Monday, December 14, 2009

Do You Need A Compass When You Cover Two Regions?

Dronfield falls within the East Midlands Region, but it is situated immediately to the south of the boundary of the Yorkshire and Humberside Region. It is not, therefore, surprising that the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group should attract both its speakers and its audience from both of these Regions.

But who should we get to addresses us about the role of Compass the Democratic Left pressure group? For Compass have convenors for both of these Regions.

Easy really, yesterday evening (at their own suggestion) we were addressed by both Steve Yemm their convenor for the East Midlands Region and Alex Sobel their convenor for Yorkshire and Humberside.

It was a fine occasion, aided by the fact that we had a room full of 20 people who were keen to participate in the discussions. We were also grateful to Christine, Caroline and Rosie Smith for providing us with a Xmas spread, which we finished off in the lounge bar after the meeting - where the discussions continued.

Steve and Alex stressed that the position of Compass was centred around its belief in the need for social equality, democratic participation and sustainable communal provisions, including environmental sustainability. It was felt that the failure of global capital had placed us at a cross roads in history. This had followed a period in which neo-liberal advances had dominated the political agenda and labour movements had mainly be forced into re-active stances. There was now a chance to adopt more positive and creative platforms in building a new economic and cultural paradigm.


Scope was seen for measures which included co-operative ownership, a high pay commission, tackling consumer values with measures such as a ban on advertising directed at children under 11 , the Tobin Tax and the return of powers to Local Government. Whilst Compass campaigned with other groups on the key issue of climate change, where so many young people recognised the great need for an environmental push.

Models were seen as arising from decades of social democratic achievements in Sweden and more recent developments in Venezuela.

As you would expect from the regulars at our discussions, this was all sound material for the dialectics of our debates. Numbers of us are also members of Compass or are aware of its activities. As a group we also made submissions to Compass on Political Education and Integrated Transport - for details of these see here and follow the links and labels they provide.

Our discussion group has also shown that it is possible to have serious political debates on a Sunday evening in a pleasant social setting. It is a recommended approach, especially if you are seeking to fashion your own compass.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

This is class war – carried out by Cameron against the poor

Here is brief extract from an article by Polly Toynbee in today's Guardian that caught my eye. I know how much the Blatherers enjoy a bit of class analysis!

So far every single one of Cameron and Osborne's tax plans promote the wealth of the exceedingly wealthy. Not the middle or upper middle but the top 2%. It is astonishing that they have been so overt about it. No previous Conservative party ever sought power on the basis of promises to divert so much revenue from so many to so few. It is not class war or engaging in scare tactics to point out that Cameron and Osborne's only known tax plans gift £1.2bn to the top 2% of wealthiest estates in inheritance tax. Their marriage tax relief gifts 13 times more cash to the top than the bottom. Giving back extra tax relief on pensions of the richest gives £3.2bn to the top 1.5% of earners. Reversing Labour's 50p income rate gives £2.4bn back to the top 1%. The total sum taken from 98% of voters to donate to the top 2% is £11. 7bn. That really is class war – the rich looting everyone else.


The full article can be found here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/08/class-war-cameron-background-privilege

Monday, November 30, 2009

Does Labour Need A Compass?


Steve Yem and Alex Sobel are convenors for "Compass" which seeks to provide direction for the Democratic Left. At the next meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group at 8pm on Sunday 13 December at the Dronfield Contact Club , they will lead a discussion entitled "Does Labour Need A Compass?". Discussion meetings are open to all Labour Party members, all Dronfield Contact Club members and others by invitation.


"Compass" states that it " is building the ideas and organisation for a new progressive consensus based around our core values of democracy, equality and sustainability - instead of silos we know you can't have one without the other two. As the planet gets hotter and the poor get poorer we're campaigning collaboratively with progressive politicians of all parties, pressure groups, trade unions, think tanks, NGOs, academics, activists, campaigners and across civil society. We're building a coalition for a radical 21st century politics the country needs now."

For fuller details of the views and values which come from "Compass" see their web-site here.

Anyone can start the debate now on this thread. Why not get your tackles in before the kick off? The debate can start via our comment box.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Labour to use ‘Against the Odds’ film in election fight

The New Statesman reports that the Labour Party is to use the short ‘Against the odds’ film as part of its effort to fight the next election after a campaign by bloggers.
It’s a short history of the Labour movement and is stirring stuff. It begins with the words: “It’s the fighters and believers who change our world” with nods to party hero’s like Nye Bevan; a mention of Cable Street and the fight against fascism; the formation of the NHS; the fight against Apartheid; and the creation of the minimum wage. All those moments are in there right up to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. The film goes onto say that “this history of Britain is the story of fighting for the right thing against the odds”.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

See You At The Crucible

A group of ten of us are booked in to see the play "The Enemies Within" at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield on 20 December. It is about the Miners' Strike. Nine of our group are from the Dronfield Labour Party, seven of whom attended our Discussion Meeting on the Miners' Strike on Sunday (see this thread).





"The Enemies Within

Remembering 25 years since the 1984 miners' strike, most of the original cast of David Thacker's groundbreaking 1985 production return to present The Enemies Within.

Using real-life accounts assembled from interviews with striking miners and their families, this pioneering work represents a unique period of the 20th century. Communities were changed forever and this piece tells the real stories behind a scar that has refused to heal.

'There are chilling scenes of faces bloodied, accounts of heads cracked open and impressions of an almost universally unsympathetic outside world of housewives, directors and television producers. The acting is reverberatively fine.' The Guardian, 27 July 1985."

Back on Sunday 20 December.
Tickets: £15.00 - £10.00.
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield.


For Booking details see here. Book in and look out for us.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

We Are Women, We Are Strong

This was the logo of Women Against Pit Closures during the 1984-5 Miners Strike. It is in the colours of the Suffragettes.

To mark the 25th Anniversary of the Miners Strike, Barbara Jackson addressed a packed meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group on Sunday to outline both the nature of the strike and her and her colleagues' roles within it. Not only did she work with Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures, but she was also on strike herself with others who were members of the Unions' White Collar Section, COSA. They were employed at the NCBs Regional Administrative Office at Queen Street in Sheffield and picketed the site (see below).


The title of her talk was "We are Women, We are Strong" which was the anthem of Women Against Pit Closures. Here are the words -

We are women, we are strong
We are fighting for our lives,
side by side with the men
who work the nation's mines.
United by the struggle,
United by the past.. and it's
Here we go, here we go
For the women of the working class.


Don't need government approval
for everything we do,
We don't need their permission
to have a point of view.
Don't need anyone to tell us what to think
or what to say
We've strength enough and wisdom of our
own to go our own way.


They talk about statistics, about the
price of coal; the cost is the communities,
dying on the dole.
In fighting for our future, we find ways to organise;
Where women's liberation failed to move,
this strike has mobilised.

Ours is a unity that threats could never
breach; ours an education
that books could never teach.
We face the taunts and violence of Maggie's
thugs in blue;
When you're fighting for survival, you've got
nothing, nothing left to lose.

Barbara (left) pointed out that the NUM had to struggle against the full power of the State. The Thatcher Government prepared its ground by building up coal stocks, having already picked off the Print Unions and the Steelworkers in conditions of mass unemployment. Under what was known as the "Ridley Plan" it had introduced a set of anti-trade union laws, which it went on to use to the full against the Miners.

Whilst the NUM had imposed an overtime ban to counter the building up of coal stocks, during the strike 11 people were killed including 3 miners and numbers of young people mainly picking coal, 11,312 were arrested, 7,000 injured, 5,600 placed on trial, 200 imprisoned and 960 sacked.

