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Friday, 29 October 2010

The best laid plans of mice and incompetent ConDems

Weill it would seem that George Osborne's bright new future of "we are all in this together" is not quite what it is made out to be. Latest reports from the Wall Street Journal suggest that the plans for child benefit so loudly proclaimed at the Tory conference may yet unravel. Is this another own goal for the Coalition following Boris Johnson's and everyone else with a consciences's call for the housing benefit plans to be scrapped? Will this lead to a u turn? I suspect not as Osborne strikes me as the typically arrogant Tory who believes that nobody else can possibly get things right other than him. Perhaps, like Fagin, he should review the situation!

Busy week

I have had a busy week this week, taking a new course on independent brokerage with the National Brokerage Network, which has been funded by my work and this has racked up my work related activities this week. Then on Wednesday night I was at the Green Party Trade Union Group committee meeting as Treasurer, where our Secretary, Pete Murry from Brent GP, was missing due to the fact that he is currently spending a week in hospital. We decided to get Pete a get well present and I am hoping that he will be out of hospital soon as he does a lot of work for the Trade Union Group. We also expressed our full support for the FBU strike in London and members will be attending the FBU picket lines on Monday in solidarity.

Last night I had the Green Left committee meeting where I took the minutes as Secretary and now have the job of getting them prepared as soon as possible. We discussed a number of issues, including the forthcoming Coalition of Resistance conference on November 27th where we are hoping that there will be a strong Green Left and Green Party attendance and we are also hoping to have a new newsletter ready in time for this. We also discussed the Stop the War Coalition conference tomorrow and various internal party matters, including the GPRC statement. We will also be holding a general meeting of Green Left on November 6th and agenda items for that needed discussing as well as possible motions for spring conference in Cardiff.

As I missed the steering committee meeting of Coalition of Resistance this week due to the above mentioned course, I am going to hook up today with Andrew Burgin, the acting Chair for an update on where preparations for the conference are going. I am also popping down to the High Court to see how my friend, Raymond Stevenson's case against Southwark Council is going. Apparently the case was adjourned for two days this week as the judge had to go somewhere but the Head of Planning for the Council is on the stand today, which shoud prove interesting as he is one of the main players in this whole saga. Then tomorrow it is off to the Stop the War Coalition conference. Sunday will just about give me time to recover.

In the interim, I have been following the debates about "social cleansing" in London and think that this article by Andreas Whittam Smith just about sums it up.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Stop the War Coalition Annual Conference on Saturday

And as the war continues and the it is revealed that the Karzai regime are in receipt of funds from Iran as well as everywhere else - "any gold will do" - the casualties in Afghanistan mount. On November 20th Stop the War will mount a "Time to go" demonstration in London calling for withdrawal of UK troops from Afghanistan. In the interim the annual conference is being held on Saturday in Conway Hall in central London. I will be going along with other Green Party delegates. I will also be standing for re-election to the Steering Committee of Stop the War as the Green Party representative.

Details of resolutions and speakers are here. Seamus Milne from the Guardian is one of the speakers and always is an interesting and inspirational speaker and critic. Joe Glenton, the former soldier jailed for refusing to serve in Afghanistan, will also be on the platform. News today that Blair will be brought back to the Chilcott Inquiry to explain gaps in his evidence. While all around the poor and the disabled are castigated and plunged into destitution, the war expenditure continues. As Wikileaks provides more really damaging information on what happened in the Iraq war, it can only be a matter of time before similar information emerges about the war in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the war is now in its 10th year, longer than the two world wars combined. Here is the anti-war song "Where the Giant Poppies Grow".

Monday, 25 October 2010

The boys in blue do it again and get caught again

Just when you think you had seen all the police violence and miscarriages of justice you could take for this year, along comes another one, this time in Bolton. Alan Clough, a 63 year old veteran anti-Fascist campaigner was protesting against the EDL in Bolton several months ago. He was arrested and accused of physical assault against the police. But, as luck would have it, Granada TV had a very different tale to tell based on their film from the day. It shows that far from attacking the police, Mr Clough was the victim of an unprovoked attack from the police. Charges against Mr Clough were dropped and Greater Manchester Police are now conducting an internal investigation.

I wonder if the Independent Police Complaints Commission will find anything of interest or will it be like the Tomlinson and De Menezes cases. Interestingly the officer who struck a woman at the G20 demo last year was on duty outside Downing St last week during the anti-cuts demo. He was another who was acquitted with no action following. Just as well that nobody was carrying a dangerous looking orange drink carton or he would have struck out again.

Here is a poem on police violence by Richard Frankland - says it all really about police actions in this democratic green and not so pleasant land.

In the back of a van they beat him.

Grown men enforcing the law,
on a teenager who has had to fend for himself,
since he was eight and probably more.
They beat him to teach him a lesson,
that violence doesn't pay!
They beat him so he would respect them,
through fear he might not do it again.
The beat him in a van,
parked out the way of prying eyes
because they are the law and they can do what they like.
Or so they like to think.
They beat him and his resentment grew.
They beat him and his anger brewed.
They beat him and revenge he planned,
respect was lost and won't be found.
They beat him and they will again,
or someone else to show their hate.
Of the scum that scourges our pleasant land,
but in doing so they are the same.
No different, no far far worse.
As they are the ones that we should trust,
look up to and be inspired by.
Yet I'm not sure that we can,
whilst this goes on in the back of a van.






Gay Russians win in European Court

This is a historic victory mounted by some very brave campaigners who have been through hell to defend human rights in Russia. I met Nikolai several years ago when he visited London and was very inspired by his heroism. Only a month or two ago he was seized and drugged by the Russia security services while trying to travel abroad and there were real concerns for his safety. His nemesis, Mayor Luzhkov, has been replaced but it remains to be seen whether the new regime in Moscow and the Russian government will follow this ruling, or whether Russia is set on a course of suppressing human rights, which seems to be the current direction of travel. It is also a victory for Peter Tatchell who suffered serious and long term brain damage when confronting some of the thugs in Moscow.


Gay Russians win in European Court

Moscow mayor declared to have acted illegally

Gay Pride parade must be allowed in Moscow, says Court

By Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner

London, UK - 21 October, 2010


The European Court of Human Rights today made an historic ruling that the Mayor of Moscow acted illegally by banning successive Moscow Gay Pride parades, every year since 2006.

The appeal against these bans was lodged in Strasbourg by Nikolai Alekseev, organiser of the Moscow Gay Pride committee.

