Wednesday, 25 April 2018

John Walker challenges Les May's analysis


I defer to nobody in my admiration for your dogged and forensic analysis of Danczuk and his book. Were others more aware of it, we could have been spared the adulation that he received as he dragged his collecting tin around TV studios and newspaper offices promoting both it and himself.

However, I would disagree with your analysis in this article - and, for once, think that Danczuk called it right about the role of prominent Liberals, nationally and locally - in their silence over the matters that the Child Abuse inquiry examined.  Indeed, the inquiry itself was critical of the role of later LibDem MP Paul Rowen, when he was leader of Rochdale council.

Where I think Danczuk hit the nail on the head, in particular, is about David (now Lord) Steel.

Steel was leader of the Liberal Party at the time RAP published its allegations about Smith in May 1979.  We (I was co-editor of the paper), on legal advice, wrote to Steel for his comments on the story, prior to publication.  We published the response of his press secretary - 'nothing much to see here - move on' was a paraphrase of that response.

I have challenged Steel about this publicly, over recent years - on the airwaves (World At One) and in print (Private Eye).  His responses have wavered between: 'I didn't know', to 'nobody else took the matter up, so it couldn't have been important', to it 'it was just tittle tattle that didn't merit investigation'.

Well, clearly all three of those explanations can't be right.

At the time RAP published the story, the Liberals former leader Jeremy Thorpe was facing trial on conspiracy to murder (a docu-drama on this will be shown by the BBC soon), and another of the handful of Liberal MPs (Peter Bessel) was in severe financial and other difficulties, on both sides of the Atlantic, that eventually caused him to stand down from Parliament.  There was not a national political journalist in Westminster who was not aware of the RAP story.

It is inconceivable that the leader of a party with only a dozen or so MPs, with two of them up to their neck in serious trouble would not have taken rumours about a third very seriously and attempted to establish what was going on.  Either that, or Steel was a seriously deficient party leader - and few people have accused him of that.

Two postumous biographies of Jeremy Thorpe have made it very clear that Thorpe's solicitor was very aware of the RAP/Smith story and were fearful that it would adversely impact on their client at his trial.  They went to considerable ends to ensure that Fleet Street did not touch the story - including using the considerable weight and influence of Harold Wilson's then 'Lord - fixit' Arnold Goodman to keep the papers quiet.

So in in a calculated gamble - Steel just braved it out.  Nobody picked up the story, and his party was saved further embarrassment.

One result of no action being taken against Smith is that others with deviant interests in under age boys would have been emboldend to think that they too could get away with inappropriate behaviour. The terrible trail of abuse at Knowl View is one possible outcome.

To return to David Steel. The Child Abuse inquiry is critical of the process by which Smith was knighted in 1988, and is critical of Thatcher (the awarding Prime Minister), and the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee - PHSC - (the body responsible for vetting the appropriateness of nominees)for allowing his name to go forward to the queen, to appoint.

I have written elsewhere ('The Queen Has Been Pleased - 500 years of corruption in the British Honours System' - Secker and Warburg 1986) of the supine, establishment white-washing nature of the Committee.  So their turning a blind eye to the Smith knighthood was simply par for the course for them at the time.

The Child Abuse Inquiry rather missed the point about Smith's knighthood.  The nomination for a political honour - for that is what it was - would have had to have come from the recipient's party leader. In this case - David Steel. Despite what was known in the Liberal Party about Smith and Cambridge House - Steel was still prepared to nominate Smith.  The inquiry's opprobrium about Smith's knighthood should have been directed at Steel and not Thatcher or the PHSC.

Why should Steel have nominated Smith at that time, for that award? Well, his party was in a delicate stage of negotiations with the SDP about a merger - Smith was always a loud mouthed maverick.  The offer and award of a knighthood could be used to shut him up and get one potential obstacle our of the way for Steel, as he sought to cement the merger.  And as we know: Smith got his knighthood, his silence was achieved and the Liberal Democratic Party was born.

David Steel was the teflon man as far as the Child Abuse Inquiry was concerned - not a witness, nor a feature of its report.

I think the report had many deficiencies - and the void around Steel was one of them.

For once - I agree with Danczuk on the Liberals escaping blame. But I won't be taking up his offer of a drink, to celebrate!

John Walker:  former joint editor of Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP)

Same Old Danczuk!

by Les May

A week ago in an article for Northern Voices, I wrote:

OSTENSIBLY Simon Danczuk’s 2014 book ‘Smile for the Camera’ is about the sexual peccadillos of his predecessor Cyril Smith. But a careful reading shows that the intent was to so closely associate Smith’s antics with the Liberal-Democrats that the party became permanently unelectable in Rochdale so securing a safe Labour seat for Danczuk for as long as he wanted it.’

A recently ‘leaked’ letter from Danczuk to the Chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) tends to confirm my view.  Danczuk wrote:

Finally, I would like to point out that both local and national Liberal Democrat activists/representatives would have been even more aware of many of the issues regarding Cyril Smith though your inquiry appears, so far, to have been quite limited in regard to investigating such matters.  I was wholly convinced that key Liberal figures were well aware of Cyril Smith’s abuse but chose to do nothing. Perhaps this is something that deserves more attention.

This is typical Danczuk.  As with his assertions in the same letter regarding whether Richard Farnell knew about the unsavoury goings on at Knowl View it represents only Danczuk’s opinion.  Just when did his conversations with Farnell about abuse at Knowl View take place?  Were they after November 2012?   If they were then should we not ask whether Danczuk only found out about Knowl View after he was contacted by someone who had been hawking around his story about a ‘cover up’ for years and had suddenly discovered someone to believe him?   As always he offers us no facts only vague generalisations implying that Farnell knew about Knowl View when what was actually commonly spoken of was Cyril Smith’s antics at Cambridge House.

