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Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Why employment initiatives for people with disabilities don't work

Have not blogged for about a week, due to work, plus festive dinners and party season and one or two political activities, as well as chairing a meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum last week - more of that anon.

As some of you know, my day job is working with a disability organisation in Lambeth and here is an interesting article about why employment initiatives for people with disabilities do not work. With so many people being forced through the mincer at present by Atos Medical Services and others by this uncaring government, it should be compulsory Xmas reading for Ian Duncan Smith and other disciples of "the workhouse school" among Tory MPs and their fellow travellers. True disciples of the Parish Guardians who feature in Oliver Twist and other Dickens novels.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Labour councillor in Barking and Dagenham refuses to vote for cuts

The courageous stand of this councillor needs to be acknowledged and honoured. It is not easy to stand against the tide, even less so to stand against one's own party. There are few enough Labour councillors who have had the courage of their convictions. I wait with interest to see what the Green councillors in Brighton will vote for in February's budget.

Dear Sir,

When Barking and Dagenham residents voted for Margaret Hodge MP in the May 2010 election to defeat Nick Griffin and the fascist British National Party, they also elected 51 local councillors under the Labour Party flag.

But while Margaret Hodge is campaigning to open the new Barking Hospital and to keep King George Hospital and the Broadway Theatre open for local people, the council is chopping £20 million off the budget, sacking local workers and outsourcing municipal services. This is in effect exporting Barking and Dagenham jobs to other parts of the country.

The excuse for all this is that the council tax has been frozen for local people. So in practice, schoolkids, the unemployed, the elderly and the infirm get worse services for the same price.

The council is dominated by a leadership clique who have been carrying out the same bureaucratic routine for too long. This clique is much too fond of a quick fix to solve immediate problems. But they should be considering the welfare of the people that elected them in one of the most deprived boroughs in the country.

In this borough, we did not vote for the Conservative-Liberal democrat coalition and their banker friends. We voted for the Labour Party. So why cannot these councillors behave like socialists rather than Tories?

I first joined the Labour Party in 1962, but I cannot support the actions of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham Labour Group, and I am therefore resigning the Labour Group whip.

George Barratt,

Councillor, Mayesbrook Ward


Monday, 12 December 2011

Pictures from November 30th demo

Last Friday I went to the Coalition of Resistance Steering Committee to discuss next steps for the anti-cuts movement following the national strike on November 30th. There was a lot of discussion about Nov 30th and how successful it was mediawise for COR. Here are some pictures from the day, including one of me at the COR stall, several COR and Green Party activists and Nick Robinson of the BBC!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Merry Xmas from George Osborne

Stop the War Coalition Book Launch and Meeting on Secret Evidence

A busy week again this week. Apart from my day job (yes I do have to earn my crust) I was at the Lambeth Green Party meeting on Wednesday night, where I met again our inspirational and hard working London Assembly candidate, Jonathan Bartley. I also met some other new Lambeth party members whom I had not met before, including one who shares my interest in theatre and writing and is a professional theatre director.

Last night I went to the Steering Committee meeting of the Coalition of Resistance,where we reviewed COR's involvement in the November 30th demonstrations and we all agreed that both in terms of media coverage and mobilisation, COR had done really well - even forming the backdrop to Jeremy Paxman's report on the strike that night on Newsnight. We discussed next steps and prepartions for new anti-cuts activities in 2012. We also discussed the European dimension and the rain of fire and brimstone raining down on the peoples of Europe from their neo-liberal governments and technocrats.

Tonight I will be attending the book launch at Housman's bookshop of 'Stop the War. A graphic history' as a member of the national Steering Committee of Stop the War. I am growing increasingly worried about the prospect of war against Iran and the need for the anti-war movement has never been greater.

Finally, some details here of an event at which Jean Lambert, the Green MEP for London, is speaking:

Coalition Against Secret Evidence and The Cordoba Foundation present



Come and learn more about this secret history and hidden suffering over

the past ten years… the secret evidence, unfortunately, remains just that!

Monday 19 December 2011 • 6pm – 9pm • London Muslim Centre

46 Whitechapel Road London E1 1JX. Nearest tube: Aldgate East / Whitechapel

Speakers include:

GARETH PEIRCE - British human rights lawyer.

JEAN LAMBERT - MEP (Green Party)

ANAS ALTIKRITI - CEO, The Cordoba Foundation

BRUCE KENT - Vice President Pax Christi.

ASIM QURESHI - Executive Director, Cage Prisoners.

Ten years ago, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, the British government passed laws allowing them to detain and imprison foreign “terrorism suspects” without charge or trial. By December 2001, almost a dozen Muslim men, mainly from Algeria, had been detained and later became known, with others, as the “Belmarsh detainees”. They were held without trial or charge for over three years until the courts ruled this system illegal in 2004. The men were released but things did not get better for them or their families… control orders were introduced in 2005 and others were subject to harsh bail restrictions after being threatened with deportation to their countries of origin – Algeria, Jordan and Libya. Tagged, with restrictions on their freedom, all without having any idea of the reason why, this has been the life of at least 18 individuals and families over the past decade, with no end in sight… 10 years of not knowing the accusations, of coming up against a wall of silence and secret evidence by the Home Office in court, not knowing if they will be deported to countries that will torture, of abuse, misuse and being ignored by the wider community. At the same time, the British government is seeking to replace the control order regime with new Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures (T-PIMs), to broaden the number of countries so-called terrorism suspects can be deported to without knowing the reason why and to harshen its anti-terrorism laws.


Supported by:

Campaign Against Criminalising Communities

Cage Prisoners

Islamic Forum of Europe

Newham Monitoring Project

Federation of Students Islamic Societies

Peace & Justice in East London


Monday, 5 December 2011

London Ambulance Service - New Report by London Assembly's Health & Public Services Committee

The London Assembly's Health and Public Services Committee will be releasing a new scrutiny report into the London Ambulance Service later this week. This will be the theme of the next London Ambulance Service Patients Forum meeting next Monday, December 12th, in City Hall. The report will be presented by Victoria Borwick AM, Chair of the London Assembly's Health and Public Services Committee and Peter Bradely, Chief Executive of the London Ambulance Service, will also be present to answer questions. The meeting is open to the public.