Responding to the court victory by the Russian gay activists who filed the case, campaigner Peter Tatchell said

“This ruling is a major rebuke to the disgraced former mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, and to his authoritarian allies in the Russian government. They have been found guilty of violating the freedom of expression clauses of the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is a huge embarrassment to the top Russian leaders, Putin and Medvedev, as well as to Luzhkov. Their suppression of peaceful gay pride parades has been declared illegal.

“This is an astonishing victory. Nikolai and his small band of daring LGBT activists have taken on the might of the Russian state - and won.

“It is a triumph for LGBT Russians and for all Russians who love liberty.

“This ruling expands the democratic space and gives comfort to human rights defenders everywhere.

“It’s a positive result for gay rights and liberty, and a setback for autocracy and homophobia.”

"Each year since 2006, despite threats to arrest and kill him, Nikolai Alekseev and his colleagues have exercised their lawful right to demand LGBT human rights. He has been arrested and beaten by the Moscow police, Christian fundamentalists, extreme nationalists and neo-Nazis.

“Undeterred, each year he continues to assert the legal right of LGBT people to hold a Moscow Pride parade – making a courageous stand both for LGBT equality and for freedom of expression.

“Mr Alekseev has taken on the repressive, homophobic Russian state, with his many legal cases in the European Court of Human Rights. He is a real pioneer and hero.

“His actions are supporting, broadening and strengthening the wider democratic and human rights movement in Russia, challenging the government’s drift to authoritarianism and its many restrictions on the right to protest.

“At a time when so many Russian human rights defenders have been badly beaten and even murdered, Alekseev’s campaigns show him to be a man of great bravery and moral principle. He is risking his life for the sake of liberty and freedom – for LGBT people and for all Russians.”

Peter Tatchell, campaigner for global LGBT human rights

Friday, 22 October 2010

We are the Big Society

Have not had time to blog over the last two days as have been at work during the day and I have had two quite differing evenings. The first, on Wednesday, where I took half a day off work to help organise the Coalition of Resistance rally outside Downing St, was spent in the freezing cold in Whitehall as a steward, getting people to sign up to COR and also spreading information about the COR national conference next month. I greeted the marchers as they arrived from ULU and Camden and heard most of the speeches, including that of Caroline Lucas (below) as well as Romayne Phoenix, the Green Party's National Campaigns Coordinator, who was the last on the platform. There was a wide range of speakers and all spoke with passion.

At that time I did not know the full details of Osborne's cuts, which I managed to read through yesterday, and they have been really shocking. This is really an attempt to destroy the welfare state and to plunge us back into the totally stratified society of the 1930s. But, as Caroline Lucas said in her speech, the cuts are also "economically illiterate". She also put her finger on the pulse when she described the protestors, drawn from the ranks of the disabled, local government workers, the voluntary sector, pensioners and students as the "big society" and not the farce which Cameron has been pushing.



And here are those who stood up against the culture of spite and impoverishment of the most vulnerable in society, which the Institute of Fiscal Studies has since confirmed will be the impact of the cuts and which has so enraged Nick Clegg, who is desperately trying to spin the cuts as "progressive".



Then last night I was at a reception at City Hall for the organisation for which I used to work and which I still strongly support Transport for All. Many disability activists whom I know from across London were there as well as representatives of other organisations which provide a much needed service such as the Community Transport Association. We heard a report on what the organisation has been doing over the last year but also how its future, and that of many pan London voluntary sector organisations is threatened by the cuts. The point was made forcefully that campaigning for change cannot only be at local or borough level but that there must also be an umbrella body for London.

One of the issues which arose in the speech of Caroline Pidgeon, who sits on the London Assembly's Transport Committee, is that bus driver awareness training falls far short of what Transport for London describe it as. She told how she, together with Val Shawcross, the committee Chair, attended one such session and were both shocked at how deficient it was in addressing disability awareness issues and that this would be addressed in the committee's forthcoming report.

Finally, Mubin Haq, of the Trust for London (formerly known as City Parochial Trust) gave an impassioned speech comparing the demonstrations in France with what was happening here and stating that there was a clear need for organisations which were campaigning organisations and prepared to stand up not just to "alleviate" poverty and discrimination but also to end it. Never was the need for campaigning organisations representing the needs of disabled and poorer people more necessary and never has the threat to their existence been greater. As someone who works in the voluntary sector and is also disabled I am very aware of this. Many voluntary sector groups are now waiting to see how the axe will swing with the councils which fund them across London. And I did notice Caroline Pidgeon shaking her head in disagreement over the demonstrations in France during Mubin's speech, but then she would do wouldn't she - she is a Lib Dem after all!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Climate change is a bigger threat to security that WMD - so cut arms budget says Caroline Lucas

Caroline Lucas, responding to the National Security Strategy, said yesterday that climate change is a bigger threat than WMD, so the focus of the NSS should be to cut our arms budget, boost climate spending and slash emissions.


She highlighted that the four "Tier I" threats faced by the UK (terrorism, cyber-attacks, a natural event like a flu pandemic, and an international crisis that draws the UK into conflict) stand in stark contrast to the views of William Hague, the supreme Allied Commander of NATO, and Liam Fox himself

Lucas said that: "All three have focused on the need for environmental security to be central to the UK and defence policy in the 21st centur

"Last week, James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe warned of 'cascading interests and broad implications stemming from the effects of climate change [that] should cause today's global leaders to take stock.' (1) But climate change is not one of the coalition's top four security threats.

"Last month, William Hague, speaking in New York, said that, 'An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity' and that 'Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons.' (2) What has changed in the last three weeks?

"And four years ago, in a speech to Chatham House, Liam Fox said that we were dependent upon non-renewable fossil fuels and that: 'In the years ahead energy security, economic security and national security will be inextricably linked.' (3)

Lucas continued to say: "How will Trident fight climate change? How will new aircraft carriers fight climate change? What we need to do is shift our spending on the defence budget to de-carbonise our economy and seriously invest in both renewables and a nationwide programme of energy efficiency." (4)

Notes

1) Admiral James Stavridis, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, quoted in The Guardian, 11 October - http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/oct/11/nato-conflict-arctic-resources, "For now, the disputes in the north have been dealt with peacefully, but climate change could alter the equilibrium over the coming years in the race of temptation for exploitation of more readily accessible natural resources ... The cascading interests and broad implications stemming from the effects of climate change should cause today's global leaders to take stock, and unify their efforts to ensure the Arctic remains a zone of co-operation - rather than proceed down the icy slope towards a zone of competition, or worse a zone of conflict."

