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Wednesday, 22 December 2010

End of Year Greetings from the European Green Capital of 2012

I am leaving today to spend the Xmas and New Year period with my partner and his family in the European Green Capital of 2012, Vitoria Gasteiz in the Basque Country of northern Spain. It is a very beautiful old city with a mediaeval core and a cathedral which is gradually being restored. Vitoria is also the capital of the autonomous Basque region and the Basque parliament is based there. I intend to enjoy some peace and quiet there and sample the very pleasant cuisine of the Basque Country along with its wonderful Rioja wine and to see family and friends whom I have not seen for over a year.

I have been very tired of late with a great deal of activity in the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, Coalition of Resistance as well as my activities in the Green Party and Green Left. I really need a rest and this is the opportunity to recharge my batteries. I have a strong feeling that 2011 is going to be a year of real political challenge and conflict and the signs from the recorded interviews with the Lib Dem ministers are already there. It will also be very challenging for many, including the voluntary sector where I work, and there is the distinct possibility that many of us will lose our jobs in the coming months.

I have sent my ecards and packed my bags and now is an opportunity to draw breath. I wish all of my friends and readers a happy holiday and normal service will be resumed next year. We will all need a great deal of energy for the year ahead.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Green Left calls for united Left support for Peter Allen in the Oldham and Saddleworth by election

Green Left has issued a statement supporting the campaign of Peter Allen, Green Party parliamentary candidate in the Oldham and Saddleworth by election. Peter is standing against the odious Nick Griffin and the three neo liberal parties in a by election campaign which is likely to gain national publicity both because it will be seen as the first electoral test of the Coalition government as well as the circumstances which led to the election being called in the first place - Phil Woolas's dirty tricks campaign. I know Peter well and think that he is both an excellent campaigner for the rights of many of the most marginalised in society as well as being deeply opposed to war and racism. I wish him well.

The Irish Crisis and Wikileaks the Movie

As a native Dubliner I have been following the disastrous story of what has been happening in Ireland throughout this year. Conversations with friends and family have confirmed that the country is now in a terrible state with unemployment growing, together with emigration and profound disillusionment with the discredited and corrupt Irish government. In this piece from the New Left Project blog Dr Nat O'Connor from a major Irish think thank gives his views on what went wrong in Ireland and how it can be addressed. With a general election in the Irish Republic imminent I am sure that we will be hearing a lot more about this in the next few months. Opinion polls already indicate that the ruling Fianna Fail and Green parties will be decimated and that there will be a firm swing to the Left towards both Sinn Fein and the Irish Labour Party, although a coalition government with the conservative Fine Gael party remains the most likely outcome.

Last week I spoke outside Horseferry Magistrates Court, together with Peter Tatchell, where Julian Assange the founder of Wikileaks was applying for bail. This film from STV (Swedish state television) is a fascinating insight into Wikileaks and how it operates. The accounts which Wikileaks has released have been fascinating and have clearly upset the US and many of its allies. They have given a real insight into the operations of foreign policy and international diplomacy and what the Great Powers really think as opposed to what their controlled media tells us. The battle of Assange will really give us an indication of what is happening behind the scenes and I am convinced that the CIA and others will make a real attempt to silence him for good. Meanwhile the information being released needs to be digested and carefully considered. As far as I am concerned the more information we have about what is supposedly being done in our name the better.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The 12 days of Cripmas - A song for our times

It is important not to forget the many disabled people being attacked by the policies of this Scrooge like government. So it is rather appropriate that this brilliant version of the 12 Days of Xmas, entitled 'The 12 Days of Cripmas' has come out now in time for the festive season. What would Tiny Tim think and would not Dickens have been scathing of this government's utter disregard for the disabled? The ending of the song sums up the views of many disabled people towards this most heartless of regimes.

Letters to the Evening Standard and the Guardian

I am not altogether surprised that Ian Dale has retired from blogging as the time is not always easy to find. In the last week I have chaired a meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, attended a Board meeting of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust, been speaking outside the Julian Assange bail application hearing at the magistrates court, been at a steering committee meeting of Coalition of Resistance, been interviewed for a new Left blog and done several days work along with attending a string of Xmas dinners and parties. In the meanwhile I managed to put my name to two letters, one on the NHS in the Evening Standard and the other in the Guardian on the cuts. The first was published last Wednesday and the second has gone in today.

Dear Editor, It is shameful that the British Medical Association (BMA) long regarded as a champion of the NHS has decided to cooperate with government plans to radically transform the NHS from a publicly run to a privately run health service. The catastrophic abandonment of the basic principles of the NHS may serve the interests of doctors, but does nothing for patients, the real funders of the NHS.

Most GP practices are small businesses contracted by Primary Care Trusts to provide primary healthcare to the whole population. The government's White Papers on health proposes the NHS budget (our money) is handed over to these businesses to spend on our behalf. This money will pay for nearly all NHS services. This is likely to cause chaos for many years, especially for pan-London services like the London Ambulance Service.

When the BMA say they oppose privatisation, they mean they oppose the take over of small GP businesses by multinational healthcare companies. This is a battle of business models, in which the public will have no discernible voice.

The government and the BMA are colluding to leave the “NHS” as nothing more than a logo or brand with our money disappearing into new GPs consortia and our hospitals to become Foundation Trusts and removed from NHS balance sheet.

Is this what the Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health meant by his now famous and clearly fraudulent statement: Nothing about us without us?