The full power of the State was used against the Miners by a Conservative Government who resented the Miners Victory in the 1973 strike which led to the defeat of the Heath Government in the subsequent General Election. They turned Police Forces into a centrally controlled operation; whilst Power Stations were taken out of mothballs, Gas from the North Sea was squandered and Nuclear Power was used to the full.

The ability of the Miners to hold out for so long was a result of their own determination and their communal strength, supported by the international trade union movement in nations such as Australia, Russia and France.

This source explains something of Barbara's role in the strike, stating -
"She had a white collar job at the National Coal Board offices on Queen Street near Sheffield Cathedral. Although she had no family mining connections, Barbara felt so strongly about the Miners Strike that she was one of a handful of women who went on strike for the whole year. Nine people from her office picketed the National Coal Board building for the duration of the year-long strike, and Barbara quit work there within 24 hours of the strike ending in March 1985. Barbara had one teenage daughter at the time of the Strike. She is now retired and lives near Graves Park in Sheffield."

In Barbara's own words - "We welcomed all women and supported 30 support groups throughout South Yorkshire, we met weekly from May 84 to 87 when we closed the group at the point where we had our book published "We are Women , We are Strong" about our experiences during the strike. We raised hundreds of pounds through collections, jumble sales, benefit concerts, selling tee shirts, badges, Christmas cards, calendars. We talked to groups all over South Yorkshire, Belfast, Manchester and Germany. We picketed at the local pits with local women and tried to support other workers in dispute as well as the Greenham Common Women. We regarded ourselves as supporting the miners and their families but equally importantly making the political arguments and links about state power in all its forms. We were proud that South Yorkshire women and children were invited to the Soviet Union by the Soviet miners in the spring of 85 for a 5 week holiday in Moscow and the Black Sea coast."

Amongst the efforts Women Against Pit Closures undertook locally was the support they gave to Miners taken before the Sheffield Magistrates Court. When the strike was over, the Miners marched back to work behind their Colliery Bands and NUM Banners. But this wasn't an option at the Queen Street Office. Barbara decided not to return to work and was instead accepted as a Mature Student onto a Degree Course although she lacked the paper qualifications. As with many of the women who supported the strike her experiences were positive and life changing. A sentiment that came to be expressed by many Miners themselves.

Friday, November 6, 2009

More Mining Memories

Here is a notice of a significant meeting


Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society

Miners at University

The Derbyshire Area NUM day-release course 1952-94

Saturday 21 November
Hurst House, Abercrombie Street, Chesterfield (see this map)
2 pm (Doors open 1.30)

John Halstead, one of the course tutors, will explain briefly
- How and why the course began
- Its main features
- Impact of the day-release programme

Then those present who attended the programme will be able to share their experiences.

All welcome

Please note that there is parking for disabled people only at Hurst House.
Long-stay parking is available nearby at Holywell Cross surface car park or the multi-storey car park.



From : NDLHS 22 Boythorpe Avenue Chesterfield

*************************************************************************************



This is a group of Derbyshire Miners who completed their three year Day Release Course in 1960. The photograph appeared in the Derbyshire Times on 7 May, 1960. They are presenting Miners' lamps to two of their tutors, who are the men wearing glasses. On the left is Noel Williams of the Workers Education Association who taught economics and on the right is the politics tutor Royden Harrison from Sheffield University Extramural Department who was a leading Labour Historian and whose final book was to be "The Life and Times of Sidney and Beatrice Webb : 1858 to 1905 the Formative Years". From left to right the students on the course are (1) Les Ralley who became a leading figure on the Chesterfield Rural District Council, the North East Derbyshire District Council and the North Wingfield Parish Council, (2) a 27 year old Eric Varley who four years later was to embark upon his parliamentary career, (3) W. Whitaker, (4) E. Lawrence presenting the lamps, (5) E. Bradbury and (6) N. Wade. Further information about Whitaker, Bradbury, Lawrence and Wade would be welcome.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

25 Years Ago


Here is a worthwhile follow up to our discussion meeting on 8 November as shown in our right hand column -

Get your tickets now – if you can’t attend, let others know – this will be the only other 25th anniversary event in Derbyshire !

BOLSOVER WOMEN’S ACTION GROUP

25 Anniversary of the Strike Celebration

Saturday 28 November 2009

Speakers -

NUM National President - Ian Lavery

Notts Area NUM Secretary - Keith Stanley

Dennis Skinner MP .


Venue .....
The Arkwright Community Centre
Hardwick Drive
Arkwright Town
Chesterfield
Derbyshire
S445BS

19.30 – to midnight

Tickets £5 (includes Pie and Pea Supper)

No ticket – no entry.

All proceeds from ticket sales and the raffle to

The National Justice for Mineworkers Campaign

and

the NSPCC.

For tickets, please contact Toni Bennett:

Toni’s contact details are:

E-mail: TBDB8@aol.com
Phone: 01246 826 032

SOLIDARITY IS STRENGTH

For directions etc, see: http://www.thearkwrightcentre.co.uk/default.aspx?tabid=786

Thursday, October 15, 2009

First impressions of a Labour Party Conference

At our regular meeting on Sunday 11th October Rosie Smith gave us her first impressions of this year's Labour Party Conference. This was Rosie's first visit to a Labour Party Conference.


Rosie is a Sheffield University Undergraduate Studying Politics, Youth Officer to both the NE Derbyshire Constituency and the Dronfield Labour Party Branch and Constituency Delegate to the 2009 Labour Party Conference.



After the meeting Rosie was presented with a birthday cake.



Sunday, September 27, 2009

What Did You Do On Your 20th Birthday?


Rosie Smith is a Sheffield University Undergraduate studying Politics. She is Youth Officer to both the North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party and its Dronfield Branch. She is attending the current Labour Party Conference as the Constituency's delegate.

She will then address the next meeting of our Discussion Group on Sunday, 11th October to give her "First Impressions Of A Labour Party Conference".

If you think that following up her Conference visit with a talk is dedication beyond the call of duty, then what about the fact that she is to give her talk on her 20th birthday? Think of what you did on your 20th birthday?

I was in Basra with the RAF doing my National Service and at least had a celebratory drink in the NAFFI. 4 years later I was due to attend the 1960 Labour Party Conference for the first time as a delegate. But I dropped out as it clashed with my starting full time study at Ruskin College in Politics and Economics. It meant that I missed Hugh Gaitskell's dramatic claim that he would "Fight, fight, fight and fight again to save the Party I love" over the Labour Conference adopting a unilateral policy which he was opposed to.

Gaitskell's response was raised during our last Discussion Meeting so I thought that as it was so long ago, I had better explain what had happened to Rosie and Caroline her sister who were present. For it was the equivalent to someone making a passing comment about a speech by Keir Hardie at the time when I was a young Labour activist! Except of course Rosie, Caroline and their mother Christine are all so steeped in Labour Party activity that they probably all know more than I do about both Hugh Gaitskell and Keir Hardie.

UPDATE - On the Labour Conference, this Austin Mitchell's piece in The Times on Monday 28 September is a recommended read.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Labour : What Is To Be Done?

1931 Labour Poster
The next discussion meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party on September 13th will be an open debate with the above title.

Below I give my own contribution to this topic as a means of opening up the debate. It is, of course, my personal viewpoint and emerges from a democratic socialist perspective; although many fellow democratic socialists are likely to disagree with me.

To join in the debate via our comment box, you don't have to be a visitor to our discussion meetings. Contributions will be both worthwhile in their own right and as preparation for our eventual discussions.


MY ANALYSIS.

