labour (to restrict the Tories even further) was agreed unanimously, with the Conservatives abstaining. This means, that the motion, as amended, goes back to Councillor Brown on the 17th January, for her to consider, along with her consultation results (we - parents, staff and children - need to be there!!! ). This puts very heavy pressure on her to accept the contents of the motion, and the verbally expressed views of the Green, Labour and Liberal Democrats last night, that there should be a working party to promote and develop Bright Start for the future. This is where the cases put forward by the parents and staff, that demolished the Council case for closure was so important, and effective. In my experience, and leaving aside the moral arguments for a moment, it is rare to be able to put forward such a clear plan for the financial viability of a service in the public sector, as, by definition, all services are subsidised to one extent or another.

Mary Mears ill-thought out intervention at the beginning, basically a co-op model, was a desperate attempt to confuse the situation and save the day for the conservatives. Nevertheless, we will have to "watch" this, as I am sure they will try to include it, as an option to consider. I will forward on a UNISON document that highlights the risks/dangers of the model, which can, initially, seem attractive, but in the long term offers no security to staff, parents or children - it is effectively, privatisation by another name.

We need to keep up the pressure on all the politicians to ensure this "jewel in the crown" stays where it is, in the Council.”

Where next for Bright Start ?

Meeting for staff and parents with Unison .Monday 20th 6pm

We will be meeting on Monday after nursery to discuss precisely what Thurday’s decision means and where we go from here.

Clearly there is still no reason for anyone to take their child out of Bright Start.

But we can’t relax either. Any “social enterprise “ or privatisation plan would eventually force most staff to leave as pay would end up being close to minimum wage like most other private nurseries.

Future Dates

Tuesday 21st December 6.30pm New Road to Madeira driveJoin the Save Bright Start giant scissors and families at the Burning of the Clocks procession

Monday 17th January 2011, 4pm We will be lobbying Vanessa Brown’s Cabinet Member Meeting . Committee Room 3, Hove Town Hall. If it goes ahead!

P&P Brighton & Hove Unison, Brighton Town Hall 291611

Vote “Vanessa Brown’s NOT Closing Us Down” for Xmas number One

Thursday 16 December 2010

Brightstart demo - pictures and videos

With no apparent sense of irony, Cameron today whined that the the MPs' expenses scheme was "anti-family" - apparently because MPs might not be able to claim fro transporting their kids from "home" to "home".

Altogether say "ahhhhhh!"

Many of his and his local government henchmen's policies could be said to be just a tad "anti-family", I would have thought.  A case in point being the attempt to close Bright Start nursery, but there is resistance to this cynical move.

A great march and lobby by kids, parents, Brightstart workers and supporters.  Photos and videos below.

I left the Council meeting before the end, but was able to hear some great questions being put to Cabinet member Vanessa Brown.

Knowing that they were losing the argument and the vote, the Tories suddenly conjured up a proposal to turn Bright Start into a "social enterprise" under which they would effectively wash their hands of it and give it to the users to run.  It is effectively a privatisation.  More detail later.

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Protest against Housing Benefit cuts

About 30 people leafletted and spoke to passers-by about the cuts to housing benefit which are looming. We need both employed and unemployed workers to fight these cuts which could see thousands homeless.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Photos of EMA Protest yesterday

Photos by Dave Hill

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Monday 13 December 2010

Defend EMA - join the demo at City College Monday lunchtime

On Monday 13th December, from 12noon to 2pm, Trade Unionists, students, anti-cuts representatives from political parties, will gather at City College, Pelham Street, Brighton, to demonstrate their opposition to the ConDem Coalitions proposal to cut EMA.
EMA is paid to students who attend the 3 Colleges in the City, as well as 6th Forms. These young people are drawn from families on low incomes/benefits and receive up to £30 per week. They are at College to, either gain qualifications that will lead to University, or, to learn skills that will enable them to get a decent job when they finish the course/training. As an example, City College offers academic courses, or practical training in building, hairdressing and beauty. Its catering courses are nationally renowned and many young people enter the world of work with the College's fine reputation behind them.
Specifically, it should also be noted that over many years now, the Colleges have enabled youngsters with learning disabilities, behavioural problems, etc, to achieve simply amazing progress, in learning, followed by work.
The Governments proposal to cut EMA puts all these achievements at risk, will lead to the closure of whole courses, and to redundancies of skilled teachers and support staff. It is truly, the "most disgraceful cut of all", so far.
To gauge the impact on Brighton and Hove, it is estimated that of students attending City College, 50% receive EMA, 30% at Varndean College and 20% at BHASVIC.
What do students use the money for? In almost all cases it is spent on bus/train fares and lunch - it is not enough, but for the vast majority it is the difference between kids attending college, or staying at home. It is also worth noting that if the young person does not attend their classes/work placements, then they are "docked" their EMA, so the money is linked to responsibility and committment. When the last Government introduced EMA, there were many sceptics who said it was a "bribe" to get kids to stay in education. The reality has proved very different, and it is now seen, universally, as one of the most successful initiatives in further education, in the last 40 years.
The joint Trade Unions, with the tacit support of the vast majority of colleges, are launching a national campaign to persuade the Government to change its mind on EMA, and will be leafletting/getting petitions signed, across the country from Monday onwards.
Alex Knutsen, UNISON Branch Secretary, said " EMA is one of the "jewels in the crown" of futher education, enabling working-class young people to have opportunities for University and skilled employment. It is a key piece in the fabric of a decent society and should not be ended for what can only be described as ideological reasons. EMA works, young people get work, and all of us benefit.
If the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats get away with this cut, then it is purely and simply, a piece of political vandalism. All decent people instinctively know when something is wrong - and this, is wrong".

Please note - this demo is not aimed at City College, but against the Government.
For further information, please contact, Alex on 01273 291611 or 07961025930.

Saturday 11 December 2010

SAVE BRIGHT START NURSERY - note change of venue for protest

Our dishonest and deceitful employer claims to be "consulting" on the future of Bright Start Nursery.  If asked, the relevant councillor, Vanessa Brown, will swear that "no decision has been made".

Strange then, that at last Thursday's Cabinet meeting, the cut in subsidy was voted upon before the consultation process had even properly finished and been responded to.  Strange too, for an organisation so committed to democracy, that our union rep at the nursery was denied paid release to take part in the consultation.  Strange also that so many lies and half truths could have found their way into the Council's own "consultation" document.