Joseph Healy, Chair, Patients Forum, Ambulance Services, London

Malcolm Alexander, Vice Chair


Dear Guardian letters

Len McCluskey calls for a "broad strike movement" to stop the coalition's "explicitly ideological" programme of cuts. (‘Unions Warn of Massive Wave of Strikes’, Guardian 19 December 2010) This will happen. Government cuts are decimating education, welfare, health, sports and the arts. We are told that they are as inevitable as the rain; that the only choice we have is between music classes for our kids or care for our elderly. We need both and do not accept that jobs, services and the quality of life have to be jettisoned for the greed of those who are asked to sacrifice nothing. Cutbacks in the arts mean that access will be limited to those who have the money to pay while many who work in the arts will lose their jobs. The closing of public libraries is the most obvious example. They are where literature, art and culture are available to everyone without charge. Some authorities are already selling them off, others are offering them to the ‘consumer’ on the principle of ‘if you want them buy them’. Massive increases in education fees and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance are part of the same philosophy. Everything that is not immediately of use to the corporate agenda is to be placed on a ‘pay as you go’ principle. Meanwhile funding for theatre, film, music, dance and other arts projects is to return to the Victorian notion of finding patrons, drawn from the people and corporations who have their own agendas of how to define the arts. In the face of those who choose to exercise their power to destroy, we need to create. We urge all those who work in the arts to join us at 'Artists of the Resistance' in opposing the cuts.

Iain Banks, writer

Andy de la Tour, actor

AL Kennedy, writer

Roger Lloyd Pack, actor

Miriam Margolyes, actor

Susie Meszaros, musician

Michael Rosen, author and poet

Martin Rowson, cartoonist

Janet Suzman, actor

Timberlake Wertenbaker, playwright

Shaun Askew, animator

Shabina Aslam, theatre director

Anne Aylor, writer & ballet teacher

Jordan Baseman, video artist

Elizabeth Beech, artistic director,The Phoenix Project

Maria Birmingham, animator

Cecily Bomberg, writer

Sean Bonney, poet

Phil Branston

Stephen Carley, AV artist

Florence Curtis

Karl Benjamin Frankson, artist

Jill Gibbon, artist

Marilyn Halpin

Joseph Hely, disability worker

Simone Hodgson

Camilla Howalt, artist

Angela Jane Kennedy, artist

Fin Kennedy, playwright

Ol'ga Kretz, film-maker

Lucy Lepchani, writer & poet

Fiona MacDonald, opera singer

Mel McCree

Carol Mottershead, dancer

Jane Park

Romayne Phoenix, visual artist

Konstantina Ritsou-Zavolia, author & director

Dee Shaw

Patricia Shrigley, video artist

Patrick Simons, artist

Patrick Snape

Ron Stagg, Museum Association

Rebecca Thorn, musician

Geoff Tibbs

Charlotte Turton, artist

Elizia Volkmann, writer and artist

Michael Walling, artistic director, Border Crossings

Joanne Walker, CoR Tyne & Wear

Debra Watson

David Wilson, publisher

Tom Wood

Jan Woolf, writer

Artists of the Resistance

c/o Coalition of Resistance

Housmans Bookshop

5 Caledonian Road

City of London N1 9DX

T: 07951 579 064

Monday, 13 December 2010

Patient Transport Services in South East London in meltdown?

The following communication has been sent to the South London NHS Trust re Patient Transport services in the area of the Trust. We have been in touch with the GMB union regarding the transfer of PTS drivers from London Ambulance Service to Savoy. Originally 70 staff were to be transferred under TUPE from LAS to Savoy but this is now down to 28. There have been threats of legal proceedings from the GMB over the contract and the way that LAS staff were being treated by Savoy. Savoy have appeared in several articles in Private Eye magazine and are regarded as decidedly ‘dodgy’ both in terms of their finances and their industrial relations.

We are now hearing via the GMB that the contract, which commenced on Dec 1st, is leading to a ‘meltdown’ in the provision of patient transport in the South London Trust area and that Savoy have been called in for emergency talks re non-compliance. It is clear that the contract was awarded on costs issues alone and I have raised the issue at several LAS Trust Board meetings, where the LAS recognise the situation but cannot do anything as a commercial competitor for the contract. However, the Patients Forum can, and are working with the trade union to try and get a better and safe service delivered for the patients in South East London.

South London Healthcare NHS Trust is the product of the merger of three smaller hospital trusts - Queen Mary's Sidcup NHS Trust (QMS), Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust (QEH) and Bromley Hospitals NHS Trust (BHT) - to create a single hospital on several sites.

In the recent Dr Foster Report – South London NHS Trust received one of the lowest grades for performance across several areas. This will be discussed at tonight's LAS Patients Forum meeting at the LAS HQ in Waterloo Road from 5.30pm to 7.30pm which is open to the public. I will be chairing the meeting.



Mr Chris Streather, Chief Executive,
South London Healthcare NHS Trust,
Frognal Avenue,Sidcup, Kent, DA14 6LT

December 11th 2010

Dear Mr Streather, I am writing on behalf of the Patients' Forum to express concerns about your contract with Savoy Ventures for PTS for your patients. There has been a great deal of press activity and many concerns from patients about the clinical and patient safety of service provided by Savoy and concerns about their financial viability. Could you please let me have your assurance that you are satisfied with the clinical safety of services provided by Savoy and your assurance that services are safe for patients in respect of both the vehicles and staff training. Can you also assure me that you are satisfied that the company is financially viable and that there is not risk of its collapse leading to major disruption of patients services. Can you also give me your assurance that Savoy vehicles are safe for users of wheelchairs (including electric wheelchairs) and send me a copy of the Savoy patient safety protocols for wheel chair users.

Your sincerely, Malcolm Alexander, Vice Chair, Patients Forum, 30 Portland Rise, N4 2PP

Student Press Conference on police behaviour at demos

Here is a video of a press conference held on Friday by a number of student leaders and academics about the police violence which occurred on last Thursday's demo. Following a report of the seriously injured student Alfie Meadows being refused hospital treatment at the Chelsea and Westminster hospital on Thursday, and the intervention of a London Ambulance Service driver who persuaded the hospital to treat him, I will be raising this issue tonight at the public meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum, which I chair. I will be unreservedly praising the actions of the LAS member of staff and asking for an inquiry into whether treatment was being denied at the hospital.

The Met Police seem to have been given carte blanche by this government to undertake almost paramilitary action against demonstrations. This began, of course, under the last Labour government when the police were again allowed off the leash during the G20 demo in London. The Ian Tomlinson case and now these latest incidents demonstrate that something has gone seriously wrong with policing in London. It also indicates that the police seem to be untouchable in terms of legal action and complaint. The police are rapidly acquiring the characteristics of the hated Yeomanry and militia of the 18th and 19th centuries. It was only last year that I visited the site of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester to commemorate the actions of the Yeomanry there in killing many innocent people who were peacefully protesting there.