I find Danczuk claim that he ‘thoroughly examined what went on at Knowl View as part of my research for the bookdifficult to take seriously, because the book is full of assertions made without evidence and when asked in October 2016 to provide real evidence he could not do so.

As for his attempts to smear Jim Dobbin with, Relatively new to this town, I found these attempts to cover-up abuse very strange.  I was puzzled as to why local politicians like Jim [Dobbin], but also others, had not raised concerns when they had the power to do so.   At an appropriate time, I did put on record the abuse that Cyril and others committed.’  I find them beneath contempt because Danczuk’s idea of ‘an appropriate time’ was two years after Cyril Smith died, 33 years after his behaviour had been reported in Rochdale’s Alternative Paper (RAP) and a year after Danczuk had applauded enthusiastically at the unveiling of a Blue Plaque to him in 2011As for ‘the others’ we are still waiting.

If asked to choose between believing Richard Farnell’s version of what he knew about Knowl View and believing what Simon Danczuk’s says he knew, I’d believe Farnell every time.

If you want to know why follow the links below.

Disgraced Danczuk Damns ex-Crony Farnell

IN a 'leaked' letter on Rochdale Online website it was revealed last weekend that the disgraced former MP for Rochdale, Simon Danczuk, had earlier told the Chairwoman of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) Prof. Alexis Jay, OBE, that he believed it to be 'inconceivable that Councillor Richard Farnell was not aware of what went on at Knowl View'.

Mr Danczuk wrote:  'The point here is that Councillor Richard Farnell has spent a considerable amount of his life in Rochdale and has been deeply involved in the Labour Party for many years, it would have been impossible for him not to have heard the rumours and accusations about Knowl View.'

Danczuk added:  'Also, Councillor Farnell is a very "hands on" leader and any of his colleagues would know that he would expect to be told if there was a problem, or there would have been adverse consequences for them for not having told him.'

Danczuk's damning of his former pal Richard Farnell, himself now a fellow battle scared warrior in the culture of political disgrace owing to the findings of Alexis Jay's Child Sex Abuse Inquiry, contrasts vividly with the support Councillor Farnell then leader of Rochdale Council, gave Simon Danczuk when he was suspended from the Labour Party in 2015.  In another leaked letter dated the 18th, January 2016, and drafted by Richard Farnell to the then General Secretary of the Labour Party, and copied to Jeremy Corbyn, Councillor Farnell wrote touchingly in support of Simon Danczuk MP:
'We (the Rochdale Labour Party's Executive Committee) would like assurances from yourself and the Leader of the Labour Party that Mr Danczuk will receive a fair and proper hearing by the Party in respect of the allegations made against him and that any decision will be based entirely on factual evidence. '

Indeed, the Rochdale Labour Party loyaly backed Simon Danczuk right up to the moment Mr. Danczuk cut-up his Labour Party membership card when he was deselected for the job as Rochdale's MP.

Councillor Farnell responding to Danczuk's damning statement told Rochdale Online:
'Mr. Danczuk's letter is all supposition and guesswork and that's the reason he was not called to give evidence as he has no knowledge of the events which happened 26 years ago....'

The current leader of Rochdale Council, who himself has now been accused of impropiety regarding his comments with regard to Council business, when asked failed to comment on Mr. Danczuk's letter to the Child Sex Abuse inquiry.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

“The Red Flag of Anarchy” by Andrew Lee

A Book Review by Christopher Draper

DO you remember those wooden rulers on sale at Woolworths with the names and dates of all the British Kings and Queens on the back?  That was the kind of history I learnt at school.  Regrettably, a lot of alternative history isn’t much better with a similar emphasis on London-based leaders.  I’ve always preferred to read about radical lives and politics away from the metropolitan bubble and Andrew Lee’s new history of Sheffield’s pioneering socialists and anarchists is a perfect paradigm of “people’s history”.

ANDREW Lee’s book embodies the ideals it chronicles with a beautiful cover designed by libertarian socialist Walter Crane.  The text is printed on decent quality paper and it’s lavishly illustrated with numerous portraits and political posters.  Computer screens might usefully churn out dry facts but Andrew Lee appreciates that wisdom is more surely gained through a slow, aesthetically pleasing book-read and there is a lot to mull over in The Red Flag of Anarchy”.

Focussed on the Sheffield scene from 1874 to 1900 the author depicts a rich political culture created by predominantly working class activists of every flavour.  He doesn’t push any political line but the book is suffused throughout its 178 pages with an inspiringly libertarian spirit.  Lee’s achievement is to conjure up a vivid picture of a welcoming, inclusive yet militant socialist milieu.  Activists who for an all too brief moment managed to create the germ of a new society within the shell of the old. An alternative society that created communist colonies, embraced gay lifestyles, published a regular anarchist newspaper, operated a “Commonwealth Café”, organised picnics and ran raffles with books by Bellamy and Thoreau as prizes or alternately “A Handsomely Framed Portrait of Ravachol”!

The Red Flag of Anarchy” is invaluable not just for its contents but as an inspiration and model for socialists all around Britain to get your shovel out and start digging down into your own local libertarian past.  I know from my own researches that there’s always been far more going on out of London than our erstwhile chroniclers would have us believe.