The final bit of strangeness comes in the sudden switch of venue for next Thursday's Council meeting at which Unison is planning a march and lobby.  Full details are below, but please note it is in Brighton not Hove.

We can stop this! 

Message from Brighton and Hove Unison
On Thursday Brighton and Hove Council will be voting on whether to close Bright Start Nursery.

They claim it’s about saving money and prioritising vulnerable children.
We will be marching to the council to tell them that

• They should be considering the needs of the children at Bright Start and their future needs

• They shouldn’t be closing frontline services at all. We are one of the only nurseries in the City Centre.

• They should listen to the staff, parents and unions who’ve explained how to make the nursery self-financing

• Putting 18 experienced nursery nurses on the dole will cost the taxpayer more than the existing subsidy

• The council should cut out its own frivolous waste on luxury chocolates, alcohol and expenses, or use its £20million reserve pot rather than cutting services for children




Meet outside Jubilee Library, North Laine 3.15pm
A ten minute march, led by babies, toddlers, children, parents and nursery nurses to BRIGHTON TOWNHALL for a rally at 4pm

Our 5,000+ petition will be handed in and many will stay to hear the council vote on whether or not to shut down Bright Start nursery. Please support us

Student protests: shaken government relies on vicious policing and media spin

“Attacks on police officers and property show that some of the protesters have no respect for London or its citizens,” so said Tory Home Secretary Theresa May, just hours after proving she had no respect for the young and the poor by voting to pull the rug of higher education from beneath their feet.
Last night’s student protest against the trebling in tuition fees has been characterised in the media as unprovoked mindless violence. But the main violence to be seen came not from the students carrying placard sticks or overturning litter bins. After all, shattered glass can be replaced–shattered futures can’t.

The real violence came from the police force, seen to use horses to charge at dense crowds of people, beat protesters unconscious and even get caught on film pulling a student from his wheelchair.

One protester, Alfie Meadows, was beaten as he tried to leave the area. He fell unconscious and underwent a three hour operation for bleeding on the brain. Others report that police refused to allow another unconscious protester out of the kettle to receive medical help.

As one anonymous protester reported to the Guardian, “I was outside the kettle in Parliament Square yesterday watching as riot police fought with protesters and then split like the Red Sea to allow two charges of police on horseback into the crowd. It was absolutely horrific to witness. These are dispersal tactics used on the continent but the Met are using it against people who have nowhere to run because they are kettled. The horses charged at high speed and from where I was they seemed to end up wading through the protesters. It’s a miracle that no-one was seriously injured, or even killed.”
This was not simply the case of police responding to violence and disorder. Before the protest had even begun, Scotland Yard was already straining at the bit for a fight, using inflammatory language unseen since the G20 protests in 2009 which saw the death of Ian Tomlinson.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has moved beyond talk of a “violent minority”, now preferring to label most of those who came to stop the fees as “wanting to pursue violence and destroy property.” This is the talk of a man who is scared of opposition from the streets – it’s not easy to con the brave student movement into dropping their opposition to fees. They aren’t Lib Dems, after all. But it is also his attempt to brand all those wanting to stand up to his coalition of cutters as a violent mob, hell-bent of destruction.

But one thing is clear—the movement does not end here. In 1990, the poll tax became law, opposition on the streets continued, and police used horses and truncheons to beat protesters into submission. It didn’t work and the poll tax fell.
The gamble by the police was that using extreme violence against school students would scare them off the street. This gamble has failed. It has simply increased the anger of these young people, who have been taught a valuable—if painful—lesson in whose side the state is on.
This is still only the beginning.

This statement was published by the United Campaign Against Police Violence at 03:20.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Bright Start latest. Reject the Council's lies and their phony consultation. Join the demo on 16th Dec

Count Down to 16 December!

Now the consultation period is over we have
just a week to prepare for a big turn out at
the full council meeting next Thursday
16th December, 4pm
March from Kings House(Grand Avenue)
2.45pm Unison bus from King & Queen

(pub behind nursery. Let us know if you need a seat)

We will hand in our 5,000+ petition
March singing songs, waving banners,
handing out balloons, stickers & leaflets.

A parent and unison will speak, then Greens
and Labour will put our case before the vote.

But it will not end there...

During consultation the council announced to
the Argus the £87,000 cut in nursery
provision, meaning Bright Start.

After the full council debate, we need to keep
up the pressure. If closing Bright Start is the
council's “Flagship” of its cuts campaign, we
know of the huge support that has built up for
Bright Start over the last 2 months.

Most people in Brighton approached to sign
our petition have done.

People seem to see us as the worst example
of what's wrong with cuts.

We should make the most of that and draw
on all our supporters to sink the Cuts

Our response to consultation showed the
strength of our feelings.

Now we need the energy and time of all of
you to stop this closure plan in its tracks.
What You Can Do

1. Take the petition around anyone
you know who hasn't signed

2. Take it round your work Xmas party

3. Take it round your elder kid's
school playground (Headteachers
should be fine if you ask them first)

4. Pass it round at any family event –

Pantomime queues, parents at Kids
film showings, Skating, school fairs
and anywhere else you can think

5. Visit your local shops –
independent ones will sometimes
take petitions and often put our
poster (on reverse) up in their

6. Join our petitioning stall in

Churchill Square or Jubilee Square
(outside Library) from noon on
Saturdays. There'll be a group of us,
handing out leaflets, balloons &
stickers as well as petitioning.

7. Join us on 21st December,6.30pm
(the day of nursery kids Xmas party) for
PARADE”. This is a huge local family
festival and we want to make a big
splash. The group who'll be in the
parade, with a giant pair of scissors its
rumoured, will need more of us to
hand out publicity and balloons for our

Students and workers unite!

Last night I attended a brilliant meeting of students and trade union activists. It was an opportunity to discuss, debate and exchange solidarity.

The students declared their solidarity with Council workers fighting cuts and job losses - and they made it clear that, when they march on council buildings, they are NOT targeting council workers.

In turn trades unionists were able to declare their support for the fight against fees and the Brighton University occupation.

At a time when attempts are being made to divide us we need more meetings like this.

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Well done UK Uncut!

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Wednesday 1 December 2010

The selective use of health and safety legislation

I have been a trade unionist a long time, and for all that time the idea that workers have a right to work in safety has been absolutely central.  Accordingly I am always supportive of measures taken by management to protect workers - in fact unions usually positively demand such measures.