As the chair of this press conference says there is a very serious need now for a full debate on policing in this country.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Caroline Lucas on kettling and the government's response

May's response to Parliamentary Questions reveals "irresponsible attitude"

The government is "abdicating responsibility to tackle violence perpetrated by members of the police service", said the Green Party today.

After Caroline Lucas MP posed questions about the home secretary's stance on the "kettling" tactic and the alleged use of mounted police to charge a peaceful crowd, the Greens said the home secretary's replies indicated "an irresponsible attitude".

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas had asked a number of questions, including whether the home secretary had in fact seen video footage which appears to vindicate the Greens' claim that the Met had used excessive force in its handling of the tuition fees protests on 24 November, and whether the home secretary had discussed with the Met whether its tactics had perhaps been been disproportionate. The home secretary replied that she had not seen the footage in question, and that operational decisions were a matter for the police.

Caroline Lucas MP said today:

"The government's attitude is irresponsible. Of course operational matters are for the police, but only up to a point. When the police use tactics that breach human rights or that break the law, the government must step in.

"Over kettling, Theresa May is aware that the police are abusing their powers, yet will do nothing about it. In fact it's worse than that - by refusing even to look at the evidence in the video footage, Theresa May is deliberately turning a blind eye to the potential abuse of power by the police."

The War You Don't See - John Pilger Film on Monday


John Pilger's new film THE WAR YOU DON'T SEE, about the media and how it beats the drums for war, is showing in cinemas across Britain for one day only on Monday 13 December. I heard John Pilger being interviewed about this today on the Today programme on Radio 4. A radical and truly inspirational journalist shows us again the reality of wars being fought in our name and with our taxes.

* The War You Don't See: trailer:

* Interview with John Pilger about the film:

* Cinemas where the film is showing:

The War You Don't See trailer from John Pilger on Vimeo.

Support Wikileaks - Stop Assange Extradition


No wonder Wikileaks is under concerted attack -- undoubtedly orchestrated by the US government. The aim is to silence the whistle blowing website, which every day reveals the secrecy and lies used to justify war, torture and corruption.

There is nothing warmongering politicians fear more than the exposure of the real reasons for the mass slaughter and destruction that they carry out in our name.

Over the past two years Wikileaks has proved itself repeatedly to be a true servant of democracy and an enemy of liars and hypocrites.

The disgraceful refusal to grant Julian Assange bail, while he fights extradition to Sweden, is all of a piece with the attack on Wikipedia.

The suspicion must be that the Swedish government -- deeply incriminated in its support for George Bush's "war on terror" -- has hatched a plan with the US government to whisk Assange to America, where politicians and right-wing commentators are calling for him to be jailed for decades or executed.

Julian Assange next appears in court on Tuesday 14 December and Stop the War has called a protest at 1.00 pm outside the Westminster Magistrates Court. Details and a link for a flyer publicising the protest are below. Please spread the word as widely as possible and encourage everyone you can to join the

We have also initiated an open letter (LINK BELOW) of support for Wikileaks and Julian Assange, signed by among others, John Pilger, former UK ambassador Craig Murray, actors Miriam Margolyes and Roger Lloyd-Pack, Salma Yaqoob, writers Iain Banks and A L Kennedy, artists David Gentlemen and Katharine Hamnett, and comedians Alexei Sayle and Mark Thomas.

We are encouraging all local Stop the War groups around the country to organise street stalls this weekend to collect signatures for the SUPPORT WIKIPEDIA petition.







Signed by John Pilger, Craig Murray, Mark Thomas, Salma Yaqoob and many more.



The open letter has been produced in the form of a petition to enable the collection of signatures to be added to the list. Please print it and collect as many signatures as you can, then return it to the Stop the War office.


Monday, 6 December 2010

Plus ca change - The Devil is an Ass

On Saturday I went on one of my rare theatrical outings to see Ben Johnson's play 'The Devil is an Ass' being performed in one of my local pub theatres, the White Bear in Kennington. I am familiar with Johnson's songs and some of his poems but do not know his plays very well. This one was written in 1616, so it could be classified as a Jacobean drama and indeed most of Johnson's works were performed in the reign of James I. The play was a flop in its day and Johnson is better known for some of  his other works such as 'Volpone'.

The plot of the play is that a junior devil is allowed to visit earth for one day to carry out mischief and after pleading to be allowed to be sent to London, which is considered the centre of all vice, he is allowed to go. Arriving in London he is soon taken up by a neer do well who apart from being a gullible fool is also obsessed with cutting a character in society. The fool is soon tricked and cheated by a variety of con merchants based in the City of London, and this is where the play has very modern echoes. For these spivs and charlatans are clearly the ancestors of those who currently run the financial institutions and the hedge funds. They present the gullible character with a list of get rich schemes which includes a project to drain vast areas of fenland in Norfolk. If successful, the grantor will be entitled to gain the title 'Duke of Drownedland'. For the rest of the play the character is introduced to others using this title but it is clear that the intention is to defraud him of every penny he owns. A range of parasiticial characters are introduced, who are all linked to the various schemes and stratagems of the spivs and try to prey upon each others. A veritable image of early capitalism as England began to build its trading and commercial empire.

Another hilarious scene shows a number of fashionable ladies discussing the latest fashions and beauty products from the Spanish court (which at that time was the centre of the fashionable universe) with a 'Spanish lady' who is in reality a young man in pursuit of the gullible noble's wife. This produces a hilarious dialogue where he feeds them with various stories of the foibles of the court and the newest beauty products and their ingredients. Once again there are echoes with the consumerist and celebrity culture of our own day. Plus ca change plus ca meme chose.  There is indeed nothing new under the sun.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Reception organised by the TUC LGBT Network

Both as a gay man and a trade union member (UNISON) I will be going along to this event organised by South East Region TUC LGBT Network. I am very proud of the Green Party's position on fully legalising sex workers and ensuring that they have full rights, together with trade union membership. I am aware that there have been attempts by some in the party to change this but for me it is a good and progressive policy. It is important that these workers have trade union representation and are fully supported and protected by both the law and the union movement.