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum Meeting

Monday 12th December at 5.30pm

City Hall, Queens Walk, London SE1

'The London Ambulance Service Today' a report by the London Assembly's Health and Public Services Committee presented by  its Chair, Victoria Borwick AM.

BSL Interpreters available.

Nearest Tube: London Bridge/Tower Hill
Nearest Rail Station: London Bridge/Tower Hil DLR
Forum’s Officers:

CHAIR: Dr Joseph Healy or

VICE CHAIR: Sister Josephine Udie

VICE CHAIR: Lynn Strother

VICE CHAIR: Malcolm Alexander

Ireland - the lost generation

As the Irish Taoiseach delivers the first public address by a Taoiseach for 31 years on the eve of another savage budget, figures show that Irish emigration has exceeded anything seen since the 19th century. And this is mainly the young leaving.

A young Irish bricklayer now living in Australia has composed a bitter song about how he and his generation have been forced to leave by the actions of a corrupt political class – mainly the last Fianna Fail/Green government – who will be hated for a generation. Irish songs of emigration in the 19th century blamed the landlords and the British government, now they blame the banks and the corrupt Irish politician
Plus ca change. And this is the economic blueprint which Osborne praised several years ago and we are now rapidly heading down the same path. I left Ireland in the 80s during another ecnomic crash so I can sense what many of these young people are feeling. But I did not leave for economic reasons alone. However, being forced to leave your country, family and friends because of political corruption and incompetence is a bitter pill to swallow.

And with Xmas coming, many of these Irish families will be feeling keenly the loss of their young people.

Friday, 2 December 2011

'Castor and Pollux' - an opera for World Aids Day

Last night, wearing a red ribbon for World Aids Day, as many others in the audience were also, I attended a performance of Rameau's opera 'Castor and Pollux' at the English National Opera. The opera is seldom performed in the UK but is considered one of the jewels of the French baroque opera. It has ravishingly beautiful melodies and some very beautiful dances, which is typical of Rameau's work, but also of the French operatic style as a whole.

Based on Greek mythology of the two brothers, one mortal and the other immortal, it deals with death and loss and indeed with loss of love also. The programme notes stated that there are numerous references in the opera to departure and farewells. This is indeed true and there is a deep sense of melancholia throughout the work. I think it was a very suitable work for World Aids Day - a day when I remember many I knew who died as a result of AIDS, or who still live physically or psychologically damaged by its effects.

The aria  'Tristes apprets, pales flambeaux' is probably the most beautiful in the opera and is  funeral song deeply infused with that sense of darkness and despair which accompanies the death of a loved one. It is one of Rameau's most beautiful songs. I include it here. At this dark time of the year, this dark music reminds us that many continue to die from this terrible illness and that the world must continue to ensure that all people receive treatment, as well as remembering the many whom we have lost to it.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Supporting the national strike against cuts today in London

Having spent Monday at the Coalition of Resistance office calling up volunteers to help distribute placards today at the SERTUC (South East Region TUC) rally at Lincoln's Inn Fields in central London, I will be down there today distributing those same placards. The Green Party is affiliated to COR and several prominent Greens, including me, are on COR's national steering committee. The rally is timed for 12 noon and then there will be a march down to Embankment. I will also be marching with 'Queers Against the Cuts' the LGBT group, which is campaigning against the cuts agenda. The Green Party Trade Union Group will also have a stall positioned beside COR's and we will be working together.

I went to the very well attended 'Eurozone in Meltdown' meeting on Monday night, organised by COR, where we heard some very good speakers, including the Assistant General Secretary of the NUT, and speakers from both Italy and Greece, giving accounts of what is really happening there on the ground. One of the contributions from the floor was from a woman teacher in Camden, who described how the children in her class spontaneously started producing banners and materials for today's demonstration because they recognise that those marching today to protect our public services and against cuts are also marching for their future. As Kevin Courtney, the NUT Asst General Secretary, said at the meeting: "They wonder why there is so much youth unemployment, yet they are calling on older workers to work for many more years."

The news yesterday from Osborne's Autumn Statement is effectively that the Tories and their Lib Dem allies have declared class war on all those working in the public sector, pensioners and the unemployed. The statement that there will be years of cuts and austerity ahead, with no sign of real government intervention to create jobs or build a green economy means, in effect, as many journalists have stated, a lost decade. Some even speculate that it could mean two lost decades. The real impact of this on the lives of those plunged into poverty and unemployment is incalculable. And as Will Hutton said last night on BBC News, this could be worse that the 30s.

I am not on strike today, as I work in the voluntary sector, where we do not even get a pension of any kind, but this strike is far wider than protecting public sector pensions - important enough as that is - but is also the struggle to protect public services against the cuts. That is the reason why I have taken a day off work to march alongside all of those who are fighting for the real "big society". As Thoreau said: "Justice is sweet and musical; but injustice is harsh and discordant." And harsh and discordant sounds are what we are hearing from this government of the bankers, by the bnakers and for the bankers.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Eurozone in Meltdown meeting on Monday - Rally in support of the national pensions strike and against cuts on Wednesday

I will be attending this meeting on Monday and also assisting COR on Wednesday at the SE Region of the TUC rally in support of the national strike and against cuts. Later I will be marching with 'Queers Against the Cuts' and the Green Party Trade Union Group

Eurozone in Meltdown rally with Tony Benn

As crisis spreads through the Eurozone at a rate that no one could have imagined, the ruling financial elite offers nothing but further austerity measures. The need for a Europe-wide mass movement in defense of democracy and social welfare has never been so important.
Join us at this meeting just two days ahead of the biggest strike and day of action in Britain for decades.

Eurozone in Meltdown

No Cuts - No Privatisation


Tony Benn

John McDonnell MP

Ntina Tzouvala (Synaspismos youth, Greece)

Kevin Courtney (Deputy General Secretary, NUT)

Arianna Tassinari (Co-President, SOAS Students Union)

James Meadway (senior economist, New Economics Foundation)

Kate Hudson (Coalition of Resistance)

Lee Jasper (BARAC)

Monday 28 November, 6:30pm

University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY

Click here to download printable flyer

Invite your friends on Facebook

N30 Central London demo

Alongside the hundreds of local events happening across the country on November 30th, SERTUC has called a Central London demonstration. Coalition of Resistance is asking for as many volunteers on the day as possible to help with distributing materials on the demo.

