Wednesday 28 April 2010

Wanted for the murder of Blair Peach

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Tuesday 27 April 2010

The return of political grafitti

I have no doubt that the party apparatchiks are most upset at this sort of thing.

"But we paid thousands for this", you can hear them bleat.

Tosh! If they want to foist their extremely large pieces of political dogma on the rest of us they should not be too shocked if some "active citizens" choose to join the debate......

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Monday 26 April 2010

Respect manifesto launched

George Galloway will launch the Respect Party manifesto for a hung parliament tomorrow. He will highlight the policies Respect MPs will press for where no party has an overall majority and the major parties are seeking support from minor party MPs.

Respect expects to elect three MPs in the general election, George Galloway and Abjol Miah in Tower Hamlets and Salma Yaqoob in Birmingham. Respect MPs have ruled out supporting a Conservative
government. The conditions they will place on support for a government in the next parliament will be a massive investment into council housing, withdrawal from Afghanistan and the scrapping of Trident and democratic reform of parliament including the introduction for fair voting.

You can download the full manifesto here

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Sunday 25 April 2010

Make the bankers pay!

Scenes from yesterday's Balloon Stunt

Wednesday 21 April 2010

We won't pay for their crisis! Join the Great Balloon Stunt this Saturday!

Would you go to prison for a crime committed by someone else? Would you pay off someone else's debts? No? Then why are we paying for the bankers' crisis??!

Cuts in public services, rising unemployment, attacks on the poor and the benefits system, the housing crisis... all this and more is the cost we must pay for the recession according to the main parties. We in the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition disagree, it is not ordinary working-class people who caused the recession, so we are not the ones who have to pay for it.

Imagine you had gambled your bosses' money and lost it all, putting him into serious debt. Would you be kept on, given a huge bonus and receive a bail out from the government?

Due to the cost of bailing out the banks the deficit is £168billion - we will have 168 balloons and we will show you that cuts in public services and jobs are not 'inevitable'; instead the rich has decided that working-class and poor people will pay for this recession!

However we don't just say 'we can pay for the deficit better if the rich took an equal share', we want to see a socialist economy which responds to the needs of ordinary people - for homes, health and education - which creates jobs to meet people's needs instead of cutting jobs to protect profits.

Come along to Churchill Square on Saturday 24th April at 11:30am to see how much money has been wasted on PFI, on devastating wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on uncollected tax from the rich, and much more! And most importantly come along to hear how we can fight back against their crisis falling onto our shoulders!

Support a celebration of our multicultural city this Sunday


Sunday 25th April
Meet 10am,
Victoria Gardens, Grand Parade.
(North Of Brighton Pavillion)

On Sunday April 25th there will be a 'March for England' taking place in Brighton. In previous years we have ignored this demonstration as it has been small and peaceful. However, this year members of the racist and violent English Defence League (EDL) will be attending the march.

The EDL is a racist organisation with links to fascist groups like BNP and Combat 18. They claim to oppose only 'militant Islam', but they target all Muslims by demonstrating against mosques such as in Harrow and Dudley and chanting slogans such as "Pakis Out" and "if you build your f*ucking mosque we'll burn it down".

Just weeks ago Sussex UAF members were sent racist private messages by local EDL supporters and the Sussex UAF page was vandalised with posts from several regional EDL divisions.

Previously where the EDL have marched, Asian people have had their property vandalied, been physically attacked and also stabbed. When the EDL have been outnumbered they have been prevented form attacking anyone.

Let's celebrate our unity in opposition to the EDL! There will be unity festival to defend and celebrate multiculturalism in Brighton, join us!

Don't forget you heard it here first!

Months ago, in one of my rare reviews, I predicted that a concept album about cricket could be the hit of the year.

Well today it was announced that the Duckworth Lewis Method has indeed been nominated for an Ivor Novello Award.  So there you go........

Friday 16 April 2010

Kafka is alive and well and living in Sussex

A story which sums up the New Labour world of the privatised welfare state.

A woman from Hurstpierpoint, recovering from anorexia, applies for a job at West Sussex County Council. She gets it but then fails the routine health check. Having been classed as unfit for work she applies for Employment and Support Allowance (the new Incapacity Benefit). But she's told she can't have that - because she's too healthy!

