Thursday 30 September 2010

The people of Ecuador are on the streets to defend their democracy and their President

Initial reports today indicate that sections of the Ecuadorean Police are staging street demonstrations, ostensibly for economic demands but in reality trying to subvert the legal order, including through trying to occupy the National Parliament. Additionally, in open revolt against the government, some police officers have taken illegal control over their police stations.
There are also reports that members of the Quito army barracks in the capital city occupied these barracks in open mutiny against the government. In response, President Rafael Correa went to the barracks to talk to the rebels and was attacked by CS gas which exploded near his face. The President is now in the hospital of the Quito Regiment, with minor concussions but well. The armed forces have him under their control in the Quito barracks.

In a clearly orchestrated action of open rebellion, members of the armed forces also took control and closed the Mariscal Antonio José de Sucre airport.
In response to these developments, on live TV through TELESUR at about 18 hrs (GMT) President Rafael Correa said: “It’s a coup d’etat, a conspiracy organised by the opposition.” President Correa hinted that UNASUR was likely to hold an emergency meeting to defend the democratic order that is under threat in Ecuador and also said that police officers supportive of the revolt were trying to get to his hospital room to attack him. He added that he was standing firm in the defence of the democratic order in Ecuador and there was no way he would capitulate, and that he could only lose his life.
The Foreign Affairs minister has called upon people to march to the hospital to protect the life of the President. Mass demonstrations are now taking place in the whole of Ecuador in support of the legitimate and democratically-elected government of President Correa. People are currently congregating around the Quito barracks hospital to protect the President.
President Correa and his government have won every single democratic election since his election in 2006. The government has expanded democracy and implemented policies to redistribute income to the poor, benefiting millions of people hitherto socially excluded. The country has also had a new constitution overwhelmingly approved at a national referendum, which is deemed to be one of the greenest and most progressive constitutions in the world.

Venezuela Solidarity Campaign

300 march in Brighton against cuts

A brilliant turnout for a wet Wednesday afternoon........

Sunday 26 September 2010



On 20th October 2010 a disaster will hit this Country and our City, as the ConDem Coalition announces its ‘grant settlement’ for the public, voluntary and private sectors.

In Brighton and Hove, the Council budget will be cut by £15 million each year for 3 years - and this does not include the NHS, Universities, Police, Colleges and much more.

The ‘knock-on’ effect on the local economy – shops, employment, building industry, etc – will be devastating, as, literally thousands of jobs are lost. Many of your services will be destroyed or severely reduced. Ordinary working people will lose their homes and become dependent on state benefits.


The richest 10% of people in this Country are worth £4,000 Billion – a one-off 10% tax on their wealth would pay off the national deficit many times over – the richest would hardly even notice!

If, as David Cameron and George Osborne constantly say “we are all in this together”, then the rich should pay more – after all, it was the Bankers and speculators who caused the crisis that we are now expected to pay for.


All of us are users of public services - the NHS, Fire Brigade, schools, day centres, libraries, waste collection and much more. All of these are under threat – nothing is safe.

“We will protect front-line services” (David Cameron/Nick Clegg). UNTRUE – the Connexions Service in the City is under threat of closure as we speak.

We are fighting for these services, for jobs, for the elderly, the young, disabled, vulnerable and the very basic standard of living that we have. These are your services. Like us, you are Council/Income Tax payers; you and us want the best for our money.

Join our campaign. Tell your MP/Councillor/Media, that you reject these cuts. That you value your services. That you did not vote for the destruction of the public sector.

Join us at 4pm, on Wednesday 29th September, outside Kings House, Grand Avenue, Hove, to march to Brighton Town Hall (off East Street, Brighton).

This is the European Day of Action, when all across the Continent; ordinary people will say “NO”!

This is your opportunity to say to the Prime Minister and his Government


Produced by Brighton and Hove UNISON

Tuesday 21 September 2010

Our benefits are under attack!

One of the more insidious moves which the ConDem coalition is making is the attack on benefits.  To facilitate this, they are trying to drive a wedge between employed and unemployed, to create a myth that it is an easy life on benefits - a "lifestyle choice" as Osborne so smugly put it.

The demonisation of claimants is being obediently carried out by the Tories' friends in the press.