The demonstration assembles at 12pm, Lincolns Inn Fields. We are asking volunteers to arrive at 10:30am. If you can help please email or phone Sam on 07872 481769.

University of London Union have called a student feeder march leaving from Malet Street at 12pm. We are asking volunteers to get to Malet Street at 10am. If you can help please let us know.

Leaflets for the demonstration can be picked up from Housmans Bookshop, 5 Caledonian Road, London N1 9DX. There are a number of stalls and leafletting sessions being organised this weekend accross London. If you can set one up in your area please get in touch.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Ten Years of Stop the War Coalition and the rising costs of War

Tonight, together with several other members of Green Left and the Green Party, I will be attending the 10th anniversary dinner of Stop the War Coalition. The dinner is not just to mark a decade of activism but also to fundraise for the campaigning work of the UK's leading anti-war organisation. It is appalling to think that the UK, along with the US and others, has been involved in a decade of wars. The situation is beginning to resemble the plot of 1984 where Eurasia is in a state of permanent war with Oceania. And at a time when the costs of wars continue to rise while our leaders tell us that there is no funding for anything else.

The links between the anti-cuts movement and the anti-war movement are obvious, and are made abundantly clear in this video appearance by David Swanson, noted US anti-war activist, who draws the clear links between Occupation Wall Street and the anti-war movement. These are the two campaigns to which I am politically dedicated at present as the fate of humanity and of the planet depend on the outcome of both of these titanic struggles agains the military industrial complex, aided and abetted by its corporate sponsors, and paid for, both in blood and cash, by all of us.

Monday, 21 November 2011

The argument against homophobia

Publishing his video, he fights against homophobia

More about: vidéo, homophobie


A young Argentinean gay’s personal engagement is published on a video on YouTube: It is a long argumentation against homophobia translated in 17 languages.

At the age of 19 he made the experience of young gay student who came from Buenos Aires to Europe. Today Nicolás is 28 years old, is a Spanish teacher and at the same time studies Linguistics in Vienna, where he has been living for five years now. During that time he started to think about homophobia and its origins.

Gay-friendly rhetoric

Nicolás tells us «I visited a lecture about history of Judaism and the professor, a catholic theologian, explained that that you cannot develop any kind of relation between religion and violence. This made me very furious. I immediately argued that there are many violent passages in the Bible and spoke about the way this book treats homosexuals. We continued discussing the topic on e-mail and I think I succeeded in changing his mind a bit!». This debate turned into a talk for the seminar. «I even mentioned sad anecdotes of my adolescence», the young Argentinean remembers.

Step by step Nicolás developed a taste for the art of rhetoric. He wrote a text and sent it to German, Austrians and Swiss theologians. And one of his friends, a student of communication sciences, suggested spreading his message even more. That’s how this video came to life. It is already translated into 17 languages, and soon will be available in even more languages. «I think this can help many people» he says. In any case it is an original way to share a speech of defense against homophobes of any kind.

Watch the video:

Two days to save LGBT rights in Russia

In 48 hours, political leaders in Russia will vote on a law that makes speaking out as a gay, lesbian or trans person ILLEGAL. Because Russia is a large and powerful nation, the international community has stayed silent. If thousands of us raise our voices, they will be forced to speak out and stop this horrific law:

Dear Joseph,

We've been talking all weekend with our friend Sasha - a teacher and mom in Russia - and what we're hearing is horrifying. On Wednesday, political leaders in St. Petersburg are voting on a new law that will make it illegal to speak in public about being gay, lesbian or transgender.

Sasha and a broad coalition in Russia are doing everything they can to stop the bill. Yesterday, they organized one of the biggest demonstrations ever in support of equality - but still the international community is not paying attention. They need support from around the world - and they need it fast.

Because Russia is powerful, most world leaders have stayed silent. But if we raise our voices now, we'll shine an international spotlight on the issue that will be impossible to ignore.

Will you take 2 minutes to add your voice to our urgent call? We'll deliver the petition to Russian embassies around the world and push the issue to the top of the international agenda:

If the law passes this week in St. Petersburg, it could quickly lead to a crushing of freedoms throughout all of Russia. Moscow, the largest city in the country, already said they were looking into passing the same law - paving the way for officials to make it national. Our friends in Russia believe that stopping the bill in St. Petersburg can derail the plan to take this law nationwide. Many around the world have been reluctant to criticize the ruling party led by President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin, but their party appointed both the mayors of Moscow and St. Petersburg and they've gone on record in support of the proposed laws.

Russia is already a dangerous place to be out and open as an lesbian, gay, bi or trans (LGBT) person. Courageous pride marchers were brutally attacked and detained by Moscow police last summer - for the simple act of holding their heads up high in public. If this bill passes, even the small victories that the LGBT movement in Russia has won will be wiped out - and pride marches, cultural festivals, and even the distribution of leaflets in the streets will be considered illegal.

Moments like this highlight exactly why we launched All Out just under a year ago: to stand with our friends around the world when they’re under attack, and to keep opportunistic governments from playing politics with fundamental rights. Please sign this urgent call, share it with your friends, and stand in solidarity with our brave friends in Russia - Coming Out, Side by Side LGBT Film Festival, and the Russian LGBT-Network - who are refusing to be silenced:

All the best and All Out,

Andre, Emmy, Erika, Flavia, Guillaume, Jeremy, Joseph, Nita, Oli, Tile, Wesley and the rest of the team at All Out


Russian lawmakers back fines for gay 'propaganda'

Russian's protest: detained by police

Tolerance, not gay bans

Russia's war against rainbows

Russia’s gays under attack as MPs back fines for ‘gay promotion’

All Out is bringing people together in every corner of the planet and of every identity - lesbian, gay, straight, transgender and all that’s between and beyond - to build a world in which everyone can live freely and be embraced for who they are.