1. Labour is heading for a drubbing at the General Election.

2. There is no way to avoid this via a change of leadership, for there can be no smooth change of leader in the current circumstances.

3. We, therefore, need to prepare our minds now for the dramatic situation which will emerge immediately after the General Election. Remembering that New Labour will still hold a firm majority of the remaining Labour seats.

4. In the meantime we should work via the Labour Party to try to limit the scope of the coming electoral defeat, so that democratic socialists have a base to work through for the future.

5. This requires democratic socialists to be inside the Labour Party, working to hold onto whatever they can of Labour's traditional working class support.

6. We need to press for feasible programmes which are directed to tackling unemployment, poverty and communal deprivation. This involves stressing the importance of matters which the Labour Government are already pursuing in these areas.

7. Whilst such an approach is both correct in moral and economic terms, it is also necessary in electoral terms to enable Labour to hold onto as many seats as possible. It is, therefore, a position which is also likely to have a short-term appeal to elements of New Labour.

8. The moral and economic relevance of such an approach will also have significance after the coming electoral defeat as New Labour will be on the back foot after the election, as its overall approach will be in tatters.

9. The development of further feasible proposals for democratic and social advance will be easier in the above circumstances.

10. Democratic socialists need to operate in the above ways or we will be subject to the following judgement which was made about our predecessors from the time of the 1931 slump - "Socialism explained the past and promised the future; it had nothing of consequence to offer the present". The fact that the quote comes from Robert Skidelsky, does not mean that it is an an incorrect assessment of what occurred. It is imperative that we do not repeat past failures. Although on the plus side, it must be remembered that it only took 14 years from Labour's collapse in 1931 for it to achieve the triumph of 1945 for the best Labour Government in our history. So perhaps I can look forward to my 87th birthday.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gordon Brown at his best



See the video here - http://www.hurryupharry.org/2009/07/22/brown-and-the-worried-wired-world/

It lasts 15 minutes and reveals an impressive Gordon Brown.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

From Venezuela To Dronfield

Colin Burgon addresses the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign with Hugo Chavez and Ken Livingstone alongside.


At a packed discussion group meeting on Sunday, Colin Burgon the Labour MP for Elmet gave a talk on the impact of Neo-Liberalism on Venezuela and the socialist response to this under the Presidency of Hugo Chavez. This has led to public ownership in the oil industry, banking, the food industry and elsewhere. With resources being redistributed to the poor. Oil being the keystone to the Venezuelan economy.

Colin extended his analysis to relate to the impact of neo-liberalism on both politics throughout South America and our own experiences of it as initially shaped by Thatcherism.

His talk stimulated a particularly keen discussion which continued when we moved to socialising in the lounge bar of the Dronfield Contact Club. For further details on Colin's analysis see this speech that he made in the Commons in March.

After the first election of Chavez in 1999 a Military Coup temporarily removed him from office in 2002, but within 2 days his supporters re-established him back into the Presidential Palace without a shot being fired. Thanks to the presence of an Irish TV crew the events were filmed and appear on the DVD "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised". As Colin said this is highly dramatic, rather as if a film had been made of the storming of the Winter Palace in 1917 which led to the triumph of the Bolsheviks. Copies of the DVD can be obtained from here.

Chavez (left) signing copies of the DVD.

The extent to which Venezuela can be a model for reshaping democratic socialist objectives will depend to a large extent on how democratic its political system, its nationalised industries and the internal arrangements within its major political parties are - especially in the newly established and leading
United Socialist Party of Venezuela. It is a good sign as Colin pointed out that under the Constitution the President can be subject to a recall election by 10% of the voters and that the new Constitution is widely read and studied by Venezuela's working people.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Nationalise The Railways

The Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group undertook some serious work on the issue of "Integrated Transport". The full published debate can be followed by linking into "labels" at the close of this item. It links to twelve threads which were posted on this blog.

Of relevance to our collective view is the finding of this current survey which shows that there is majority support amongst the public for the full nationalisation of the railways.

The Government should feel free to plagiarize our ideas.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Nationalisation In Venezuela

(Photo: Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela)



The third largest bank in Venezuela has just been nationalised. This further extends their programme of nationalisation, which in the past two years has seen telecommunications, electricity, steel and other companies being placed under public ownership. The latest development is covered here in today's Morning Star (4 July).




Colin Burgon (right), the Labour MP for Elmet will introduce a discussion into such developments at our next meeting on 12 July. For details and further links, see our right hand column.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

You, Me and Tackling Climate Change


The impact of global warming on the UK is in today's headlines (i.e. 18 June) .

We had a timely discussion on what we can all do about this on Sunday. Dr Ralph Hebden (photo) is a former Lecturer in Geography at Sheffield Hallam University. He brought his overhead projector with him, so we had an illustrated talk and plenty of discussion on what we could do as individuals to reduce the impact of global warming. Inevitably the discussion spilt over into the ways that his proposals could also be acted upon by industry, trade, agriculture, transport and governments.

Below the photo of part of the problem is a list of the type of proposals he advocated. Of course, those who seriously follow his advice are also likely (a) to spread the word and (b) press governments and other major bodies to act within the same spirit. That is how what is individually practical can become what is politically feasible.



FROM RALPH HEBDEN : source

The following suggestions are to help people reduce their environmental footprint and so help to reduce their impact on global warming. In many cases they do not involve financial cost and will even save money.

1. My Home
Install:
Loft insulation
Jacket on hot water cylinder
Cavity wall insulation
Micro wind turbine after checking your location characteristics
Photovoltaic cells
Draught excluders - windows, doors, floors, but allow for some ventilation
Solar water heating panels / gas condensing boiler
Thermostats on central heating equipment
Double glazing
Lag exposed pipes
Fit low energy light bulbs
Vary times on central heating system
Reduce temperature by 1 C on central heating
Draw curtains to keep heat in
Do not leave lights on when you leave a room
Do not leave equipment on stand by - computer, TV, VCR etc.
Buy Green Energy electricity
Defrost fridge/freezer regularly
Put a box in empty fridge/freezer free spaces - reduce amount of air being frozen
Cook with lids on pans
Check energy efficiency when buying electrical and gas equipment
Use mains electricity or rechargeable batteries rather than ordinary batteries
Use non-VOC paint, solvents, preservation finishes
Stop junk mail through Mail Preference Service

2. My water use
Fix leaking taps
Turn taps fully off
Have a shower rather than a bath
Use plugs in basins and sinks
Put a water hippo in water cistern
Turn taps off when cleaning teeth
Use washing machines and dishwashers only on full loads
Fill kettle with only the water you need
Install water butts to collect water from roofs.
Think before using water; energy is needed to get water to your home.
Use lowest temperature when washing clothes
Install low flush/double flush in toilet system

5. My recycling
Check whether what you buy can be recycled
Keep and reuse envelopes
Use blank side of paper you receive for rough work
Recycle newspapers, magazines, bills, junk mail, wrapping paper.
Recycle plastic packaging from goods bought
Recycle glass
Charity shops allow you to recycle clothes.
Cans and silver paper can be recycled
Take books to charity shops or send to Feed the Minds
Opticians will recycle glasses
Dispose of waste oil, paint, solvents, and batteries safely.

4. My shopping
Use bags for life and avoid plastic bags
Use local shops or farmers’ markets to reduce travel emissions
Cut travel emissions by not buying imported goods where possible
Choose goods with minimal packaging
Reduce car use by getting shops to deliver
Shop on the internet to reduce your journeys to shops
Buy recycled paper and other recycled goods
Buy Fair Trade products
Only buy what you need and reduce waste.