In reality, benefit cuts are an issue for people in work as well as those out of work, and not just because in-work benefits are also under attack.  Social security benefits are part of the "social wage" which our forebears fought for, so that people would be protected if they lost their job or became sick, or retired.  Workfare schemes, making people work for benefits, will drive down wages and terms and conditions by creating a vast pool of cheap labour.  The next time someone in your workplace says its a good idea to make people work for their dole, ask them if they'd be happy if someone came in and did their job for £66 a week.  If they are very lucky. maybe the boss would let them do it for £66 a week!

Already Osborne has announced cuts of £11 billion with the promise of more to come.  Among the benefits singled out for attack is housing benefit.  This benefit is crucial in keeping the poorest in society housed.  As such it is arguably the one benefit which cuts across all categories - unemployed people, sick and disabled people, pensioners. lone parents and people in low-paid employment are likely to be receiving HB to cover all or part of their rent.

For private tenants, there will further reductions in local housing allowance rates. Currently these are set so that people on benefits could afford to rent about half of the properties of a given size in a given area.  This is being reduced to a third.  The possibility of obtaining an extra amount of up to £15 a week for renting the cheapest properties is being removed.  The clear implcation of this is that people will find it increasingly hard to find somewhere affordable to live, and will be faced with having to find part of their rent from other benefits.

The picture is also bleak for people who have relatives living with them (particularly if those people are in work).  Non-dependent deductions have been frozen since 2001 but the ConDems want bring the amounts up to where they would have been had they been increased every year - a process which they want to complete in just three years.  This means huge cuts in benefit for people with, for example a working son or daughter living at home.  It is arguable that this will not save money anyway, since will break extended families apart and put more people into the private rented market.

Of course the Tories will claim that "the market" will compensate - by forcing landlords to cut rents, but this is hightly questionable at best.  The Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that 750,000 households could lose their homes.

While all this is going on, the civil service union PCS has just announced that its members working in tax offices believe that £130 billion in tax went uncollected in 2009/10.

It is vital for all working people that we fight these measures.  You can make a start by coming to the Brighton Benefits Campaign Public Meeting this Thursday, 23rd September, 7pm, Friends Meeting House, Ship Street/

Reinstate Sam Buckley!

From Socialist Unity

150 - 200 people marched through Hastings on Saturday to demand the reinstatement of victimised reps at CSA Hastings and a Parliamentary enquiry into the actions of Area Management. The crowd chanted “Reinstate Sam” inbetween hearing speakers explain how a person dying of cancer was sacked for exceeding their sick days and a black union rep was sacked for asking if he was being discriminated against.

Jeremy Birch, leader of Hastings Borough Council spoke, giving his full support to the campaign and in a surprise move a message of support from the prominent Labour MP John McDonnell was read out, stating “I will do all I can to help. I will raise this at the Parliamentary Group and we will use every mechanism we can to expose what has happened and seek redress.”

John McDonnell is a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee that oversees the CSA and Chair of the PCS All Party Parliamentary Group.

Sam Buckley, PCS CSA Hastings Secretary, the latest sacked branch officer, challenged the Area Management team to support the demand for an enquiry if they truly believed their actions had been right.

The march also heard from Tony Mulhearn, former Liverpool City Councillor who said he was “proud” to support reps dismissed for fighting for their members, while other speakers emphasised the public sector cuts coming up and urged the public to attend the Trades Council’s meeting against cuts on October 7th.

Other speakers included Dave Richards and Dominic McFadden from the PCS National leadership, Eddie Fleming, the first union officer to be sacked, Alex Richardson of the student group Youth For Jobs and Corrine Lotz of the campaigning group ‘A World To Win’

Delegations had come from London, Brighton, Tunbridge Wells, Dover, Oxford, Portsmouth, the Isle of Wight, Oxford, Milton Keynes, Bristol and Newcastle as well as from Hastings and its neighbouring towns. The rally ended with a pledge to step up the pressure and build the campaign

Thursday 16 September 2010

The Daily Mail....Pravda for the ruling class

Sometimes even the Daily Mail manages to surpass itself.  On Wednesday it seized upon an Office for National Statistics report on wage comparisons to claim that public sector workers, "on average", earn £136pw - yes you read right - £136pw - more than public sector workers.  Hell...some of my members don't even earn £136pw, let alone that much more than anyone else in the economy! 