Our mailing address is:

Purpose Foundation

224 Centre St

New York, NY 10013

Copyright © 2011, All rights reserved.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Leafleting in Soho for November 30th

I am off this evening to leaflet the LGBT venues and meeting places in Soho with 'Queers Against the Cuts' and South East Region of the TUC LGBT Group to encourage members of the LGBT community to come out and support the strike and rally on November 30th being called by the TUC and many of the anti-cuts groups. LGBT organisations are being decimated by the cuts and, despite a great deal of propaganda and spin about the pink pound, many LGBT people are also vulnerable to these savage cuts, particularly young people and disabled people along with those working in the public and voluntary sectors - not to mention the many young homeless and unemployed LGBT Londoners.

The struggle on November 30th is a struggle for all of those marginalised and attacked by this government and its supporters in the right wing press. The struggle for one is the struggle for all.

Appeal Court judge slams "murky dealings" in Southwark

I have had not had a chance to post this as I have been busy with a myriad of things but here is a press release that was issued by my friend Raymond Stevenson at the end of last month, following his unsuccessful attempt to have his case against Southwark Council heard by the Court of Appeal. Raymond was the proprietor of the cutting edge nightclub 'Imperial Gardens' in Camberwell. I posted about this some months ago following the failure of his appeal against Southwark Council in the High Court last year - which I attended as an observer. Raymond was also a campaigner for the rights of BMER people and particularly for small black and minority owned businesses in Southwark. I supported him in his campaign in Southwark some years ago and in the 2006 local elections in Southwark, he gave me his endorsement as someone who supported the anti-racism campaign when I stood as a candidate in Camberwell Green ward, where I live.

Raymond's story is in this week's issue of 'Private Eye' magazine in the appropriately named 'rotten boroughs' section and he and his business partner Lucilla Hilton, continue to run a successful recording studio and agency for up and coming young black talent in Camberwell. Raymond was effectively shafted by both Labour and Lib Dem administrations in Southwark, and the behaviour of some council officers was deeply suspicious. It is clear that there are still many questions to be answered and the Appeal Court judge is clearly sympathetic to his case. I wish him luck with his brave and tenacious campaign for justice stretching over nearly a decade now, where many others would have given up.


Dated: 31.10.11
Appeal judge slams council’s ‘murky dealings’
Southwark Council ‘s “exceptionally murky dealings” have been slated by an appeal court judge.

Lord Justice Thomas was giving judgment in a case brought by the former owners of the Imperial Gardens nightclub in Camberwell, Raymond Stevenson and Lucia Hinton. It followed their high court action seeking damages for misfeasance by the council, following alleged corruption by a former planning manager.

Lord Thomas said it “involves what can only be described – and I use these words deliberately – exceptionally murky dealings in the London Borough of Southwark. I am satisfied this is a case where there would have been very, very strong evidence of mal-administration. The question is: does what happened amount to misfeasance?
“The murkiness arises from the conduct of Mr [Mark] Dennett [former area planning manager].” Outlining the background, where a planning application by Fairview Home s for a residential development was within three metres of the nightclub, Lord Thomas said he thought it was obvious that it would be incompatible.

He also said it was quite clear that no steps were taken to involve the claimants in the planning application, believing that “one of the obvious possible explanations is ... corruption”.

However, referring to the way the high court case was conducted, Lord Justice Thomas said that despite the council’s “distinct murkiness” the claimants “have to show that the action of Mr Dennett in not putting the file before the committee was deliberate misfeasance. The judge found against them on that and the allegation of corruption is disavowed.”

His lordship said he could not allow the appeal because of the findings made by the high court judge. However, he made the decision “with considerable reluctance, and underlining the fact that there appears to be a very strong case of mal-administration against the London Borough of Southwark”.
Appeals must be based on points of law, and not a re-examination of facts already decided by the trial judge. However, there was no mention on the £500,000 offer made by former council leader Nick Stanton, despite two council representatives confirming that it was made in their presence. Only Stanton said it had not occurred.

Raymond Stevenson commented following the judgment (full copy attached) that Lord Thomas’s views about Southwark were damning. “In particular, it shows the weakness of the decision by the local government ombudsman in accepting the council’s arguments that the flats would have been given permission had all the information been available. Lord Justice Thomas refuted that assertion.”

Stevenson believes that “numerous council officers attempted to mask their behavior in a deliberate and dishonest way”. He also compared his case with Southwark’s recent decision not to approve an application for flats to be built 60 metres from the Ministry of Sound nightclub at Elephant & Castle.

“Even though we believe the MOS outcome is correct, what is clearly of concern is that black businesses are not afforded the same protection. Who are we to suggest that Southwark Council only considers businesses relevant if they are run by white corporations with deep pockets?”

He also recalled that Lord Herman Ouseley’s inquiry in 2005 highlighted discriminative treatment by the council in regard to Imperial Gardens. “We have always believed that part of the council’s motivation for treating us this way was due to its consistent discrimination against black businesses in the borough.”

Stevenson also referred to his company’s huge success in producing the anti-gun crime film Don’t Trigger for the Home Office, and in developing the talent of singer Jessie J. He believes that had Imperial Gardens continued as a talent factory, many more young people could have found fame and fortune.

For further information: 0207 701 9950/ 07956101387

Friday, 11 November 2011

Patients Forum for the London Ambulance Service - Equality Delivery Systems for the NHS in London

I missed last month's meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum as I was on holiday in the US and it was on the subject of Healthwatch, the new bodies being set up to replace LINKs (Local Involvement Networks) which are the principal bodies for public and patient involvement in the NHS. This month we are looking at the issue of equalities - an issue which has been close to the Forum for a very long time - and which regular readers of this blog will know has caused some friction in the past with the London Ambulance Service. The Forum continues to push hard for an improvement in the represention of BME workers in the LAS, particularly among front line staff - paramedics etc. The main presentation at Monday night's meeting will be by Mary Clarke, one of the people leading the equalities team in the NHS in London. This is a public meeting and I will be chairing it.

