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.