So I thought that, however supportive I might be of the campaign against fees, I still thought it right that I should support evacuations of staff from main council buildings if there was any chance that the safety of my members might be compromised by demonstrations, even if that was not the intention of the demonstrators.

But events this week have made me a bit more cynical.

On Monday morning this week, the heating failed in Priory House next to Brighton Town Hall and the temperature plunged to 12C.  In strange contrast to the employer's reaction to the demonstrations last week and yesterday, there was no move to evacuate Priory House, despite the fact that the temperature was 4C below the (chilly) legal minimum for an office of 16C.  It took most of the day for the heating to get to a decent level.  Some staff who complained were treated dismissively, as though they were moaning about nothing.  We did get some emergency heating in and I advised staff whose medical conditions might have been aggravated by the cold to leave the workplace.

I then got to thinking that the panic around the prospect of some teenagers making a noise outside council buildings was a useful way of demonising the protestors, and that the evacuations were less about the welfare of staff and more about the convenient use of the anxieties of staff to advance a political agenda.

I am sure that I am being way too cynical, but next time it happens I might just ask a few more questions.........

Monday 29 November 2010

The resistance continues and grows!

After a packed out delegates meeting last week (not far off 50 present from many organisations and groups) plenty of anti-cuts activities coming up.
3rd Dec. Save Brightstart Public Meeting 7:30pm, Hanover Room, Brighthelm centre.
7th Dec. East Sussex Stop the Cuts Lobby in support of education workers being cut. 9am Lewes, County Hall. Please do try to make it across from Brighton for this one.

7th Dec. East Sussex Stop the Cuts Public Meeting 7:30pm Eastbourne Town Hall.
7th Dec. Right To Work Public Meeting, Green Jobs 7:30pm Friends Meeting House Ship Street
8th Dec. Keep Portslade Academy Free/Stop the Cuts joint meeting. 7:30pm Mile Oak Community Centre, Chalky Road, Portslade.

There is leafleting around Portslade the next 2 Sundays, 28th and 5th to build in the community for this meeting. We need help with this! Email if you can help.

15 Dec. Keep the Post Public National Rally and Lobby 11.00 a.m. - 2.00 pm Central Hall, Westminter

If you live in Hove or Kemptown Parlimentary Constituences and can help arrange a surgery with your MP regarding the Royal Mail get email

16th Dec. Lobby of Brighton Council in support of Brightstart Nursery. Motion on the future the of the nursery is being put to the council that day so maximum support needed. Meeting 3:30pm Kings House to march to Hove Town Hall. To get a seat in the council chamber for the bright start debate, please submit a public question on the issue to Mark Wall at Democratic before noon on 9th december .that will get more supporters in and free up the public gallery for bright start parents and staff.

If you can, contact you councillors before the 16th and ask them to pop down to Brightstart, so they can see the service they are voting on closing.
10th Jan. Next full Stop the Cuts delegates meeting. Provisionally the 7:30pm Caxton Arms, North Gardens but this may change as the room is getting so crowded.
22nd Jan. National Shop Stewards Network Conference – Fight the Cuts 12pm South Camden Community Centre, London.

Also discussed and decided to print a poster campaign detailing arguments against the cuts to go up around town. Window posters to be given out, a reprint of the newsletter with more up to date dates and the website will be put together.

A local women against the cuts group has set up in Brighton, contact or, for more info and check out the national site at

We need more funds! Pip Tindall is bringing together a group to get fund raising ideas together, email her at if you have ideas/want to help.

Sunday 28 November 2010

Coalition of Resistance Conference

I was not able to attend this but here is a report from my comrade Liam MacUaid.  It looks highly encouraging........

"Exhilarating" is not an adjective that is often used on this site, especially when describing an event which involved being obliged to listen to twenty platform speakers. Most of them agreed with each other on the big picture stuff too.

Yet in its own way the Coalition of Resistance (COR) conference was exhilarating. One thousand three hundred people registered for it. The odd thing was that no one involved in organising the event or running it had any idea who most of them were. I was in two workshops and was surrounded by unfamiliar faces. By way of context there were more people I knew by sight at the last couple of central London demonstrations I’ve been at, both of which pulled about five thousand.

Here is an utterly arbitrary, probably occasionally inaccurate, selection of impressions.

Conference was due to start at 10.30. It did. That is unprecedented but the hall was full by that point. A student who’d been kettled earlier in the week kicked proceedings off. Quite right too. She was followed by Clare Solomon who said she found addressing the event more nerve-wracking than Newsnight. Who knows how much you can read into these things but she revealed that an ex-cop had sent her a letter with a tenner inside in which he said that the student demos had restored his faith in young people.

For COR Paul Mackney said that it is in transition from being a pressure group to becoming a mass movement. Its success will be measured not by programmatic elegance but by the breadth of the movement.

In a day that had its quota of demagoguery Rachel Newton, who spoke on behalf of the People’s Charter offered one of the most intellectually interesting contribution. The gist of it was that there is a strong similarity to the fragmented,disorganised working class which existed in the 1830s and 1840s and the same class today. Discuss.

Newly elected Unite general secretary Len McCluskey did not mention industrial action (if my notes are accurate) but he did say that he would be instructing his action committees to contact and work with local anti-cuts groups.

Both John McDonnell and Bob Crow came out strongly in favour of direct action with Bob suggesting that broken windows make work for glaziers, an incontrovertible fact as events at Tory HQ show.

Krushchev’s speech about how dreadful Stalin was came to mind when Chris Bambery of the Right To Work Campaign (RTWC) talked about how some people in the hall come from a tradition where organisations rush to call themselves a leadership. He rightly pointed out that those holding such pretensions need to be punished by the mass movement and invited those present to get involved in the RTWC’s upcoming conference and demonstration.

You could make a case that there was a democratic deficit in the day. You’d probably be a bit wrong.

One hundred and twenty people had their names put forward for membership of a national committee which will elect an executive at its first meeting. All were accepted and it was made plain that there would be a deliberate mixture of politics, areas and local campaign groups. Twenty two amendments were made to the resolutions which were up for discussion and I had honed my arguments against those calling for a general strike. This was time wasted as they were all remitted to the national committee. In the circumstances that was sensible and there will be a resolution based policy making conference before July

Messy in parts, occasionally repetitive and tendentious, big and diffuse. It felt like the start of something important.