5. My garden
Install water butts to collect rain water
Water plants in evening to reduce evaporation
Mulch water loving plants to reduce need to water
Have a compost bin for garden and kitchen waste
Develop eco-friendly plants for frogs, birds, hedgehogs
Have a pond to help wild life: also a base for a range of different plants
Grow vegetables and fruit in your garden
Try to keep to native plants
Use pesticides and chemical sprays as little as possible.
Avoid products with peat in them
Compost egg boxes
Compost garden clippings and twigs
Collect fallen leaves and store for a year to make compost

6. My Travel *
Reduce car use; use a bicycle, walk or use public transport
Ensure car tyre pressures are correct
Accelerate slowly
Avoid sharp breaking
Consider whether you need holidays involving long flights
Consider having holidays in Britain
Check destination weather condition before travelling
Travel with minimum luggage as a result.

7. Some Challenges
Shop locally - but not at supermarkets
Buy locally produce food and goods - not imported
Reduce car use - cope with public transport
Become vegetarian - meat production consumes many resources
Holiday in the UK - no flights to the sun, snow or 'far away places'
Live a simple lifestyle - reduce your environmental footprint


* During the debate, the discussion groups own submission on"Integrated Transport" was raised as having relevance to these proposals.

Friday, June 5, 2009

A Quick Response

Rob Quick chaired the last meeting of our discussion group - see here.


Today's Guardian carries the following letter from him, under the heading "HAZEL BLEARS HAS BETRAYED US".

Thank you Ms Blears for stabbing we Labour activists in the back (Blears strikes blow for rebels with resignation, 4 June). You might have thought in your selfish egotistical way you were simply stabbing the PM in the back, but you forgot about us. I am the Labour agent in Dronfield, Derbyshire and we have been working tirelessly for weeks, despite the daily exposés of MPs' misuse of expenses, in a key marginal with only slim hopes of keeping one seat and maybe control of the county. Blears has betrayed ordinary Labour supporters. We feel she should be expelled from the party.
Rob Quick
Vice-chair, Derbyshire North East CLP

The full range of letters under the above heading appears here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Should We Get Into Step?

Kevin Barron (right) with Chair Rob Quick, addresses Sunday's meeting. Below 13 of the 21 present. (Photos by Dave Hill)


Kevin Barron addressed our Discussion Meeting on Sunday. He has been the MP for Rother Valley since 1983 and is Chair of the Select Committee on Health in the current parliament.

The topic he introduced for discussion was his Select Committee's recent wide ranging enquiry into the important "NHS Next Steps Review" which had been undertaken for the Government by Lord Darzi who is a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health and is also a leading surgeon at Imperial College.

A major aim of Darzi's Report was to place quality services at the heart of the NHS, with patients being treated with compassion, dignity and respect. In pursuing these ends the Select Committee had welcomed the supervisory role designated for the Strategic Health Authorities, but it doubted whether Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were currently capable of performing the tasks they were being set. For PCTs are seen as having poor commissioning and planning skills and, also, exercising variable qualities of management.

The Daszi Report had also recommended the adoption of an NHS Constitution. For the first time setting up rights and responsibilities for patients and staff in a single document.

The Select Committee welcomed the rights that would be established to enable patients to obtain drugs prescribed by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), but they expressed fears about proposals that might lead to the operation of a "Lawyers' Charter.

The new NHS Constitution would also provide rights for patients to gain information about the quality of alternative NHS provisions. In supporting these proposals, Kevin pointed out that a local elderly widow had opted to enter a hospital in the south of England because she had family in the area she selected.

21 people attended the Dronfield meeting and Kevin's presentation led to an intense and lively debate. There was a major discussion over whether the "choice" agenda merely led to isolated individualism and the expansion of market principles into the NHS, instead of looking to the development of democratisation which would enable people to press for shared interests.

A wide range of other topics were pursued such as worries about MRSA, the post-code lottery, healthy food (the Select Committee had interviewed Jamie Oliver), patient's subjective judgements about their treatment and the widespread absence of NHS dental services. On the latter Kevin pointed out that the Health Select Committee had pursued the matter some 18 months ago, but found the Government to be in denial about the issue.

Personal : I was Kevin's politics tutor in 1974-5 when he attended the third year of a Day Release Course run for Yorkshire Miners by the Sheffield University Extramural Department. At the time he was a pit electrician. He went on to full-time study at Ruskin College in Oxford and gained a Diploma in Labour History. Kevin and I next met up in the Commons where I was a fellow MP from 1987 to 2005. Amongst the common activities we shared was meeting with the Conservative Minister of Higher Education, Tim Eggar in a failed attempt to save the traditional Diploma courses at Ruskin College. I had myself studied on such a course 14 years before Kevin had.

Note : The Discussion Group has now been running for three years. The above is our third meeting on the NHS. In September 2006, Dave Hincliffe (Wakefield MP 1987-2005 and the previous Chair of the Commons' Select Committee on Health) addressed us. Whilst for the 60th Anniversary of the NHS, Dr Jack Czaudema of the Darnall Community Health Centre was the speaker.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Who Runs The NHS?

Aneurin Bevan, Labour's Minister of Health whose NHS Act of 1946 came into operation on 5 July, 1948.


This is an anonymous contribution for our discussion on 10 May with Kevin Barron MP on the NHS Next Stage Review (see details of the meeting in the right hand column opposite), posted via Harry Barnes.

Who actually runs our local NHS Trusts? We elect Councillors who run our local authority services, but who are the faceless people who run local NHS services…..?

Gordon Brown has previously dropped hints of making the NHS independent – run by some sort of ‘BBC’ type board! According to the HSJ (Health Service Journal), top NHS managers at the DH were, at one point, running around preparing (I think enthusiastically) for such a scenario. Unsurprisingly doctors leaders are supportive of this idea! Doctors like to be in control, and a political vacuum leaves local health services free for domination by the medical mafia. Today the NHS is in the clutches of right wing ideologists, accountants and those who swarm around the alter of ‘lean thinking’, labour has given up the vision of a socialist health care system, and sold its soul to the marketers and profiteers.

Talk by the Tories too of taking the politics out of the NHS would be hilarious if it wasn’t so serious! But this must be music to the ears of the many right wing zealots who current dictate NHS policies.

For a Government committed to ‘democracy’ and de-centralisation, since labour came to power in 1997, it does seem ironic that the NHS, Labour’s jewel in the crown’, is having the last vestiges of democracy stripped away.

As a closet socialist working in a very senior role in an NHS Foundation Trust, I have had plenty of time to get used to the snide comments, and cynical ‘stage-whispers’ of senior NHS managers, who laughingly pay lip-service to Government policy, yet they are inherently anti-labour! What makes it even more disheartening is that the view often expressed is that Labour Ministers simply do as they are told by the DH Civil Servants. The NHS is so full of ‘inner-circles’ of NHS Chief Executives and Civil Servants, who were all nurtured in the Tory period of mass privatisation, marketisation and mass job cuts. It is very clear to me (as an insider) that it is these ‘inner-circles’ who are driving the pace of marketisation (we have to call it by the sanitised name - “Contestability”)

When NHS Trusts were established by the Tories in the early 1990’s, they removed the split between the Health authority members (a rather odd mix of ‘do-gooders’ Local Councillors and a single TUC Representative), and the non-voting Executives. The creation of Boards of Executive and Non-Executive members with the Chief Executive and Finance Director having the same vote as the ‘appointed’ non-executives.