Do they really think we're stupid?

There is no indication of how different jobs have been compared; which jobs in the private sector have been compared to teachers, nurses or social workers?  For a start if one looks at how the ONS actually defines "public sector", then many of the lowest paid people providing public services have been excluded because most of them have been contracted out to the private sector.  The "public sector" also includes bank workers - on the technical basis that the Government now, in theory, owns the banks.  It is well-established that the public sector contains a greater proportion of professionally qualified staff which skews the comparisons even more. 

Of course none of these subtleties register with the Daily Fail (see the excellent Tabloid Watch for more examples of just how woeful their "journalism" is) - the agenda here is clear.  Create the impression of a featherbedded public sector, the better to convince people of the cuts agenda.

Dont fall for it.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Action for Access

Dave Bangs writes

Action for Access

Meet 9.55am BRIGHTON STATION, to catch the 10.07 train to Hassocks. Our walk kicks off 10.30am from Hassocks station EAST side car park (map ref in notes). See you there!

Action for Access

Working and walking for a people’s countrysidPalSyalk on Clayton and Ditchling Downs

Saturday 18th September

Our walk will start and finish at Hassocks Rail Station EAST side car park, TQ 304 155, on the London – Brighton line.

We will pass down a narrow path southwards into Butcher’s Wood, a well-managed property of the Woodland Trust, which has a policy of designating all its woodland sites as statutory access land. This wood is a pearl in a necklace of gorgeous ancient woodland sites strung out along the sticky gault clay outcrop under the scarp of the South Downs. It is managed as Hazel coppice under Oak standards, with a minority stand of Hornbeam and some ornamental Pines. It is a Bluebell and Anemone wood in springtime, full of the noise of courting songbirds, the drilling of Woodpeckers and the piping of Nuthatches. I counted ten ancient woodland plants in one brief April visit.

If the weather stays warm and damp we should see some good fungi both there and in the Downland woods and pastures to the south.

Clayton church is the finest of the frescoed Saxo-Norman churches of these under-downs, painted by a school of muralists in the 12th century. Its vivid paintings could have been done yesterday. These Romanesque churches were truly jazzy places… filled with public art done in the service of feudalism and feudal christianity.

We will climb Clayton Down under the Jack and Jill windmills. This site was placed on the draft map of statutory access land at the consultation stage, but was deleted by the time the designations were finalized. Bonkers…for it is a wonderful ancient down pasture site with a rich community of herbs and mixed scrub, with many colourful berry bearing shrubs, including three wild Rose species, Wayfaring Tree and loads more. Rich old scrub communities are rare on these Downs despite the overall increasing presence of species–poor recent scrub.

The woods here may well be primary…that is, they may well have an ecological continuity right back to the time of the spread of the wildwood over the warming post-glacial tundra. Testament to that was the presence of Large-leaved Lime - an aboriginal species that clung on here till Victorian times. There are still several mature hybrid Limes on their site, as well as veteran Beech and carpets of Bluebells under Hazel coppice, Lesser Butterfly Orchis…and hygroscopic Earthstar fungi that open and shut like flowers in response to damp and drought.

After crossing the South Downs Way we will descend into Dencher Bottom – one of my favourite sites on the Brighton Downs. This is ‘Hare Country’, and we stand some good chance of seeing one in this, one of their best redoubts.

The Bottom was part of one of the last intact chalk grassland and chalk heath sub-landscapes to succumb to the plough in the 1950’s (the other one being the plateau cirque between Kingston Hill and Castle Hill, south east of Falmer). On the south facing slope, with its Gorse tonsure, there are grand old anthills and dancing Brown Argus and Chalkhill Blues. With luck we should find good Bolete fungi living in partnership with the abundant Rockrose, which looks like a dainty Downland flower above ground, but behaves like a woodland tree below ground. There is Purse-web Spider (the British trap door spider) and Boxing Gloves Spider, Alopecosa cuneata, and the mature Hawthorns are infested with little Jewel Beetles, cousins of the gorgeous tropical monsters which dazzle with their iridescence.