I have just two criticisms which I hope Andrew might address in future editions.  The first is the absence of an index.  This isn’t so much of a handicap as it would be in a text-only volume as the extensive contents list and numerous illustrations facilitate navigation but digitisation makes compiling an index simple and speedy.  Secondly I would like some analysis of why Sheffield’s socialist oasis became barren.  At the end of the book Lee observes, “It was the end of an era, everything was going to change…Parliamentary politics was to become the order of the day” but it wasn’t inevitable, what exactly occurred in Sheffield? My own research, for example, shows that in Leicester all manner of socialists cooperated for years until the foundation of the ILP in 1893.  Thereafter Leicester ILP refused to have any truck with local anarchists whose direct-action was thought detrimental to attracting votes. ILP sectarianism thus transformed Leicester’s lively socialism into bureaucratic electoralism. Were the same forces at work in Sheffield?

If we are ever to regain the radicalism and comradeship of early socialism it’s crucial that we identify what went wrong last time.  Andrew Lee reminds us of an era when Labour Clubs were far more than dreary drinking dens.  Available from Amazon for £10.00, in my opinion “The Red Flag of Anarchism” is the most valuable and entertaining study of grass-roots, pioneering Anarchy in the UK since John Quail’s classic “Slow Burning Fuse”.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Par for the Course in Rochdale

by Les May
AS a long time Labour voter I was not entirely surprised to see a half page article in the Rochdale Observer reporting the remarks attributed to council leader Alan Brett which can reasonably be paraphrased asno vote, no road cash’.  Naturally the Lib-Dem and Tory leaders have chipped in with their ‘two pennth’ and are making the most of this stupid remark.  But before they get too cocky they may wish to reflect upon why I was unsurprised.

For as long as I can remember the various parties have been trying to convince us that voting for them and their policies is the way to make Rochdale a better place. In fact the scope for independent action is heavily circumscribed by what the national government dictates. It is a case of ‘he who pays the piper, calls the tune’.  A household in council tax band H in Westminster pays less than a Rochdale household in band C.  Will a different party in the Leader’s office change that?

We can see from Brett’s response, that this was ‘a breach of trust and confidentiality’, not a resigning matter, what the real problem is.  At the core of Rochdale’s problems is poor governance rather than poor policies.  Far too much of what goes on in Rochdale is done secretively. Attempts are made to suppress local debate by procedural ploys. Too many decisions are taken behind closed doors.  Press and public are routinely excluded from meetings with no reason being given.  Public notices are not infrequently wrong in detail or late being posted.

But do we hear a word of complaint from the ruling party or either of the opposition parties? No!  Councillors do not bother to ask on what grounds the press and public are being excluded from meetings, nor it seems do they routinely examine notices put up in their ward to check that they are both timely and correct.  So these fundamentally undemocratic practices continue. We can be forgiven for thinking that when it comes to good governance all the parties ‘piddle in the same pot’.

Last year as a sop to those who objected to the increase in the remuneration of Rochdale’s councillors the Tories suggested that the number of councillors be cut from 60 to 40.  I’m told there has been a bit of discussion behind closed doors, which seems just a bit premature as no-one has yet taken the trouble to explain to us, the voters, just how cutting the number of councillors per ward from three to two, is going to improve democracy in our town.  (It won’t, and there’s no such thing as cut price democracy.)  This is yet another example of how decisions are taken in Rochdale in an atmosphere of secrecy.  Let’s have some debate about this. How many councillors think this is a good idea?  We need to know.

Poor governance is not a problem created by a single party. It is the responsibility of all of them, and all individual councillors, to put it right.  As the various councillor hopefuls stuff their manifestos through our doors perhaps it is time to say what WE expect of THEM. Nor is it just at council level that things need to change.  At the last election an individual was ‘parachuted’ into the Labour nomination even though there were several local candidates for it.

A Manifesto for Democracy

What we should expect from our MP?

S/he will:
Have one job, being our MP.
Maintain an accessible office in the constituency from the time they are elected.
Hold regular surgeries at various venues around the constituency.
Prominently advertise the time and place of surgeries.
Respond promptly and in full to queries and complaints.
Regularly visit all parts of the constituency to understand how it looks to voters.

What we should expect from our Local Council

Work of officers will be monitored by every councillor and officers held accountable.
All meetings transacting Council business will be open to the public and press.
All meetings transacting Council business will be properly advertised.
All public notices will be issued in a timely manner and without mistakes.
A video archive of all council meetings will be maintained and available to the public.
A properly indexed and citizen friendly website will be maintained.
If services are outsourced the Council remains accountable for their proper delivery.
Concerns about possible electoral fraud will be taken seriously.
Available resources will be utilised equitably across the Borough.

What we should expect from our Ward Councillor

S/he will:
Attend Council meetings.
Will actively monitor the work of officers.
Hold regular surgeries.
Prominently advertise the time and place of the surgeries.
Respond promptly to queries or complaints.
Walk the streets of their ward and act proactively on what they find. 

There are other things in Rochdale which need to change if we are to have confidence in our Council and our councillors.  I suggest three to start with.

A number of councillors have been in place for too long.  The Council needs ‘new blood’. Individuals should be capped at three electoral cycles

Democratic control cannot be fully maintained if Council services and assets are outsourced or placed in the hands of arms length’ companies.  There should be a halt to both these activities.

The ‘whip system’ should not be employed improperly by any political party.  It was wholly improper for a party whip to be employed to force through a rise in councillor allowances.  It is apparent that some councillors were very unhappy about this rise at a time when council employees had any wage increase capped.

Monday, 16 April 2018

Child abuse inquiry finds former Rochdale Council leader "lied under oath."