2) Speech by William Hague, Sept 27 2010, Council on Foreign Relations, New York - http://www.businessgreen.com/business-green/news/2270476/william-hague-climate-change: "Climate change is perhaps the twenty-first century's biggest foreign policy challenge along with such challenges as preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. A world which is failing to respond to climate change is one in which the values embodied in the UN will not be met.

"It is a world in which competition and conflict will win over collaboration ... An effective response to climate change underpins our security and prosperity.

"Two weeks ago I talked of Britain's values in a networked world. I said then that a successful response to climate change must be a central objective of British foreign policy.

"I said this not only because I believe action against climate change is in line with a values-based foreign policy, but because it underpins our prosperity and security. You cannot have food, water, or energy security without climate security. They are interconnected and inseparable. They form four resource pillars on which global security, prosperity and equity stand. Each depends on the others. Plentiful, affordable food requires reliable and affordable access to water and energy. Increasing dependence on coal, oil, and gas threatens climate security, increasing the severity of floods and droughts, damaging food production, exacerbating the loss of biodiversity and, in countries that rely on hydropower, undermining energy security through the impact on water availability. As the world becomes more networked, the impacts of climate change in one country or region will affect the prosperity and security of others around the world. The clock is ticking. The time to act is now. And because it is imperative that foreign and domestic policies are mutually reinforcing we must ensure that our approach is coherent. That is why we established the UK's National Security Council to ensure this happens across the full range of issues, including climate change. And that is why I work hand in glove with Chris Huhne, the British Energy and Climate Change Secretary, and Andrew Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, to ensure that our domestic action reflects our level of international ambition. There is no global consensus on what climate change puts at risk, geopolitically and for the global economy, and thus on the scale and urgency of the response we need. We must build a global consensus if we are to guarantee our citizens security and prosperity. That is a job for foreign policy. The fundamental purpose of foreign policy is to shift the political debate, to create the political space for leaders and negotiators to reach agreement. We did not get that right before Copenhagen. We must get it right now. So we urgently need to mobilise Foreign Ministers and the diplomats they lead, as well as institutions such as the Council on Foreign Relations, to put climate change at the heart of foreign policy.


"When I became Foreign Secretary in May, I said the core goals of our foreign policy were to guarantee Britain's security and prosperity. Robust global action on climate change is essential to that agenda. Climate change is one of the gravest threats to our security and prosperity. Unless we take robust and timely action to deal with it, no country will be immune to its effects. However difficult it might seem now, a global deal under the UN is the only response to this threat which will create the necessary confidence to drive a low carbon transition. We must be undaunted by the scale of the challenge. We must continue to strive for agreement. We must not accept that because there is no consensus on a way forward now that there will never be one. And to change the debate, we must imaginatively deploy all of the foreign policy assets in our armoury until we have shaped that global consensus."

3) Liam Fox, speech to Chatham House think-tank, on energy security, 22 May 2006 - http://www.chathamhouse.org.uk/files/3332_220506fox.pdf: "We are all competing for the same natural resources to feed the economic system ... In the years ahead energy security, economic security and national security will be inextricably linked. If we want to ensure that we can keep the lights on in Britain then we need to develop a comprehensive energy strategy. It is simply a matter of risk management. Such a strategy will need to have three components: diversity in the type of fuels we use; diversity in the geographical sources of those fuels and the security structures that will guarantee the safe transport of these fuels."

4) Letter to Guardian 13 October 2010 - http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/oct/13/cut-military-research-spending, "The overarching threats to international security arise from rising fuel and resource costs, climate change and the widening gap between rich and poor. Nuclear weapons are of no help in dealing with these problems. However, a major shift of military R&D to civilian programmes could help to tackle these issues, improving the UK's security, creating jobs and helping to pull us out of recession. We urge ministers to shift their priorities so that science and technology can contribute to tackling the real threats to the UK's present and future security."

Our history and worth fighting for

LGBT History Month in the UK is held in February but in the US GLBT History Month is celebrated in October. This video demonstrates a list of famous LGBT people from around the world. I had the privelige of meeting Sunil Pant, the openly gay Nepalese MP recently and can confirm that he is an inspirational figure. With recent developments in New York and elsewhere in the US concerning homophobia and a noticeable increase in homophobic violence there is a real need for events like this and for the LGBT community never to forget the struggles we have fought and the struggles we still have to fight for equality.




Monday, 18 October 2010

The Storm Clouds Gather

This is the make it or break it week for the UK economy for years to come. I was out on Saturday morning in Camberwell giving out leaflets for the Coalition of Resistance rally on Wednesday night at Downing St and people's reactions were interesting. There were, of course, those who were totally apathetic or one or two who expressed themselves in favour of the cuts - but generally speaking the response was positive. One man who worked in local government said that "we need to be more like the French". A woman from Ireland told me how bad the situation was there now and I said that I knew all about it and have been following it closely. Ireland's model is the one which this government is following and so far has produced misery for the Irish people.

I will be leafleting the TUC rally tomorrow at Westminster City Hall from 12 and hoping that many of those trade unionists will attend the rally on Wednesday. As France faces its largest upheaval in years, I cannot believe that the TUC bureaucrats are not calling a demonstration until March! Talk about fiddling while Rome burns.

In the interim two significant pieces of news and an announcement. Lib Dem Voice reveals that 35% of the party's membership are unhappy with the leadership and 20% have little enthusiasm for the party or are considering resigning from it. I suspect that those figures will soon rise. Being a Lib Dem at present is being the equivalent of being the slave in an S&M relationship, with the only difference that they have no way of expressing their wish for the relevant painful activity to stop. Instead Simon Hughest is wheeled out as the original Pantomime Dame to promise that "it will be all right children."

Then in today's Guardian David Blanchflower, former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Committee warns that the measures about to be taken in the Comprehensive Spending Review will be "disastrous" for the economy. Blanchflower is one of the most perceptive economists in the UK and has been proved right on several issues in recent years. But will Osborne and the "deficit delighters" listen? Of course not. Not until it is way too late and even then they will be convinced of their own rigtheousness, like some 21st century equivalent of the Puritans. Not until the poor have felt the lash of the whip and the real taste of poverty can it be said that their measures are effictive, or at least that is how they regard it.