And the common denominator in this story? Atos Healthcare - the company which carries out WSCC's pre-employment health checks -and also the company which carries out medical assessments for the DWP!

Well that's two satisfied customers anyway!

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Thursday 15 April 2010

"Sacking that troublemaker

A small group of campaigners picketed a seminar held by "employment consultants" Peninsula this morning.

Peninsula likes to tell employers how they can turn down holiday requests and how to get away with sacking "that troublemaker".

In truth, employment law in this country is already weighted heavily towards employers. The last thing we need is fly-by-night "consultants" making things even worse.

So Peninsula...just do one....and don't come back!

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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Back the Left!

I put my name to this letter some months ago but it was published in The Guardian last week.  Obviously more candidates than just those mentioned could now be added but the message is the same.

We believe that there is an alternative to wars, cuts, privatisation and environmental destruction. We believe that the current UK election system does not allow our views to become represented – a truly democratic society requires participation and involvement at all levels – and that the next elections will not lead to major change. However, we do believe that there are candidates of the left, across several political organisations, who should be supported by everyone who agrees that there is an alternative to Brown, Cameron or Clegg. And in the interests of unity we call for left candidates to avoid clashing in the same seats.

We will therefore support the following, for example – and there may well be many more – who strongly demonstrate practical representation of the left in its widest sense: Caroline Lucas (Green, Brighton), Dai Davies (Independent, Blaenau Gwent), George Galloway and Abjol Miah (Respect), John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn (Labour in London), Dave Nellist (Socialist party, Coventry), Salma Yaqoob (Respect, Birmingham), Gayle O'Donovan, Kay Phillips (Green and Respect in Manchester), Peter Cranie (Green, Liverpool) and Val Wise (Independent, Preston).

Nick Bird (Lowestoft) Duncan Chapel (NUJ) Andrew Collingwood (Green Party) Raphie de Santos (Scottish Socialist Party) Sam Feeney (Unison) Alf Filer (Harrow UAF) Gregor Gall (University of Hertfordshire) Stephen Hall (Wigan, Leigh & Makerfield People's Alliance) Chris Hyland (Green Party) Aaron Kiely (Kent Uni.) Nick Long (Lewisham) Liam Mac Uaid (Socialist Resistance) Jim Monaghan (Open University) Miles Mothershead John Nicholson Declan O'Neill Kay Phillips Andy Richards (Brighton Unison and Respect) Clive Searle Norma Turner Steve West (RMT, Manchester) Leanne Wood AM/AC (Plaid Cymru) Jack Youd (University of Manchester)

Thousands will lose benefits as harsher medical approved

This story, from the excellent Benefits and Work campaign group, sums up the conspiracy of silence which exists in this election about what really matters.  These plans, to make it even harder to get obtain sickness and disability benefits, were dreamed up by New Labour and will be endorsed by the Tories.....

Tens of thousands of claimants facing losing their benefit on review, or on being transferred from incapacity benefit, as plans to make the employment and support allowance (ESA) medical much harder to pass are approved by the secretary of state for work and pensions, Yvette Cooper.
The shock plans for ‘simplifying’ the work capability assessment, drawn up by a DWP working group, include docking points from amputees who can lift and carry with their stumps. Claimants with speech problems who can write a sign saying, for example, ‘The office is on fire!’ will score no points for speech and deaf claimants who can read the sign will lose all their points for hearing.
Meanwhile, for ‘health and safety reasons’ all points scored for problems with bending and kneeling are to be abolished and claimants who have difficulty walking can be assessed using imaginary wheelchairs.
Claimants who have difficulty standing for any length of time will, under the plans, also have to show they have equal difficulty sitting, and vice versa, in order to score any points. And no matter how bad their problems with standing and sitting, they will not score enough points to be awarded ESA.
In addition, almost half of the 41 mental health descriptors for which points can be scored are being removed from the new ‘simpler’ test, greatly reducing the chances of being found incapable of work due to such things as poor memory, confusion, depression and anxiety.
There are some improvements to the test under the plans, including exemptions for people likely to be starting chemotherapy and more mental health grounds for being admitted to the support group. But the changes are overwhelmingly about pushing tens of thousands more people onto JSA
If all this sounds like a sick and rather belated April Fools joke to you, we’re not surprised. But the proposals are genuine and have already been officially agreed by Yvette Cooper, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. They have not yet been passed into law, but given that both Labour and the Conservatives seem intent on driving as many people as possible off incapacity related benefits, they are likely to be pursued by whichever party wins the election
We know that many people will find this news deeply upsetting and even frightening and we know that some people will condemn us for publicising the planned changes or for the language that we are using to do so. But we also believe that it’s not too late to stop these ugly plans in their tracks if claimants and the organisations that represent them act now.
With 1.5 million incapacity benefit claimants waiting to be assessed using the work capability assessment in the next few years and tens of thousands of people already on ESA and set to be reviewed annually, these changes will be of great concern to many voters – if they find out about them before polling day.
So, please spread the word in forums and blogs and to people you know who may be affected. Ask any disability charity you have a connection with to speak out now, before election day, against these plans. You might also want to contact local newspapers and radio to warn people about the proposals.
And above all, contact not just your MP, but the other candidates in your constituency, and let them know you will not be voting for anyone who does not loudly condemn this shameful attack on sick and disabled claimants.