 "SHAMEFUL" - Ex-Rochdale Council leader - Richard Farnell

THE Labour Party have suspended former Rochdale Labour council leader, Richard Farnell, after he was found by the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA), to have lied under oath. 

In the investigations first published report, Farnell was branded as "shameful" by the inquiry for refusing to take personal responsibility for the abuse - carried out by others, which occurred when he was first Rochdale Labour council leader between 1986-1992. The report describes Cllr Farnell as a person who "bullied and browbeat people" (which he denied) who was "bullish, self-opinionated, and unyielding."  It concluded that he was a person who was "prepared to blame others without acknowledging his own failures of leadership."

The report describes how for over 30-years, children were being sexually abused at Knowl View school, Rochdale town centre, the bus station, and the "notorious" Smith Street public toilets that were situated directly across the road from the Rochdale council offices.

The report says that the former Liberal leader of the council, ex-MP, Paul Rowen, who led the council in the mid-1990s, "bore considerable responsibility" for the school too, at best being "insufficiently inquisitive" about it and at worst having "turned a blind eye" by choosing to give its problems a "low priority."

In evidence given to the inquiry, Farnell claimed that he had only become aware of these concerns in the last "two or three years". Yet, fellow Rochdale Labour councillor, Peter Joinson, told the inquiry that Cllr Farnell had admitted in 2014 to having seen a copy of a report about the issue at the time, and by Mrs Cavanagh (head of Rochdale Social Services), who said she had "no doubt" he would have seen a copy of the report in 1992. The inquiry was also told that the then chair of education, Mary Moffatt, had also been aware of the allegations. The report therefore concluded:

"It defies belief that Mr Farnell was unaware of the events involving knowl View School..."

Councillor Farnell was once employed as a press and publicity officer (spin doctor) for Tameside Council where he was nicknamed Doctor Goebbels and sometimes, Mahatma propa-gandhi, for his abilities to spin a tale. Last March (2017), The Sun newspaper reported that as Rochdale council leader, Farnell, had "treated" himself to a 51% pay rise  - up to £47,304 from 31,224, while many Rochdalians saw their living standards fall and their council tax soar.  His nemesis, Cllr Joinson, was an elected Labour member of Tameside Council for seventeen years between 1987-2004. 

As a press and publicity officer, Farnell appears particularly accident prone.  If he has any future left in politics, he will have to do some explaining  to pull himself out of this mess which he has created for himself. At the time of writing, we understand Greater Manchester Police (GMP), are investigating 'possible offences' relating to the findings of the inquiry.

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Resetting the Clock to 1979

by Les May

CONSIDERING the amount that Simon Danczuk had to say not only about a cover up’ by Rochdale MBC about events at Knowl View, but also about how Cyril Smith was in some way protected’ by the Security Services or other agencies, you might have expected that Mr. Danczuk would have figured prominently among the witnesses at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.   

He didn’t.  In fact he did not figure at all, which of course means the claims in his book remain untested.  Perhaps he did not think he could back them up?

What is clear is that the Inquiry found nothing to give any credence to these claims.  Not only did Danczuk’s book not tell us anything about Cyril’s antics at Cambridge House which we did not know from the 1979 Rochdale's Alternative Paper (RAP) articles, nor did the Inquiry. 

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Benefits of 20-20 Hindsight

by Les May

OSTENSIBLY Simon Danczuk’s 2014 bookSmile for the Camera’ is about the sexual peccadillos of his predecessor Cyril Smith.  But a careful reading shows that the intent was to so closely associate Smith’s antics with the Liberal-Democrats that the party became permanently unelectable in Rochdale so securing a safe Labour seat for Danczuk for as long as he wanted it.

It is something of an irony that the major casualty from the fall out from all the hares that Danczuk set running in the book is Richard Farnell, until recently Leader of Rochdale Council and a supporter of Danczuk long after the latter had reached his sell by date’ as an MP.

Perhaps fearing that it will suffer in the May elections from the bad publicity the Labour party has suspended Farnell after the report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse said he had lied to the Inquiry.

It should however be pointed out that the report is quite liberal in its criticism of quite a number of the people trying to make decisions about how to deal with what was happening at Knowl View in the years around 1990.  Paul Rowen, who followed Farnell as Leader of the Council after May 1992, Ian Davey, Director of Social Services and Diana Cavanagh, Director of Education, are all criticised to varying degrees, which makes it all the more surprising that at one point the report refers to some of Rochdale Council’s beleaguered officers’.

Twenty-twenty hindsight is wonderful thing especially when viewing events from a distance of a quarter of a century or more.  The sheer volume of detail presented in the Report of the Investigation makes it appear unlikely that any one person could have grasped the complexity of the issues at the time.

No doubt we shall be told lessons will be learned’ and we shall hear even more of the new mantra of safeguarding’, which seems to be a codeword for taking even more children into care when the money might be better spent on supporting their parents in their own home. Some of the children taken into care after the Middleton Satanic Abuse panic ended up at Knowl View for a time.

Vintage Worx & Carillion - No Comparison!

 Ms. TRACY Powers mentioned below has an interest in Vintage Worx*.  She also shops at ASDA on the baked beans aisle.   Yet this interest in tinned beans doesn't prevent her from seizing the opportunity to promote the cause of her company Vintage Worx.  Especially when quisical characters like Carl Faulkner keep asking akward questions.
Hello Brian,

Was minding my own business when I was collared in Asda by Tracy Powers who had taken umbrage at the Northern Voices article, demanding to know “why have you got a problem with us?"  And why did I compare them to Carillion why are you telling people we are a private company and not a Community Development Trust etc etc etc

My response below.