Finally to provide some sanity among all this madness, Michael Albert, author of 'Life after Capitalism' is having a UK tour and is speaking about participatory economics as an alternative to capitalism. Never have alternatives been more necessary as Osborne and his crew steer the sinking ship into the rocks and the storm clouds gather overhead

Friday, 15 October 2010

Green Party Candidate for Governor of California arrested - Hustings US style



An astonishing story here how the Green Party's candidate for Governor of California was not allowed to participate in the hustings and they were limited to the two big parties. Greens demonstrated outside and when she managed to get a ticket to enter she was grabbed by security guards and then arrested. Is this the way that elections should be conducted in "the home of the brave and the land  of the free?" Perhaps time for a UN investigation into election processes in the USA.

Cuts Day Downing Street Twilight Rally - Wednesday 20 Oct 6pm



The demonstrations against the cuts continue in France. Last night I attended the activists meeting for the Coalition of Resistance rally and marches next Wednesday. The students are fired up as are the trade unionists from Camden and both will be marching to Downing Street. Paul Mackney from the COR Steering Committee has put out the following appeal and I will be at Downing Street on Wednesday at 5pm to help set up the rally and to assist with stewarding - other members of Green Left will be there also - and we have two Green speakers on the platform - Caroline Lucas and Romayne Phoenix from Green Left and also a member of the COR Steering Committee as I am.

Tomorrow there will be a number of stalls across London leafleting for the rally and marches on Wednesday. We must make it clear to this government that they shall not succeed. No Pasaran!

CUTS DAY DOWNING STREET TWILIGHT RALLY – Wed 20 OCT 6 pm -


Dear friends

I write to inform you of the Rally opposite Downing Street on Wednesday October 20th from 6 pm onwards which has been called by the Coalition of Resistance. This is on the day of the Spending Review when George Osborne announces the ConDems’ cuts plans.

The Coalition of Resistance was founded after Tony Benn issued a statement in the Guardian in August 2010 – http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/aug/04/time-to-organise-resistance-now . The Coalition, which works with other local and national campaigns, in particular the People’s Charter, is described at http://www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk/?page_id=2 .


The joint chairs for the Rally will be Paul Mackney, former General Secretary of NATFHE/UCU, and Andrew Burgin, known for his work with the Stop the War Campaign, and there will be plenty of two minute speeches.

Speakers include: Tony Benn; Caroline Lucas MP; Rev Jesse Jackson; Jeremy Dear (General Secretary NUJ); George Binette (Sec Camden Trades Council); Aaron Porter (President, NUS); Bob Crow (GS RMT); Mark Serwotka (GS PCS); Matt Wrack (GS FBU); Steve Gillan (GS Prison Officers Association); Kevin Courtney (Deputy GS NUT); Lindsey German (Stop the War); Zita Holbourne (BARAC Black Activists Rising Against Cuts); Lee Jasper (BARAC); Dot Gibson (National pensioners Convention); John Rees (CoR); Jeremy Corbyn MP; John McDonnell MP; Salma Yaqoob (Respect Councillor in Birmingham); Romayne Phoenix (Green Party and CoR); Bill Greenshields (People’s Charter); Paul Brandon (Right to Work Campaign); Kanja Sesay (NUS Black Students Officer); Celia Mitchell; Simon Woolley (EHRC Commissioner); Adeline O’Keefe (Keep Our NHS Public).

Many are coming straight from work to Downing Street but please note that there are at least two feeder marches - NUS from University of London Union and London trade unionists from Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

• Coalition of Resistance rally begins at 6.00pm outside Downing Street, Whitehall.

• The Camden Trades Council demonstration assembles at 5.00pm for rally at Lincoln’s Inn Fields, then marches at 5.30pm to Whitehall.


• Student march assembles at 4.00pm in Malet Street and marches at 4.30pm to Lincoln’s Inn Fields.

Note that in some parts of London (e.g. Barnet) there are local demonstrations and, if you are not in London, there may be events in your area.

Please forgive inevitable cross-posting and do forward to your colleagues and comrades.

Finally, we badly need money for this demonstration and other events: please send donations made out to ‘Coalition of Resistance’, CoR, c.o. Housman’s Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX.

With best wishes in solidarity – see you next Wednesday!

~paul~


Paul Mackney

(former General Secretary NATFHE- now in UCU)

07974 353 709 - PO Box 56959 London N10 9AZ

Coalition of Resistance Steering Committee

www.coalitionofresistance.org.uk

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Support the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Private Member's Bill

The open letter below appears in today's Guardian. While the French have the right to openly strike, British workers are constrained by the most restrictive legislation in Europe drawn up by the Thatcher government. What is really shocking is that New Labour did nothing to address this injustice during its 13 years in power while it was continually bankrolled by most of the unions.


We are asking MPs to support the lawful industrial action (minor errors) private member's bill on 22 October. There has been a stream of rhetoric from business organisations and rightwing thinktanks on the need to reform trade union law. Yet taking strike action is always a last resort for union members and only done when they feel they have no alternative. Away from the political grandstanding, the reality is that British workers already have the most restrictive trade union laws in Europe, and recent court rulings have made matters even worse. Judges striking down overwhelming secret ballots in favour of industrial action on minor technical grounds, which would have had no effect on the outcome of the ballot, mean that the fundamental democratic right to withdraw our labour is now under threat. This private member's bill is moderate, focused and fair. It will mean that working people struggling to defend services and employment – and who have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action – will not have their democratic will overruled on technical legal grounds.


Tony Woodley, Joint general secretary, Unite

Paul Kenny, General secretary, GMB

Brendan Barber, General secretary, TUC

Keith Norman, General secretary, Aslef

Gerry Morrissey, General secretary, Bectu

Ronnie Draper, General secretary, BFAWU

Michael Leahy, General secretary, Community

Billy Hayes, General secretary, CWU

Chris Kitchen, General secretary, NUM

Gerry Doherty, General secretary, TSSA

Alan Ritchie, General secretary, Ucatt

Dave Prentis, General secretary, Unison

Derek Simpson, Joint general secretary, Unite

John Hannett, General secretary, Usdaw

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Death of Claire Rayner

Claire Rayner who died last night was a true humanist and progressive whose death, like that of any truly great human being, is a diminution of us all. Years before it was popular or safe to stand up for those who were being persecuted and ostracised hers was one of the few sane voices of protest. She also did a great deal for patients and the NHS. GALHA have issued the following statement with which I agree wholeheartedly.

GAY HUMANISTS MOURN FRIEND AND CHAMPION CLAIRE RAYNER

The Gay and Lesbian Humanism Association (GALHA) wishes to express its deep regret at the death of its friend and champion, Claire Rayner.