Mary Clarke CBE, Associate Chief Nurse and Lead for Equalities NHS London

Equality Delivery Systems for NHS London - Goals and Outcomes

Monday, November 14th 5.30pm to 7.30pm
London Ambulance Service HQ Conference Room
220 Waterloo Road, London SE1

Refresments available
BSL Signers will be available
Nearest Tube: Waterloo     Nearest Rail: Waterloo East

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Feed the World without destroying the planet - Socialist Resistance/Green Left Seminar

Feed the world without destroying the planet

Saturday 12 November, University of London Union, Malet Street

Seminar organised by Socialist Resistance and Green Left


10.30 Registration

11.00-1.30 Introductory plenary with Graciela Romero (War on Want), Rehad Desai (South African Climate activist), Pierre Rousset (NPA, European and Asian Socialist Forums)

Maria Pampilo (Conzarrd, Philippines) Room 3E

1.30-2.30 Lunch

2.30-4.00 Workshops

Land Rights not Land Grabs Deepak Rughani (Biofuelwatch), Pierre Rousset Room 3E

Women and Food Sovereignty Maria Pampilo, Terry Conway (Socialist Resistance) Room 2A

Agribusiness and the supermarkets Derek Wall (Green Left) Room 2B

Climate Change and Food Sovereignty Room 2B Rehad Desai , Jamie Moloney (Socialist Resistance) Room 2C

4.00 Final Plenary Derek Wall, Terry Conway, Maria Pampilo Room 2E

Monday, 7 November 2011

You have the prisons and the newspapers - Eisler Song

The wonderful Nina Hagen sings the lyrics of Brecht and the music of Hans Eisler. A song for our times. The lyrics state that the poweful have prisons, press, police etc but what good will it do them in the end? An ode for all those protesting for justice against power and wealth.

Euro Chaos and the Crisis of Capitalism

After witnessing the failed G20 Summit in Cannes and the barefaced way in which Merkel and Sarkozy bullied the Greek Prime Minister in submission,when he had the temerity to suggest that the Greek people might have the democratic wish to vote on a package which will saddle them with debt for decades to come - here is the economist Leo Panitch on the historical and economic significance of what is happening in  the Eurozone and in the EU.

Pannitch's views are sobering enough but are reinforced by a report that the Far Right is growing across Europe. Dangerous and challenging times for the Left and the progressive movement in Europe.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Letter in Friday's Guardian about the BBC's treatment of welfare issues

We are outraged that the BBC is joining the propaganda war aimed at destroying the welfare state, Britain's most civilised and civilising legacy (Last night's TV, G2, 28 October). In the 1940s, after years of depression and slaughter, working-class people who had sacrificed so much felt entitled to a life without the constant threat of war and poverty. Family allowance, income support, unemployment and housing benefits, disability benefits, a state pension, the NHS and free education have assumed that everyone contributed and deserved to be looked after "from the cradle to the grave".

Entitlement fostered not only dignity and respect, but decent wages and working conditions for those in work. Since 1979, Thatcher's love for the free market and her hatred for "the culture of entitlement" has determined social policy. We are now all expected to chase nonexistent jobs or work for our benefits, ie £1.63 an hour; sick and disabled people are found "fit for work" even despite terminal illnesses; older people have had their pensions postponed because living "too long" is a crisis; the vital work of mothers and other carers is disregarded and dismissed. The minimum wage is bypassed and we all stand to lose. Why should corporations pay a living wage if they can get claimants and prisoners to work without one?

We are expected to compete with Chinese workers, 600,000 of whom drop dead from overwork every year. Is that what we should aspire to? The Chinese, like the rest of us, are demanding better wages and working conditions – and the welfare state is part of that. Haven't they noticed people are getting together internationally to raise everyone's standards, not to lower them? The fight is on for the society Thatcher said did not exist.

Selma James Global Women's Strike

John McDonnell, MP

Mark Serwotka General secretary, PCS

Bob Crow General secretary, RMT

Nina López Legal Action for Women

Kim Sparrow Single Mothers' Self-Defence

Claire Glasman WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)

Marie Lynam Kilburn Unemployed Workers Group

Prof Peter Beresford Chair, Shaping Our Lives

Noel Lynch Chair, London Green Party

Dave Skull Mad Pride

Johnny Void Benefit Claimants Fightback

Sam Weinstein Member of Utility Workers Union of America

Alan Wheatley Green Party Trade Union Group

Joanna Long Boycott Workfare

Anne-Marie O'Reilly London Coalition Against Poverty

Major Irish comedian comes out on TV

Oliver Callan, satirist and impersonator, facing charges of homophobia, comes out on Irish national television and does a wonderful impression of the Irish presidential candidate, Senator David Norris. Congrats to Oliver for coming out publicly and it shows the way that LGBT issues can now be addressed openly in modern Ireland.

Monday, 24 October 2011

I Am Not Moving - An Occupy Walll St Remix

Here YouTube filmmaker Corey Ogilvie combines news footage of Obama Administration officials praising the Arab Spring uprisings (in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt) with citizen-shot video of police in New York City brutally attacking Occupy Wall Street demonstrators. The juxtaposition provides an instant, powerful and striking indictment of the deep hypocrisy in the words of both Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the President of the United States. Obama Administration officials might try taking their own advice once in a while.

The Irish Post rises again

Just when it seemed that the Irish Post, the long time newspaper for the Irish community living in England, Wales and Scotland was down and out, news has arrived that it has been given a new lease of life. The owner of Loot magazine has stepped in and saved it. Recognition must be given to the efforts of the campaigning journalist Paul Donovan, who writes for the Post, as well as a number of MPs and others who raised an Early Day Motion on the issue and also established a campaign group. My fellow Green and candidate for the London Assembly, Noel Lynch, also played a role in the campaign.

The return of The Post will be welcomed by the Irish community in Britaiin, which still remains one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Britain, and particularly in London.

Friday, 23 September 2011

London Ambulance Service Patients Forum News

Last week, hot off the train from the Green Party conference in Sheffield, I arrived at the monthly public meeting of the LAS Patients Forum in the London Ambulance Service HQ in Waterloo. We had a very interesting presentation from Jason Killens of the LAS on how the LAS has responded to the recommendations of the 7/7 Inquest on the London bombings. We also had a presentation from Steve West of the Association of Chief Executives of Ambulance Services on proposals to change the prioritisation of calls to ambulance services. We are responding to this as a Forum.

At the AGM which followed the meeting I was re-elected Chair of the Forum for another year, so am now entering my second year as Chair of the Forum. This month is a very busy time for the Forum with the AGM of the London Ambulance Service in Guy's Hospital next Tuesday afternoon and also another meeting of the LAS Trust Board on the same morning. Unfortunately I am going to miss both as I am going away on holiday from next Monday for 3 weeks and will be out of the country.