It is also interesting that it is the LGBT Network of SERTUC which is organising this, as the fact that there are many male sex workers in London and elsewhere is often forgotten. Opening the pages of any major gay magazine in the UK now, it is immediately obvious that there are large numbers of gay and bisexual men working as sex workers and advertising their services to the LGBT community. Also as Treasurer of the Green Party Trade Union Group I will also report back to the group about what is happening.

Of course, many of these LGBT sex workers are from Eastern Europe and elsewhere and again are subject to discrimination and harassment and need the support of trade union recognition and proper access to health facilities etc. It is important at this point to decouple the two issues of trafficking and sex work. I am totally and utterly opposed to the former but not the latter and the argument used to criminalise clients and others (the Scottish model) often unjustly conflates the two.

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers Reception hosted by


Friday 17 December, 6:30pm

Venue: TUC Congress House, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3LS

- Speakers -

. John McDonnell MP (Labour Party)

. Maria Exall (TUC LGBT Committee Chair and member of the TUC General


. Ana Lopez (Founder of the International Union of Sex Workers)

. Paul Hayes (GMB London Regional Secretary - invited)

. Caroline Simpson (SERTUC Women's Rights Committee - invited)

. Speaker from X:talk

organised by GMB Sex Work & Adult Entertainment Branch

supported by GMB SHOUT! and EQUITY Thames Variety Branch


Refreshments & performances - ALL WELCOME!

Registration essential: / 020 7467 1220


Friday, 3 December 2010

Safeguarding and the London Ambulance Service - Patients Forum public meeting on December 13th

Our next meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum will be on Monday 13th December and the major topic will be safeguarding for both adults and children. Reporting of safeguarding by LAS staff across London is on the increase and particularly in the Croydon area. The statistics for Croydon have raised a lot of concerns with health activists and others there and they have taken some of these concerns to the Local Authority and the PCT. The response from the LAS has been that there is nothing in particular to be concerned about in Croydon and it is because the staff reporting there are doing a very diligent job. The problem is, they respond, that there is underreporting of safeguarding incidents across the rest of London.

Lynne Strother, who is speaking, is also one of the Vice Chairs of the Forum and will be bringing a lot of experience about safeguarding issues and how it affects pensioners and elderly people in particular. This is a particularly important issue as it applies to care homes etc, where there have been some very serious cases discovered. Anyone working in health or social care now has to undertake a safeguarding course and I did mine last year. There are some links here and here to relevant sites.



‘Safeguarding issues and the LAS’ – Gary Bassett, Head of Patient Experience LAS and Lynne Strother, Director London Older People’s Forum

Monday December 13th 2010


Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy or

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander

BSL signers will be available

Thursday, 2 December 2010

World Aids Day message from Caroline Lucas

Yes I know it is a day late but World Aids Day is always very significant for me as a person living with HIV. Here is a message on World Aids Day from Caroline Lucas. There are still far too many people contracting HIV, especially among young gay men in cities such as London and Brighton.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Reflections on the Coaliton of Resistance Conference

So I am going to report back on the two workshops which I was involved with at the Coalition of Resistance Conference on Saturday. As I was also on the conferences organising committee, I was kept busy. Others have reported on the plenaries.

I chaired the session on ‘Political Representation’ and on the panel were Billy Bragg, our own Green councillor from Norwich Samir Jeraj, Liz Davies from the Haldane Socialist Lawyers Society who was speaking in a personal capacity and New Statesman and Guardian journalist Laurie Penny, who is also an activist.

Samir started by speaking about what was happening In Norwich. He is the Deputy Leader of the Green Group there and they almost took control of the council in September. He confirmed the determined resistance of Green councillors there to cuts and his view on how these cuts could be opposed by sitting councillors. This was later added to by former Labour leader of Lambeth Council in the 80s, Ted Knight, known as Red Ted, who argued that councillors should block cuts and if necessary force officers to try and run the council with occupations by council workers and others.

Laurie Penny who had been on the protests with the school students that week said that there had been a widespread feeling among those who marched that mainstream politics was dead. Laurie’s view was that there was a huge gulf between parliament and people. Laurie is a young person and her views reflected those of many students etc. She made the point that the chants on the march had changed from ‘no cuts to education’ to ‘no cuts to public services’. MPs, according to her, were divorced from reality and from people’s priorities. In the 80s there had been an illusion of an alternative politically but now there was none. For many young people the Lib Dems had been that alternative but now the Lib Dems were in a government using the police to kettle them. Laurie’s view was that there was a total political gap between young people and the political representatives. But she singled out Caroline Lucas as one MP who was different and that she had been on the police lines on the day of the kittling arguing with them to release the young demonstrators. This, according to Laurie, was what an MP should do to reconnect with the young.

Billy Bragg spoke initially about his involvement in the anti-BNP campaign in Barking and Dagenham and how they had crushed the BNP politically there. For him the statement issued by the Coalition of Resistance harked back to Old Labour. In Barking Labour had been consistently in power since 1931 and as New Labour under Blair had abandoned the working class, there had been a political void. This was indicated by the fact that local MP Margaret Hodge had not even had a constituency office there until the election of the BNP councillors. The BNP had filled that void. It was a pity, said Bragg, that all of the councillors elected in May had been from the Labour Party, which effectively created a one party council with no real opposition. He admitted that he had voted for the Lib Dems in May as the Labour Party only received 10% of the vote where he lived.

Bragg then went on to argue for AV, stating that this was the only way to change political representation and address some of the problems which Laurie had raised. He accepted that AV was not ideal but his view was that it was a staging post on the way to full PR and argued that this had happened in some other countries which introduced AV. This had also been part of his rationale for voting Lib Dem. He argued that it was quite possible that Labour could never win again on its own under the old system and that AV was vital.