Maybe we will go to Ditchling Beacon. We can vote on that. There’s plenty to see there, with a whole chain of Bronze Age barrows along the scarp crest, three ancient bostals descending to the Weald, and much long-overdue-but-very-welcome scrub clearance work by the Sussex Wildlife Trust. This is one of the last ‘tenantry down’ commons on the eastern South Downs. The Beacon is the highest point on these eastern Downs and marks the watershed between the basins of the Rivers Adur and Ouse, where a well used prehistoric trackway went north along the high ground through Ditchling (an ex- Alfredian Saxon royal manor), over Lodge Hill, with its barrow, past Oldlands Windmill, then over Broadhill and away across the darkest Weald. These trackways go back way into deepest time…Saxon, maybe Neolithic and Mesolithic and beyond ???

We will return via Keymer Post and the ‘hill and holes’ of lovely Keymer Down, a magical aboriginal site that sets my skin tingling with pleasure at memories of past visits there…Dark Clayton Holt etched against the sky; golden, pink and grey clouds and watery squalls; waving Totter Grass, little Field Fleawort on the old quarry sides in spring, Dark Green Fritillary butterfly whizzing about in July, and mosses and lichens to pleasure the deadness of winter days.

We once found a whole crowd of green-black iridescent Bloody-nosed Beetle larvae along a trackside here.

Back across Underhill Lane and the fields and woods to Hassocks.

Children doubly welcome (‘cos their sharp eyes see things us tall adults miss).

Bring a light picnic and water. Wear boots and clothes suitable for the changeable weather.

Sorry no dogs as there will be livestock and wildlife we don’t want to disturb.

We won’t always be on rights of way or access land and may have to cross one or two low fences with the aid of a carpet square for leg and clothes protection (and so’s not to damage the fences).

walking and working for a people's countryside

Facebook - "Downlanders -Action for Access"


Careful what you wish for

Phil Woolas is vile little racist creep who ran a vile racist election campaign. If there were any justice he would be barred from office, and the Labour Party of old would have thrown him out.

That said, it ill behoves the Lib Dems to be complaining, given their own shameful dog-whistle rhetoric at election time, with references to "locals" and "outsiders.

And the Lib Dems might have cause to regret causing a by-election in light of the way they have sold out their voters and jumped into bed with the Tories.

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Saturday 11 September 2010

Unite members - back Jerry Hicks for GS

Candidate for General Secretary of the countries biggest union
Calls for ‘no cuts’ phased or otherwise!

Jerry Hicks one of only four candidates for the General Secretary of Unite has made it clear where he stands on the issue of ‘cuts’.

He said “This is a crisis not of our making, we should not be paying one single penny, not losing one single job nor face any reduction in benefits or services”.

He says, angry words will not be enough to stop the butchery to jobs, services and benefits we as ordinary people face from the Con-Dem government. The Labour party, argue cuts, but not so soon. The TUC leadership seem to fall into the same trap of believing cuts are inevitable.
Jerry Hicks points out that, a massive £100 billion goes uncollected from big business and the very wealthy in tax avoidance, this is where the money should come from to pay off the debt. There is an alternative, the case has to be made, then we will need to fight for it not just campaign.

We must build our way out of the recession, more jobs not less, more public projects not fewer, and the money is there, it’s just being spent on the wrong things.
Bringing the troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq saving lives and £ billions, coupled with scrapping Trident saving up to £75 billion. Spend that instead on
£25 billion on building schools, hospitals and council houses providing 100,000 jobs in construction the first 3,200 offered to the blacklisted workers.
£25 billion on ‘Green energies’, sea, solar and wind, creating up to one million jobs
That still leaves £25 billion for state pension increases making ours one of the best in Europe instead of being the third worse.
Notes to editors:

(1) Jerry Hicks is the grassroots candidate the other three being Assistant General Secretaries. Many are already saying that Jerry Hicks could become the first elected General Secretary of super-union ‘Unite’. Union insiders report increasing concern from senior officials of Unite that workers may reject officials seen as too close to the previous Labour Government. Given the size and make up of Unite, it makes the election for the union’s General Secretary the most significant union election for decades.
(2) In last year’s election for joint General Secretary Jerry Hicks came second to Derek Simpson, Mr Simpson will not be standing this time.
(3) Jerry Hicks, if elected would only take the average wage of a skilled worker. This is certain to strike a chord, as none of the other candidates will be saying the same.
Jerry Hicks can be contacted on Tel: 07817827912
Also visit: and

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Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition launched with massive meeting!