On the subject of the LAS Trust Board, there was good news at last month's Board meeting that the Trust has a new Non-Executive Director, Murziline Parchment, who is a well known black lawyer and activist who used to work for Ken Livingstone's administration and is now also an adviser to Lutfur Rahman, the Mayor of Tower Hamlets. The Patients Forum has welcomed Ms Parchment's appointment and is very happy to see a representative of London's black and minority ethnic community on the Board of the LAS. The Forum hopes to meet Ms Parchment at some stage in the near future.

The AGM of the LAS is a public meeting and is always interesting to find out what the LAS has been doing over the last year - always an interesting account for probably the world's largest ambulance service.

Here is the agenda for the AGM and I hope that turnout is good - many Forum members will be there. I am also going to miss next month's Patients Forum meeting on October 10th which will be on the subject of mental health - a very important issue in London for the ambulance service.




2.00pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2011 Robens Suite, 29th Floor, Guys Tower, Guys Hospital,
London SE1 9RT


1. Apologies for absence.

2. Minutes of the Annual Public Meeting held on 28th

September 2010

3. Welcome from Richard Hunt CBE, Chairman of the

London Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

4. The 2010/11 Annual Report will be presented by

Peter Bradley, Chief Executive of the London

Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

5. Presentation of the 2010/11 Annual Accounts by

Michael Dinan, Director of Finance of the London

Ambulance Service NHS Trust.

6. Presentation of the 2010/11 Quality Account by

Steve Lennox, Director of Health Promotion & Quality

of the London Ambulance Service.

7. Questions from members of the public.

The meeting will formally close at 3.30 pm

Executive Office


220 Waterloo Road



September 2011

We are writing to invite you to our Annual Public Meeting at 2.00pm on Tuesday, 27th September 2011, in the Robens Suite, 29th Floor, Guys Tower, Guys Hospital, London SE1 9RT.

At the Annual Public meeting, members of the Trust Board will provide an overview of the year and present the accounts and there will be an opportunity for those attending to ask questions of, and share their views with, the Trust Board. The 2010/11 Annual Report is available at: ..

Light refreshments (tea, coffee and biscuits) will be served from 1.30pm and the Annual Public Meeting will commence at 2.00pm and is expected to finish by 3.30pm. A map is attached for your convenience. The nearest British Rail and underground station is London Bridge.

We do hope you will be able to join us.

Yours sincerely

Richard Hunt


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Demonstrating for Palestine last night outside Downing Street

Photos from last night's demo in support of the recogntion of Palestine outside Downing St. Several Greens, including Shahrar Ali, Peter Tatchell and I were present and the meeting was addressed by, among others, the Palestinian Ambassador to the UK, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and representatives of UNITE and UNISON.

The orthodox Jews who were with us were the recipients of some real abuse from those attending the nearby pro-Israel demo but stood their ground. The meeting was also told that the Labour Party had now voted to recognise the state of Palestine.

The vote in the UN is tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

A new era opens in the Middle East - Palestine rises from the ashes.

Tomorrow  night I will be demonstrating outside Downing Street along with Stop the War Coalition for the recognition of the state of Palestine. This is long overdue and whatever happens at the UN, as the excellent Robert Fisk points out in this article, everything is changed in the Middle East. Israel, by it intransigence and continuing setttlement policy, has lost the support of much of the world. The stock of the Palestinians by contrast is rising. Long live a free and independent Palestine!

Friday, 16 September 2011

The costs of the Afghan War ten years on

I was staffing the Stop the War Coalition stall at the Green Party conference last Saturday but there were no motions or fringes at this conference about the wars which Britain is currently involved in, unlike the spring conference in Cardiff. However, as this brilliant film points out, it is essential to view these costs in the light of the massive cuts being experienced by some of the most vulnerable people in the UK and the destruction of the public services and growing unemployment.

I hope that as many people as possible will turn out to protest against this war and call for its end on October 8th in London.

Monday, 5 September 2011

'They Shall Not Pass' - A poem against Fascism and the EDL

I was unable to go to the anti-Fascist demo on Saturday when the EDL threatened to try and march through Tower Hamlets. Friends of mine were there and stated that the EDL turnout was quite low and that they were heavily outnumbered by anti-Fascists. All of this brings back memories of the the battle for Cable Street in the 30s and the defeat of Moseley's Blackshirts by the people of the East End, many of whom were Jewish.

The poet Michael Rosen read his poem about this at the rally on Saturday and it is a poweful piece drawing the parallels with the rise of Fascism then and now and the spirit of resistance to it.

Friday, 2 September 2011

The death of the Irish Post

One of the main papers of the Irish in Britain, the Irish Post, has recently closed down. This article by Paul O’Donovan is appearing in today’s Press Gazette. I agree with the importance of the points raised. I published articles in the paper about the need to vote against the BNP when I was a European election candidate in 2009 and also more recently on other issues when I was a general election candidate in Vauxhall.

Can the Irish Post be saved?

It is almost 18 months to the day since the great and the good of the Irish community sat down for a celebratory meal to mark the 40th anniversary of the Irish Post. Now,Thomas Crosbie Holdings, the owners of the Irish Post, have announced that it will cease trading, with the loss of 12 jobs. So what went wrong?

The Irish Post was founded in 1970 by journalist Breandan MacLua and accountant Tony Beatty. It was the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland which had by then extended to Britain. Irish living in England, Scotland and Wales felt part of a suspect community, every time a bomb went off in Britain eyes seemed to turn to those people of Irish descent, staffing the hospitals, working in the schools and building the roads. The British establishment media ran government propaganda about the Troubles, two feuding tribes with the army trying to keep the peace between them. The Irish community needed a voice.

It was the Irish Post that came to provide that voice under the stewardship of Brendan MacLua and later editor Donal Mooney. The staff worked hard to bring out a high quality product that gave the Irish a voice. It told the truth of what was going on in the north of Ireland and campaigned relentlessly on injustices such as the Birmingham Six, Judy Ward and the Guildford Four. Later it played a significant role in bringing to wider attention cases like those of John Mathews, who would otherwise have become the new miscarriage of justice victims. The paper also covered other aspects of the community, the cultural side with events like Irish dance,the language, poetry and sport. There were other needs like those of the elderly, the homeless and prisoners. The Irish were strong in the trade union and labour movements - this was reflected in the paper. The Irish Post worked, it performed a public service and turned a healthy profit.