Hello Tracy,

Further to our impromptu meeting close to the baked beans aisle in Asda.  I have read the Northern Voices blog and at no time do I mention Carillion. My quotes are clearly marked and highlighted. The article also goes on to state that :  “Vintage Worx describes itself as 'a community led not for profit organisation' registered at Companies House.”     Is that not a perfectly accurate description?
You said you had not read the blog, so I’ll accept that you have been very badly misinformed about its contents. It’s not hard to imagine the motives behind this misinformation. As I emphasised to you, the issue is transparency. Nothing I have been quoted as saying is either factually wrong or deviates from that core principle.

*  Meet Vintage Worx Community Development Trust

Vintage Worx Community Development Trust (CDT) is a community led not for profit organisation dedicated to removing barriers to opportunities and committed to helping people maximise their talents and realise their full potential.
Based within Falinge Park, the local park of one of the most deprived areas of the country, the team of passionate volunteers who run Vintage worx have a nine year track record of successful engagement with the local community, a record that has only been possible through the sheer volume of community involvement in the projects, activities and events that are delivered.
Throughout the pages of this site you will gain an insight into the organisation and the people involved, find out about events, activities and services, learn about the history of our beloved park and be part of the journey we are about to embark on to make Falinge Park a true community park delivering wider social benefits to the area including taking part in community surveys and how to get involved.

Seeking Facts in a Sea of Obfuscation

by Brian Bamford
CARL FAULKNER, the Independent candidate for Spotland and Falinge ward in the coming local elections in Rochdale on May 3rd, has written a letter to the Rochdale ONLINE Blog complaining about how people have been excluded from the cabinet meetings of Rochdale Council. 

Mr Faulkner writes:  'It is my belief that the authority which permits this, is being abused to prevent press and public scrutiny of contentious matters.'

He gives a local example 'discussions that have been taking place with a view to the leasing out of Falinge Park to a private organisation (Vintage Worx).  The incentive being that this organisation will then be able to apply for external funding grants of up to £2.5 million, to help maintain and improve the park (this is a claim made by the company itself).  There has been no public discussion of this proposal.'

 And he claims:  'Labour councillors and at least one senior council employee, are actively preventing public and press scrutiny of the plans to lease out the park.'

This suggests a reluctance on the part of the Rochdale Labour council to let the public know what is going on.

In his letter Mr. Faulkner tells us the '...process [to lease out Falinge Park to a private organisation (Vintage Worx)] commenced with the presentation of a report by Mark Widdup (Director of Neighbourhoods) at a Cabinet meeting held on 1 February 2017.'

And surprise, surprise, he tells us that 'at that meeting it was recommended that both he and Councillor Cecile Biant should be appointed to the board of Vintage Worx.'

But then there was no proper public scrutiny, because the press and public were not allowed to be present when the report was presented.  At the same time there has been no public discussion of this matter at any public forum before or since that time.

Now given what has happened with the basket-case company Carillion in Tameside, where the former Labour leader of Tameside MBC, Kieran Quinn, truly had his feet under the table with the Carillion bosses through his power base on Tameside Council and his seat a the head of the Greater Manchester Pension Fund, it may be of some concern that the Rochdale Labour Councillor Cecile Biant is ascending to the board of Vintage Worx*.  Vintage Worx is not another basket-case giant like Carillion PLC, rather it is a pygmy development trust that could be an acorn from which great oaks grow.

Vintage Worx describes itself as 'a community led not for profit organisation' registered at Companies HouseThis development trust seems to survive by applying for grants for what can presented as good causes, and a place like the notoriously deprived Falinge presents itself as something of a honey pot for grant gathering

But what really worries Carl Faulkner, who I spoke to this morning, is the secrecy which surrounds these kind of operations and developments in Rochdale.  

He writes:  'Falinge Park was donated to the people of this town over a century ago.  It therefore belongs to the people of this town.  It is not a council purchased capital asset.  It is for the people of this town to have a say in how it is managed and whether or not its legal status should change.
Any procedure to change its status – particularly if finance is an overriding concern – should be open and transparent.'

 Is this a vain expectation given that Rochdale is virtually a one-party state with no serious opposition from the conservative councillors.

*  Meet Vintage Worx Community Development Trust:
Vintage Worx Community Development Trust (CDT) is a community led not for profit organisation dedicated to removing barriers to opportunities and committed to helping people maximise their talents and realise their full potential.
Based within Falinge Park, the local park of one of the most deprived areas of the country, the team of passionate volunteers who run Vintage worx have a nine year track record of successful engagement with the local community, a record that has only been possible through the sheer volume of community involvement in the projects, activities and events that are delivered.


Friday, 13 April 2018

Castleton Councillor Collects Stipend Top-up

Council Leader says he has 'confidence' in Aasim Rashid

CASTLETON Councillor, Aasim Rashid, found himself under attack in the Rochdale Council Chamber on Wednesday night from the Lib-Dem leader, Andy Kelly, for snatching the stipend top-up he and others in the Labour and Tory parties voted through for themselves in December 2016.

At that time the Manchester Evening News headlined a report on this decision:  'Councillors booed as they vote to accept a 34% pay rise'.

Some councillors who voted for the pay hike said at the time that they wouldn't take the money.  One such was Castleton Councillor Aasim Rashid.  Yet, on the 19th, March 2018, the Rochdale Online Blog revealed:  'Labour councillor Aasim Rashid, from Castleton, who promised, “I’m not taking even a single penny increase in my allowance”, took the increase.'.