The Friends Meeting House was backed to the rafters last Thursday with some 300 people who are ready to fight the ConDems' unnecessary and ideologically-driven cuts.

The photos show some of the speakers - Caroline Lucas,  Chris Baugh from PCS, and myself, acting as a late substitute for Alex Knutson of Brighton and Hove Unison.  Other speakers were Umit Ozturk of the Mediterranean Resources Network and marxist economist Andy Kilmister.  

The speakers made the point that this is a crisis made in the capitalist financial institutions, not in the public sector, and ordinary people should not pay the price in cuts in services, jobs, benefits and wages.   Also that everyone needs to stand together and not be divided on the basis of whether employed or unemployed, working in public or private sector, or whether  a service user or a service provider.

The meeting agreed that the immediate priority was to plan for a massive turnout in the European Day of Action on 29th September.  Unison is planning a march in the afternoon at 4.00, starting at Kings House in Grand Avenue and ending at Brighton Town Hall.  Watch this space for further details!
Photos by Dave Hill.

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Unite to fight the cuts!

7.45pm Thursday September 9
Friends Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton

Caroline Lucas Brighton Pavilion MP
Chris Baugh Deputy General Secretary PCS union
Alex Knutsen Brighton and Hove Unison secretary
Andy Kilmister economics lecturer
Umit Ozturk Meditereanean Resources Network plenty of time for everyone in the audience to ask questions, discuss and debate how we can organise and take action to put a stop to these unjustified cuts to jobs and communities.

In Britain today our public services are under threat as never before as the government begins to push through the biggest cuts in the public sector ever seen. This will affect millions of people and nothing is safe. In fact health, education, welfare and above all the worst off in our society will be hardest hit.

In Brighton it is workers who support some of our most vulnerable children and frontline health care staff who are first in the firing line. We are told these cuts have to be made and we are ‘all in it together’, but this is not true. The government is using the financial crisis, caused by banks and speculators, to push through its political programme, breaking up the welfare state and privatising the public sector.

The Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition is supported by Trade Unions, campaign groups, political parties, voluntary and community groups. Come along to our public meeting to hear the argument against the cuts - and how you can become part of the campaign to stop them.

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Thursday 2 September 2010

Still a war criminal, still a liar...and by all accounts a lousy writer

My mum called me this evening.  The first thing she said to me was that today really brought home to her what a thoroughly nasty individual Tony Blair is.  It was an opinion she first formed when she saw him swaggering about in denims on Bush's ranch!

You should always listen to your mum.

It is hard to make me feel any sympathy for Gordon Brown but Blair very nearly managed it.  He and Mandelson have repeated the mantra that "Labour lost the election because it wasn't New Labour enough". 

Who on earth, apart from them, really believes that?

What was striking about Brown was that, despite all the claims to the contrary, he represented a continuation of New Labour, a thoroughly discredited ideology, for all of his tenure in 10 Downing Street....except maybe for one moment.  In the last week of the campaign he showed signs of being ready to ditch it and make a straightforward appeal to Labour's working-class supporters.  It was too little too late (typically, Brown didn't quite have the bottle to carry it through), but it did cause a mini surge in Labour support and probably cost the Tories outright victory.

What of Blair, Mandelson and the New Labour project?  The Iraq War scarcely needs further comment - Iraq is still paying the price of Blair and Bush's vanity and hubris, and will for years to come.  There is the love affair with big business and privatisation in pursuit of the myth that the key to success was the cultivating of "middle England" and the middle classes.  This approach brought Labour's membership down from just over 400,000 in 1997 to less than 180,000 today. Over the course of three elections Labour has lost 5 million votes and voter turnout has declined markedly.  And then there was shutting down of party democracy.  Labour Party conference became a rally, a leadership vanity project, to the extent that a third of local consitituency parties stop bothering to attend, and vast expanses of conference halls had to be cordoned off to mask the poor attendance.

I shan't be buying the book - I have no wish to further line the man's pockets.  I quite like the suggestion that I got from one of my Facebook friends earlier on - next time you're passing a bookshop, pop in and gather up some copies of Blair's memoirs; then dump them in their rightful place - the crime section.