Sunday 27 March 2011

The march

It really was huge. 250,000 is clearly an underestimate. It took four and a half hours to pass a given point. I could have gone home and come back again on the train and simply rejoined the march at the beginning again!

It was obviously a trade union demonstration but not everyone was trade unionist. It was a demonstration about the public sector but clearly not everyone was a public sector worker.

For sheer diversity it surpassed even the great ant-war demo of 2003.

I did not get to hear many speeches (along with thousands of others!). Not sure I missed much. Milliband was roundly heckled - we want no cuts, not slow cuts!

Most of the demonstrators will have got home before even being aware that there had been any violence but that hasn't stopped the media from making it the defining characteristic of the day. The thing to most criticise the "black bloc" for is the way in which they provide the police with a ready-made excuse to come down hard on any direct action. I wonder if bothers the BB that most people seem to think they are riddled with state agents provocateur. In the public mind, even the non-violent direct action of UKUncut gets pigeonholed with "the violent minority". Mission accomplished!

It is not clear what the TUC's plan is from here but it is clear that a demo - even this one - will not be enough to knock the ConDems off course.

And if they don't come with some ideas, it is clear that there are others who will not waiting around to do something.

Video and photos available here....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Photos from yesterday's amazing march!

Report to follow

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday 23 March 2011

Forest lovers celebrate first victory in a long campaign against public forest privatisation

Report from Dave Bangs

Exactly 100 people enjoyed a 'grand day out' of celebration, discussion and forest rambling to mark the government's climb-down from its proposal for the total privatisation of the English Forestry Commission's estates, and to steel ourselves for a long year of campaigning against job and funding cuts and backtracking on the no-sales pledge by the government.

People came from Seaford, Eastbourne, Lewes and Hastings, as well as from Brighton, and a contingent from Red Rope, the socialist walking and climbing network, came down from London. Supporters from 38 Degrees and from Save Our Woods, the new on-line campaigning organisations, joined the event and filmed it !!

Kate Ashbrook, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, and Tony Whitbread, Director of the Sussex Wildlife Trust, spoke at the rally, with Dave Bangs, KOFP's co-founder.

Tony stressed the way that the Forestry Commission managed their woodland 'multi-functionally' to provide a range of 'ecosystem services' - from supporting and enhancing wildlife in as naturalistic settings as possible, to access and recreation, and local climate amelioration, flood risk reduction and water resource management. He argued that the substantial size (one in fifty acres, nationally) and diversity of the public forest estate was necessary to deliver these services. The Forestry Commisson, he said, was very different nowadays from the past, when they had been forced to confine themselves to the simple planting of serried ranks of conifers.

Kate said that although the government now has no immediate plans to sell the estate, it may starve it of cash by severely reducing the Forestry Commission’s budget, which could put the management and protection of these wonderful woodlands at risk. She saw a great opportunity in the government's appointment of the new 'Independent Panel on Forestry Policy' (which reports in the autumn) for us to press for a statutory right of public access to ALL woodland, whether private or public, such as already exists for mountains, moors, heaths, downs, and commons under the CROW Act (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000). The new Panel's terms of reference oblige them to give consideration to just such public benefits.

Dave argued that the members of the government's new Independent Panel had a majority of representatives of organisations that had a conflict of interest with the Panel's independance because they represented landowning conservation NGO's or private landowning interests that stood to gain by 'cherry-picking' the Forestry Commission's estates. Not a single representative of the array of forest defence organisations or of the Forestry Commission's trade unions was on the Panel. The government's climb-down on privatisation was because of the huge grassroots campaign of opposition, he said, and the conservation NGO's had "not so much as lifted a finger to support our campaign", quoting Jonathan Porritt, the environmental campaigner.

After the rally we walked up through the Forest to its northern part, where a partnership of the Sussex Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission is overseeing the creation of a large area of 'wood pasture' grazed by the Trust's white park cattle, to enhance the wildlife interest of the Forest.

Tony then led us to a high viewpoint on Fore Down, looking over Lullington Heath National Nature Reserve, where he explained the management and enhancement opportunities for Friston Forest and its neighbouring downland.

It was a grand, exhilarating, and hopeful day.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Squatting - Weatherley and Caulfield blaming the usual

This week the scale of the housing benefit cuts in Brighton and Hove from next month was laid bare for all to see. 

The maximum benefit for a room in shared accommodation is being cut by over £5pw, the 1 bedroom rate by nearly £7pw, the 2-bedroom rate by £17pw and the 3-bedroom rate by £25pw.

Already, landlords are refusing to let to single persons aged 25 to 35, in anticipation of massive cuts to housing benefit for that group planned for April NEXT year.

We also know that over the last year the number of people kicked out of private rented accommodation by landlords rose by 34%.

You would have thought that, with this looming crisis in housing, our political representatives would be urgently applying pressure to the government to change course.

But no.

Hove MP Mike Weatherley, cheered on by City Council housing chair Maria Caulfield, thinks it a more urgent priority to........criminalise squatting!