These plans really are a potential seat loser, but only if enough people know about them.

Two bald men fighting over a comb......

So the Labour and Tory manifestos are out, and what an eloquent demonstration they are of how squeezed mainstream political discourse has become in this country.   Is there really anything of substance separating them? 

What they have in common, amongst all the "we're all in it together" and "giving power back to people" platitudes is a consistent theme.....ordinary working-class people have to pay for the crisis created by the rich.  Both agree on cuts in public and welfare spending, ever more privatisation and of course, war.  None of the "main" parties speak for those who opposed war in Iraq and demand that British troops be brought home from Afghanistan

When the establishment parties agree with each other on all the substantive issues, all that is left to bicker over is trivia and ephemera - who's got the best wife (so much for the 21st century!), who can be toughest on immigration (Labour's manifesto brackets immigration and crime together in a single chapter - so I reckon they've won on points there!), who can put out the most cutting ads.

And on the subject of trivia and ephemera it looks like honours even on the two key awards - Weirdest Cover on a Manifesto (Labour's eerily Maoist tribute effort) - and Strangest Location for a Manifesto Launch (the Tories in the rubble of Battersea Power Station - nice hat-tip to Thatcherism there).

Tuesday 13 April 2010

TUSC campaign in Peacehaven.....

......while Burgess' leaflets go to Bolton!

Dave Hill's campaign goes from strength to strength. Here are some pictures from Peachaven yesterday.

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Friday 9 April 2010

Dave Hill, the Education Candidate

Statement and Education Policy Manifesto by Dave Hill
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown

I have spent my lifetime as a teacher in `challenging’ primary and secondary schools and in teacher `training’ and in universities trying to tackle inequalities in schooling- inequalities that result in millions of working class children having far less educational opportunities- and subsequently, usually lower paid jobs- than the children of richer parents, especially the 7% who go to private schools- and snap up most of the highest paid, elite, jobs.

The very choice of what and how it should be taught, how and what schooling should be organised, how any whom it should be funded, and where and how the funding should be targeted, and a consideration of `who wins and who loses' through all of the above, are all intensely political. And we want that politics to be in the interests of the millions not the millionaires!
I come from a working class family brought up in some poverty, for example on free School Meals (like a million others!) in St. Martins’ St., off the Lewes Rd., Brighton. I went to Westlain Grammar School, my brothers to underfunded secondary modern schools, such as Queens Park and Moulscoomb. Three times as much was spent on the education of grammar school students than on Secondary Modern students! My children went to local state schools. The inequalities I have witnessed- and lived- as a child, and as a teacher and socialist political activist, have led me to spending my life fighting for greater equality in education and society, and against racism, sexism and against homophobia.

What an indictment of our divisive education system that students from private schools are 25 times more likely to get to one of the top British universities than those who come from a lower social class or live in a poor area. And that (in 2008), only 35% of pupils eligible for free school meals obtained five or more A* to C GCSE grades, compared with 63% of pupils from wealthier backgrounds. This stark education inequality mirrors that in our grossly unequal society.