Wednesday 24 November 2010

Brighton students in revolt

At least 3000 students protested in Brighton this afternoon against fees and the abolition of EMA. It was a brilliant demonstration organised by the students themselves.

What was striking was that the march was primarily composed of 6th formers and working-class younger students. Whilst there were some higher education students present, the biggest HE contingent appeared to be lecturers.

What was also striking was the complete absence of NUS, who most students now seem to see as something to be bypassed and ignored.

At the end of the march many students marched to Brighton Town Hall, where Sussex Police decided to throw their weight around and practice their "containment" techniques. Perhaps the Chief Constable could explain the need to deploy full riot gear, batons and dogs against children.

But this was a big, militant march and it won't be the last.

This middle-aged trade unionist was proud to be able to tag along!

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Saturday 20 November 2010

Why we've left Respect

Five members of the Respect Party, who were members of its ruling National Council until this week, have resigned in protest at the party’s decision to organise in Scotland. Alan Thornett, Terry Conway, John Lister, Bob Whitehead, Andy Richards, who are members of Socialist Resistance, sent this letter to Respect.

Please accept this as our resignations from Respect.

Our reason, as you will know, is the decision taken at Respect conference on Saturday to reverse its historic position and to begin to organise in Scotland -with George Galloway as a Respect candidate for the Scottish Parliament in the forthcoming elections. This is a big problem given that there will be at least one Scottish broad left party standing and probably two.

We were also concerned that a major change of policy was made via a last minute amendment to a resolution on the cuts, which illustrates a problem of democracy within Respect. The fact that so many people think a few days debate on a couple of blogs and 30 minutes at conference is a big discussion indicates that we have not succeeded in developing a real political culture within the organization.

As we argued in the debate any decision to organise in Scotland would inevitably have negative effects on the resources that could be devoted to building Respect in England – in particular in Tower Hamlets. Proposals to make build Respect as a national organisation in England or Respect a more visible part of the movement against the cuts have either been defeated or not carried out in practice over recent months. Declarations to the contrary were unconvincing.

Nor can one seriously believe that this decision will not take further resources away at a time when the need for a political alternative both to the Condems and to the completely ineffectual Labour Party are stronger than ever before.

The decisive issue, however, is that we think that it is generally wrong for English organisations to organise in Scotland — unless they do so as a part of an initiative led by the Scottish left. This is particularly the case with Respect which has no roots in Scotland or policies on Scotland. It is also particularly the case when the election concerned is for Holyrood rather than Westminster.

As we pointed out, we support the SSP, which has already selected its lead candidates in each region of Scotland for Holyrood. It is true that the SSP was seriously weakened by the split of Sheridan, which was a result of his disastrous decision to sue the Murdoch press in the way he did. The SSP, however, has consolidated and grown since this time and is an organisation today with proportionately many more comrades in Scotland than Respect has in England.

It is also an organisation which is visibly present at every key moment of Scottish politics on the side of the working class and the oppressed – so against the war, against racism and fascism, in defense of women’s rights and at the heart of the anti-cuts movement. The youth group Scottish Socialist Youth has played a key role in all these and many other initiatives and is a vibrant and dynamic organization.

We make these assessments on the basis of the fact that we have supporters who are members of the SSP and on the basis that SR comrades have attended every SSP conference and many other initiatives over the years.

For us to advocate a vote for a different party would be untenable - both for Respect and for ourselves. In any case the last thing the Scottish left needs is another left party standing in the Holyrood elections and dividing the left vote still further. This is a counterproductive and sectarian decision by Respect.

Respect has no policy what-so-ever on the issue of devolution and self-determination around which Scottish politics turns. To decide to stand for Holyrood without a single discussion on the policies on which the candidate would stand leaves it in the hands of the candidate with no collective input. While George Galloway was a founding supporter of Scotland United – the organization which spearheaded the fight for Scottish self determination - he opposes independence. We don’t take this view – we believe the break up of the British state is in the interests of socialists on both sides of the border.

Support for independence does not mean that the left in Scotland and England cannot and should not work together to fight the Condems or imperialism – the SSP has been part of working with organizations in England (and Wales with the Plaid left) through formations like the Convention of the Left.

We are resigning with great reluctance since we remain committed to the building of a broad pluralist party to challenge New Labour and the neoliberal parties and for us this is a further setback in that process.

Meanwhile we wish Respect well, genuinely so, and will work with you where the opportunity arises - particularly in the struggle against the cuts, over racism and in solidarity with the people of Palestine. We will continue to support and work for Respect candidacies in many places in England and hope that perhaps one day we may again be part of a common organisation that provides a real alternative to neoliberalism.


Alan Thornett, Terry Conway, John Lister, Bob Whitehead, Andy Richards – NC members over the last year.

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Tuesday 16 November 2010

From the website the cops closed down


The remarkable and brilliant student action at Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.

There are an encouraging number of intiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’.

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday 12 November 2010

Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition Bulletin

Phil Clarke writes....

After a very well attended activists meeting on Monday the following ideas were discussed for the stop the cuts campaign. Many haven’t got details arranged yet but at the next delegates meeting that we would encourage as many groups as possible to send a delegatee to we should have dates and times and can agree funding etc.

For details about any of these events, if you want to get involved or can help out please email

Coming Up

Delegate Meeting 22nd Nov 7:30 Caxton Arms, North Gardens. A letter is attached asking groups to send delegates to the Stop the Cuts Coalition. It’s really important the campaign becomes more and more representative. We, of course, encourage all union branches and campaigns to delegate but are also keen to see more people come along on behalf of workplaces, voluntary and community groups. To have a broad based democratic campaign that can sink roots in our city these meeting are really important. An invitation letter is attached.

Brightstart campaign continues and new leaflets are available for distribution round workplaces/stalls, get in touch to get hold of them.

The Argus will be striking over job losses and transfer of the bulk of the papers operations out of Brighton on Thursday and Friday next week. Give you supports to the pickets and to local news coverage on the morning of those days at the Hollingbury office opposite ASDA.

Brighton Uni - students and staff anti-cuts organising meeting Monday, 15 November 6pm Watts Building, Room 507, Moulsecoomb campus

Sussex Uni - Demo 4pm Library Square Monday 15th Nov against cuts

Fees Protest organised by local 6th Form students 24th Nov 2pm BHASVIC. Teachers, parents and students welcome.