He proclaims that his "campaign" is close to "victory", now that he apparently has the ear of Kenneth Clarke.

Squatting has a long and noble tradition in Brighton and Hove, as part of the battle for the rights of tenants against the exploitative slum landlords who used to hold such a monopoly on local housing.  No doubt if anyone mentioned the name "Harry Cowley" to Weatherley and Caulfield, it would sail right over their heads!

No doubt, some modern squatters don't help the cause by their behaviour and I don't doubt that some squatters are not in genuine housing need, but the coming crisis will force increasing numbers of people to seek drastic solutions to their problems.

I wonder if Weatherley has ever spent any time questioning the fact that large numbers of buildings stand empty for years.  In Hastings the Council has just taken the step of compulsory purchase orders on six empty, rotting properties so that they can be brought back into use as homes.  Is Weatherley putting pressure on Brighton and Hove Council to do the same?

Or maybe he knows that by exploiting popular myths and prejudices around squatters he can conveniently distract attention from the growing housing crisis.

Monday 21 March 2011

A war to save civilians is killing civilians

Stop the War Coalition has just issued a further statement on the No Fly Zone. The US, France, UK and other Governments turn a blind eye to humanitarianism and democracy in the Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, occupied Palestine and elsewhere but pinpoint Libya and now also Syria. Why? Do they really care about the people of Libya? No, this is about oil, power and putting a break on revolution in the region.

Whilst opposing the Gaddafi regime, we are equally opposed to the reactionary despots in the region who are busy killing their own people and denying the same human rights they claim they are now fighting for by military intervention.

And what will follow this intervention? Will the same allies be just as slow in asserting democratic rights in a "new Libya" under their control. Haven't we seen enough in Iraq, Afghanistan. Gaza and recent events in the Yemen and Bahrain?

The No Fly Zone is not about protecting people but about oil, profits and control. Cameron has his war at a time when he is least popular at home and is busy implementing the most savage attacks on the living standards of working people. On the verge of the biggest demo London is likely to see against the Con Dem cuts he is playing the war card. A trick out of Thatcher's book with the Falklands. No doubt he and his press aides will try to also suggest the TUC demo on the 26th March is not in the interest of the people of Benghazi as it is unpatriotic. The best way to help the struggles in the Middle East is to oppose our own warmongers at home.

Stop The War Coalition statement
Britain and the USA have bombed Libya with more than one hundred Tomahawk
cruise missiles. These are not precision guided weapons but weapons of mass destruction that will create many civilian casualties in Libya.

The United Nations resolution authorising a no-fly zone begins as it will continue, with a full-scale military attack on the country.

Stop the War condemns this barbarous attack which will result, not in protecting the people of Libya, but in enslaving them under the domination of the West. We know only too well the death and destruction that imperialism has brought to the peoples of the region.


We are asking all local Stop the War groups around the country to call protests in their area. If you would like to be involved in local protests where you live, contact your nearest Stop the War group: SEE

A leaflet putting the case for non-intervention and a petition, initiated by Tony Benn, John Pilger and others, are both available to download for printing, here:



Sunday 20 March 2011

Marching in Brighton to Keep the Post Public and to save public services

About 300 people marched through Brighton yesterday as part of a campaign by CWU to stop the privatisation of the post.  The march was supported by the Brighton Stop the Cuts Coalition and turned into a broad protest against cuts.

Speakers at the rally afterwards included -
Billy Hayes - General Secretary of the CWU
Dave Ward - Deputy General Secretary
Phil Clarke - Stop the Cuts Coalition
Caroline Lucas MP
Pip Tindall - Brighton Benefits Campaign

Labour speakers got a cool reception, with many people wondering why they were so against post privatisation now, when it had actually been their idea!

A selection of photos here and more at

Phil Clarke

Billy Hayes

Dave Ward

Friday 11 March 2011

News from the front line

Hi all,

Another busy few weeks coming up, make sure you get down to the demo on the 19th if you can, relax with a ramble on the 20th and of course get up to London for the big one on the 26th! Lots of planning to do at the delegates meeting so make sure your group/organisation is sending someone...


Upcoming Events

16th March Full Delegates Meeting 7:30pm King and Queen Marlborough Place. Make sure your organisation is represented.

19th March Brighton March For Public Services - Organised by Keep the Post Public 12:30pm the Level. This is a great way to build up for the 26th and to support a campaign in the forefront of defending public services. No to Privatisation!

20th March Celebrate no forest sell-off! Rally and ramble - Defend Forestry Commission Jobs 12pm Meet Exceat car park Friston Forest, located off the Litlington Road, near the junction of A259, by the Seven Sisters Country Park Visitor Centre. Bring lunch for a picnic!