It is incredible, actually it is only too believable, that in Britain today, the richest section of society have 17 years of healthy life more than the least well-off in society. The minimum wage should be raised by 50%. How can people- decent hard working people like some in my own family, live on take-home pay of less than £200 a week! And there should be a maximum wage, too! Nobody, banker, boss, or buy-out bully, should be on more than £250,000 a year- (and this figure should reduce progressively so that within 10 years no-one is taking more than four times the average wage, nobody should be creaming off £27 million or £90 million a year for example! Certainly not when there are 4 million children living in poverty! I was once one of them. I was helped by the welfare state. We need our public services. We need to improve them, not cut them, not attack them.

All three parties, New Labour, LibDem, Tory, dance to the music of big business. All are promising cuts. Whatever they say, those cuts will hit schools, children, and the quality of education in our state schools. Already we are seeing staff cuts and course closures in universities up and down the country. In Brighton, for example, both Brighton and Sussex Universities are promising to cut out the nurseries, and Sussex to chop over 100 jobs. Brighton University is proposing to cut its Adult Ed art courses. Vandalism! Cutting popular and widely used public services!’

And don’t believe cuts are necessary. The’yre not! Cutting the Trident nuclear submarine replacement programme, bringing troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, stopping the Identity Card programme, and collecting even some even of the £120 billion in taxes unpaid by the rich… yes, £120 billion!...would mean cuts are not necessary at all!

But you won’t hear that from the other parties, just from Socialists, like the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition, and from Respect.

A socialist manifesto is:

1. Cut class sizes (they are currently some of the largest in the rich world- much larger than in private schools for example). According to OECD research Britain is 23rd out of 30 developed countries in terms of large class size. Other countries such as Finland have a maximum class size of 20. Finland is widely seen as providing an extremely high quality of education. For a maximum class size of 20 by 2020 in both primary and secondary schools!’
2. Abolish league tables and abolish SATS (some external testing is necessary, but SATS so very often restricts teaching to `teaching to the test’, and results in undue stress (and an increase in bedwetting, compared to the pre-SATS era, for example).
3. Restore local democratic control of `Academies’. They should be run by the democratically elected local councils, and keep to national pay and conditions agreements. Why should rich businessmen and women take control of any of our schools? Let’s keep the added investment- but it’s the government that pays for that added investment anyhow! Let’s keep and enhance the added investment, but distribute it fairly between all schools. Our schools and the children in them are not for sale! Nor, through uneven funding for different types of school (e.g. academies) should some schools be set up for success at the expense of others being set up (and underfunded) for relative failure.
4. Private profiteering out of our schools! Bring the education services hived off to private profiteers back into either national or local private ownership! These include Ofsted, Student grants, school meals, cleaning and caretaking.
5. Free, nutritious, balanced school meals for every child to combat poor diets, obesity, and… yes… for some children… hunger!
6. Restore free adult education classes in pastime and leisure studies as well as in vocational training/ studies
7. Restore free funded residential centres and Youth Centres/ Youth clubs for our children so they can widen their experiences of life in safe circumstances and enhance their education beyond the confines of the home or city.
8. For a fully Comprehensive Secondary School system, so that each school has a broad social class mix and mix of ability and attainment levels.
9. For the integration of Private schools into the state education system- so that the goodies of the private school system are shared amongst all pupils/ students. All schools to be under democratic locally elected local council control. No to Private Schools. No to religious groups running schools. No to big business / private capital running our schools and children!
10. Free up the curriculum so there can be more creativity and cross-subject/ disciplinary work.
11. Get Ofsted and their flawed tick-box system off the back of teachers. The results of Ofsted are to penalise even the best schools (outstanding in every aspect- other than in SATS attainments) in the poorest areas.
12. Encourage Critical Thinking across the curriculum. Teach children not `what to think’, but also `how to think’. Including how to think critically about the media and politicians.
13. Teach in schools for ecological literacy and a readiness to act for environmental justice as well as economic and social justice Encourage children to `reach for the stars- and to work for a society that lets that happen- a fairer society with much more equal chances, pay packets and power, and about environmental and sustainability issues.
14. Proper recognition of all school workers, and no compulsory redundancies. For teachers, secretarial and support staff, teaching assistants, school meals supervisory assistants, caretaking staff, there should be workplace democratic regular school forums in every school. Regarding jobs (for example the threatened job cuts at Sussex University- and the `inevitable’ job cuts in every? school after the election- no compulsory redundancies- any restructuring to be conditional on agreement with the unions.
15. Setting up of school councils – to encourage democratic understanding, citizenship, social responsibility, and a welcoming and valuing of `student/ pupil voice’.
16. Ensuring that schools are anti-racist, anti-sexist and anti-homophobic- making sure schools encourage equality, welcome different home and group cultures.. As part of this, anti-bullying practices in every school must be fully implemented, to combat bullying of all sorts, including racism, sexism, homophobia, and bullying based on disabilities. And this should be not just in anti-bullying policies, but also be part of the curriculum too!
17. An honest sex education curriculum in schools that teaches children not just `when to say no’, but also when to say `yes’, a programme that is focuses on positives and pleasure and personal worth, not on stigmatising sex and sexualities.
18. No to `Faith Schools’ and Get organised religion out of schools. If Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Zoroastrians, or whichever religion wishes to teach religion, let them do it in their own time, places of worship (Saturday/ Sunday schools) or in their supplementary or complementary schools. Teach ethics and spirituality by all means, and teach about religions. But no brainwashing. Teach a critical approach to religions.
19. Broaden teacher education and training so that the negative effects of the `technicisation and detheorising’ of teacher training (that were the result of the 1992/1993 Conservative re-organisation of what was then called teacher education- subsequently retitled teacher training). Bring back the study and awareness of the social and political and psychological contexts of teaching, including an understanding of and commitment to challenge and overturn racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of underexpectation and discrimination- such as discrimination against working class pupils.
20. A good, local school for every child. No school closures! “Surplus places” should actually mean lower class sizes! And increased community use of school facilities.
21. A completely fully funded, publicly owned and democratic education system from pre-school right through to university. Education is a right not a commodity to be bought and sold. So, no fees, like in Scandinavia, Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, where education up to PhD level is free. No university of further education/ vocational training fees, and a living grant for students from less well-off backgrounds/ income.