Looking at the lists of non-executive directors in NHS Trusts, there are not many who sound remotely like labour people, and, although many of them declare ‘no political affiliations’ their backgrounds and histories make some interesting reading. Take the most recent appointments of Chairpersons for the new and enlarged (Regional) Health Authorities. We have a former Second Sea-Lord, a former employee of BUPA, a former Executive of privatised rail companies, and someone who holds directorships in the pharmaceutical industry and the financial services sector.

Vast numbers of ‘Labour’ supporters or sympathisers are excluded by virtue of the prejudiced and biased person specifications set for the role of non-Executive Directors or Chair’s. Language such as “Business” level experience, “Finance or Accountancy” “Entrepreneurial skills”, “Commercial”, or must have “Board level” experience are often seen in adverts. For Foundation Trusts, and it appears, for most NHS bodies, even the requirement to live locally has disappeared! What would be wrong with “Experience as a patient or service user”? or “Aspires to represent the local community” or “Be prepared to challenge the Chief Executive or other Directors on key policy issues.

What we have, in reality, is NHS Trust Boards stuffed full of Tory leaning, right wing, business people, who are keen to earn their £6K (for a non-executive) or £20/60K for a Chairperson) and vote like puppets as per the recommendations of the ‘Executive team’. Many foundation trust boards now meet in secret with only a small number of meetings being open to the public. The abolition of Community Health Councils leaves yet a further gap in local accountability, with local authority scrutiny panels trying to pick up the pieces.

Foundation Trust ‘Governing Councils’ are another sad example of what is happening to the NHS. I am a senior manager in a foundation trust, so I can tell any aspiring Trust Governor – ‘ don’t waste your time’! The Chief Executive and the Chairman may pay lip service to the Council, but behind your backs they are sniggering away. No power…. And no real purpose, except to provide a ‘pretext’ of democracy and accountability.

The debates in the labour Movement in the 80’s and 90’s, led by health unions and the socialist health association around the principle of democratising the NHS, often resulted in overwhelming votes in favour of democratically elected health organisations at local level. Sadly it seems that Schools are to go the same way (Foundation Schools/ Foundation Trusts) put a few business people in, remove local elected representatives and screw democracy! Under a Labour Government! Call it ‘choice’ (patients or parents) but it is really about a ‘Hobson’s choice’ for the many, and an offer of choice only to those who have informed knowledge or money. For me, I choose my local community hospital, my local GP and my local school.

I campaigned hard in 1997 for the election of a Labour Government (so hard I was thanked personally by Tony Blair, in 10 Downing Street, for my efforts) part of that campaign was to remove the vilified ‘internal market’. But what we have now is no different. For ‘purchaser/ provider’ read ‘commissioner/ provider’! For Fund-Holding GP practises, read GP commissioning! My Trust spends tens of thousands of pounds on clinical coders – whose job it is to cost each element of treatment to ensure we get the right invoice to the PCT or GP! The local NHS services are so wound up with unnecessary bureaucracy that it is no wonder patients are left wondering where all the money is going!

It seems to me that the army of young graduate ‘advisors’, who I saw following the then ‘shadow’ cabinet members around on the election campaign, have spent the last 10 years nurturing the seeds of right wing ideology in the corridors of power. Why else are we still exposing ‘dirty hospitals’, when most hospitals are still suffering the consequences of privatised cleaning services. My own hospital is a prime example – poor standards, low pay and very dubious employment practises!! Simple answer is bring services back in house! Seemingly more difficult than it sounds – but I don’t understand why?

The NHS is political, and no government can pretend to ‘take politics’ out of its governance. The issue should be maintaining the balance between national standards, and fair funding, with local accountability and local democracy.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Sounds Venezuela


The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela has just completed a series of packed-out performances at the South Bank. The programme notes stated that -

Around 2003, stories began to circulate within the music world about an extraordinary youth orchestra in Venezuela. World famous musicians of the calibre of Sir Simon Rattle talked of El Sistema, a national music system in Venezuela that had produced hundreds of youth orchestras and more than a quarter of a million new musicians, many of them from deeply underprivileged backgrounds, who were playing with a dynamism and professionalism so compelling that they created a social and musical revolution of epic proportions.

To see what is happening click into this video.

Our meeting on July 12th is about Venezuela. How has it been able to produce this social and musical revolution? What else is happening in Venezuela?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Help Iraq's Teachers Now

Labour Start has launched a major international campaign in defence of the Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU) who face the threat of being taken over by the government.

The teachers are demonstrating tomorrow in their thousands in Baghdad.

The matter is explained here by Abullah Muhsin, the British Representative of the ITU who has in the past addressed the North East Derbyshire Constituency Labour Party.

This matter was also raised earlier on this blog - see here.

Please click here now to send off a message of protest. Spread the word.


UPDATE ON IRAQI TEACHERS' STRUGGLE

The Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU) held its second national protest on 28 March 2009 with over 500 protesters. The ITU protest attracted Iraqi media, and support from Iraqi trade unions and civil society organisations such as the Association of Political Prisoners (victims of former regime).The ITU protest carried the following slogans -
*Respect the Iraqi constitution.

*The ITU reject the Iraqi government interference in the internal affairs of the union and call on it to cease its undemocratic attempts to take control of the ITU.

*The union shall hold elections only under its internal rules and in the presence of judges

*Support civil society organisations. Allow them to do their job to strengthen democracy.


SEE MORE HERE FROM ERIC LEE, EDITOR OF LABOUR START AND ABDULLAH MUHSIN (ITU). Photo : Abdullah relaxes at last year's Conference held by Labour Start.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Blathering To Some Purpose

The photo below is taken at the close of last night's discussion meeting. As our discussions then continue in the lounge bar afterwards, three people had already left to get their orders in. Dave Hill is behind the camera. The speaker was Geoff Bratley-Kendall who is centre-front with his arms crossed. We all felt that we had had an excellent and fruitful meeting discussing the problems being experienced in Adult Education.(Click onto the photo for a larger image).



Geoff's Kes Experience

Geoff set the scene by describing his own experiences. These resonated with his listeners as was revealed in the power of the subsequent debate.

When he was 14 he had what he called his "Kes experience". At school he was called in to discuss his future and he said that he would like to be an architect. The career advisor abruptly told him that he had only three options. (1) The armed forces, (2) Staveley Works and (3) the pit. As he had no military aspirations and did not like the smell that came from Staveley Works, he opted for work at the pit.

One saving grace was that in becoming an electrician at Markham No.2 pit, he gained vocational qualifications at Clowne Tech. The other was that with a group of his mates he became active in the NUM. It helped that they met in the Barley Mow pub.

Into Adult Education

Because of his NUM interests he moved on to attend a three-year Industrial Day Release Course for Derbyshire Miners run by the Sheffield University Extramural Department studying Industrial Relations and Political Economy, topped up with TUC and WEA week-end schools. As the provision moved to its close, the bulk of his day-release class showed an interest in moving from part-time study to full-time residential adult education. With two of his mates he embarked on a two year course at Coleg Harlech.

When the three went by car to the College in Wales, it was the longest journey he had then made in his life. The students and tutors were friends. Life was so uplifting that 40 years afterwards he still visits the College three times a year.

He then went to Hull University, which in comparison he felt was elitist and unsatisfactory. But after a stint back as a pit electrician, he moved into work as a Further Education (FE) Lecturer who taught adult education classes, eventually lecturing at Sheffield College for 21 years. When he retired, he returned to being an electrician. But not at the pit, which had in any case been closed.

Lessons

He learnt that education does not have to happen at a particular time in one's life. He had seen the regular tapping of unknown talents. He saw the strength of educational provision which started out on a voluntary basis, where those studying did not have to be present if they weren't interested. He also knew he had to stay with Trade Unionism and he became an Executive Member of NATFHE.