The paper continued to prosper. Somewhat ironically it was the ending of the Troubles that spelled some problems. The Troubles meant that events in the north of Ireland dominated much of the national news agenda over 30 years.

They transported what was otherwise, for the British media, a regional backwater to become the dominant national news story. As peace took hold, news from the north subsided to regional status as far as the national media were concerned. It also provided less of a focus for the Irish Post.

The paper adjusted covering much news from the Republic, as well as focusing on more peaceful matters in Britain. The paper continued to campaign, covering the deaths of Irish prisoners in Brixton prison and surprisingly for some the abuse of British soldiers in barracks. The deaths at Deepcut and other barracks featured early in the pages of the paper.

The readership, though ageing, remained loyal. Executives at the paper looked to draw in the new generation of younger Irish emigrants coming to work in Britain. This was a difficult ground for the Irish Post to crack, it did not seem a natural buy for this computer literate generation.

A big break came with Ken Livingstone's election as Mayor of London.

Livingstone had always been loyal to the Irish community, playing his own part in the past at exposing injustices. So when elected, he introduced the St Patrick's Day parade in London. The Irish Post under new editor Norah Casey became a key player, gaining much needed public profile. The event has grown and the Irish Post prospered from the association.

The ownership of the paper has changed hands twice, first being bought by Jefferson Smurfitt and then by Thomas Crosbie Holdings for £1.3 million in 2003. Sadly, sales have been on the decline, going from around 30,000 a decade ago to around 17,000 today.

The paper though has continued to serve the community, providing a cohesion and space for its issues. The paper championed the Federation of Irish Societies (FIS) campaign to get the Irish to register for the census earlier this year. A couple of years ago the paper gave much coverage to the dangers to the Irish of proposals effecting British citizenship. The paper has provided one of the few fair voices on the plight of Irish travellers and prisoners.

There have been problems. There has been a tendency at time to duplicate the role of papers like the Irish Times and Independent, producing Irish news for the Irish in Britain. Why would they buy the Post to get what was available elsewhere, the niche always has to be the affairs of the Irish in Britain and how they relate to the mother country.

The steady hand of a McLua or Mooney has clearly been seen lacking in coverage of issues like the Catholic Church and the relationship with the British Crown. There seems to be something of an identity crisis at the paper regarding these issues, but then that maybe true of the Irish generally so in a sense again the paper is only reflecting its constituency.

What is certain is that there should be a future for the newspaper. There would be some restructuring required, moving out of the expensive rented accommodation in Hammersmith to a more humble abode. Maybe some sharing of other functions with similar players in the field. There will also need to be a recognition of who the readership are and what the paper is for. The readership is ageing but surely the money of a 65 year old is just as good as that of the 25 year old?

A group led by the Federation of Irish Societies and made up of Irish Post management and staff members and supporters in the wider Irish community is now seeking to save the paper. “The Federation of Irish Societies will do all we can to defend our community interest in the Irish Post; contributing to drawing up a realistic rescue plan and seek potential backers from the business community. In this, we will work with and seek support from the Irish Embassy, members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain and politicians throughout the Irish Diaspora,” said Jennie McShannon, chief executive of the Irish Post.

The loss of the Irish Post would represent a sad day. The Irish make up the second largest ethnic minority group in the UK today, and as the past teaches they need a voice for their issues. Let’s hope that the ongoing effort to save this once great institution prove successful so that that voice is not lost forever.

* For more information see

Thursday, 1 September 2011

The Trial of Andrew Lansley

An important demonstration coming up on Wednesday next to defend the NHS and stop the wholesale privatisatio of one of the UK's most loved public services. "24 hours to save the NHS" - remember that slogan in the 1997 election which brought New Labour and Blair to power. The process of piecemeal privatisation continued under Labour and now the Tories intend to deliver the coup de grace. Recent legal opinion from 38 degrees shows that there will be no impediment to wholesale privatisation under the terms of this Bill. I will be there and hope many others will be too. The protest is being badged as 'The trial of Andrew Lansley'.

Wednesday 7thSeptember

Action to mark the Third Reading of the Health & Social Care Bill.

6.30 pm Demonstration assembling at St Thomas’ Hospital; Called by UNITE the Union, KONP, Health Workers Network, Right to Work

9.30 pm Torchlight vigil for the NHS at Houses of Parliament (More information at the ‘Join the vigil for the NHS’ website.) Called by UNISON and the TUC.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Green Party Trade Union Group Fundraising Quiz this Wednesday


GPTU Group are hosting a fundraising quiz on this coming Wednesday, August 31st. 7.30pm at Development House, Leonard Street (next to Old Street Tube) Admission £5 (£3 benefits etc). Expect a great night with fascinating, unusual and amusing questions. It is also the birthday of a prominent GPTU activist, so expect several toasts:-) By-the-way, you have to bring your own drink (there is an off-license by the tube - exit 4)

Ring quizmaster, Noel Lynch, for further details 07961 44 1722.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

US hypocrisy over Libya and the role of NATO in Libya

Have not blogged for a week, having been in Dublin and busy seeing family and friends there, plus being very busy at work on my return. However, like everyone else I have been following events in Libya closely since the weekend. As the Green Party's representative on Stop the War Coalition, I stand by the statement which the Coalition released on Libya a few days ago.

I also totally agree with the excellent Seamus Milne's article in the Guardian yesterday re the significance of the NATO involvement in Libya.

And today comes some fascinating news from the ever reliable Wikileaks around the shenanigans of the warmongering Senator Mc Cain and his links with the Libyan regime. I am sure that the spooks from CIA and MI5 will be busily shredding any incriminating documents found in the Gaddafi compounds.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Off to Dublin!