26th March TUC March for the Alternative - Coaches going from St Peters Church 8:30am email your union or the trades council for seats. Flyer attached

5th April UAF meeting In Defence of Multiculturalism Friends Meeting House 7pm

9th April Stop the Cuts Day School 10am Falmer House Sussex Uni

13th April Open Trades Council Meeting - Defend Public Sector Pensions 8pm King and Queen, Marlborough Place - Open to all trade union members to co-ordinate and plan the battle to defend pensions.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Brighton March for Public Services 19th March

The Stop the Cuts Coalition is supporting the event below as part of a campaign to defend all public services. Please come along and invite your friends and family.

It will be a great way to build for a big turn out on the TUC demo the next week. - Email for coach info.


Join the KEEP THE POST PUBLIC COALITION and protest against Royal Mail Privatisation, Cuts In Public Services ,NHS, Education,Housing,Benefits...






Saturday 19th March

12.30 Assemble The Level, Union Rd Brighton

13.15 March through Brighton returning to The Level for a rally with guest speakers and music


More info

Richard Jones 07931682996

David Chivers 07941874745

John Soanes (Hastings) 07990733047

Saturday 5 March 2011

Reflections on the Council Budget and the wider fight

So, in the end, the Greens voted against the budget, despite the fact that they got all their amendments into it, and Labour abstained.  This meant that the Tories' own proposals for £25m of cuts (or 2 bankers' bonuses) were in essence carried.

Although it was on the face of it positive that the Greens voted against the budget, they clearly had no real strategy for what they were then going to do, other than ultimately vote for a cuts budget, with maybe some further tinkerings, in a week or so's time.

Unlike many areas, the council unions in Brighton and Hove have for the moment staved off compulsory redundancies, but several services, mainly for children and young people, have been cut.  And the battle to save jobs is far from over.

What is lacking from the "left" parties represented on councils is a perspective of fighting back against the government by refusing to set cuts budgets, and linking up with council workers and local people to fight against attempts by unelected officers or commissioners to implement the cuts.

We have a weak, divided coalition government - on the day the BHCC budget was set the Lib Dems were being humiliated in Barnsley - and we need a fighting party ready to carry that fight to a government which lacks any democratic legitimacy. 

Clearly working people cannot rely on existing left parties to do that, but we are still a long way away from forming the kind of broad, anti-capitalist, pluralistic party that we need - TUSC is better than nothing but (apart from the anti-capitalist bit) it is not that party.
The other side of the coin is the continued inertia of most of the trade union leaderships in the face of unprecedented attacks on the public sector.  In local government, aside from the massive job losses up and down the country, there is a second year of pay freeze coupled with a massive hike in pension contributions and a likely reduction in pension benefits.  We also face the prospect of large-scale privatisation - they call it "intelligent commissioning" in Brighton and Hove. 

Similar can be expected in the civil service, and thousands of jobs are under threat in the supposedly "protected" NHS.  All the TUC has come up with have is a demonstration through London - the planning for which started around the time British Summer Time ended last year and will finally be happening in the weekend it comes back!  It will happening after most of the decisions we ought to be fighting have already been taken.   We must build that demonstration and ensure that it is massive but it must be a beginning not an end.

Also inadequate is the gesture politics of abstract calls for a general strike.  The trade unions do not even have the semblance of a strategy for any degree of co-ordinated action, let alone a general strike.  We need to start at the bottom and work up.

The most important thing to do in the localities is to continue to build the local anti-cuts campaigns on the broadest possible basis, involving the local trade union movement and as many local groups and individuals as possible.

Friday 4 March 2011

Pictures and video from the Budget Council meeting

A number of Green/Labour amendments to the Budget were passed but the budget was passed largely intact with its £24 million of cuts - because Labour decided to abstain rather than join the Greens in voting it down - shame!  Although the Greens were ready to vote the budget down last night, it is not clear what they would ultimately have done when it came back again to a subsequent meeting.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Cuts....don't vote for them. Don't implement them!

As I write Labour and the Greens have published their "alternative budgets" for Brighton and Hove City Council. There are some positives in there - not blowing a million on removing a cycle lane and not making a gimmicky 1% cut in council tax, and putting some of the money into services. But it is really about moving some money about - it is not going to stop £26 million of cuts.

Although Labour and Green councillors talk about opposing cuts (well a bit, in the case of Labour), in reality they won't VOTE against them.

The Green Party councillors unfortunately buy into the notion that they cannot resist. Both Bill Randall and Jason Kitcat say they "have to" set a "balanced budget".

Essentially this is because the Greens and Labour do not have a perspective of building a national movement linking up with service users and council workers to refuse to implement cuts being imposed by a weak coalition government which has no democratic mandate for what they are doing.

Instead these councillors see their role as "social workers" making the best of things, trying to mitigate the worst effects.

What are they going to do when the ConDems come back for more....and more...?

The picture above shows the Wisconsin workers occupying the state Capitol - what an inspiration. But even the Democrat members of the State Legislature there are taking more direct action than most English councillors who identify themselves as on the left. They have left the state so that they cannot be forced to attend meetings to make them quorate so that Walker's cuts and union busting get voted through.

The "left" councillors here are not being asked to leave Brighton - just to put their money where their mouths are.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone