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.

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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......