I am tryng to get unfinished business completed in the middle of also working this week as I am off to Dublin tomorrow for a few days. I wrote a short article today for 'The Watermelon' the newsletter of Green Left which will be available at the Green Party conference in Sheffield next month. I also completed some fliers for the next meeting of the London Ambulance Service Patients Forum which will meet on September 12th and will be discussing how the London Ambulance Service has responded to the recommendations of the 7/7 bombing inquest.

I also met Chris Levick from the Small Parties Unit of the Westminster Fund for Democracy on Monday to discuss progressing the Moldova project which we kicked off with our visit to Moldova in late June. We are now looking for several Green Party councillors to travel to Moldova over the next few months to meet elected Green councillors there. And I also attended the London Federation of Green Parties meeting on Monday night where I was re-elected as the party's delegate to the Stop the War Coalition and thanked for my efforts there over the last two years.

I am off to Dublin for a few days to visit my brothers and see some of my good friends there. It is the city of my birth and where I spent most of the first 25 years of my life and I always enjoying returning there. I am going to go and visit a small museum in Dublin Castle which I have not yet managed to get to - the Irish Police Museum, which recounts the history of both the first police force in the world, the RIC (Royal Irish Constabulary) formed in 1822 as a paramilitary police force to control the restive Irish and the police force of the new independent Ireland, formed in 1922, where my grand uncle was one of the first commanders.

I am also hoping to go to a theatrical performance in the Irish Writers Centre based around the wit of Dublin writers from Shaw to Beckett. The spirit and wit of Dublin is always infectious and " the gift of the gab"as the Irish call it, is never in short supply.

For a feel of the city's spirit here are 'The Dubliners' with a classic Dublin ballad 'Finnegan's Wake'. Looking forward to sampling the Guinness and the craic!

Monday, 15 August 2011

ATOS Medical Services - A Dickensian Tale

The news that ATOS Medical Services doctors are threatened with being struck off by the General Medical Council should surprise nobody. Disabled people and disability organisations have for some time being warning about this organisation and the draconian powers, not to mention the vast amounts of money, which  it has been handed by this government over the lives of disabled people. It would be interesting to find out if it is a donor to the Conservative party.

It is already carrying out appalling tests on all those people living on Incapacity Benefit and there have been lurid headlines in the tabloids trumpeting the fact that their tests have found a large percentage of those being put throught the process ineligible. Terms such as "workshy" and "scroungers" have been bandied about with callous and wanton abandon. The next group of people to be handed over to the tender mercies of this piratical outfit are those on Disability Living Allowance - they will be handed over to ATOS in 2013, after which we can expect thousands more disabled people to be thrown into penury and more headlines screaming about "benefit cheats" etc.

Truly it is worth reflecting in this the year of the bicentenary of the birth of that great writer and humanist, Charles Dickens, that the same turgid and loathsome views which he used his pen and all his wit to protest against, are still abroad and nowhere more than in the minds of members of the current government such as Ian Duncan Smith. What would the great scribe have thought of those intellectual descendants of Mr Bumble and Uriah Heep? The poor must be made to suffer and the indigent and disabled should go to their beds at night feeling crushed and in a constant state of fear and hysteria about their future. Such is the world being planned for us by these sanctimonious politicians and their Blue Labour counterparts. Was there ever a more obnoxious and festering hypocrite as James Purnell the architect of the Welfare Reform Bill who now masquerades as a social reformer. Many of these characters have truly Victorian attributes and Dickens would have seen through them in a flash.

As Mr Bumble, the Parish Beadle says in Oliver Twist:

""Out-of-door relief, properly managed,-- properly managed, ma’am,-- is the porochial safe-guard. The great principle of out-of-door relief is to give the paupers exactly what they don’t want, and then they get tired of coming."
A quote which would fit snugly with the attitudes of Messrs Duncan Smith and Osborne regarding the poor and disabled in this country.

Friday, 12 August 2011

A profoundly moving play - 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane'

I firmly believe that those involved in politics or in any attempt to change society should always have a connection to culture. In my case I have tried my hand at poetry and gave several public poetry readings in my younger days. I also tried writing plays and had a one act play performed at a theatre in London. Being a Dubliner I also have always had a strong connection with literature and the theatre. Dublin is after all the city of Joyce, Shaw, Wilde and Beckett as well as a host of other writers.

I had wanted for some time to see the Irish writer Martin Mc Donagh's play 'The Beauty Queen of Leenane' which is currently running at the Young Vic theatre in London. Last year I tried for tickets but all performances were booked out. The play has already toured Broadway, London and, of course, the main theatres in Ireland such as the Abbey (Ireland's national theatre) in Dublin. Everywhere it has received rave reviews and I was really desperate to see it. As luck would have it the charity I work for received some free tickets for carers and a trip to the Young Vic was organised. At the last minute some tickets were left free and I was able to go and see the play, which I did on Wednesday.

It was appropriate that the carers group went to see the play for the play deals essentially with the role of a carer and her mother. The daughter (who is the beauty queen) and her mother live in a remote rural area of Connemara on the west coast of Ireland. I would imagine that the play is set in the 1980s for it seems an Ireland which predates the Celtic Tiger years. The mother who claims to be ill and unable to look after herself is scheming, selfish and manipulative and is one of the most unsympathetic characters imaginable. The daughter who is already 40 sees herself trapped forever alone with her mother with no emotional life outside of this smothering relationship. Suddenly a means of escape appears in the person of neighbour's son who is working on the building sites in London but comes back to the village on holiday. The play revolves around the mother's attempt to smash the relationship and to ensure that the daughter will remain with her until her death.

But the play also deals with issues common to many Irish writers and which still impinge deeply on the consciousness and memory of Irish people. These include emigration and social isolation in the new country, images of Britain and America, the grinding loneliness and isolation in rural areas and the innate conservatism, along with expectations on daughters especially to care for elderly parents, as well as mental illness which often results from such conditions. All of these are dealt with in both a profoundly moving as well as a somtimes comical manner and there are some great one liners and ripostes in the play. Not for nothing has this been described as one of the best contemporary Irish plays. The ending is both shocking and heart rending and I would recommend anyone who can, particularly anyone with an interest in Ireland, to go and see it.

I include here a trailer for the play from a production at the Lyceum Theater in Edinburgh. The Young Vic production has a different cast and the mother is played by the fantastic actress, Rosaleen Linehan.