Decline and Fall

He saw the decline of such forms of adult education as arising from the time of the 1992 Further and Higher Education Bill where the funding restrictions of the FE sector were spread to bodies such as Adult Education Colleges at Coleg Harlech, Ruskin, the Northern College, Fircroft, Hillcroft and Newbattle Abbey.

Unemployment, Student Loans, the Foster Report claiming that Colleges were not for older students, employer-led educational qualifications, education by the stepping stones of modules and certificates had all led to a loss of adult educational provisions. Some 2 million places in FE and Adult Education have been lost in England since 2005 and Age Concern point to a 24% cut in provisions for the over 60s.

What Is To Be Done?

Geoff is Secretary of the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS) who have moved to form links with other student and ex-student organisations of Adult Education Colleges to seek to influence public policy on adult education.

He participated in the lobby of parliament organised by the Campaign for Lifelong Learning (CALL) on 25 February. Although CALL was only founded last summer it has gained the support of 150 organisations; numbers of whom can be found here. And it was able to mount a lobby which attracted 400 people including Marianne Quick the Secretary of the Dronfield Labour Party, who contributed to our discussions. As part of the campaign people are urged to get their MP to sign Early Day Motion 533.

The debate around Geoff's talk revealed a depth of interest and experience in his topic. To see where we go next, watch this space.

The debate continues...

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Defending the Iraqi Teachers' Union

Sue Rogers (photo) who addressed a meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group on the topic "Iraq: What's Happening?" has just issued the following statement from Erbil in Iraq where she is leading a TUC delegation. It condemns attempts by the Iraqi Government to seize control of the Iraqi Teachers Union (ITU).

'The Iraqi Government is acting like Saddam Hussein, treating unions as the property of the state. Iraqi trade unionists and teacher trade unions around the world are outraged at this latest attempt to seize control of our sister union.The Government has demanded that the union hand over the keys to its buildings, its membership lists, and is demanding that the existing leaders stand down or face jail sentences of three to seven years despite doing nothing wrong. This is a breach of fundamental human and trade union rights. The Iraqi Government must not be allowed to act in this dictatorial way.'

Sue Rogers is leading a TUC delegation at a workshop in Erbil, Iraq for trade union leaders from all over Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. Yesterday Iraqi trade unions issued a joint statement of solidarity with the ITU, who have angered some in the Iraqi administration by securing substantial pay rises for teachers after a series of strikes and demonstrations last year.

The statement, signed by the leaders of the main Iraqi trade union confederation and the two Kurdish confederations, as well as the Kurdish Teachers Union and the powerful oil unions of Southern Iraq, appears below.

ITU President Jasim al-Lami, who has been invited to the NASUWT conference this April, was yesterday travelling back from the workshop to meet with Ministers in Baghdad. Mr al-Lami was jailed for six years in Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein and says he is ready to face jail again to defend his union.

Protests by global trade unions have already been lodged with the International Labour Organisation which last year censured Iraq for its anti-union laws, some of which have been left over from Saddam Hussein. The TUC has also written to Ministers in the UK.


Erbil Declaration of Solidarity with the Iraqi teachers' union

We, the leaders of the trade union movement throughout Iraq - including Iraqi Kurdistan - meeting with our international colleagues in Erbil, condemn the harassment and threats directed at the Iraqi Teachers' Union and their democratically-elected leaders.

This action is an attack on fundamental human rights and contrary to your Government's obligation to uphold the ILO core conventions, including Convention 87 on Freedom of Association.

We call on the Iraqi Government to respect the right of the Iraqi Teachers' Union to decide its own leadership in accordance with its own rules. We call on you to withdraw your threats to imprison Iraqi Teachers' Union leaders and to desist from your attempts to seize the assets, membership lists and documentation of the Iraqi Teachers' Union.

We reject your attempt to seize the union and express our solidarity with the membership and leadership of the Iraqi Teachers' Union.

Failure to respond positively can only result in a major campaign - across Iraq and around the world - to highlight your Government's appalling action.

We are copying this letter to the President and Prime Minister of Iraq and making it public.

Signed by

General Federation of Iraqi Workers

Kurdistan Workers Union

General Workers and Crafts Syndicate Union of Kurdistan

Kurdistan Journalists Union/Iraq

Iraqi Federation of Oil Unions

Kurdistan Teachers Union/Iraq


Protest against the actions of the Iraqi Goverenment can be made to the Iraqi Embassy via this link.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

MORE CHAOS AT WESTMINSTER

This is a photo of Natascha Engel MP and Geoff Bratley-Kendall at the Commons. They are in the corridors of power - or more precisely a Commons' Committee Corridor.

Geoff is the Secretary of the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS) and Natascha is his local MP. She is also the local MP for Dronfield, where we blather.

Geoff will be at the next meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group, giving a talk entitled "Adult Education: Experience and Issues". The photo was taken last Wednesday when the "Campaigning Alliance For Lifelong Learning" organised an important lobby of parliament to press the case for Adult Education and to reverse the trend which has seen many of its best services cut. 400 to 500 took part in the lobby, as is shown here. The lobby itself and other campaigning activities will be discussed at our meeting.

Here is a further report on the lobby from the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE).

Natascha Engel has herself addressed our Discussion Group on"Pension : Problems and Policies" and is regularly informed about our activities. We will send her a link to our report of the meeting with Geoff, which we will publish next week.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

CHAOS IN DRONFIELD






This is a photo of Coleg Harlech, with Harlech Castle in the background. Hardly a scene for the spread of CHAOS you might think.

















It is significant that Geoff Bratley-Kendall the speaker at the next meeting of the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group was today on a lobby of parliament pressing for significant improvements in Adult Education services. For he will lead a discussion on these matters at our next meeting. His talk is entitled "Adult Education : Experiences and Issues".

Geoff is the Secretary of the Coleg Harlech Association of Old Students (CHAOS) who have acted to work with other ex-students organisations from Adult Residential Colleges to influence public policy on adult education.

Geoff lives in Dronfield and attends our meetings. He knows that he will face a lively and firmly interested audience. Our regulars include former adult education students from the Northern College, Newbattle Abbey, the Co-op College, Ruskin, Coleg Harlech, University Access Courses and Industrial Day Release Classes. Some who have had a foot in more than one camp.

Why not use the comment box on this thread to get your tackle in first? There's CHAOS for you.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Our Submissions To Compass

In connection with the Compass project "How To Live In The 21st Century", two submissions have been made from the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group. These can be found on the appropriate Compass web-site if you click onto the following topics -"Political Education, Political Education, Political Education" and "Integrated Transport"

Background explanations of these two sets of proposals are provided below -


On "Political Education, Political Education, Political Education"


A vibrant and intelligent political culture requires issues to be debated openly (but not violently) within the context of widespread commitments to civil liberties, including those of free expression. In the modern Labour Party and often in the wider Labour Movement, a past tradition of considering practical political alternatives in the light of the concepts of social equality, collectivism and democratic participation has tended to be sidelined. This is not an argument for the adoption of a political dogma by today's movement; for core values themselves need to be under continual testing and re-examination and to be attuned to changing circumstances. But unfortunately in today's movement too often core values tend to have withered away, rather than being re-assessed and updated.

The Labour Party in particular needs to encourage and facilitate internal debate and discussion about our times. A key avenue to achieve such an approach is the establishment of a political education programme to stimulate debate and discussion amongst what could then become a growing and active membership.