Claire's long standing support both for Humanism and for gay equality is exemplified by her agreeing to serve as one of GALHA's Vice Presidents for more than 20 years.

GALHA ex Chair Derek Lennard commented:

"Even when it was very difficult and controversial to do so, she spoke out on our behalf against the blasphemy laws, discriminatory employment laws and in support of same sex marriage."

Expressing her opposition Section 28 in 1993 Claire told the then Education Minister that "It is not morally acceptable to treat homosexuals as some sort of inferior beings. just because of religious or any other considerations".

Some 40 years ago she told a meeting of hesitant gay campaigners:

"There's nothing wrong with you, but there's a lot wrong with the way society and politicians treat you. Just by being here tonight, proves that you've had enough and intend to organise, be visible, win friends and change the world you're living in".

Even in the last weeks of her life when she was already very ill Claire was voicing her strong support for the wave of opposition to the policies and positions of Pope Benedict during his recent visit to the UK, a campaign which GALHA also championed.

Claire also earlier played a critical role in advancing gay rights as one of a generation of "Agony Aunts" who saw gay people as normal human beings with hopes, needs, loves and problems much like the rest of the population. This was enormously helpful in fighting discrimination and in combating the irrational – and often religiously based – prejudices that blighted the lives of so many gay men and women, as they still do today in many societies.

GALHA Secretary Mike Rickwood commented:

"Claire's great courage, warmth, passion, and concern for humanity and for fighting cruelty, bigotry and injustice wherever she found it, without fear or favour to anyone, exemplify all that is best in Humanism, and we are proud and honoured to have been associated with her, and to have had her as a Vice President. We would like to extend our sympathy to her family and to her many friends and admirers. We can all be thankful for a life lived to the full."

Note to Editors:



GALHA . promotes Humanism and LGBT rights in the United Kingdom and elsewhere and promotes a rational approach to LGBT Rights as human rights.



www.galha.org

Protest against the cuts at Downing Street on October 20th

coalition of resistance logo


I was at the national steering committee meeting today and all is in place for the demo next week when Osborne wields the axe and proves that we are not all in this together but that the poor and vulnerable are the targets of this government. Already expressions of support are pouring into COR from all over the country, even from many previous apolitical people saying that they voted Tory or Lib Dem. We must ensure that this is a historic, large and powerful demonstration which says to this government - we will resist!



Protest at Downing Street on 20 October


US Civil Rights activists Jessie Jackson is the latest speaker to confirm for the protest

Stop the Con-Dem cuts! Build the Resistance! Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay!

Speakers include Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas MP, Jessie Jackson, Jeremy Dear (NUJ) Dot Gibson (National Pensioners Convention) Lee Jasper (BARAC) Zita Holbourne (BARAC) John McDonnell MP Mark Serwotka (PCS) Jeremy Corbyn MP Bob Crow (RMT) Aaron Porter (NUS)

Marches are converging at Downing Street on 20 October

Student March to Downing street: Assemble 4pm outside ULU, Malet Street

Camden Trades Council March to Downing Street: Assemble 5.00pm at Lincoln’s Inn Fields

Marches will join the Coalition of Resistance Rally at Downing Street: Assemble 6pm

The momentum for the demonstration on 20 October is growing. Camden Trades Council’s march is now supported by 15 trade union bodies plus the local Labour Party and several anti-cuts and anti-privatisation campaigns (full list below).

At the same time, the University of London Students Union is calling on all students to march (assembling 4.00pm outside ULU, Malet Street). The students will march to join the trade union demonstration. The joint march will then head for a rally in Whitehall outside Downing Street.

The Coalition of Resistance is calling on all supporters to build the demonstration and rally, and to join the march if possible (4.00pm in Malet Street, or 5.00pm at Lincoln’s Inn Fields) or the final rally (beginning 6.00pm outside Downing Street).

When Osborne announces the cuts on 20 October, we need to challenge head-on the Con-Dem lie that ‘there is no alternative’ and that ‘we are all in it together’.

We need to break through the media consensus that working people and the poor have to pay for a crisis caused by the bankers, big business, and the rich. That means making the protest on the 20 October big, loud, and vibrant.

We can build protest over the next month by:

• Holding street stalls where we hand out leaflets, collect signatures on the Statement of Resistance, and sign people up to the 27 November CoR National Conference.

• Organising CoR public meetings with national and local speakers (contact us if you need speakers or help setting up a meeting).

• Leafleting tube stations, workplaces, meetings, door-to-door. Download the leaflet

• If you have a group of local activists committed to building and joining the demonstration, issue a statement to the local press explaining why you will be joining the protest (model press statement below).

Model Resolution

1. This [trade union branch, student union, campaign group, or whatever] resolves:

2. To campaign in active opposition to the Con-Dem Government’s programme of cuts.

3. To sign the Statement of Resistance headed by Tony Benn and Caroline Lucas and now supported by thousands of others.

4. To affiliate to the Coalition of Resistance and to send a delegation to the inaugural national conference in London on 27 November.

5. To support the Coalition of Resistance’s call for a mass protest in Downing Street on 20 October, when Con-Dem Chancellor George Osborne announces the cuts.

Model Press Statement

On the day Con-Dem Chancellor George Osborne announces the results of a ‘spending review’ designed to cut £83 billion from public services, the Coalition of Resistance is calling a mass protest in Downing Street. The Con-Dem government of millionaires, supported by the media, says ‘there is no alternative’ to massive cutbacks at the expense of working people to pay the debts of a bankrupt system.

They tell us ‘we are all in it together’ as they plan cuts in jobs, pay, pensions, benefits, and public services that will hit the poor ten times harder than the rich. If they want cuts, let them cut bank profits and bonuses. If they want to pay off debt, let them tax the rich and big business. If they say we can’t afford the NHS, let them axe Trident and withdraw from Afghanistan.

The cuts they plan will plunge us into a slump. Cuts in the public sector destroy jobs in the private sector. Cuts on the scale of the 1930s will produce unemployment on the scale of the 1930s. What we need is massive investment to create jobs, regenerate the economy, and provide the goods and services people need. In particular, we need massive investment in renewable energy and public transport to begin the transition to a green economy.

If the bankers object, we should take over the banks and put them under democratic control. We [members of, residents of etc] will be joining the march called by Camden Trades Council (assembling 5.00pm at Lincoln’s Inn Fields) and the rally called by the Coalition of Resistance (beginning 6.00pm outside Downing Street).