Liz Davies, whom I had heard much of but had not yet met, gave a history of her political development from Labour Party NEC member to someone who had been active in the Socialist Alliance and other Left projects. Liz made a deep impression on me as a strategic and principled speaker. She asked what the alternatives were at the ballot box as she maintained that the anti-cuts movement must have some political representation at the end of the day. For her there were three possible alternatives. The first was the Labour Party, which provided no real alternative to the cuts agenda. She pointed out that other Social Democrat parties were presiding over cuts in Spain and elsewhere. Labour only offered the choice of voting for softer cuts which was no real choice at all.

The second choice was the Lib Dems who had completely destroyed their radical credentials and who when in local government often acted hypocritically. The third choice was the Green Party, which she had voted for and although she had great admiration for Caroline Lucas as an MP, the party had a mixed record in local government and needed to be integral to the anti-cuts movement.

Finally, there was the Left ,which had tried constantly to build unity but had failed utterly. For Liz the Left had been plagued by ‘quick fix’ solutions and attempts at name changing from one failed entity to another. Clearly she had Respect and Socialist Alliance in mind here. For her any real party to the Left of Labour needed to have trade unions on board and above all needed to be built on democratic principles.

She also demolished Billy Bragg’s arguments on AV, claiming that it was a shabby compromise not worth supporting and that real PR must be the goal – the AV solution would leave the UK stuck in a half way house which could turn out to be worse in the long run for stopping real democratic change. This was the view strongly supported by the many who attended the workshop.

The workshop unanimously passed a resolution to be taken back to COR calling for full resistance from all Local Authorities to cuts and full support for those councillors opposing them.

The workshop where I spoke was on ‘Why COR?’ Paul Mackney and Andrew Burgin, both members of the Steering Committee as I am, went into some detail about the history over the last few months. I decided to take the bull by the horns and I denounced the sectarian Left and argued that we needed to do radical politics in a very different form and that despite being a historian and understanding historical events such as the Kronstadt Revolt, the fall of Kerensky etc, that we were not living in 1917 or fighting the Russian Civil War and must move beyond old and staid ways of doing things and above all be non-sectarian. I also denounced the Irish Greens and made the point that many of us had been criticising them since they entered the disastrous coalition government.I qouted also from some of Liz Davies's comments in the earlier workshop. Many of those present who were Anarchists, from Climate Camp or from local anti-cuts groups applauded my comments on the sectarian Left and echoed them in their own contributions, stating that they had to overcome their initial distrust of COR to become involved.

It was interesting that Chris Bambery of the Right to Work Campaign (aka the SWP) was also at this workshop and gave a shorter version of the speech on Left unity which he later gave to the closing plenary. I think that the SWP and others can see that the overwhelming feeling of those at the conference was opposed to sectarianism of any kind. But with four members at least of the SWP now on the National Council along with a host of other organisations, including ten Greens (mostly from Green Left) we will see how this works out.

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust Board Meeting and Dr Foster Hospital Guide

I will be attending the Board meeting of the London Ambulance Service NHS Trust today, where the involvement of LAS in the 7/7 Inquest will be among issues discussed. It is also significant that hospital turnaround times have increased significantly in the last few months, i.e. the time that ambulances have to wait at A&E to hand over patients. Data and Board papers are available on the LAS website. As the Chair of the LAS Patients Forum, I put questions at the meeting and am often the only member of the public present.

NALM (National Association of LINks Members) has also forwarded the following information re the Dr Foster's Report on the state of various hospitals. Well worth checking out how your local hospital is faring.




It is 10 years since the first Dr Foster Hospital Guide was published. In some ways much has
changed in 10 years, but in other ways not enough has changed. A decade ago we had data
on all hospital admissions, from which we compared mortality ratios and other measures.
That data is still our main source of information. We have no primary and community
care data, no private sector data and no data that shows what happens to patients over
the whole course of their illness. Excitingly, the Coalition Government seems committed
to finally addressing this issue, and the 2010 guide is in part a case for more and better
information. More on this from Roger Taylor on page 6.

The Hospital Guide has also changed over the past 10 years, although some constants
remain. We continue to publish Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios (HSMRs) but, in
addition to this, have now introduced two other ways of looking at mortality. You can find
the results on pages 16-17.
For the 2010 guide we have teamed up with leading clinicians and analysts to shine the
spotlight on three areas important to many patients: stroke, orthopaedics and urology
(see pages 18-25). And we have returned to the thorny subject of safety. The publicity
around last year’s safety index took some by surprise, but raised awareness of the risks
facing patients. This year we look back to see where there has been improvement and
where problems remain. The 2009 guide prompted some changes, including a Department
of Health task force on measuring mortality and new rules around the reporting of safety
incidents. However, we still have some way to go to get reliable data about ‘adverse events’.

We are also trying out some new ways of presenting information on our website. Visitors
to can now specify which aspects of patient experience matter
most to them and then find out which hospital trusts perform best on the relevant criteria.
As ever, thanks must go to all those who have helped make this year’s guide come to life,
especially the experts whose commentaries and opinions you will find throughout the
report. Thank you also to those individuals in each NHS trust who coordinated activity
around the Hospital Guide, not least in responding to our annual survey, to which 99 per
cent of trusts returned data.

The challenge we set ourselves is to produce a report which is accessible for patients and
the public and valid for clinicians and managers. This guide has been 10 years in the making and we hope you find it stimulating and informative.

Alex Kafetz, Dr Foster

Monday, 29 November 2010

Mark Thomas call to the unions and Coalition of Resistance Press Release

Spent yesterday recovering from the Coalition of Resistance conference on Saturday where I was chairing one workshop, speaking at another and also on the Conferences Arrangements Committee - so feeling pretty whacked afterwards.

Below Mark Thomas calls for unity between trade unionists and students. I believe that this is already happening today with students from UCL on the picket lines with the striking Underground workers.

And here is the press release issued today by the Coalition of Resistance.

Coalition of Resistance

Tel: 07939 242 229



CONTACT : David Wilson 07951 579 064

PRESS RELEASE 29 November 2010:


David Cameron will get his "big society" quicker than he thinks, judging by the huge attendance at a conference called last Saturday 27 November by the Coalition of Resistance to Cuts and Privatisation.