That's why at tonight's full Council meeting a flustered Labour leader, councillor Allen Brett had to declare: 'Councillor Rashid has my total confidence, he has my backing'

Councillor Brett also said 'Councillor Rashid didn't know that he had taken the extra allowance.'

Coumcillor Rashid wasn't in the Council Chamber last Wednesday to hear this spat, so he couldn't defend himself.  Perhaps he, like many other labour councillors tonight were out on the stomp to save their own seats at the coming local elections on the 3rd, May.*

But did Councillor Rashid really overlook his extra stipend as Councillor Brett suggests?  After all innumeracy isn't something he declares in his election literature.  Quite the contrary in his declaration he boasts:  'As a business owner I am familiar with finance and hence I have also served you on the Council by being responsible for council finances during what has been an exceptionally difficult time...'

So clearly Councillor Rashid, an economics graduate, has a better basic background in accountancy than most of us, and one would have thought that with his solid familiarity with finance that he would easily be able to get his head round a simple bank balance showing that his councillor's allowances had soared by some 30% or so.

When this week I asked him to explain why he took the money, Councillor Rashid fail to respond.

Councillor Kelly said that he well remembered a local Labour MP, who had had habit of claiming too much in his expenses claims.   Perhaps it is just a necessary family trait in the Rochdale Labour Party, because black sheep like Labour Councillor Chris Furlong, who tonight attended his last Council meeting found himself deselected by the party for failing to support the super stipend boost in 2016.

* About 30 Labour councillors failed to attend last Wednesday's full Council meeting.

Liverpool Anarchists say: 'Have a happy bookfair!'

by Brian Bamford
ARRIVING at the Black-E at 11,45am for last Saturday's Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair, I was greeted by the organiser 'Maria' of the 'News From Nowhere' Radical & Community Bookshop.  She set about scolding me saying severely:  'We sent you an e-mail and you can't attend!'  

Then up pops Pablito from Salamanca, who works in 'hospitality', who asks me 'Are you going to leave!'

I comply but only after noting down their utterances and swallowing a blood pressure pill.

As I picked up the bookfair program I observe on the front page the cheerful words 'Have a happy bookfair!'

Not so happy!

One of the local activists who came to address the talk on blacklisting at 3 o'clock, ended up saying that he would never attend an event 'like this again'.  

The spokesman from the Merseyside Trades Union Council, who came in a personal capacity to speak on blacklisting told me that he was 'disappointed at (the) lack of comradeship' at the event, and that regarding 'The individual concerned from the Blacklist Support Group' it was time to 'move on and make progress'.

The blacklist talk had been broken-up after a man was asked to leave because he supported Helen Steel in her dispute with the trans community.  At this point Pablito from Salamanca, as part of the squad for the defence of safer spaces, ended up with a kick in his backside flank. 

Others at the blacklist meeting complained that the bloke had been chucked out without proper consultation about the leaflet he had been distributing, and to which some people had objected.  The justification for excluding the individual was presumably rooted in the 'Safer spaces policy' of the 'Liverpool Anarchist Book Fair' which naively claims 'aims to be a welcoming, inclusive and safe space'.

What presents itself as a 'Safer spaces policy' is a charming catechism  which innocently enunciates a programme worthy of Big Brother and his thought policemen with beautiful elegance.  What is demanded in the text of this scheme is a censorship of language and thought such as Orwell's 'Newspeak' predicted in the 1940s.  

To survive the trauma of such linguistic cesspit one would have to bleach all natural thought processes of any original ideas to sink into the realm of stunted dialogue thus squeezing out all human passions and originality, for fear of making an odd unorthodox remark or stuttering some unintended outburst.  

Conversational Analysis of 'Safer Space' & 'Thought Crime'

A conversational analyst would be delighted with the text offered by the Liverpool Anarchist Book Fair 'Safer Spaces Policy'.  The text is rich in the straight-jacket of thought control.  

The 'Safer spaces policy' states 'Abusive, violent, threatening or harassing behaviour will not be tollerated'.

It then gives some examples:  'Oppressive language, literature or attitudes that insult, express prejudices or reinforce preconceptions about a group of people that are marginalised, disadvantaged or oppressed by mainstream society are not welcome.'

Then the organisers typically offer us a list of taboo topics:  'racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and classism' .

The dogma of what can only be defined as a totalitarian epistle to the glories of  'thought crime' is delightfully documented  in the final paragraph where it says:  'Don't make assumptions (based on, for example, race, pronouns, class, sexual orientation etc.)  

One would be tempted to say all this is characteristic of medieval thinking that one might find in the Catholic Church before Martin Luther to having wayward and sinful thoughts, but it is more totalitarian than that in that it seeks to extend its bans and gags in a style of Soviet proportions in which the required terminology may change from overnight if not sooner.

The Safer spaces document says 'we refuse to normalise prejudice, reinforce oppression or recreate hierarchies' but instead on the ground yesterday Pablito and Maria engineering an good impression of a Fred Karno's Circus or the Keystone Cops* with the thought-policemen / women / transgender / creatures or whatever wading-in to exclude folk without any fair trial or due process.  Where is the justice in that comrade Pablito (the hospitality worker) or Compañera Maria (from News from Nowhere bookshop)?  

Of course, justice is not what is going on here.  

What's going on?  Anarcho-Bossism!
What's going on here is 'Malas linguas' (bad mouthing); false accusations; victimsation and yes, if you like blacklisting.  We could call this anarcho-Bossism and Blacklisting.