Current list of individuals and organisations supporting the protest:

Tony Benn, Caroline Lucas MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, John McDonnell MP, Jeremy Dear (NUJ), Matt Wrack (FBU), Mark Serwotka (PCS), Bob Crow (RMT), Dot Gibson (National Pensioners Convention), Lee Jasper (BARAC), Zita Holbourne (BARAC), Paul Mackney (former General Secretary, NATFHE and UCU), Aaron Porter (NUS), Kanja Sesay (NUS Black Students Officer), Clare Solomon (ULU)

Camden Trades Council, Camden UNISON, Camden NUT, East London Teachers Association (NUT), Hammersmith & Fulham NUT, Islington NUT, Lambeth NUT, UCU London Region, CWU Mount Pleasant (International), RMT Euston No.1 and Camden No.3 branches, Brent Trades Council, Hackney Trades Council, Haringey Trades Union Council, Islington Trades Union Council, Greater London Association of Trades Union Councils, Holborn & St Pancras Constituency Labour Party, Coalition of Resistance, Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC), Right to Work Campaign, Keep Our NHS Public, Islington Hands Off Our Public Services, Green Left, Socialist Resistance, Counterfire

Riots at Gay Pride March in Belgrade



Another historic milestone has been reached in the history of LGBT rights in Europe. On Sunday the first ever Gay Pride march was held in Serbia in Belgrade. Despite the attempt to attack the marchers and prevent the parade, police managed to protect the marchers and to arrest many of the ultra nationalists and neo-Fascists who wanted the parade stopped. The last time Belgrade tried to hold a march nine years ago it was called off because of the threat of violence and the refusal of the then government to protect the marchers. This indicates that human rights for all will be protected in Serbia and that the country is heading, slowly but inexorably, towards membership of the European Union. The comment below from a spokesperson from ILGA (International Lesbian and Gay Association) sums up the prevailing mood.

"Despite the rioting, this day can be marked in our calendars as a historic day for the LGBT movement in Serbia - it has become the third country (after Slovenia and Croatia) in former Yugoslavia to organise an undisrupted Pride march, which in this case had up to 1,000 participants. One day Pride participants will perhaps be able to march in streets which are not entirely deserted for security reasons and without fearing for their lives.


The next challenge for the Serbian authorities will be to ensure the proportionality of security measures with the true spirit of free assembly and free speech, so that the messages the marchers carry can be seen and heard. But the large-scale attacks against police officers is reason for serious concern and dampens hopes that change will come rapidly.

Social transformation rarely happens quickly. One should keep in mind that the phenomenon of LGBT people taking to the streets has at one time or another been seen as a very provocative act in most parts of Europe. Nowhere did Pride parades start out as the festive events we are now used to in cities such as London, Paris, Berlin or Brussels. Initially, it has always been the courageous few who decided to become visible and to demand equal rights and justice."

Monday, 11 October 2010

Patients Forum Meeting tonight at Waterloo @ 5.30pm

A meeting tonight of the Patients Forum for the LAS which is open to the public. While dealing mainly with equality issues we will also be examining the response of the Ambulance Service to our Annual Report which was published about two months ago and addressing questions on these issues to the LAS.


PATIENTS’ FORUM LONDON AMBULANCE SERVICE



‘Equality and Inclusion in the LAS’ - Janice Markey, Equality and Inclusion Manager LAS

Monday October 11th 2010

5.30-7.30pm

Conference Room, LAS Headquarters, 220 Waterloo Road, SE1

Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy j-j@freezone.co.uk or PatientsForumLAS@aol.com

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie Sisterjossi@hotmail.com

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother director.glf@pop3.poptel.org.uk

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander PatientsForumLAS@aol.com

BSL signers will be available

Nearest Tube: Waterloo British Rail: Waterloo Buses:1,4,26,77,68,168,171,172,176,188,507,243,341,381,507,521

PATIENTS’ FORUM AMBULANCE SERVICES (LONDON) LTD

Opera and the majesty of the law

I went along to the High Court on Friday to follow Raymond Stevenson's case and for the third day Raymond was in the witness box and will be again today. Southwark Council is paying for a high class barrister, Lord Foulks, who has apparently being specialising recently in compensation cases against the police. Southwark Council's legal bill is already estimated at over £1 million and witnessing who was present in the court it was not surprising. Two barristers, three solicitors, two external planning experts and the Head of Planning, are all present every day for six weeks at the council tax payers' expense. Raymond seemed to be holding his all quite well when I was there during the cross examination. I understand that both Harriet Harman and my local ward councillor, Dora Dixon-Fyle, now cabinet member for Health and Social Care in Southwark in the Labour administration, are both being subpoenaed to appear.Raymond has also the former Lib Dem councillor, Jonathan Hunt, who constantly spoke up for Raymond's cause until he was sidelined, plus another former Lib Dem councillor who served on the Planning Committee at the time when many of these issues first arose. The planning experts who have been following the case daily are going to be called as council witnesses. I am going along to the court again today to catch up with the latest developments and give Raymond my support.

As those who know me well will attest, I am a big fan of opera and on Saturday evening I went to a performance of 'Faust' by Gounod at the English National Opera. I had not seen the opera for many years - it was apparently in the late 19th century one of the most popular operas in the repetoire. All that most people know of the work is the famous 'Soldiers Chorus' which originally in 1859, when the work was first performed, during the Second French Empire, was a call to arms and to French martial glory. In this production, which was set in a First World War setting, it was anything but that, and was sung by a gang of wounded and clearly disorientated soldiers returning from the battlefields of Verdun. At one point, when a photographer took a shot of the assembled soldiers for the propaganda sheet of the day, the flash set one soldier off, who was clearly shellshocked and the officer was rebuked for putting him in that position.

The peformance was also set in a post nuclear bomb world of 1945 Hiroshima, with Faust playing the role of a disillusioned scientist who is horrified at the world which he, and others who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of physics, have created. Thus he is more than willing to sell his soul to Satan to exchange the empty and ruined world he inhabits for one of the senses and above all of love. The story of Faust still holds a deep and eternal message that knowledge or power in themselves are empty and lifeless without the redeeming qualities of love and compassion. Here there is also room for an examination of man's relationship with nature and how the artificial and seemingly advanced world of 'things' and 'possessions' can only offer short term satisfaction to the jaded soul. The performance was packed and shows that as time progresses opera constantly grows in popularity. And needless to say, the Devil had all the best tunes including some wonderful dance numbers!