Over 1200 delegates packed the conference, which brought together MPs, trade unions, campaigning organisations from across the country, student activists, representatives from pensioner groups -- all corners of society facing government plans to cut public services to the bone.

Speakers at the conference -- from MP John McDonnell to Len McCluskey, the newly elected leader of Britain's largest trade union UNITE -- all had the same message, the spirit of which was captured by 15-year-old school Barnaby Raine, who joined last week's protests against education cuts:

"If the police think that 'kettling' students will stop us coming on demonstrations ever again, they are sorely mistaken. Students have only two choices: either they lay down and accept what the government throws at them, or they fight back."

The student protests and occupations are inspiring new levels of militancy and audacious action, which will be taken up across all the campaigns to stop the government cuts.

As MP John McDonnell told the conference, we will build a fast gathering, united movement of opposition, which will see strikes, demonstrations, occupations, direct action and campaigns of civil disobedience, on a scale not seen for a generation.

Tony Benn, who was elected president of the Coalition of Resistance, said David Cameron is going to see what a "big society" really looks like.

He spelled out the task we are facing: a government which aims to roll back 60 years of progress, and return to the dark days before the creation of the welfare state, must be stopped in its tracks.

The Coalition of Resistance will support all anti cuts campaigns and is calling for the widest solidarity with the national day of student protests on Tuesday 30 November. A national week of action against the cuts is planned for February 2011 and the Coalition of Resistance is committed to help make the TUC demonstration against the cuts on 26 March one of the biggest protests ever seen in Britain.


David Wilson 07951 579 064

Lindsey German 07810 540 584

Friday, 26 November 2010

Call out the cavalry! Evidence of police charge.

Evidence here of police violence against the demonstratiors on Wednesday, many of whom were school children. This was denied by the Met Police before  now but the evidence is there for all to see. The Guardian has also reported on the comments of those who were there to witness it.

Violence of protestors is condemned but state violence is condoned. The Met Police Commissioner is also ramping up the presssure claiming that we can expect more violent demos. Has the ConDem government decided to call out the cavalry as their predecessors called out the cavalry against the miners and the Yeomanry at Peterloo? So much for a government respecting civil liberties. There must be the strongest protest about this at the highest levels of London and national politics. I would hope that the Green London Assembly members will condemn it also any candidates who hope to stand for the Assembly in 2012.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

You have no shame! Irish politician lays into government minister

I am deeply angry and frustrated, as are many other Irish people, about what the morally bankrupt and now financially bankrupt Irish coalition government of Fianna Fail and Greens have done to my country. The result will be emigration and poverty and debt for the many of the poorest and most vulnerable in the country for years to come. Here on Irish television, the opposition TD, Pat Rabbitte, of the Irish Labour Party lays into a government minister and tells it like it is.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Coalition of Resistance Conference on Saturday

I will be speaking in the workshop on Why COR? and also chairing the session on elected representatives and the cuts, which will include a Green Party councillor from Norwich.
coalition of resistance logo

Coalition of Resistance Against Cuts & Privatisation

Newsletter 9
November 23

Come to Saturday's conference and plan the resistance to cuts

Director Ken Loach will speak at the conference

Coalition of Resistance National Conference

Saturday November 27

Camden Centre

Bidborough St, London WC1H 9AU


Conference Agenda


• Unemployed/Student Rate £3

• Standard Rate £5

• Representative £10

Register and pay for the conference Online

Conference Registration

[Unemployed / Student \/]


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Address - Email

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Register and pay for the conference by cheque

Download and print off the registration form and send it to our office address below with a cheque made payable to 'Coalition of Resistance'

Coalition of Resistance

c/o Housmans Bookshop

5 Caledonian Road

London N1 9DX

As the crisis deepens and students begin the resistance, now is the time to come together to plan a mass united campaign against cuts and privatisation.

Already over 700 have registered for the conference of the Coalition of Resistance this Saturday in London. If you have not yet registered, it is not too late! Just go on-line and pay through our website.

Speakers at the conference include Tony Benn, Heather Wakefield UNISON, Lowkey, Jean Lambert MEP, Bob Crow RMT, Clare Solomon NUS, Christian Mahieux (Solidaires union, France), Dot Gibson (Pensioners campaigner), John McDonnell MP, Lindsey German CoR, Billy Bragg, Ken Loach and many others.

There will be workshops on topics like organising against the cuts, analysing the crisis and our response, the welfare state, and defending pensions and benefits. Everyone will have a chance to contribute with their experiences and ideas about how to resist, and help shape the campaign we all need.

The recent demonstration against the rise in fees by over 50,000 students and the occupation of the Tory party headquarters shows how to fight: mass demonstrations against those directly responsible for destroying our services and our welfare rights.

Last week, over 300 school students demonstrated in Finchley, North London, against Education Maintenance Grants being abolished and university fees rising to unaffordable levels.

This Monday students at SOAS are occupying their university, also in protest at the rise in fees and the swingeing cuts of up to 40% in teaching budgets.

On Wednesday, university and school students will again be demonstrating across the country against the proposed exorbitant fees which will destroy their hopes to access higher education.

In London, a Carnival of Resistance will set off at 11am from ULU, Malet Street for Trafalgar Square with performers like Mark Steel, Lowkey, and People's Army.

The emergency bail-out today of Irish banks shows that the crisis is not over. The current round of massive cuts and job losses was justified to repay the debt created by the bail-out of banks two years ago. But even deeper attacks may be on the way to fund yet another bank bail-out.

Every organisation and individual who supports the ideals of the welfare state created over 50 years ago must come together and join the resistance to defend heath, education and other services that are ours. We need to go to every street and workplace to argue that this crisis is not of our making, and that we will not pay for it.

Come to the conference this Saturday to plan together the resistance against cuts and privatisation, and to defend the welfare state.

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Monday, 22 November 2010

The political situation in Ireland reaches fever pitch

Latest news from Dublin tonight is that the Taoiseach (PM) Brian Cowen has acceeded to the demands of the Green Party, only issued today, that a general election be called in late January following the passing of Ireland's 4th, and most brutal, hairshirt budget next month. The Greens, who have supported this government for three years, have finally found their voice, but are still prepared to vote for a budget which includes measures like reducing the minimum wage.