Protest East Sussex Cuts outside County Council Offices, Lewes, called by East Sussex Stop the Cuts Coalition - 10am 7th December Eastbourne Anti-Cuts Public Meeting 8th Dec, 7:30pm Leaf Hall BN22 7NB

Local meetings to bring in more people and particularly more people who are not presently organised in unions and campaigns are vital. We will be looking to the wider campaign for a big leafleting session of the area beforehand.

Portslade Anti-Cuts and Anti-Academy meeting in December, being organised by the Anti-Academy Campaign.

Hollingdean Anti-Cuts Meeting In January Organised by Brighton Unemployed Workers Centre.

The Communication Workers Union Keep the Post Public campaign will be organising around Brighton’s two Tory MPs, details to follow.

Poster campaign to show visually the anti-cuts arguments

Plan for ‘Physical Info Graphic’! The idea here is we use a large number of people in a public place (with press hopefully) to visually demonstrate some of the anti-cuts arguments. For example 120 people one side with a certain colour placard to represent 120 billion in tax avoidance/evasion and 1 on the other resenting 1 billion benefit fraud. This is going to involve a fair bit of organisation so anyone who like the idea and wants to help please get in touch!

Stickers for the campaign

Gig – being arranged

Plus there will no doubt be more short notice events, if you want the word spread around get in touch.

Back the Argus strike - Save our LOCAL paper

Journalists on the Argus are taking strike action next week to keep a local paper in Brighton.  They are trying to stop virtually all production and editorial being moved to Southampton, and to save 6 local jobs.

The Argus is owned by Newsquest, which is itself a subsidiary of the American Gannett Foundation.  The move to Southampton has been gradually taking place for some time now.  A few years ago, the Argus moved to its present location in Hollingbury because it had outgrown its central Brighton home. Now, what's left of the Brighton operation would fit comfortably into one floor of the old location.

We have seen the effect of this in terms of a far more superficial publication, which never covers any issue in any depth, and mostly just regurgitates press releases.  I recall that about 10 years ago when I was involved in a fight to stop New Labour privatising the Benefits Service in the Council, it was an investigative reporter who took time to uncover the abysmal track record of the preferred bidder for the service which played a large part in derailing those plans.  I couldn't see that happening now.

If Newsquest gets its way, there will just be 2 journalists based in Brighton - the paper is already printed in Southampton and trucked back into Brighton for distribution.

The Argus has always had its faults, but at a time when we have a highly centralised council bent on making massive cuts with as little opposition as possible, we need a decent local paper to hold them to account.

The NUJ pickets will be out in Crowhurst Road (opp ASDA) from 8am on the 18th and 19th.  Give them your support.

Thursday 11 November 2010

"Violence" comes in many forms.....

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Wednesday 10 November 2010

Pathetic...truly pathetic...

As proof of the old adage that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, give it up for.....Harriet Harman!

How right is she for telling that odious turd Phil Woolas that his political life is OVER!?  In fact, Harriet, what took you so long??

The sight and sound of Labour MPs whining over poor Phil's treatment at the hands of nasty Harriet is truly vomit-inducing.

They're going to start a "fighting fund"?  Pur...leeeze!

What a shame they couldn't summon this much passion and resistance just prior to the Iraq war; or when Blair was marketising the NHS, or Brown was PFI-ing our public services, or Purnell was out-Torying the Tories on "welfare reform".

As for Phil?  Well, son, the sooner you accept that you have no future in politics the sooner you can get busy following the the Hamilton/Opik trail into reality telly.

The sight of Phil Woolas ingesting witchety grubs and kangaroo's testicles in the Australian jungle?  Yeah, I'd pay good money for that.

Sunday 7 November 2010

A brief history of housing benefit

Given that my line of work for more years than I care to mention is suddenly constantly in the news, it seems remiss of me not to share some of the inside secrets of the housing benefit industry.

Housing benefit in its present form was orginally conceived by the Tories in the reign of Thatcher in the early 80's.  It was part of their ideological shift away from state solutions to housing need (through social housing investment) in the hope that "the market" would provide. HB provided and continues to provide a huge subsidy mainly to private landlords, and spending on HB really started to rise as private sector rents were deregulated and landlords were allowed to charge what they liked. the Tories would have it..."landlords and tenants were free to negotiate rents between themselves".  (Stop laughing at the back!) 

Yes that's was under the Tories that the meteoric rise in HB spending really began, just as they knew it would.  In 1979, HB was 12% of  all government spending on housing.  By 1997 it had grown to 69%.

When I first started working in HB, the Rent Act was still in force and a tenants faced with exhorbitant rents could get a fair rent registered by a rent officer.  Landlords could not charge more than the amount set by the rent officer.  Local authority housing benefit offices could apply for a fair rent to be registered if a tenant applied for HB and the HB office thought the rent was too high to be met through the benefits system.  Often the mere threat was sufficient to really help a landlord his thinking about what rent his property was really worth......

But this was all swept away by the 1988 Housing Act, which deregulated private sector rents and introduced the notion of the 6-month shorthold tenancy.  To get landlords to let property... the argument was necessary to give them carte blanche to set rents to the highest figure they could get away with, and take away any notion of security of tenure - something to which the ConDems are now turning their attention in the social sector.  Small wonder that HB spending ballooned, despite various schemes which were designed to restrict HB on the highest rents. The job of rent officers became setting the amount of rent that would be met by HB - not the amount that could be charged by the landlord

Such schemes often just created hardship for tenants because although rents were "capped" for HB purposes, there was no compulsion on landlords to cut the actual rent they charged, which just left tenants having to pick up the shortfall.

While this was happening in the private sector, over in the social sector, housing for rent was shrinking as "right to buy" kicked in.

New Labour tried to square the circle with the Local Housing Allowance, a flat-rate benefit designed to give tenants some incentive to bargain for the cheapest rent and in return get to keep any of their allowance which they did not spend on rent.  Again it was about putting the onus on tenants, but without giving them any effective bargaining power.  Predictably, landlords simply raised rents to the levels of the the Local Housing Allowance and laughed all the way to the bank again.

One important myth prevalent in what passes for "debate" in the housing benefit field concerns what tenants on HB do with their time.  Contrary to what you read in the tabloids (and even the broadsheets). the majority of people receiving HB are in work...low-paid work which is effectively state-subsidised through tax credits and housing benefit.  The cuts to HB will affect these people as well as those who are unemployed.  The cuts will create more of a poverty trap for those who work....people who already suffer huge levels of marginal taxation as benefits are clawed back and negate the smallest rises in pay.

