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.