But hang on, surely the proper way to do things is to hold a general election, and then have a government which has a democratic mandate, pass any budget? No, Cowen and Fianna Fail want to hang on to the bitter end, and bitter it will be judging by the latest opinion polls, where Fianna Fail are on 17%, a record low for the historically largest party. However, there are indications that the election will be sooner than January and I suspect that the government may not last beyond this week. Already there are indications that both the two Independents and some Fianna Fail backbenchers have no confidence in Cowen and will not support the budget. Ironic that the Greens will support the budget then. But the Greens are so deeply implicated in many of the worst decisions of the last few years that I feel their fate is sealed. No amount of spinning will save them now. The Irish people are angry and there will soon be a lot of trouble. Some indications of it are already apparent. And another question is how large will be the bill be

This government has been one of the worst in Irish history and that is saying something. I expect that in future historians will compare them with the 18th century placemen and corrupt office holders who voted the Irish parliament out of existence in 1800.

Wars and rumours of wars plus Ireland

I was away on the weekend before last in Belgium, visiting the historic city of Ghent for the first time. Our visit to Belgium coincided with an immense downpour and it rained all day on the Saturday. Belgian television was full of images of flooded towns and villages and of dykes bursting in Flanders. At one point the Eurostar line south of Brussels was closed. On returning via Brussels on the Monday, the headline in the Brussels version of the Metro newspaper was "Belgium under water" with aerial photos of deluged villages. This was a stark reminder once again of the impact of climate and weather.

On my return to London, I completed my course on independent brokerage and have now a certificate to prove it. Tuesday night saw me sharing a platform with my old sparring partner, Kate Hoey MP, at a public meeting on the Afghan war organised by Lambeth Stop the War Coalition. Leaving behind yah boo politics, I paid tribute to Kate's anti-war credentials, having been one of only 14 MPs to recently vote against the Afghan war, and she in turn paid tribute to the Green Party's long resistance to the interventionist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here is a picture from the evening. Naturally this was a build up to the Stop the War national march against the Afghan war on Saturday.

I spent Wednesday completing the minutes of the Green Left general meeting held about ten days before, only to be plunged back into more minute taking at the Green Left committee meeting on Thursday night. Being the Secretary is one of the most labour intensive jobs. At the meeting we discussed a number of issues including motions to the spring conference, where I am putting forward a motion, recently agreed at the Stop the War Coalition annual conference, on giving the power to declare war back to parliament and away from the Prime Minister, exercising the sovereign's prerogative.

On Saturday I was on the Stop the War Coalition march and carrying the Green Left banner in the march, as well as meeting up Greens from across the country who had come along to support it. I was disappointed that turnout was not higher - it was about 5,000 - and think that there is a need for the Coalition to reconsider strategy It is clear that the majority of the population are opposed to the war but it seems are not yet ready to march against it. Another photo from the demo below.

In the interim I have been following the news from Ireland closely. A text message from my brother in Dublinon Thursday summed up the views of many Irish people. It read: "the country is bolloxed. The IMF are in Dublin." The Irish Greens in government have a lot to answer for in their role over the last three years. As one of them told me in London 2 years ago: "we are in government with a kleptocracy." Yes indeed, and now the Irish people, at least those who will not be forced to emigrate, will pay the price for decades. My views on the role of the Irish government were summed up very well in the Observer editorial on Sunday.

Most of this week will be spent, when not working, preparing for the Coalition of Resistance conference on Saturday to ensure that the UK road to recovery is not the same as the Irish one.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Marches and protests change history

Lindsey German of Stop the War Coalition on the importance of protest and a similar view from Johann Hari. In the context of this week's student demo, did the anti-war protests fail? As someone who went on about 12 of them since the big one in 2003 and who is on the Steering Committee of Stop the War Coalition, I think that it is too early to say. To paraphrase Chou En Lai when he was asked if the French Revolution had been a success, "it is too early to know." The marches may not have stopped the war and at a time when the Afghan war continues relentlessly it appears that they were ineffective but on the other hand they have changed many minds and did huge damage to Blair and others. One of the reasons why I will be marching tomorrow week in the Time to Go march in London calling for withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Afghanistan - Reasons to demonstrate

Remembrance Day and the costs of war

Today is Remembrance Day, the day on which World War I, the war to end all wars, ended. Yet the UK is still involved in a war in Afghanistan which has now lasted longer than both world wars combined. The body count this year, both among NATO troops and Afghan civilians, was the highest yet in this war and continues to rise. The war continues to cost millons, while today Ian Duncan Smith announces futher savage cuts to welfare and benefits which will penalise both unwaged and disabled people. Yet there is still plenty of money flowing to the war in Afghanistan.- despite the fact that the vast majority of the population are opposed to this war.

Listening to Radio 4's Today programme this morning I heard an interview with ex-servicemen, many of whom have ended up unemployed and homeless - the very people who will be on the sharp end of Duncan Smith's 'reforms'. Next Tuesday I will be addressing a public meeting on the war in Lambeth organised by Lambeth Stop the War Coalition, also on the platform will be my former opponent from the general election camapaign in Vauxhall, Kate Hoey, who, to give her credit, has been one of only a handful of MPs to vote against the war recently - Caroline Lucas being one of the others.

And mentioning World War I reminds me of the brilliant war poetry of that era of doomed youth. Here for Remembrance Day is a war poem for our generation.

To mark Remembrance Day, we reproduce this traditional song/poem, written and first performed way back in November 2009.

There's rats in the trenches
A thousand foul stenches
Of piss, pus and puke, blood and death
Jim's screaming his head off
'Cause Frank hasn't got one
And Joey's just drawn his last breath
While back home in Surrey
They try not to worry
And keep all their doubts locked inside
For in a few years
There'll be no more tears
And they'll all wear their poppies with pride...