Such an approach is likely to require a serious publications' avenue which the Labour Party membership could contribute to. This would require moves towards a weekly Labour Party newspaper, the establishment of a theoretical journal, the publication of discussion pamphlets, the running of discussion groups and study courses; plus the use of web-sites and other avenues of more modern technology. The Labour Party itself should aim at running such provisions, building upon the efforts (amongst others) of Tribune, Chartist, the Fabian Society and Compass.

Such forms of Political Education will, however, only achieve a living impact when the internal structure of the Labour Party is openly democratised - yet political education could also encourage such a development.

The TUC, individual Trade Unions and the Co-operative Movement form essential parts of our Movement. They have their own traditions of providing their own internal educational programmes. The focus of such activities are often centred around the practical needs of health and safety representatives, shop stewards and equivalents. These programmes need to be leavened with fuller investigations around the historical, political and core values of the Labour Movement.

Ways and means of re-establishing a pre-Thatcherite tradition of working class education centred on the earlier practices of Colleges such as Ruskin, Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Newbattle Abbey need to be explored.


On "Integrated Transport"


A programme to move towards the effective use of an integrated public transport system; involving the establishment of a variety of forms of social ownership for the operations of buses, trams, taxis, aeroplanes, ships and lorries. In order to reduce congestion on our roads, priority will be given to public forms of transport over the use of private cars. A full use of an expanded rail network would be employed for the movement of goods as well as passengers. To maximize the use of public transport facilities, cheap and free fares would be extended, based on need. Current free and concessionary travel facilities for pensioners and others would provide a model for such schemes. Publicly run (or supported) taxi services, buses, trams, planes and ships would be linked whenever possible at bus and tram terminals, airports and ports. Entitlement to air travel would balance the needs of travellers with carbon footprint considerations.

When considering integrated transport policies, account should be taken of how transport effects climate change, and any decisions regarding integrated transport should include plans to reduce carbon emissions from future forms of transport. Consideration must therefore be given to future plans to convert the existing rail network to a completely electrical system of rail transport. An expanded rail network should also be fully electrified. An integrated transport policy should also include plans to develop road transport vehicles with greatly reduced carbon emissions. Types of electrically driven vehicles, which satisfy future transport requirements, will therefore have to be developed if this objective is to be realised. Electrifying the rail network and the provision of road vehicles, which depend on electrical power, will transfer demand from fossil fuels to electrical power and will place greater demands on the electricity supply industry. An integrated transport policy should therefore include plans to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewable sources and plans to replace the current generation of aging power stations with power stations with low carbon emissions.

The role of railways in an integrated transport system would require a curb being placed on the need for the use of heavy road transport with limits being placed on the use of lorries and huge pantechnicons. Their operations would need to be restricted, especially where alternative rail services are available. This could be achieved through the licencing of the giants of the road.

Whilst cheap public transport would attract many away from private car usage, it is likely that a programme of restraints on private car usage will need to be introduced to relieve major avenues of congestion. This will need to be done via a programme of restrictions rather than via a market policy involving the use of congestion charges.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Integrated Transport : Update

The Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group's submission to Compass on "Integrated Transport" needs to be submitted on 23 February. In the light of points made in the appropriate Dronfield Blather comment box, I have amended our initial proposals as indicated below. Other changes have been made to fit in with the word-limits stipulated by Compass.

If you wish to see further amendments, then please give the details in the comment box on this thread over the week-end.


The "Political Education : Update" appears here.

Policy Name : Integrated Transport.

Policy Explanation

A programme to move towards the effective use of an integrated public transport system; involving the establishment of a variety of forms of social ownership for the operations of buses, trams, taxis, aeroplanes, ships and lorries. In order to reduce congestion on our roads, priority will be given to public forms of transport over the use of private cars. A full use of an expanded rail network would be employed for the movement of goods as well as passengers. To maximize the use of public transport facilities, cheap and free fares would be extended, based on need. Current free and concessionary travel facilities for pensioners and others would provide a model for such schemes. Publicly run (or supported) taxi services, buses, trams, planes and ships would be linked whenever possible at bus and tram terminals, airports and ports. Entitlement to air travel would balance the needs of travellers with carbon footprint considerations.

When considering integrated transport policies, account should be taken of how transport effects climate change, and any decisions regarding integrated transport should include plans to reduce carbon emissions from future forms of transport. Consideration must therefore be given to future plans to convert the existing rail network to a completely electrical system of rail transport. An expanded rail network should also be fully electrified. An integrated transport policy should also include plans to develop road transport vehicles with greatly reduced carbon emissions. Types of electrically driven vehicles, which satisfy future transport requirements, will therefore have to be developed if this objective is to be realised. Electrifying the rail network and the provision of road vehicles, which depend on electrical power, will transfer demand from fossil fuels to electrical power and will place greater demands on the electricity supply industry. An integrated transport policy should therefore include plans to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewable sources and plans to replace the current generation of aging power stations with power stations with low carbon emissions.

The role of railways in an integrated transport system would require a curb being placed on the need for the use of heavy road transport with limits being placed on the use of lorries and huge pantechnicons. Their operations would need to be restricted, especially where alternative rail services are available. This could be achieved through the licencing of the giants of the road.

Whilst cheap public transport would attract many away from private car usage, it is likely that a programme of restraints on private car usage will need to be introduced to relieve major avenues of congestion. This will need to be done via a programme of restrictions rather than via a market policy involving the use of congestion charges.

Note : The first paragraph is what originally appeared. The second paragraph is the submission from Jack Wearing in line with points also stressed by Ken Turton. The third paragraph is made up of extracts from Ken Turton's two submissions. Whilst the final paragraph is related to points Bob Heath made at our initial discussion and looks in the direction of comments from "Peezedtee". The word total for the section is 348. The word limit is 400.

Arguments In Favour

1. Freedom of movement for many currently isolated due to age, poverty and residence in isolated communities.

2. Tackling problems of traffic congestion and pollution, with cut backs for disruptive road building programmes.

3. Most travel would be in a social context, with people moving away from being isolated in their cars.

Arguments Against

1. The alienation of those committed to private car ownership and usage.

2. Job losses in the car industry, mitigated by more employment associated with public transport.

3. Current lack of a public service ethos throughout society.

Note : The above two sections go together in needing to be limited to a total of 100 words. They have been cut back from 154 in the original to 83.

How Does The Policy Relate To the Core Beliefs of Compass? (i.e. equality, collectivism, sustainability, democracy.)

An integrated transport system will radically extend equal access to convenient forms of transport to everyone. It will challenge the possessive individualism which arises from the current dominance of private car ownership and advance collective and co-operative forms of behavior. In reducing private car usage, congestion and pollution; a sustainable transport system would reduce the need for road building and disruption. To operate a widespread and interlinked public transport system, there would be the need for a variety of forms of municipal, co-operative, regional and national forms of ownership.

Note : As in the original. 89 words. 100 word limit.

How Does It Build The Institutions Of Social Democracy?

The variety of forms of public ownership mentioned above would require a range of forms of democratic control. Bus and tram companies would be subject to local government ownership. Taxi services could function under co-operative arrangements. Whilst an expanded rail service would function better under national or UK governmental controls. The structure for Air and Shipping Companies would depend on the scope of their operations. Scrutiny by elected representatives would be required at all levels, plus avenues of influence over policies by consumers and producers.

Note : This is a condensed version of the previous 136 words, reduced to 82 words to meet the 100 word limit.

What Are The Cost Implications?

Decisions will have to be made on compensation levels. The scale of compensation can differ between major investors on the one hand and on the other holdings by pensions funds, public bodies and small shareholders. The cut back in the use of private cars will save police and health service costs as accidents and pollution decline. Savings would be made in the decline in the need for road widening and construction programmes, whilst the costs of rail electrification and expansion (plus the need for anti-pollution power stations mentioned earlier) will need to be taken into account.