So next time someone tries to tell you that HB is paid to tenants, you might point out that in fact, it acts as a huge subsidy to private landlords on the one hand; and to employers paying minimum wages on the other.  These are the people really coining it from housing benefit....but don't expect to read that in the papers.

Two things would cut the housing benefit bill drastically and swiftly - a return to statutory rent control, and a decent minimum wage (perhaps around the European decency threshold of about £8 per hour.  But no ConDem minister would sign up to such measures. They are counter to every political instinct these people possess.

Just a few things to bear in mind next time you hear a politician pontificate about "out-of-control housing benefit".

Thursday 4 November 2010

The right to free speech is saved....but who will save the reputation of Brighton and Hove City Council?

Those who believe that the current administration of the City Council is quite the worst there has ever been have lots more evidence this morning after the Standards Board comprehensively threw out the politically motivated charges against Green Councillor Jason Kitcat.  

Read his report here 

He supposedly "disrespected" a Tory councillor by posting some publicly available clips from a council meeting on YouTube.  The case has dragged on since early 2009 and one can only speculate how much the cost in officer time has been.  On the subject of cost, yesterday's appeal hearing was held in the palatial surroundings of the Hilton Metropole Hotel, and the Council engaged the services of a barrister.  According to accounts of those who were there, he was spectacularly poor value for money.  As if this wasn't enough the Council also saw fit to further waste the time of two Council solicitors and a press officer.

It will be interesting to see how much this exercise in Tory ego-tripping has actually cost the taxpayers of the city.

The real scandal is of course that against this background the Tory administration is seeking to make cuts in services to the most vilunerable people in the city.....and it will be interesting to compare the cost of the attempted persecution of Jason Kitcat against the supposed cost of keeping Bright Start Nursery open, for example.

There are a few local politicians who ought to be seriously considering their positions this morning......

Thursday 28 October 2010

Together we can stop the cuts!

Our jobs, communities and public services are all under attack by an unstable Con-Dem government determined to make us pay for an economic crisis that was caused by the bankers and the rich.

Workers, pensioners, the unemployed, students, young people and people with disabilities are all threatened, with savage cuts to services we all rely on, while mega profits and bonuses continue to be raked in by the wealthy.

We are told that these cuts are the only way to solve the crisis and reduce the deficit but this is not true - billions owed by the rich in tax go uncollected each year while billions more are wasted on war, Trident and privatisations.  

There is an alternative to these unjustified attacks and a growing fightback is taking place that can force the rich to pay for their crisis.

Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition has been formed by trade union branches organised around Brighton and Hove Trades Council, community groups and various political parties to bring everyone together.

Our strength comes from our unity. By supporting one another with petitions, protests and united mass action we can stop all the cuts.


Monday 25 October 2010

Jerry Hicks for Unite GS

For Unite members it’s more of the ‘shame’ and business as usual
or a chance for change in the election for General Secretary.
The finish line [or could it be the starting post] is now in sight, and the race to lead the largest union in Britain and potentially the most powerful starts next week, Monday 25th October when the ballot papers will be despatched to 1.3 million Unite members. Whether employed or unemployed, whether in Unite or not, students and pensioners, everyone will be affected by the result as to who becomes the General Secretary of Unite.
Les Bayliss attacks the BA cabin crew, brave enough to resist and fight for a better future, not the Con Dems for slashing 500,000 public sector jobs. Tony Woodley and his chosen successor Len McCluskey would have planned the timing of the BA cabin staff ballot and the ballot papers for the election of General Secretary being sent out at precisely the same time [goes beyond mere coincidence]. The aim being to present Len McCluskey as a successful negotiator bringing the year long dispute to a successful end - knowing that the ‘devil in the detail’ of the deal would not be exposed to the vast majority of the members voting in the ballot for General Secretary, until after they have voted.
Woodley on behalf of McCluskey expresses outrage at Bayliss’s breaking of the election protocols - then breaks all the rules himself when publicly promoting McCluskey at an anti cuts rally in Westminster.
Talk is cheap while poor judgement is costly. Ed Milliband, who Unite’s leadership supported using members’ money, distanced himself from the union and action against the cuts as soon as he became the leader and failed to turn out and support working people by not voting for John McDonnell's Private Members Bill in Parliament last week. Shame on the Labour Party leadership for failing to back this bill whose sole aim was to stop employers seeking unwarranted injunctions to prevent lawful strikes on minor technicalities as in the BA dispute.
Why did we not make support for the bill a condition of our support for Ed Milliband’s leadership?
Jerry Hicks is the only candidate that says “We must ensure that those that don’t support our policies no longer receive any support from our union”.
The choice could not be clearer. Les Bayliss looks up to employers and offers a ‘strike free union’ while he talks down to members and offers a ‘free diary’.
Len McCluskey uses the BA dispute to promote himself. He wants us to believe he will fight the anti union laws but hopes we forget he has done nothing about it during the 3 terms of a Labour government!
Gail Cartmail sounds like a manager at a team brief, offering only generalities and plays the gender card.
Some things they say are different but they all support the appointment of officials. They all said nothing for 13 years, 3 terms of a Labour Government. But they all have plenty to say now; they will talk about ‘fighting’ but with someone else’s job, pay and pension. When was the last time any of them lost any pay in a dispute? When was the last time any of them was threatened with a disciplinary or suspension or the sack over a dispute?
Jerry Hicks says “Well, it’s too late to tell us what you are going to do tomorrow or next month. Why didn’t you all do it when you had the chance? The stakes are too high to let them get away with this any longer. Handing the baton of power to a ‘chosen one’ has to end. Instead let’s get the union back”.
Jerry Hicks is a union member who wants a member led, member controlled union. Who believes members should decide who represents them by electing all union officials.
Jerry Hicks will only take an average wage, and is independent of the cliques, factions, official machines and cronyism.
Notes to Editors: Jerry Hicks having come second in the election for Joint General Secretary, Amicus section of Unite less than 19 months ago is thought by many to be a possible winner in this election of the whole Union.
Contact Jerry Hicks either on 07817827912 or by email
For more information visit

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Sunday 24 October 2010

March against cuts on the 30th!

Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition is building a united fight back against the cuts agenda with a wave of protests, lobbies and demonstrations which have been taking place over the last few days.