And the connection between the two? In the 18th century the three areas of the law, the theatre and politics were closely linked and regarded as the three sisters. Indeed there were some, like the greatest 18th century playwright, Richard Brindsley Sheridan, who practised in all three. And having watched how barristers perform in court before a smaller but no less exclusive audience I can see the clear connection. John Mortimer, legal practitioner and writer knew the nature of the law and as when he wrote : "The glory of the advocate is to be opinionated, brash, fearless, partisan, hectoring, rude, cunning and unfair." Not for nothing was his character, Rumpole of the Bailey, one of the most loved in English fiction. He was based on what Mortimer witnessed every day in the legal profession. And politicians? For the most part they are a mixture of the actor and the advocate - the trick is being able to distinguish between fact and fiction.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Green Party support national demo against Racism, Fascism and Islamophobia

The Green Party has given its official backing for the national demonstration against racism, fascism and Islamophobia on Saturday 6 November in London. I recently spoke at the Convention of the Left in Manchester about the rise of the Far Right in Europe, with the Sweden Democrats, Jobbik in Hungary and others. Since the convention, Geert Wilders has effictively become a power broker in the Dutch government and I am sure that even worse is to come. Never has it been more important to challenge the forces of hatred and reaction.

Lily Allen sings it like it is.


Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Raymond Stephenson goes to court today

My friend Raymond Stephenson starts his court case today in the High Court against Southwark Council. This case has been a long time coming. The background to the case has been covered in several recent articles in the South London Press. Raymond's nightclub 'Imperial Gardens' was a cutting edge venue for young black talent in South London and several black performers started their careers there. Round about 2003 I became involved in supporting Raymond's case about the closure of his club. It was clear to me that there was institutional racism at work in Southwark Council (I am a resident of Camberwell where Imperial Gardens was based). Raymond organised several huge deputations and tumultous meetings at the Southwark Council meetings, which involved so much support from the local black community and others that security guards were employed by a clearly frightened Southwark Council, which by that stage was being run by the Lib Dems.

The Council became so defensive that Lord Herman Ouseley, the former Director of the Commission for Racial Equality, was called in to conduct an independent investigation. I gave evidence to his inquiry and was firmly of the opinion that there was instituational racism within the council's structures. Ouseley's report confirmed this and asked the Council to clear up its act - later Ouseley stated that nothing much had changed. In the interim, a number of council officers were questioned by police and others either dismissed or disappeared. But the chief officers and councillors involved in the cover up remained in place.

In 2006 I stood as a Green Party council candidate in Camberwell Green ward, which is where the club was based, and received endorsement from Raymond who stated that I was active in combating racism in Southwark and Camberwell. Raymond also came and spoke at a Green Party event in Oval about what was happening in Southwark. At one point he was even considering joining the Green Party in Southwark but certain other people in Southwark Green Party were less welcoming than I was. We remained in contact and he constantly told me that he would have his day in court - now it has finally arrived. In the interim, Raymond did a lot of work for Operation Trident using videos and music to try and deter young black people from getting involved in shootings and some of his work was really impressive.

Yesterday Lee Jasper, Ken Livingstone's former Advisor on Race, told me that he is giving evidence for Raymond in the High Court. I have been invited to attend the court today but unfortunately because of work I cannot attend until Friday. The case will go on for several weeks. I wish Raymond success, he has been extremely badly treated and he has continued to campaign for justice for 7 years now. Whatever happens, I am sure that some of the evidence will reveal some very unsavoury facts about the workings of Southwark Council between 2002 and 2006.

And further news that Harriet Harman no less has been called to appear as a witness. At the time Harriet was a strong supporter of Raymond and Imperial Gardens but perhaps her enthusisasm has waned now that there is a Labour council!

Green Party denounces the ConDem cuts

Romayne Phoenix, Green Party Campaigns Coordinator, and my fellow steering committee member of the Coalition of Resistance speaking at the Right to Work demonstration last weekend in Birmingham near the Tory conference.


Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Stiglitz on Europe's New Malaise

The US economist Joseph Stiglitz gives an interview about his new book 'Freefall. Freemarkets and the sinking of the global economy.' Stiglitz is always an interesting writer and theorist but it is what he says about Europe which is particularly interesting. He argues that by entering the Euro, Spain and Greece (and also Ireland) are locked into a 'death spiral' from which they cannot emerge. The austerity measures being implemented by European governments are aggravating the situation and are repeating the classic mistakes of many governments in the 1930s which created the spiral of the Great Depression. Stiglitz writes of Spain:

Europe has no way of helping countries facing severe problems. Spain has an unemployment rate of 20pc, with 40 to 50pc of young people unemployed. It had a fiscal surplus before the crisis; after the crisis, its deficit exceeded 11pc of GDP.



But under the rules of the game, Spain must now cut its spending, which will almost surely increase its unemployment rate still further. As its economy slows, the improvement in its fiscal position may be minimal.
Spain may be entering the kind of death spiral that afflicted Argentina just a decade ago. It was only when Argentina broke its currency peg with the dollar that it started to grow and its deficit came down. At present, Spain has not been attacked by speculators, but it may be only a matter of time.

Stiglitz goes on to issue dire warnings that European governments are entering an economic cul de sac and I believe that he is right - recent developments in Ireland prove that but the Right continue to argue that Ireland will eventually recover. It is the modern equivalent of 18th century doctors who applied leeches to their patients believing that an excess of blood or fluid was the cause of the illness, and not bacteria or a virus. The fluid being removed from the patient in this case is the army of poor and unwaged who are going to be flushed down the toilet to try and prove an impossible economic experiment. Stiglitz goes on to issue this grim warning to Europe:

If Europe cannot find a way to make these institutional reforms, then it is perhaps better to admit failure and move on than to extract a high price in unemployment and human suffering, all in the name of flawed institutional arrangements that did not live up to the ideals of their creators.



The first decade of the 21st century is already being written down as a lost decade. For most Americans, income at the end of the decade was lower than at the beginning. Europe began the decade with a bold new experiment, the euro - an experiment that may now be faltering.


On both sides of the Atlantic, the optimism of the beginning of the decade has been replaced with a new gloom. As the weeks of the downturn - the New Malaise - stretch into months, and the months become years, a new grey pallor casts its shadow.