At one point as I stood outside looking like a drowned rat in the Liverpool rain, Compañera Maria suggested I go a cafe to warm-up.  I told her that in Manchester we were used to standing in the rain on picket lines with Steve Acheson to combat blacklisting at sites like MRI (Manchester Royal Imfirmary) or Fiddler's Ferry.  She said this is not the same kind of blacklisting!  

I asked her to please explain how this differs from the blacklisting by the bosses?

Compañera Maria didn't reply but looked very uncomfortable.

Later Maria told Milan Rai, the editor of Peace News, that the Liverpool Anarchist Collective had decided to ban me because of an obituary I wrote in 2012 about the former AF member, the teacher Bob Miller in 2011, and something about putting Simon Saunders from the Morning Star / Freedom  in a neck-lock on the 22nd, June 2016, following having been dragged out of the Freedom Bookshop by him and Andy Meinke and then being pinned to the wall in Angel Alley by Compañero Saunders and ten other comrades. 

The trouble with this argument is that the original application to do a talk on blacklisting came from me as Secretary of Tameside TUC, and by banning me they Liverpool Anarchist Bookfair is blissfully unaware that it is blocking the participation of a North West trade union body.  In short, the Liverpoll Anarchist Bookfair Collective failed to cover itself with glory yesterday.

The Keystone Cops (often spelled "Keystone Kops") were fictional, humorously incompetent policemen, featured in several silent film slapstick comedies produced by Mack Sennett for his Keystone Film Company between 1912 and 1917.


Banned on eve of branch elections

Evan Pritchard - centre  - with cloth cap

Was it fair to issue complaints just before election?

  ON Wednesday the 28th, March,  the Unite Greater Manchester Community Branch convened for its tri-annual AGM amid some consternation about the banning of two of its members.  I had just bought some hot cross buns from Booths near Media City and I thought I'd pop in to give my comradely greetings at the Community Branch meeting at the Unite Salford Quay's office. 

To my surprise, as I entered the canteen just as pandemonium erupted I was to learn during the various loud verbal altercations and banter about the suspension of two Community Branch members from the AGM.  In the commotion it became clear that on the eve of the AGM meeting that Mr. John Pearson and Mr. Chris McBride, had both been served with letters informing them that they were subject to a complaint of such magnitude that they were now under investigation, and consequently according to the union's disciplinary process under Rule 27  'should be suspended from holding any office or representing the Union in any capacity, pending the outcome of that investigation'.

Curiously they were served  with these orders, the very day before the two men were running for office at last night's AGM.  John Pearson was standing for election as chair against the present incumbent Evan Pritchard.  Last night, this ruling was interpreted as meaning that both Mr. Pearson and Mr. McBride were not allowed to attend the meeting, and thus their nominations for officer positions were not put to the branch meeting and Evan Pritchard was elected unopposed.

Why is such a heavy hand being employed to proceed with a complaint under Rule 27:4.?

Why were written notices only delivered on the very eve of the AGM?  When Rule 27:4 clearly states that
'A member shall be given written notice ...... of any such suspension as soon as is reasonably practicable.'

After all the North West Region Finance and General Purposes Committee that ruled on this complaint, met on Tuesday, 20 March 2018, and the notices to the suspending Pearson and McBride from holding office were only delivered on Tuesday, 27 March.  Oddly this was the day before the branch elections.

This is troubling coming as it does on the heels of another recent ruling by the Assistant Trade Union Certification Officer that in the case of McFadden v Unite: 'Breach of union rule decision'; where it was found that the union had acted beyond its powers in trying to legislate on the activities of individuals at a private event.  In the Pearson and McBride case under Rule 27:4 .1 'A member under disciplinary investigation may not attend: meetings of his/her own branch'.  This has been the case since the Unite Rule Book was been updated in 2015.

People of fair minds may wonder here if this additional sub-rule 27:4.1, might not be mis-applied, perhaps by people of vindictive or vexatious intent to invent complaints to ban others whom they might not take a shine to for whatever reason; political or personal?   

In the Pearson and McBride case under consideration here, one must wonder about the timing of the issuing of these notices on the brink of the elections for AGM positions for which they had been nominated for office. 

Unite's Rule 27 does not state that a member will be suspended from participating in branch elections, it merely says the 'Regional Committee may suspend a member under this rule from holding any office or representing the Union ...'.  This does not seem to prevent a member standing for office, because any complaint against the member may fail and the suspension could well be lifted.  Hence, one may ask why were Pearson and McBride prevented from standing for office at  last week's AGM of the Unite Greater Manchester Community Branch ? 


Thursday, 12 April 2018

How Spain can teach us a thing or two

Zak Garner-Purkis, news editor, Construction News - 12th, April 2018.
SPAINs construction sector was one of the hardest hit in Europe when global recession struck a decade ago.