Organised by trade union branches affiliated to Brighton trades council - representing over 10,000 workers in the city - alongside community campaigners and political activists, the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition is a force that has the potental to grow and link up with others to stop all of these unjustified cuts to jobs and public services.

On Wednesday October 20, Con-Dem chancellor George Osborne announced the harshest cuts to public services and jobs ever made. The budget deficit created by bailing out the greed of the city and bankers is being used as an exuse by capitalists and the rich to secure ever more massive profits at the expense of our society's poorest and lowest paid by attacking the progressive achievements made by generations of trade unionists and working class campaigners.

Already we have heard plans to increase VAT to 20% which will have a disproportionate impact on those on low incomes who spend the majority of their poverty wages on basics such as food, water, warmth and shelter. Last week a shocking cut of 80% to university teaching budgets was announced which will destroy our children's future education hopes along with the loss of thousands of jobs affecting millions of families. And these attacks are just two of many more that are threatened.

At a rally in Wales on Saturday to defend passport services and workers' jobs, PCS union national vice president John McInally received the loudest applause when he said: "The people who want to cut our jobs and services, destroy our communities and attack our families are barbarians. And as far as we're concerned, we will organise in our workplaces, we will organise in our communities, we will stick together and we will defeat you."

Locally, the Tory-run council continue to plan cuts to our Connexions youth support services, SureStart help, housing budgets and the closure of Bright Start Nursery. And these cuts will be just the start after today's "comprehensive spending review" with the results being passed on to local councils to impliment.

Thousands of jobs and hundreds of public services used by everyone are at risk, but we will not take these unjustified attacks lying down. In Brighton and Hove your local trades council has been at the forefront in organising trade union branches from all unions in the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition and small victories are already being won with united pressure on the city's councillors.

On Saturday Oct 30 a Brighton March Against Cuts demonstration is assembling on The Level at 12 noon which will march through the city as a protest against these unjustified cuts.

Come along, spread the word and take part in these important events to help save your public services. Make the rich pay for their crisis. They caused it, not us!

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Friday 22 October 2010


This the latest instalment of my occasional series on the wise words of Nadine Dorries MP - the woman who gave us the pearl "Trident isn't a weapon of mass destruction".

Her latest piece of great comedy value is her statement to the standards commissioner that "70% of my blog is fiction".

Isn't that good to know......

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Thursday 21 October 2010

Brighton and Hove Tories forced to retreat on Connexions....then throw a hissy fit!

Brighton and Hove's Conservative councillors demonstrated at tonights City Council meeting how badly they respond to pressure after they were forced to concede the referral back of their proposed massive cuts to the Connexions service.

Clearly rattled by the fact that they knew they were outvoted and faced with a packed and hostile public gallery, they responded with a quite appalling display of snide remarks and veiled threats.

A taste of what was to come was apparent during an earlier debate on a deputation about the proposed Portslade Academy. In her response, Cllr Vanessa Brown, Children's Services Cabinet Member, proceeded to "tell off" the member of the public leading the deputation for daring to question the qualifications of Academy sponsor, Rod Aldridge, to run a school - clearly not something she had ever considered doing!

But they really hit their stride in the Connexions debate. We had Tories attacking Connexions staff personally, including the quite scurrilous accusation that staff were "forcing" service users to write testimonials for them - an outrageous attack on their professional integrity.

Then, in a speech by Council Leader Mary Mears, we were treated to what appeared to be a veiled threat to take away trade union facility time. This had nothing to do with the issue under discussion, but Mary is clearly frustrated at how effectively the unions are resisting the cuts.

The whole unpleasant affair was rounded off by a blustering speech by a hitherto anonymous councillor called Tony Janio who simply ranted at everyone.

Then they all went and had dinner!

The Tories' finest hour.......not!

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Making the poorest pay

Are we really supposed to swallow the lie that these cuts are in any way fair?

Look at the evidence and it is clear that they are very grim news for some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Earlier this week Osborne compared benefit fraudsters to "muggers", but he showed himself to be the mugger-in-chief as he took another £7bn out of the welfare budget to add to the £11bn he stole in June.

And for all his talk it is people who are working who will bear much of the brunt.

There is myth in this country (fed by the media) that there are workers and then there are benefit claimants. In fact millions of low-paid workers are receiving tax credits and housing benefits as it is the only way to survive on criminally low wages and criminally high rents. It is these benefits which face the biggest cuts.

Two ways to drastically reduce the cost of housing benefit would be to introduce statutory rent controls and a minimum wage of at least the European decency level. But such measures would not sit well with the Tories' big business friends - which is presumably also why the government isn't very interested in collecting their unpaid taxes -something which would raise £120bn all by itself.

We are also told that cutting welfare spending will protect public services, but local government is to be decimated with cuts amounting to 30% over 4 years. Nearly half a million jobs are threatened in the public sector. Make no mistake, this means the disappearance of whole services.

In addition to pay freezes, public sector workers may have to pay another 2% towards their pensions. Faced with the choice of eating today or saving for retirement tomorrow, many younger members of pensions schemes will vote with their feet. They will claim benefits when the time comes - which will cost taxpayers more than properly funded pension schemes would have done.

Two crucial myths need to be challenged -

- that the cuts are a financial necessity - in fact they are a political necessity driven by neo-liberal ideology.

- that the cuts are "democratic" - in fact this ramshackle coalition that no-one voted for has no mandate whatsoever for these cuts.

We need a movement to challenge this, but the left is weak because it chose to indulge itself in the luxury of political infighting for 10 years when it should have been building a credible left alternative to New Labour.

So we will need to build from the ground up and build a broad movement which is not the property of any group or faction and which will draw in those people who will want to fight the cuts which will impact on them.

The Stop the Cuts Coalition in Brighton is a start, but it needs to draw in as many people as possible who want to do something.

We need a bit of Paris on the streets of Brighton!

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Sunday 17 October 2010

Lobby the Council to defend services this Thursday



Join a



To Defend Essential Services and

Protest Against the Cuts to Connexions, Bright Start Nursery and other services

Thursday 21st October

From 3.30 p.m.

Hove Town Hall

For more details or if you want to help contact:

01273 291611 or email

Tories caught red-handed trying to close Bright Start Nursery

The Tories' attempt to get the closure of Brightstart Nursery sneaked through on the word of ONE councillor has unravelled.