On the evidence of yesterday's announcements at the Tory conference and the Spending Review due to be announced later this month, the UK government has its fingers firmly in its ears while it repeats the empty mantra "there is no alternative." Other European governments continue down the same track promising that at some point soon the promised land will be reached. Tell that to the millions who will be sacrificed on the altar of the new economic dogmatism. Stiglitz points the way to a better solution for Europe - a European Green New Deal. This is what the European Green Party will be debating at Tallinn in a few weeks time, with Elinor Ostrom, the Nobel Prize winning radical economist and others. The Green parties of Europe must argue that another future is possible. The alternative is grim and could open up Europe to the other maladies of the 30s, which we have seen rise again - social unrest, populism and the Far Right.

Monday, 4 October 2010

East London Rally for Change!

The People’s Charter for Change Across Britain people arestarting to defend their jobs andhomes, services and pensions,and their standard of life.

UK banks have just announced bumper profits, and tax evasion by the wealthy is costing us billions
(Caroline Lucas MP House of Commons 15/07/10)

Bloody wars in Iraq and Afghanistan cost UK taxpayers £14 billion – rising by billions each year, and plans to replace Trident mean another bill of at least £70 billion. Economists warn spending cuts to public services will ‘tip the economy back into recession’ (letters to the Financial Times from 67 leading economists, 02/10).

Anger and resistance is growing.The People’s Charter shows that we don’t need cuts. There is another way to prosperity and a secure and decent life for all.A government with no mandate for its policy is not strong. It is a lie that we are all in it together. There is an alternative.

East London Rally for Change!

Thursday 7th October, 7 - 9pm, Stratford Circus,

Theatre Square, 5 minutes walk from Stratford station

Speakers include:

Bob Crow (General Secretary RMT)

Jean Lambert, MEP (Green Party)

Alex Kenny (NUT National Executive)

Imran Khan (Civil rights lawyer)

Supported by: The RMT,

National Union of Teachers (NUT),

East London Teachers Association,

Tower Hamlets Green Party and

Newham Trades Council

All welcome

The People’s Charter for Change

Community groups, Unions, and thousands of individuals up and down the country, are signing up to the People’s Charter.
Sign up. Get organised. A million signatures for the Charter!
A fair economy for a fairer Britain Progressive taxation without loopholes or tax havens. Big business and the wealthy should pay a fairer share. We must own and control the main banks and regulate the City properly.

More and better jobs Protect existing jobs. Make a massive investment in new jobs and in green technology. More jobs means more spending power to stimulate the economy, increased tax revenue and fewer people on benefit. Build full employment. Decent homes for all Keep people in their homes: stop repossessions, control rents. We need 3 million new homes. Let councils to build, renovate and buy empty homes, to end the housing shortage and create jobs.

Protect and improve our services – no cuts Save public money: Bring energy, telecommunications, water and
transport back to public ownership, and keep the Post Office public.Remove profit making from the NHS,
schools and social services. Support our public service staff. Fairness and justice Equality for all. Together against racism and all forms of discrimination. No scapegoating migrant workers. Equal pay for women. Link state pensions and benefits to average earnings. Protect pension schemes and restore lost value of private pensions. Invest in young people and give them a real stake in the future. Restore union rights to protect workers.
A better future starts now
End the cost of war in blood and money. Bring our troops home. We want investment in a greener, safer
world. Don’t waste billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons. Debt is crushing millions of people,
forcing them to move and producing war, famine and misery. Get rid of the debt economy in Britain and
cancel the debts of the world’s poor.

Sign up today!

www.thepeoplescharter.com

Tel 0781 339 0063

info@thepeoplescharter.com

The People’s Charter, London Civil

Rights and Arts Centre, 28a Museum St,

London WC1A 1LH

The Non Sense of Austerity


WatsonMedia presents Mark Blyth on Austerity from The Global Conversation on Vimeo.


Mark Blyth is a professor of International Political Economy at Brown University and is writing Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea, forthcoming with Oxford University Press in 2011. He explains the whole "Non Sense" of the current mode for Austerity very well and mentions something which has been taboo for a long time but needs to be heard again loud and clear - "Class Politics". In the meantime if you have not yet signed up for the Coalition of Resistance Conference on November 27th, try and do so asap. With all the hot air and empty rhetoric coming out of the Tory conference this week about how to hammer the poor and unemployed more effectively we need to resist and soon!

Designing a new ambulance for London

As Chair of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum I have joined a steering committee which is looking at designing a new ambulance for London. The committee held its first meeting last week at the Royal College of Art and included representatives of ambulance service trusts from other parts of England, procurement managers from the LAS, representatives of a vehicle manufacturing company, a procurement manager from NHS London (which is one of the main funders of the project) a team of designers from the Royal College of Art, a paramedic from the LAS (who is taking feedback from current ambulance crews) and I, as a patient representative. The committee also includes Jonathan Benger, who is a consultant and whose titles include Professor of Emergency Care, University of the West of England, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust ,Medical Advisor, Air Operations, Great Western Ambulance Service and Chair, Clinical Effectiveness Committee, College of Emergency Medicine.

We were presented with a series of proposed designs by a team of designers from the RCA and discussed these in detail. The procurement managers were mostly concerned about the costs and timelines for manufacturing and delivery etc, although one interesting aspect of this was that the EU is about to legislate on a common EU standard for ambulances called SEN, which apparently (and I am a non-specialist here) relates to regulations on bulkhead doors. One of the design proposals is for a vehicle which opens at the side, rather than, as at present, at the back. It was fascinating to attend a meeting of people who often do not meet and whose input on a new design, which could possibly be rolled out across the UK, showed the fertile mix of ideas from NHS staff, designers, patients, manufacturers, clinicians and others. This is really how such projects should be taken forward so that designers are aware of all the issues involved before any final design is presented. This is a real cutting edge project and the steering committee will meet again in April.

In the interim, for anyone who still wants to see the exhibition on the ambulance and on other fascinating medical related design projects, you need to get down to the Royal College of Art as soon as possible. But hurry because the exhibition closes on Thursday. I attended the presentation by the design postgrads at the Helen Hamlyn Centre after the meeting and there were some really interesting projects, including redesigning signage in hospitals, varying layout in centres for people with dementia and altering the internal structures of residential homes for people with autism. The ambulance design project is jointly funded by NHS London and the Helen Hamlyn Centre.

A short film here of similar type work carried out by the RCA last year - I hasten to add that the designs portrayed here are not what is being discussed in the current project but give an indication of what may follow further down the line. There is some discussion about having a new small and fast emergency vehicle with a single responder in time for the London Olympics in 2012.