She can't understand
As she holds the girl's hand
That her daughter's no longer attached
They were all blown to hell
As a terrorist cell
Though a wedding was all that they'd hatched
And back in the West
They're so sure they know best
Though they've tortured and murdered and lied
And they don't want to know
What the body counts show
As they all wear their poppies with pride...
Oh, they all wear their poppies with pride...

At the annual board meeting
Arms dealers are greeting
Reports of their profits with glee
They'll always be willing
To make a quick killing
From slaughter and mass misery
And when it's all over
They'll head off to stuff
The big bellies their suits cannot hide
And they won't spare a thought
For the carnage they've brought
But they'll all wear their poppies with pride...
Yes they'll all wear their poppies with pride...

Whoever you mix with
There's bound to be someone
Whose mind is still caught in the mesh
Those soldiers aren't heroes
They're nothing but fodder
For the thing that grows fat on our flesh
And you show no respect
For the ones left behind
Or the miserable sods who have died
If you can't face the truth about why they were killed
And you still wear your poppies with pride...
If you still wear your poppies with pride....
Do you still wear your poppies with pride?

(Paul Cudenec, 2009)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Public schools and Teachers Pension Scheme

 Have been extremely busy over the weekend and the last few days, attending the Green Left general meeting on Saturday and taking the minutes, and am also back this week on the independent brokerage course. So I did not get time to link to the article below which appeared in the Guardian on Saturday, where London Green Party Chair, Noel Lynch, is quoted. I am also preparing for a tribunal taking place tonight in my local party, Lambeth, regarding a complaint I am bringing about another member's conduct and had to spend half of Monday writing out my statement. In the interim, there has been more grim news from Ireland, with predictions that the economy there is heading for bankruptcy - falls in the Euro yesterday suggested major concerns with the Portugese and Irish economies.

Link to the article in  Guardian newspaper:

[3] Analysis of the FOI response by the London Federation of Green Parties:

The response names all the public schools that are admitted the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

Admittance to this scheme is important because employers participating in this scheme are only charged 14.1%(1) of pay for providing these final salary benefits. However this low employer contribution is only possible because of factors such as (a) the government's strong credit rating and (b) Treasury assumptions underpinning the calculation of the contribution rate. Schools would not be allowed by the Pension Regulator to make similarly optimistic assumptions if they ran their own pension scheme. Independent analysis suggests that the "true" contribution rate should be 10% higher to reflect these factors (2). While the Green party would not accept this analysis fully (because it is a partisan attempt to make public sector pensions seem unaffordable) it is certainly the case that, as private institutions, schools such as Eton and Harrow would have to contribute at least 20% of pay for the same benefits provided by the Teachers' Pension Scheme.

The value of this subsidy is considerable.

The 11 named institutions in the FOI response (including the schools attended by the Prime Minister, Chancellor, Deputy Prime Minister and Energy Secretary) have 1,639 members of staff in the scheme (Eton, for example, has about 150 full time teaching staff - information from its website). At an average subsidy of 6% of pay and assuming average pay in these institutions of £45,000 (a rather conservative assumption) then the subsidy to just these 11 institutions every year is almost £4.5 million (£400,000+ per annum for an institution like Eton). The top 100 schools are looking at over £40 million in subsidy per annum (a FOI could back that up if necessary).

On top of this, the risk and expense of running a pension scheme of this nature has been taken out of the hands of these institutions. Similar sized organisations are having great difficulty managing the investment risk associated with such schemes as stock markets fluctuate. These schools are given an exemption from these risks by the government for free. Likewise the schools don’t have to go to the expense of funding trustee bodies to run the schemes or appointing actuaries or lawyers to advise on them. Similarly there is no pension protection fund levy where otherwise there would be one.

These factors greatly increase the hidden subsidy.

Finally being able to offer the same pension provision that the state offers makes it easier for these schools to attract top performing staff from the state sector.

(1) see:

(2) see: (page 8)


Friday, 5 November 2010

Ireland in ferment while government is forced to call by elections

As the largest student demo in decades snaked its way through Dublin, calling for the scrapping of the doublin of fees and some students occupied the Dept of Finance but were also attacked by police, the coalition government braces itself for another austerity budget. However, the government's fate now hangs by a thread. With a wafer thin majority, a Fianna Fail backbencher recently resigned from the Dail (the Irish parliament) stating that his heart was no longer in the government's programme and that a general election was necessary.

This is the decaying Fianna Fail and Green coalition's greatest fear and the reason why scandalously they have refused to move the writ on 4 by elections which need to be called for the Dail. One constituency, Donegal North West, has had no representative since the summer of 2009. An opposition senator took the government to court and now the High Court has ruled that the government's actions are contrary to the Irish constitution. The government's reaction was to suggest challenging the ruling in the Supreme Court. But reason prevailed and the writ has been moved for November 25th. This will mean that the new TD (MP) will take their seat before the vote on the austerity budget. The other by elections will be held early next year. We are witnessing the dying days of a discredited and morally bankrupt government, many of whose members created the crisis in the first place and who have steered Ireland down the road to bankruptcy and mass emigration while their friends, the corrupt developers and bankers who created all of this in the first place, continue to live off the fat of the land. Their days are numbered. And ironic that this is the government and the economic plan on which Osborne and his crew have modelled their cuts and growth agenda.

The impact of roadworks in the capital on ambulance services - a public meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum on Monday night at City Hall

The Ambulance Service is meeting at City Hall on Monday night to discuss how roadworks and utilities works in the capital are impacting on ambulance services. The situation has become really bad. One basic example is when the tunnels under the Thames are blocked or closed for repairs or traffic jams, resulting in massive gridlock. This is a real issue for emergency medical services in London and the Chair of the Transport Committee is being invited to speak along with a London Ambulance Service Manager. We will also be discussing the community responders project and the report back from the national ambulance design project.


Monday November 8th 2010


‘Roadworks, Utilities works and Ambulance Delays’ – Val Shawcross (Chair of GLA Transport Committee) Nick Yard (Ambulance Operations Manager LAS Tower Hamlets)

Monday November 8th 2010


Committee Room 2, City Hall, The Queens Walk, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy or

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander

BSL signers will be available