A united campaign by both users and workers at the nursery has forced the Council to reopen the discussion and the process which led to the announcement of a "consultation" on the closure will now be re-examined by a scrutiny committee.  The news comes hard on the heels of the revelation that the Council is also haveing to defer plans to sack 15 Connexions workers.

The nursery workers have made the following statement.......

Councillor Vanessa Brown has admitted that the planned closure of Bright Start nursery is just about saving money There is no mention in their report of the damaging effects to young children of closing their nursery, many only 4 months away from starting primary school. No thought is given either to the waste of disbanding an excellent team of nursery workers which has been built up over many years. When nurseries open, politicians are often keen to have their photos taken with smiling children. Will our councillors be at Bright Start for the cameras on their planned closure day as heartbroken children, parents and staff show their feelings?

A report full of red herrings

As well as not mentioning the effect on children, the report. makes no attempt to look at alternatives to closure apart from a 30% fee increase. Yet parents and Unison came up with a range of viable alternatives in a few hours .The report gives out of date figures about occupancy rates It repeats a projected cost of building work, which only a year ago wasn’t deemed necessary when the council funded the refurbishment of other nurseries in the city .Surely the council has a duty to write a more balanced report and to seriously consider all options before taking going down a route that is already causing great worry and stress for both parents and staff.

Overpaid Staff?

The report talk about staff pay being higher than the private sector and it notes that staff “retention is good” as if this was part of the problem.! Most private nurseries pay little more than the minimum wage. Trainees on £100 per week or less can be included in the staff-child ratios And some do not even pay sick pay. Bright Start staff are still paid far less than the average wage. But having staff who stay in the same job for many years, including two male workers is part of the reason why our nursery has such a good reputation. Surely this is what the children of this city deserve.

The Council Has The Money

The cost of lost taxes and benefits claimed would actually be more to the taxpayer than the alleged savings of closing Bright Start (Between£100,000 and £200,000!) That is farcical! We all know that the council has money to halt save Bright Start and the taxpayer. The Argus has reported recently on huge sums of money being wasted in Brighton and Hove council. £100,000s spent on empty buildings or writing off private companies debts, paying nearly £1million to a few “top” people to go and get another job, massive increases in councillors expenses, the appointment of Party Political advisors on nearly twice the salary of a nursery nurse, £4million to a cleaning company to clean EBCOMA school after they closed it down…..the list is endless without even mentioning the £Millions held by the council in “reserves”.

The Country Has The Money

As in Brighton and Hove, some sections of society nationally are awash with wealth and money while the rest of us are being told “we are all in this together” and “we must all tighten our belts”. The big question facing our City and the country currently is who has to pay for the financial disaster created by bankers, politicians and City of London gamblers?

Just like with the flawed report into Bright Start, there are plenty of alternatives to making the weakest and most vulnerable pay for the crisis. Brighton and Hove Unison branch stands by the staff, parents and children at Bright Start and will ensure that we are not the ones to pay with our jobs, careers, and the happiness of our children.

Printed and published by Brighton and Hove Unison c/o Brighton Town Hall, Bartholomew Square, Brighton

Please sign the petition at (this will force the council to at least debate the issue)

Please see the parents’ website

Please see the “Save Bright Start Nursery” and “Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition” facebook groups

Join us on the march against cuts The Level,Brighton. Noon .30th October

Less than 100 years to save the human race....

Around 60 people came to the Friends Meeting House to hear Hugo Blanco speak about the struggles of indigenous people the world over to defend their way of life from rapacious capitalism in all its forms.  He spoke about how climate change and deforestation is causing human catastrophes such as floods, mudslides and drought.  Hugo also lent his support to the struggles of European workers

Also speaking was Dave Bangs, who talked about the past and present struggle for land in Britain and Europe.  Caroline Lucas also lent her support to the struggle.
The meeting raised £124 to help the struggle of Hugo's organisation, Lucha Indigena

Monday 11 October 2010

Tories target Bright Start Nursery

The Council is threatening to close its own workplace nursery - Bright Start - which has existed for nearly 25 years and provides nursery places for both council employees and the wider community.  The nursery is well-respected and is unusual in that its staff actually enjoy reasonable pay and conditions, ensuring low staff turnover and continuity of care for the children.  But for your average Tory monetarist, such "luxuries" add up to "costs" which must be stripped out in the brave new world.

The "consultation document" which the council has just published cannot deny the quality of the service but chooses to hide behind the fact that investment is needed to refurbish the building.  But the Council quite clearly has no idea how much extra cost would be entailed in simply maintaining the empty building if the nursery were to be closed.  The document is full of wishful thinking about what other organisations might take over the building, but it is far from clear what other public sector organisation or private company would have a use for the building...although it is of course in a prime and lucrative central Brighton location.

This is just the start.  We have not even had the Autumn statement yet but the Tories are looking to sneak in cuts now in the hope that no-one will notice.

There is a campaign to save Brightstart at and a petition at

By the way...the cost of that refurbishment?   £230,000....less than two "strategic directors".

Sunday 10 October 2010

Latin America and the ecosocialist alternative - Hugo Blanco comes to Brighton

Come and listen to Peruvian peasant leader Hugo Blanco; Green MP, Caroline Lucas; and local environmental campaigner David Bangs discuss the challenges and the possibilities!

Thursday 14 October
7.30 pm
Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton

Hugo Blanco is touring the UK during September and October. The tour is being organized by Green Left and Socialist Resistance.

Hugo has been at the forefront of a huge struggle in the Peruvian Amazon, where the government has sold off the rainforests to the oil corporations, against the resistance of the indigenous people of the region.

The UN climate summit in Copenhagen last December showed that most of the world's governments, and the market economy they defend, are totally incapable of tackling climate change, the most pressing problem to face humanity in modern times. The follow-up meeting in CancĂșn, Mexico, at the end of this year, looks set to repeat the fiasco.
However, the People's Climate Summit, called last April by the Bolivian government along with indigenous and social movements from across Latin America, showed that there is an alternative.
Hugo Blanco is at the centre of these debates
A guerrilla leader back in the 1960s, he has been a leader of the Peruvian peasant movement for more than four decades, as well as a prominent political prisoner and, more briefly, an elected member of Peru's Senate.
In recent years, he has dedicated himself to campaigning for indigenous rights in Peru, especially through the paper he edits, Lucha IndĂ­gena (“Indigenous Struggle”), and has become one of the most prominent voices for Latin America's growing eco-socialist movement.