Fuelled by cheap debt in the noughties, municipalities across the country had embarked on huge developments, until the financial rug was suddenly pulled from under their feet.
But amid the chaos and confusion of the financial crash, something very significant happened to the Spanish construction market in the form of a new law on subcontractors.
The Spanish government introduced measures to limit the number of subcontractors working a project to three, not including the main contractor.
Work could be subcontracted to self-employed workers, but self-employed workers were not able to subcontract.
The law also banned the use of subcontractors whose main task was the provision of labour, effectively removing employment agencies from Spain’s construction sector.
One of the main drivers behind this pretty stringent regulation was safety.
Prior to its introduction, Spain had been responsible for 20 per cent of all workplace accidents in the EU.
The new rules insisted companies within the supply chain be registered, with registration dependent on carrying out health and safety training.
In that regard it was successful, with Spain now ranking amongst Europe’s safest nations to work.
The change in the law a decade ago also aimed to tackle insolvencies in the sector, the results of which are harder to gauge. 
The economic difficulties of the past decade make it hard to say whether the legislation led to fewer firms going bust, or if it was just because the sector had shrunk so dramatically.
The real question though is: could such rules on subcontractors work in Britain?
Well, the UK market is certainly not in as dire a place as the Spanish market was when the last recession began to take hold, but the theory is an interesting one.
On paper, the biggest loser under such a system in the UK would be main contractors: deprived of a large supply chain, tier ones would either have to bring expertise in house or downsize the way they manage projects.
This could be a beneficial trend. If large projects were broken up into smaller, cheaper lots, the market could open up to lots of smaller contractors who could compete on price.
Labour could be sourced locally, and there would be a clear benefit to training in-house labour.
Maybe that’s imagining it in an overly optimistic way. But it’s definitely a model worth considering.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018


Back in 2010 Noam Chomsky discussed the parallels between the Tea-Party and the pre-Nazi period in Germany.  Chomsky noted that after the Weimar Republic failed to handle the nation's economic woes, mainstream political parties lost support and the Nazis emerged.  Chomsky warned that the Left would need to take this as a sign that much better organizing was in order to combat the likes of the Tea-Party.  Mocking and threatening the far-right group to Chomsky served no real purpose and was a severe error in principle, tactics, and philosophy.

Chomsky added that, “If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.”

Don’t get me wrong, many of my friends on the Left admire Antifa’s resistance of neo-Nazis.  And like me they express deep concerns about our persistently fascist leaning country that has devolved in terms of climate, the economy, as well as a variety of social issues.  I am not however, a “soft-fascist,” or “typical liberal,” for supporting Chomsky’s views.  Nor are Chomsky critics all members of a Stalinist cult because they may support Antifa through and through.

Believe me, I’d love to punch Nazis and you can count me in to be an eternal member of resistance to both fringe and mainstream hate, but I’m not sure it would yield any positive result to use my progressive thought as a literal battering ram.  Despite the horrors of this nation’s past and present on so many issues, resorting to violence against a group that thrives on violence seems counterproductive.

Could it be that Chomsky is wrong and his detractors are right?  Could it be that there’s no time for supplicant MLK type resolve in 2017?  I think the broader Left has history on their side.

President Trump made dangerous and inaccurate remarks concerning the “many sides” of Charlottesville.  At the same time, Chomsky correctly asserted that Antifa’s actions served as “a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who [are] exuberant.”

He asserted that Antifa "generally [proves] self-destructive."  Furthermore, Chomsky remarked that Antifa indicates “a minuscule fringe of the Left,” and that "[W]hat they do is often wrong in principle — like blocking talks."

This positioning is very consistent with most of his career.  After taking off as a world-renowned linguist Chomsky first gained prominence as a political writer during the Vietnam Era and one of his main sources of inspiration was the famed revolutionary pacifist A.J. Muste.

Muste is famous for articulating,  “There is no way to peace for peace is the way. Peace is the starting place, and you can not end with it if you do not begin with it.”  This helps to explain why Chomsky says that the "toughest and most brutal" always win, which are of course the white supremacists, militarized police forces, government forces, and fascists.

When Chomsky recognizes that there are “opportunity costs [and a] loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism,” it doesn’t mean he is a pure pacifist either.  He holds that force is only an option after you fully exhaust peaceful means, and one must try every peaceable mean.  Any use of violence on the Left must follow this trajectory since violence in combatting fascist elements and their support networks require massive organizing efforts and highly trained insurgency techniques.  At the moment however Chomsky holds that Antifa is not even remotely related to anarchism.

He is not mistaken to ask Antifa to think through their actions along with the consequences.  This does not equate to showing any patience for the racist right. Chris Hedges, who took even more heat for his commentary, is simply asking for the same amount of introspection regarding tactics.
Tony DiMaggio has managed to stay out of the Left’s crosshairs unlike Chomsky and Hedges, but I believe he too is correct in his assertions.  DiMaggio knows that violence is a part of the real world but remarks that “violence is never something one should actively seek out.”

Fascists, neo-Nazis and right wing terrorists do indeed try to fuse first amendment assembly rights of know-nothings to justifications for violence.  In many ways the mainstream Alt-Right acts much like ISIS, another by-product of failed policies.  Of course, the Left and Antifa is not the same as the Alt-Right, for there is no such thing as an “Alt-Left.”  But this is however precisely why it’s harmful to entertain violence and the fascist playbook. Similar to Osama bin Laden wanting Bush 43 to engage in a crusade, the Alt-Right wants the Left in a violent war to destroy constructive engagement within the Left internally.

Todd Gitlin is correct when he asserts that, “In truth, there is no symmetry between the “alt-right” and “antifa.”  Antifa is the backlash to the backlash, a defensive response to the growing presence of right-wing extremism.”  Gitlin goes on to add however that, “many antifa activists do not think strategically about whom they alienate.”

John Halle is another person who took principled positions on Antifa. He agrees with the politics of the Left but sees a problem with tactics.  Halle simply states that violence, for instance on a university campus in the protest of a speaker, has boiled over when a moderator is assaulted and sustains injuries.
Chomsky told me that although he received some support for his comments on Antifa, he mostly received furious opposition.  Anarchism is of course not some vague, ill-organized and unclassifiable group like Antifa demonstrated.  Chomsky stated that Antifa might be operating on a romanticized vision of muscularity.  It’s certainly possible.