In my jobs, firstly as a teacher, and now as a Professor of Education (and writer/ editor of 17 books on education and equality) I have been round hundreds of schools. Many of them are brilliant. Schools in the poorest areas, schools in better off areas! Brilliant. But, with better funding, smaller class sizes, an end to the destructive competition between schools (if every school is a good local school) and with more professional judgement being allowed for teachers- then I look forward to a time when all state schools match the class sizes and results of the currently more lavishly funded private schools’. And working class kids – black, brown, white- get the fair deal currently trumpeted- but in actuality denied- by all three major parties.

Prof. Dave Hill, The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) parliamentary candidate for Brighton Kemptown

Prof. Dave Hill teaches at Middlesex University and is Visiting Professor of Critical Education Policy and Equality Studies at the University of Limerick, Ireland.

The Brighton Trade Unionist and Socialist Cioalition blogspot is at

Dave’s wiki and publications are at

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Tuesday 6 April 2010

Here lie a few reputations....

Crikey David, what were you thinking?!

If I had to name my five greatest cultural icons, the name of David Byrne would be right up there.  I pretty much grew up with Talking Heads.  I loved his work with Brian Eno, and his taking of all sorts of global influences (best exemplified by his album of South American dance music, Rei Momo).

So quite what possessed him to produce an homage* to, of all people, Imelda Marcos, she of the murderous kleptocracy which ruled The Philippines for over 20 years, I do not know.  Equally, quite why such luminaries as Fatboy Slim, Florence Welch and Tori Amos (to name but a few) got involved is a mystery as well.

In a recent interview, Byrne said that some other potential collaborators had turned him down "for ideological reasons" - I'll bet they did!

Maybe there is some deep irony which I am missing here, but for the life of me I can't see it.

Oh....and the music's pretty ordinary as well.

Think I'll skip this one, Dave, if it's all the same to you.

* Here Lies Love

Sunday 4 April 2010

Was this wise?

New Labour PR machine manages to outwit itself...

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