Note : The changes here arise (a) from the need to cut back on the number of words to fit the 100 word limit (they are down from 111 to 95), and (b) to meet points made by Blogger Brader, Ken Turton and Jack Wearing.

Who Wins And Loses Amongst The Electorate?

Resistance to aspects of the programme would come from many car owners, yet as individuals they would benefit from a more integrated transport system which would build a more civilised society. Strong support would come from many young people (in particular) who have commitments to environmental improvement.

Note : Unchanged. 47 words. Limit 100.

A Sound Bite For The Public?

We will be able to move around conveniently when we want at a cost we can afford.

Note : Unchanged. 17 words.Limit 25.

Where Has This Worked Before?

An aspect of the policy was run by the former South Yorkshire Metropolitan Council in relation to its bus services. It was possible to find buses easily and to interchange between services. Bus prices were held, becoming relatively cheap over time. It was popular and well used, until it was disbanded due to the actions of the Thatcher Government. British Rail also ran a fully (internally) integrated service of some significance prior to the Beeching cuts of the 1960s.

Note : This is the same as previously, plus an extra final sentence drawn from the case made by Ken Turton. 78 words. Limit 100.

Political Education : Update

The Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group's submission to Compass on "Political Education" needs to be submitted on 23 February. In the light of points made in the appropriate Dronfield Blather comment box and in a phone message to me from Ken Curren, I have amended our initial proposals slightly as indicated below. Other changes have been made to fit in with the word-limits stipulated by Compass.

If you wish to see further amendments, then please give the details in the comment box on this thread over the week-end.


Policy Name : Political Education, Political Education, Political Education.

Policy Explanation

A vibrant and intelligent political culture requires issues to be debated openly (but not violently) within the context of widespread commitments to civil liberties, including those of free expression. In the modern Labour Party and often in the wider Labour Movement, a past tradition of considering practical political alternatives in the light of the concepts of social equality, collectivism and democratic participation has tended to be sidelined. This is not an argument for the adoption of a political dogma by today's movement; for core values themselves need to be under continual testing and re-examination and to be attuned to changing circumstances. But unfortunately in today's movement too often core values tend to have withered away, rather than being re-assessed and updated.

The Labour Party in particular needs to encourage and facilitate internal debate and discussion about our times. A key avenue to achieve such an approach is the establishment of a political education programme to stimulate debate and discussion amongst what could then become a growing and active membership.

Such an approach is likely to require a serious publications' avenue which the Labour Party membership could contribute to. This would require moves towards a weekly Labour Party newspaper, the establishment of a theoretical journal, the publication of discussion pamphlets, the running of discussion groups and study courses; plus the use of web-sites and other avenues of more modern technology. The Labour Party itself should aim at running such provisions, building upon the efforts (amongst others) of Tribune, Chartist, the Fabian Society and Compass.

Such forms of Political Education will, however, only achieve a living impact when the internal structure of the Labour Party is openly democratised - yet political education could also encourage such a development.

The TUC, individual Trade Unions and the Co-operative Movement form essential parts of our Movement. They have their own traditions of providing their own internal educational programmes. The focus of such activities are often centred around the practical needs of health and safety representatives, shop stewards and equivalents. These programmes need to be leavened with fuller investigations around the historical, political and core values of the Labour Movement.

Ways and means of re-establishing a pre-Thatcherite tradition of working class education centred on the earlier practices of Colleges such as Ruskin, Coleg Harlech, the Northern College and Newbattle Abbey need to be explored.

Note : the word limit for the above is 400 words, a sentence has been removed from the original in order to meet this limit. The section now totals 388 words.

Arguments In Favour

(1) An intelligent, questioning and democratic labour movement would help to raise the whole level of political debate and tackle the limitations of the ya-boo politics.

(2) It would help to make clearer and more coherent political choices for the electorate.

(3) It would improve the Labour Movements image, especially amongst young people and in its links with the International Labour Movement.

Arguments Against

(1) If it took the wrong turn, expanded political debate within the Labour Movement could lead to disruption and turmoil.

(2) It could encourage entrist techniques into the Labour Party.

(3) It could turn the Labour Party into merely a debating society.

Note : This section goes together with the one entitled "Arguments In Favour", the total has been cut back from 124 words to 98 words to meet the 100 word limit.


How Does The Policy Relate To The Core Beliefs Of Compass? (i.e. equality, collectivism, sustainability, democracy.)

This programme essentially caters for the extension of Compass style understandings into the wider labour movement, whilst guarding against any tendency of these to become dogmas.

Note : Unchanged, 26 words. The limit is 100.

How Does This Build The Institutions Of Social Democracy?

It will help to develop a labour movement which will press for (a) an internally democratic Labour Party, (b) the opening up of the democratisation of governmental, parliamentary and local authority institutions and (c) will encourage serious political debate within the popular media.

Note : Unchanged, 43 words. The limit is 100.

What Are The Cost Implications?

The start of a political education programme throughout the labour movement could initially be done at minimal cost. What is needed is encouragement from labour leaders and Labour's head office to participate in a range of voluntary political educational activities. This would begin to set up the structure for summer schools, courses and publications which would often be financed by those encouraged to participate in what they saw as meaningful political activities. Costs would mainly be related to scholarships and staff payments when voluntary course directors and tutors could not be attracted.

Note : Unchanged, 92 words. The limit is 100.

Who Wins And Loses Amongst The Electorate?

If political education within the labour movement operates in ways which encourages questioning and debate, it is likely to help develop a relevant and appealing political perspective for the Labour Party. This would provide clear and intelligent choices for the electorate. In such circumstances, it would be vested interests that would lose out. If, however, political dogma distorted the uses of such avenues, then this would alienate wide sectors of the electorate.

Note : Unchanged, 73 words. The limit is 100.

A Sound Bite For The Public?

Informing and understanding the political dimensions of everyday life.

Note : Fully changed, from suggestions in the comment box by Blogger Brader. 9 words. The limit is 25.


Where Has This Worked Before?

Although what has been suggested has never worked fully within the labour movement, aspects of this approach can be seen in the work of people such as the Webbs, the Coles and R.H. Tawney as well as in the past work of Workers' Educational Association, University Extension Courses and the residential Colleges for working people mentioned earlier. Given modern technology, use of Computer communication systems can now be employed. It is a practice we are developing with the Dronfield Labour Party Discussion Group and on this blog.

Note : The final sentence has been added, following a suggestion from Ken Curren. 91 words. The limit is 100.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Integrated Transport And Climate Change.

Rail Electrification


























This submission to our Integrated Transport Debate is from Jack Wearing who was one of the initiators of our group's discussion on the topic on 14 December, 2008.

When considering integrated transport policies, account should be taken of how transport effects climate change, and any decisions regarding integrated transport should include plans to reduce carbon emissions from future forms of transport. Consideration must therefore be given to future plans to convert the existing rail network to a completely electrical system of rail transport. An expanded rail network should also be fully electrified. An integrated transport policy should also include plans to develop road transport vehicles with greatly reduced carbon emissions. Types of electrically driven vehicles, which satisfy future transport requirements, will therefore have to be developed if this objective is to be realised. Electrifying the rail network and the provision of road vehicles, which depend on electrical power, will transfer demand from fossil fuels to electrical power and will place greater demands on the electricity supply industry. An integrated transport policy should therefore include plans to increase the amount of electricity produced by renewable sources and plans to replace the current generation of aging power stations with power stations with low carbon emissions.

JACK WEARING